The 6 Key Steps to Improve Your Website’s Loading Speed

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The 6 Key Steps to Improve Your Website’s Loading Speed

Throughout 2014 (and the decade prior), Google hasn’t been shy about telling people what its algorithms are looking for. Initially, algorithms targeted spammy backlinks, keyword stuffing, and domain ownership, but those factors gradually transformed into the Google criteria we know and follow today.

Now, many years after the company began to perfect its search algorithms, website loading speed has become one of the biggest determinants of your site’s value and ranking position, making it one of several necessities for optimization and an absolute must for website owners who want to rank well. How is your site doing in the wake of Google’s multiple algorithm shifts?

Below you can learn why page speed is now such an important ranking factor – and how you can improve yours.

Google’s Master Plan

Most SEOs would agree that their decade-long dance with Google hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s been downright devastating at times. (Panda, anyone?)

But it’s not been all for naught. Remember, Google aims to make the user’s experience better by identifying the most relevant websites connected with a particular search term, and that ultimately makes everyone’s life easier.

To do that, however, a swift if not instantaneous comparison between websites needs to occur.

The Deal With Site Speed

Because Google’s goal is to please users, it makes sense to discourage slow site download speeds by denying ranking privileges to slow sites and rewarding fast ones. This accomplishes three goals:

  • It raises the chances that customers will stay on a website: Time spent on a webpage is another element used to determine which websites should receive the highest rankings. When your site loads fast, you have a better chance of retaining viewers.
  • It ensures that website speed is consistent across devices: With use of mobile devices outpacing desktops, site load speed must be reliable no matter which device people use to gain access to your site.
  • It decreases annoyance: Viewers don’t want to wait five seconds or more for your website to load, and Google knows that. Unless they’re already committed to your brand in some way, viewers will swiftly choose to move down the list of search engine results to the next listing.

As Google continues to rework its algorithms, SEO-conscious firms must do whatever they can to improve site speed and retain the search giant’s favor. What’s the best way to increase site load speed? Take a look at the latest techniques.

How to Improve Your Site Load Speed

Even the best developers run into problems with download speed. The following six tips will help you improve site speed and rank higher in search results:

  • Minimize on-page components. Between flash, stylesheets, and scripts, multiple processes can occur behind the scenes that will significantly slow a page’s load time. If you combine style sheets or replace images with CSS, the HTTP requests that make on-page elements function won’t have an opportunity to slow down your site.
  • Compress large pages. Over the past year, Google has made it abundantly clear that SEO best practices involve the use of long-form content, videos, and shareable media to reach more customers and rank higher in SERPs. Unfortunately, all this additional content can reduce load speed. Try to compress your larger pages so they take up less space and consume less bandwidth when they load.
  • cacheUse browser caching. Turning on browser caching will store necessary elements on a viewer’s hard drive, which results in a faster load time when the visitor returns. Many webmasters fail to use this tool, and that leads to slow load times — and higher levels of frustration — for visitors.
  • Optimize visual content. The growing emphasis on visual content might have misled some website owners. If customers enjoy images, video, and graphics, why not fill your site with them? Unfortunately, too many improperly formatted graphics can cause a traffic jam and sluggish load speeds. Take the time to optimize visual content by limiting size, reformatting images into JPEG, and eliminating BMPs, GIFs, and TIFFs, and viewers will love you.
  • Eliminate unnecessary plugins. Particularly if you’re using WordPress, running multiple plugins contributes substantially to slower page load speeds. Though their convenience and ease of use make plugins an attractive option, using too many will cause your load speed to plummet and result in poor user experience. Remove any plugins you don’t absolutely need.
  • Review your hosting plan. Sometimes, unreliable hosting providers can have a negative impact on your site speed. Most hosting companies deliver packages in a one-size-fits-all format, but the assumption that one type of hosting service will work best for all websites is totally untrue.

Even if you go through each step, you’ll need to come up with a way to monitor your site’s load speed on an ongoing basis. Because the team at Google truly does want to make the lives of webmasters easier, they designed PageSpeed Insights: a Chrome extension that empowers developers to track a site’s performance.

Here’s to Your Lightning-Fast Website

While it may seem like a lot of extra work, the return on your time investment will be well worth the trouble. When customers can rely on your site to load quickly on any device, they’re more likely to make a return visit, and return visits equal an increase in loyal customers.

What is your biggest frustration with site load speed?



photo credit:
stopwatch image from
cache image from smemon on flickr

Larry Alton

Larry Alton

Larry is a freelance business and online marketing consultant. Follow him on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.
Larry Alton
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  • Jamie Press

    Great tips, Larry!

    I’d recommend WordPress users also look at WP Engine – as it’s lightning fast hosting!

    • Nicole

      Are you sure about this? I moved all of my sites to another host because I had load time issues with them. They are not lightning fast anymore. Here is the proof, based on the latest WordPress Hosting performance benchmarks

  • Nick Stamoulis

    Hosting is a big one. Make sure to do your research and determine whether a provider meets your needs. You never want to be cheap when it comes to hosting.

