Testing – And Improving – Page Speed for More Responsive Sites

In all the recent hubbub about https, GPDR regulation and the like there’s been some degree of neglect for the importance of website loading speeds. Most people behind a website won’t need to be made aware of what bounce rates are, or that in general people tend to be just as impatient when it comes to viewing a website as they are for nearly everything else in their life. Page speed has been a part of the Google algorithm for many years, in fact it’s been a big deal for the better part of 10 years now.

Here at 4GoodHosting, the nature of our business and the fact we’re a Canadian web hosting provider with our thumb on the pulse of the web hosting industry makes it so that we really grasp the importance of issues like these when it comes to website performance. We’re 10 months removed from Google starting to educate us all about how page speed is important for the user experience. The focus has of course shifted to mobile search in a big way, and again that’s quite natural given the way mobile is become the predominant search method.

At the start of 2018 Google announced its ‘speed update’, saying that it would only affect a small percentage of sites that were offering a painfully slow user experience. Most people have gotten on board with it sufficiently over the last year, but for those who have yet to let’s spend today discussing how to test and improve website page speed.

How To Test Your Site

There’s choices when it comes to online services you can use to gain an understanding of how quick your site is. Google’s two are really all you need to consider here. First up is PageSpeed Insights, which provides you with a reasonably accurate overview of how your site is performing and some things you can do to improve it. What we’ve learned from it is that render blocking (a slow part of the page that stops the whole page from loading) is the culprit most of the time. This issue isn’t easy to remedy, but you have to do it.

If mobile is your primary focus, then this tool here is perfect for you. It compares your site to other mobile sites and delivers a percentage score. Keep in mind that for both of these the numbers are estimates, and while they’ll likely be fairly close to accurate you shouldn’t take them as definitive findings.

This leads to the next part of our discussion here – tips you can implement to improve your page loading speeds.

How To Improve Your Page Load Times

There’s much you can do to speed up your site. Sometimes you’ll be addressing platform specific problems, while in other instances they will be more general issues. Some of these changes you can implement yourself, but for others you may need to bring in someone more web savvy than yourself.

  1. Better Hosting

Inexpensive shared hosting means your site is on a server filled with other domains like yours. This of course leads to a slower site due to a lack of available resources on the server. The simple fix for this is to move to better hosting. A dedicated servers (vps hosting in Canada) is an option, but for many smaller sites and interests its going to be an expensive and really unnecessary solution. However, it should be something to consider if shared hosting is being your website’s slow page loading times.

  1. Optimize Your Images

Plain and simple, compressing your images and reduce their size is the easiest and arguably the most effective way to improve page load speed times. Optimizing the image can be done in an offline editor, and one of the best ones is a site called kraken.io which in our opinion is better than the Adobe compression tool for smaller images sizes.

  1. Cache Your Site For Speed Gains

Caching your site can speed it up enormously. When you cache a site, it takes a snapshot of the page and keeps it handy. It then is able to deliver it to the visitor much quicker than it would normally. This can be done in numerous different ways. WordPress users can do so in the W3 Total Cache. The large amount of options there are something you should familiarize yourself with.

  1. Use A Content Delivery Network

Content delivery networks assume an extremely valuable role in the internet’s infrastructure. A CDN delivers a webpage or any file to a user by accessing it from the closest geographic location available. The benefits of doing this are that it is far more efficient, conserves bandwidth, protects the network, and also improving the user experience by providing the asset quicker.

CDN’s are fairly commonplace now, with estimates suggesting that 40% of all sites are using one. The best ones will be able to offer speed gains and protection from DDOs attacks.

  1. Minimize The Number Of Http Requests

An onslaught of http requests – requests for information from your server – can overwhelm a website. When someone visits your site they are requesting various files to load in the browser. Most of these requests are sequential and the increase in the number of external files means more requests, and that means a slower load time for that user.

One tip here is to take all the css files and put them into the same file. This can be done with Javascript files too. Consolidating as many files together to reduce the number of http requests is highly recommended.

  1. Disable Hotlinking

Hotlinking is when other sites leech your image content. Visitors to another site receive an image loaded from your server. This can mean your monthly bandwidth is stolen, but the fix is quick, easy, and effective – edit your .htaccess file.

  1. Serve Your Pages Via AMP

Google has put a lot of time and effort into improving the web for mobile, and pushed websites to improve user experience if it’s diminished by a slow connection. One of their recent innovations was AMP – accelerated mobile pages. These pages load faster and serve ads faster as well, which benefits those dealing with a slower internet connection. AMP pages use Amp Html, a special library of JavaScript, and a cache to serve pages.

AMP pages have been well received by larger news sites that see their specific need to be able to serve pages more quickly.

  1. Use An External Commenting System

Having an engaged user base is very desirable, but how they are set up for commenting on the site can be an issue here. It can be a real problem for on-page SEO, and can lead to the page loading much slower. A popular fix for this is to ‘lazy load’ the comments, making it so that the page doesn’t serve up this user-generated content to Google’s web crawlers. Instead, it only shows it to real visitors.

Another fix for commenting problems is to use an external commenting service. Supporting your platform with Disqus is a good choice here.

 

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