Would you like to bring more traffic to your website? Most webmasters underestimate the power of speed. While following search engine optimization guidelines and providing information-rich content is key to gaining traffic, most people won't bother staying on a page with longer load times. In fact, waiting longer than 10 seconds for a page to load will make their mouses fervently click the back button. 

According to a study conducted by Akamai Technologies, consumers are only willing to wait a maximum of four seconds for a website to load. Web sites that exceeded that time limit were ranked poor by most consumers, and subsequently received less business. Further evidence also indicates this ADD-trend is here to stay, including an informal study conducted by Google. According to Marissa Mayer of Google.com, lowering the size of its map-related website, Google Maps, by just 20% resulted in 10% more traffic within the first week. This test also revealed consumers explored more sections with the increased loading time. Another study conducted by Zona Research also reveals a startling trend: one-third of consumers who waited eight seconds or longer for a page to load simply visited another site. The message is clear with all three studies -- speed matters.  Not only will you gain a bigger customer base, but you will also gain more traffic to other areas of your website.

Sound surprising? Not to SEO experts. SEO experts have known these facts for years, and they know the attention span of the average web browsing addict is painfully short. According to SEO experts, getting information quickly is the consumer's motto, and if a website can't provide speedy access to the information they need, it's time to say goodbye to any potential traffic. As harsh as this reality sounds, webmasters need to keep up with these demands in order to increase their traffic -- and to keep that traffic coming back.

Because of this fact alone, decreasing the page size of your website -- and thus increasing the load time speed -- is essential if you want to increase traffic to your website. Here are some simple ways to decrease the loading time of your website.

Three Basic Ways to Lower Website Loading Time

Beyond minimizing the size of images and staying away from Flash animations (which can dramatically increase website loading time), webmasters have a number of tools for readily decreasing their site's loading time.  Three useful methods include utilizing HTTP compression, making good use of website caching, and properly optimizing the HTML setup of your website. 

1. HTTP Compression

An excellent way to speed up loading times is through HTTP Compression, a process which shortens the transfer rate between a web server and a browser. When a website goes through the HTTP Compression process, the information used to load the website is compressed into a smaller format, enabling browsers and servers to connect quickly, resulting in a quicker loading time. The web server takes less time to communicate with the web browser, which uses less bandwidth and speeds up loading time. Nearly all browsers support HTTP compression capabilities.

Websites that feature too many images or other media files, unfortunately will not benefit from this, as these files are already compressed, making HTTP compression useless. Formats not yet compressed, such as HTML, CSS, and plain text can be compressed to increase loading time. Web sites that feature an abundance of these elements should seek HTTP compression as an easy way to speed up loading time significantly. According to experts, you can speed up loading time by as high as 80%.

The most popular method of HTTP Compression is gzip, a software application designed to replace Unix's original compression program. This is available for all platforms and is available for free on its website. Learn more about using this compression program through gzip.   

To fully implement this compression process into your website, you will need to configure your server to correctly use the file. To learn more about how to get your server to correctly download the compressed files for proper display on your website, visit Interactive HTML’s guide about implementing it with your server tools, including the importance of obgzhandler.

2. Website Caching

For those that cannot reduce the size of images and other non-HTML widgets on their website, caching is a wonderful alternative with plenty of advantages. You may be familiar with browser caching, the process where a website forces browsers to create temporary files of commonly used website documents. This is not the only way caching can be implemented. 

There are two types of caching, browser side and server side caching; webmasters should focus on server side caching methods to increase the loading time of your website. Server side caching ensures that web pages are updated less frequently, lessening the load on the server and allowing websites to load faster. Jpcache is one example of a server side caching system. Jpcache, a caching system for PHP, generates pages less frequently from the server, lessening server load. It speeds up loading time by up to 80%. With jpcache, it only caches the output of website pages, instead of referencing and loading the php-page. Jpcache also uses gzip, which will benefit webmasters who already use HTTP Compression to save bandwidth.

By caching, the loading process is sped up considerably for your returning visitors. Even if you don't use jpcache (or any other server side caching methods), you can still use caching to your benefit. 

3. Optimizing the HTML Setup of Your Website

The simplest way to speed up your website's loading time is by optimizing the actual HTML content of your website. If you run your own website, this is a practical solution. Optimizing HTML in a nutshell is simple: simply go through your HTML spreadsheet (the file where HTML is inserted to create your website – it should have a .html extension) and eliminate any duplicate content. The goal is to use as little HTML as possible so that the web server needs to load less code when accessed. Here are some other areas to look for:

Redundant use of font and design-related tags.  Using HTML to modify the look of your website is useless and adds too much code, and the same effects can be created by using CSS. CSS is different from HTML and directly impacts the look of a website (including font, how it displays links, etc.) with one code instead of several.

Insert Javascript files into separate files instead.  If you're inserting actual Javascript code into your HTML spreadsheet, it's time to end this practice. This severely decreases how fast your website loads due to the amount of code used – using the same code on every page isn't needed and can be reduced. Instead of putting it into your HTML spreadsheet, save it in a different file and reference that file when compiling your HTML spreadsheet. These directions on managing external javascript files give an in-depth explanation on how you can implement this on your website. 

Change how you save images. Some webmasters don't consider the image's size when designing a website, but images tend to take up over half of a website's actual size. Decrease the size by decreasing the colors used in the image (you will need an image editing program to edit this), decreasing the dimensions, and saving in .jpeg format instead of .png or other formats.

As you can see, loading times are crucial to gaining traffic and keeping visitors on your site. According to industry experts, a faster loading website equals more traffic, and all it takes is simply implementing three methods into your website. 

HTTP Compression is one effective way to reduce the loading time, and paired with website caching, dramatically speeds up how fast your website loads – hopefully to the four-second threshold to gain more traffic.   Webmasters can also utilize simple tools, such as limiting the amount of HTML and image size, for a quick way to speed up loading times. Implement all three of these tools to quicken the loading time of your website and to increase traffic permanently. 

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