7 Ways to Make Your Site Speed Sizzle on Mobile & Desktop
Is your website running at full steam? If not, you’re not only providing a disservice to your visitors, but you’re also losing potential engagement, opt-ins, leads, and sales. Studies have shown that people will abandon a website if it doesn’t load in under 10 seconds. And if they leave your site, they probably won’t come back. So you can say hasta la vista to any potential revenue from those visitors.
If statistics don’t impress you, then let’s get real for a moment. Facebook and Google have launched mobile tools that allow publishers to create articles that load instantly in the Facebook mobile app and Google mobile search. This means that people are becoming accustomed to things loading quickly. That expectation will transition to any website they browse. Including yours. Especially if it is linked to in one of these mobile-accelerated articles.
And it’s not just conversions, user experience, and mobile acceleration you have to worry about either. Google has indicated that site speed is part of their ranking factors. This means that your site speed isn’t just about user experience – it’s about whether users will be able to find you at all in Google search results. Bing also notes that site speed is important too, so while the traffic you get from them might be minimal, it’s still definitive proof that site speed matters to most of the top search engines.
So how can you improve your site speed? Let’s work our way from the ground up.
Partner up with the right web host.
I’m not saying that you all need to jump out and get $200+ a month dedicated server hosting. But I am saying that most of you are probably going to need to say goodbye to the under $10 a month shared hosting plans. Those are bad news for a lot of reasons beyond just site speed.
You can do searches for major hosting services and find some extreme horror stories. Tons of times where sites have been hacked. Times when website owners have been pushed to upgrade to a more expensive plan when they supposedly have unlimited bandwidth and storage. Times when the hosting company “lost” a site’s files and backups. Or time’s when the hosting company allowed entire domains to get stolen. Yep, you’ll find all of those stories out there.
That’s why you’ll want something more reliable. For example, if you are using WordPress, there are a lot of reputable hosting services under $50 a month that will ensure that your website is on a server that is built specifically for WordPress. They also include things like daily off-site backups, security monitoring, malware cleanup, and a lot more. Check out services like WP Engine and Web Synthesis to see what I mean.
When you choose hosts like that, you don’t have to worry about bad performance issues due to having thousands of crappy sites hosted on the same server as yours using dozens of different technologies. You don’t have to worry about your site getting infected with everyone else’s because the hosting company is keeping an active eye on it. And, as to the point of this article, you don’t have to worry about a slow site, because the host optimizes their service for the software you use.
Choose the right software.
Many of you likely use WordPress, so I’ll stick with that as an example. If you don’t, you might want to consider it because it is one of the most used platforms around (http://trends.builtwith.com/cms). Even when you look at Google’s developer documentation on things like building mobile-friendly websites (https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/website-software/wordpress), you’ll see that they have WordPress listed first in the line up of website software.
Speaking of which, mobile-friendliness is right up there with site speed, so make sure your site is both mobile-friendly and fast for an all around great user experience for every visitor.
So say you use WordPress on your own domain. Look at the software you are using with WordPress. Start with your plugins. Do you really need every plugin you have installed? Have you even looked at the list of every plugin you have installed lately? If you don’t need it or haven’t used it in ages, uninstall it. That will help your performance.
Next, look at the analytics tools you have installed on your website. Each one has to load before your site can fully load. So if you’re using a variety of web analytics, heatmap, and A/B testing tools, then they all have to load before your website can completely load. Make sure you are really getting useful data from them. Otherwise, remove them. Not only will it speed up your website, but it will save you some money if you stop paying for tools you’re not using.
Also, consider things like widgets you have on your website. Take a widget that pulls in your latest tweets in your sidebar or that Facebook box that pulls in your latest page posts. Those have to pull information from those social networks before your website can fully load. If you want people to follow you on Twitter or like your Facebook page, just use the follow or like buttons. You get the followers and the fans, they don’t leave your website, and your website runs faster. Win, win, and win.
Cache your content.
If you have a good hosting company as mentioned in the first part of this post, you’ll likely already have this. If not, then you will need a caching plugin. What it does, in a nutshell, is handles your website traffic in the event of a traffic surge.
For example, if your site made it to the front page of Reddit, you’d get slammed with traffic. Your caching plugin would ensure that all of that traffic gets served a cached version of your website instead of nothing at all.
