What is Website Performance Optimization? And, Why is It Important for Your Website?

Website performance optimization is an action taken to make the necessary changes on your overall website (Homepage and all the inner pages) to minimize the time taken to load a page or become interactive. In other words, it means improving the loading speed of your web pages. Online visibility in this modern digital age involves developing a website with many features that offer a smooth user experience and quick loading speed.

In this article, we will delve into the topic of website performance optimization. We will cover what it is, how it can be measured, and the steps you can take to implement a comprehensive optimization strategy on your website. Additionally, we will discuss the importance of website performance optimization and why it is crucial for the success of your online presence.

What is Website Performance Optimization?

Website performance optimization is an exclusive and goal-driven strategy that enhances your website’s performance by reducing the overall page loading time.

It helps users navigate your site effortlessly and ensure that they can quickly navigate through the pages, and other essential website elements. Through web page optimization we aim to score well in the overall quality score of the website for both Search Engines and regular site visitors.

With the exponential boost in internet speed, Websites nowadays are more graphically enhanced. The usage of high-quality images, videos, and other media files is becoming a normal trend. Considering this shift in the website design pattern, an essential item that should be on top of your priority list should be website performance optimization. Why? — Because most of the users’ search clicks and traffic are concentrated on Google’s first page, particularly the first five results.

Businesses that concentrate on optimizing their website performance have a good chance of ranking high on the search engine results page (SERP). This practice helps boost the number of returning visitors, reduces bounce rates, enhances quicker and more conversions, improves engagements, and fosters an excellent user experience.

Related: How to Increase Domain Authority for Your Website?

Ways to Measure Your Website performance

There are several ways to measure the performance of your website. Here are the top 5 common methods:

1. Load time

This is the amount of time it takes for your website to fully load in a user’s browser. You can use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to measure your website’s load time.

2. Time to first byte (TTFB)

This is the amount of time it takes for the first byte of data to be received from the server. A low TTFB indicates that the server is responding quickly.

3. Page size

The size of your web pages, including all the HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and media files, can impact the load time of your website. You can use tools like Pingdom or GTmetrix to measure the size of your pages.

4. Requests

The number of requests made by the browser to the server can impact the load time of your website. You can use tools like Pingdom or GTmetrix to measure the number of requests made by your pages.

5. User experience

You can also measure the performance of your website by collecting feedback from users about their experience on your site. This can be done through surveys, customer service inquiries, or by analyzing user behavior data.

Here are some of the popular performance measuring websites:

  • Google Pagespeed Insights
  • www.gtmetrix.com
  • www.webpagetest.org
  • tools.pingdom.com
  • Think with Google

Also read: What are Canonical Tags? How to Use Them on Your Website?

How to Perform Website Performance Optimization on a WordPress Website?

Watch the video before you read the ways for website performance optimization.

The top 12 ways for website performance optimization are as follows:

1. Allow gzip compression

This technique cuts down the overall file size of the web page served from your server to boost the download speed.

Whenever a user accesses your website, a request is made to your server for the requested file or page. If these requested files are large, it would take more time for them to download on your end (client side) and appear in the browser.

Gzip condenses your style sheets and webpages before it transfers them to the browser. What this does is thoroughly lessen the time for transfer because of the small file size.

If your servers aren’t mod_deflate and mod_gzip supported, you can make use of the PHP code below. You need to add it at the top of your webpage header file.

<?php
if ( substr_count( $_SERVER['HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING'], 'gzip' ) ) {
    ob_start( "ob_gzhandler" );
}
else {
    ob_start();
}
?>

Example code that can be added to the .htaccess file on the server (for Apache Servers only):

<IfModule mod_deflate.c>
  # Compress HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Text, XML and fonts
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/vnd.ms-fontobject
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-opentype
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-of
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-truetype
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-ttf
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/opentype
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/otf
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/ttf
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/svg+xml
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/x-icon
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
</IfModule>

2. Image optimization

Image Optimization is a technique of reducing the overall file size of the images used on the website with image compression techniques. Also, in this process, you must ensure the images on the webpage are properly scaled or used in the proper dimension. For example – Using a large-size image on the page but displaying it as a thumbnail is never going to add value to your website’s performance.

Some popular online tools for Image Optimization/compression are:

  • tinypng.com
  • jpegmini.com

Secondly, serving jpg/png images in the webp format maximizes the loading speed of the images (used on the page). If you’re having a WordPress website, you can try a FREE jpg or png to webp converter plugin.

The below plugins are widely used for converting regular jpg/png images to webp format.

  • Web Express
  • Web Converter for Media

Lastly, you can add the following piece of code to your web hosting server .htaccess file to entertain the webp format at the server level.

