7 Ways to Make Your Website Faster

Faster, faster, faster. Performance matters, especially when it comes to your website. Google has suggested that we should strive to keep our page load times under two seconds to minimize the bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who enter your site and leave, or ‘bounce’ rather than clicking through to any other pages). A 2018 Pingdom study indicated that the average page load time was 3.21 seconds. They also determined that the average bounce rate for pages loading in two seconds is under 10%. After page load time exceeds 3 seconds, bounce rate soars, reaching 38% when it hits 5 seconds. And don’t forget mobile. According to Unbounce, 46% of people say waiting for pages to load is what they dislike most about browsing the web on mobile, and it takes an average of 15.3 seconds to load a mobile landing page. Clearly there are solid business reasons to make your website faster!

Bounce Rate

Everyone asks what a good bounce rate is, and the answer is it depends. A report by Custom Media Labs showed that different types of websites had wildly different bounce rates. Also note that bounce rates are averaged across your site, so you may want to look at specific pages rather than the aggregate. Your blog, for instance, may be an entry and exit page because it quickly answered a user’s question (such as a definition they were looking for). Your product catalog may naturally have a low bounce rate as shoppers traverse the catalog and various options.

Before You Try to Make Your Website Faster

The first step in improving your website performance is to benchmark your current load times. Three great options are:

It’s probably a good corollary to check your bounce rate in Google Analytics.

Set your baseline using these tools.

Upgrade Your Internet Service Provider

One of the first factors to consider is “the source” of your website. Some performance reports show the latency caused by your internet service provider (ISP). If you’re using a shared server, and that server has other busy tenants, your site slows down. Consider getting a dedicated server. If you’re already on a dedicated server, consider going to a higher powered server, a cluster, or an elastic cloud solution. And if you’re using a database, consider how that is hosted as well (not on the same server, not a performance bottleneck).

Minify CSS, JavaScript and HTML

You can make your website smaller and faster to load by minifying the code in CSS, JavaScript, and HTML files. The minifier removes whitespace, strips out comments, combines files, and optimizes in other ways. You can find dozens of free options to minify your site’s code.

Use On-Page Compression

The HTTP protocol supports compression, so your web server can compress a page before sending it to the visitor (if compression is enabled on our server). GZIP is the most common compression method. Considering the amount of repetition in many web pages, this can shave some valuable time off.

Lose Image Weight

Choosing the right combination of image format and compression time can seriously change your page download times. First, make sure you’re using the best format — GIF for animations and images with “blocks of solid color”, JPG for photos that don’t need to resize, and PNG for high quality photos that will need to stretch for responsive pages. Next, compress images to a suitable quality level. Note, we’ve seen sites with multiple 10MB embedded PNGs, and simply compressing them to 100K images greatly improved the experience!

Reduce HTTP Requests

Simply reducing the number of HTTP requests will speed up your site. Review individual pages to determine if all embedded content is necessary.

Cache Is King

Unless your site is updated all the time, you can most likely reduce server response time using caching. Server side caching temporarily stores web documents (rendered HTML, images, scripts) in memory or on the server, removing the number of calls to render the page. And you’re probably familiar with browser-side caching that does the same thing for pages you’ve already visited. One study showed that caching can increase speeds by as much as 3X.

Use a Content Delivery Network

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a geographically-distributed network of servers that deliver content as quickly as possible. If you have users scattered around the world, a CDN facilitates shorter ‘hops’ to get to your site (e.g., someone in Europe could access a server in the Netherlands rather than one in San Jose). Even for sites just in the United States, a CDN can optimize traffic between the coasts, delivering faster performance and a better customer experience.

Make Your Website Faster, Starting Today

Consider how many potential customers you lose every day if  your website loads slowly or performs poorly. Every second counts, and you can easily take some of these steps in a short timeframe. And consider mobile first, as that’s the norm now, especially with Google’s ranking algorithms. Start easy — get the low-lying fruit issues first. Then tackle the bigger ones, and over time your website will be faster.

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