Think site speed doesn’t matter? It does. In fact, a quick (pun intended) survey of cumulative data reveals that site speed is one of the most determinative factors to successful online engagement.
Consider the facts.
74% of mobile-users will abandon a site if it takes five seconds or more to load. On desktops, a three-second delay in loading produces a staggering 57% page-abandonment rate. And, as Amazon discovered, “for every 100ms of page load time,” there is a corresponding 1% reduction in sales.
It’s a lot like the old saying, “If a tree falls in the woods, and no one’s around to hear it … does it make a sound?”
Simply put: no it does not … especially if that tree is taking too long to load online.
So, how do you ensure site speed isn’t killing your conversions and driving away visitors?
To answer that question, here are three simple ways to improve your site’s speed.
To begin, how fast is your current website? The sad truth is most owners don’t know!
Thankfully, there are plenty of tools to test site speed and diagnosis your most glaring deficiencies.
Google Pagespeed Insights allows you to enter your site’s URL and generate two scores: (1) a mobile grade and (2) a desktop grade:
With each, Google also provides a list of “Suggestions” followed by “how to fix”. It links to guide you directly into the most needed remedies.
Equally valuable is Pingdom’s Website Test Tool, which provides you with an overall performance grade, average load time, and a list of recommendations:
Each tools differ somewhat when it comes to the nitty gritty. But to get you started, both provide a solid baseline regarding how your site’s currently performing and where you should look to improve it.
As the above reports make clear, normally what slows down a site isn’t one or two glaring errors. Instead, it’s a host of little things that add up … and up, and up. That means it’s vital to trim the digital fat from your website by having your eyes wide open to the two most common speed killers: (1) links and (2) images.
Eliminating broken links is a must, not just for speed but overall user experience and SEO. Use Broken Link Checker in conjunction with Google Webmaster Tools to identify and fix every 404 error on your site and replace those outdated links with 301 redirects.
Speaking of redirects, you should also remove any 302 redirects on your site. 302 redirects mean a page has been moved temporarily. Again, this not only lowers your page speed by forcing visitors to wade through multiple hops behind the scenes, 302’s are also detrimental to SEO. As Content Marketing Institute recently pointed out, if you do need to use 302 redirects “make a ‘cacheable redirect’ using an http 302 redirect with a cache lifetime of one day.”
By far the biggest link mistake you can make is having a page that redirects to a page that is also itself a redirect. In essence, this reduces your site to a warped bundle of tangled cords. Every time a visitor tries to access one of those multiple redirects, their browser essentially has to untangle the cords – one knot at a time – until the reader finally gets to the content they’re after.
Yes, visuals are great. They increase a visitor’s average time on page, social media sharing, SEO, and even sales. However, for site speed, every visual means another http request, which automatically means a longer wait for your reader.
In writing, there’s a saying: “Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings.” It means if you create something, but it doesn’t contribute to the piece’s overall goal, you should cut it … no matter how much you love it. In other words, every image should have a mission; it should help the user get closer to your page’s one, driving goal. If an image isn’t moving users closer to that all-consuming call-to-action, it’s distracting and (even worse) dragging the rest of the page down with it.
Get ruthless with your images. Remove as many as possible, especially when you’re optimizing for mobile experiences.
However, don’t make the mistake of thinking just because you’ve removed an image in your website’s content management system (CMS) or on your page’s display that the code itself has also been removed. Often times empty <img src = ‘’> commands are left behind.
When you have an empty image source, your site doesn’t just ignore it. Instead, it still tries to find that image, and — even if the dreaded “Missing Image” prompt doesn’t appear — this bulky code increases load time. Basically, all the hard work you’ve put into removing images is undone. A quick CTRL + F search within your code for <img src = ‘’> will remedy this.
Once you’ve cut down your images, the next question is, “What do I do with the ones I still need?”
If you can’t delete them, shrink them. Big images take more time to load than smaller images. Obvious, right? That’s why it’s important to make sure your images are the right size to begin with.
When uploading new images, double check that each is sized to fall within the pixel range of your site’s actual display. If Photoshop is too monsterous a program for you, simply use Window Image Resizer or Resize.It for Macs.
Of course, that only applies to new images. What about all the existing images on your site? Again, there’s a tool. WP Smush is a plugin that collects all the images on your site and compresses them automatically.
Once you’ve addressed the glaring deficiencies that come from links and images, the third way to improve your site speed is about optimizing your traffic itself.
This happens in two ways.
First, if your site experiences a spike in traffic – due to interest in specific content or seasonal buying habits – and your server isn’t setup to handle such a large volume, you run the risk of dramatically slowing your response times or completely crashing.
Second – and far more commonly – if your site experiences globally distributed traffic and isn’t optimized for global distribution, again, the results are the same.
In both cases, the solution is a content delivery network (CDN). Opposed to traditional single-service models, CDNs operate by hosting your website or web application on a “network” of geographically diverse serves, known as “nodes.” This means, when someone accesses your site they are automatically connected with the server closest to them. This location-based optimization dramatically reduces distance, hops, latency, and speed.
Image Credit: Incapsula
What’s more, it also automatically optimizes for performance, meaning that the most “available” server according to current use and bandwidth, is selected. This one-two punch CDNs provide results in 70% less bandwidth consumption and a 50% faster load times.
While CDNs require third-party providers, their value to site speed is so high that they actually occupy Peep Laja’s number one and number two spots in 11 Low-Hanging Fruits for Increasing Website Speed (and Conversions):
- Start using a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
- Host your static files in the cloud that uses a CDN
The top-tier priority for CDNs comes not only from the two factors just mentioned, but also because most include built in compression — both for images and code — as well as content caching, another best-practice vital to speed.
Site Speed Matters
It’s true. Site speed matters. And it matters a lot. The good news is you don’t have to be technical developer to improve your site’s performance. Instead, start by addressing the three most prominent needs:
Remember, you only have between 3-5 seconds … so at the very least, test your site today. What you don’t know may just be killing you. Got any tips of your own? Maybe a question or two? Share with us in the comments below!