In a world where everyone is habituated to instant gratification, visitors to your website love pages that load lightning fast. And as a result, so does Google. This means that if you want to improve page speed for SEO, you need to be serving up pages as fast as possible on mobile devices and desktops.
Which begs the question:
How fast does a page need to load?
In 2.7 Seconds. And, unfortunately, the bad news is that the line between fast and slow page load times is only speeding up.
If your pages are taking more than 2.7 to load on mobile devices and desktops, your users are going to start bouncing. And when that happens, Google will take notice and stop sending as many people your way.
So, what can you do to ensure pages are loading faster than 2.7 seconds? Follow these tips and you’ll have those lightning-fast page load times we were talking about.
4 Actionable Page Speed Optimization Tactics:
- Rethinking your hosting provider
- Resizing and compressing images
- Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
The first two tactics, rethinking your hosting provider and resizing and compressing images, are digestible for most site owners.
The second two may require additional support. When it comes to improving site speed, you can lean on additional resources:
Whether you’re doing the work or using a developer to do the work for you, here’s how you do it.
1. Rethink Your Hosting Provider
There are a lot of options when it comes to hosting. It won’t come as a shock to learn that hosting providers offering super cheap hosting don’t care very much about your website’s performance. In fact, they prefer your site run slow at first. That’s right, they prefer it.
High-Density Shared Hosting
Budget hosting services rely on high-density shared hosting. To keep this type of hosting inexpensive, they put thousands of websites on a single server, knowing that they probably won’t all get traffic at the same time.
The problem with high-density shared hosting is that server resources like memory, networking, and disc space get shared by all of those sites. And when one of those sites is getting lots of traffic, it slows things down for everyone else.
This is good news for the hosting providers because their whole business model is built around speeding up performance for a fee. Hence, why they want your site to run slow at first.
Best Types of Hosting
What you want to look for are low-density shared hosting or private hosting services.
This way neighboring sites aren’t going to have an impact on your performance.
These kinds of hosting services go by names like:
- Virtual private server (VPS)
- Cloud server
- Dedicated server (Good for sites with high traffic volume)
If you have a WordPress website, consider managed hosting. Managed hosting is an option where a service provider leases hardware to a single customer. The provider also manages the servers, software, and networks necessary for hosting for the customer. If an issue arises, the people on the provider’s team are there to help pinpoint the problem and rectify it.
It’s also important to look for a host with great service and support. Server issues can get tricky. Excellent support ensures less downtime for your site and frustration for you and your website visitors. Our favorite managed hosting company is Liquid Web.
You Get What You Pay For
You don’t want your site to live in the cheap high-density shared hosting world because performance isn’t a priority. Instead, you want to look for hosting starting at around $8 and up. With that said, some of the best hosting, like managed hosting, is available between $25-$30/month.
The bottom line is you get what you pay for. If you are serious about performance, it’s worth spending a little extra on quality hosting.
Reevaluate Hosting Providers Every Couple Years
Most hosting companies make an investment in hardware on an incremental basis. Meaning, they buy new servers and then want to use them for as long as possible.
If you sign up with a host right after they made an investment in new hardware, you're typically going to be on the latest and greatest servers.
On the flip side, if you're with a host for a long time, your site is likely going to be on aging servers that don't perform quite as well.
For the highest-performing hosting, check, evaluate, and potentially change hosts every couple of years.
You'll be able to find other providers that have just made recent investments in infrastructure and equipment. When you move your site onto that new equipment, it will typically get faster without having to change any code or manually speed up your server response time.
Hosting and Performance Takeaways
Avoid high density shared hosting when possible. Instead, look for low-density shared or private hosting.
Unless your host has incredible service and support, you should be evaluating your hosting every couple of years.
Now that you understand the hosting landscape as it relates to performance, start by identifying where your website is hosted today. Are you happy with the performance?
Overwhelmed by SEO? Try a
2. Resize Images to Speed Up Pages
When the original dimensions of an image are larger than the dimensions that the image will be displayed at, you create what is known as overhead. Overhead is unnecessary data that browsers have to deal with before they display your photos.
You can reduce overhead by making sure your original image dimensions, especially with large images, are as close as possible to the dimensions the image will be displayed at.
If an image is going to display at 700 x 500, you don’t want to add an image to your site that is any larger than those dimensions.
Start by making sure you know the display dimensions for image elements on your site.
Then adjust the images by resizing them, or using a cropping tool like Fotor.
Compress Your Image File Size
Hi-res images can be HUGE. We’re talking multiple megabytes. All those bytes start to slow things down.
Shrinking the size of image files without degrading image quality is what we call image compression. Programs that compress images work by removing or grouping together data in the image files.
There are numerous different free and paid programs and plugins that will do this for you.
Your goal should be to make the file size of every image on your site as small as it can be before it starts to lose its image quality. Typically, this means images less than 100KB. Less than 50KB is even more ideal.
However, if super crisp images are integral to your site, you can bend those rules.
Create a Workflow and Automate it
If you have multiple people working on your site, some of those people are likely going to upload images that aren’t properly resized and compressed. Avoid this by creating a standardized workflow everyone must follow when uploading images. Even if it’s just you managing a site, a workflow will be beneficial.
There are dozens of tools that can automate the process of resizing images and compressing them. Find those that work well for your CMS and use them to speed up your workflow and ensure every image gets optimized before it is published.
It’s important to know that these scripts can slow down your page load times because they need to communicate with other websites when they load.
Our two favorite plugins for speeding things up are:
Learn more about these plugins and consider installing them on your site.
If you are using Drupal, do a little research on the modules below and determine if they might be right for your site.
4. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A content delivery network (CDN) takes copies of your website and distributes them on strategically placed servers across the globe. That way when someone wants to see your site, their browser can quickly pull it from the closest server and deliver the web pages they want to see.
There are various services that provide these services. Two of our favorites are:
Sign up for a CDN service and start speeding up your site across the globe.
Now that you know how you need to improve your SEO, you need to get out there and actually do the work.
By taking action and checking each of the four tactics above off your list, you will be able to improve how users interact with your site and how much Google like showing it in search results.
Erik loves breaking down complex SEO topics into understandable instructions anyone can follow. In his role as an SEO coach, he guides Pathfinder SEO customers through the SEO process on a daily basis, giving them helpful tips, instruction, and advice along the way.