The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Website Performance

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Your website is one of the most important aspects of your brand. It’s your online home, where visitors can find out more about the products, services, or content you offer. A top-notch website translates to more engagements, better conversions, rankings, and an increase in revenue — which is why it’s important that your website is fast and reliable.

When a visitor clicks on your web page, it should load quickly. Nearly 40% of visitors will probably abandon a website if its load time is more than three seconds. Your potential clients have plenty of other alternatives to choose from, and poor website performance can drive them right into your competitors’ arms. A high-performing website, on the other hand, can catapult your business to the next level.

So, what factors make for good web performance? And what can you do to make sure potential customers stick with your site? Let’s dive into why good web performance matters and how you can use it to grow your business.

‌What Is Website Performance?

Put simply, website performance is the speed and availability of website elements, including web pages and images. Objectively measuring website performance helps website owners and developers to evaluate perceived user experience.

The first thing visitors notice when they visit your website is how it behaves, so it’s important to pay close attention to things like load times and ease of navigation. Some of the key areas of website performance optimization include:

  • Reliability and interactivity
  • ‌Short load times
  • ‌Quick usability
  • ‌Performance measurements
  • ‌User experience

‌Does Website Performance Matter?

Everyone has visited a website that took too long to open, or functioned poorly once it did load. For website owners, a one-second lag in load time may seem negligible, but for many users, it’s an inconvenience that’s not worth pushing through. Even a small amount of lag can lead to a high visitor abandonment rate.

A study by Microsoft Corporation revealed that the average human’s attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds since the year 2000. This drop has been linked to the brain’s progressive digitized lifestyle. For businesses, it means a more limited period than ever to grab a visitor’s attention and convince them to buy your product or use your service.

Page speed is an essential metric for any website, since it significantly determines the traffic you get on your website. If your website loads quickly and works well, you may have a competitive advantage over other websites in your niche or sub-niche.

Why Does Google Care About My Website Performance?

Search engines, including Google, care about how your website performs and responds to user queries. Their algorithms factor in website speed, site quality, user experience, and quality of content on sites when determining how they’ll rank websites. Google always wants its results to be as useful as possible and answer user queries accurately.

Almost two decades ago, in 2010, Google announced a major update that speed would be a critical ranking factor for desktop searches. In 2018, the tech giant released an entire update stating speed also matters in its mobile searches. Google advised web owners and developers to evaluate website performance to improve user experience.

Google’s PageSpeed industry benchmarks also showed that bounce rates from websites increased tremendously when websites took too long to load. If your website takes more than 3 seconds to load, the probability of a visitor bouncing increases by 32%. The bounce rate for a site that takes longer than 10 seconds is over 120%.

Common Mistakes That Hinder Website Performance

As a website owner, there are many elements you have to consider for the success of your website. It’s important to monitor your end goal of a better, faster-loading website, but also not forget to look out for these common mistakes that may keep your site from hitting the mark.

Too Many Plugins and Widgets

You can increase the functionality of your website by integrating features that connect to other sites your users are already familiar with. Most website owners love the convenience that plugins and widgets bring to the online marketplace. These features make it easier to run a website without coding everything from scratch. However, overusing these extra features can strain website performance.

It’s advisable to install minimum add-ons on your website so that you don’t compromise page speed. Remember that the functionality and quality of installed add-ons is usually more important than the number of add-ons. Plug-ins on your website should also be up-to-date to eliminate bugs that may affect website performance and compromise security.

Poor Coding Standards

An efficient code that doesn’t contain unnecessary elements can boost website performance. Some website developers may write massive blocks of code that may not be required to perform a particular function. A poorly coded website will ultimately affect the speed of web pages and user experience, translating to a high visitor abandonment rate.

Mediocre Hosting

Today, there are over 1.8 billion websites online. For your website to stand out, your web host matters. There are many hosting options that website owners can pick to optimize load times. Investing in a bloated web host can severely affect your website performance, as these servers are often subject to outages, slow load times, and even security breaches.

So don’t just go for the cheapest option out there. A little extra time and money toward a reliable web host can pay off big in the long run.

Too Many Ads

Ads are tempting for many website owners. Handing over some website space to advertisers can have some monetary benefits, but ads can also significantly increase bounce rates. If you have too many ads on your site or ads that take too long to load, visitors will most likely abandon your site.

Incompatible Design Themes

An eye-catching website design can help snag visitors’ interest in your offerings. Appealing colors, crisp images, and exciting videos can do a lot to increase conversions — but only if your site loads fast enough for an impatient visitor to see them.