<IfModule mod_headers.c>
    Header append Vary Accept env=REDIRECT_accept
</IfModule>

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_ACCEPT} image/webp
    RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}/$1.webp -f
    RewriteRule ^(path/to/your/images.+)\.(jpe?g|png)$ $1.webp [T=image/webp,E=accept:1]
</IfModule>

AddType image/webp .webp

3. Use entity tags

Entity Tags (ETags) are how web browsers and servers know if the browser’s cached components match the original server or not. To avoid or deactivate entity tags. Add the below piece of code to your server’s .htaccess file.

<FilesMatch "\.(ico|pdf|flv|jpg|jpeg|png|gif|js|css|swf)(\.gz)?$">
Header unset ETag
FileETag None
</FilesMatch>

4. Minimize the number of HTTP requests

Minimizing the number of HTTP requests reduces the burden or load from the servers. Thus, helping the servers to respond to requests quickly without utilizing many server resources.

Here are some steps that can be taken to reduce HTTP requests:

  • You can try combining or merging all the .js and .css files respectively into one. Combining the files will reduce the number of HTTP requests made to the server. The fewer the number of requests, the better it is.
  • If you’re having a WordPress website, you can easily do so by using certain plugins. Such plugins are Autoptimize, W3 Total Cache, and Asset CleanUp: Page Speed Booster.
  • For small images, you can try serving them through CSS sprites. Which in a way clubs all icons or images in one file and on the front end these icons or images are called and positioned through the CSS.
  • Forcing the server to handle HTTP to HTTPS redirects at the server level or CDN level.
  • Use CDN like Cloudflare to serve static content or files.

5. Minify CSS and Javascript

CSS and Javascript add a lot of delay to page loading time and hamper performance scores if not applied carefully.

Both CSS and JavaScript are effectively compressible, to save file size concerns and ultimately help in reducing the overall page or document size. Doing so will help to reduce the download time of these files.

If you’re having a WordPress website, plugins such as Autoptimize, w3 total cache, and Asset CleanUp: Page Speed Booster could do the job for you.

Also read: How to Use SEMrush for Keyword Research and Traffic Growth in 2023?

6. Fix Render blocking resources on the page

Render blocking resources on a web page are those portions of script in the HTML page, commonly CSS and JavaScript, that prevent a web page from loading quickly.

These resources relatively take a long time for the browsers to process but may not be necessary for the immediate user experience.

Usage of async and defer properties on the JS/css requests can be helpful. You must ensure requests are made in the correct order and are not dependent on each other.

While doing a performance test with tools like page speed, you will get the required instructions or issues that you need to address to avoid render blocking.

7. Reduce network latency by using CDN services

Implementing CDNs on your domain or website will help in bringing down the network latency in several ways such as content caching, connection optimization, and progressive image rendering.

8. Fixing 404’s and avoiding 301 redirects

A 404 error comes when the URL or page can’t be found. The more 404 pages on a website, the more bad experience the user will have along with that there will be a huge (bad) impact on SEO and the overall performance of the website.

Additionally, having unnecessary 301 redirects can result in too many HTTP/HTTPS requests being sent to the server for a single request. You can use 301 redirects to redirect users from one webpage to another. This helps in certain situations, however, you should avoid using 301 redirects unnecessarily as they have a negative impact on the overall performance of the webpage.

9. Browser caching

Browser caching involves directing browsers to save and serve specific files for a set period of time. So, if repeated requests are made in the future, the browser draws it out from its local cache rather than asking the server for the file again.

# BEGIN Cache-Control Headers
<ifModule mod_headers.c>
    <filesMatch "\.(ico|jpe?g|png|gif|swf)$">
        Header set Cache-Control "public"
    </filesMatch>
    <filesMatch "\.(css)$">
        Header set Cache-Control "public"
    </filesMatch>
    <filesMatch "\.(js)$">
        Header set Cache-Control "private"
    </filesMatch>
    <filesMatch "\.(x?html?|php)$">
        Header set Cache-Control "private, must-revalidate"
    </filesMatch>
</ifModule>
# END Cache-Control Headers

Expire Headers communicate with the browser in making decisions on seeking a particular file from the server or taking it from the browser’s cache.

The main point of Expires Headers isn’t just to lessen the bulk of server downloads. It’s to lessen the HTTP request numbers for the server.

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
# Enable expirations
ExpiresActive On 
# Default directive
ExpiresDefault "access plus 1 month"
# My favicon
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 year"
# Images
ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 month"
# CSS
ExpiresByType text/CSS "access 1 month"
# Javascript
ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 1 year"
</IfModule>

10. Use of prefetch, preconnect, and preload

A preconnect is an important “resource hint” that instructs the browser to make a proactive HTTP connection to a domain. But, if you use preconnects carelessly, there may be huge performance issues on your web pages.

