How long is too long to wait for a page to load? You start to ask yourself if it’s your connection speed or just your computer, but a lot of the time the problem lies on the webpage itself. Large images, redundant code, and even excessive use of unnecessary code can cause your webpages to become extremely slow for your users to navigate.
Why Page Speed Matters
The average web page takes 3 seconds to load. However, the ideal load time is between 0-2 seconds, with conversion rates dropping by 4.5% every second after. That means that if you want to get visitors to stay longer on your site, you should focus on improving page speed. Page speed refers to the time it takes for a browser to download a web page. If your pages load slowly, visitors won’t stick around long enough to convert into customers.
If you think that this is not a big deal for your ecommerce business, think again! Site performance and speed of your website directly influences how it will rank on Google. Meaning if your webpages do not load properly, your website gets pushed to the bottom of Google’s Search, making it that much more difficult for your customers to find your business. Page speed can also impact bounce rate and session time on your site, which also impacts your SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
The average person spends close to 7 hours per day online, and that amount of time only grows with each year! Everyone and everything is online now and the growth of your business directly relies on how easy it is for consumers to find your brand. It is imperative that you do everything you can to make sure your website is optimized for effortless use or consumers will undoubtedly move on to another competitor. This means that if your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load, you will lose customers and core audiences. In addition, Google has said in past blogs that they will penalize websites with slow loading times, and that goes double for slow loading mobile sites as well.
How to Test Your Site Speed
Every aspect of how your website is created can affect your website and also your SEO. If you aren’t sure about the current state of your website, there are many free tools that will audit your website for you. For example, Pagespeed.web can be used to identify issues across your desktop and mobile sites. For Shopify users, you can actually access an Online Store Speed Report from your Shopify dashboard to assess your store's performance. In the case of Shopify websites, there are also other factors that can impact your online store speed, including: Apps, Third-party libraries, Analytic libraries, Theme code and the number & size of images or videos. It’s always good to review your Online Speed Report to assess these issues.
How to Improve Site Performance
So, what can be done to improve your site? Let’s get started on some of the easiest ways to improve your overall site performance and page speed (which will also end up helping your website rank up in Google’s Search Engine).
1. Optimize your images
Images are one of the most important aspects of any website. Images help make websites look good but they can also greatly impact how quickly a user can load a page. If your images aren't optimized properly, then your site will not perform well. The first step to optimizing your images is to compress them. Compressing images reduces their file size while maintaining quality. You can go about doing this in a few different ways. One way is to use a tool like Photoshop to compress your images. Another way is to use an online editor like Tinypng.com to compress each image. Compression isn’t the only way to optimize your images. It would also be a good idea to make sure your images are sized correctly for their use. For instance, if you have a home page banner, that image should be the length of your screen. But if you have images that are only being used for thumbnails, they should be significantly smaller. The physical size of your images will also directly affect how many kilobytes (KB) or megabytes (MB) that image is.
Bonus Tip For Your Images: Always add alt text to each image. Alt text describes the image and helps search engines understand what the image is about.
2. Use responsive design
Responsive web design (RWD) is a way to create a single website that works across different devices. RWD means that your website adjusts its layout based on the device being used. Responsive designs allow users to view your content without having to scroll horizontally or vertically. In addition, responsive designs help reduce bandwidth usage since less data is transferred over the internet.
4. Minify HTML
Minifying HTML (HyperText Markup Language) can mean to remove white space and comments from your code. White space and comments increase the size of your files and decrease the speed at which your site loads. Minification also increases the readability of your code.
5. Remove unused CSS
CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. A style sheet is a collection of instructions that tell the browser how to display the elements on your page. Unused styles can cause your site to load slower. Try removing unused styles and only adding styles that are necessary.
6. Add HTTP/2
HTTP/2 (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is a protocol that enables browsers to send multiple requests simultaneously. Browsers that support HTTP/2 can download pages much faster than those that do not.
How to Improve Technical SEO
While talking about how to improve your website speed, we can't ignore the part Technical SEO plays in your overall website performance. To start, what exactly is SEO? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it is the process of driving traffic from any search engine (like Google, or Bing) to your website. Your goal with any of the optimizations you make to your website is for your website to rank higher at the top of a search. Meaning if you sell ‘personalized socks’ online for instance, you want potential new customers to find your website first when they search for “Personalized Socks” into Google.
