Is Poor Performance Dragging You Down? Here are Five Strategies to Maximize Page Speed in 2024
Whoever said patience is a virtue certainly never had to contend with modern-day websites. In this digital era, speed is everything, and failing to meet the critical 2-second load time could cost you big in terms of ranking and web traffic. If you made it your mission to boost your website performance this year, here is why you should start at the source.
SEO vs. Website Performance
When people talk about website performance – or lack thereof – the topic frequently shifts immediately to SEO and what can be done to improve the strategy and boost website traffic. While making this jump is not necessarily wrong, SEO and website performance are symbiotically connected, it often fails to capture the entire storey.
SEO is primarily focused on how to optimize a website’s content and structure, leveraging elements like keyword research, on-page optimization (meta tags, content, etc.), off-page optimization (backlink building), and technical SEO (site structure, speed, mobile optimization), to enhance online visibility and boost search engine ranking. Website performance, on the other hand, relates specifically to the speed, responsiveness, and efficiency of a website based on factors like load times, bounce rate, render time, and Core Web Vitals (Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, Cumulative Layout Shift). These factors play an extremely important role in the overall user experience, which, in turn, is a significant Google ranking factor.
Why Experience is So Important
The user experience is intricately woven into the search engine result rankings. Search engines like Google aim to provide users with the most relevant and high-quality results for their queries based on the relevancy, authority and content performance of the website. It is also well-known in the industry that Google counts page load speed as one of its ranking factors, which makes sense. Faster-loading pages contribute to a better user experience, lower bounce rate, and improved engagement, and Google rewards these sites with higher rankings. In contrast, slow-loading pages can lead to higher bounce rates, negatively impacting a website’s search engine visibility.
But how important is page loading time really? It’s more important than you think. Research shows that the difference between a 2-second load time and three could impact your web traffic by up to 50%. In fact, visitors begin to exhibit a dramatic decline in patience right around 2.75 seconds of page load.
With that in mind, the rest of this blog will cover simple webpage fixes that can significantly help boost your webpage performance and ultimately give your SERP ranking a little boost.
How to Measure Your Website Performance
Measuring page loading performance is not based on a single metric. Websites do not generally load all at once; they load in stages, starting with the largest elements and then moving on to smaller elements and interactive features. Because websites don’t simply pop up in one shot, it makes sense that page loading is also evaluated in phases. Common measurement metric includes Time to Frist Byte (TTFB), First Contentful Paint (FCP), and Onload Time (time to fully load).
Then there’s Google, which has its own metrics to measure user experience based on load speed, webpage interactivity, and visual stability.
• Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how long it takes the main website content to load. Ideally, you want a time of 2.5 seconds or less.
• First Input Delay (FID) measures how long it takes for interactive page elements to load; anything less than 100 milliseconds is considered “Good” in Google’s books.
• Cumulative layout shift (CLS) measures the frequency and severity of layout shifts (sudden unexpected movements or element displacement on your webpage). Your CLS score should be 0.1 or less.
Google offers a simple tool to check how well your website scores in each of these Core Vitals. Within the Google Search Console, navigate to Core Web Vitals and open your Mobile and Desktop Core Vitals reports. Google will rate your website performance in all three categories as either “Good,” “Needs Improvement,” or “Poor.”
When assessing your website performance, Google’s Core Vitals is a logical place to start, but it is always a good idea to get feedback from more than one source. Google Page Insights and Google Lighthouse are other great tools that can provide more in-depth insight into website performance, which can help identify bottlenecks and specific areas to improve. It is generally recommended that you also use at least one tool that is not reliant on Google data; we suggest the free-to-use GTmetrix.
Five Strategies to Improve Web Page Performance
Ok, now that you know how to measure your website performance, we will cover how you can improve it. If you are already at or near the top of Google’s Core Vitals (or other metrics), you have little to gain by shaving further milliseconds off your score. But if your results indicate anything other than “Good,” you have room for improvement, and those fractions of a second matter.
2. Optimize Images
Good image quality is crucial to user experience on your website; however, sometimes these large files can contribute to slow webpage load times. Optimizing your images by compressing them and ensuring you have chosen the right file formats can help you reduce file sizes without sacrificing visual quality. There are a ton of tools available online that can compress images, like Optimizilla and TinyPNG.
3. Limit the Number of HTTP Requests
4. Utilize Browser HTTP Caching
Browser caching allows web browsers to store certain files locally, such as images and CSS files. When a user revisits your website or even goes back and forth between pages, these files can be retrieved from the cache instead of being downloaded from the server again, resulting in faster loading times. To implement browser caching, you or your developer will need to configure your server to allow for cached content.
5. Remove Unnecessary Render-Blocking Resources
In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, your website performance should be more than just an afterthought. Poor download speed, failure to meet the critical 2-second load time threshold, and delivering an exceptional browsing experience could cost you significantly in terms of both ranking and traffic. So regardless of whether you’re aiming to maintain a top-ranking position, are looking to take the top, or simply want to improve user experience, website performance should be a priority in 2024.