Slow-loading websites rank poorly, drive less revenue, and cost more to run. Whatever business you’re in, if you have an online presence, improving your site speed is one of the most beneficial things you can do to reduce your bounce rate and boost ecommerce conversion rate.

If you’re in the ecommerce space, it’s even more essential to dedicate time and resources to achieving the fastest possible site speed. Research shows that site speed directly and significantly affects product rankings, conversions, and value-per-visitor.

But many retailers are unwilling to commit to make significant changes. Site speed optimization can seem complicated. There are lots of different areas that demand attention, many of which require specific coding skills that most people don’t possess.

If you feel the same way, then don’t worry. In this guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know – from image compression to CDNs to server-side database optimization and beyond. Once you’ve got to grips with the basics, you’ll feel confident and knowledgeable enough to send your site speed straight into the stratosphere. Even if you don’t have any technical development or optimization knowledge.

This is what you can find in this post:

What Is Site Speed?
Why Does Site Speed Matter?
How to Check Your Current Site Speed: Google PageSpeed Insights Results Explained
Top Data-Backed Methods for Boosting Page Speed
1. Check and Improve the Speed of Your Hosting Provider
2. Optimize Images
3. Enable Browser Caching
4. Minify HTML, JavaScript and CSS
5. Take Advantage of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and PWAs (Progressive Web Apps)
6. Kill Poorly-Performing WordPress Plugins
7. Use a Content Distribution Network
8. Optimize Your Server Response Time
9. Use Compression Wherever Possible
10. Load Files Asynchronously Wherever Possible
11. Reduce Redirects
Tools to Help Boost Your Site Speed
Ready to improve your ecommerce site speed?

Sounds good? Let’s dig in then!

What Is Site Speed?

There are quite a few common misunderstandings when it comes to site speed. Before we dive into the meat of the post, let’s define a few key terms.

First off, it’s important to distinguish between “page speed” and “site speed”. Page speed is the time it takes to load a single specific page on your website. Site speed is the average speed for a sample of pages across your site.

First off, it's important to distinguish between page speed and site speed. Page speed is the time it takes to load a single specific page on your website. Site speed is the average speed for a sample of pages across your site. Click To Tweet

In many ways, this distinction is arbitrary, but it is worth understanding to avoid any confusion. This post aims to provide you with both page-specific and site-wide optimization tips. By implementing best page practices (that will inform how you design all your pages going forward), you will improve your overall site speed, which is the crucial metric.

Site speed can be measured in terms of page load time – the time it takes for a page to render fully – or time to first byte – the time it takes for a browser to receive the first byte of data from a server. Generally speaking, page load time (and similar variations) is the more accurate and commonly-used measure, although time to first byte is also a useful figure in certain contexts.

Why Does Site Speed Matter?

Site speed affects your website in many crucial ways related to search rankings, engagement, conversions, and more. But many webmasters, ecommerce retailers among them, overlook this vital aspect of their sites.

Site speed affects your website in many crucial ways related to search rankings, engagement, conversions, and more. But many webmasters, ecommerce retailers among them, overlook this vital aspect of their sites. Click To Tweet

A slow load time has a direct effect on your bottom lineA slow load time has a direct effect on your bottom line. Source

Improving your site speed is one of the surest ways to gain a competitive edge. Let’s take a quick look at why it’s so important:

Site Speed Affects Search Rankings

Site speed is a major ranking factor for Google. Google itself has reiterated this on many occasions. And numerous independent analyses confirm that site speed is one of the most important areas for optimization when it comes to SEO.

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As Edwin Toonen, writing for Yoast, says: “You don’t even have to listen very carefully because SEO people are shouting it from the rooftops: site speed is everything. Not a day goes by without a new article, white paper, Google representative or SEO expert telling us that optimizing for speed is one of the most important things you can do right now. And they’re right, of course!”

Site Speed Affects Bounce Rate

People are more likely to leave your site if it takes a long time to load. Not only is this activity a negative signal to Google (indicating low customer engagement), but it also directly affects your conversion rate.

If customers aren’t sticking around because your site takes too long to load, they don’t have a chance to see your wonderful, conversion-optimized page and excellent products.

Site Speed Affects Customer Value

Research shows that the value-per-pageview increases along with site speed. And we’re not just talking about a few percentage points here. Cutting your site load time down to one second can increase your value-per-pageview by up to 100%.

