Now that Google is using page speed as a factor in search engine rankings, implementing page speed best practices is more important than ever. This is particularly true given the emergence of mobile as the dominant form of web access.

Mobile users are almost always on the go and need information as quickly as possible. While most primers still quote three seconds as the maximum amount of a time most users will wait for a site to load, the reality is that window gets narrower all the time.

Page Speed Defined

A lot of people tend to confuse site speed and page speed. While site speed is in fact a function of page speed; the latter operates independently of the former.

Page speed is usually thought of in terms of the amount of time it takes to fully display the content of a given page. Another way to measure it is the time it takes for the first byte of data to get from a server to your browser.

However, if you’re running an ecommerce store, shoppers won’t care about that first byte as much as they do the entire page. On the other hand, Google measures time to first byte, so both are important if you want your site to rank well and your shoppers to be happy.

With that in mind, these efforts have been proven to increase page speed.

Employ Code Compression/Optimization

Reducing the size of your JavaScript files will make them load faster—ditto your CSS and HTML files larger than 150 bytes. Optimizing your code by removing all unneeded characters, code comments, formatting and of course, unused code will also improve response.

Render blocking JavaScript can slow pages too. Parsing HTML to build a DOM tree is part of the functioning of a browser. Every script is has to execute has a debilitating effect on your loading time. Similarly, each redirect a browser encounters imposes a request/response transaction with the server. Thus, minimizing redirects enables pages to load faster as well.

Each of these factors amplifies the advantages of using a supplier like Shopify’s free ecommerce websites. The best providers have already done much of this work. All you have to do is be careful to load optimized content. Speaking of which, image files should also be compressed before they’re added to pages.

Allow Caching

Your pages will load faster when previous users return if you authorize their browsers to cache your stylesheets, images and JavaScript files. Rather than being transferred from your server, that data will already be on their devices. At that point, all your server will have to do is fill in the blanks. You can also determine how long you want those caches to reside with users.

Streamline Server Response

Slow database queries, slow routing, and insufficient memory are all performance killers. The amount of traffic your server gets, as well as the software it employs and the amount of resources each page uses can retard page speed as well. If your hosting service is suffering from issues such as these and seems unable to resolve them, it’s time for a switch. A content distribution network (CDN) can help alleviate issues such as traffic-related delays.

Image Optimization

As we mentioned above, image optimization is a key aspect of page speed performance. Images should only be as large as absolutely necessary and posted as either PNG files (best for graphics with 16 colors or less) or JPEG files (best for photography). All image compression should take place before loading the files to your content management system.

If you’re coding your site, the use of CSS sprites will speed the loading of your images by combining them all into one, thus minimizing the HTTP requests required to transmit them to a user.

These page speed best practices will keep your site solidly in the running as far as delivery goes. Remember though, you must also adhere to best practices for your content if a favorable search engine ranking is your primary goal here.