A couple of years ago, Google made it known that site speed would be a factor in search engine page rankings. But is it? And is it worth investing a few bob to see your website loading faster? The short answer is that if speed tests put you into the "80% slower than all tested websites" category, then you will almost certainly benefit from a ranking boost, more visitors and a reduction in bounce rates*.
Test your Website Speed (and get your grades)
There are 2 free tests out there and both are super easy to use.
When you're using Pingdom, choose a European server in the dropdown where it says "Test from" (assuming your website is hosted in Europe, right?). Note that Pingdom uses real chrome browsers to do this test. Pingdom returns the results like this:
The thing we're really interested in is our Test Score. We scored a C, faster than 81% of all tested sites out there. Not bad! If we want to do even better we can take a look at the detailed results, again nicely ordered in Grades from F (worst) to A (best).
It doesn't matter if you don't understand what all the results mean. You can hand it to your developer and ask her can she improve things for you based on those results.
Little Extras with Pingdom
You can sign up for ONE free account with Pingdom, where your site health will be checked every minute and you'll be emailed if your site goes down. That is a really great freebie to have.
Page Speed Insights (Google)
Google's results are more technical and less appealing but will give you the difference between the Desktop and Mobile experience with your site.
However, when you scroll down the detailed results are super helpful with links on "how to fix it". This is great, because the directions are straightforward and exactly what your web developer wants when you hand it over to her to fix.
No, just the page entered into the test.
- https://www.webmentor.ie tests the home page of the webmentor site
- https://www.webmentor.ie/webhosting-tables tests the webhosting tables page on the webmentor site
The short answer is your home page, followed by your most popular pages - the ones most visited (or the ones that should be most visited) - which you can identify if you use Google Analytics or a similar program. If you're using Adwords, make sure that your landing pages load fast.
Let’s say you notice a 90% Bounce Rate for a certain page on your site (You'll see your Bounce rates in Google Analytics). That is a huge and significant figure. That means 90% of visitors LANDED on this page and visited NO OTHER page on your site (for at least 30 minutes, to be precise). Let’s say this page was the bus timetable from Limerick to Cork. Well you might expect a high bounce rate right? People are looking for exact information. They landed on this page exactly and visited no other on your website. Why would they? They realised the bus was leaving in 15 minutes. They slammed closed the lid of their laptop and bounded off to catch the bus. Yup, that’s a bounce, and they're not always a bad thing.
A high bounce rate **MIGHT** also mean that your page loaded so slowly that the visitor just hit the back button and went to some other website instead. So you can see that common sense is needed when trying to make sense of bounce rates and whether or not you should get yourself exercised.
Easy, no, but these would be my top recommendations:
- Caching - in Joomla this can be enabled on a per page and per module basis from within the admin. Wordpress - use Supercache, or if you're super technical and want loads of extra features, W3TC. After years of using W3TC, I switched to Supercache, less fuss, less muss. Never does my head in.
- Deliver your html as GZip Compressed - almost all modern browsers can handle it. Joomla - this can be enabled in the Control Panel. Wordpress - use Supercache and choose "Compress pages so they're more easily served to Visitors" in the Advanced section.
- Serve static resources (like images) from a Content Delivery Network eg Amazon S3.
(A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, is a distributed server system. When you upload resources to them they get distributed on servers all over the world. That means if someone is downloading your page from South America, and your server is in Ireland – then by using a CDN a copy of those resources will also be placed on servers in South America making those images/videos/etc download a lot faster for those in that locale. The CDN approach is effective if your audience lives outside where your server is housed AND they are an important audience for you. CDNs aren’t free – but they’re usually cheap – read the small print.)
- Compress and crop your images before uploading them to the server/CDN. Free tools to do this include: Kraken - a bit technical, but great tool. For the less technical, try Image Optimizer. Remember a smaller height and width means a smaller image. If you upload an image from your phone, it's likely 5 times the width and height it needs to be. As well as compressing images, consider reducing them to a max width of 640 pixels. You can't do this with Kraken unless you get the paid version, but you can do it with Image Optimizer.