Speeding up your site is not optional. And time is short before Google rolls out their Mobile First Index and Google Speed Update in July.
Even Facebook announced they are putting sites that load faster at the top of news feeds. Time is running out for getting ahead of these changes that could greatly decrease traffic to your site.
There is so much to understand about AMP, mobile first, and responsive design to speed up your site. These will all be explained.
How to Get Ready for the Mobile First Index
But first, let’s start with the basics that are simple and apply to both desktop and mobile.
Resize Images and Compress Everything
Do not make the common mistake of uploading high resolution images and allowing your content management system (CMS) to resize them.
Take the time to resize and compress images before you upload them. It can be worth it to retroactively resize all your existing images.
If you do not want to do it yourself, hire someone who has experience to do it for you. Then use Gzip compression to further compress every page across your entire site.
For sites running on WordPress, use this Gzip beginner’s guide. Once installed, Gzip will automatically compress everything on your site.
You may already be running a plugin that has the option to just check a box and turn it on. WP Super Cache is one example that already has Gzip built in.
If you are running a different CMS, search online and find the easiest method to install it on your site. Resizing images and compressing everything will make a substantial difference in database size and page load speed.
Clean Up URL Link Redirects
With Google pushing sites to switch to https, every site that has any internal or external links is bound to have many links that are being redirected.
If you use WordPress, install the broken link checker plugin and use it to easily find and edit redirected links. Research whether your CMS has a similar option if you use a different platform.
Even though each redirect takes micro-seconds, with the sheer volume of redirects today it is worth it to update all those links.
Invest in Faster Hosting
It won’t matter how well-optimized your site is if you use poor quality hosting. Choosing a hosting company is so important that it is best to get recommendations.
Whether you should upgrade to dedicated hosting or can use shared hosting requires technical expertise based on the size of your site and what is on it.
If your site runs on WordPress, there are pros and cons to using a WP-optimized host versus standard hosting. Note that WP-optimized hosting does not have a C-panel.
Some hosting companies are far more prone to allowing sites to get hacked than others. Be wary if your hosting company gets bought out by a publicly-traded corporation as speed and service typically declines.
Hosting is critical to your business success. It is not something you should choose without professional assistance.
Mobile Sites Are So Much Slower to Load
How often have you heard that pages should load in 2 seconds? They must be referring to loading on a desktop, because according to Google:
- the average mobile webpage takes 15.3 seconds to load
- a 1 second delay in mobile load time reduces conversions by 20%
- a negative experience on mobile makes shoppers 62% less likely to purchase from you in the future
Whether people are shopping online or comparing prices and reading reviews while in a store, the faster you can make your site, the less likely they are to click away and choose another merchant.
Google has set a goal of 5 second page load speeds on mobile devices. How will you get your site to load that fast?
Google “Speed Update” Mobile Ranking Algorithm
Still not convinced speeding up your site is worth it? Read these mobile speed case studies. Then think about how Google’s “Speed Update” coming in July could affect your business.
Keep in mind that mobile device usage surpassed desktop usage back in 2014 and the percentage of time your customers are on their mobile devices keeps increasing.
How to Build a Mobile-Friendly Site
Distilled provides a very comprehensive guide to building a mobile-friendly site. It includes all the methods plus details on various mobile devices.
Note that as of 2012, Google officially recommended responsive web design over other methods of serving sites to mobile devices.
Even before Google decided what to recommend, it was clear that maintaining more than one copy of your content was a nightmare for both workload and SEO reasons. An excellent business case against separate sites is laid out here.
One exception would be if a business wanted to offer a service which could take advantage of the sensors that are common on mobile devices.
In that case, instead of a separate mobile site, Web Developer William Patton suggests using a mobile app as a more scalable method without the negative SEO impact duplicate content can create.
That mobile app would usually provide mobile-specific features and then pull its content from the main site (through RSS feed or an API) into the mobile app.
This method offers two services, but with only one place to manage the content for both.
Search Engine Land even analyzed whether responsive design is a ranking factor. Although they decided it probably was not at that time, they emphasized that Google is very clear in their preference for responsive web design.
What are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?
The easiest way to understand Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is to watch this short video from Google:
There are plugins to install AMP in WordPress, but be sure to check your Google Webmaster Tools after installing one as they often generate errors you will want to address.
If you have a complex site, you may want to enlist technical assistance to implement AMP. It would be helpful if those with experience ensure they can be easily found as it is obvious all sites need to install AMP.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A common recommendation to speed up your site load time is to use a content delivery network (CDN). But depending upon what is on your site there could be drawbacks and surprise costs involved.
The purpose of a CDN is to create copies of your site or at least the most popular pages of your site and distribute them to servers located around the world.
Doing this allows the content to download faster from the server closest to your visitor. It also provides redundancy in case your main server goes down plus additional security.
If you have really large files such as long videos or huge downloads, using a CDN can quickly get expensive because the entire video gets transferred even if the visitor only watches the first few seconds.
This is also why we started off by compressing everything on your site and resizing your images. Then if you decide to use a CDN, there will be less data to be distributed and lower bandwidth costs.
Local small businesses whose important visitors are all located close to your location and ideally close to your hosting company are least likely to need to use a CDN.
How Serious Should You Be About Site Speed?
How seriously you want to focus on load speed will depend on whether you are willing to spend the money to compete.
Organic traffic from both Google and Facebook will continue to be more competitive to win. But even if choose not to focus on that, slow loading sites lose visitors from every source.
Because your customers are more likely to visit and buy when your site loads quickly, all site owners should do what they can to reduce page load times.
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