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Your website is one of the primary ways you can interact with potential customers, facilitate sales, and present a cohesive brand image for your company. It’s important to make sure it runs properly to capture all potential sales and make sure that website visitors get the information they are looking for. Luckily, you don’t have to be a tech expert to optimize your web pages and improve your overall website speed.

What Is Website Speed?

Website speed refers to how long it takes for your webpages to load. Some pages on your website may take longer to load than others, depending on the contents of the page. You can measure your website’s speed in a few different ways, including how long it takes for the page to completely load, how long it takes for your webpage to start loading, and how long it takes for users to be able to interact with your website’s content.

For example, a user might be able to start reading the text of a blog post on your page before all of the images load. Using speed tests to determine the above website loading times can help you decide where and how to start the optimization process.

Why Does Website Speed Matter?

Modern web users expect websites to load quickly so they can access the products, services, and information they are looking for. Having a slow website can make your website harder to use and result in lost business. There are several reasons why you should pay attention to your website’s loading speed, including:

Search Engine Rankings

Website speed is one of the factors search engines use to determine where your website ranks on the search results page. Search engines usually use a combination of initial loading speed and full loading speed to determine if your website is fast enough to be a useful resource. Having a slow website could result in your webpages getting a much lower SEO ranking, making it harder for your potential customers to find your website in the first place.

Conversion Rate

Modern web users expect their websites to load within a few seconds, giving you an extremely short time frame to catch their attention. When customers have to wait a long time for a webpage to load, they have more opportunities to get distracted or frustrated and end their browsing session. Customers tend to spend more time on sites that load quickly and may be more likely to make a purchase due to the positive user experience of a fast website. Even a few seconds can be the difference between a customer deciding to check out on your website or exiting your page to shop with a competitor instead.

Customer Satisfaction

Even if customers decide to wait for a slow website to load, they could still get a negative impression of your business. Just like restaurant patrons don’t want to wait a long time to place their order, website visitors want to be able to browse your page without barriers like long wait times. This can make current customers feel frustrated and give off an unprofessional impression to other visitors.

Image via Flickr by Jan Persiel

Best Practices for Optimizing Your Website’s Speed

To start speeding up webpages on your site, implement these optimization best practices:

  • Compress files and images – Photos and files take up a large amount of loading time, so it’s important to compress them before uploading them to your website. You can integrate software applications that automatically compress files and images on your site, or you can compress them individually.
  • Enable caching – Caching is the process of saving parts of your website on a user’s browser, making your page load faster the next time the user visits your website. Essentially, the website will only have to load updates and additional content instead of reloading all of the website’s code every time the user clicks on your page.
  • Audit your code – Extra characters in your website’s code can also slow downloading times. Look over your HTML and other page code and remove errant commas, spaces, page breaks, and other unnecessary code. Additionally, make sure to resolve internal code comments and remove unused code after making updates.
  • Limit redirects – Redirecting users from one page to another adds additional loading time. You can limit redirects by always linking to the exact page address, eliminating plugins, and removing links for previously deleted pages.
  • Choose the right server – No matter how clean your code and linking are, your website will still be slow if you aren’t using a powerful enough server. Look for a web host that has the bandwidth, storage, and ticket assistance to support all of your website’s anticipated traffic.

Common Website Speed Testing Mistakes

If you’re serious about improving user experience on your website, you have to test your website’s speed properly. Be aware of these common pitfalls when testing your website speed to ensure you get accurate results:

  • Forgetting about mobile – Many people browse the web on their phones, which have different loading speeds than a desktop computer accessing the same site. So, be sure to test on both desktops and mobile devices.
  • Using one location – People will use your website all over the world, so only testing your web speed in one location could give inaccurate results. Use analytics tools to determine where most of your traffic is coming from geographically, then run speed tests in the areas of each of your main traffic sources.
  • Testing once – Gather as much data as you can by testing your web speed over time to address any changes.

Having a clean and accessible website is one of the best ways to market your business online. Get the most out of your website by using online tools to test its speed then immediately addressing various factors that could be slowing down your page.

Knowledge Base: Intro to Marketing

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