If your site takes more than three seconds to load, more than half of your visitors will abandon ship and look for alternative results according to this study. A further two-second delay leads to close to 90% abandonment. Therefore, website speeds have a direct impact on how people interact with your sites, and in turn how your sites perform. The best remedy is to optimize your page to have a fast load time. You can only do this if you know how to measure site speed and load time. So, how can you do this?
First, we need to understand what website speed is.
What is website speed?
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When you make a search, the browser you are using requests for the page. The time it takes for the browser to request the page and fully render it on your screen is the page load time. A fully loaded page means all the images, text, and video are completely loaded.
To understand website speeds, we need to understand how websites load.
Understanding Page Speed: How Websites Load
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When you make a search on the internet, a URL will refer you to the web resource you are looking for on the web. A URL is a lot like an address and is made up of different parts, including the domain. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator, and from the name itself, you can get an idea of what it does.
URLs are unique and lead to a specific resource on the internet. Once you get the page you are looking for; you will be able to see the files on the page. Is the term “search results” familiar? This is because you are placing a request and getting a response. Between the time it takes for a successful request and the website to fully load is the loading time or the page speed.
The page speed result can be determined when other factors are at their optimal performance. For instance, we can not say a website is slow simply because the internet connection is slow. There are many other reasons that could lead to a slow website other than the page itself being either bulky or slow. We talk about some of these factors further below.
How to Properly Run a Website Speed Test
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Generally, there are two methods you can use to run a site’s performance.
- Using different servers
- Using website speed test tools
1) Using Different Servers
Using different servers in website speed testing is great because it shows you how your site behaves in different locations. In a different place, the relative distance to your data center differs. This can alter your site speeds, especially if the place is too far from your data center.
This method is successful because different site speed test tools can work anywhere you are physically as long as there is internet connectivity.
2) Using Site Speed Test Tools
There are tools you can use to directly measure your site speeds. The best thing to do when testing is to use multiple tests using different tools, and then you can average out your website speed. Other than using different tools, you can run the test using a single tool but doing multiple tests.
There are many reliable tools you can use during a website speed test. These website speed testing tools test for certain things, including the total load time, HTTP headers, load speeds from different locations, and more metrics.
Best Website Speed Test Tools
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GTMetrix is a useful speed test tool that has tested over a billion pages and counting. They have a live counter on their website where you see the number of pages they have tested in real-time. The speed testing tool is useful because you can test multiple features on your website.
First, GTMetrix can help you audit your website by breaking down the user-perceived experience. The audit further itemizes the list of some actionable website optimization ideas and prioritizes them by how they affect your page speed.
GTMetrix further shows you your core website vitals and provides you with various analysis options during speed monitoring. GTMetrix tracks your page over time other than giving you just a snapshot of what your page can do and your site’s load time in that period.
GTMetrix can give you what other tools might not even with a free account. These include test results from 22 locations around the world to show you how your page is fairing from those places. GTMetrix will show you how your website speed fairs on different devices, including mobile devices.
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WebPageTest does the best speed tests that provide useful information on what is happening on a page. First, you will get the real user experience as one would when they visit your page. Then you can see how your page is performing using different metrics to test the components of your website like the DNS, TLS, TCP, and more.
For a Chromium user, you can measure your carbon footprint. WebPageTest can do a repeat test, where it loads a page, exits, and repeat to see how fast the page is.
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Pingdom gives you interesting stats about your page other than just the page load times and is one of the best tools to test your website. The tool shows you what a real user experience would be on your page and further goes ahead to show you how real users are interacting with your page.
To keep you always aware of your page speed, Pingdom site speed reports measure how your page performs over time. If you are a digital marketer, then the site is for you as it shows you the most important metrics that affect your success. If you are a web hosting provider or a website developer, Pingdom is optimized to serve you well.
d) Google Pagespeed Insights
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Google page speed insights have a vast collection of different testing tools for different situations, including site speeds on both mobile devices and desktops. The tool further benchmarks your page against other pages.
Google page speed score shows you a detailed analysis 0n how you can improve your page performance, which every website owner would find useful.
To run a successfully run website test, there are a few considerations you need to make.
Considerations When Running A Webpage Test
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i) Run Multiple Tests
There are a lot of anomalies that occur when running a website test. When using high-performance monitoring tools, it will be hard to get two similar test results. This is because things like internet speeds can alter site speed reports. Therefore, it is recommended to run multiple speeds at a time and average out the results.
ii) Make Sure Your Website Caching is Turned On
When testing your core web vitals, you need to have caching on when testing. After getting your results, you need to have the caching off to see if it affects your website performance. Caching is important for your website because it reduces load times by sending a copy of your site whenever it is requested instead of loading your website upon a request.
