Most marketers and designers know that the number one symptom of a poorly performing site is long load times. But did you know that bad page performance can drastically affect your site’s visibility? Search engines have publicly announced the addition of various performance metrics to their algorithms. So if you site isn’t up to par you could be losing valuable traffic.
51% of online shoppers in the US say that site slowness is the top reason they’d abandon a purchase. (Source)
Slow load times could be the result of many different factors from the backend to the frontend. We’re going to cover the top 7 contributors that not only could be the cause of these issues, but we’ll also show you how to leverage these factors for your benefit.
#1 Take Back Control of Your DNS
This little-known system can actually be a huge contributor to page loads and can even be the cause of outages. You might have seen DNS before when you tried to go to a site on Black Friday or Cyber Monday and seen the message “DNS Error” or “DNS Host Not Resolved”. That means that your browser was unable to find the website because the DNS host that ties the domain name to its IP address is experiencing an error or down.
50% of your 1-second page load time budget on mobile is taken up by network latency overhead (a portion of which is running a DNS lookup). [Source]
DNS is one of the first steps your users will take when accessing your site. It also determines whether your site is accessible or not, which makes it the most important factor for web performance. To optimize your DNS, there are a few basic things you need to start doing regularly to avoid any future downtime.
- Start using a third-party DNS provider. These companies offer services that can guarantee your site’s uptime, boost page load speeds, and a lot more.
- Make sure your provider uses an Anycast network. Anycast allows for your customers’ queries to be answered locally and slashes resolution times.
- Increase the TTL of your records to keep them cached longer
- Test your DNS resolution times regularly (here’s a free app that does it)
#2 Limit the Number of Lookups
Have you ever looked at how many different sources your homepage is loading content from? Every image, font, video, and script is coming from another domain. When a user loads your page, they are also requesting from dozens of other sources too. You can reduce the number of these external requests by hosting your own content (See How) or by using a CDN (see next suggestion).
#3 Be Where Your Customers Are
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) service allows you to host a local version of your website at many different locations around the world. These networks use Anycast technology, the same as most major DNS providers, to host content from dozens of geographically unique servers. If you have international clients or web traffic, then a CDN service is a must-have.
The median leading ecommerce site takes 5.3 seconds to become interactive (i.e. render primary content “above the fold”) and 8.56 seconds to fully load. (Source)
#4 Write with SEO in Mind
SEO isn’t what it used to be anymore. Google and other search engines have become much smarter, and only good unique and helpful content will get to see the first page. When building your web pages, keep your audience’s needs in mind. That means consider what questions they may have about your services/industry/etc. These will likely be the search terms (focus on long-tail keywords) they will use to access your content. Structure your content around helping answer these questions, link out to other helpful resources, include visuals, and limit self-promotion to only relevant and specific topics.
Site performance also weighs heavily on search rankings, and can make or break a site in a matter of days if issues are left unfixed. Conduct weekly site audits and crawls, so you never get stuck with a penalty.
#5 First Impressions are Everything
Make sure all of your site pages have well written, concise meta tags that include relevant keywords (but don’t keyword stuff). Your goal is to provide a general summary of the page content, but also highlight the purpose of the page.
What is the goal you are trying to accomplish by creating this page? Is it to educate potential clients, provide information about your services/product, etc?
A good meta description will both entice and inform a reader in as little 25 words. That’s about the size of a tweet. These tiny descriptions are the first and sometimes the last impression your site could make on a potential customer, so write with their needs and questions in mind.
#6 Size Matters
Nearly every element on your web pages can be minified, from CSS to images and beyond. Whenever you upload a new image to your site, get in the habit of compressing them. Here are some of our favorite free compression tools:
#7 Are You Mobile Friendly
Google has now begun penalizing sites for not having responsive or mobile-friendly web pages. (Source) The good news is Google has made it as easy as possible to not only test if your site is up to par (test your site here), but has also created a handful of free resources and tests to help optimize your site performance… and thus boost your search rankings. (More Tools)
55% of all time spent on retail websites takes place on a mobile device. (Source)