While there is no shortage of search engine optimization (SEO) advice to be found online, in almost every case this wisdom leaves out one crucial tip: if your website doesn’t load in less than ~3 seconds, you’ll be hemorrhaging traffic so fast that nothing else matters.
It’s time to pay close attention to this oft-forgotten SEO tactic.
Here’s a startling statistic about the average website visitor’s attention span. New Google research says that 53% of mobile users will leave a website that doesn’t load within three seconds. Let that settle for a moment. (More than half of ALL internet traffic since early 2017 has been from mobile devices – you won’t win the SEO game if you don’t focus on this segment.)
What this means is that you will lose more than half your traffic to boredom if your site can’t beat the three-second clock. No matter how much time, effort, and money you devote to traditional SEO strategies, many people will never see it. The bottom line is that sales require conversions and conversions require visitors to stick around long enough to develop an interest in your product or service, so speed should be the first SEO tactic.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a seasoned developer to increase your site’s speed. There are lots of tweaks you can make on your own. Check out the following list to get started.
When an image is cropped, it is literally reduced in size as portions are deleted. Since large image files tend to cause download delays, speed up a website by cropping all images before uploading. Focus on what is important to the scene and get rid of the rest. Not only will you save memory space but browsers will be able to retrieve these images faster than those left the original size.
Once an image has been cropped to the point where additional cutting would affect the overall presentation, think about manipulating the resolution. Resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image. There is a directly proportional relationship between image quality and cumulative pixels. More pixels means higher quality. Use your judgment. Perhaps your images don’t need to be perfect quality. Fewer pixels mean faster website loading.
A redirect is when you click on a link to go to one page and it takes you to another. Webmasters tend to adopt this strategy for expedience but often end up with more pages than they need and a cluttered website. Redirected links and pages cause a slower user experience since two pages must load rather than one. This easy fix involves simply tracking down any redirects you have, link directly to the appropriate page, and delete the old one. Check out Google’s resource page to find the best practices for redirects.
With website caching enabled, a visitor’s computer will download and save static website elements and store them in browser memory for future visits. This results in faster loading on subsequent visits since it only has to download dynamic elements. Use of a CDN, which we’ll discuss in a minute, is a special type of caching.
A major delay in website loading is due to the time it takes to work through all elements, even the ones “off-stage” or on a different page. The lazy-loading technique defers loading files until they are actually needed in the active viewer window. This “on-demand” strategy results in fewer initial elements to load, which means a faster load time.
Sometimes, slow website speed is a result of so much traffic that the server is overwhelmed. When you only have a few visitors, your server can handle the demand and delivers efficient performance. As a website grows becomes more popular, though, a sudden swell in traffic numbers could cause your site to hang up, load slow, or not at all depending on your host and plan.
If this happens frequently, check into a hosting upgrade, especially if you have a shared package. A different type of server (hint: VPS or dedicated is worth a look) provides a higher level of dedicated computer resources to handle traffic increases.
Check the Code
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. This technology allows a website to be copied and distributed on a geographically dispersed server network. If a person living in Russia wants to access an American-based website, a CDN instructs the browser to retrieve files from the nearest server. Reducing the physical distance between a visitor’s location and the website files can make a big difference in loading time.
Lastly, remember to take out the trash (not literally unless it needs it). What we mean here is to delete unnecessary files like, scripts, plugins, and themes. If you don’t need it anymore, get rid of it because it still has to be downloaded every time someone accesses your website. Clean up your platform and you can expect a speed boost.
Google’s new internet-wide standard is two second loading time. That’s a tall order and not many websites hit the mark, though yours could be one of the few that do. A great way to start is by implementing each of the preceding suggestions. Keep in mind it’s an iterative process that involves small gains made from simple changes that eventually add up to a big overall improvement. Now you can lean back and think about the rest of your SEO strategy.