At the end of 2019, mobile devices accounted for around 52.6% of all global website traffic. It’s therefore not surprising that mobile page speed is one of Google’s ranking factors for SEO.
In July 2019, Google announced its mobile-first indexing initiative. With over half of the worlds population using mobile to access the internet, things had to change.
According to Google, it takes on average 15 seconds for a mobile website to load. Are you surprised by that figure? I definitely was. I was expecting mobile websites to load much quicker, so it’s no surprise people are wondering how they can improve mobile website speed.
If you’re serious about your website or business, you’re going to need to make sure your website’s mobile page speed is up to scratch. Here are 10 ways to improve mobile page speed in 2020.
2. Find a fast web host
Web hosting is the crux of every website. Without it, you wouldn’t have a way to display your website online. Besides that, if your web host is slow and unreliable, all your efforts to improve your mobile page speed would be futile.
Finding the best web host should be your first priority in improving mobile page speed. There are lots of factors to consider, so here are some to get you started:
Web server location: A good web host should have multiple data center locations for you to choose from. If the majority of your website visitors are in the U.S., choose a U.S. server, or if they are in the U.K., choose the U.K. or European server.
Specific hosting: If you’re using a specific platform like WordPress for your website, you may be better off finding a host that offers more niche hosting. WordPress hosting will not only offer great benefits for WordPress, but you’ll probably find their servers are optimized for WordPress.
Managed hosting: On the back of my point about WordPress hosting, many people choose to opt for managed hosting, as it often keeps your website more secure. For example, managed WordPress will manage all of the updates for your WordPress website, so you don’t have to manually do it. Website maintenance is essential to ensuring your website remains safe, secure, and ranks well on search engines.
Resource availability: When you first sign up for a web host, you may feel like one of their hosting plans is suitable for your current situation. But what if your situation changes? What happens if your website starts getting more traffic than you anticipated? Many web hosts will put a cap on how many monthly website visitors you can have, or how much storage and bandwidth you can use. Therefore it’s important to find a hosting plan that’s scalable and can grow with your website’s growing needs.
Caching is a process whereby a website’s content is stored for a user to view at a later date. You may have noticed that a website’s load time is significantly less the second time you visit it.
When you first visit a website, your device needs to load every piece of content available in order for you to view the website correctly. However, after you’ve visited for the first time, your device can cache the content, making future load times much faster.
By creating static copies of content, servers are able to work much faster and therefore deliver content in a quicker time. There are various ways in which you can enable caching.
Server caching: Server caching is something which can be done by your web host. If you’ve chosen a decent web host, they should already have a caching tool built into your hosting plan. Head on over to your hosting control panel to find out more about your server caching. If you don’t know where to find this, contact your web host.
Object caching: Object caching, website caching, and database caching can all be done separately to your server caching. In fact, if you use WordPress, you can download a caching plugin like WP Fastest Cache which will allow you to enable or disable specific caching options.
4. Optimize Images
Images are one of the main culprits for slowing your website’s speed down. If you don’t optimize your images, you may find that most of the space taken up on your web server is down to images.
From the data available, we already know that mobile website’s take longer to load than desktop ones. Therefore it’s incredibly important to ensure your images are reduced in size to offer a better mobile experience.
Thankfully, there are lots of tools available, for free, that can reduce your image size, without losing image quality. TinyJPG is free to use; you can upload up to 20 images at a time, then compress them in a matter of minutes.
5. Reduce plugins and Apps
Whether you’re using WordPress, a website builder like Wix, or building your website from scratch, it’s important you don’t overload your website with plugins and apps.
The more your website has to load, the longer it will take. However, it’s not all about how many plugins or apps you have, it’s also about their compatibility with one another, and ones that frankly aren’t very good.
If you have a poorly coded plugin or app, the code alone can cause issues to your website’s speed. Whilst it can be tempting and exciting to install lots of features on your website, think about whether you really need them before installing.
6. Font Files
Font files are probably not something that a lot of people would consider or even think about in regards to their mobile page speed. However, research shows that the average font size on mobile has increased year on year.
