It is clear that the best way to make a great first impression to potential customers is through your website. This is where users go to find the information they need about a certain topic that you are well-versed in or to learn more about your business.
Knowing this, there is no doubt that the website they click on should be functional, efficient, and relevant to their needs. They must feel as though they have found an information goldmine that is not only solving their problems but providing those solutions seamlessly.
This is where site speed comes into play. After all, who waits more than a couple of seconds for a website to load anymore?
Potential customers are looking for the fastest sites with the most relevant information, which could very well be your competitors.
By providing users with excellent page speed and a great user experience, you will not only be able to keep up with those competitors, but will also stand out by ensuring your website’s low bounce rates and higher organic rankings on search engines.
In this article, you will learn:
- Elements that improve your website
- How to improve your website’s speed
- What actually makes a fast website
- Benefits of improving your website’s overall performance
How can you improve your website?
Before improving your website's speed performance, it is important to make sure that the actual content you want users to find is relevant and top-quality. After all, you can be the fastest site on the web, but if users encounter unorganized or mediocre content then they will have no other choice but to click off and search somewhere else.
There are several ways to avoid this scenario, and they all fall under the umbrella of optimizing your content specifically for SEO. That means optimizing title tags, meta descriptions, alt text, and many more elements within the site. By creating good content and then optimizing these on-page SEO ranking factors, you would be increasing your chances for more organic traffic.
How to Improve Your Website’s Loading Speed
Now, what about when you've optimized those elements and still find that your website is not ranking or performing at its best? It could mean that your site’s user experience still needs improvement.
As we mentioned before, a huge element responsible for excellent page experiences is speed. Your content might be great, but slow loading times could be significantly impacting your business’ ROI. To diagnose some of these speed issues on your website, we recommend using Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
Here are some elements directly affecting your page loading times, and five ways to boost your website’s speed:
1. Optimize image sizes and formats.
One of the most common reasons for a slow page load is unoptimized images.
Images that are too large, not sized properly, or that are formatted incorrectly ultimately increase the amount of time that it takes for the browser to render the images on screen for the user.
Large files take time to load, meaning that any user visiting your site is being met with a less-than-stellar page experience. They wait for a few seconds before deciding to click away from your website and leave with a terrible first impression. If this continues to happen, you’ll undoubtedly see an increase in bounce rates and significantly lower conversion rates.
After all, how can your potential customers trust in your business if your own website is inefficient?
How to Know if Image Size is an Issue on Your Website
Images can be too large in terms of both file size and image size.
The image’s file size, which is measured in Kilobytes or Megabytes, refers to the amount of space required to store the photo. The higher the resolution of a photo, the greater its file size. While beautiful images are certainly important for your brand, they significantly slow down your site. For the web it is recommended that you keep the file size of each image to 100 kilobytes.
In addition to file size, an image's size in terms of dimensions is also important for page experience. By ensuring that your images have explicit width and height attributes, you will help loading times and visual stability significantly. Having set dimensions means that the browser can accurately estimate the space that must be reserved on your page for that image as it downloads. Without set dimensions, images are scaled in the browser to the size necessary to fit the space on the page. This negatively impacts a website’s visual stability and contributes to layout shifts for the user.
How to Fix It
There are a few ways you can optimize images on your own as a content creator. Virtually every Content Management System (such as Hubspot, Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace, and so on) will give you the option to edit your images.
If you are using Hubspot, the process is straight-forward. Use the image editor by clicking on the image you want to resize. You will then see height and width options at the top of your page where you can alter the pixels. You will be able to see the size being altered as you change the dimensions in real time. All you have to do is determine what image size is best for your content.
Another helpful tool for compressing and resizing images is Squoosh, an online tool that allows you to compress, resize, and reformat images without sacrificing image quality.
Keep in mind that each image should serve a specific purpose for your content. So, make sure that each image is in the correct format. This includes deciding if an image should be a JPEG or JPG, PNG, GIF, PDF, and so on. You will make this decision based on the desired image quality, and what is recommended to reduce loading times.
How to Know if Image Format is an Issue on Your Website
Once you enter your desired URL into PageSpeed Insights, you might run into the ‘Serve images in next-gen formats’ alert if you have an image format issue. The alert is suggesting to switch to image formats that are able to compress more efficiently and can increase page speed, such as WebP and AVIF.
How to Fix It
This simply means you can optimize the image’s final format into something that users can download faster, providing them with a better experience. If you’d like to see the final version of your optimized images before including them into your content, we once again suggest using Squoosh for that. This web app will allow you to compress your images to various sizes and formats while also comparing it to the original image you started with, ensuring that you are not compromising image quality.
Besides compressing, you can also avoid slow loading times by making sure you do not have an excessive amount of images on your pages and only focus on the ones that truly contribute to your content.
All in all, taking the time to optimize image files not only improves page speed but overall website performance. This is because a functional website will receive higher SEO rankings.