Reducing your site speed to below one percent can increase value per pageview by up to 100 percentReducing your site speed to below one percent can increase value-per-pageview by up to 100%. Source

Experiencing Low Site Speed Has Negative Psychological Effects

A slow-loading website leads to frustration for customers and communicates a lack of professionalism on your part.

People feel tangible stress when it takes too long for a page to load. And once a would-be customer associates your brand with that negative experience, they’re more likely to take a dim view of it in the future.

Conversely, a fast-loading site provides customers with a positive user experience (check out this 11 UX tips!) and communicates the professionalism and quality of your store.

How to Check Your Current Site Speed: Google PageSpeed Insights Results Explained

There are numerous tools available for testing your site speed. Some focus on specific areas – like your DNS provider speed or your time to first byte (TTFB) – while others are more comprehensive. As a starting point, there’s no better option than Google PageSpeed Insights.

Here’s how to give your site a full medical and what the results mean:

1. Head over Google PageSpeed Insights and type your URL into the text bar. Hit “Analyze” to get your results.In this walk through we will use Zappos as an example Google PageInsights arguably the best tool available for testing site speed is completely free and very comprehensiveIn this walk-through, we’ll use Zappos as an example. Google PageInsights, arguably the best tool available for testing site speed, is completely free and very comprehensive.

2. Along with an overall result included at the top of the page, which ranks your page as either slow, average, or medium, you’ll be provided with three sets of results for both mobile and desktop:

  • Field Data – This is based on historical data and is derived from a sample of users that have been tracked by Google. It is useful because it allows you to see persistent problems that may have arisen in the past, not just in one specific case of testing. The multicolored bar underneath shows you how your page compares with other pages in the Chrome User Experience Report (all of the pages which Google holds data about).
  • Origin Summary (not automatically shown) – The origin summary, which you need to click to expand, shows the average data for your site as a whole (not an individual page). “Origin” refers to the base URL.
  • Lab Data – These are the immediate results of your web page based on its performance when you clicked “Analyze”. These are current results drawn from momentary performance, without any other data taken into account. Your overall site speed score at the top of the page is based on this lab data.

The Lab Data section has the most detailed drill down of site speed metricsThe “Lab Data” section has the most detailed drill down of site speed metrics.

3. Don’t forget that there two tabs (blue menu in the header) – one for mobile and one for desktop – that show different data. You will often need to apply the optimization suggestions associated with each individually.

4. In each of the sections, there are two key speed measures (FCP and FID) along with five separate measures in the “Lab Data” section:

  • First Contentful Paint FCP – In a web performance context, the term “first paint” means the first web element that is visible to a browser user. “First contentful paint” is when the first cohesive piece of content appears. The definition of “content” here is anything that’s discretely defined in the document object model – essentially an individual and separate element that makes up part of the page’s hierarchy, like an image or block of text. A piece of content is anything that web users can “consume”. In this way, it’s distinguished from “first paint”, which could be something as simple as a background change or single pixel.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – First input delay is a measure of how quickly your site becomes responsive. When a visitor interacts with your site – by clicking a link, enlarging an image, selecting a product option, etc. – it may take some extra time to receive a response due to background browser processes that effectively “disable” interactive site elements. FID is based on actual user data collected by Google, so is not included in Lab Data.
  • First Meaningful Paint – Essentially a measure of when viewers can realistically start to consume content. The first meaningful paint has occurred when the main above-the-fold content and web fonts have both loaded. Google has stated that it is their primary user experience metric for site speed.
  • Speed Index – The time it takes for your page to load fully in a visual sense. It is based on the time when the browser rendering ceases to change in a frame-by-frame comparison.
  • First CPU Idle – The first CPU idle signifies the time when a website is interactive to at least some degree. Not all of the interactive elements may be ready to go, but several will be.
  • Time to Interactive – The time it takes for the site to fully load and be completely interactive, ready to respond to any visitor action.
  • Max Potential First Input Delay – The predicted figure for the highest possible FID if it were to be tested. This figure is based on lab data, not real data.

5. Beneath these three sections is a section titled “opportunities”, along with the amount of time they can shave off your site speed. This is the real meat of the test – the practical suggestions for improving site speed. You can expand each suggestion for implementation instructions.

Let’s take a look at a few examples from the screenshot below (we will look at most of these in more detail in the section below):

The opportunities section is where you are provided with concrete suggestions for boosting your site speedThe “opportunities” section is where you are provided with concrete suggestions for boosting your site speed.

