By now, you realize the importance of optimizing a site for mobile. You have a responsive design implemented, and you’ve used Google’s mobile-friendly checker tool to make sure every page of your site is loading properly for mobile devices. But how much attention have you paid to the speed of your site?
Site speed is an underrated quality in website optimization because it’s affected by a number of individual factors, and can’t be directly controlled or changed the way your onsite content can. Still, site speed if vitally important if you want to give your visitors the best possible experience.
For starters, slower page loading speeds lead to higher page abandonment, and every second here counts:
(Image Source: KissMetrics)
Faster loading times lead to higher user satisfaction, higher user retention rates, and allow for more time for site engagement. Plus, Google considers page speed as a ranking factor, at least peripherally. The faster your website performs, the higher authority you’ll be seen to have, and the higher ranks you’ll be able to earn (the user experience factor helps here too).
(Image Source: SearchEngineLand)
All these factors are amplified by the fact that mobile devices tend to load more slowly than their desktop counterparts (and mobile users are less patient as well, since they’re usually after more immediate information). Cutting your page loading times, even by a second, can lead to a dramatic increase in user engagement. So how can you do it?
Let’s take a look at some of the main ways you can make your mobile site faster:
Your first goal should be to optimize the images of your site, since they’ll constitute the majority of your site’s data. Reducing this data as much as possible (while maintaining the integrity of your images) is crucial to shrinking your page load time. First, make sure your images are in a proper format, such as JPG, GIF, or PNG. Then, strip your images of any unnecessary meta data (while keeping them optimized for SEO with proper titles and alt tags). Once that’s done, shrink your file sizes as much as possible without compromising your quality.
Content delivery networks are systems of distributed servers that make the delivery of your webpage information faster and more streamlined. The technical details here aren’t important; just know that this makes the request and delivery process faster for mobile users.
Take a look at the back end of your site. Are there any unused content drafts floating around? Is there meta data that’s irrelevant? These things can bog down your site speed with unnecessary size additions, so get rid of them.
This action is a bit technically complicated, but it’s actually much simpler than it sounds. In a normal environment, HTTP requests are done individually, but the “keep alive” response header keeps the connection open, allowing for multiple requests to be done simultaneously. The simple analogy? It makes the page loading process more efficient by letting your users grab more information at once. Setting this up takes a bit of technical knowledge, but it’s not totally unapproachable for a novice—you can read more about it here.
A good caching plugin will store some of your site’s data so users can access your site faster in the future. Try not to tinker with the settings too much or you’ll interfere with its ability to make your site faster.
Most plugins increase your site size and decrease its ability to load quickly, so do a thorough audit of all your plugins, and get rid of any that you don’t actively need on your site. Don’t be afraid to keep a handful that you actually use—but most webmasters end up accumulating far more than they realize.
Gzip compression can help you reduce the number of bytes different elements of your site occupy. In short, it keeps the integrity of your site intact while reducing the total amount of size it occupies. The bottom line is that your site runs faster.
(Image Source: YUI)
By this point, your site is probably decently optimized for speed. If your pages were loading slow at the beginning, you may have been able to shave multiple seconds off your loading times. Even if not, you’ve at least earned a somewhat faster web presence. If you find that these changes aren’t enough to reach your page speed goals, it could be an indication that something is wrong with your hosting provider, or your specific package. Some hosting packages lump many businesses together on the same plan, forcing you to compete for resources. Consider making a change to earn your own dedicated set of resources.
None of these site speed optimization tactics are inherently complicated or intensive. In fact, many of them can be accomplished in an hour or less. Once implemented, your site is going to run cleaner and faster, and all your mobile users will appreciate the increase in speed and availability. As competition continues to rise and Google continues improving the average user’s mobile web experience, any differentiating factor you can pull here is valuable.