Understanding Website Page Speed

How fast does your website load? 

Is it as fast as a brand-new Tesla? Or an old Toyota Prius?

While it’s not something you think about often, your page speed plays a significant role in the user experience of your website. How fast we can view and interact with a website’s content directly affects our perception of a brand or product. 

In this article, we’ll explore website page speed in more detail. We’ll seek to understand why it matters, how to measure it, and common issues that slow down websites.

Why Speed Matters

It’s not just some technical jargon. Your page speed matters. It’s a crucial component of the user experience of your website. 

Internet users have become increasingly accustomed to snappy web and mobile applications. They want instant feedback and quick visual display when engaging with digital tools.

In fact, page speed can directly impact your sales and marketing performance. Google said that half of its users will bounce (leave the site) if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load. And an Unbounce study revealed that 70% of consumers said site speed influences their buying decision. 

Here are the three main reasons I recommend optimizing page speed: 

  • User Experience – From a human perspective, your page speed directly impacts user experience. A fast-loading page will “feel” good to your website visitors. 
  • Mobile Devices – As more traffic comes from mobile devices, optimizing a page for speed will decrease your load times for users on cellular networks.  
  • SEO – Search engines actively include page speed as a ranking factor. A slow page load time can cause you to decrease your visibility in online searches. 

How to Analyze Site Speed

Step 1 to improving your website speed is to understand how you currently perform. You need to get a baseline reading to know if you need to improve, and to track progress as you make changes.

There are two tools that I recommend my clients use to determine their page speed performance. These are Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix.

page speed tools

Both tools allow you to copy and paste a web page URL into their system to run an analysis. The crawlers then scan the page, produce a score, and provide recommendations based on their findings.

Google PageSpeed Insights is great for running a simple analysis. It provides you with a high-level score and standard recommendations. Of course, it’s also a helpful tool as it’s coming directly from Google (who you must appease to rank well). 

GTMetrix is better for more advanced analysis. I use this tool to dig deeper into what scripts or server issues might be causing a page speed issue.  

Regarding page speed reports, there are a few key things to look for:

  • Server Response Time – The measure of how quickly your website host’s server responded to the query. 
  • First Contentful Paint – The measure of how fast the first content appeared on the users’ screen. 
  • Time to Interact – The measure of when the user could first interact with the page, such as scrolling or clicking through links. 
  • Last Contentful Paint – The measure of when the last piece of content was fully loaded onto the page.  

The above metrics are great for gauging your overall speed performance. You’ll want to look into more specific reports as you try to diagnose deeper. For example, GTmetrix offers a “waterfall” report that shows you, step-by-step, how long it takes your page elements to load. 

Common Page Speed Issues

So, your page is having speed issues? You are not alone. Most web pages have a few issues causing the page speed to be slower than it could be.

In my experience, the most common page speed problems are the following:

  • Unnecessary Code – There is “fluffy” code on the page loading unnecessarily. This is usually caused by a website CMS or a poorly programmed theme. Try to avoid using website builders that are not optimized for speed.
  • Third-Party Scripts – Embedded third-party codes can require additional queries and slow down the page load. These are typically trackers, analytics tools, or advertising scripts embedded to track user data. Try to use these as sparingly as possible, and/or use tools like Google Tag Manager to reduce the number of scripts that must load. 
  • Large Media – Large images and video files can cause page speed issues, especially on mobile devices. Using modern compression techniques and reducing the size of the media itself can help. 
  • Slow Server – Sometimes, the issue is not the website itself but the server it’s hosted on. This usually requires troubleshooting with your hosting provider or finding a faster one altogether. 

While these are the most common, thousands of other issues could impact site speed performance. Having a professional dig deeper into speed issues might be required if you continue to have trouble beyond what you can fix yourself. 

Go For Good, Not Perfect

Before I let you go… Let’s talk about page speed expectations. You’ll never get a perfect score on page speed tests. Even Google’s web pages have performance problems. 

The key to page speed is to aim for good, not perfect. Fix all of the significant issues you can, and try to keep your total load time in 1-2 seconds. Once your page speed is “fast,” you can move on to other website optimization priorities. 

You can run new page speed tests every 3-6 months and continue to be intentional about what content and scripts you add to a new page. 
If you need help with your website page speed, just reach out!

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