17 Website Speed Optimization Tips to Improve Your SEO
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Web pages loading slowly = a real problem for any brand.
Everyone loves a fast-loading website – both users and search engine bots. When we’re talking about conversions, nothing will deter people more than slow load times, and search engine algorithms will take note.
There are many ways to test your load speed and to optimize it. However, you shouldn’t just start throwing tactics at the wall to see what sticks. You need to find a solution to your specific problem.
Today, we want to delve deep into the topic of page speed. Let’s analyze how it affects various aspects of your site’s success, including SEO and CRO. We’ll point you in the right direction for your particular site solutions.
Why Does Page Loading Speed Matter So Much?
Before we launch into our list of page load optimization steps, we need to explain why speed matters so much.
Remember: page speed is not the same as “site speed.” Site speed refers to your overall user experience on the entire website. Page speed, or “page load time,” is how long it takes for content to render fully on a specific page once clicked on.
The longer the page loads the higher the chance that your user will leave your site, or in SEO we call this metric as the bounce rate. A slow loading page will result in a poor user experience, can make your page lose rankings, and not convert.
Both are important to the user experience, but you might find that some pages load fine while others take ages. You need to know why some pages have longer load times and therefore higher bounce rates. Otherwise, your site’s conversions could (and likely will) be negatively impacted.
What is a “Good” Loading Speed?
Let’s talk about what your goal should be for a page loading speed. According to Google, you want your page to load in less than seven seconds. But if we’re being honest, seven seconds feels like an eternity when a web page is loading. Your ultimate goal should be to get the page load speed down to around three seconds or less, but this is easier said than done.
Research has found that the first five seconds of a page load time have the highest impact on conversion rates.
Based on a study from Backlinko, the average loading speed for a desktop webpage is 10.3 seconds – and 27.3 seconds on mobile. But this is a poor average that results in high bounce rates. At the very least, you want all of your pages, mobile or not, to load within a matter of three to seven seconds, and certainly no more than ten.
16 Major Ways to Make Your Slow Web Pages Load Faster
- Avoid setTimeout or setInterval for visual updates.
- Use micro-tasks to make changes to the DOM over several frames.
3. Use a CDN to Boost Speed
CDNs – content delivery networks – do wonders to speed up a website. CDN servers allow users to cache content from multiple locations around the world. For instance, if your site is only hosted on the origin server in Florida, the site’s content would take a long time to load for users in China or Australia. This is due to the long connection distance.
If you had CDNs scattered throughout the world, those servers would be able to deliver your site’s content much quicker. Now, CDNs are not technically required for websites, but they will improve the performance and loading speeds dramatically.
So, if you cater to a worldwide audience, CDNs are a no-brainer. Cloudflare is among the leading solutions for CDNs. If your needs are minimal – and you simply want your site to load quickly to users across the globe – the free plan will do the job.
Pro plans run for $20 and Business plans are $200. If your needs are at an enterprise-level, you will need to get a quote.
At Foxxr, we use a combination of Cloudflare and WP Engine’s built-in CDN to boost our site speed.
4. Optimize Your CSS Use
Of all the culprits that may be bogging down your site speed, CSS is rarely the worst. However, there are many little things that can cause your CSS to dramatically bog down the speed of a web page.
Generally, CSS is a high priority – as stylesheets are crucial to create a CSSOM (CSS Object Model) to render the page. Without it, the browser cannot render pixels on the screen.
In the realm of CSS, there are two key areas that affect the loading speed of a webpage:
- CSS file size – and the total number of CSS files on a page.
- How CSS is initiated and downloaded.
So how can you improve your CSS for faster loading times?
There are many, many things you can do to optimize your CSS. Here are some of the key tasks to keep in mind.
- Limit the size of your stylesheet.
- Only use CSS that is essential for page rendering (Critical CSS).
- Lazy-load your style sheets to avoid blocking the render.
- Use code-splitting for style sheets.
- Employ page-based code-splitting – separate the CSS for each page.
