Page Speed Testing and How to Optimize Load Time

If you didn’t know, you need to regularly check your site speed. Page load time and overall site speed is so unbelievably important these days that do not pay attention to it could mean the loss of both your ability to convert on your site or even your sites ability to rank. At the beginning of the year, Google even emphasized the importance of these facts, for more details on this see this post that searchengineland.com wrote regarding Google’s announcements. In this post, I would like to help get you started with the process of running page load speed tests and optimizing accordingly.

Why you should check your site speed

There are 3 main reasons you will want to keep tabs on your site speed. We like to order them in the following order of importance:

  1. Site Rankability: We put this first simply because the next 2 won’t really matter as much if people aren’t finding your site anyway. Most search engines place page load speed pretty high on this of factors that determine a page’s ability to rank. The faster your pages are, the less likely they will take a hit in rankings due to slow speeds (obviously.)
  2. User Experience: The longer it takes for a page to load the more likely it is that your site visitors will bounce. The exact number of seconds it takes before people start bouncing can vary depending on which article you read but i have seen and average of 2-3 seconds for the first wave of bounces to start. Then each second after that the number of people bouncing increases at a very fast rate. Which is why the suggestion is to have your pages load in between 1-2 seconds at a bare minimum. (It should be noted that just because your site loads in 3.5 seconds, that doesn’t mean that you will have no visitors or no success, it just means you aren’t in that optimal realm of operation.
  3. Conversion rate: We put this after User Experience because giving your users a great experience and great content should be your first priority and when you have fulfilled that priority the conversions naturally follow. Kind of like the point above, the slower your site the less likely people are going to convert. Google released that PageSpeed Scorecard that helps clarify this point. The faster your site is, the higher your conversion rate and profits will be statistically speaking.

“The first step to solving a problem is recognizing there is one”

We would like to recommend the get insight into your sites health by consulting a number of reputable page speed test tools before you start optimizing. You can optimize things randomly all day and still not fix the one or two things that could make all the difference in your pages load speed.

Here are some tools we recommend: Each of them is free and provide a good amount of actionable data. Pingdom and GTMetrix have paid options if you want but you probably won’t need to take that route.

The reason we recommend running a few different page speed tests is due to the fact that each one’s setup may pick up on a certain optimization that another might not. It’s kind of like getting a second or third opinion from doctors, you do it so you can make the most informed decisions possible.

What kinds of optimization you might have to deal with?

You run your page speed tests and now you have a whole list of things that are labeled red, orange or yellow and now you have to fix all of it. The question is how to start and how to prioritize.

Our preferred method gets the low-hanging fruit out the way. We like to identify the quickest and most impactful optimizations first before working on the more technical stuff.

  • Image Sizes: This is often the quickest thing to do. When your run your page speed test you should have the option of sorting the results by load time or file size. If you start to see that your images are taking a relatively long time to load the you can start shaving time off your page load speed by resizing those images to a more manageable size. As a simple rule of thumb, most images on the web don’t need to be over 100kb in size.
  • Plugins/3rd Party Code/On Page Elements: Often times we see that plugins or page interfaces cause a drag on load times. You may notice that a plugin or line of code that you use to load an Instagram feed takes a pretty long time to load, and you may be worried because the addition of the Instagram has proved useful to you. The good news is that you don’t have to get rid of Instagram, you may just have to change some configurations within the plugin or maybe look around for a more optimized plugin. There is no need to just assume that something is just going to be a problem because it currently is one.
  • Site Hosting: This can sometimes be the biggest issue your site faces. There is no easy fix for site hosting that doesn’t cost money. You either have to pay more to your current host to include a CDN if they haven’t already done that or sometimes it’s just a service package upgrade you have to purchase. Other instance require a host migration, meaning you have to completely change your host, we have recommended that to certain clients simply because it ended up being the cheapest and fastest site speed option.
  • Minify CSS/HTML/JavaScript: If you have a WordPress site then you are in luck because there are a number of reliable plugins that will accomplish this for you. You can look into WP Fastest Cache if you host your site on WP Engine and Autoptimize is another great one if you aren’t able to use WP Fastest Cache. If you are on Shopify, Squarespace, your own coded site, or any other CMS you may have a bit more trouble optimizing these elements. For the JavaScript and CSS options you will need to create a single resource for each set of files, think of it as a master CSS file and a master Javascript file and then alter the pages code so that it loads each set from the master file all at once rather than loading each item separately from different locations. If you don’t understand the coding of your site you may want to hire someone to do this for you, if you are the follow a set instructions you found on a web page kind of person then make sure to backup your site before you make any changes!

In summary, you need to do your due diligence and make sure you identify all sources of site speed choke points. We have provided a few great resources that you can use to run a page speed test on your site, but please remember that simply performing a page load speed test on your site’s homepage isn’t enough. For best results, you should run a page speed test on at least all pages that you are trying to have rank, or that are a substantial part of the user’s experience. If at this point you feel that you would like a second opinion please take a look at this article MOZ wrote about the same topic here.

There are a number of things you will have to deal with to reduce the load time of your site. You can use apps or plugins to accomplish a fair share of these optimizations but most cases will still be benefitted by manual optimizations, some of which you can do yourself and others you may have to ask for a bit of help but there is no reason to feel overwhelmed.

Site speed optimization is extremely important as is most definitely something you should not put off. Take your time, do it right, and you will be happy to see the positive results that come from putting in a quality effort.

Adam Jackson
shares