Page Speed Matters.
We’ve all heard that one before. But are you doing enough about it? Or rather, are you addressing the right problems with your current website optimization strategy?
Let’s break it down with some first-principles reasoning. In other words, let’s dig deeper and deeper until we’re left with only the foundational facts of the situation.
So, Page Speed Matters.
Now, what does that really mean?
It means your website needs to be fast.
Because a fast website is good for SEO, it results in reduced bounce rates, it affects your brand image, and ultimately, it improves your conversions. And an increase in your conversion rate translates to an increase in revenue – the real underlying objective.
Ok, so what are you doing to make it fast?
You’re optimizing the website.
By using a CDN, by compressing images, by minimizing assets, by decreasing the number of plugins……
Hold on. Stop right there.
You’re doing all of these things in order to increase conversions on your website. Doesn’t this sound a little odd?
That’s because an increase in conversions has a lot to do with your customer’s experience on your website as a whole, and the optimization of your site is not a one-size-fits-all kinda deal.
If we’re taking a holistic look at the actual goal – which is to create exceptional customer experiences – we’re going to have to go beyond the traditional bounds of website optimization.
Don’t get me wrong. The basics are important and they’ll get you results. But there are a couple of reasons that might compel you to rethink your approach towards website optimization.
#1 You’re Responsive Web Pages Don’t Make the Cut
If your web pages are responsive, that’s great. They fit in well on any screen, irrespective of whether the screen belongs to a desktop, a tablet, or a mobile phone. Now, this does not mean the user experience of your mobile site is at its best; simply because a responsive web page does not equal a quick one.
What you need are some Accelerated Mobile Pages. AMP is an initiative by Google to improve the overall performance of the mobile web. Integrating AMP to standardize your responsive pages is all about stripping off the extra bells and whistles from a page and making speed and user experience the top priority.
For example, the AMP version of an eCommerce store would have a collapsing sidebar menu (as opposed to a static one), that makes sure the buyer’s focus is geared exclusively towards the products, and not the other redundant elements of the page.
Everyone from publication giants like The Washington Post to all major online businesses have jumped onto the AMP bandwagon, and for good reason too. While some of these websites saw a 75% increase in conversion rates, some others saw a staggering 4.5X increase in revenue!
In addition to the SEO advantage that comes with implementing AMPs, Google specifically points them out with an AMP symbol.
#2 Progressive Web Apps are Here to Stay
Unlike what most people assume, PWAs are not workarounds of a Native Mobile App. In fact, in some ways, I’d say they’re even better. If you’re of the impression that getting an App developed will help you tap into the mobile market easily, you’re gravely mistaken.
Your audience does not make the effort to go to the App Store or Play Store in order to download an app of a website that they visit frequently. That’s way too much to ask of them. As per Comscore’s report, the reach of the mobile web is 2.5 times more than that of apps.
Here’s how PWAs work. You insert a piece of code into your website which detects the device your audience is using. If it’s a mobile, a pop-up is displayed, which asks them to access your PWA. Your site is then directly added to the user’s Home Screen.
Now, there are two important steps a PWA is reducing for you in comparison to a Native Mobile App. One, you improve the discoverability of the app. You don’t need to put in separate marketing efforts for your app. Two, the PWA also eliminates the friction of getting an app downloaded and installed.
Then there’s also the fact that PWA’s are a lot more affordable, they’re quick to implement, and of course, they’re extremely agile and responsive.
#3 You Cannot Always Cut Down on the Media
Let’s face it, the images and videos on your blog posts and your Landing Pages are there for a reason. Having said that, these beefy elements end up slowing your page down.
Media or Page Load Speed. Can you really choose one over the other? I know I can’t. That’s where Lazy Loading comes into the picture. Lazy Loading is when the heavier elements on a page are completely loaded only when they come into the viewport or when the user scrolls down to them.
Lazy Loading comes with more than a few advantages. Especially if your page is up against slow internet speeds. It reduces the initial page weight, limits system resource usage, and reduces the initial page load time; all of which have a positive impact on the performance of your site.
Think about it, what’s the point of loading parts of your page which your user may never see? The bandwidth used to load the entire page might as well be used to load the parts that are actually useful to your audience.
#4 First Impressions Are Critical
In the early days of publishing, ‘above the fold’ was a term used for content that appeared on the top half of the front page of a newspaper. This section of the newspaper was most visible when the newspaper was placed on the newsstand and was responsible for attracting readers with its catchy headlines and vivid imagery – much like the first section of your webpage.
The ‘above the fold’ content of your webpage can be a great asset when it comes to creating a lasting first impression. With the right kind of tinkering, this section of your page could go supersonic! Quite Literally.
The tinkering I’m referring to here is implementing Critical CSS wherein, the minimum and most critical styling elements such as the grid framework, the navigation cues, and the basic font styling are fetched before the rest of the content.
There are a few things to bear in mind here. Firstly, you need to generate Critical CSS for each page individually. Secondly, your audience could be accessing your site using just about any device under the sun, so there’s no set pixel height that can be defined as ‘above the fold’. Thirdly, if you’re looking to attain the best possible results out of this exercise, it should ideally be an iterative process.
That being said, the results are totally worth it.
#5 Your Page Needs to Perform Even Before Your Audience Decides to Open It
Let’s say you want to rent a car over the weekend. What’s the basic information you’re looking for? You need to know the car’s model, you need to know whether it fits your budget and you need to know if it’s available on the required dates. Now, wouldn’t it be great if you get all of this information from the snippet without having to open the web page?
That’s what implementing structured data as a part of your website optimization strategy is all about. It’s about optimizing your data to display ‘rich content’ that your user actually cares about.
Structured Data is a code format – a language that Google understands. While Google’s native algorithms are already in play, structured data is your way of telling Google that, “Hey, this is what the audience is actually looking for, and this is what will make your search results more meaningful and valuable.”
Structured Data differs based on the use case. Take a look at the image below. That’s precisely what a rich snippet looks like. Not only do I see the recipes I’m looking for, but I’m also presented with the ratings, the number of votes, and the calorie count!
Over To You
What I’d like to stress on, yet again, is that the real problem you need to tackle, at the moment, is an incomplete take on your website optimization plan. You’ll come across a lot of tools and off-the-shelf solutions that claim to help you with optimizing your site. But as you can see, that’s not nearly enough.
Performance optimization cannot be a quick-fix. For instance, this was hardly a comprehensive list. There are loads of minor tips and tricks that could go a long way in helping you speed up your website. Not to mention, Google constantly keeps updating its algorithms and there are emerging technology solutions and trends that you need to keep up with.
If you need help with optimizing your WordPress website, you can always get in touch with us.
That’s all for now. Until next time, I’d love to hear about more such tricks that you’ve got up your sleeve. Let’s get talking in the comments section below!