While recently working with a client to improve their page load times we went through a full list of possible reasons why their site’s page load times were too high. I’m going to list those possible reasons below as a checklist of things you should look into if you are experiencing page load time in excess of 4-5 seconds. But first, let’s quickly chat about why page load time matters.
In short, if I try to pull up a page and it takes 5 seconds, 6 seconds, or 10 seconds (or more, seriously they’re out there) to come up I’m probably going to jump ship. My thinking would go something like this, “If it takes this long to load one page, It’ll be a nightmare to navigate through multiple pages on this site…I’m out!” So, usability is the #1 reason why page load time matters.
The second reason is that Google takes Page Load Time into account when they rank your site and pages. So, if you want to kill your rankings in the search engines then ignore high page load times.
So, here’s a good list of items you should look into if you’re page load times are high:
1. Image Sizes – Are your images optimized for the web or are you serving up hi-res files that take forever to load?
2. 301 Redirects – Are you using lots of 301 redirects in your site? Every time your browser is redirected to a new page the load time goes up.
3. Web hosting – Is your site on a shared server or a dedicated server? On a shared server your site will be competing for resources with other sites. If another site on the server is hacked or taking all the resources your site users will know.
4. Bandwidth – If you host your site internally, as some larger companies do, do you have enough bandwidth to your server? An internet connection that is too small can be a bottleneck creating slow page load times.
5. Server resources – Much like the above “bandwidth” issue, if you host your site internally, or even externally, but don’t have a large enough server to sustain the amount of concurrent users you need, then you should look at upgrading your resources (CPU, RAM, etc). This is especially relevant, and potentially easy to remedy, in today’s world of cloud computing where virtual resources can be added with a few clicks of the mouse.
6. Hosted Third Party Applications – Does your site integrate with any third party apps or services? An example with our client was they were using hosted web fonts. We’ve learned that, as a general rule, using hosted fonts can add a half to a full second to load times. This time could go up or down depending on the particular 3rd party service you’re using. Something to keep in mind.
7. CSS and HTTP Requests – If your site has an intricate interface with lots of images, icons, backgrounds, tables, and etc you can run into page load latency with the browser trying to fulfill all the requests. Think about using CSS Sprite to reduce the amount of HTTP and CSS requests.
8. SSL – Is your site supported only in browsing in HTTPS? This can affect your page load times. The main reason for increased load times with SSL isn’t necessarily that SSL takes longer it’s that browsers cannot cache anything from page to page while making page sizes slightly larger.
9. Tracking Pixels/Tags – If you’re a marketer like I am then you may be using tracking pixels/tags to track campaign performance. Often, depending on how many campaigns you’re running you could be employing a large amount of tracking pixels that need to be loaded every time a page is. This can slow down your page load times. A couple options here are using a one, using a universal tracking pixel that eliminates the need for multiple conversion tracking pixels, and two, using asynchronous tagging, which allows a browser to load multiple tags in parallel, as opposed to waiting for each to load before the next can.
There are so many things that can affect load time. These are just the things that we went through with our client. I’m sure there’s more that could be reviewed to make sure you’re not ruining your sites usability, or SEO, with slow load times.
We’d love to hear from you. Let us know what you’ve found to slow page load times and how you remedied the situation.
Photo credit to InAweofGod’sCreation.