Whereas, Prefetching is when content is downloaded in the background. The preload attribute specifies if and how the media file should be loaded.
Example of prefetch, preconnect, and preload:

<link rel="preconnect" href="https://www.google-analytics.com" crossorigin="anonymous" />
<link rel="prefetch" href="/wp-content/themes/yourtheme/fonts/fontfilename.woff2" as="font" type="font/woff2" crossorigin>
<link rel="preload" as="image" href="/wp-content/uploads/background.jpg" />

11. Serving requests through HTTP/2 and use of the latest PHP on the servers

HTTP/2 (a binary protocol) is the evolution of the most successful application layer protocol ‘HTTP’. It is an updated version of HTTP/1 and focuses on making better use of network resources.

By using the latest and supported PHP versions on servers, you increase the security, performance, support for developers, and so on.

12. Code & database optimization

Code & database optimization is another important factor that you can’t avoid. Avoiding unused tables, avoiding temporary tables and coding loops, and proper indexing are the major pointers of code & database optimization.

If you’re the one who is not sure what the above pointers mean for you. Here is a Quick Solution for WordPress Website Performance Optimization.

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Download and Install the below plugins and let them handle all the complex performance optimization tasks for you.

  • Try the autoptimize plugin to minify and compress the files and serve them as one.
  • Use the W3 Total cache plugin to focus on a detailed level of performance optimized
  • Use Asset CleanUp: Page Speed Booster to control what not to load and what to load on a page-to-page basis along with some other important configurations.

Related: How Can You Setup Blogging Websites in 30 Minutes?

What are the Components of a Comprehensive Website Optimization Strategy?

A comprehensive optimization strategy comprises a diverse range of roles to ensure your website’s seamless and smooth functioning. They include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • UX and product design
  • Analytics
  • Web development or backend engineering
  • Copywriting
  • Optimization of conversation rate.
  • Optimization of the landing page.

Most of the time, website optimization means reducing the loading time of the web pages and increasing the loading speed. It may also include refurbishing the parts of your website. Although these changes may appear to be little improvements on their own. When taken as one, they will have a visible impact on your site’s user experience and organic search results.

Little changes produce outstanding results when done the right way.

The most effective website optimization efforts place your users at the center of what & why you’re doing it. Ultimately it makes a massive difference to the broad product experience.

How Does a Well-Optimized Website Look?

For optimal website performance, it is important to make the website attractive to real users.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) entails making your website visible and valuable to the real people you’re seeking to engage.

Well-optimized websites also bring ease of use into their design. Once users locate your website, you’ll need a simple, neat aesthetic to enable easy readability and usability.

Related: The Importance of Online Marketing for Business Growth in 2023

The Importance of Website Performance Optimization

Page load time is a metric that measures the amount of time it takes for a page to display on a user’s screen. If a page’s loading speed is slower by just one second, it can result in 11% fewer page views, a 7% loss in conversions, and a 16% reduction in customer satisfaction.

Now, let’s go over the importance of website speed optimization in terms of how it impacts the significant factors of a website’s success, like visibility, usability, and conversion rate.

Website conversion rate

This particular metric is a crucial factor for the success of your business. Because it means that your audience does whatever you say. You want your audience to complete various actions, including purchasing a product, subscribing to a newsletter, downloading a step-by-step tutorial, registering for a webinar, etc. The speed of loading is directly proportional to the conversion rate. For example, the faster the time used in loading, the more the conversion rate and vice versa.

Website visibility

This metric directly relates to the loading time of your website. A vital factor worthy of note in ranking on search engines is Page speed. If your website is low performing with poor user experience and has high loading time, it will receive a Google penalty and stagnate your ranking in SERP.

Around April 2015, Google put forward a mobile-supported algorithm, and it began ranking the mobile versions of the websites. The aim of page speed as an important factor in ranking on search engines is to divert users from poor-performing and unresponsive websites to better-performing websites.

Website usability

In line with page speed, website responsiveness, and loading time, website usability plays a part in increasing the loyalty of customers. The more welcoming the website is, the happier the end users. Also the user experience is at the center of establishing a solid brand and a vast customer pool.

Also read: How to Make Money Using Web Marketing Strategies in 2023?

Conclusion

These days, internet users don’t like wasting time on web pages and expect them to load in 3 seconds or less. You’ll lose traffic and revenue if your website’s pages don’t load within this timeframe.

Good website performance deals with retaining users and enhancing conversions. It means that website performance optimization is mandatory for any online business.

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