5 Techniques You Can Take to Increase Site Speed and Conversions

5 Techniques You Can Take to Increase Site Speed and Conversions

Always be up to Date subscribe to updates - October 13, 2014

Websites with a load time of over 3 seconds need to improve immediately. It’s not rocket science. With over 6 hours of investment here at Convert, we went from 5 seconds on our blog to 1.3 seconds, without changing our hosting provider. Here are 5 techniques that are known to have the lowest investment and highest reward steps that you can take to make your website load faster.

What you’ll probably notice about these five techniques is that they are geared at accomplishing two things in particular. These are:

  • Reducing the number of requests your site has to make in order to load
  • Reducing the overall weight of the site

For a website to load, we want the browser to communicate to the smallest possible number of other websites. We also want the overall file size to load for a page to be as small as possible. So conceptually, all five of these techniques are aimed at lowering these two numbers, namely reducing the number of asset requests, and reducing the overall weight of the site. These are the big things that can be done to speed up a website.

Increase Site Speed and Conversions

Quick Fix 1: Eliminate errors

The first step you want to take when you’re looking to speed up your site is to eliminate errors. This is something that will almost always apply to you, especially if you’re running paid campaigns. You want to ensure your page is devoid of errors and any missing assets.

Any deprecated site pages you may have, some of which might not be of your own making, slows down your website. When a user runs into a page and they try to load it and it’s not there, that will really slow down the rest of the site. To fix this problem, you could use a tool like Google Webmaster Tools to identify any page that gives you the 404 error. You will then want to 301 (redirect) them to another page that makes sense so that these kinds of pages stop slowing down your site.

As mentioned, a good place to look for common culprits here are the paid campaigns you may be running, especially paid search, to see if any of those landing pages can deprecate so quickly. So, go in and redirect the user from any non-existent pages, or missing assets, such as images that no longer exist, videos that are no longer playing, and other things like those. Basically, this is a clean-up that will help speed up your site significantly.

Quick Fix 2: Optimize All Images

This is one of the easiest things you can do to optimize your site speed. With the web only getting richer and more appealing over time, the idea here is not to sacrifice images. Rather, what you can do is sacrifice the file sizes of those images. There are two primary ways or techniques used to optimize image files:

  1. Lossless image compression
  2. Lossy image compression

Both of these techniques do the same thing: they take a file and make it smaller by reducing the size. Lossless image compression preserves most of the picture’s quality but its downside is that it doesn’t make the files significantly smaller. It still gets the job done though.

Lossy image compression, on the other hand, does a better job at knocking down the file size significantly, and it would be suffice to say that this technique is the better of the two. A user surfing the web on a standard monitor with a standard resolution doesn’t really notice the difference. Check out some of the free resources you can use to compress your images in our recent webinar. Compressing images will make a huge difference in the overall weight of your site, and is a big step you can take.

Additionally, there are more technical steps you can take when it comes to optimizing your images.

  1. Optimizing the assess rate – this means that you can take a bunch of smaller images and merge them together into a single larger file. This tends to reduce the number of requests the browser has to make to be able to load the page. So, rather than going out and loading five different files, the browser will go out and load one which reduces the overall number of requests and consequently, reduces the load time too.
  2. Inlaying images with a data URI – this involves using some tools (revealed at the end of the presentation) to ensure your images are in line with HTML or CSS files, instead of being fetched individually by their individual URL. Again, the aim here is to reduce the number of requests a browser has to make to be able to load the page.

With compressing your images by using these techniques, you can make a significant impact on your page load time just by paying attention to your images and the way you’re loading them on your site.

Quick Fix 3: Minimize Your JavaScript

When determining the elements that are the biggest contributors to slowing down site speed, more often than not, JavaScript is always top of the list. The reason is why it takes a while to load is because the software runs big requests. The browser has to go meet another service like Google Analytics, or Omniture, or ClickTracks, you name it, so that it can finish loading the page correctly.

