How a 2 Second Improvement in Site Speed = 100% Increase in Conversions

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10 things you can do to speed up your site

1. Minimize HTTP Requests

According to Yahoo, 80% of a Web page’s load time is spent downloading the different pieces-parts of the page: images, stylesheets, scripts, Flash, etc. An HTTP request is made for each one of these elements, so the more on-page components, the longer it takes for the page to render.

That being the case, the quickest way to improve site speed is to simplify your design.

  • Streamline the number of elements on your page.
  • Use CSS instead of images whenever possible.
  • Combine multiple style sheets into one.
  • Reduce scripts and put them at the bottom of the page.

Always remember, when it comes to your website, leaner is better.

Pro Tip: Start a campaign to reduce the number of components on each page. By doing this, you reduce the number of HTTP requests needed to make the page render—and you’ll significantly improve site performance.

2. Reduce server response time

Your target is a server response time of less than 200ms (milliseconds). And if you follow the tips in this article, you’re well on your way to achieving this.

Google recommends using a web application monitoring solution and checking for bottlenecks in performance.

Pro Tip: Read this report by Singlehop, Critical Ecommerce Infrastructure Needs, to learn nine things you need to focus on to keep your site performing well.

Then tap into these resources:

  • Yslow – to evaluate your site’s speed and get tips on how to improve performance.
  • Google’s PageSpeed Tools – to learn more about performance best-practice and automate the process.

3. Enable compression

Large pages (which is what you could have if you’re creating high-quality content) are often 100kb and more. As a result, they’re bulky and slow to download. The best way to speed their load time is to zip them—a technique called compression.

Compression reduces the bandwidth of your pages, thereby reducing HTTP response. You do this with a tool called Gzip.

Most web servers can compress files in Gzip format before sending them for download, either by calling a third-party module or using built-in routines. According to Yahoo, this can reduce download time by about 70%.

And since 90% of today’s Internet traffic travels through browsers that support Gzip, it’s a great option for speeding up your site.

Pro Tip: Read this article for more details on Gzip compression. Then set up your server to enable compression:

4. Enable browser caching

When you visit a website, the elements on the page you visit are stored on your hard drive in a cache, or temporary storage, so the next time you visit the site, your browser can load the page without having to send another HTTP request to the server.

Here’s how Tenni Theurer, formerly of Yahoo, explains it…

The first time someone comes to your website, they have to download the HTML document, stylesheets, javascript files and images before being able to use your page. That may be as many as 30 components and 2.4 seconds.

load time 1

Once the page has been loaded and the different components stored in the user’s cache, only a few components needs to be downloaded for subsequent visits.

In Theurer’s test, that was just three components and .9 seconds, which shaved nearly 2 seconds off the load time.

load time 2

Theurer says that 40-60% of daily visitors to your site come in with an empty cache, so it’s critical that you make your page fast for these first-time visitors. But you also need to enable caching to shave time off subsequent visits.

Pro Tip: Read this article to learn four methods for enabling caching.

Static resources should have a cache lifetime of at least a week. For third-party resources like ads or widgets, they should have a cache lifetime of at least one day.

For all cacheable resources (JS and CSS files, image files, media files, PDFs, etc.), set Expires to a minimum of one week, and preferably up to one year in the future. Don’t set it to more than one year in the future because that violates the RFC guidelines.

5. Minify Resources

WYSIWYG resources make it easy to build a Web page, but they sometimes create messy code—and that can slow your website considerably.

Since every unnecessary piece of code adds to the size of your page, it’s important that you eliminate extra spaces, line breaks, and indentation in your code so your pages are as lean as possible.

It also helps to minify your code. Here’s Google’s recommendation:

  • To minify HTML, you can use PageSpeed Insights Chrome Extension to generate an optimized version of your HTML code. Run the analysis against your HTML page and browse to the ‘Minify HTML’ rule. Click on ‘See optimized content’ to get the optimized HTML code.
  • To minify CSS, you can try YUI Compressor and cssmin.js.
  • To minify JavaScript, try the Closure Compiler, JSMin or the YUI Compressor. You can create a build process that uses these tools to minify and rename the development files and save them to a production directory.

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