  • Minify JavaScript – Minification is a process for compressing files that contain code (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.) so that they can be transferred from servers to browsers more quickly.
  • Defer offscreen images – Deferring off-screen images involves delaying the load time of images that are not above the fold, reducing the size of the first server request and providing a quicker overall initial load time. Once all above-the-fold images have been loaded, the rest of the page’s images will be rendered.
  • Remove unused CSS – It’s very common for .css stylesheets to include large amounts of superfluous code. Removing this code can reduce the CSS file size. Including all CSS in one file can also reduce the amount of time it takes for a browser to interpret data.
  • Serve images in next-gen formats – Image formats like JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP (along with some others) provide better compression than alternatives without sacrificing quality.
  • Reduce server response time (TTFB) – Server response time can be speeded up in a number of ways, including by optimizing your CMS and opting for a faster hosting provider.
  • Enable text compression – When you enable gzip functionality on your server, text in files is compressed, reducing their size and speeding up transfer. Compressed files can then be processed by the browser.

6. Finally, beneath the “opportunities” section are the “diagnostics” and passed audits” section. These cover (respectively) further speed opportunities based on best web practices and criteria that you passed.

In subsequent sections you can see even more suggestions for improving site speed along with which audits you have passed great for checking if a change has been implemented properlyIn subsequent sections, you can see even more suggestions for improving site speed, along with which audits you have passed (great for checking if a change has been implemented properly).

Google PageSpeed Insights has instructive and clear documentation about all of its features and suggestions and is a great resource if you have any further uncertainty.

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    What About Other Tools?

    For all its features, PageSpeed Insights is not flawless.

    One area where it stumbles is in relation to geographic area. The location of the test server is unknown, so results may not be uniform. If, for example, your server is in the United Kingdom, and the test server is on the west coast of the US, results will be faster for someone visiting your site in the former country.

    Use Pingdom and GTmetrix, both of which allow you to set the location of the test server, to supplement the picture provided by PageSpeed Insights.

    Top Data-Backed Methods for Boosting Page Speed

    OK, so let’s dig into some practical tips.

    Here are the top ten steps you can take to ensure your site loads in the blink of an eye:

    1. Check and Improve the Speed of Your Hosting Provider

    Short Version: While there are positive changes you can make to your servers, and it may be beneficial to move from a shared to a dedicated plan, sometimes you just need to change provider. Before moving onto tasks that are under your control, check the quality of the service from your provider.

    If your hosting providers servers are slow theres little you can do to overcome the problemIf your hosting provider’s servers are slow, there’s little you can do to overcome the problem. Source

    Use a tool like Bitcatcha to test the speed of your website hosting server and compare it to other companies.

    If your hosting provider is slow, there’s not much you can do about it. You may need to consider changing to a new provider. If you are running an online store, it’s usually beneficial to switch to a dedicated or managed hosting provider with ecommerce experience.

    Here are the key differences between hosting plans in terms of speed:

    • Shared hosting – Shared hosting is the most inexpensive and slowest form of hosting. Your website will be stored on a server along with the websites of other users. The big downside of an arrangement like this is that all server resources, particularly CPU and RAM, will also be shared. This can detrimentally affect site speed and can have particularly negative consequences for larger sites that require lots of processing power.
    • Virtual Private Server (VPS) – A virtual private server is similar in many ways to a shared server. Multiple sites are hosted on a single server but they are separated by a virtual barrier, in effect recreating what it would be like to have your own server. The main benefit of this is that all your server resources are ring-fenced – there’s no chance that one of your flatmates is going to use all the hot water and leave you high and dry. Virtual private servers also allow you a higher degree of freedom over the admin of the server. Also, if you need more space you can just buy it.
    • Dedicated hosting – Dedicated hosting is the next step up from VPS hosting. With a dedicated plan, you will rent the server, which will be used exclusively to run your site. You will also have full admin and root control (including over the choice of operating system and security settings) which can make technical server-site speed optimizations possible. Dedicated hosting is ideal for larger sites and companies with dedicated tech teams.

    Generally speaking, if you’re running an ecommerce site, you’ll want to opt for either dedicated or VPS hosting.

    Here are a few of the most highly-rated providers for online retailers:

    SiteGround SiteGround has a number of dedicated plans for ecommerce platforms, including Magento, WooCommerce, and PrestaShop.

