Since fast internet is still a challenge in South Africa. Having a website that loads fast has far more benefits than improved SEO and user experience. An article I wrote recently titled 5 critical factors to make your website succeed touches on the importance of website speed and zero downtime.
In this article, I delve even more profound and present 5 tactics that I have personally used as a digital marketing strategy consultant to improve website speed for all the clients that I have done work for.
But, before I get over my head, let me start by explaining the matter at hand. Site speed is mainly confused with page speed by some digital marketing professionals. The former, according to Google, “shows how quickly users can see and interact with content on an entire website”. While the latter is actually the page speed for a sample of page views on a website, page speed can be described in either page load time or time to the first byte – well, that’s according to the Moz blog, which is actually a trusted source in the digital marketing space. Well, I can give my definitions of these two primarily interchangeable phrases. But, for your benefit, it’s better to reference sources that have been in the industry longer than I have been.
Ok, enough! With all the academic writing (referencing reliable sources and stuff), let’s get to the practical stuff.
Tactic 01: Reduce the size of images on your website
Removing all images on your website to increase the website speed is not much of a good idea. Because it has adverse effects from the website UI and UX than the actual positive ones of improving the overall speed of your website.
However, you can reduce the size of the images used on your website because image compression is critical for your website’s speed. To see the impact images have on your website speed, you can use a tool like Pingdom.
Furthermore, you need to choose the correct format for your images, size your images correctly, compress your images, and use as few images as possible.
Tactic 02: Minimise the number of web fonts
Over the years, the use of web fonts has grown in popularity in web design. Even though you might get in trouble with your user experience designer when the website’s final look doesn’t correlate with the visuals, you have to reduce the number of web fonts to avoid sacrificing the look of your website over function.
The problem with multiple web fonts is that they add extra HTTP requests to external resources. To reduce the size of web fonts traffic, you need to use modern fonts for modern browsers, only include character sets used on the site and use only the required styles.
Tactic 03: Lessen redirects
As mentioned above, web fonts add additional HTTP requests to external resources, negatively impacting your website speed. Having too many redirects on your website also create other HTTP requests, which will negatively impact the speed of your website.
In fact, Google strongly encourages webmasters to minimise the number and ideally eliminate redirects entirely. Eliminating them might be a bit of a stretch; what I would advise is to reduce them.
I use a Screaming Frog SEO spider to identify these redirects with a free and paid version, but you can get the most out of the free version. Give the tool a try, run a site scan, and tab on the status code column to see all 301 redirects on your site.
Tactic 04: Make us of CDN (Content delivery network)
Suppose you are not sure about what I am referring to. In that case, a CDN is defined as a “content delivery network, or content distribution network is a geographically distributed network of proxy servers and their data centres. The goal is to provide high availability and performance by distributing the service spatially relative to end-users.”
How this works is that if your entire website is hosted on one server when each user visits it, it sends requests to that same server. And when the traffic to your website increases, the time it takes to process each request increases, slowing download times for all your website visitors.
CDN will help in decreasing load times for your visitors by using other networks of servers, which caches your website on a global network of servers. When someone visits your website, their browser requests files from your site; that request is routed to the closest server.
Tactic 05: Optimise browser caching
Browser caching pronounced “browser cash.” Defined by PC Mag as a temporary storage area in memory or on disk that holds the most recently downloaded Web pages. So when you jump from Web page to Web page, caching those pages in memory lets, you quickly go back to a page without having to download it from the Web again.
By optimising for browser caching, you are letting the browser know that the elements of the page of your website don’t change often can be saved inside its cache.
This might sound technical for some people; I guess it calls for another article that takes you through configuring your website for browser caching.
In this article, I just highlighted only 5 tactics that I have used in my personal capacity, but the list is long. I mentioned these 5 because I deem them very important and ideal to any professional who is just starting or an enthusiast.