When you first hear about page speed as a store owner, you initially brush it off as a technical issue that isn’t something you should be concerned with. If your site is a little slow so what? People will still wait and look at your products and then ultimately buy from you, so page speed is irrelevant. The reality is that in today’s world people demand speed and a slow site = reduced sales. You spend time optimizing the content on our site, streamlining your advertising programs and it’s time to focus on optimizing the speed of your store.

What is Page Speed?

Page speed is the time it takes for your page to load and is measured on both the desktop and mobile versions of your site. Your page is comprised of many things, the HTML, the server that you use and other external resources such as JavaScript, jQuery, CSS and images (image size is very important).

The History of Page Speed

When the Internet first came about in the late 1990’s, people accessed web sites via dial up modems and waiting 7 to 10 seconds for a page to load was the norm. Since the late 1990’s the US has made huge strides to improving both internet access and internet speeds. Now most internet users expect and in fact demand a page loads in 3 seconds or less.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 mandates the FCC to create reports on broadband deployment to the American public. The Eighth Broadband Progress Report came out and over 80% of the American public has access to networks with 100 megabit-plus speeds. In addition, telecommunication carriers now regularly offer LTE access on wireless connections that is much faster speeds than 2G or 3G connectivity.

So Why Does Page Speed Matter?

According to the Aberdeen Group a 1 second delay in page load time can lead to an 11 percent decrease in page views and a 7 percent reduction in conversions. This is truly an amazing stat. Consider all the money you spend on creating content, advertising and site design and if your site is loading slowly your traffic is leaking out the bottom and your sales will suffer.

How Can you Improve Page Speed?

There are many things you can do to improve your page speed. Most of these fixes will require programming knowledge and if you have questions on how to get started feel free to reach out for help.

Reduce Image Size

When you load new product images, do you look at the size of the files? You need to ensure that the native format for your product images isn’t resulting in large image sizes. Image optimization can be tricky to do on your own, because depending on the file type (PNG, JPG, GIF, etc), there are different techniques needed to compress those images. You also need to consider whether or not an image is even needed. Often you can obtain the same look from an image by using HTML, CSS3, sprites and other coding techniques. Vector images are comprised of geometric shapes and raster images are for non geometric designs/drawings. You have to know your image types as that will also allow you to pursue different options for image compression.

For example, on Shopify you may have an issue with your site loading a 1,500px image into a 480px spot. You can correct this error by updating your code so that Shopify correctly looks for and loads a 480px image instead of something larger.

Compress your JavaScript

Does your site utilize pop ups? What about slideshows? What about custom product maker functionality where your customers can build their own version of your product? If you answered yes, there’s a great chance your site has JavaScript on it. If you want to review the JavaScript on your site, you can run the Closure Compiler and find areas for optimization. Using a compiler will help you remove unnecessary spaces and comments and update the variables on your site to compress your code and reduce your page speed time. Synchronous and asynchronous JavaScript calls can also slow down page speed, especially if you are using third party libraries and pixel tracking. If you want to learn more about how to optimize and compress your JavaScript, Google created a great resource with examples.

Optimize your CSS

You may be wondering what is CSS? CSS stands for cascading style sheets and this file is the master control file for how your HTML elements (font, colors, etc) are displayed on your site. To speed up your CSS files, reduce the number of lines of code and/or combine multiple rules into one line and you can see as much as a 20-40% reduction in the size of your CSS file.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

What is a CDN? A CDN is a network of geographically distributed servers that deliver internet content locally to a user from the closest server. Shopify uses Fastly as their CDN so your customers in different parts of the country and the US can receive your content from localized servers. If you are running your own server you should consider using a CDN and if you want to know what your competition is using, check out this CDN finder.

How can I Test my Page Speed?

Google has created a free Page Speed Tool, enter your URL and you will get both a desktop and a mobile score. It’s very difficult to score 100/100 and most stores should be happy to live in the 80+ range for their scores on both mobile and desktop.

Page Speed Impacts your SEO

In 2010, Google officially announced that page speed was going to be considered a ranking signal. In 2013, Matt Cutts from Google dropped a hint that slow mobile pages would be a negative signal for SEO purposes. Now Google is going to be grading the desktop and mobile versions of your site separately when it comes to SEO.

Page speed is extremely important for Google because faster page loads result in a stronger chance that users will stay on the page. In addition, Google will be able to show more ads if a user is reading more content. Google is also a large contributor to the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, an initiative that is pushing major web publishers to create instant mobile content everywhere.

Hopefully you now understand the importance of page speed! If you have questions about your page speed score and need help with updating your code shoot us an email and we can help out.