Since web caching stores data on your site, there is a chance it could vary your website speed.
iii) Number Of HTTP Requests
HTTP requests can reduce your page load speed if they are too many. If you can find a balance between keeping the page with few HTTP requests and giving a great user experience, your page will be in good standing.
iv) Strong Internet Connection Speeds
Internet connection speeds have a direct impact on how fast or slow your website will load. If page load times are slow due to a poor internet connection, it might not accurately represent your page speeds.
v) Speed Test Location
If you are at a location too far from your server, then there is a chance your internet speeds will vary. The other way of altering your internet speeds is by enabling a CDN.
vi) Enable Content Delivery Network (CDN)
When you enable a CDN, you allow your content to be cached on nearby servers to make them easier to retrieve during a search. When the servers are near end users in different countries, website content can be retrieved more easily.
vii) Time To First Byte (TTFB)
This is the time it takes for a web browser to receive an HTML request from a server. If you have a poor TTFB report, then your page is either too heavy, or you need to move to a new server.
How Website Speeds Affect SEO
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Our intro showed that an average person would not wait three seconds while a website loads. In very strong connections, Google is aiming for half a second when your website is slow, it directly impacts the number of interactions visitors will have with your page. If your speeds are fast, then visitors will be highly satisfied with your page and vice-versa.
Other than those interacting directly with your website, the Google algorithm rewards the sites with a lot of organic traffic and return users. Google strives to be useful to its users by providing the results they need, and if your site is giving such results, it will get a boost from the algorithm.
Tips To Improve Website Speed
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1) Optimize image sizes
When your images are too large, your website will take longer load times than a website with rightly sized images. If you want to know if your image is large, you can check the resolution. If the resolution is too high, the image might be large.
Unless you know your clients use very high-definition screens to look at your images, there is no need to have very heavy images. There are instances when you need to have high-resolution images. An example is when you are a photographer running a stock site for images that are up for purchase or licensing, then you have to optimize your site for photography.
Keep in mind that not all of your end users will have different connection speeds and, at times, not as strong as yours. Still, your site needs to load just as fast as theirs. Remember, the concentration levels people have are low, and they often opt out of sites when there is slow internet connectivity.
2) Reduce Plugins And Unnecessary Code
Plugins use a lot of processing power from servers. Since webpages are retrieved from servers, the amount of time it takes to process any plugins in your page might make your pages load slower. Plugins increase the number of plugin queries and HTTP requests, which in turn may reduce the website speed.
3) Reduce HTTP Requests
When you place an HTTP request, the files have to be loaded into the webpage. While all the HTTP requests can be taken in all at once, the files have to be loaded one at a time. Therefore, if the requests are too many, then the load time might be longer. This challenge is called render-blocking, which consists of portions of code that reduce the loading speed of a website.
4) Switch to HTTP2
The challenge that comes with sending a lot of HTTP requests mentioned above comes with HTTP1.1. However, you can reduce the problem by switching to HTTP2, which can send multiple files simultaneously over one connection.
5) Cache Your Webpages
Browser caching increases webpage efficiency. This is because the cached assets are temporarily stored for retrieval later. These assets can include images and the different languages used in code. Caching can reduce render blocking and increase webpage speeds.
6) Use Gzip compression
Gzip is used for file compression and, when needed, decompression. When you enable Gzip compression on your HTTP request, some of your files can be compressed to reduce load time.
7) Reduce redirects
During a search, the browser has to go through a DNS resolution process where a domain name is converted into an IP address. When there is a redirect within a page, the DNS resolution process happens all over again. This can make the browser take longer to retrieve the files from the new page.
8) Reduce time to first bite
The time to first bite (TTFB) is the time it takes for a browser to receive the first bite from a server. While this is mostly dependent on the server, there are ways of increasing the TTFB. First, you can use CDNs, which take servers closer to users and reach a global audience. CDNs allow users to browse using the closest network node.
Additionally, you can reduce the number of HTTP requests and ensure the server has a faster response time. Both these factors can affect the TTFB.
9) Prefetch and Prerender
Since you understand your website better, you may have an idea what the next course of action your users will take. This way, you can have the pages prerendered before they are requested. This might reduce render blocking and make the pages load faster upon request.
Alongside prerendering, you can allow the website to prefetch certain files that you think might be needed by the website visitors. Once the files are fetched, they are cached, only waiting to be loaded.
10) Use Mobile-First Code
60% of website traffic is mobile phones, and the number is increasing. Therefore, anyone running a website should better focus more on optimizing for mobile devices as they cover more than 2/3 of users. Most code is written and tested on desktop devices, only to be optimized later for mobile. This might lead to slower website speeds compared to mobile-centric code. You can look at how the best web design companies are doing to get some ideas.
11) Have a Robust Hosting Plan
Most website owners opt for shared web hosting. The downside that comes with shared web hosting is the website’s performance, which can be a bit low. A great alternative would be a virtual private server, which is faster and better for your website. Better yet, you can opt for a dedicated server, which comes at a cost but is infinitely better than sharing a web hosting platform.
Of late, going serverless is an option, and it is scalable at only part of what you would pay to get a virtual private server or a dedicated option.
12) Use CDN
Earlier in the article, we mentioned the use of CDN, which enables your website to be cached in servers in multiple locations that might be closer to users. These servers reduce the time it takes to load pages due to proximal advantages like the closest servers to your users serving files instead of those too far away.
You can do a lot of work creating a robust website with great content. However, if the speeds are low, the content will not reach your desired audience. Furthermore, your page would rank worse if your website speeds are low. Therefore, optimizing your website to improve its speed is a great SEO strategy every website owner should pay attention to.