We’ve talked before about how important site speed is. A website that loads slowly gets downgraded by Google’s search algorithm, meaning you drop behind competitors in the rankings. And a slow site speed can also be bad on the human front: if your page takes a few seconds to display, users may take that opportunity to click over to another open tab, check their phone, or get up to refresh their coffee. There’s no guarantee they’ll ever come back to looking at your site.
As it turns out, page speed now matters on a third front: the effectiveness of pay per click ads. In a recent Search Engine Land column, Pauline Jakober explained how slow site speed can drive up your Google AdWords price and drive down your ad rank. Ad rank determines how prominent your ads are, meaning slow sites pay more to get less exposure.
So how do you know if your site is too slow, and how do you fix it? Luckily it’s not hard—in fact, boosting page speed is one of the easier technical changes to make to your site.
For starters let’s look at what counts as “fast.” Many business owners will type in their URL, see their website come up and figure, no problem, I didn’t have to wait at all. But fast by technical standards means super fast. Anything over 5 seconds is unacceptable, and the best sites load in just one second. Your exact loading time will depend largely on how image-heavy your site is, but aim to get it as far under the 5 second mark as possible.
(You can find your exact loading time using Pingdom.)
Three Simple Fixes
There are dozens of technical steps you can take to speed up your site, but three of them are particularly easy and make a huge impact. Before you ask your web team to start re-coding things, try these:
- Optimize images. You may not realize how big your images are because they don’t look oversize on the screen. But that doesn’t mean the file size is appropriate for web use. All static images (including your logo) should be optimized for web and mobile, and any images you use in blog posts should be too. If you use WordPress, an easy way to do this is with the EWWW Image Optimizer plugin.
- Get the PageSpeed Module. What if you could just ask Google to make your site faster, then kick back and reap the results? That’s basically what the Google PageSpeed Module does. It’s free, and all you have to do is ask your web master to install it on your server. It automatically optimizes a number of factors that affect loading time.
- Get a faster hosting service. Your web host is one of the biggest factors in how fast your site loads. Most businesses start out with budget hosting deals from places like GoDaddy, but these are not fast options and aren’t worth it once you’ve got decent site traffic. Instead, choose high speed options that involve a dedicated server or cloud hosting. A few suggestions are WP Engine for WordPress based sites, or SingleHop or LiquidWeb for everybody else.
If you want to take your site speed to the next level, Google can help you identify plenty of other factors that are easily fixable. Check out their free Page Speed Insights tool. Just put in your web address and they will analyze it for both mobile and desktop load time. Better yet, they’ll offer you high, medium and low priority fixes you can make—plus instructions for each one.
Of course, not every business owner has time to tinker with technical stuff to shave a few seconds off site speed, even if those seconds could mean more customers. If you need help getting your website in shape, we can perform a complete SEO analysis and make recommendations to improve site speed and dozens of other factors. Call us for a free consultation today.
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