What’s the most important contributing factor for online success? Quality, useful content? Dynamic visual guides? No-nonsense product and/or service offerings?
If you chose any of the aformentioned, you’re only half-right. While each of these elements work together to bolster website value, without optimized speed the quality of your content or visual design is moot.
Not only is website speed a determining factor for visitor engagement, but the performance of your entire site plays a direct role in Google rank. The importance doesn’t stop there. Failure to adhere to the expectations of both user and Google can ultimately cost you your reputation.
So, how can a website adhere to the current design trends and content expectations of users without sacrificing speed? While this is a tricky subject, it all boils down to three words: website speed optimization.
What Is Website Speed Optimization?
You’ve likely heard of search engine optimization, which is the front and backend techniques used to persuade Google to rank your site above your competitors.
In its most basic of definitions, website speed optimization is the same. Instead of focusing on on-page content keyword density and topic coverage, like you do in SEO, website speed optimization focuses on refining the various on and off-page elements responsible for the server-side response times and rendering efficiency.
While you may not know much about website speed optimization right now, if you wish to remain competitive in the online realm, now’s the time to dive into the deep end of lightening fast webpage load times.
Website Speed Optimization Techniques for 2018
The basic concepts of website speed optimization techniques are quite simple. Regardless of methodology and tactic, each of the following techniques are based upon one or all of the following principles:
- Streamlined File Size and Data Weight
- Reduced Need for Repetitive Browser-Server Communication
- Leveraging Existing Technologies for Dynamic Speed Boosts
While this may seem simple enough, the tactics used to accomplish and satisfy each of these principles (without causing internal conflict or reducing website info quality) is easier said than done.
However, it’s not impossible. If you follow the website speed optimization techniques discussed below, you’ll soon find yourself in an elite group of fast, reliable and respected websites in the eyes of users and Google crawlers.
#1 – Limit Total HTTP Requests
As a general rule of thumb, a high number of HTTP requests results in longer webpage load times.
Essentially, an HTTP Request is sent from the end-user web browser to your web server. Requests are sent for each individual file, and while its duration may not seem significant, when you times each request by thousands of transmissions, you’re looking at an unacceptable duration.
Limit HTTP Requests by reducing the number of on-page plugins or add-ons, combining CSS files into a master stylesheet and minimizing the total number of files (such as images, custom web fonts, etc.) throughout your website.
#2 – Master the Art of Compression
Once you’ve streamlined your HTTP Requests, the time has come to compress absolutely everything. Not only should you focus on compressing all image files, but also the actual website.
Gzip compression is the most common of website speed optimization techniques capable of reducing total website request size by up to 70%. When combined with other compression tactics, such as minifying CSS files, your site will soon achieve record speeds.
#3 – Leverage Caching Options
Not only can you cache your website on the server-side, but also within the actual end-user web browser.
Browser caching essentially means storing additional website data on your end-users computer. Optimizing caching is relatively simple, especially if you have access to a caching plugin or server program via your web host cPanel.
In short, focus on setting the Expires Header for static webpage elements, which are elements that will never change, to “Never Expire.” For all other on-page elements, set the cache expiration for at least 30 days.
#4 – Minimize, or Eliminate, 301 Redirects
Whenever you use a 301 redirect, such as when redirecting a user from an old page to a new page, the overall performance of your site significantly slowdowns.
The biggest issue with 301 redirects in the eyes of Google is its negative influence on total round-trip, which is an important metric used to determine overall website speed.
Focus on restructuring the organization and navigation of your website to eliminate any 301 redirects. By doing so, your website will not only perform faster, but will receive increased ranking potential from search engine crawlers.
#5 – Use Website Speed Test Tools Daily
One of the most effective tips when it comes to website speed optimization techniques isn’t about adjusting your code or compressing images. While those tactics are imperative, the most powerful technique is bolstering your knowledge of current website speed metrics.
Monitoring tools, such as the Dotcom-Monitor Website Speed Test, provide in-depth analysis of individual page elements regarding their influence of speed and performance. Without this type of management tool, it’s impossible to fully understand what components require correction.
As the saying goes, knowledge is power.