What’s the Deal with Page Load Speeds?
Have you ever tried to go to a website only to find it takes what seems like forever to load? Odds are you thought about leaving the web page, and maybe you did.
That’s the same experience visitors may have when they come to your website if your page load speeds are too slow. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to prevent this from happening.
What Are Page Load Speeds?
Page load speed is the measurement of how quickly the content on a web page loads. This is calculated from initiation [when you click on the page link or type in the URL] to completion [when the page is fully loaded]. Usually measured in seconds, page load time is made up of two different parts:
1. Network and Server Time
Based on the internet connection speed and on how quickly static elements as photos are displayed
2. Browser time
How long it takes to analyze and execute the entire document and make the page available for user interaction
The same web page can have different page load times in different browsers, such as Chrome vs. Safari; on different platforms, like desktop vs. mobile; and in different locations, such as North America vs. Europe. For example, if your site is based on a server in the United States, but you sell to customers in the United Kingdom, those shoppers are likely to experience longer load times.
Why Do Page Load Speeds Matter?
Page load speeds matter for several reasons. First of all, page load speed is now a ranking factor for mobile searches. The faster the load time is for a page, the higher its ranking will be in search results.
Studies have also shown that internet users are more likely to leave web pages that take a longer time to load. Just one or two seconds can make a significant difference. With high speed internet, users have come to expect lightning fast page load speeds for websites. Faster loading pages lead to an increase in visitor engagement, retention, and purchasing.
Nearly half of internet users expect a web page to load within two seconds. Any longer, and they’re likely to start getting frustrated and leave your site for one that loads more quickly. Another study has found that around three-fourths of users will not return to a site if it takes longer than four seconds for the page to load. In order to meet users’ expectations, it’s important to make sure your web pages load within two seconds or less.
Small changes can decrease your page load speeds and boost your search rankings. Beyond rankings on search engines, optimizing your load times helps your site visitors get where they’re wanting to go quicker, and happier visitors are more likely to become customers. The first step to making sure your pages load quickly is knowing where your site stands.
Percentage of users polled that have encountered a website too slow to load: 73%.
Percentage of users polled expecting a page load under 2 seconds: 47%.
How to Determine Page Load Speeds with Pingdom
Step 1: Travel to the Pingdom Kingdom
Go to Pingdom Website Speed Test to get started. Pingdom is a free tool that checks the speed of a page from a particular location. The tool gives you seven different locations to choose from across five continents:
- Asia – Japan – Tokyo
- Europe – Germany – Frankfurt
- Europe – United Kingdom – London
- North America – USA – Washington D.C.
- North America – USA – San Francisco
- Pacific – Australia – Sydney
- South America – Brazil – São Paulo
This is helpful if you’re expanding to markets in other parts of the world. You can even sign up for free testing for your website, but for now, begin with the task of running URLs through this speed tool.
Step 2: Time for the Test
Copy the URL for your website’s homepage, and paste it into the “URL” box on Pingdom. Next, select the location for the tool to test from. Click “Start Test” and wait for the results. Plenty of information will appear below once the test is complete, but just focus on the main information for now.
Step 3: Read the Results
The Summary section gives plenty of information to work with, and it takes a cute snapshot of the page for you. You’ll get a Performance Grade—your virtual report card—along with load time, page size, and requests. The Improve Page Performance section is a more detailed report card, giving you more specific information on how the overall Performance Grade was calculated. Click the arrow for each insight to see suggested improvements. You will also see information about response codes, content, and file requests for your website.
The Waterfall Analysis tool is used to gain a visual understanding of how sites load and where any delays are.
It shows a wealth of information, especially if you use the expander arrows to get to the details of each request.
The icons on the left indicate the type of content being requested, followed by the request URL and the request size. The horizontal bar graph shows you when and how the resource loaded. The further to the right the bar starts, the later the resource loads. The length of the bar shows the loading time, broken down into color-coded sections representing DNS, SSL, connect, wait, send, and receive.
How to Determine Page Load Speeds with Google
Google PageSpeed Insights offers a useful tool to help you determine the page load speeds for your website. The tool is designed to provide you with valuable insights into how you can improve the speed of your web pages to give you optimal performance. PageSpeed Insights provides an analysis of what it refers to as “common performance best practices.”
Step 1: Get Googling
Go to Google Page Speed Insights. The tool shows page load speeds on both desktop and mobile, which is particularly useful given that a large number of people will search on their phones before they sit down at a laptop or desktop computer.
Step 2: Copy-Paste
Copy the URL of your site’s homepage into the URL box and click “Analyze.” Wait for the progress bar to reach 100%, and then the results of the analysis will appear below. The results will give you insights into the speed of your site and opportunities for improvement, along with some other data. After taking a look at the results for your homepage, you can analyze the other pages on your website.
Check the results for both the desktop and mobile speeds, as they may be different. You will first see the speed score for your web page, with Google placing the page in one of three categories: fast, average, or slow. The tool will also provide you with several suggestions to help you improve this score in the Opportunities section, so be sure to read through your results carefully.
How to Improve Page Load Speeds
Google has said that it will now use site speed as one of its ranking factors, especially for mobile searches. A slow page load speed means that search engines will crawl fewer pages and could possibly negatively affect the indexing of your website. To boost your rankings, improve user experience, and decrease your bounce rate, try some of these ways to improve your page load speeds.
Make sure the images on your website aren’t any larger than they need to be, are compressed for the web, and are in the right file format. As a general rule, JPEG is typically better for photographs, while PNG is usually better for graphics. One way to optimize images is to appropriately scale them. You need to scale your images down before uploading them to your website. If you scale them after uploading, then the browser will still load them at full size and end up slowing down your page.
Browsers can cache quite a bit of information—images, stylesheets, and much more—so that when visitors return to your website, the browser doesn’t have to reload everything all over again. There’s no reason to make your visitors download the same thing over and over if they don’t need to. By enabling browser caching, you can temporarily store some of the page’s data on visitors’ computers. How long this data is stored depends on your server-side cache settings and visitors’ browser configurations. There are resources available online to help you set up browser caching, or you can contact your hosting company.
Enabling compression is similar to putting your site into a zip file. This can significantly reduce the file size of your page, resulting in a faster load time. Compression is enabled in server settings.
Optimizing your web page’s code can also help to increase the page load speeds, such as removing commas, spaces, or any other unnecessary characters and unused code.
Every time a page redirects users to another page, there is additional time added to your page load speed waiting for the HTTP request to complete.
Passing the Speed Test
By getting to know the page load speeds of your website, you are one step closer to having a site with optimal performance and a better user experience. Even just an extra second or two can make all the difference. Using the suggestions you get from Pingdom and Google, you can improve your site’s loading speeds, but remember to check back with these tools from time to time. webSMART can help you get your website where it needs to be—we offer a variety of small business marketing services to help you succeed. You can even push the easy button and let a SMARTy do the hard work for you.