- March 11, 2021
Top 5 Ways to Cut Your Home Page Loading Time in Half
Did you know that a second or two delay in how fast your home page loads can have a massive impact on your bottom line?
That is right. You will have fewer page views in those one-to-two seconds, decrease customer satisfaction, and see fewer conversions.
Today’s consumers have high demands that they expect, especially when it comes to the speed at which they browse the web.
They want an unhindered user experience to quickly and effortlessly find what they are looking for on the web.
Fast loading websites have become a requirement if you want to remain competitive and not lose visitors to your website.
Test Your Speed
Before making changes to your website, you will need to measure its performance first. Several tools on the market will enable you to test and measure your homepage speed, including:
This article will use the GTmetrix tool and The Dental Marketing Guy website to measure, analyze, and recommend improvements.
Run a GTmetrix Speed Test
You can either use the public version of GTmetrix or register for a free account. The public version always uses the same configurations.
Whereas with a free account, you can change the conditions such as the testing location and connection speed for a more accurate result based on your target audience.
Start by heading over to the GTmetrix home page and entering the URL of the site you want to test and click Analyze.
GTmetrix Overview Performance Scores and Details
When you run your speed test, GTmetrix generates a performance report with Web Vitals and a Grade. The GTmetrix grade is derived from two sources:
- Performance which is the result of the Lighthouse site audit tool.
- A proprietary performance metric that measures structure and overall page performance.
Web Vitals, introduced by Google in 2020, is a standardized set of user experience and web performance metrics.
GTmetrix focuses primarily on the following Web Vitals metrics:
- Largest content element (LCP)) : measures the amount of time it takes for the largest content element on your page to load. You want to aim for an LCP of 1.2 seconds or less.
- Total blocking time (TBT): shows how much time a page is blocked during the page loading process. Your goal should be a TBT of 150 milliseconds or less to optimize the user experience.
- Cumulative layout shift (CLS): refers to how much the elements shift on a page while loading. A CLS score of 0.1 or less results in the best user experience.
In our example, using Dental Marketing Guy, the GTmetrix speed test results are:
- Grade = A
- Performance = 91%
- Structure = 95%
- LCP = .7
- TBT = 246ms
- CLS = 0.05
Now let us see where we can make improvements on specific metrics. Boost Your site speed with these five ways to cut the time it takes your home page to load.
When visitors land on your home page, their browser sends requests to access your site’s content. However, if your website has excessive JS, CSS, HTML, and other assets, the page load speed is reduced because they take longer to process.
Minification refers to stripping out characters in your site’s code that is unnecessary and does not change its functionality.
Examples include removing unnecessary line breaks, white spaces, comments, redundant code, and characters.
WordPress (WP) users can use a plugin such as W3 Total Cache to minify JS files, CSS, HTML, and other assets.
Non-WP users can use online tools to minify codes.
Assets refer to elements such as images and favicons. You want to make them as small as possible and compress them without sacrificing quality.
Minification increases page speed by making the transfers smaller and more efficient. GTmetrix triggers structure audits after scanning your site.
The audits are based on Google’s best practices for optimal front-end website performance. They are assessed and ranked according to how much impact they have on your performance and how well you adhere to the best practice standards.
Even though the structure audits do not directly affect your Performance score, they can improve overall page loading time.
Click on the down-arrow to open the specific suggestions for each element. GTmetrix suggests focusing on this top issue section first as they have the most considerable impact on page speed and performance.
- Avoid Multiple Page Redirects
Each time a page on your website redirects to somewhere else, it prolongs the HTTP request and response process while reducing loading times.
There will be some situations where a redirect is necessary. However, remove any unnecessary redirects on your site to increase the speed at which pages are loaded.
Dental Marketing Guy has no issues with too many page redirects.
WP users can use a plugin to reduce redirects. GTmetrix recommends redirecting necessary URLs on the server-side because they are cacheable, fast, and universally implemented.
Image source GTmetrix
- Leverage Browser Caching
Browser caching can significantly improve page load times by asking website visitors to save and reuse your site’s files.
It works by enabling browsers to store various information and files, such as JS files, stylesheets and images, so that the entire page does not need to reload every time the same visitor lands on it.
In our example, the impact is low under the structure tab for cache policy. However, GTmetrix still offers recommendations for improvement.
GTmetrix identifies a resource as cacheable if it meets all of the following criteria:
- It returns an HTTP, 200, 203, or 206 status code.
- Does not have an explicit no-cache policy.
- It is an image, font, script, media file, or stylesheet.
When you are not leveraging browser caching, GTmetrix will flag all the static resources that need attention and improvement.
Click Audit to see the list of resources with transfer size and the cache time-to-live (TTL).
When your site does not have the correct HTTP cache headers on the server, site speed is affected and slows down.
Many site owners struggle with leveraging browser caching, especially when it occurs on resources you do not control.
For example, if your audit shows a third-party ad network as a cache issue, there is nothing you can do as it is not a resource you control.
WP users can use one of the many powerful caching plugins, such as WP Rocket, WP Super Cache, and W3 Total Cache to optimize and create lightning speed page loading times.
- Reduce Time to First Byte (TTFB)
TTFB is the total amount of time browsers need to wait before receiving the first byte of a response request.
It refers to how long it takes for a page to start loading. The metric is made up of the Redirection Duration + Connection Duration + Backend Duration and is a key indicator of web performance.
A slow TTFB might result in website visitors only seeing a blank page while the browser waits for your server to respond.
Requests for your web page from users are sent to the server. The server, in turn, generates an appropriate response and sends back your page resources to the user.
Below are a few ways to improve TTFB:
- Implement caching.
- Optimize application code.
- Fine-tune web server configuration.
- Upgrade server hardware.
Using the Waterfall tab in GTmetrix, TTFB is measured from the test’s start until right before receiving the page requested.
One of the best ways to reduce TTFB is to enable browser caching.
- Use a Content Delivery System (CDN)
A CDN is a network of servers with nodes located in different regions. The servers are spread around the world.
The benefit of using a CDN is to reduce load times by caching your page’s static content, such as JS files, images, and CSS.
When a visitor lands on your site, resources are served from the cache of the closest CDN node. This is instead of loading resources from your original server.
Leveraging a CDN will improve page loading speed by hosting and delivering copies of your website’s static content from servers located in various locations across the globe.
It works by reducing the distance user-requested data has to travel between your servers and the visitors’ browsers.
Image source GTmetrix
GTmetrix will look at the response headers of page requests and identify those not served from a known CDN and trigger an audit.
While CDNs can significantly improve website performance across different locations, they are not essential to your website’s functionality.
Whether or not to use a CDN will depend upon your performance goals and the location of your target audience.
Are You Ready to Get Your Site Up to Speed?
We cannot overstate how critical site speed is to success. You must regularly monitor page loading speed and make improvements where necessary.
As we have shown above, several factors affect home page loading speeds. Using a tool to help identify issues and provide useful suggestions on areas where you can optimize performance is invaluable.
Be sure to look beyond just the scores. Do a deep dive into the specific aspects of your website’s performance that are having the most impact on your page load times.
Do not forget that every second it takes your web page to load significantly increases the chances visitors will leave.