Site speed is a crucial factor for SEO. Faster websites rank higher and provide better user experience.
This comprehensive guide covers key ways to optimize website speed through improvements to images, web hosting, code, caching, CDNs and more.
Speeding up load times should be a priority. Higher performing websites keep visitors engaged longer and convert better.
Follow these website speed optimization tips to accelerate your site and improve organic rankings.
Why Site Speed Matters for SEO
Site speed impacts SEO in multiple ways:
- Page speed is a ranking factor – Google has confirmed faster pages can achieve higher rankings, especially on mobile. Improving speed improves rankings.
- Faster sites have higher engagement – Quickly loading pages keep visitors on site longer. Lower bounce rates improve analytics.
- Improves user experience – Fast sites seem higher quality and more relevant. Slow sites frustrate users.
- Helps pages get indexed – Speedier websites can get crawled more efficiently. Slow pages may not get indexed at all.
- Core Web Vitals correllate with rankings – Optimizing CWV metrics like LCP and CLS also optimize speed.
- Fewer visitors abandon – Conversions increase when pages load quickly. High abandonment is linked to slow downs.
Prioritizing speed optimization is a best practice for traffic, engagement and conversions.
How to Measure Current Site Speed
The first step is measuring your current site speed performance using tools like:
- Pingdom – Provides page load time from multiple geo locations.
- WebPagetest – Analyzes page speed from different connections and devices.
- PageSpeed Insights – Google tool shows optimization opportunities and lab metrics.
- GTmetrix – Page speed tool with an overall performance grade.
- Chrome User Experience Report – Real user speed metrics in Chrome.
- Core Web Vitals Report – Shows field data performance for Core Web Vitals in Chrome.
Test key pages like your homepage in multiple tools to benchmark current speed. Compare against competitors. Identify technical issues causing bottlenecks.
Set a speed target KPI to work towards – e.g. sub-3 second load time on mobile. Measure again after making optimizations.
Images often account for most of a page’s byte size. Optimizing images is one of the best ways to boost speed.
Compress Images – Compress JPEG, PNG, GIF, and SVG files to reduce file size without losing quality. Use tools like TinyPNG.
Lazy Load Images – Only load images visible on screen. Defer offscreen images. Major speed boost.
Resize Images – Scale down images to the displayed size. Don’t make visitors load huge files.
Serve Next Gen Formats – Use WebP and AVIF instead of JPG/PNG where supported. 30% smaller size.
Optimize Alt Text – Keep alt text concise. Omit from decorative images. Don’t include keywords.
Caching – Set far future expires headers on images so browsers cache them.
CDN for Media – Serve images from a content delivery network to speed up delivery.
Fewer Images – Eliminate any unnecessary images that don’t add value.
Optimized images load faster, take up less bandwidth, and improve page speed.
Minification removes whitespace, comments and unnecessary code to reduce file size without altering functionality.
Enable minification through build tools or plugins like Autoptimize. Always minify CSS and JS files before going live.
Minifying HTML is less common, but plugins can reduce file size further by removing unneeded spaces and indentation.
Code minification significantly reduces download sizes and speeds up page loads.
Caching stores website files locally on a user’s browser or device so pages load instantly on repeat visits.
You can cache:
- Static assets like CSS, JS and images
- HTML pages
- Site API responses
- Third party scripts
Set future expires headers on resources so browsers cache them longer.
Invalidate caches when assets are updated. Balance between fresh content and fast load times.
Improve Web Hosting Performance
Slow, overloaded web hosting hampers site speed. Upgrade to optimized web hosting:
- SSD Storage – Solid state drives are much faster than traditional hard disk storage.
- CDN Integration – Content delivery network baked into hosting improves caching.
- HTTP/2 – Enables multiple requests simultaneously plus header compression.
- PHP 7.4 – The latest PHP version significantly boosts performance over outdated versions.
- Caching – Nginx or Varnish cache for faster static file delivery.
- Cloud Hosting – Auto-scaling infrastructure handles traffic spikes effortlessly.
Migrating to a modern web host or cloud infrastructure can accelerate site speed.
Defer Non-Critical Resources
- Deferred CSS delivery – Load CSS asynchronously using media attribute
<link media="print">or dynamicaly via JS.
- Lazy load libs – Defer non-critical JS libraries until needed.
This allows the page HTML and key resources to load first.
Streamline Database Queries
Inefficient database queries can bottleneck page load. Speed up by:
- Adding indexes on queried columns
- Caching common queries
- Using a memory cache like Redis
- Tuning and optimizing slow queries
- Upgrading to a faster database
Clean, optimized database interactions are vital for dynamic sites.
Compress Text-Based Assets
Compressing HTML, JSON, XML, CSS, JS, fonts and other text-based assets reduces file size.
Turn on gzip compression in your web server config. Most web hosts have this built-in.
Make sure compression is enabled for all MIME types. Verify it works by checking HTTP response headers.
Upgrade Site Infrastructure
Modernizing outdated infrastructure powers site speed gains:
- Use a caching proxy – A reverse proxy like Varnish stores cached pages in memory.
- Upgrade web server – Nginx and Apache httpd offer high performance web servers.
- Increase capacity – Scale up server resources – RAM, CPU, storage when needed.
- Go cloud-native – Leverage autoscaling, CDNs and caching available from cloud platforms.
Don’t let legacy infrastructure limit performance.
Follow Core Web Vitals Guidance
Google’s Core Web Vitals initiative outlines key metrics correlated with user experience:
Largest Contentful Paint – When main content loads visually. Target under 2.5 sec on mobile.
Cumulative Layout Shift – Visual instability. Target score under 0.1.
First Input Delay – Time to interactivity. Target under 100 ms.
Follow Core Web Vitals playbook to optimize site speed.
There are many opportunities to improve website speed through technical optimizations detailed in this guide.
Faster, more resilient websites have happier users, reduced bounce rates, higher pages per session, improved SEO, and increased conversions.
Prioritize speed as a KPI. Use PageSpeed Insights and WebPageTest to continually measure and improve your website’s performance.
Have any other tips for speeding up websites? Share your thoughts in the comments below!