2. Lazy load images.
Along with being aware of image sizes, you can also improve site speed by selecting the correct loading option for your images. This is possible by lazy loading your page elements, meaning only loading offscreen images once they are needed.
How to Know If Image Loading is an Issue on Your Website
PageSpeed Insights will clearly let you know if the way your image loading process is impeding your page speed in any way. You will see an alert to “Defer offscreen images” which suggests loading an image once the user is scrolling near the area where it would be.
Doing this allows their browser to prioritize loading other important elements that must be visible to users immediately.
How to Fix It
If you are using Hubspot, you can try lazy loading by clicking on the image you want to edit to reveal the image options menu on the left side of the page. Scroll down until you see the “Image loading” feature and select the “Lazy” loading option. This simple change can greatly optimize page performance.You can also lazy load images by editing your website’s HTML, and adding loading=”lazy” to image tags that appear below the fold.
3. Avoid autoplaying video.
Another way to speed up page speed is to turn off autoplay for any videos on your page.
How to Know If Autoplay an Issue on Your Website
A clear way to know if Autoplay is an issue is by experiencing your own website for yourself. Is it distracting to enter a page and hear a video already playing as you scroll through?
Think of the overall experience users are having on your website when they have no control over the information they are interacting with. Provide them a choice by allowing them to read your content and only clicking on a video once they are ready for it.
By not interrupting a visitor’s journey throughout your site with videos that could be distracting them, you give them the chance to focus on other more important elements on your page. This small change can not only decrease loading times but also improve user experience. Giving users this choice will prompt them to spend more time on your page and explore your content, which is directly responsible for decreasing bounce rates and ultimately improving your website’s SEO score.
4. Use third-party scripts sparingly.
How to Know If Third-Party Scripts are an Issue on Your Website
You will know this is an issue if you see the “Reduce the impact of third-party code” alert, advising you to limit the number of third-party providers that are impacting loading performance. This issue could be triggered by embedding too many videos from Youtube or Vimeo, too many social media buttons, analytics, and more.
How to Fix It
Using too many of these scripts means you are relying on the performances of other platforms in order for your own page element to load efficiently. This means that the speed of these embedded elements are mostly out of your control. The best way to avoid this issue is using these third-party scripts sparingly, and strictly focusing on the ones that are absolutely necessary.
5. Use a reliable CMS and fast web host.
Lastly, make sure your website is performing at its best by having a Content Management System that fits your business goals and objectives. Doing so will allow you to confidently make these important changes to your content and maximize results for your marketing efforts.
Along with a reliable CMS, make sure it also has a Content Delivery Network (CDN) built in as it can greatly affect your page’s loading speed and overall website performance. A CDN is a network responsible for distributing your website files and content to other servers in different geographic locations. This means that a user’s request for your website content will go to the server that is closest to them, meaning that it will take less time for your website to load on their device regardless of their location.
How to Know if Your CMS is an Issue on Your Website
The best way to know if it's time to change your CMS is to be aware of the changes you want to make to your website and overall business. If your upcoming business objectives and goals are being limited by your Content Management System slowing down your site, then it is time for a change.
As your business grows, it is critical that you are able to make content changes and update any features as needed. Any CMS that is limiting your attempts to speed up your website instead of supporting those changes is holding your business back significantly.
How to Fix It
Consider finding a CMS that supports your business objectives, is easy to use, and provides more opportunities for optimizing your website’s performance as opposed to limiting them.
For us, that CMS is none other than Hubspot.
What makes a website fast?
All of the elements explained above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to optimizing your website’s speed. There are more technical ways to ensure that your website is not only functional but efficient.
For greater chances of success, consider having a developer take care of these tasks.
To feel confident about your website's overall health, you must check its Core Web Vitals. Doing so will give you the most accurate and clear diagnosis as to what metrics need to be improved. Some of those metrics include Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Display, and Cumulative Layout Shift. They focus on the more technical side of your website and the elements responsible for how fast, responsive, and visually stable your website actually is.
Learning more about these issues will help you understand the importance of overall website performance and the countless factors that are involved in improving it.
Benefits of Improving Website Loading Speed
As a marketer, it is crucial that your users are met with an excellent page experience whenever they visit your website. It is the core of your business and where users are able to interact with your content. Their experience with your site will ultimately dictate if they become potential customers in the future.
Besides providing a better user experience, improving your website performance will significantly improve your SEO and increase the chances of ranking higher on the search results of your most sought-after prospects. As opposed to clicking off due to terrible loading times or wonky page elements, these leads will actually explore your content and find value in it - decreasing bounce rates! This kind of scenario will eventually result in increased user activity, higher conversion rates, and increased revenue.
Keep in mind that being more intentional about your website’s speed performance will reap amazing benefits for your business’ ROI in the future. For more guidance, consider following our SEO Audit Checklist to assess your site's health.