The mobile age is well under way and most businesses are taking it into consideration when investing in a website. There is one aspect, however, that has regularly been a cause for panic amongst those in charge of digital recently – page speed. We asked Chris, our Digital Marketing Data Analyst, to clear things up on the subject:
WHAT IS PAGE SPEED AND HOW DO YOU MEASURE IT?
While there are several ways to measure your website’s speed, such as Pingdom’s Website Speed Test, Google has created a tool to measure Page Speed in a consistent way and offers suggestions on how to improve your score and speed. The service, PageSpeed Insights, measures the performance of a single page for both mobile and desktop devices by simulating access of the website from various devices and checks if it has applied common performance best practices.
WHY IS PAGE SPEED IMPORTANT?
There are two primary reasons why you should take your website’s page speed seriously.
1. User Experience
Pages with a long load time can have higher bounce rates and have a lower average time on page. Longer load times have also been shown to negatively affect conversions. A recent research project by Google, primarily focussing on the mobile experience, revealed the following:
The average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds, according to the new analysis.*
53% of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.**
2. Ranking Signal
In 2010 Google revealed that website speed would begin impacting search ranking as one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank page. What’s more, slow page speed could potentially limit bot crawls, thus affecting the number of pages in the allocated crawl budget, and negatively affecting your indexation (the number of your pages that search engines are aware of).
SHOULD I PANIC IF MY PAGE SPEED LOOKS PROBLEMATIC?
The short answer is no. While you should certainly start thinking about improving your site’s page speed rating if it’s less than ‘Good’, your primary focus should still be on improving the overall quality of your content.
There are approximately 200 signals in Google’s ranking algorithm other than page speed, so improving aspects like your content quality, page titles and meta, and of course, backlink profile, will almost certainly have a more significant impact on your ranking and engagement.
One should also consider that while Google’s categories seem like fairly clear cut descriptions, humans perceive speed differently than bots, which ultimately means that even if your site is triggering a “Poor” score, it could still be rendering at an acceptable speed to a human (non-bot) user.
HOW DO I IMPROVE MY PAGE SPEED?***
Reference: The PageSpeed Insights Tool offers a variety of recommendations for improving overall speed. Some of these are harder to implement than others, as they may require the help of a developer or server administrator. Let’s take a look at some of these recommendations, starting with the ones that should hopefully be easier to implement without too much technical knowledge.
1. Optimise images
Images often account for most of the downloaded bytes on a page. Optimising images can often yield some of the largest byte savings and performance improvements: the fewer bytes the browser has to download, the faster the browser can download and render content on the screen. You can use tools like smush.it or jpegmini to automate the compression of images – these tools can reduce image file size by more than 80% in some cases, without decreasing the quality of the image.
Note: depending on the design of your site, minifying can sometimes cause sites to “break”, so make sure you’ve tested thoroughly and are able to roll back your changes if any errors occur.
3. Avoid landing page redirects
Redirects trigger an additional HTTP request-response cycle and delay page rendering. In the best case, each redirect will add a single roundtrip (HTTP request-response), and in the worst, it may result in multiple additional roundtrips. Therefore, you should minimise the use of redirects to improve site performance. The same logic also applies to sites with multiple home page addresses, or site variants.
Here are some examples of redirect patterns:
example.com uses responsive web design, no redirects are needed – fast and optimal!
example.com → m.example.com/home – multi-roundtrip penalty for mobile users.
example.com → www.example.com → m.example.com – very slow mobile experience.
4. Enable compression
Enabling gzip compression can decrease the size of the transferred response by up to 90%, which can significantly reduce the amount of time to download the resource, reduce data usage for the client, and improve the time to first render of your pages. While implementing GZIP compression on your server’s settings may require some technical assistance, all modern browsers support and automatically negotiate gzip compression for all HTTP requests.
5. Prioritise visible content
If the amount of data required exceeds the initial congestion window (typically 14.6kB compressed), it can cause significant delays to page loading, especially for users on networks with high latencies such as mobile networks.
If you want to make sure your website is running at an optimal speed, and you’re looking for experienced developers to provide you with professional advice how to best approach the task, contact the Spindogs team and we’ll get your site up to speed!
*Google Research, Webpagetest.org, Global, sample of more than 900,000 mWeb sites across Fortune 1000 and Small Medium Businesses. Testing was performed using Chrome and emulating a Nexus 5 device on a globally representative 3G connection. 1.6Mbps download speed, 300ms Round-Trip Time (RTT). Tested on EC2 on m3.medium instances, similar in performance to high-end smartphones, Jan. 2017
**Google Data, Global, n=3,700 aggregated, anonymized Google Analytics data from a sample of mWeb sites opted into sharing benchmark data, Mar. 2016