There’s been a lot of talk about website speed over the last few years. In this series, we’re going to go over why it’s important to optimize your website for speed, common misconceptions, and how you can check your site today for potential website speed problems.
Why is Website Speed So Important?
With the proliferation of high bandwidth internet and the reduction in bandwidth cost, website speed has taken a backseat in terms of priority when designing new websites or applications. However, site speed is still a very important factor to include in your website strategy, and here are four reasons why.
Users are demanding that their information and content be faster than ever, that coupled with shortening attention spans, page load times can be the difference between making or losing a potential follower. A recent study conducted by Google shows that any site that takes 3 seconds or more to load will lose over half (53%) of their visitors.
Google’s core update on March 12th, 2019 (dubbed, rather uncreatively, “Google’s March 2019 Update”), focused, among other things, on user signals. This includes factors like Time on Site, Page Views Per Visit, and Bounce Rate. Historically, user signals have been one of the most valuable ranking factors for SEO, and increasing website speed can dramatically improve the above three measurements. More importantly, Google has announced that page speed is going to factor directly into how they rank pages in their search algorithms, especially on mobile devices.
In a world where most ads are programmatic and every user has multiple advertisers bidding for each impression, page speed can be the deciding factor in winning the programmatic game. The fact is, a few milliseconds can make a huge difference in a site’s RPM (Revenue Per Thousand). On a test we ran with a large site in the gaming industry, a few small changes we made to increase speed saw the site RPM increase 4.5 times!
While not directly impacted by page speed, implementing best practices for page speed can have a drastic effect on your server loads. For example, lazy loading content, smart caching policies and using next-gen image formats can allow you to do a lot more with the resources you have and reduce your site’s serving fees.
Common Mistakes Publishers Make That Affect Website Speed
Using Too Many Ad Units
Too many ad units can counter-intuitively hurt revenue, due to the decrease in page speed that they cause. You need to find the magic number of ad units (and the right partners) that will maximize your ad revenue.
Not Lazy Loading Content
Having your site try and load the entire page all at once, especially if you have ad units and large image files, can really slow down a website. The practice of lazy loading content, which involves only loading content when the user demands it, greatly improves performance and page speed.
Incorrect Cache Policy
An accurate cache policy, which involves providing instructions to the browser on which content to keep, is one of the easiest ways to increase website speed. A major mistake many websites make, is not caching, or caching incorrectly. The good news is all you need to do is let the browser know what it can cache and let it do all the work for you.
Wrongly Scaling Images
Unoptimized images for the web increase the amount of resources needed to load your pages. We especially see this with icon files that are served in much larger sizes than needed.
See Where You Stand
The first and most important step is to know exactly what problems you have right now. Luckily, the Chrome browser comes natively equipped with an Audit Tool that can tell you a list of page speed problems you can work on.
While you’re on your website’s home page, press F12 to open the Chrome Developer Tool window. You’ll default to the “Console” window, and once you’re there click the “>>” then click the “Audits” tab. Choose either “Desktop” or “Mobile”, leave the rest of the settings as is, and scroll down to the bottom and click “Run Audits”. You’ll then have a baseline of how your site is currently performing with recommendations and opportunities on what to improve.
Plenty of publishers think that improving website speed is difficult, expensive, and (especially during Q4) not a priority. If you know what to look for and what exactly you need to improve, it’s actually quite easy to do it yourself, without having to hire outside help.
We’ll go over exactly how you can implement the best page speed practices yourself in part 2 of this series.