Conversion Wednesday – 5 Ways to Reduce Your Website Load Time



Welcome to Your Daily Concept, Get Smarter Everyday. And today is another installment of the Conversion Wednesday series.

Today we are going to have fun and talk about “5 Ways to Reduce Your Website’s Load Time”

One important way to increase conversion rates for your website is make your website faster for more people. Several studies around the internet and our own have concluded a major increase in revenue and page views if you can drastically reduce the load time of your website.

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Google has also made this even a hotter topic by announcing they are starting to record page speed and may count it against you in their organic rankings. Google Webmaster Tools allows you to see if you are meeting Google’s site speed requirements. Every day I see ecommerce stores taking 10 seconds to load, if you can reduce that time in half you can expect upward of 25% increase in page views and 5-10% increase in revenue. Now in order to have that much an impact, you have to dramatically reduce your load time, not just by a small percent. Today I will discuss the major changes to your site to reduce your load time enough to have a real business impact.

Let’s jump right in and start discussing major ways to reduce load time on your site. Now I will try not to make these tips too technical, but when we are talking about making your site faster it is unavoidable. If you would like help optimizing your site for speed and testing the results, our Conversion Booster service helps clients tackle this problem head on through an extensive load time optimization process.

Before you begin this process, download Y!Slow for Firebug in your Firefox browser or the new Google Page Speed plugin to understand where your website stands and how much opportunity exists for improvement.

Now on to my short list of tips to decrease load time:

Tip 1 Spring Cleaning
Unnecessary 3rd party tools and services from un-optimized servers can have a dramatic impact on performance
Ask yourself, do I need another security badge that calls an outside server and loads another image on my page? Does this really help me make more money?
So take the time to go through your site and perform extensive spring cleaning. Put items in the trash that are not making you more money. If you are unsure if an item helps or hurts, test it with free tools like Google Website Optimizer or hire professionals to help you.

Tip 2 Organize
Ever here your mom tell you to “Put all of your toys away in the right bins”, now I am telling you this simple task can make you more money so why not do it.
Place all of your CSS into a single stylesheet and place it at the top.
You may ask why, well placing all of your CSS into a single stylesheet reduces the need for your browser to call multiple http requests while the site loads. Placing the css on the top of the page has been proven to reduce bounce rates and increase page views because the user perception is that the website is loading properly. This has been proven by Yahoo!, Google and Bing in independent tests. I have provided a link to the research in the synopsis below.

You can also reduce load time by cleaning up the external javascript code by placing it into one single file and placing it on the bottom of your page
Now be cautious with this tip, hire a professional developer, someone experienced with your code. Some javascript files may need to be placed in certain locations on your pages to work properly.
In our own testing we have been able to reduce the load time by 10% with this simple code change.

Tip 3 Lose the Fat
Time to workout and get our website in shape.
Yahoo! is a great free tool that allows you to optimize existing site images, you can download this tool as a firefox plugin.
Minify and GZIP or Nip and Tuck as I like to call. – okay these are very geeky terms, but essentially they are compression techniques to make your code smaller and load much faster. I feel like a plastic surgeon when making this change to a site. Literally cutting the fat out of your javascript and css files. Again you may need a web developer if you are not familiar with javascript and php/apache.
CSS-sprites, have your web developer reduce image requests by combining background images into one single file and using background-position to display the right portion of the image.
I also will go out on limb here and suggest talking with your designer to reduce the number of images used in your site but still maintain the same look and feel, brand, etc. So this may be a challenge, but well worth it to reduce your site’s load time significantly.

Tip 4 Share
Using a powerful content distribution network helps reduce the load time on your site by sharing your website on multiple servers across the country so that the end user connects to the fastest and closest server to them.
CDN services like Akamai or Limelight Networks may not be cost efficient for smaller ecommerce stores, so a great alternative is the ‘Cloud’. Several inexpensive ‘cloud’ services are now available, like Amazon S3 or Google Code ‘Cloud’ storage.
Now during tests with Yahoo! Stores, we found that the lib servers on Yahoo! are well optimized and actually faster than the Amazon S3 cloud.

Tip 5 Simplify
Sometimes the best way to reduce the load time is to put in the hard work or investment to clean up and simplify your code. Keeping the mentality of ‘less is more’ when coding your site is paramount.
Do not let your web developer lose you sales by not coding your html properly.
This tip is last because it’s the very labor intensive and last tip you should try.

This is my short, short list for reducing the load time on your site. By no means is this the complete list. Many of these suggestions will require expert help if you are not a programmer yourself, but if you can make 5-10% more revenue next year utilizing these techniques then it will be well worth it for you.

For a quick recap:

In order to reduce the load time on your website

  1. Remove unnecessary tools
  2. Organize CSS & Javascript
  3. Lose the Fat with Your Images
  4. Share Your Website Across the World
  5. Simplify Your Site Code

And that wraps us up for another Conversion Wednesday, I hope today’s information was valuable and if you would like more information on how we can help you reduce your load time and increase your revenues. Please call us at 1-800-504-4324 for a free opportunity audit.

Thank you and have a great week everyone!