    Liquid Web One of Liquid Web’s core propositions is superior customer service. The company offers 24/7 access to advisers, often with less than a minute response time. A number of ecommerce-specific plans are offered (including dedicated hosting for WooCommerce) and it’s a great option for small and medium-sized retailers that are expecting to scale in the future.

    InMotion Hosting InMotion is very popular with ecommerce retailers and is one of the best-priced options available.

    Rackspace Rackspace is one of the premier solutions for enterprise ecommerce, offering a range of dedicated and cloud-hosted solutions. The customer service and security infrastructure are among the best in the industry.

    Don’t skimp on your hosting provider. It’s the one area that isn’t under your control. And prioritizing cost over performance will only lead to lower returns over the long-term.

    2. Optimize Images

    Short Version: Optimizing images is one of the easiest and quickest ways to improve site speed. Ensure images are in a format that’s suitable for the web. Use CSS sprites for quicker image load times.

    Images are prime culprits when it comes to site speed. Image files that are unnecessarily large needlessly take up server space and require more time to send to visitor’s browsers.

    You should optimize images in a program like PhotoShop or GIMP to retain full control over the quality of images. Different formats work best for different types of images. Generally speaking, for example, JPEGs are ideal for photographs while simpler images with stock colors will render more quickly as PNGs.

    Here’s a quick rundown of the most common formats and when to use them:

    • JPEG (Joint Photographics Expert Group) – JPEG is probably the most widely-used format for high-quality photos and detail-rich images. The main benefit is that JPEG images render well while providing a high level of compression. For photographs, JPEG is the preferred option. You should also consider using newer JPEG variants like JPEG 2000 and JPEG XR, which can offer even higher levels of compression.
    • PNG (Portable Network Graphics) – As a format, PNG sits between JPEG and GIF. It strikes a good balance between quality, supporting a wide range of colors, and size. PNGs tend to be smaller than JPEGs but don’t have quite the same capacity in terms of color and detail. There were worries about compatibility with older browsers but these are largely redundant now.
    • GIF (Graphic Interchange Format) – GIFs (one of the oldest formats on the web) work best for images with limited color palettes like logos. If you need to upload an image comprised mainly of text, then a GIF is the format to opt for. The main benefit of GIF files is that they tend to be quite small. Because of the limited color capacity, GIFs shouldn’t be used for rich images or photographs. You can also use GIFs for basic animations. Don’t use GIFs for rich media. Using third-party hosted content (like YouTube) will be more beneficial for site speed.

    Alongside using the correct format, here are a few more things you can do to optimize images for site speed:

    • Don’t make images bigger than they need to be – Many designers and developers make the mistake of uploading large images (often in excess of several thousand pixels) to their servers and then resize them using page code. This is a big mistake. There’s absolutely no point in sending an image that’s 5,000 pixels wide to your visitors’ browsers if it’s only going to display at 1000 pixels on a product page. Often, images will need to be relatively large to enable the zoom function, but keep them as small as possible. Resize images before you upload them.
    • Compress images before uploading them – Compression removes all superfluous information from your image files, thus reducing their size. Certain “invisible” details, like the time an image was taken, may be embedded in the file. Tools like TinyPNG, JPEG Optimizer, and plugins like WPSmush can be used to quickly carry out this task. All of the paid plans required for heavy use are very reasonable.
    • Don’t use unnecessary images on pages – Every image burdens the time it takes to fully load your site, so don’t use more images than absolutely necessary. It’s easy to fall into the trap of including images just for the sake of it. One more product shot won’t hurt, right? But it’s good practice to eliminate unnecessary images when creating product pages (check out great product page templates). You might also want to leverage “lazy-loading” to render above-the-fold images first (rather than all images on the page simultaneously). Images that you have set to “lazy load” in the HTML code will only load after the information at the top of the page is visible to visitors, or when a visitor starts to scroll.

    Finally, upload images to your server as CSS sprites where appropriate. CSS sprites are collections of multiple images combined into a single file. Rather than load images from a server individually, a browser can download the equivalent of a single image, thus eliminating the need for multiple server requests. It’s then possible to tailor the page code to only show a specific individual image whenever it’s needed. You can use this technique for everything from product images to CTA (call to action) buttons and social media icons.

    3. Enable Browser Caching

    Short Version: “Ask” browsers to save and reuse your site files whenever users return. Doing so reduces page load times for repeat visitors with virtually no input on your part.