- Avoid CSS imports
- Use inline render-blocking CSS
5. Use the Best Web Page and Speed Performance Tools
Keeping close tabs on your website’s performance is one of the most important tasks you’ll face in the digital world. The purpose is to continuously answer two key questions:
- How fast does my website load?
- How can I improve the performance of my website?
There are dozens of tools out there for this task. Here are a handful of our favorites:
Google PageSpeed Insights (Free)
Google PageSpeed Insights is an outstanding (and FREE) tool for testing the loading speeds of your webpages. All you need to do is enter in the URL of the page you want to test. From here, the system gives the page an overall score for the loading speed – fast, average, slow. The scores are given via the pages’ mobile performance and desktop performance.
GTMetrix (Free and Paid)
GTMetrix is an online tool for testing page performance. Similar to the Google PageSpeed Insight tool, all you need to do is copy and paste the URL you want to analyze, then the application shows you the details – as well as a grade from A-F.
You can get free insights without having to register or pay for a premium plan with deeper insights. The downside to going the free route is you only test from a single location (Vancouver). Once you register, you can choose the location.
GTMetrix offers seven test regions, including:
- Vancouver, Canada
- Dallas, Texas, USA
- Sao Paulo, Brazil
- London, UK
- Hong Kong, China
- Mumbai, India
- Sydney Australia.
Recommendations – PageSpeed and YSlow
- 27 PageSpeed recommendations
- 18 YSlow recommendations
- Chrome (Android)
Pingdom Tools (Paid)
Pingdom is one of the best website performance testing tools on the market. In addition to rich insights on web performance, you can set it up to get uptime alerts (SMS or email) down to the minute! Pingdom gives you incredibly deep insight into speed – as well as performance expectations on a scale from 0-100. The program gives you a breakdown of response codes, content size, request types, and requests by domain – as well as a waterfall chart with the details.
The downside is it’s not free. However, there is a 14-day free trial. The free tool gives you the ability to run a test from any of Pingdom’s 70 locations.
Pingdom offers seven testing regions, including:
- San Francisco, California, USA
- Washington DC, USA
- Sau Paulo, Brazil
- London, UK
- Frankfurt, Germany
- Tokyo, Japan
- Sydney, Australia
Recommendations – PageSpeed and Yslow
- Approx. 11 recommendations (based on PageSpeed)
WebPage Test (Free)
This free, open-source tool runs a number of advanced speed tests from 40 locations across the globe. The program gauges components like browser type, device, connection speed, cache state of the user, and more for ultra-concrete results.
You are able to simulate testing over a slow mobile network or on a fast 4G connection. The A-F grading scale includes compression, TTFB, caching, waterfall charts for loading speeds, and more.
WebPage Test provides results with visual comparisons and traceroute examinations. There are 50 test locations to choose from:
- North America (15)
- South America ((2)
- Europe (17)
- Africa (1)
- Asia (10)
- Oceania (1)
Recommendations – PageSpeed and Yslow
- 6 recommendations
- Firefox (Nightly)
- Chrome (Beta & Canary)
- Opera (Beta & Developer)
- IE/Edge (based on location)
Chrome DevTools (Free)
The Chrome DevTools Network tab is a must-have if you are developing your website with Chrome. Chances are, you’re already familiar with it. The tool provides incredibly straightforward results with a waterfall timeline documenting all your resources – as well as what’s impacting your load times.
Obviously, you’ll need Chrome installed to use it. On Windows, simply hit F12 to open it up. If you are using Mac, hit CMD + Option + I.
The tool doesn’t come with fancy frills, alerts, or location picking – but it’s a nice free option that doesn’t require any registration or logins.
Geekflare Website Audit (Free)
Geekflare Website Audit – powered by Google Lighthouse – is another simplified site speed tool that provides a plethora of data and action items to pick up the pace. In addition to TTFB, SEO, and performance scores, this tool provides snapshots with a number of factors contributing to your loading times. This includes:
- The time it took to load a page.
- First byte
- First meaningful paint
- Page size
- Total blocking time
Like many of the other tools on this list, Geekflare’s Website Audit provides a request waterfall chart showing you how each of your resources is being requested and loaded.
