I’ve had an interesting puzzle over the past few weeks of trying to enhance the page load speed of my blog. In terms of enhancing page speed I mean that the site loads quickly into an internet browser so people aren’t waiting for the page to load. The longer that people wait the more likely it is that they will leave the site and find their information somewhere else. I’m slightly obsessed with the speed of my blog. There is some evidence to support that Google places emphasis on page load speed in web search rankings and even more evidence that visitors will vote with their feet if your sites loads too slowly.
Google on Internet Speed
On viewing Google’s about page you can find out what Google feels are important qualities for their service and indirectly there are some hints of what they expect from website and blog owners. For example, on Google’s ten things we know to be true speed comes in at #3 with Google stating that ‘fast is better than slow’. Here is a snap shot of what Google says about overall internet speed:
We know your time is valuable, so when you’re seeking an answer on the web you want it right away–and we aim to please. We may be the only people in the world who can say our goal is to have people leave our website as quickly as possible.
There is some evidence from Google that it does discount a site for its speed when calculating its page rank. I was unable to find a reliable recent source but found a useful post on using site speed in web search ranking on Google’s official blog in 2010 which stated the following:
…Currently, fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal in our implementation and the signal for site speed only applies for visitors searching in English on Google.com at this point.
Whilst 1% of search queries may appear small it could have a huge impact if the 1% impacts competitive keywords (that have high volumes in Google searches) and also if overall speed is a critical factor for Google then surely it is a reasonable assumption to say that page speed will become a more critical factor over time. Whilst we can only speculate as to the extent that Google will discount a slow site what is more critical is what our visitors think.
The Real Impact of Page Load Speed
We should care about page load speed as our visitors and potential customers appear to feel quite strongly about it. In fact http://blog.kissmetrics.com have collected some very interesting statistics that indicate that a site is abandoned by 25% of visitors if they have to wait more than 4 seconds for a page to load. See the graph below for more details:
Clearly there is a link between the time it takes for a page to load and the likelihood that a visitor will abandon the page; the slower the page load speed the greater the number of page abandonments. Hassan Bawab, the founder and CEO of Magic Logix, mentions in an article about page speed and page ranking that faster page speeds will produce more page views and a higher page ranking, not to mention a decrease in viewer frustration. All these things will benefit your company and customer satisfaction. So what can we do make our pages load into web browsers faster?
First of all we need to measure our sites page load speed. There are a number of excellent free tools to get this job done. I can recommend three; Wepagetest, Google Page Speed Tool, and GTMeterics . On closer inspection using a few page speed tools such as Webpagetest and GTMetrics I found that there was a slowing down of the loading in of data being sent to my web browser from my hosts server. I know that sounds a little technical, but in reality what was happening was that objects (namely images) were being loaded into the web browser sequentially one after the other to populate the page. The image below shows the overall performance of my blog before I started tweaking:
Clearly the page was taking too long to load (19.59s) and the page was relatively large in size (1.26MB). There were a number of tweaks that I put in place. One was to add a WordPress plugin called W3 Total Cache, another was to reduce the size of images and a third was to get WordPress to load in data in parallel rather than in series.
Reduce Image Size
The first issue to deal with was the reduction of image size as none of the images appeared to have been compressed. You can use either Gimp or Tinypics v3.16b to reduce image size on a website – both are free software. I prefer Tinypics as it is very simple to use. You can drag your image to the software application and it will automatically reduce image size. Below are two copies of the same image – can you spot which has the larger file size.
The first image is the original at 58.5Kb and the second is an image that has been reduced in size (down to 7.89Kb using Tinypics). The file size reduction here is 50.61Kb, which represents an 86.5% reduction in image size. To a web visitor there is no loss of image quality and the potential gain in speed of the page could be significant if every image on a page was reduced in this way. So when will you start using a tool like Tinypics.
The second tweak was one of telling the page to load the images at the same time rather than in a sequential order. This is known as loading data asynchronously (events occurring in parallel to each other rather than one after the other). Rather than me try to explain how to do this the more technically minded can find good information by surfing over to Asynchronous Image Loading. If you have a website then this is best left to your tech people to solve, but if you have a blog such as WordPress then asynchronous loading of data can be achieved through plugins such as – Asynchronous Widgets which allows you to have any registered widget be loaded asynchronously. Alternatively you could consider a plugin such as BJ Lazy Load which helps to load images faster. The plugin developers claim that it, “replaces all your post images and post thumbnails with a placeholder and loads images as they enter the browser window when the visitor scrolls the page”.
After putting in place the above tweaks I was able to get my page load speed down to 4.91s. This is still too slow (over 25% would be likely to abandon the page). So I will be exploring how I can increase my page load speed even further over the coming weeks and I’ll keep you updated on progress.
The tweaks have assisted with faster loading of images (and therefore faster loading of web pages) and will help to provide visitors with an enhanced online experience. I hope that this post has also given you some ideas of how you could provide an enhanced user experience for either your website or blog. Let me know what tweaks that you have put in place to increase your page load speed.
To Your Success
Professional Internet Marketing Coach
Author of How You Can Generate 50-100 Leads Per Day