    Browser caching occurs when a browser stores important files that make up your site. This means that when a visitor returns to your site, their browser doesn’t have to retrieve every file directly from your servers. It only needs to request specific files that are likely to have been updated, or even certain parts of individual pages (like the logo image). This increases load times substantially because it cuts the number of requests made to the server.

    Enabling caching is a fairly straightforward process and involves adding a small amount of code to your HTTP headers to set expiry periods for specific files. If your site is hosted on WordPress, there are numerous plugins, like W3 Total Cache, to streamline this process.

    Browser caching can be a little tricky for online retailers because pages are often subject to time-sensitive updates regarding price, stock levels, reviews, delivery information, and so on. Because of this, it’s important to distinguish between those files that store genuinely stable content – CSS styles, logo, navigation, etc. – and those pieces of content that are subject to change. Then you can code accordingly. Remember, it’s entirely possible to code specific page elements like headers and footers, along with bigger files (like CSS stylesheets) that aren’t time-sensitive, and even just enabling caching for these will still have a positive effect on site speed.

    4. Minify HTML, JavaScript and CSS

    Short Version: Use a CDN (content delivery network) to enable automatic minification and reduce your file sizes by up to 60%. Setting up a CDN is a relatively straightforward process made possible by well-known services like CloudFlare and Amazon AWS.

    Minification is the process of minimizing code in your web files. It’s been shown to significantly reduce site load times. Smaller files can be requested with greater speed and then interpreted by the browser. This optimization strategy is often highlighted by page speed tools and is one of the most effective that you can implement.

    It works because of the discrepancy in length and complexity of that is intelligible to developers (which usually includes comments, spaces, commas, and more) and the kind of minimal code that is necessary for a browser to render a page. Sometimes this reduced version can be as small as 40% of the original version.

    Minification can dramatically reduce the size of web filesMinification can dramatically reduce the size of web files. Source

    But there is a key problem. Manual minification is a big no-no. It takes too much time and there’s way too much scope for mistakes. Even with automated tools, a high level of manual input is required in the development stage to process and implement all alternate code.

    Instead, the best option is to use a CDN (content delivery network) that will automatically minify code before delivering it to a browser. The original files will be kept on your own server, while minified versions will be stored on the CDN servers. Whenever you make changes to pages, they’ll be synced with the CDN servers. CDNs are also useful for a variety of other reasons but we’ll come to those later.

    5. Take Advantage of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and PWAs (Progressive Web Apps)

    Short Version: AMPs and PWAs, both developed by Google, can dramatically increase the speed at which your mobile pages load. There is a large development cost so the transition to either PWAs or AMPs should be taken in light of other positive factors (if you’re inclined). If you do decide to go ahead, the impacts on your site speed can be significant.

    Converting your mobile pages to AMPs can be a big job and it isn’t for everyone. But it is definitely worth exploring as a longer-term strategy, however.

    What exactly are AMPs and PWAs? Here’s a quick overview:

    • Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) – AMP is a development framework – consisting of a HTML subset (AMP HTML), a JavaScript framework, and an optional CDN (content delivery network) – that has been created by Google to allow developers to deliver lightning-fast mobile pages without the need to invest significant resources in speed optimization. While AMP was initially developed for content-based sites (you can see the little lightning arrow in search results for many news pages), it is growing increasingly popular among online retailers.
    • Progressive Web App (PWA) – PWAs are like mobile apps accessed through a mobile browser. They replicate many of the features of apps, such as access through an icon on the mobile home screen and push notifications, but without the need to build a custom piece of software or for users to install anything on their phones.

    There are some key differences between the two (and a lot of debate) but both improve mobile site speed. You can learn about the practicalities of AMPs and PWAs from Google’s comprehensive documentation.

    6. Kill Poorly-Performing WordPress Plugins

    Short Version: Plugins can act as a big drain on load times. If your ecommerce site is hosted on WordPress, conduct a comprehensive review of plugins, getting rid of those that you don’t need and seeking alternative solutions for “heavy” plugins.

    The availability of easy-to-use plugins is one of the reasons that many retailers opt for platforms like WooCommerce and Shopify. Most of the time, plugins are beneficial for retailers. They boost performance, eliminate the need for complicated development tasks, and are often free.

    However, plugins that are badly coded, conflict with other elements of your site, or are outdated, can put a lot of strain on site load times. Similarly, large plugins often need to send multiple file requests to retrieve their own stylesheets or JavaScript.