The design theme and media content you choose to upload to your website can boost or deteriorate your website performance, so don’t overdo it. Make sure that your design themes are compatible with all browsers, and that your graphics entice visitors without overwhelming them.

How to Assess Website Performance

Before embarking on website performance optimization, you should first conduct an audit to determine your website’s current loading time and find out what is slowing it down. This information will help you define your website’s performance goals and align its performance to industry-standard benchmarks.

There are various tools available for auditing and measuring website performance, but first, we’ll take a look at some of the most important qualities these tools should be measuring. When assessing website performance, you’ll want to pay close attention to these key metrics:

Server Health

Test your server to identify the number of requests it can comfortably handle, as well as how it responds to such requests. With a comprehensive website audit tool, you can see whether or not the server returns errors.

‌Loading Times

An effective monitoring tool should also provide insights regarding how long it takes to display mobile and computer visitor requests. Slower load times could be an indicator that your site code or server need to be optimized.

‌Downtime

For your business to be accessible, your website should always be online. Analytics from monitoring tools should provide data regarding periods and frequencies when your website is unreachable, so you can find the root of the problem and resolve it.

What Tools Can You Use To Analyze Web Performance?

A web monitoring tool can scan various metrics on your site to analyze performance. An efficient tool can run in the background, unearthing performance bottlenecks that need to be fixed. Having a hands-on approach can provide valuable insights into how your website handles periods of low and high traffic volumes.

Planning regular audits can help ensure that your site is always running at peak performance. Here are a few tools to help you analyze and improve your site metrics:

WebPageTest

WebPageTest is a free, open-source performance monitoring tool that analyzes the loading time of web pages across over 40 locations worldwide. You can also choose to get comprehensive insights regarding user experience from over 25 browsers, including Firefox and Safari. This can help you understand if your website performs poorly on a particular browser or in a particular geographic location.

This website performance monitoring tool will highlight suggested changes based on various website performance tests, highlighted in order of importance.

Pingdom

Pingdom analyzes elements of your website, such as load times and file sizes, to generate a detailed report with four sections: performance grade, waterfall breakdown, history, and page analysis. Your website performance will receive a score of between 0 and 100, with detailed insights regarding request types, content size, and response codes.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Google processes over 3.5 billion search queries every day. Finding out how this search engine views and measures your website performance can help to drastically improve your rankings. 

You can use Google’s page speed testing tool to gain more insights into your site’s SERP rankings by identifying elements like videos, images, and third-party components that slow your website’s load time.

Google PageSpeed Insights rates website scores from 0 to 100 points. A score of less than 50 shows that your website is slow, while an over 85 score shows that your website’s performance is ideal.

Google Lighthouse

Lighthouse is another free website monitoring tool from Google that ranks web performance from 1 to 100. This application gives you actionable insights that can improve web performance by assessing factors like mobile experience and load speed.

The major difference between Google Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights is that Lighthouse paints a complete picture of your site by providing details about accessibility, search engine optimization, and best practices, while PageSpeed Insights focuses on performance.

GTmetrix

GTmetrix offers a detailed analysis of web performance, grading your site’s performance from A to F. Offering analytics on YSlowtests (Yahoo) and PageSpeed (Google) scores, GTmetrix provides an in-depth assessment of website performance and user experience. It provides suggestions on how to fix performance bottlenecks exposed by its report.

How to Boost the Performance of Your Website

You can gain an advantage over your competitors — and even give multinational corporations a run for their money — by optimizing website performance.

The happier your visitors are, the more likely they are to buy your products or services, subscribe to your email list, go through your blog, or take part in offers. Slight differences in website performance can translate to a conversion or bounce when visitors get to your website. Users visiting slow competitor websites will eventually abandon them and opt for your fully optimized site.

There are plenty of practical steps you can take to develop and optimize a website that loads fast and delivers this kind of ideal user experience. Here are a few ways to get started:

1. Optimize For Mobile Users

Today, more people are accessing websites from their mobile phones. It is estimated that 53% of global web traffic in 2020 came from smartphones. Every online business wants to get a piece of this booming source of traffic on the web.

To improve website performance for smartphone users, websites need to take a mobile-first approach, becoming more mobile-friendly. A responsive and lightweight build can help you improve the performance of your website for mobile users.

2. Detect and Fix 404 Errors

A “Page isn’t found” error occurs when a web page no longer exists. If this message shows up on your device screen, the web page you are looking for may have been moved or deleted, the URL may have been misspelled, the server may have malfunctioned, or the domain may simply not exist. If these errors are cropping up on your website, visitors won’t be inclined to stick around.

