8 Easy to Implement Tweaks for Speeding Up Your Site Loading Time
If you’re logged-in your webmaster account and don’t know what to do to improve your site, go write some content! Now really, one thing you can do and enjoy doing it is handle the site’s speed.
There are 4 main advantages for having a site with high response:
- improved rankings,
- improved quality score for Adwords,
- improved conversion rates,
- decreased bounce rate.
Not so long ago even Matt Cutts stated the site’s loading time will definitely be included as a factor (among the other 200) in determining a site’s the ranking power in the SERPs. While this is a projection for the uncertain future, the truth is site speed affects conversion rates today.
To give you a sense of what we’re saying take as an example the case of Amazon and Google. When Amazon made changes that resulted in a 100 milliseconds increase in response rate (1/20 of a second to be more exact), they reported a decrease in sales of 1%. When Google raised their response rate with a half a second, they reported a decrease in searches of 20%. Given these facts, you really should ask yourself how the site speed influences your current profit margins. Here are some ways to do it:
Reduce the number of HTTP Requests
Every time you access a webpage the web browser makes a request for all page elements that combined give you the full picture. Each individual element, whether it’s an image or script it’s responsible for an HTTP request. Consequently the number of items displayed on the page dictates the number of page requests. And the more such requests pending to be processed the slower the page will load.
- Here are a few rapid tweaks to reduce the loading time:
- Instead of using background images add them to the CSS file.
- Keep your images fit – reduce number of colors and eliminate useless white areas.
- Work with lower quality images. Having non-premium images will not alter user experience if used in the right site areas.
- Combine images and scripts where possible.
Use Content Delivery Networks
This section targets webmasters with big website networks. The distance between visitors and the server a site is located on influences the rate at which readers receive information. A content delivery network is a spiderweb of servers located within a geographical area. The trick is to have your content spread throughout multiple servers within the same network, that way the loading times are diminished.
Use an Expires Header
Every time new visitors access your site some of the information delivered in response to http requests are cached by their browser meaning that future returns to the site will be processed faster. Servers use Expires Header via their http response to instruct the browser how long should the page be kept in cache. An example of a far future Expires Header reads like this:
Expires: Thu, 21 Dec 2020 12:30:00 GMT
If you site is on an Apache server, use the ExpiresDefault directive to set in place expiration dates relative to the first access date. It should look something similar to this:
ExpiresDefault “access plus 5 years
Using far future Expires Headers the browser will cache more data from that initial access.
Verify Stylesheet in Header
The stylesheet must be linked as an external file between the header tags of the page. This is common practice for the majority of webmasters but make certain that you have it also. Here’s how should look like:
<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”style.css” />
This makes the web page load faster as the webpage renders progressively. Your web developer should be very concerned with browsers displaying the page as soon as possible. Having the stylesheet in the footer isn’t a good idea because it will hinder the browser’s ability to render progressively. In the case of Firefox, it will force a screen to redraw when loading is completed which isn’t the best user experience, if you were to ask us.
Scripts Go to the Footer
Avoid CSS Expressions
These are not so widely used in the web design community so should be a priority for you. Of course it would add a drop of personality to your site but also some hazardous events that would keep your site imobilized.
Have Scripts and CSS External and Cached
As you already know, having information – scripts and stylesheets included – cached in the browser reduces significantly the loading times. On the other hand having the scripts and CSS embedded inline means they are loaded upon each webpage request. For visitors that persevere in surfing your site, this will turn into a very tiring experience of having to wait long seconds for pages to load.
Remove duplicate scripts
There are two main factors for the occurrence of duplicate scripts on the same hostname: first one has to do with multiple developers working on the same project and second the number of scripts used. This scenario will surely hurt the site’s performance as it will multiply the number of http requests and script evaluations. To avoid these nagging duplicates implement a script management module in your template. A script is easily included with the script tag:
An alternative in PHP would be to create a function called insertScript.
<?php insertScript(”menu.js”) ?>
This section was included just the sake of clarifying some myths about this compression/decompression software as a big loading time saver. The program was advertised by Yahoo developers that claim it improves loading time to up to 70%. From our experience there’s no much to be gained by using it.
So should you take seriously Google’s warnings to include site speed as another ranking factor? Based on big G’s policy of rendering the most relevant results while keeping user experience at high standards, YES, this will definitely count in a site’s overall performance in the search results. We suggest using Yslow developer tool released by Yahoo!. This tool only works with Firebug – a Firefox plugin and delivers a complete report about a page performance while making recommendations for improvement.