    Fortunately, troubleshooting plugins is quite straightforward. Often, the simplest method is to use your speed report to pinpoint problems that might be related to plugins, retesting once they’ve been disabled.

    Alternatively, you can use a WordPress plugin like P3. It will scan your plugins and highlight any areas of low performance.
    The other interesting thing about plugins is that many of the problems they solve can often be rectified by simple changes to the code in web files. Overuse of plugins is a sure sign of an absence of developer knowledge. If you regularly fall into the trap of solving relatively small issues with clunky plugins, then you could be doing your site speed a great injustice.

    7. Use a Content Distribution Network

    Short Version: CDNs (Content Distribution/Delivery Networks) are inexpensive to subscribe to and easy to implement.

    CDNs have already been touched upon because many providers also offer the option for automated minification, but it’s worth mentioning them again here because they provide additional benefits over and above automatic minification.

    CDNs mitigate the negative effects of data transfer over wide geographical distancesCDNs mitigate the negative effects of data transfer over wide geographical distances. Source

    The idea behind CDNs is very smart. A CDN is a global network of servers that stores cached versions of your website. This provides visitors at different geographical locations with faster access to your site. Whenever a visitor makes a request to your site through their browser, the nearest server that stores a copy of your site will be contacted.

    Using a CDN can also help you control bandwidth costs (if you’re paying them) and deal with traffic spikes.

    8. Optimize Your Server Response Time

    Short Version: While you can’t change a bad server, you can optimize one that’s performing well. Focus on cleaning up your database, picking the right settings for your CMS, and opting for a fast DNS provider.

    Time to first byte (TTFB) is a measure of the amount of time it takes for a browser to receive the first byte of information from a server. There are essentially three parts of a server request, each signifying a potential area for optimization: the time it takes to send a request, the time it takes for the server to process a request, and the time it takes to send the requested information to the browser.

    You can check your time to first byte with WebPageTest. It should be under 200 ms.

    Using a CDN is one of the best ways to improve the first and third stages because the network will reduce the distance between servers and your visitors’ browsers.

    It’s the second area that we’re concerned with here. Optimizing server speed is a massive topic that’s well beyond the scope of this article, but there are a handful of optimization tweaks that can have a significant effect on server processing speed.

    Here’s a quick checklist for ensuring good server response time:

    • Configure your CMS (content management system) for optimal speed – Your CMS is responsible for the management and handling of your content. Check if there are any settings specific to your CMS that can be disabled or enabled to boost response time. On WordPress, for example, you should ensure you have the latest PHP version installed and limit any processes that consume CPU (server resources).
    • Clean up your database – Whenever a browser requests a dynamic page, your server needs to query a database to retrieve information and “build” that page. Poorly-optimized databases can cause this process to take longer than it should. Server-side caching, which stores a copy of your pages without the need to consult a database, can be a great way to overcome this problem.
    • Consider a premium DNS (domain name system) lookup service – The DNS turns your domain name into an IP address. Your address is stored with your DNS provider, who needs to be consulted to provide the exact IP that maps to your domain. Opting for a DNS provider with faster lookup functionality can shave milliseconds off your load time. And every millisecond counts. Use this service to check your DNS speed.

    Remember to evaluate all of these changes in the context of your TTFB. Generally speaking, server-side changes can be quite technical, so it’s good practice to hire an experienced optimization developer to ensure that no mistakes are made. It’s also usually easier to implement server changes with a dedicated hosting package, as access to certain functionality may be limited on shared and VPS hosting.

    9. Use Compression Wherever Possible

    Short Version: Gzip enables you to compress files before they’re sent to a visitor’s browser. It’s an easy server-side function to turn on and can cut file sizes significantly (leading to faster transfer).

    Along with images, you can also compress other files to increase transfer speed. You can use gzip functionality to compress CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files that are larger than 150 bytes.

    So how exactly does it work?

    Whenever your server sends files to a visitor’s browser, the size of these files make a big difference to the amount of time it takes to process them. Gzip is a software application that compresses your files (by up to 70%) before they are sent. Because the files are smaller, they are delivered to the browser much more quickly.

    To take advantage of gzip, you simply need to enable it on your server, either by adding a few lines of code to your .htaccess file or through the control panel (for IIS servers).

    10. Load Files Asynchronously Wherever Possible

    Short Version: Asynchronous loading is far faster than synchronous loading. Enable it through your CMS (content management system).