Query Monitor – WordPress (Free)
The Query Monitor plugin is a free debugging tool to assess the performance of your WordPress site. The plugin gives you a detailed analysis of every request being made to the server, including (but not limited to):
- Database inquiries
- HTTP requests
- Hooks & actions
The tool can also be used to pinpoint any plugins, scripts, or database queries that might be negatively impacting your loading speeds.
6. Check Your Third-Party Plugins and Scripts
If you are really struggling to understand why your web pages are loading slowly, it could be that a third-party external service is struggling to communicate with your site’s server.
For example, do you have plugins for your social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram? Check on these widgets to see if there are loading problems compromising your overall page speed. Do the same for elements like Google AdSense, BuySellAds, Amazon Associates, etc.
To speed up your third-party plugin connections, you may consider loading your page’s scripts asynchronously or picking and choosing the ones that matter to you most. The simple fact is that the more third-party scripts you are running, the more likely you are to encounter poor page load times.
7. Analyze Your External Font Scripts and CSS
Another way to tackle any web pages loading slowly is to keep your fonts simple. When you use custom fonts, they aren’t already installed on the reader’s computer. This means they must load them from the server, which takes time and can slow down the entire process.
The most common primary font formats include:
- TrueType Font (TTF)
- Web Open Font Format (WOFF)
- Web Open Font Format (WOFF2)
- Embedded Open Type (EOT)
Wondering which one is the best to use? Typically, we recommend the WOFF format because almost all Apple, Android, and desktop devices support it.
8. Minimize Your HTTP Requests
It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of a web page’s load time is spent simply downloading various aspects, like your images, scripts, stylesheets, etc.
Every time your site tries to download one of these elements, an HTTP request is made.
The more HTTP requests that are made, the longer it takes for an individual page to render in front of a user. Therefore, reducing these requests can significantly improve your loading speed.
You can reduce your HTTP requests by:
- Reducing your file sizes.
- Minimizing the number of files on your page.
- Removing all unnecessary images and media.
- Combining CSS files together.
9. Minify and Combine Files When Possible
The more requests your site makes, the slower your pages will load. Therefore, when you can, it’s smart to combine these requests to reduce the number of tasks placed on your server.
In the name of faster loading times, a leaner website is always the way to go. Check out the video below from WP Rocket on the best settings to optimize your site.
10. Reduce Your Server Response Times
If your web pages are loading slowly, they may be experiencing long DNS lookup times.
Every time someone types a URL into a browser, a “domain name system,” or DNS, translates that URL into the IP address and associated hostnames. Essentially, this is your device’s way of finding and pulling up an address. Sometimes this process is speedy, but sometimes it’s not.
When your DNS lookup time is too long, you might want to consider switching DNS providers. Do some research to see how your current provider stacks up to the competition. Could you speed up your web page load speeds simply by partnering with another company?
Some of the fastest (and most popular) DNS providers include:
11. Conduct a Compression Audit
This step is enormously important for the average website, especially if you include many images on your pages. Ideally, you want your picture and media files to be the smallest they can be – without becoming grainy, blurry, or hard to see.
If your pages are currently taking forever to load, it could be that your images are still loading their full file sizes and quality, which results in longer load times. This is bulky and inefficient, and your visitors will notice quickly.
How do you speed up your media load times? Start by compressing your files.
Find out which files are currently too large and which could be compressed. Use GIDNetwork or another resource to run a compression audit across your entire website.
12. Make Your Images Smaller
In the simplest of terms, large images load slowly. If your page continuously struggles to render, it’s likely because it’s dealing with big files that are impossible to load quickly.
Before you go through your site removing all of your images, consider simply downsizing them. Visitors want to see high-quality beautiful pictures – but not if they’re making the page take more than 10 seconds to load.
Go through your image file sizes to see if you can optimize any of them. Resize them to optimal size so the website can render them quickly and easily. Instead of uploading a picture at its full 2000px width, set the proper parameter, and make adjustments accordingly. For example, we set 1024 pixels as our standard image width for most parts of our website, then we adjust based on where the image will be used. We set 2000px – 2300px for images we use in our hero backgrounds, and 300px – 600px on thumbnails, etc.
