When people click on a link, they expect the page to load up instantly. Most people won’t have the patience to wait more than a couple of seconds just to see what your page has to offer.
If your page doesn’t load up quickly enough, they’ll just click the back button and move on to the next search result. Every time this happens, you’re wasting an opportunity that could have resulted in a successful conversion.
It’s hard enough to get people’s attention to get them to click on your page. So you shouldn’t be throwing away all these potential conversions just because of some technicalities that are relatively easy to fix.
The Benefits of a Fast Website
Pages that load quickly have a positive effect on your site’s overall user experience. This helps you create a great first impression which, in turn, helps your brand image.
Your website is the foundation of your digital presence and all your digital marketing efforts. It’s your online storefront and office space. If it doesn’t look like it’s properly maintained, people will think twice about doing business with you.
If your pages are sluggish and take ages to load, it reflects poorly on your business practices. If you can’t provide a high quality experience for something as simple as a website, your visitors will wonder if you’ll actually be able to deliver on your promises.
In the financial services space, you need to be able to gain people’s trust because your clients need to feel that their financial future is safe in your hands. You’ll have a harder time building good relationships with your leads and prospects if you start off on the wrong foot with a poorly optimized website. You have to always be projecting the right image from start to finish if you want to win over new clients.
Why it’s Important to Optimize Page Load Times
A properly optimized website should load quickly no matter what device or what kind of Internet connection your visitors are using. You shouldn’t expect that all of your visitors will be using the latest Macbooks or iPhones with the fastest broadband connections possible. They could be stuck with bad WiFi signals or spotty mobile connections on a really slow smartphone that’s a couple of years old.
You should always plan ahead and think about the worst case possible when it comes to optimizing your website for speed. This allows you to provide the best experience possible for everybody even if they’re not using the latest tech available.
How to Speed Up Your Website
- Upgrade Your Hosting
Cheap hosting plans might seem like a good deal at first, but you might be sacrificing your site’s performance just to save a couple of dollars a month. Even if your site doesn’t get thousands of unique visitors per day, it’s better if you start with a web host that has a good reputation for performance and reliability. If you’re targeting audiences in a specific location, make sure your web host has servers nearby. It’s much easier to upgrade your hosting plan than it is to migrate your site to a new web host later down the line.
If your site is already generating lots of traffic and you’re still using a shared hosting, you should look into switching to a VPS (Virtual Private Server) or a dedicated server. This ensures that your site can handle all the requests it receives even during peak times. But you’ll need to hire an experienced web developer to properly configure and manage your web server if you move up to dedicated servers.
But before you upgrade your web host, you should make sure your site is already fully optimized. Otherwise, you’ll be going through a whole lot of trouble and not see any significant gains. You can check what you need to optimize on your site by using GTmetrix or Google Page Speed Insights.
- Minimize Your HTTP Requests
When someone visits your page their browser sends an HTTP request to your web server to retrieve the files necessary to display your site. You can dramatically speed up your site by removing unnecessary HTTP requests and combining multiple HTTP requests into one.
Browsers that use older HTTP protocols can’t download all your files at once. It can only make a limited number of HTTP requests at any given time. If your site has too many HTTP requests, even if they’re just a bunch of small files, it will take much longer to retrieve all the assets your site requires since they’re downloaded in batches.
The newer HTTP/2 protocol allows browsers to download multiple files simultaneously which significantly speeds up page loading times. It’s important to make sure your site has switched to HTTP/2 since pretty much all modern browsers support it.
If you want to check the HTTP requests your site makes, analyze it using GTmetrix and click on the Waterfall tab. This will show you all of your site’s HTTP requests, what types of files it’s requesting, and how long each file takes to download.
Here are a couple of other things you can do to lower your HTTP requests and optimize your files for speed:
- Remove unnecessary images, fonts and files
- Reduce and optimize file sizes of images, videos and audio
- Remove unnecessary plugins and scripts
- Use CSS sprites to combine multiple images into one file
Note that with HTTP/2, you no longer have to worry as much about loading multiple files at once. So some of these steps may not be as helpful as they used to be. Combining multiple files into one was a very useful workaround for the limitations of HTTP 1.1 and older protocols.
- Use a Caching Plug-in
If your site is built using WordPress, you can improve page load times by installing a caching plugin like WP Super Cache, WP Rocket, or Cache Enabler. Caching allows your website’s files and assets to be stored locally on your visitor’s device so that the browser doesn’t need to download it again from the server if it ever needs it again. These cached assets will show up instantly and the browser will only have to request new files every time they click on a different page on your site. This dramatically speeds up page speed and lowers the load on your servers.
- Use a Content Delivery Network
CDNs or Content Delivery Networks like Cloudflare, Cloudfront or MaxCDN have servers and data centers in different locations all over the world. You can cache your static data, such as images and videos, on a CDN so that your website visitors can download them onto their devices much quicker. Other dynamic content will still be pulled from your main web server.
This setup ensures that your site can load as quickly as possible no matter where your visitors are in the world. CDNs also spread out the load over different servers which helps your site handle more traffic without getting bogged down. It also saves bandwidth on your web server since you’re offloading downloads of larger files elsewhere. In addition, a CDN can also protect you from denial of service attacks since it adds another layer between your site’s server and your users.
- Compress and Optimize Your Images and Files
You should always be working to make your file sizes as small as possible while still providing acceptable quality. Small kilobyte-sized files show up almost instantly on most Internet connections and can be rendered quickly on even the slowest devices. Larger uncompressed images will not only take a couple of seconds to download, but they’ll also slow down the browser and eat up a lot of a device’s memory. All this leads to a sluggish user experience that will frustrate a lot of your website visitors. This is where an experienced web design team can make all the difference. They’ll be able to make all your images, graphic design elements, and videos look amazing and keep the file sizes to a minimum.