A bare site with no JavaScript on it and loads in as little in 4 seconds. Add in some JavaScript and the result will be a load time increase to over 5 seconds. When you optimize everything else on the site: images and other different assets, you can  bring the load time down to 3 seconds. After that, reduce and optimize a number of JavaScript requests, and then optimize the actual JavaScript itself. The resulting page load speed will come down to as little as 2 seconds.

The point here is that it can make a difference of as much as a second just to optimize your JavaScript. Containing and minimizing it is key, and it is a big thing to think about, given we all have sites full of JavaScript, and even more so for the marketers.

So, what is this JavaScript minimizing? Most standard JavaScript codes tend to have a lot of white space in them. The code has line breaks and lots of white space. So, when you minimize all these things and optimize your script, you’re basically cutting out the dead weight from your script code and making it lighter. In the process, you’re reducing the overall weight of the file that the website is attempting to load. That’s what minimizing JavaScript means.

Quick Fix 4: Limit Third-party Requests

As a marketer, you’re bound to have a lot of third-party requests on your site. This include things like the Facebook ‘Like’ button, or Twitter, or any chunk of JavaScript or widget you put in from another site.

So, as a marketer, the first step you can take is just to think about any of these kinds of widgets on your site that aren’t strictly necessary. You can also run a website test of a given page and see which ones are slow – those that take the longest time to load and stop other parts of the page from loading should be considered for deletion. What you can then do is search for replacements for the more popular ones: Social media sharing is by far the biggest offender among these, so try finding a replacement that’s lighter in weight, and doesn’t take as long to load.

This is particularly important for your homepage, and other areas like sub-pages and product pages. This is where you want to keep your third-party assets if yours is an eCommerce site. However, on the homepage, those pages tend to be so rich with several images and different calls to action, which translates to more JavaScript. And if there’s one place you want to be frugal with respect to your third-party widgets, it is your homepage. Because people are likely to bounce off before they can explore the site deeper.

Finally, there are two technical steps you can take with any third-party requests against social sharing buttons. The first is to ask your web developer or engineer to set things up so that the script for those loads asynchronously, meaning they load after everything else on the site. Otherwise what they’ll do is stop other pieces from loading and leaves the user with a semi-loaded screen. The second tactic you can use is to basically set up your web page from a technical perspective such that it only loads the widgets or third-party assets only after the user has scrolled to the point where they are on the screen. So, if they’re below the polls, you can set up your page in such a way that they don’t even load or get in the way of anything else until someone is actually looking at them.

Quick Fix 5:Using a CDN

A CDN is Content Delivery Network. It does many things such as handling traffic sites, reducing the number of actual requests to be made for a page to load, easing the pressure off an overloaded infrastructure, among many other functions. CDNs are a solution for slow back-end metrics, front-end metrics and a variety of other aspects. For clarification on these metrics, you can check out previous posts. Some of the techniques discussed in this article are front-end solutions, and they combine with CDN (a back-end solution) to form the bigger picture which is to optimize page load intervals from a user’s perspective.

Conclusion

The trouble spots mentioned in this article: deprecated site pages, JavaScript files, image files, and third-party requests, are the biggest culprits to slow site speed and performance. When troubleshooting, it’s advisable to ask yourself where the culprit is that’s slowing down your website. There could be another option that’s specific to your own site, so take your time to carry the tests and analyze the results.

During the presentation of Lucy Orloski of Yottaa, for example, we took a poll to see which factors were the biggest winners in terms of slowing websites down. JavaScript emerged top with 60%, followed by images and third-party domains and others contributed the remaining percentages in slowing down websites. So, most likely you’ll also find JavaScript and images files to be your biggest contributors, but carry your own tests. You may find a variety of resources highlighted in the full webinar found here.

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  • 13 Oct, 2014
  • Posted by Lemuel Galpo
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Lemuel Galpo

Written by Lemuel Galpo

As Customer Content Manager, Lem is responsible for bringing learnings in conversion optimization and testing to the world. He is part of Convert.com's growth team and coordinates all writers, editors and illustrators.

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