Maxim Chernyak
Maxim Chernyak 5 December 2019

5 Page Speed Optimisation Ideas to Take with You in 2020

There is one essential thing to know about internet users of today – they have grown extremely impatient. When a web page doesn’t load in four seconds, around 60% of them will simply abandon it, according to a study by Unbounce.

Indeed, why should they stay when a speedier website is a couple of clicks away? And, as the Unbounce research claims further, even if a visitor has waited for a page to load, there is a 70% chance they will not make a purchase or ever return to the online retailer again. 

The Google search algorithm is intolerant to sub-par performers, too. As the page loading speed is one of the official ranking factors, the slower the website, the lower its SERP positions and traffic. Study findings show a dramatic difference: number one results in Google receive 31.7% of all clicks, while number 2 and number 3 positions get as few as 24.71% and 18.66% correspondingly; for positions 7 to 10, the results are nearly identically low. So, you can only imagine how harmful it is for your website performance to appear on the second search results page. 

At this moment, you probably start wondering whether your website speed is satisfactory. If you are not yet aware of how fast your average page loads, it’s high time you run a quick check with an online tool like Pingdom or PageSpeed Insights by Google or turn to testing specialists for client-side performance testing.

But how fast is enough? The answer is ruthless: the faster, the better. In the context of cut-throat competition, each extra millisecond would trample down your Google SERP and reduce conversions. The only way to keep it up is to constantly work on decreasing the page load speed.

Conventional methods like optimizing picture size will hardly make a difference, as nearly every business already does that. Instead, more advanced techniques are necessary to turn the tide. So here are five most actionable and up-to-date methods to boost your page loading speed in 2020.

5 Ways to Optimise Page Load Speed

1. Cut down on plugins.

While there is no hard cap on the number of plugins a website can have, the old saying about quality being better than quantity still applies. A large number of installed plugins, with several of them probably outdated, improperly configured, or not secure, can impair the loading speed and even lead to graver technical issues in the long run. Therefore, dropping the dead weight of unnecessary extensions can help level up your website performance.

It is unwise to go on a hunch when deciding which extension needs to go; instead, run a performance test to measure the impact of each installed module. The most basic way to conduct such a check is to disable plugins one by one and then assess how the website loading speed changes. As a result, you can take note of the extensions causing performance bottlenecks and deactivate them.

However, manual evaluation can be time-consuming and tedious when the number of plugins amounts to several dozen or more. So, a more reasonable (and ironic) alternative to manual checks is a plugin that will run an overall analysis of your page and detect the extensions that undermine the website performance. Just do not forget to deactivate it as well after you have dealt with disrupting modules.

Also, it wouldn’t go amiss to analyse if there are possible functional overlaps between your active plugins.

Besides that, cut down on the plugins for the tasks you can perform manually. Automation is awesome, but it’s not worth sacrificing the loading speed for it.

2. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

Another culprit in slow page loading is the physical distance between the website server and the website visitor. As strange as it may seem in the age of 5G, it takes time for information to travel, especially if the destination is offbeat. This may not be a major challenge for locally-oriented website owners, yet in case you harbor ambitions to make a statement on the global market, this factor may impede your success – unless you rely on a CDN.

A content delivery network is a group of servers, distributed around the world and working together to facilitate access to web content. A CDN is not the same as a web host, as it does not store content; instead, it copies and puts for storage different web content assets (JavaScript files, images, HTML pages, style sheets, etc.) and promptly transfers them from the server closest to a visitor when needed.

CDN implementation offers multiple benefits to site owners. It not only decreases page loading time drastically but also helps websites handle more traffic without failure. To top it off, CDNs enhance their cybersecurity protection from common malicious attacks, like DDoS and such. 

At present, there is a wide selection of CDN solutions, with Cloudfare and Fastly taking the lead as the most functional ones. Setting up an average CDN for your website is a simple process that does not require specific skills and therefore can be carried out by website owners themselves.

3. Prioritise Lazy Loading.

Lazy loading is an optimisation technique that boils down to loading a web page content on demand, or as the user needs it. This way, the content on the above-the-fold screen loads first, while the rest of the page, especially its heavy media, loads gradually as a visitor scrolls down. Also, it is a common lazy-loading practice to embed a lightweight placeholder image to avoid blank spaces and signal that a better-definition picture is to load soon.   

On-demand loading is a way to optimise content-heavy websites that can’t do without high-definition photos, video, or animation, like online stores, educational portals, and so on. This technique streamlines content delivery, allowing visitors to access information as soon as they open the page.

Lazy loading can be enabled via an off-the-shelf plugin if your website is powered by WordPress, Drupal, or another CMS, or via custom development with JavaScript, PHP, or other web development languages. 

4. Implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

The AMP open-source framework is the brainchild of Google and Twitter, aimed at delivering lightweight and high-performing mobile web experiences. In a nutshell, an accelerated mobile page is a copy of an existing webpage with stripped-down HTML and unique markup. As the code gets simplified, the AMP content loads instantly and provides smooth user experience (UX) for mobile visitors. In the age of mobile-first Google indexing, it is a highly coveted benefit for online businesses.

AMP advantages were promptly recognized by such heavyweights as The New York Times, eBay, Baidu, Pinterest, and Twitter, as well as thousands of less known companies that were quick to follow suit.

Still, AMP is not a silver bullet. First, it does not support sophisticated media types, like interactive maps and animation, which confines content presentation to traditional lackluster alternatives. Beyond that, AMP page performance cannot be measured with common analytical tools; for this, you would need a custom-made solution.

5. Minimise redirects.

Redirects are there for a good reason: they automatically send visitors from a non-existent page to the more relevant page or location. Unfortunately, there is a downside to it. Redirects universally take longer to load, and even a mere second of extra waiting time can wear a visitor’s patience thin, causing them to close the unloaded page and return to it no more.

Ideally, site owners should root out redirects completely. In practice, it is next to impossible unless a website is brand-new, so a more realistic option would be to reduce the number of redirects, at least.

For starters, detect all the redirects on your website with an SEO tool like Screaming Frog or Ahrefs, and make sure each redirect serves a purpose. Redirect chains are especially detrimental to website speed, so cleaning them up is a must. If you have the resources to replace outdated redirected webpages with new content, commit to it. In cases when a redirect is absolutely necessary, opt of the 301 “Moved Permanently” redirect – the safest option that passes over 90% of the original page authority to the redirected page.

It’s high time to get faster.

Boosting your page load time is a challenging endeavor but an absolute must in today’s demanding context. Each of the five cutting-edge speed optimisation techniques described above is guaranteed to have a positive effect on your website performance. Just remember: not every method will be a perfect match for your business, and it’s totally fine.

Instead of trying to use all of the methods at once, analyse your website’s speed and look through the issues that surfaced. Then match these issues with the most relevant solutions and estimate whether you can implement those solutions unaided or if they require expert assistance.

This straightforward course of actions will get you a head start on your competitors, helping you achieve your website speed goals in 2020.

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