Imagine: You come across the product that you have wanted for years in a web shop. It costs less than you expected. It is even discounted. A bargain. Just order. You add the product to your shopping basket. And then it starts. You want to go to the next step in the ordering process but the page does not load. After 5 seconds you are finally in the next step. Quickly enter your details and pay. Even now the website just won’t load. There is no coming through. You give up. The web shop misses a sale because it’s very slow. Hence this must read article on how to create a fast loading website in 2020.
Did you know that research in January 2020 shows that a 1 second delay in the loading time of a website can cause you 7% conversions, 11% fewer page views and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction? In real numbers: So a website with a turnover of $ 100,000 per day loses 2.5 million in annual gross revenue per year.
If a web shop misses 2.5 million, website loading time is really important. In this article I will explain exactly what loading time is. Why it is important for search engine optimization and the user experience of visitors to your website. I also give a number of tips on how you can improve the load speed of your website and I discuss WordPress plugins that can help you with that.
What is loading time?
Simply put, loading time is the time it takes for all elements (images, text, HTML, etc.) to be loaded on a web page. Some web builders use the terms “website loading time” and “page loading time” interchangeably. But it’s not the same. Page loading time is the loading time of a specific page on your website. For example your homepage, a blog post or your contact page. The loading time of a website is the average of the loading time of all pages. This average says nothing about individual pages. There can be a big difference here.
How fast should pages load on my website? What are the numbers?
- Research shows that about 50% of people expect a web page to load faster than 2 seconds.
- 40% of people leave a web page that takes more than 3 seconds to fully load.
The faster your page loads, the better of course. But you want to hear numbers. I myself maintain a load time of between 0.5 and 1.5 seconds. If the website speed is slower than 1.5 seconds, people will drop out. If you want your page to load faster than 0.5 seconds, then you often have to make major technical changes to your website that do not outweigh the speed you gain.
Why is the speed of your website so important?
People find websites and pages that load quickly very important. This also applies to Google.
For search engine optimization
Now your question is of course whether your website is easier to find in Google when it loads faster. Well, site speed is one of the approximately 200 factors that Google uses to rank a web page in the search results. An improved ranking of your website is a combination of several factors. Google has indicated that the speed of websites and web pages is one of the more important elements that Google takes into account when calculating the ranking. So yes, the load speed of your website and web pages is certainly important for your search engine optimization.
For user experience
Everyone wants the ideal user experience for their website. Especially when you see that 40% of the visitors leave a web page if it loads longer than 3 seconds. Your website can have great blogs, sell products or contain cool videos. This is all not important if your web pages load slowly. Your web site will never be a success if your visitors drop out frustrated because your website is not fast enough. Fortunately, you can do something about this.
How do you test the speed of your website?
The first step to improve the speed of your website is to test the pages of your website. You have to figure out why pages on your website are slow.
What will you test?
The first question is: what should I test? A mistake that is often made is that only the homepage of a website is tested. Every page of your website can rank in Google and visitors can come to your website via every page. Therefore always test multiple pages. In any case, the most important pages of your website such as:
- About us
- Blog overview
- Contact page
You can also see in Google Analytics which web pages have a high bounce rate. One of the reasons for this may be that the page is slow and visitors drop out immediately.
Perform various tests
Always perform multiple tests at different times. A single test is never representative. For example, to research well, you can test your web pages at different times every day for a week.
Tools to test the speed of your website
Fortunately, you don’t have to check the speed of your web pages with a stopwatch in your hand. There are various tools for this on the internet. Below I discuss 3 popular tools. Each tool has its own specific characteristics and its own pros and cons. Test your web pages in all three tools. This way you get the best information about possible issues.
With GT Metrix you can test more than just the speed of your web pages. The tool analyzes how you can improve speed and performance in 30 ways. For example YSlow scores, speed indications, the number of requests and the total size of your web pages.
Google Page Speed
The Page Speed Insights tool from Google is an extensive (and free) tool to start with. It is very simple. You copy the page URL that you want to test and click ‘analyze’. The Insights tool does not provide the exact speed of your page, but it does show possible causes why your web pages are slow loading or not. The Insights tool also gives two scores: one for desktop and one for mobile.
