Conversion improvements are made through a series of small, yet significant changes to your website. The colors you choose, where you position things, button sizes, wording, fonts and images all have an effect on how visitors perceive information and ultimately how they decide to react to it.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked elements in web development used for improving conversions and SEO is your site speed. How fast does your website take to load on a users browser? The difference between a few milliseconds of load time could literally mean the difference between hundreds of conversions.

Google has always stressed how important it is to them that your site runs as fast as possible. Bottom line: the slower your website runs, the more likely it is that a visitor will bounce from your site. In this article we’ll go over a few worthwhile improvements you can make to your website that will drastically improve load times for you. If you have any additional recommendations or would like to ask a question concerning the material, please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Enable Caching

Every website has files that are rarely ever changed, such as CSS, JavaScript, and site images. Whenever a visitor opens one of your webpages, these files take time to download over the network and as a result, this increases the amount of time it takes for your site to load.

Caching allows your files to be saved right onto your visitors Internet browser or proxy. So whenever that user revisits your website, they’ll bring up their own cached copy instead of having to download everything all over again. In addition to dramatically reducing your page load time, enabling caching will also reduce the bandwidth costs for your CDN and web host.

Another term you’ll frequently see that describes this is ?leverage browser caching?, where you designate how long you’d like for these files to stay cached on your users browsers or proxies. If you use WordPress for your site, there are a number of really great plugins that will help you do this a lot easier.

Personally I love using the plugin, W3 Total Cache. This plugin improves your site speed by storing your website as HTML on your server, and then loading these files whenever someone accesses your website. This process takes a lot less time than loading your site from a database and running the various lines of PHP code it needs to display everything.

If you’re enabling caching manually, then you’ll need to run the following lines of code in your .htaccess file:

<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>

You may change the cache expiration parameters as you wish, depending on how often you’d like to change your website. Remember to clear the cache whenever you do make any changes, or users will only see the look of the old cached copy.

Use a Content Delivery Network

A Content Delivery Network or (CDN) is a collection of servers strategically placed throughout the world that stores your website data and resources in addition to your web host in exchange for a fixed cost on bandwidth rates. A user downloads your site from the CDN server that is located geographically closest to them, and this is turn improves your site speed by decreasing load times.

There are many CDNs out there, but I personally use Amazon Cloudfront. I usually receive anywhere between 60,000 to 70,000 visitors a month, and the bandwidth costs are rarely ever more than a $1 per month. This obviously depends quite a bit on the amount of data you’re transferring over your network, but overall the costs are relatively low for the average site owner.

Reduce or Remove Excess CSS, JavaScript, and Images

If you purchased your web theme, you’ll definitely want to pay attention to this. As you customize your site, you’ll edit and add a number of CSS, JavaScript and image files to your database. Many times site owners forget to remove the files they’re no longer using and as a result, visitors are downloading excess lines of code that are completely useless to them.

If you purchased your site theme, then there are a number of different site options that come already stored on the files. If you’re not using them, they’ll slow down your site. Remember to remove any of this excess code that you’re not using and once your site theme is just the way you like it, minify the rest of the code. Find a code compressor online to reduce the amount of code necessary to attain the same web display. This reduces files sizes which in turn will increase site speed. GZIP files are usually the smallest, and some web host allows you to do this to your entire database all at once.

Save All Files on Your Database

Many times you’ll include affiliate links, plugins, and widgets where CSS, JavaScript, and image files are saved on the links database instead of your own.

This is a very important issue to address because your entire sites speed becomes reliant on the speed of these outside resources. If their site is slow, everything you’ve worked on improving becomes void. So it’s very important that you upload all these files onto your own database, and optimize them yourselves.

Use Site Speed Tools to Troubleshoot

The biggest players I’ve encountered in this area are Google Page Speed, Pingdom Tools, and GTMetrix. These tools will analyze your website and then offer a number of smaller areas where you could improve on to increase your site speed. The best part about all this is they’re absolutely free to use.

This is a great way to check to see if any of the changes you’ve made have improved you site speed at all, and analyze any further areas of improvement.

Remember, while site speed may be an important factor in increasing conversions, it’s ultimately not the only factor. Certain components of your website could decrease your site speed, but keeping them is more important to the overall efficiency of your conversions.

For example, I work for a wholesale usb drives company who recently implemented a social media area for their website. This little box with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ plugins added quite a bit to the overall load time of the site. They could take off the area to increase their site speed, but having it is way more beneficial to them in the long run.

It’s all about balance. Figure out what’s most important to improving your sites conversions and make changes in every area you can.