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Why Fast-Loading Websites Matter

  |  February 25, 2014   |  Comments   |  

Most websites, especially mobile sites, take too long to load and it's hurting your brand. Consider these tips to optimize your page load times.

Performance digital marketing starts with a website that performs. For most websites, especially mobile sites, the most critical problem is that your website takes too long to load and it's hurting your brand.

Most Internet users expect a Web page to load in less than two seconds (40 percent abandon sites that take more than three), yet most websites don’t even come close to hitting that mark. Think your website is innocent of angering visitors? Go to Web Page Test or Google PageSpeed Insights and see how well your website truly performs. Take a good look at how long your page took to load and then think about another statistic: During the first second of delay, your conversion rate drops by more than 7 percent, with the percentage growing exponentially for every additional second you make someone wait.

The Conundrum

Web design and Web user expectations are working against each other. Websites are becoming more and more complex, while user expectations are growing more demanding. Some websites are poorly coded or are full of code that no longer has a purpose (I am looking at you 90 percent of all Flash usage), but still loads every time someone visits your site. Your site has multiple vendor pixels or JavaScript files on top of JavaScript files on top of JavaScript files. Global Internet speeds are improving and browsers are getting smarter at fixing the trash they find on the fly, but you have to take matters into your own hands and clean your own site up!

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The Answer

Your most important task in digital marketing this year, unless you have mobile and desktop sites loading in less than two seconds, is to optimize your page load times for both mobile and desktop. Fast websites lead to better interactions with the brand and do not lose visitors who refuse to wait for sites to load, which leads to more conversions. Effectively, if you make your website load faster, you will increase revenue with minimal costs. Fortunately, starting a page load time management program isn’t too difficult!

To start, create a baseline report using free tools that will diagnose most of the problems that your site has and even supply you with advice on how to fix each issue. Some of these tools are YSlow, Google PageSpeed Insights, WEBPAGETEST, and Chrome developer tools. Going through these reports, you can easily identify common themes that span across multiple aspects of the page:

  • Combining External Files: Combining non-common JavaScript files into one and combining your CSS sheets means less trips between the client and the server.
  • Minifying File Sizes: Enabling gzip, optimizing and minifying JavaScript, HTML, and CSS files.
  • Tag Manager: If you have multiple analytics, media vendor, and any other non-essential tags/scripts on your page, you should definitely look into utilizing a tag manager such as Google Tag Manager (free!), Brighttag, or TagMan to list a few.
  • JavaScript Management: Two major themes play into managing JavaScript and they are pushing all scripts that aren’t critical to above the fold page rendering to the bottom of the page and making any script that can be asynchronous while lazy loading all other non-critical scripts.
  • Using Local Storage: Properly caching static assets with reasonable expiration dates, setting e-tags, and storing scripts within the local storage cache are great ways to reduce page load time on subsequent pages and return visits.
  • Image Management: Using image sprites, compressing images, and serving images that are properly scaled for the dimensions of the page.
  • Hosting: Using a content delivery network is practically mandatory. If you’re using common scripts such as jQuery, then let Google or Baidu host them for you.

Conclusion

This is far from a comprehensive list, but focusing on optimizing the elements talked about in this article will get you ever closer to your end page load time goal of less than one second!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Josh  Bledsoe

Josh started off working for a boutique traditional agency, before discovering digital marketing nearly 10 years ago. After starting 2 search marketing agencies, he joined iProspect in the U.S. where he managed a team of SEO specialists spanning 14 accounts including GM, Talbots, Journeys, Disney, and adidas globally. In his current position as SEO Director, Josh oversees global SEO accounts across APAC, Russia, the Middle East, and South Africa. He’s also the product leader for SEO throughout the APAC market.

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