Not only that, but traffic to dead links can consume your web server’s resources and affect website performance. A server may require memory of up to 100 MB to deliver this error. You can use error detection tools to map and eliminate dead links or develop creative dead link pages as a supplementary measure to limit bounce rates.

‌3. Introduce the Trailing Slash

A trailing slash in your URL can notify servers that there are no additional file directories to search for. A URL that reads www.example.com/finaldestination/ can shave a few milliseconds when your webpage loads compared to a URL like www.example.com/finaldestination.

4. Limit 301 Redirects

It’s best to avoid redirects whenever possible since they kill website performance. Redirects can double load times, because they generate extra round-trip times. This forces browsers to take longer to load the HTML content of a website before they can load any other assets.

5. Choose a Better Host

When it comes to upgrading to a web hosting service, cheaper may not always be better. Most new website owners often choose subscription plans based entirely on budget, with many going for the cheapest hosting options available. But once your website traffic starts to increase, it’s advisable to consider upgrading your web host.

A hosting service provider that offers more resources can boost your website performance, resulting in a better user experience and reducing your website’s bounce rate. There are four different types of web hosting options that you can choose from:

  • Shared hosting
  • ‌Cloud hosting
  • ‌Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting
  • ‌Dedicated server

If you’ve noticed that your load times, page speeds, and response times are getting slower, you should move from shared hosting to a VPS subscription service. If you’re having trouble with your VPS, it may be time to consider upgrading to a dedicated server.

You should consider investing in a web host that can handle heavy traffic on your website. If you decide to go for shared hosting, a spike in another website’s activities may ultimately affect your website’s performance.

Choosing the right web hosting service can transform your site from a basic webpage into a performance-oriented site with an optimal user experience.

6. SSL Certification

An unsecure website can attract hackers and expose your business to major security threats. Today, hackers are going for smaller businesses since many owners often overlook their websites’ security issues. A compromised website can quickly become a PR nightmare and severely hurt your brand’s reputation.

Users prefer websites that are safe and secure. So does Google. If your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate/HTTPS protocol, Google will penalize it, ultimately affecting the traffic to your website. This certificate encrypts data between your website and visitors, ensuring hackers don’t have access to delicate user and site information.

7. Limit External Resources

Third-party resources on your website may increase latency. This is the time taken between an action by a user on your website and the resulting response. Low latency translates to a better user experience and vice versa.

External resources may increase latency, since your site’s server may have to communicate with other servers, increasing the total wait time.

8. Use a CDN

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a collection of servers located all over the globe that optimizes your website performance if your visitors are in different parts of the world. It stores cached copies of files and pages on your site for speedy delivery to user devices, no matter where they are.

For instance, it would take longer for a user in Seattle to access your website if your site’s servers are located in Beijing than if they’re located in the same city or state. Users should be physically close to servers to boost load time. CDN technology detects the nearest server to a visitor’s location and redirects requests more quickly from that server.

With CDN, optimizing website performance for users across different geographical locations becomes easier. Visitors from different parts of the world can experience faster load times when they get to your website.

9. Monitor Website Performance

Every website owner should regularly monitor the performance of their website to gather insights on what they need to improve. Monitoring your website’s performance is essential, especially after installing a new plugin or updating your site’s code.

Running tests and performing regular audits to see the effects of any major or minor tweaks to your site is critical to making sure such changes do not compromise your website performance. Monitoring web performance also helps set benchmarks for periods when search engines implement major changes to their algorithms.

Should I Consider Optimizing My Website Performance?

When it comes to the online marketplace, speed sells.

Slow page speed and load times may kill conversions. A poorly optimized and slow website may frustrate and annoy your users, negatively impacting your brand reputation. A highly optimized, fast-loading website, on the other hand, can keep visitors coming back, and even encourage them to recommend your site to friends and family.

Website performance is an essential component of Google’s ranking algorithm that can boost page views and ultimately increase revenue. As a website owner, setting a baseline for website performance is essential. Whether you are offering services, selling products, or blogging, a fast and responsive website can drive more traffic and conversions to your site. It can help you build site authority and improve your rankings on SERPs as well.

To get started, you first have to find out what is making your website slow, then optimize your website to drive more conversions. Performance insights can provide you with fitting suggestions that can give your website the performance boost it requires.

Optimizing site performance doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process that needs to be done by an experienced team of experts. So, think carefully about what your site needs to perform better. Don’t be afraid to bring in professionals who can help improve your code and streamline your site design for a memorable user experience.

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