Do you see a visible delay in your websites page load times? Do you find yourself tapping your fingers as the pages of your website load?
This post arms you with all that you need to fix this problem. We have seen 10x improvements after a day of optimization efforts for pages we have worked on.
Page load times were a critical addition to the 2010 Google Caffeine page ranking algorithm., so if you want Google rankings then you need to pay attention to this.
Page load time is the time it takes for your page to fully render in a browser after it is requested. Page load time is important to your search engine rankings, SEO and website usability. Many of the sites I analyze have focused solely on aesthetics and in so doing have left out many of the website features important to their success. Page load time is one of them.
Consider the following, if it takes 5 minutes to load the content of your web page, do you think the search engines will stick around to grab your content? Don’t think so. So, how long do you expect the search engines to wait around to extract the content from your page before they leave to the next web page? Search engines don’t publish these numbers. I can tell you this though: If it takes less than 2 seconds to load your entire page then you’re probably safe. If it takes 10, 20 seconds or more then don’t be surprised if you aren’t found in the search engines at all. This knowledge comes from measuring the load times of the sites we analyze and build, and their search engine ranking success.
The usability factor is, current wisdom says that if your website visitors aren’t convinced that they are at the right site within 5 – 8 seconds then they’re gone. The page load time usability factor directly affects sales and conversions.
Google has recently included page load time in its landing page Quality Score for their Adwords campaigns. Pay attention to it.
So, how do you speed up page load times?
Fortunately there are great tools to measure page load times and a solid list of techniques to speed up your page loads.
A great and short book to give you an understanding of the concepts that you’ll be testing below is the book by Steve Souders, web performance evangelist at Google and former Chief Performance Yahoo! High Performance Web Sites: Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers It is the first book I read on the subject and is a great place to start down this road to page and website optimization. I read it 3 times before I embarked on this topic of speeding up page load times. You might also be interested in his updated book on the subject Even Faster Web Sites: Performance Best Practices for Web Developers.
Several online tools to troubleshoot and fix the page load time problems on your web pages:
- My favorite tool GTMetrix – it contains a waterfall http request load chart and a prioritized list of actions that you can use to fix your problems. By starting with the highest priorities you can get the most bang for the buck (your efforts). It has great help descriptions of each topic, and a major bonus is that it also has a YSlow grading and troubleshooting capability besides its own grade and tools.
- Pingdom Tools – contains the waterfall http request load chart and a nice breakdown of objects by category like images, CSS scripts, etc. It has a nice history chart so you can see how your load times have improved.
- WebPageTest.org – contains the waterfall http request load chart and initial and second page load times so you can see the effectiveness of your sites caching. Several tabs show you details from many perspectives including the Page Speed tab which shows you the specific objects that are causing problems, and what kind of savings you can expect by fixing them.
- Uptrends – a simple list of each http request with visual chart and summary.
Here is an example of the waterfall charts for before and after caching, and the summary diagram from WebPageTest.org:
It is the page load time of our home page. The bars from top-left to bottom-right are each of the page objects being sent to the browser.
Here is an example of what the YSlow Plugin displays.
YSlow has 21 categories that it grades your web page performance on from A to F. It also describes what can be done to improve each section.
WordPress Plugins to Speed Up Your Page Load Times
You can use plugins like WP Super Cache and WP Minify to mitigate a lot of the issues you’ll see. Use these settings for a quick optimization of WP Super Cache. There are many other plugins and tweaks you can find by Googling how to speed up wordpress.
You might also look into Google Page Speed, a CDN service that recently became available.
There is a real science in speeding up your page load times. Start with these tools and you’ll easily see your pages loading in less than 3 seconds.