Website speed optimization is a tactic for improving how fast a page loads. Website speed impacts user experience, site traffic, and ultimately search rankings, so it’s a critical component of a successful SEO strategy.
Find out why website speed optimization is more important than you might think, and how you can test and improve your site load speeds to:
- Speed up your website
- Boost conversions
- Improve SEO
Why is Website Speed Optimization Important?
Website speed optimization can lead to a boost in on-site conversions and SEO because faster sites are more appealing to both users and search engines.
Users demand fast-loading websites. Website users expect a webpage to load quickly. If it doesn’t, many will abandon the site. According to Google, the probability of a user bouncing goes up by:
- 32% if the site load time is 1-3 seconds
- 90% if the site load time is 1-5 seconds
- 106% if the site load time is 1-6 seconds
- 123% if the site load time is 1-10 seconds
When users quickly bounce off a slow site, there is little opportunity for the brand to engage the audience with high-quality content or drive valuable conversions.
Search engines prefer fast-loading websites. Google has stated that site speed impacts search rankings. Search engines want to deliver results that provide a great experience for their users, so they prefer to rank fast-loading websites. To appeal to search engines, a site should always incorporate page speed SEO into their strategy.
For more SEO best practices, read our post: 50 Best Practices for SEO That Will Ignite Growth
What is a Good Page Load Speed?
As a best practice, Google recommends a page load speed of under three seconds.
However, many sites do not meet this recommendation.
A Google study found that for 70% of the mobile landing pages analyzed, it took more than five seconds for the visual content above the fold to display on the screen, and it took more than seven seconds to fully load all visual content above and below the fold.
Per Google’s recommendation, aim for a page load speed of under three seconds. But also benchmark your site speed against your competitors to understand how fast your site needs to load to be competitive in your industry.
How to do a Website Speed Test
To know how well your website speed optimization appeals to both users and search engines, use a website speed test to check your site loading time.
Alexa offers a Speed Analysis tool as a part of our full Site Audit. The report provides data on the entire website so that you can identify what you need to do to improve overall site-loading times.
The report also includes a list of the slowest loading URLs so that you can prioritize individual pages that need website speed optimization.
Alexa’s technical SEO audit also includes directions and website performance optimization techniques that tell you how to improve website speed. Plus, you’ll get suggestions for improving other off-page, on-page, and technical SEO factors.
For additional page-specific website speed optimization recommendations, these tools are also valuable:
Curious how your SEO performance stacks up to the competition? Alexa’s SEO analysis tools can help.
How to Improve Website Loading Speed
If you find that your site is running too slowly, use these eight website speed optimization tactics to create a more user- and SEO-friendly website.
1. Enable website caching
Website caching temporarily stores data for a web page when a user visits a site for the first time. Saving the data, rather than reloading it each time the user visits, allows the site to load at a faster speed. Depending on your website platform, you can enable website caching through manual code, general settings, or a WordPress plugin such as W3 Total Cache.
2. Audit your plugins
While WordPress plugins can add additional functionality to a site and decrease development costs, they can also slow down your site. Plugins that perform complex tasks or are low-quality can increase site load times
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. Regularly audit your plugins to ensure that you’re only using necessary, high-quality tools. Consider using a tool like Kinsta to scan your WordPress site, monitor how much processing time your plugins are consuming, and identify problematic plugins.
4. Compress site files
Another way to decrease the pull on resources as your site loads is by compressing files. When your site files are small, they don’t take as long to load. Gzip is a popular data compression program that can assist with compressing site files so that they load more quickly.
5. Reduce the number of redirects
Redirects are useful tools for guiding users to live pages when you remove or move content from your site. But too many redirects can become problematic. Redirects require extra HTTP requests, which can slow loading speeds. For website speed optimization best practices, limit the number of redirect links on your site.
6. Use optimal graphics formatting
Large graphics can load slowly, which increases overall page load time. To ensure that pages aren’t bogged down with large graphics, use an SEO checklist that includes the following graphics formatting best practices for image SEO.
- Choose the right image file type (JPEG, PNG, GIF, SVG)
- Properly size images so that their dimensions are no larger than the width of your webpage template.
- Use a tool like JPEGmini to compress large images and graphics and speed up image loading.
- Consider serving your graphics in nextgen formats like Google’s WebP format. These formats provide better compression, but aren’t supported by all browsers, so you’ll need to serve a backup JPEG or PNG version of your images.
7. Host videos on third-party sites
Because videos are large files, they can dramatically increase site load times. So don’t upload and host video files on your site. Instead, use a third-party platform like YouTube, Vimeo, or Wistia to host your video and then embed it on your site.
8. Upgrade to better hosting
Website hosting can range from cheap, shared hosting options to costly, dedicated servers. More economical, low-cost hosting options can lead to slower site load times. If you’re using shared hosting, consider upgrading to virtual private server (VPS) hosting for better website speed optimization.
Continue to Monitor and Improve Website Speed Optimization
Monitor your site loading times regularly and automatically with Alexa’s biweekly Site Audit. You’ll be informed of any SEO problems so you can be sure that your site speed is fast enough to please users, drive conversions, and send rank-boosting signals to search engines.
To keep an eye on your website speed, sign up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan. You’ll get access to our biweekly Site Audit, which checks site loading times and dozens of other SEO factors. Plus, you’ll get actionable recommendations for how to improve.