6 Secrets to a Faster Law Firm Website in 2017

tips-to-faster-website
Over the years I’ve been able to identify technical issues common to law firm websites that, if properly addressed, can drastically improve pagespeed. I want to share them with you.

Time and again we see that improving the speed at which a site’s important pages load directly benefits both search engine rankings and conversion rates.

Here are 6 tips for improving the speed of your law firm website:

1. Less is (Usually) More

We are huge advocates for simplicity in design. What’s important is not that you offer up every piece of information about your firm on every single page, but instead that you offer the right content to the various users of your site. Knowing how much is too much in terms of webpage elements (photography, videos, text, social media widgets, icons, etc.) is critical to ensuring that you have a website that is capable of being delivered quickly across all browsers and devices.

The average size of a webpage is ~1.2MB in size. In general, you want your site to be at or below this number. There are of course other factors that impact page load time, but let’s looks site size as an example.

Website: https://myhoustoninjuryattorneys.com/
Homepage Load Time: 1.2 seconds
Page Size: 516kb
Source

check-your-pagespeed

Because the page is just 516kb in total kilobytes(kb) it is nearly half the size of the average webpage, which means two things:

  1. One the site is more topically focused usually ranking in a higher search engine rankings
  2. It will load faster for mobile visitors.

In “development land” we would call this a lightweight site. This will have less load on the server and cost you and your visitors less to load

Knowing that in 2016 nearly half of your organic search traffic will be mobile users, to convert visits into cases, you need a site that loads fast.

To measure your own site, simply put your URL into the site below. It will give you a speed and page size (like above). You can also compare your site’s size to your competitors. If your sites scores are worse, you could be missing out on cases. In our experience, below 2 seconds is exceptional and ideal, but you can probably survive your competition if you’re anywhere under 5 seconds.

Page Speed Tool: https://gtmetrix.com

2. Caching

“Caching” is how both the web browser (browser cache) and you web server (page cache) store your content to be quickly delivered to your visitors. You may see some warnings on the GTMetrix report about caching. If you do, it this means you’re probably not caching your content properly.

This can be handled by adding the best practice of you web server (because it varies). I usually Google [name web host] + “Web Cache Settings” to be sure that I’m using the correct caching setting for a given site.

If your site uses WordPress, caching can be handled by a plugin (a few good examples below), or it might be already handled by your web host.

3. Minify

To “minify files” means to limit excess lines of code from your websites files so that they are as compressed as possible. Like so:

snip20160928_14-min

This is an easy thing to check and can be done through one of the recommended plugins above. Be cautious on this implementation though because it can result in display issues if not done correctly. A quality WordPress theme without plugin conflicts shouldn’t have any issues.

The three big items to be minimized are html (source code), css (files ending in .css) and js (files ending in .js). To check your source code you can right click on most webpages, in most browsers, and choose ‘view source’.

From the source screen you can also click around and check other files like your css or js.

4. Scaled & Optimized Images

Serving scaled and properly compressed images is one of the best items to do regular maintenance on, and is one of the biggest opportunities for improving page load times.

A scaled image means that the image is sized correctly for the resolution at which it is actually displayed. I created an example of an improperly scaled image above earlier.

snip20160928_15-min

File Size: 261kb (ouch)
Display Dimensions: 946px x 340px
Natural Image Dimensions: 1024px x 368px (not too bad)

*To get this view right click the image on most browsers and hover over the url of the image like I did.

Ideally, your image files ought to have a natural image dimension size that is identical to the display dimension for each image.

In addition to re-sizing images, it’s also important to compress your site’s images.

If your site is on WordPress, there are plugins that can help manage this process automatically like SmushIt from WPMU DEV. Otherwise, you can resize images in an image editor like Photoshop (MS Paint if you’re desperate). Then use a compression tool like I did for the image compression.

New & Improved

snip20160928_16-min

File Size: 42kb (down from 261kb!)
Display Dimensions: 946px x 340px
Natural Image Dimensions: 946px x 340px (Perfect)

5. Defer

A native issue with most off the wall themes that aren’t built for 2017’s standards is that they often have several ‘Render Blocking’ elements that might be slowing the page speed down.

What this really means is that there are some site elements (like sliders or fonts) that need to be loaded before the page can be fully displayed. By adjusting this order to defer loading until needed you will avoid getting these errors, and the result will be a faster loading website.

It is ideal to fully defer elements, but this isn’t always doable due to functionality constraints.

In the past we’ve seen image sliders as common culprits for render blocking as well as unneeded active plugins injecting additional scripts. Below I’ve listed some common items to keep an eye out for that could render block.

To remedy this you can use the functionality of one of the optimization plugins I mentioned earlier on WordPress, but it is ideal for this to be natively developed to prevent display issues. Again, if you have a quality WordPress theme you should be fine using our recommended plugins. If you experience display issues, revert the changes.

6. Web Hosting

If you’re serious about building a business, and a brand online it’s essential that you invest in quality web hosting. We highly endorse WPEngine, but there are plenty of quality web hosts out there. One of the best indicators of how well your web host is doing is your servers first byte and response times.

Example:

snip20160929_17-min

This isn’t too bad in terms of overall connection and first byte time. Ideally this should be low because it means your web server is connecting users quickly with your site. If you see warnings it is worth monitoring and if you have uptime issues I would recommend changing your hosting. It will be a short-term cost for long-term gains with your customers and search engines.


Now go forth, and make your law firm website faster! If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to follow up.

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Frank Scharnell

Frank wears a variety of hats but WordPress development, technical SEO, pagespeed optimization, and conversion rate optimization are his key areas of focus for our clients. Frank has been in the digital marketing industry since 2011.