Technical SEO is the practice of optimizing the back end of a site so that search engines like Google can better index the website. It is in your best interest to do everything you can to make sure your website is optimized to improve your SEO rank. The higher your website ranks, the further up on the search results your website will be, making it that much easier for customers to find your brand through organic search. Meaning you did not have to pay for that lead to come to your website, it is free traffic.
The opposite of this being Paid Traffic, which as the name implies, you are required to pay for that particular lead through the use of ads or other paid marketing initiatives. Ideally, any marketing campaign will require the use of both Organic and Paid Traffic to drive potential customers to your website. With your website being the final destination for both forms of traffic, it’s very important to make sure the experience for each potential customer is great!
1. Optimize Your Title Tags
The title tag is the first thing people see when they visit your site. You want them to know what your product is about right away. Make sure your titles are descriptive and keyword-rich. On Shopify, you can edit these by going to “Online Store”, and navigating to the Preferences menu (seen in the screenshot above).
2. Add Image Alt Texts to Each Image on your site
Always add alt text to each image. Alt text describes the image and helps search engines understand what the image is about. Good Alt text should specify what the image is about while using keywords that are directly related to the image itself. Try to be as descriptive as possible without going over 125 characters.
On Shopify, you can edit your product images alt text from your Shopify admin. Simply go to Products and click the product with the image that you want to edit. Select the image, and then click Edit Alt text and then enter your desired text.
3. Use Keywords
Keywords are extremely important when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). When people search online, they enter keywords into search engines. These keywords help search engines find relevant content and rank it accordingly. Make sure to use keywords on all your pages and to get the best results, try using long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are phrases instead of single words.
4. Add Schema Markup
Schema markup, also known as structured data, helps search engines understand how your pages should be structured. It is code that should be worked into your website that can clearly provide search engines with the information they need to understand your content. Some schema you may be familiar with and not even realize are the ratings and reviews, or products and services (showing prices or whether items are in stock), and even news articles that appear directly in Google when you enter certain queries. This info comes directly from adding Schema Markup to your website's code.
This may sound complicated, but thankfully there are plenty of apps you can download to help add Schema Markup language to your website. Here is a paid app our clients have found useful for doing just that!
5. Create Content That Works Offline
If your site doesn’t load properly, users may leave before reading anything. Include text links to help users navigate your site even without internet access.
6. Minimize Redirects & Remove Broken Links
Redirects slow down your site. Avoid redirecting between pages unless strictly necessary.
How to Improve Mobile SEO & Mobile User Experience
Using a desktop computer isn’t always a viable option when you’re on the go. There are so many different devices now that can access the content on your website, such as phones, tablets, and even mobile gaming devices.
Over 57% of online users are using their mobile devices to view webpages. (Statista, 2021) That’s over half of the people online who are no longer using a desktop computer to view your site. If your website is not mobile friendly, then you can be sure your customers will move on to a competitor whose site is optimized for mobile.
By improving your mobile SEO and mobile user experience, you are allowing so many more people to be able to access your site properly. When they can effectively navigate your site, you are making it easier for the user to complete their purchase flow quickly. Some of the things you can do to improve your mobile website we have already mentioned such as increasing your page speed, and including mobile-friendly designs that are able to adapt to any screen.
The first thing to achieve when optimizing your site for mobile devices is to make sure your web design is responsive. By doing this, you are creating a seamless experience for your customers no matter where they are viewing your site. Responsive websites automatically adjust their layout based on the device being used to view them. If your website isn’t responsive, then it won’t look good on any type of mobile device.
Next you should always have social media links embedded into your site. Social media links allow users to share your content on social networks. This helps spread the word about your business and increases your reach. Include links to popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc.
Lastly, as is probably the most important tip and worth mentioning again, optimize your images! Especially if you have product pages, it is imperative that all of your images load quickly and properly.
Your website is a reflection of your brand and especially for those whose businesses are solely based online, it’s imperative that you make sure your potential customers' experience on your site is a great one. You want them to keep coming back and supporting your brand. The first step is ensuring that your website is properly optimized for all devices and that it’s created with SEO in mind.
Making all these changes can be a costly endeavour to undertake, but if one of the most important aspects of your business is your website, it is likely that you should definitely consider making a change. If we could suggest one major improvement, optimizing your images to be as compressed as possible would be the best place to start and it’s very simple to solve this one problem without the use of a web developer.