    Synchronous loading occurs when files load consecutively, one after the other. Asynchronous loading is when files load together.

    During an asynchronous load multiple files are loaded at the same timeDuring an asynchronous load, multiple files are loaded at the same time. Source
    Because browsers process files in a hierarchical fashion – loading the first page elements first – synchronous loading can significantly increase the amount of time it takes to achieve full page load. Asynchronous loading allows the browser to load multiple elements in conjunction without waiting for the previous load to complete.

    It should be possible to change settings that determine synchronous vs asynchronous loading through your CMS software. If you are using WordPress, there are several plugins you can use.

    11. Reduce Redirects

    Short Version: By eliminating redirects, you can cut seconds off your site speed. Remember that each redirect requires a separate request to be sent to the server.

    Redirects are enemy number one when it comes to site speed. Well, maybe not number one. But they should be pretty high on your kill list.

    Redirects are enemy number one when it comes to site speed. Well, maybe not number one. But they should be pretty high on your kill list. Click To Tweet

    Whenever one of your pages redirects to another URL, your visitor has to wait for the server to respond all over again.

    Often, numerous redirects occur in response to a single request, especially when desktop pages redirect to mobile pages. All of this adds up to make overall page load time much slower.

    Use a tool like Screaming Frog to check for any redirects. Then go through all the flagged pages and see if you can get rid of any.

    Don’t worry too much about loss of search rankings (one of the main reasons webmasters keep redirects) as your page will likely replace the redirect link in the results sooner rather than later.

    In particular, be very wary of “redirect chains”. These are sequences of redirects between more than two pages. If you have to keep redirects, break up the chain by ensuring that each individual redirect points to the main page.

    Tools to Help Boost Your Site Speed

    Here’s a quick rundown of the tools you need to help with implementation:

    Google PageSpeed Insights Already covered in detail above, this tool is hands-down the best for testing and optimizing your site.

    Pingdom and GTmetrix Both of these page speed tools offer additional information to Google PageSpeed insights, in particular geographical response times. They are useful for building a complete picture of your site speed problems.

    WebPageTest A simple tool to test your TTFB.

    DNSPerf A good tool for testing the speed of your DNS provider.

    Google Test My Site You can also use Google Test My Site to generate a broader report about your mobile performance, which includes information about site speed. It’s a good complementary tool for use in conjunction with PageSpeed Insights.

    Google Analytics At all stages of the optimization process, you should be linking changes to specific and measurable outcomes. Google Analytics will enable you to track how traffic, engagement and conversions are affected by speed optimization.

    Image Compression Tools – For image editing, you should aim to keep as much control as possible. Photoshop and GIMP (which is free) are two feature-rich image-editing apps that will allow you to compress images exactly as you wish.

    CSS Sprite Tools – There are many free tools for creating CSS sprites (compiled images) from Toptal, Spritegen, and Sprite Cow.

    Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) – There are many fantastic CDNs that come with a range of additional features. Check out CloudFlare, Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud CDN.

    Minify Tools – Minification is best done through a CDN, which automates the entire process. Remember, if you do decide to minify your code manually, you will need to maintain two separate development areas. Try out Minifier and JSCompress.

    Ready to improve your ecommerce site speed?

    Improving your site’s speed is a big job. But it’s worth it. A fast-loading site provides your customers and potential customers with a positive experience that is likely to keep them returning to purchase again and again.

    But remember one crucial point. It’s vital to take a consistent approach. You should be monitoring and optimizing regularly. For optimal results, speed testing and optimization need to be conducted regularly (as with most things when it comes to ecommerce optimization).

    Ideally, site speed testing should be built into your broader optimization strategy, conducted on all new and modified pages, and periodically reviewed across your site.

    Now, time to head over to PageSpeed Insights.

    Download Your Free Optimization Checklist

    Site speed optimization is only one small part of ecommerce optimization. To ensure that all your optimization boxes are ticked, we’ve written the most comprehensive ecommerce optimization checklist on the web. Or probably anywhere, for that matter.

    Oh, and it’s free! Click here to download it now and gain a vital edge over your competitors.
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    💡 At Growcode, we develop and maintain online shops and B2B ecommerce on Magento!

    Growcode Ecommerce Blog / Ecommerce / How to Measure and Improve Ecommerce Site Speed (11 Tips) and Why It’s Crucial for Conversion Rate Optimization