How Anyone Can Put Their Site in the Fast Lane
“To suffer the penalty of too much haste, which is too little speed.”
“America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.”
― Ricky Bobby
It’s that time – today we’re talking fast. The “Shake-and-Bake” kind of fast. And it seems only appropriate that a post about site speed should be our shortest to date. So let’s start this thing up and go for the record. It’s true that there are plenty of situations in which going faster is not ideal. Negotiating a mountain road in the rain. Disarming a doomsday device. Or removing a splinter from a two-year old’s foot (in case you’re wondering; this last one is pure torture for all involved).
But here – online – speed is now a virtue like never before. Having faster page speeds is now of critical importance. Not just because it reduces bounce rate (the number of visitors who leave from the page they arrived at) and increases your conversion rate. But also because your search availability is directly impacted by the speed at which your pages are served to users. The dramatic increase in mobile web use also means that more visitors than ever before are actually not even seeing the desktop version of your site. Want mobile users to exit your site with blinding speed? Make them sit and wait for page content to render.
These days, an acceptable page service time is typically between 0 and 3 seconds. For sites with mostly text content, this isn’t much of a stretch. But for beautiful, media-rich sites, it can represent a significant challenge. Sure, there are a lot of factors to consider when making your site faster. But before giving up, know that nailing at least some of them has become critically important. With that in mind, speed optimizing certainly warrants a bit of thought. After all, while it’s unlikely you’ll nail every one, better times can help give you better position. Just like on the track. And just like on the track; there are many, many things that influence site speed. Here are a few ways you can “get fast” that should be well within reach of almost any website operator – from a cost and expertise standpoint.
1. Be sure to optimize your pages for mobile handsets and tablets.
2. Minify script and style sheets and use them sparingly.
3. Load CSS and scripts universally, rather than page-by-page.
4. “Lazy load” only the page content a user sees as they scroll.
5. Use a good web host; if you can afford it, specify an SSD server.
6. Limit the amount of larger file types that appear on each page, like images and video.
7. Compress images, video, and other files to the fullest extent that you can.
8. Do not scale images; where possible, they should render at 100% size.
9. Use cacheing to load previously-requested content faster.
10. Test your pages using an online tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
11. Use “Expires Headers” to lessen repeat downloads.
12. Dump dead weight; unused plugins, modules, and other artifacts.
13. Eliminate redirects and dead links wherever possible.
Do your homework. There’s a good chance third party code already exists to serve some of your purposes. But you can take things even further with adequate time and skill on hand. If you aren’t comfortable with your ability to handle at least a few of these thirteen items, there are many places to find a qualified developer within your budget who can. Starting right here. Because once you get a glimpse of how optimization can benefit your traffic and conversion rates, you’ll feel the need for speed, too.
Just like Plato and Ricky Bobby.