Website optimization is important for a wide variety of reasons. For one, you want to make sure that your website is always performing at peak levels to ensure an optimal user experience. No one wants to waste time waiting for web pages and graphics to load. User attention spans are dwindling and you only get a couple of seconds to make a good impression. After that -- it's on to the next one. Furthermore, your website's performance is also directly linked to SEO and it's ability to rank on search engine results pages. If you're interested in learning various tactics you can use to increase your website's performance, then this article will provide you with 13 techniques to do just that.
1. Prioritize a mobile-first design
Google made their first official announcement regarding mobile first indexing in March of 2018 but marketers were on to the notion of mobile-first far before that. While Google insists that mobile-first indexing doesn’t impact rankings, the truth of the matter is that since the majority of people browse via their mobile devices, it does impact how your site performs.
Make sure your site is adaptive to not just mobile devices but a variety of devices so that users receive the best performance suited for their needs. Also keep in mind that less is often more when it comes to mobile. This applies to meta titles and content which is often easier to read when crafted with mobile users in mind. Furthermore, when using a responsive design, always scale your images and avoid pop-ups which cover content and can prevent users from seeing what your site is all about.
2. Consider user intent
Writing great content used to entail finding topics that are relevant to your industry, crafting in-depth, long-form, detailed articles and making sure content is adequately optimized with the right keywords. However, now a days, that’s only a part of the game. As Google’s algorithms grow and become more complex with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence, things such as contextual relevance begin to come to the forefront of the conversation. It’s no longer just about optimizing for keywords and phrases but taking into consideration user intent. Does your website and fall in line with this when it comes to your keywords? Now more than ever contextual relevance must align when it comes to search queries. If your website isn’t in line with what is currently ranking, then chances are you’ll fall behind on the search engine results pages and your website simply won’t perform as well as you need it to.
3. Schema markup
Schema markup is essentially a form of microdata which when added to a webpage, creates a rich snippet which appears in the search engine results pages. This rich snippet is essentially an enhanced description of sorts. The reason why schema is used with regards to website optimization is that it can help provide context to your website and as a result, enhance the search experience. When it comes down to it however, adding schema markup can seem like quite the daunting task, especially for those who aren’t so technically savvy. Fortunately, if you happen to run your website on a platform such as WordPress, there are a number of plugins which can be used that can help you get the job done.
4. Optimize the user experience
The quality of your user experience is crucial when it comes to ensuring your website performs optimally with its intended audience. Your user experience essentially encompasses how users feel when they interact with not just your website but your products, your services and your company as a whole. There are a number of factors which influence UX.
For example, is the content provided on your website useful to the user? Does it satisfy their needs? Is your website easy to use and navigate through? Are navigation elements and the design crafted in a way that make it easy for users to find what they are looking for? Are you implementing web accessible design so that your content is accessible to everyone regardless of ability? Furthermore, is your website credible and valuable to the user? All of these questions and more should be considered when it comes to ensuring you have crafted an exceptional user experience.
5. Address 404 errors
You know that pesky little “Page isn’t found” message you get from time to time when your browsing through a website? That’s a 404 error. A 404 error happens when content that you are trying to access no longer exists. 404 errors can be quite a malfeasance when it comes to website performance (i.e. speed) and as a result, they must be properly identified and taken care of.
This is especially the case if these broken links are still generating traffic. Fortunately, handling the problem doesn’t have to be a hassle as there are a number of tools and resources you can use to identify and address 404 errors such as Google Webmaster Tools and Xenu’s Link Sleuth. There are also a number of plug-ins available for those who use platform such as WordPress, but keep in mind that a large amount of plug-ins will negatively impact your site’s performance and as a result, they should ideally be used sparingly.
6. Reduce redirects
Let’s face it, sometimes redirects are a necessity. But is this the case for all of the ones currently running on your website? When it comes down to it, redirects create HTTP requests and can quickly bog down your website’s performance and thus negatively impact its speed. This is why it is always advised to keep any redirects to an absolute minimum. If you’re interested in identifying any redirects on your page, you can do so by running a scan with useful tools such as Screaming Frog. Assess what they’re being used for and make sure to only leave the ones which are serving a vital purpose.
7. Reduce HTTP requests
A browser can only open a certain number of connections to a single host at a time. In general, when it comes down to it, the more HTTP requests that your page has to make, the slower it performs. According to Apiumhub, bottlenecks can be prevented when “the number of individual page elements are reduced using resource consolidation whereby smaller files, such as images, are bundled together into one file”. This just so happens to be one of the single most important web optimization techniques you can use to increase website performance. So, if you’re going to knock them out on a list and you have a limited amount of time to do so, this is the one to get crackin’ on.
8. Leverage website caching
Think of your website as a customer service agent having to handle numerous calls simultaneously. When there are a lot of users attempting to access a page all at once, naturally, your performance slows and needs to take more time in order to deliver the webpage to each individual person. When you use website caching, it prevents your web page from having to render over again and again for each individual attempting to access it because it stores the current version of your website on the hosting until it is updated. This means less database requests and an improved performance and speed.
9. Switch hosting
If you're having issues with site performance and speed, it may be time to consider moving your website to a better host. There are three main types of hosts that are used:
- Shared hosting
- VPS hosting
- Dedicated server
By far, the most common type of hosting that is used is shared hosting. It's cost-effective and pretty much the quickest way to get your website up and running. However, when it comes to shared hosting, it also just so happens to be the slowest of the options. This is because everything from CPU to disk space and RAM is shared with other sites which also use the hosting platform. VPS (Virtual Private Servers) use multiple servers. You're still technically sharing the server with other users, but in this case you have your own part of the server where your usage doesn't influence the other users and vice versa. Dedicated servers are the most expensive hosting option and are where you have your own personal server which is often managed and maintained by a system administrator.
10. Image optimization
Many times you can improve website performance by doing something as simple as reconsidering the image files that you use. Uploading original image files to websites can quickly begin to slow down performance because these images are often too heavy. Instead of doing this, opt for using image compressor tools such as TinyPNG or JPEGMini, which can help improve performance and save bandwidth without compromising on the quality of your images.
11. File compression
12. SSL certificates
Looking to optimize your website so it performs better? Believe it or not, adding an SSL certificate into the mix can help out. This is because Google actually penalizes websites which don't have them. Many platforms such as Wordpress, Squarespace and more provide their users with the option to get an SSL certificate. The downside is that this is most likely done via an upgrade or an extra fee. However, it's absolutely worthwhile, especially when it is proven to also help instill trust in the eyes of visitors.
13. Reduce plug-ins
Let's face it -- plug-ins are pretty much lifesavers and that's especially the case if you happen to be a Wordpress user. These nifty little components allow you to add specific features to your website that are often hosted by third parties. However, the truth of the matter is that plug-ins add bulk and the more you use, the more resources you need in order to run them. This can result in bogging down performance and also cause security issues to arise. As a result, it is always recommended that you do a routine check of all of the plug-ins you're currently running. Are there any you haven't used in a while or ones which aren't critical to your site's performance? Keep only the ones that are absolutely vital and then delete the rest.
Is your website up to par when it comes to how it's performing in comparison to the competition? Website optimization is key. Continually monitoring and keeping up with regular maintenance checks are crucial in order to ensure your website is performing at its optimal level. Use this article as a nifty little quick-action guide in order to help you with your web optimization efforts. Start 2020 out with a bang by improving your website's performance today.
What are some web optimization techniques that you have found useful to implement? Let us know in the comments below! We'd love to hear from you!