You know audiences now are used to receiving information almost at the speed of light. In retail, for instance, a one-second delay in mobile load time can cost up to a 20% decrease in conversions.
More than that, not so long ago, Google rocked the online world with its mobile page speed update, which officially made page speed a ranking factor for mobile devices. Google takes page speed and user experience seriously and so should content marketers.
Google takes web page speed seriously and so should #content marketers, says @ab80. Click To Tweet
Even if you can boast of impeccable content marketing skills and strategy, a slow-loading blog with poor user experience can cost you a fortune. In fact, according to the research conducted by DoubleClick, publishers whose websites loaded within five seconds earned twice as much ad revenue as those that loaded within 19 seconds.
Without further ado, let’s get down to some practical advice on how to speed up your website to make Google and your visitors happy.
1. Rethink your speed statistics
Google recently changed the way it evaluates websites’ speed. It now extracts data from the Chrome User Experience (CrUX) Report, which is a public dataset of major user experience metrics for sites all over the web. CrUX is based on real-world measurements and collects data concerning the way users interact with your site, how long it takes your page to fully load, types of devices your visitors use, etc.Google extracts data from CrUX to evaluate websites’ speed, says @ab80. Click To Tweet
Now the way Google calculates speed depends on the internet connection of your users as well as on devices they use. It might happen that Google will consider your perfectly optimized site slow due to poor Wi-Fi or devices your visitors use to reach your website.
2. Identify areas of improvement with PageSpeed Insights
The next step is identifying your website’s weak spots. The PageSpeed Insights tool is perfect for that. It gives you an idea of how well your page performs according to the CrUX report and offers performance optimization advice.
Data from CrUX can be found under the speed tab in PageSpeed Insights. When it comes to optimization score, it’s based on a familiar set of parameters that show how well your site is optimized for speed.
Though PageSpeed Insights now supplies two parameters, our experiments before and after Google’s mobile speed update revealed that optimization score rules still rank in the first place. Surprisingly, page speed has low correlation with pages’ positions in the SERPs.Optimization still ranks first in Google’s #mobile considerations, says @ab80. Click To Tweet
But of course, in the long term, Google will want to show its users not just well-optimized pages but fast pages that load well on their devices. At the end of the day, page speed still matters, which, in turn, depends on technical optimization.
3. Work on your optimization score
If your site is considered “fast” speed-wise and has a high optimization score (over 80 points), it’s good as is. But if the scores don’t reflect those top results, first take steps to improve the optimization score. After all, optimization still influences rankings the most and is easier to improve because you control the technical criteria that influence optimization score.
All in all, there are nine Google-approved ways for optimization improvement. Luckily, plenty of tools like WebSite Auditor (full disclosure: I work for the company), SE Ranking, or SEO Site Checkup help developers to spot and optimize for the parameters listed below.
If the nine optimization factors, as detailed below, are unfamiliar, share this list with your technical team.
Avoid redirect chains
There’s nothing wrong with redirects. However, sometimes you end up with a redirect chain instead of a single redirect. It can happen when you redirect your site from HTTP to HTTPS or from www to non-www during site migrations or relaunches.
Every additional redirect slows your website as it adds an extra HTTP request-response round trip. Limit the number of redirects to one – from one URL to the final landing page.Limit the number of redirects to one - from one URL to the final landing page, says @ab80. Click To Tweet
Logically, content compression shortens the time it takes to load your page as well as improves rendering time. If you have compressible content (e.g., images, videos, audio files) on your website, go ahead and GZIP them.
Improve the response time of your server
It’s crucial to monitor your server’s response time. This can be done with the tools like WebPage Test and Pingdom. They can help a lot with identifying performance issues slowing content delivery. If your server’s response time is over 200 ms, ask your developers to fix the issue.Use #tools like @Pingdom or #WebPageTest to monitor your server’s response time, says @ab80. Click To Tweet
Implement caching policy
A caching policy helps you reduce the number of round trips between the client and the server during the process of fetching resources. It also helps figure out if and when previously fetched resources can be reused for your website – not requiring the page to be loaded from scratch every time.
It’s only right to cache resources (e.g., images) to be reused in the future. This can be comfortably done with the help of Cache-Control. If you’re using WordPress, think of using this WP Super Cache plug-in.
Sometimes unnecessary data in the resources might be delivered to visitors, such as code comments or space symbols in HTML, redundant image metadata, or repeated styles in CSS. It’s highly recommended to eliminate such data. You will improve your site’s loading speed as well as its performance.
This is one of the most if not the most important activity on the list. There’s absolutely no need to upload full-size images on your site.There’s no need to upload full-size images to your website, says @ab80. Click To Tweet
Optimizing images can decrease your page load size by up to 80%. However, there’s no single formula for image optimization, so experiment with your images to figure out your optimal settings to make them “lighter” and maintain quality at the same time. For more detailed technical tips, please address this Google’s guide on image optimization.
Optimize CSS delivery
The browser renders your page only after processing all CSS files. The more files you have and the larger they are, the longer it takes for your page to be fully loaded. However, if external CSS resources are small, they can be inserted directly in the HTML.
Prioritize visible content
Your server can’t send and the browser can’t process an unlimited amount of data. So keep your above-the-fold content under 14.6 kilobytes compressed so only one round trip is required for it to be loaded and rendered.Keep your above-the-fold #content under 14.6 kilobytes compressed says @ab80. #optimization Click To Tweet
4. Reorganize your website
If after improving all the above listed parameters, your page speed still lags, some critical changes need to be made. Since page speed is calculated according to user experience, the only way to influence it is by making your website less heavy and sophisticated. Minimize the number of images and scripts. In other words, try to simplify your site as much as you can.
Another good idea for content/news distributors and bloggers is to implement AMP (accelerated mobile pages), which will make a page load almost instantly. Move toward reconsidering the concept of your website rather than improving technical characteristics (although that’s still important).Implement accelerated mobile pages (AMP) to make a page load almost instantly, says @ab80. Click To Tweet
Sometimes satisfying Google’s technical requirements doesn’t necessarily mean you’re providing a top-notch user experience. And that needs to be your primary concern as a content marketer.
Now that Google has set a course for providing faster user experience and evaluates sites according to real-world measurements, improving page speed should be your primary focus. Google is now prioritizing speed more than ever, and this tendency is hardly going to change soon. It’s worth your time and efforts to satisfy your site visitors’ need for speed.
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute