Website Speed and Performance Optimization
January 16, 2016
How Important Is Site Speed & How SEs View Your Website
In 2010 Google made a notable change to their search algorithm that took a website’s page load speed and performance into consideration when determining how and where to rank the website respective to competing sites in search engine results pages (SERPS).
Since then, the importance of website speed and performance, and Google page speed ranking, have increased significantly and are considered key factors in creating a great user experience.
In fact, website speed and performance usability are so important to search engines like Google that they have gone so far as to develop specific tools for website designer’s to freely test page load speed using PageSpeed Insights and to track site speed in different browsers and environments via Google Analytics.
In the eyes of the search engines, a website that is performing slowly or not meeting what they deem to be an acceptable level of performance, offers website visitors a poor user experience. Naturally, websites that tend to provide a poor user experience to customers deserve less of a bump in search engine rankings than a website that offers a faster, more complete user experience.
Makes sense when you think of it that way, right?
In my day-to-day work as a Toronto website designer at Parachute Design, I still come across website owners and web designers or developers that just don’t give page load speed as much thought (or careful planning throughout each phase of a web design project) as it requires.
Website speed and performance factors impact much more than search engine rankings alone. It also plays a foundational role in user experience – you know, the people that we’re hoping to engage on the website?
This eventually comes full circle to play yet another role in how search engines rate and rank your website.
Studies have shown that even the most minute delay in website speed and performance can have a serious affect on how search engines perceive and determine a rank for it.
The Aberdeen Group, a research group that publishes educational content to describe what “best-in-class” businesses are doing in the marketplace, has found through careful research that even what may seem like the most inconsequential 1 second delay in page load speed can result in an 11 percent reduction in total page views over the course of time.
And, as if this wasn’t bad enough, the Aberdeen study further suggests that a simple 1 second delay can reduce user conversion rates up to a whopping 7 percent, and overall user satisfaction may fall by as much as 16 percent.
Can you see what’s happening here? Not only does every second count in the eyes of the search engines, but also the poor user experience compounds the problem at the human level.
Another study by the Econsultancy research group, suggests that 47 percent of website visitors expect to wait up to a maximum of two seconds at the most for a web page to load. Two seconds! Web designers and developers surely have their work cut out for them with such a tiny window to measure success.
Furthermore, the Econsultancy study also indicates that 88 percent of people subjected to a poor user experience on a website the first time around, are significantly less likely to make a purchase through the website.
To add fuel to this tire fire, they’ve also found that more than 30 percent of these visitors will even go so far as to share this negative experience with family and friends, effectively tarnishing your brand.
With such wide spread fundamental impact from the most subtle delay in page load time and site speed, I believe it’s paramount that we give website speed and performance the attention it deserves, to offer the best first impression to our users and stand out from the crowd in the eyes of search engines.
Ranking well in the SERPs is only half the battle. Once we’ve established a notable ranking and users start flowing in, we need to knock their socks off with a great user experience.
Website Performance Best Practices
In order to ensure your website is performing at its best, I’ve compiled a list of website performance best practices to follow when developing or updating your website.
- Optimizing Graphics for the Web – we can optimize our images and other online media when preparing for export until we’re blue in the face but to really enhance this feature, we can also look to third party plugins that can run on our website and offer additional optimization to our assets.
- Using Clean, Organized Code – anything we can do to reduce the workload on the server and web browser will earn us brownie points in the page load speed department. By making sure our source code is clean, organized, and valid, we can ensure we’re giving ourselves the best opportunity for a high-performing website.
- requestAnimationFrame Callback – this function is a big time saver if you have animation on your web page. What this does is secretly tells the browser to calculate the position of all the other webpage elements before the user thinks to scroll down the page revealing the animation.
- Swap Graphics for CSS – whenever possible, if a design element, style, or technique can be achieved by using CSS instead of graphics, do it! A web browser can process the CSS and render the results for the viewer much faster than it can load and render graphics.
- Web Host Speed – quite often, this is the most overlooked strategy on how to increase website speed. The quickness of the web host you choose to work with for your website can play a critical role in website speed and performance. A dedicated web hosting service will typically outperform a shared hosting environment, as your website will not be sharing or competing for resources with countless other websites residing on the same server.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN) – when used in conjunction with a great web hosting service, a content delivery network or CDN can offer serious speed and performance enhancements for your website through advanced caching, and by serving up page resources from a server closest to the visitor’s geographic location.
As web technology and search engines evolve so will this list of website performance best practices. I invite you to share your thoughts and website speed optimization techniques to update this article and help to create a faster, more efficient web experience for all.