Google’s relentless pursuit of ranking perfection continues. During February 2016, some eagle-eyed internet users have noticed a small yellow triangle against some video content. “Slow to Load” was the caption, and it was the first indication of the latest analytical tool that Google intend to use to rank pages accurately and provide the best experience for you. This is an important step for Google, who have both recognised that the consumption of internet has moved onto mobile devices, and the speed with which potential visitors will leave a site if the rich content does not load accurately and quickly.
After creating your SEO rich, mobile friendly website, the next step is to ensure that your pages load fast enough to meet with Google’s page speed requirements to assist in a first page position. In a world of constantly changing Google ranking algorithms, your site must constantly adapt to stay ahead in the rankings.
What causes a website to load slowly?
There are a number of reasons why a page might load slowly, some of which are out of your control. However, there are many that you can affect and improve.
The first port of call (and the most common cause of slow loading pages), is the website host. The server load is vital to page loading speeds. If you are sharing a server with thousands of other websites, or the traffic volumes are too high, the server will not be able to provide optimum loading speeds to all visitors. Also, if the server is not up to date, then the problem will be a constant thorn in your side.
If you are paying for web hosting, it is essential that they are providing you with a good service and a fast loading site. Cheap, shared hosting seems like a great way to get your website off the ground but it has it’s pitfalls. For the relatively small difference in cost between budget and premium website hosting, it is better to spend a little more on hosting to ensure that you are not losing potential custom through poor rankings and slow loading pages.
The design and content of your website will also have a large effect on loading speed. The most obvious place to look is at what files need to load, whether large picture files or videos. Video content is becoming more and more important to popular content marketing reliant sites and are a useful marketing tool, as long as they are embedded correctly. Loading pictures or videos from another website address can slow page speeds, as it relies upon connecting to two different servers.
Image files sizes are also a very common issue on slow web pages, especially as internet connections speed up and customers want more and more graphic-heavy web pages. Ensuring that your images are well optimised and reducing the number of images that need to load for a page to display will improve loading speed significantly.
The quality of coding is equally important. Clumsy coding will require more time to load, and the coding of a page should be regularly streamlined. Amateur web designers will often require every page to load the same code over and over again through poor programming practices.
Streamlining Video & Images
Picture and video content must fit the space on the page in order to load quickly. Ensure that the content dimensions fit the dimensions allocated to it within the page coding. This may seem a simple tip, but the requirement to re-size a picture or video will cause the page to load more slowly. The file size is also vital. There is no need to put picture content at 100% file size, unless the site is displaying fine art. A reduction in picture quality will rarely be detected by the eye, but always by the browser. By using .gif, .png or .jpg file formats, you are already compressing your files. There may be more benefit to be drawn from further compressing your image content though. Additionally, if you are using the same image more than once, load it from the same source. There is no reason for a browser to have to load the same image twice for use in separate places.
Image files sizes are a very common issue on slow web pages, especially as internet connections speed up and customers want more and more graphic-heavy web pages. Ensuring that your images are well optimised and reducing the number of images that need to load for a page to display will improve loading speed significantly.
The Next Steps
It is worth noting the onset of Accelerated Mobile Pages too. The AMP project is an open source initiative, backed by Google, that is looking to improve mobile content, and the speed with which content loads on mobile devices. The goal is to create an AMP HTML that will lead to accelerated web pages which load almost instantly. The project is open to everyone. It is certainly worth looking into to provide visitors with the best experience and to stay one step ahead of the Google-bots.