For example, in September 2016, the median mobile font bytes totalled 67.4KB, whereas, in April 2020, this rose to 107.5KB. Although we are talking kilobytes, this all adds up.
I know it can be tempting to design or choose a website design that has lots of fancy fonts, because they look cool, however, this isn’t going to help your mobile page speed. Try and pick fewer fonts and stick with a smaller selection.
You could also do some research into which fonts load faster. Although that might seem a little weird, KeyCDN performed a case study in 2018 which analyzed website font performance. They found that the fastest loading Google font was Open Sans, achieving a load time of 0.476 seconds.
7. Use the latest version of PHP
PHP is a widely-used open-source scripting language. It’s often used in web development and can be found in server files (even if you haven’t actually coded using PHP).
WordPress runs on PHP, however, depending on the version, a WordPress website can perform better or worse. CloudWays set up a benchmark test to analyze what difference the PHP version could have on a website’s performance. Using a Linode server with 2 cores, 4GB RAM and a 48GB SSD, they ran a test for PHP versions 5.6, 7.0, 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3.
The results are clearly in favour of PHP version 7.3 which was able to handle 10.31 requests per second, with version 7.2 coming in a close second place. The more requests your website can handle, the better it will perform on desktop and mobile.
Code minification can help to reduce unnecessary code so that your file sizes and reduced. When a developer writes code, especially for people using a theme or template, they tend to write it so it’s easier on the human eye.
For example, they will use spaces, comments, and other formatting measures to make it simpler for other people to read. However, these extra spaces and comments take up space on your website’s server and require delivering more content to your website visitors, therefore slowing your site down.
9. Database file cleanup
A website’s files are built up in a large file folder structure. Just like your desktop computer, there are multiple folders with files in them. I’m sure you have plenty of files on your computer that you don’t actually use, but are saving for a rainy day (or you simply don’t have a clue what they are).
This is very similar to how a website works, so by cleaning up your database files, you can make room on your website’s server. An example of files that don’t need to be kept would be old blog post revisions on WordPress (yes, WordPress uses a file folder structure too).
A plugin like WP-Optimize can be very useful in cleaning up your database. You can trawl through your database and clean up the files and folders yourself, but that would be very tedious and time-consuming.
10. Use a good design
It’s all well and good choosing a design, theme, or template that looks fancy, however, have you considered how it will affect your website’s mobile page speed?
There are certain features and functionality that are designed specifically for desktop users, that are frankly intrusive to mobile users, and can have a disastrous impact on speed.
In fact, back in 2017, Google imposed a penalty for using mobile pop-ups. Whilst this is one of many signals Google uses for SEO, it can still have a big impact if other signals on your website are failing.
I’d, therefore, suggest you consider the following recommendations:
- Use a lightweight and responsive theme or template that doesn’t include unnecessary pre-installed plugins or widgets
- Reconsider pop-ups, live chat apps, or auto-playing videos and carousels
- Ask yourself whether you need a video background – does it add anything to your website or business?
- Consider how your website looks and feels to mobile-users, and decide whether certain features or content are required
11. Use faster formats
Web pages come in different formats, as do images, content, etc. However, there are two distinct formats that have been designed for mobile websites, with the intention to speed up mobile performance.
AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) uses lazy loading and caches content using Google Cloud. Many blog owners use AMP to speed up their website.
PWA: Progressive Web App (PWA) combines the functionality of mobile web with mobile apps. The idea is that the user will get a faster, mobile-friendly design whilst still offering great searchability. PWA essentially turns your website into an app, but you’ll have to convert your entire website, as opposed to individual pages.
We already know that mobile browsing and mobile internet usage is on the rise, and I can only see this trend continuing. More and more people are converting to smartphones and tablets for regular use, so it’s only natural (and sensible) to ensure they enjoy a great mobile experience.
Designing your website around mobile, as opposed to desktop, would be my recommendation. Using the steps above, you’ll be able to improve your mobile page speed without too much time or effort.
It’s important to revisit your website, it’s performance, and design, to ensure you are keeping up with the latest trends in 2020 and beyond.