By Andrew Oziemblo, Founder & CEO of Chicago SEO Geeks, the digital marketing & SEO agency helping businesses achieve long-term growth goals.

There are many different factors that are going to have an influence on your website ranking. This includes everything from on-page optimisation to inbound links pointing to your website. Another thing that has a big impact is website speed. User experience plays a huge role when it comes to search engine optimisation. If your website is slow to load, users will simply look elsewhere. After all, no one is going to be willing to wait for a site when there are plenty of other options. The Internet is meant to be about convenience, and so this is what you need to provide. 

Load speed, therefore, has a big role to play when it comes to ensuring your website is optimised for the Google search engine result pages. If people leave your website because it is not quick enough, this is going to have a negative impact on your bounce rate, which is one of the ranking factors Google considers. With that being said, you need to look for different ways to speed up your website. Below, we take a look at the top five things that will improve your website load times. 

  • Compress images – There is only one place to begin, and this is with compressing images. Images currently take up around 60 per cent of the average bytes loaded per webpage. This accounts for around 1504 KB. When you compare this with other website assets, you can really see the difference. For example, video accounts for around 294 KB, CSS 45 KB, and scripts 399 KB. This shows how images take up quite a considerable amount of the HTTP requests sent. If you do not believe you need any images, you should simply remove them. This includes those extra fonts you thought you may need but didn’t, as well as the libraries of icons you only use two of. It is then advisable to make sure you use compression or optimisation software if you use large images. You should make sure that none of your images are above 1920px in width and that they are below 150 KB. 
  • Optimise file extensions – Aside from compressing images, you should also make sure you use the right file extensions, as this also has an impact on website load times. In terms of photographs or anywhere where fine detail is less important, JPG is ideal. If you have an image and a transparent background is needed behind, use PNG. For vector images whereby a high amount of detail needs to be kept in, SVG is most suitable. Moreover, when it comes to certain icons you are able to use the likes of FontAwesome and other font libraries in order to render specific graphics rather than having to save out individual images. 
  • Browser caching – Browser caching allows your site’s assets to be downloaded to your hard drive once into a temporary storage space or cache. These files will be stored on your system locally, which enables you to increase the subsequent page load speeds. According to Tenni Theurer, who used to work at Yahoo!, has stated that between 40 and 60 per cent of daily website visitors come in with an empty cache. Therefore, you must ensure your site loads at a quick enough pace so that they will continue to look through the rest of your website. Third-party items, for example, ads of widgets will only last a day, whereas static assets have a cached lifetime of a week minimum. Media files, images, JS, and CSS should have expirations of one week, but ideally, one year, as anything longer will be in violation of RFC guidelines. 

  • Use CDNs & remove unused files and scripts – Most of your users are not going to be close to your web server. You can reduce this distance if you spread your content across a number of different servers, which are geographically dispersed. However, this is way too complicated! Because of this, the best thing to do is to use a content delivery network (CDN). This is a number of web servers, which are distributed across a number of locations so that content is delivered more effectively to users. CDNs tend to be used for static files or content that are not going to need to be touched once they have been uploaded. 
  • Lower HTTP requests – Last but not least, you need to lower HTTP requests. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. These are counted whenever a browser gets a picture, page, or file from a web server. According to research by Yahoo, these requests usually take up around 80 per cent of the load time of a webpage. There are a number of different ways that you can go about decreasing HTTP requests, so let’s take a look at these. The first is CSS Sprites. When applicable, you can combine the images you use on a regular basis across your site into one sprite sheet. You will prevent your browser from always attempting to retrieve a number of images every time specific pages on your website load if you do this and you access the images through the use of background-position and CSS background-image. Other options in terms of lowering HTTP requests include lowering the number of images you use, using queries to only what is required, and combining JS/CSS files. 

As you can see, there are a number of different ways that you can improve the load speed of your website. If you follow the five pieces of advice that have been provided above, you will be able to make sure that your website operates quickly and effectively. There are some other options to try too. This includes using asynchronous loading for JavaScript and CSS files, reduce server response time, use external hosting platforms, and prioritise above-the-fold content.