W3 Total Cache, for WordPress users, is one of the most recommended caching plugins by most hosting companies. It will allow you to customize your caching settings so that you can choose what is cached, how it’s cached, and to whom it is cached. You can also clear the cache when you make major changes, so you know that others see those changes as soon as possible.
Optimize your images.
With 4k monitors hitting the scene, it’s tempting to put up images with large resolutions so that anyone who their browser set at full screen can see your image in its full glory. Just note that you can keep the resolution, but you can optimize it for the web so it has a smaller file size.
You can use Mac’s Preview app or other photo editing tools (free or paid) to open a 10.4MB JPG image file and export or re-save it as a web-optimized file as small as 891KB. If you have, say, a blog post with a dozen images, optimizing all of those images from 10MB to 891KB will make a huge difference in load time.
The key will be making sure that the image still looks good when enlarged. So if you happen to have a 4k monitor, optimize it and test it to see if it’s still crisp and legible. You may not always be able to go from 10MB to 891KB. But if you can go from 10MB to 2MB, it’s still an improvement.
So take a look at your homepage, landing pages, other crucial pages on your website, and your blog posts. If they have images, make sure you’ve optimized them for the web. If not, optimize them and replace them.
Host your videos elsewhere.
Video content is great, but you don’t necessarily want it running off of your own server. Not only are you going to have to pay higher hosting fees for hoarding a lot more space, but you are going to have to run that video off of your own bandwidth. And there’s really no point in slowing down your own website when other services are optimized to host videos for you.
If it’s public video that you want everyone to be able to find, you can go with free sites like YouTube, Vimeo, and now even Facebook. They allow you to embed the video into your web pages and have the added advantage of allowing your video to be discovered by the users of each network.
The upside to using these networks is that people can subscribe to your channels or page to get alerted to the next time you upload video. Facebook currently allows you to do live video, and YouTube has the option for live video coming soon. The downside, of course, is you’ll have other people’s videos suggested next to or after yours, especially on YouTube and Vimeo.
If you want your video to be on your site only, and you want to skip competing with your competitors, you can go with premium services like Brightcove or Wistia. Those sites will host your video and allow you to embed your videos into your web pages without ads or other videos to worry about.
What about other types of media? MP3 files, PDFs, and other freebie downloads can be stored on services like Amazon. Again, it means less space taken up on your server and faster downloads for your visitors when they go to access the files you offer for your lead magnets, courses, etc.
Run the web page test.
Google recommends the WebPagetest tool for checking your site speed. This tool will not only tell you how quickly your site loads on specific browsers, platforms, etc. but it will also show you exactly what on your website is taking the most time to load.
In other words, it could be a slow, piece by piece process.
But the end result will be a faster website. And that’s the goal – a site that loads as quickly as possible.
Test your results by using https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ Google Page Speed Insights will give you an overall report card on your desktop & mobile to make sure you are giving your user the best over all experience.
7. Go AMP
AMP acronym means “Accelerated Mobile Pages.” Accelerated mobile pages have been in mobile search results since early 2016 via carousel. The open-source initiative, announced by Google last October, has the
stated objective of “dramatically improving the performance of the mobile web.” By creating open technical standards to boost page speed and streamlining ads (e.g., no interstitials, no pop-ups), the hope is that the
ecosystem can build a faster, more engaging mobile web that will benefit everyone. Even though it might sound difficult to switch your current website over to AMP pages there is a WordPress plug-in that can
convert the pages over in just a few clicks created by one of my close friends that can be found here http://www.markryancreative.com/wp-amplifier/.
Improving your site speed does take work, but the benefits of a faster site will be worth it. Your visitors will stick around longer, they will take the actions you want them to take, and they will be more apt to come back to your website in the future. So be sure to dive into all of the ways you can improve your site’s speed today. Then sit back and reap the rewards!
Or, if you prefer to do some analysis, set up your Google Analytics to monitor your site speed. It will show help you find out which pages load faster, which pages have trouble loading, and whether all of your hard work has led to a difference in page load times overall. Do the latter by comparing the most recent thirty days after you’ve made your changes with the previous thirty day period.
Hopefully, you will see the difference!