I don’t know about you but if a website loads painfully slowly I’m out of there. And to make matters worse I’ll probably never visit that site again. It’s not just your users who will punish you for a slow loading websites, Google will punish you by lowering your search rankings. Yes, that’s right. Google uses page load times in their search rankings.
This isn’t a new tactic, it dates back to April 2010, but it’s an important lesson as people strive to correct huge image based websites. The way Google saw it was, the more people jumped off your site, the less they used Google, which means the less advertising they can sell.
We understand the need for speed, and we utilise the following tactics to improve page load times.
We always design and produce our websites with a balance between beauty, functionality and speed. These often don’t go hand in hand. Your website is never going to load as fast as Google’s search page, because, well, there is nothing really on Google’s search page is there? Funny that. We always save our images for the web, minimising them to lowest size possible. We use repeating backgrounds rather than one big image, and we don’t embed raw video or music which can take an eternity to load.
Likewise to the above point, if you have funky fonts, these usually reside on another server somewhere. You stick some script in the top of the page to say “we are using x font and it’s over on that server”. The slower it takes to grab that font, the slower your page loads. We use Adobe Type Kit fonts, or Google Fonts, so we are guaranteed at least of some reliability in response times between servers. Again it’s beauty vs speed, so you have to be careful not to overdo it.
The Woo Themes we use for our sites are lovingly crafted and have evolved over more than 5 years with regular updates. Neat and well placed code is another important factor in page load times.
Have you noticed that when you navigate to a site, that you’ve been to before, it loads a lot quicker? Caching is when your computer remembers elements of that website, images, scripts etc, which can dramatically improve load times. Our hosting partner does this on the server side, with one of the most advanced caching around.
In WP Engine’s words “EverCache is one of the most scalable WordPress architectures on Earth. The technology behind EverCache is WP Engine’s proprietary system that moves hundreds of millions of hits per day through our system. Even with a significant traffic spike you can be sure that EverCache will handle it like a champ. We used these measures to serve more than 100,000,000 requests in less than 12 hours when the highly trafficked music festival Bonnaroo released their lineup this year. With EverCache, Bonaroo saw zero loss in page load times.”
Google and load times
We found a nice infographic over on quicksprout.com which we thought was a great way of visually showing the relationship between load times and Google rankings.