5 Helpful Elements You Need to Know for Better Google Page Speed

Design by Kiltz, Websites, marketing & strategy

In the big picture of online marketing and SEO, what role does website performance play? While it may not be the lead singer, you’ll lose sales if it isn’t a solid part of your online band.

Website performance is simply how fast your website loads and becomes usable when people come to it.

According to a 2019 study by Portent, a 0-to-4 second load time is best for conversion rates, and the first five seconds of page-load time have the highest impact on conversion rates.

In fact, the highest ecommerce conversion rates occur on pages with load times between 0-to-2 seconds. With each additional second of load time, website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42%, the study says. (Hubspot)

In short, if your website loads slow, you’re losing sales!

Let’s take a look at the top 5 ways you can decrease your page load time.

1 – Your Web Hosting

Where you host your website is the first and foundational determining factor to how quickly your website will load. If their server is slow, it doesn’t matter how well tuned all the other factors are… you simply won’t be able to attain quick load times.

If you’re hosting your website with one of the big-box hosting companies like GoDaddy, Bluehost or Hostgator and you’ve invested in one of the less expensive packages they offer, you may find that it doesn’t give you the server resources to run your site. The actual space is enough, but the RAM (memory) on their lower end packages is many times rock bottom minimum.

Your site’s performance may be great now, but if you start getting more traffic, it will slow down. Many times we’ve gotten memory errors and pages not loading correctly because of the server overload.

So, for hosting — Don’t go for the cheaper package. You get what you pay for. Invest in the premium package. Or, find a hosting company that doesn’t make server resources a part of the package as we do. All of our hosting packages have the same amount of server resources. We differ in how much space you get and a couple of other benefits.

Check To See If Your Hosting Is Adequate

Not sure if your hosting is fast enough? Use a service like GTMetrix to test your site (it’s free). Click on the waterfall tab and skip the Score on the main report page. There are geeky elements to this part of the report. But the purple part of the block is all you need to know. It’s the amount of time your site is waiting for the server to respond. There will always be some purple, but you want it as minimal as possible.

2 – Optimize Your Images

The images that load on your website are a big part of the load time. It is important to double-check that the image file size is close to the actual needs of your website. A general rule is ‘the bigger the image, the longer it takes to load’. You want your image to be large enough to be clear, not grainy, and yet not unnecessarily large so as to overwhelm and slow down your site. For example, the banner image has to be loaded before the page is complete. If you’ve uploaded a huge, high-resolution photo, the entire 3 or 5MB file will need to be loaded and the huge image will then be scaled down to the size you have specified. That takes precious seconds away from your load time.

Resize Images

A part of optimizing images is to install and use an image optimization plugin that reduces file sizes. But before you take that step, take the time to resize your images close to the max size you’re going to need. Instead of 4500px wide, you don’t need much more than 1600px wide — resize to that width and you’ve effectively cut your file size roughly in half or more without running it through the optimizer.

If you don’t have a good photo editing program, there are a number of free online options. Here are our top 3 picks:  Adobe Spark, Pixlr, and Fotor. All of these give you the ability to resize, crop, and do all the basic editing that you need.

Optimize Your Images

Once you have your images resized, the next step is to use a plugin to make sure all the images load fast. There are a number of great image optimization plugins out there. Themeisle has a good article where they test 6 plugins and provide a report.

There are also some cache plugins that have image optimization built into them. One of our favorites is WPRocket, which works perfectly with the image optimization plugin Imagify. Imagify is free for up to about 200 images per month.

The new web format for images, called WebP, can be served up by many optimization plugins. It will use the magic behind the scenes to make an image with this format and serve it up to the world.

Google gives a good explanation: “WebP is a modern image format that provides superior lossless and lossy compression for images on the web. Using WebP, webmasters and web developers can create smaller, richer images that make the web faster. WebP lossless images are 26% smaller in size compared to PNGs.”

3 – Use a Cache Plugin

Caching is an essential feature for any website, especially when your goal is to make it go faster. Basically, a web page cache is a static copy of your content. The latest info is set and ready to quickly load when someone lands on your site.

It’s important to realize that caching happens at three different levels.

First is your personal computer’s browser cache where your browser saves a copy of the websites you visit. When you visit again, it checks to make sure that the information and files are the same. If they have changed, the browser cache needs to be cleared in order to see those changes. There’s really nothing you can do to control this aspect of cache for your customers’ experience. Where it comes into play is if you have made changes and a customer says they are seeing the old information. Have them clear their cache and all is good.

Second is the cache on your web server, i.e. your host’s server. Most servers today have some type of cache capabilities. For example, our server is run by LiteSpeed. We have a cache component on the server that works with the LiteSpeed plug-in that clients can use on their websites.

Last, your website itself also needs to have the ability to “create” its own cache and store information so it’s super quick to build a page. Cache plugins will shrink the style and javascript files, and can load important ones sooner and defer others until later. As we mentioned above, our hands-down favorite is WPRocket because it is simple to use and very effective.

 4 – Plugins Count Against Page Load Time

Plugins (also known as add-ons or extensions) are great software tools that can be installed on your website to add special features and/or enhance your site’s capabilities. But it’s also easy to go a little ‘plugin happy’ or to lose sight of all the plugins that may have been added to your site over time. Do you really need all those plugins?

We had a client come to us with a very slow load time on their website. When we took a look at the back end, we found almost 100 plugins! Over time, each company that had “rebuilt” the website simply added new plugins for the functionality they wanted. The result was several plugins that essentially did the same thing and a big number that wasn’t needed at all. We trimmed out 2/3rds of the plugins and the load time errors disappeared.

Some plugins function just in the admin area, so won’t affect your page load time. While you don’t want to overdo it, these plugins provide helpful functionality.

For the front end plugins, work with a good web developer to audit the functionality. Many times a plugin can be removed and a few lines of code added to a file in your theme folder. This streamlines the amount of code that has to load in order for that functionality to happen.

5 – Good Themes Are Page Speed Optimized

Many themes are poorly coded and have bloated code. Imagine yourself reading a novel… you’re a reader (i.e. a “Google” search engine) going through a book (the code)… if the words (the code) is confusing or long-winded, it takes a lot more time to digest the information (load the data).

So, what do you look for when choosing a theme for your site? We recommend either customizing one of the themes that WordPress has provided or using a premium theme (i.e. a theme that isn’t free). But be aware that even within the range of premium themes, there are still bloated ones that load slower.

There are a number of amazingly fast themes available. We use Themeforest for the majority of our themes. We look for those that highlight being optimized and having a high score for load time along with a high rating, recent updates, and few issues noted in the comments (along with how responsive is the developer).

But, with an optimized theme, you still need to consider all of the other things we’ve talked about. If you don’t optimize your images, use too many plugins, or add a huge slider to the home page, having an optimized theme won’t really matter.

Do a Website Speed Review

Armed with the information above, take some time to do some testing, and review the backend of your site. We run basic optimization with every site we build, making sure that at the start, the shiny new website also has basic optimization taken care of.

If the thought of diving under the hood on your own site is overwhelming, reach out. We’ll do a Speed Review for you and connect on a short call to walk you through the results. It’s a time when you can demystify the geek behind your website and be confident in how it’s performing from a technical perspective.


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