13. Compress All Website Images
A huge fix for when web pages are loading slowly is to compress your page’s images.
If there’s one thing Google hates, is a website that performs poorly due to its huge image file sizes. So, it’s up to you to format pictures and media correctly – without compromising their quality and turning visitors away.
The best way to compress images is to use a plugin or script that optimizes the pictures while also turning up the page speed. At Foxxr Digital Marketing, we use Imagify to optimize our image file sizes. Free accounts have a file size upload limit of 2MB. Other free popular options include reSmush.it and EWWW Image Optimizer, both of which offer bulk optimization options to bring your older images into a faster, better future.
Our best practice is to make sure that the images we upload to the media library of each website we work with are already optimized via Adobe Photoshop. We use photoshop so we can perform batch edits and optimization. If you don’t have photoshop but you want to optimize the images for free, you can also upload them to Pixlr and save them to either medium or low-quality image files.
14. Reduce Your Website Redirects
Have you recently moved or deleted pages from your website? This may cause some hiccups in your page load speeds – especially if this created broken links.
Similarly, if you’re linking to an excessive number of pages, your HTTP requests could be overwhelming your website. Our recommendation, as well as Google’s, is to keep your website redirects to a minimum. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done if you’ve ever changed things around on your website – and who hasn’t?
Try using a tool like Screaming Frog to identify your current redirects. Find the ones you can eliminate and keep your numbers down. Your page load speeds will reflect your efforts.
15. Install a Caching Plugin
Another solution for any web pages loading slowly is to install a caching plugin. If you don’t know much about website building and scripting, this can be an easy but effective way to optimize page loading speeds.
Page caching helps improve load times by decreasing your overall server load. By enabling page and browser caching, you can improve loading times for images, videos, files, queries, CSS files, JS files, and much more.
If you are using WP Rocket, it should take care of the caching automatically once installed. If you’re not using WP Rocket, you may try using WP Super Cache, Autoptimize, or W3 Total Cache. While most hosting providers allow using any of these free caching plugins, we still recommend verifying with your hosting provider to make sure it will not break your website, and cause more issues than fixes.
16. Choose a Better Hosting Service
Last but not least, if you can’t find any other way to improve your page load speed, as well as its SEO, you will need to pick the best web hosting package.
Your web host provider has a significant impact on how long it takes your pages to load. If your site experiences a great deal of traffic, it’s probably time to move away from simple grid hosting platforms and turn to a high-performing VPS or managed web hosting platform.
Managed hosting platforms use faster technology stacks and are experienced at fine-tuning servers for optimal page loading speeds. They might not be the cheapest option, but they are best for pages that attract lots of traffic.
At Foxxr, we host our websites in WPEngine because it provides us stable hosting service, consistent performance, and reliable support.
Check out Crazy Egg’s research on the top managed WordPress hostings and find out why WP Engine is our top pick.
17. Use Website Design Software
To enhance your website’s speed and performance, it’s crucial to consider incorporating web design software into your SEO strategy. By utilizing professional tools like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace, you can effortlessly create visually appealing, user-friendly sites while optimizing speed. These comprehensive platforms offer integrated features for optimizing images, managing code bloat, and enabling streamlined mobile versions, all of which are paramount for speed optimization.
By avoiding compatibility issues and redundancies that may arise from using multiple tools, you can ensure your site stays lightning-fast. Additionally, these software tools often come equipped with embedded SEO features, allowing you to optimize content and meta tags, ultimately boosting your site’s search engine visibility. Take a practical step towards a faster, SEO-friendly website by leveraging the power of robust web design software.
Hopefully, if your web pages are loading slowly, this post has given you some tips and tricks to improve page speed – which will work to improve your SEO and CRO. It might take some troubleshooting, but odds are, one of the 21 steps listed above will revolutionize your process.
At Foxxr, we offer an all-in-one digital marketing services, which means we’ll take care of your page loading speeds and so much more. If you’re struggling to find the weak link in your conversion rates, let us help. Our team of website gurus will do whatever it takes to boost your bottom line.
First Published: Nov 26, 2020
Updated on: July 21, 2023