Pingdom Website Speed Test
Pingdom not only tells you how fast your website is, but also how it performs compared to other websites. You can also easily test from different physical locations such as the UK, Australia or Sweden. This is especially important when you have a website that has many international visitors.
Tips to improve the speed of your website
You now know how to test web pages for speed and how to find out what the issues are. Below are four tips that will help you make your website faster.
Good hosting makes a big difference when loading your website. Often the response time of the web server of your hosting provider is one of the problems. The time between the request from your browser and the answer from the server (sending images, HTML files and style sheets) is what we call the response time. The faster the web server responds, the lower the response time and therefore the faster your web page is loaded. On the internet you sometimes see advertisements for hosting for a few bucks a month. You often share the server with many other websites. If a website requires a lot of server power, your website may suffer from this by showing low speeds.
Compress / optimize images
Smart loading of images on your website can make a big difference in speed. Ensure that images are not too large. Also make sure that images have the dimensions at which they are displayed on your page. Your browser does not have to scale your images and you do not load unnecessarily large photos. Also make sure that photos on your website have the correct file format. Below you can see in which situation you can best use different file formats.
- .jpg for photos and images with many different colors, shadows, light and dark
- .gif for animations
- .gif for low-color logos and line art
- .png for images that contain transparency
.svg is a relatively new file format and is not yet supported by all browsers.
You can save images so that they are suitable for your website with Adobe Photoshop. If you don’t have this, there are various alternatives online such as Pickmonkey or Pixlr. If you have many images that you want to compress in one go, TinyPNG is a good website where you can reduce .png and .jpg to 70% of the original file size.
Browsers and servers exchange a lot of information when a visitor visits a website. If you don’t arrange anything, it can happen that a web server and a web browser exchange the same files if a visitor visits your website more often. You can prevent this with browser caching. With browser caching, the browser and server tell each other which files have not been changed since the last visit (the files are still somewhere on your PC). The web server does not have to resend all files, so your website is faster. Many websites have a .htaccess file. You can arrange many things here. For example, how long files on your website must be stored locally. You can do this by adding the code below to your .htaccess file.
## EXPIRES CACHING ##
ExpiresByType image / jpg “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image / jpeg “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image / gif “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image / png “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType text / css “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType application / pdf “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType application / x-shockwave-flash “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType image / x-icon “access 1 year”
ExpiresDefault “access 2 days”
## EXPIRES CACHING ##
Plugins to make your WordPress website faster
For good results when optimizing the speed of your website, it is useful if you are technically engineered or do not shy away from this. Do you have a website with WordPress as CMS then there are a large number of plugins that take the technical work out of your hands. That saves again a lot of time.
No WordPress plugin but important: hosting specifically for WordPress websites. Two good hosting parties are WP Engine and Site Ground. They are both technically sound and take a number of tasks off your hands as standard, such as backing up your website and scanning for malware and caching your website.
One of the best caching plugins for WordPress is W3 Total Cache. It has many options. This can also be overwhelming. An alternative is WP Rocket. This plugin has a number of extra functionalities compared to W3 Total Cache and also has a very pleasant user interface. The cheapest version of WP Rocket costs $39.
Two good plugins to optimize and compress your images are: Wp Smushit and Compress JPEG and PNG image. The latter is from the creator of the website tinypng.com.
Lazyload can be useful for websites with many images on pages. Images are only loaded when they are needed. For example, if the user scrolls down and comes to the image. This way the page can be faster. Good plugins are Lazy Load or Rocket Lazy Load.
By default, WordPress stores multiple versions of each blog post and page. You can prevent this by optimizing your database. It may seem as if this does not yield much, but by optimizing your database you can achieve major improvements in speed. With WP-Optimize you can optimize the database of your website. With the Revision control plugin you can set the number of versions of blog posts and pages that WordPress can save.
By improving the speed of your website you can kill two birds with one stone. It helps the search engine optimization of your website and benefits the user experience. Have you already tested how fast your website is? I hope you can use the tips in this article to make your website faster in 2020. If you have questions about the load time of your website and how you can improve this, ask your questions on our online marketing consultation.