  • Scott Hartley

    I first have to say that I would not recommend WP- Engine you are going to pay too much money for something that is really not worth it let me elaborate and then offer some tips to improve your load time a little more….

    Wp Engine charges on a per visit basis this leads to a lot of overages and while they state that they are the fastest hosting you are simply mistaking… WP Engine does a lot of their work server side which is nice but does not justify the cost.

    With a plugin like W3Total Cache you are able to have more caching capabilities than WP Engine. You can cache your database, objects, browser, and fragments. This should be enough and with the amount that you would be paying for Wp Engine you could get a VPS server and run just as fast if not faster than it, the best part is that you are not paying on a per user basis.. You could even pick up a CDN like MaxCDN and still be cheaper than WP Engine.

    Now, you can improve your load time even more than what the article shows. Caching is an important step but combining and minimizing scripts is just as important. Lazy load is a great plugin that should make all your images load when requested this can greatly improve the load time for the user. I will say this WP Engine is over hyped and while some say they offer better support I will say HostGator has always offered wonderful support and they have solved all my problems down to specific plugins.

  • Prateek

    Great post!!!!
    Speed optimizing any website will give it an extra edge over its competition and a boost in rankings. We always implement speed optimization to all our clients.

  • Soumya Roy – PromozSEO

    6 good and really actionable points and must be implemented on sites. Additionally a good CDN will also make a big difference in sites loading time.
    Apart from these minified CSS & Javascript files, CSS Sprite, fewer HTTP calls, asynchronous calls and position of JS files/calls on pages will also contribute in faster site loading.

  • Michael Smith

    I completely agree with this topic. Site speed does matter in ranking and traffic. As written in this post, if your website have good content but have heavy load speed, then customer will pass away from your website and bounce rate will be increased. While if we work in minifying js and css, we can control and decrease the site speed at some level. There are plenty of tools available in market which calculate the site speed, but i prefer google developer tool as my first priority.

    • Larry Alton

      I’m of the same mind, I’ve found the google developer tool to be very handy as well!

  • Nick

    Hey Larry, how about CDN? What’s your point of view with regards to content delivery network?

  • Berita Sepakbola Terkini

    mI will say HostGator has always offered wonderful support and they have solved all my problems down to specific plugins.

  • Ste Oren

    Hi SEJ

    Review Your Web Hosting Plan. – This is set at No 6 on SEJ, but should be your first priority. If your web hosting company is slow loading has a lot of downtime then No 1 to 5 is irrelevant. Many moons ago I bought a domain blind but was lucky my web hosting company used super fast servers and have always looked at loading speeds as critical. The motto of this comment is “don’t just buy because it’s cheap”, do your homework.

    • Aditya

      It better not to use Flashes in website ,hope this increases the website speed..A clear text website is better than flash.I prefer Joomla is the better tool than Word Press

    • Larry Alton

      One other point to keep in mind, is the customer service side of your hosting. If the hosting is great for long periods of time, but the customer service side is lacking, it could be major issue if anything throws a wrench into the mix.

  • Jan

    Some nice tips here Larry. I would say that often the social plugins (read “sharing buttons”) load external scripts and make the website load much more slowly. This is something that you could not anything with since it is a 3rd party service.

  • Karaikudi

    Thanks for the tips. Currently am using wp super cache, its also working fine.

  • Nate Somsen

    Thanks for your insightful article! BMPs? Do people actually use those images on websites?

    I whole-heartedly agree with the reducing of unnecessary plugins. I’ve seen some WordPresses with several plugins that are unnecessary. I love the the adverb you use absolutely, because most of the plugins aren’t necessary, and often duplicates other functions of other plugins.

    It’s great when a website is ran on an apache server, because a handful of the mentioned methods can be fixed by revising the .htaccess. Thanks for sharing!

  • Internet Marketing Cardiff

    There are so many factors on which ranking has based and page speed is one them. the more time your web page take to load, the more you will frustrating the user. So it is important to try to avoid this, we can use Google’s webmaster tool for that, it highlight each end cause which of page speed.

  • Charles John

    Improving loading speed definitely helps to improve search rankings, I moved my blog from a shared hosting to a dedicated one (hostgator) and I saw around 20-25% rise in traffic. But definitely they are very costly compared to shared hosting.

    Are there any suggestions on improving the load time of WordPress themes (for sellers)? We can’t pack it with w3C plugin and I don’t feel it is right to use cache plugin on the demo theme and claim it is fast loading, though I can suggest buyers to use it.

  • Bhumi

    I’m glad I found this post. Been trying to solve my problems for a couple weeks.

  • Kristybernales

    Thanks for all tips. Nowadays I’m focusing on trying to increase the speed of my site, and I am going to experiment with everything you mentioned.

  • Corina B.

    Thanks for the tips
    The images are the first to be optimized, but many do not do so.

  • Sanjay Sajeev

    Thank you for the list. Site loading speed is really important for a site’s search engine ranking. Reducing image size and using W3 total cache plugin helped me lot to improve my site’s speed.