Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on May 9th, 2017

How to Improve Drupal 8 Website Performance

Surprising Marketing Benefits of Increased Web Page Loading Speed

Cheetah Racing Across Open Grass

Getting faster page load speeds isn’t just about increasing your Google rankings. It’s about improving customer satisfaction and gaining new revenue. Using tools specific to Drupal along with other universal actions, you can reach your marketing goals faster than ever.

It’s no secret that page loading speed matters to Google rankings. Speed became a ranking factor in 2010 and since that time, developers and marketers have been looking for ways to increase it. Google cares about page speed because the search engine is focused on delivering the best onsite user experience possible. As a result, Google rewards fast-loading websites with better rankings. (The converse is not always true. Slow page loading times will only negatively impact your site rankings if it is very slow.)

As a marketer, your goal really isn’t better Google rankings. You are looking for the result of those rankings—more website visitors, more leads and more revenue. As a marketer, fast page load times aren’t the goal either; but, a means to improve your users’ experiences. Better website interactions can result in greater satisfaction, more conversions, and higher sales.

Happy business woman at deskFaster Page Load Time Results in Greater Revenue

Faster page navigation means that users may see more page views each time they visit your site. Having a fast website means that users can quickly understand your offering and purchase your products.

Studies show that faster page speed results in greater revenue.

  • Both Amazon and Walmart, in separate studies, attribute additional sales revenue from faster page speeds. Their revenue grew by 1% for every 100ms of page speed improvements. For Amazon, slowing down their page load time by just one second could result in a loss in revenue of $1.6 billion. That’s a lot of zeroes for a measly second.
  • Shopzilla increased revenue by 12% and page views by 25% by speeding up their page load time to 1.2 seconds from 6 seconds.

Customer Satisfaction Increases with Faster Page Speed

Biker speeding across the landscape at sunsetFaster websites mean happier customers. Particularly, studies have shown that:

  • A one-second delay in page-load time leads to a drop in pageviews (11%), conversions (7%), and customer satisfaction (16%), according to the Aberdeen Group.
  • Econsultancy research found that 47% of consumers expect to wait no longer than two seconds for a web page to load. Additionally, 88% of people who experience a dissatisfying visit due to page load times are less likely to shop from that site and more than a third will tell their friends about the bad experience.
  • According to KISSmetrics, 18% of mobile users will abandon a website if it doesn’t load in less than five seconds. If it takes more than 10 seconds to load, 30% will abandon the site.

Drupal 8 Website Speeding through tunnelIs Your Website Fast Enough?

The evidence shows page speed matters. Is your website fast enough? At a minimum you should aim for under 2 seconds. For e-commerce sites, you should have even faster goals.  Google’s goal is 100ms—faster than the blink of an eye.

It’s quite simple to test your website speed.  You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool and WebPageTest.org to take a benchmark of how your website performs. If your pages load in more than two seconds or if you haven’t met your page loading goals, you should consider taking some of the steps below.

Ways to Increase Your Drupal Website Performance

There are general ways that every website manager can implement to speed up page loading, but there are also specific Drupal tools and modules to know and implement. I’ll address both of these.

1. Keep it simple.

Page speed starts with choosing a design that is clean and fast. By reducing the number of components on your page, and keeping widgets and embedded media to a minimum, you are on the way toward a lightning fast website.

2. Cache your pages.

Drupal 8 enables caching by default for anonymous visitors. That is sufficient for small to medium sized websites with moderate traffic. You can select the maximum age for your page caching based on how quickly your website content changes.

1 day - good for websites that are only updated a couple of times per week. There is no commenting or other interaction on the site. (lead generation brochure site)

1 hour - good for websites that are updated once or twice per day. (ecommerce)

15 minutes- good for frequently updated websites. (news sites)

If you use Drupal 8 Views or Panels, you can get more fine-grained in your cache settings. The caching on each individual block can be customized as well.

Women holding mobile phone looking at Drupal 8 website3. Optimize your website to work with different devices and browsers.

You can no longer only optimize speed for desktops. With 60% of online traffic coming from mobile devices, a mobile responsive website is critical. All of the things that you do to speed up your website will help, of course. There are also things that you can do specifically to make your website more responsive for mobile devices. You should make sure that your website is optimized to work with popular mobile browsers. One of the most powerful things you can do is to implement the Google AMP module. We talk in detail about it in our article, How Marketers Use Drupal's AMP Module to Improve Google Search Rankings.

4. Compress your images, CSS and Javascript files.

The Advanced CSS/JS Aggregation module aggregates and compresses CSS and Javascript files to make your site run faster. Google loves fast websites and this module speeds things up with little overhead.

Drupal 8 Core has the ability to resize images and serve the right image for any situation. It can scale them, crop them, and much more. Consistent image sizes help reduce the bandwidth required to load a particular web page. This can greatly reduce load time.

5. Use a Content Distribution Network (CDN) with Drupal 8

There are a few third party tools that you can use with Drupal to speed up your website. A CDN stores your website on servers across the globe. CDN companies own data centers on every continent and in every region. Think of it as taking your server cache and making copies of it to servers that are a lot closer to your visitors. If the HTML does not need to be recreated by Drupal, then it is served directly from the CDN, greatly reducing the load times involved.

Example companies include (my personal favorite) CloudFlare, Level3, Amazon, and Akamai. The CDN module for Drupal is located here. There are also service-specific modules for CloudFlare and
Akamai.

Drupal 8 web hosting equipment6. Choose a host that can offer greater speed

If, after implementing some of the tips above, you are still not meeting your performance goals, you should consider choosing a faster host. When you look for hosting, you’ll find many options. At Volacci, we have experience with several dozen hosting companies that promise Drupal support and high speeds. In order of most capable to least capable (with considerable overlap in performance and cost), here is a list of the types of hosting you may want to consider:

Managed Dedicated Server(s)

A managed dedicated server takes care of all your hosting needs for you. Not only do you get the hardware but you get a team of experts to make sure everything is running as it should. They will keep your software up-to-date and alert you if there are any problems – often after they’ve already been fixed. You can deploy multiple servers in many configurations. For example, a firewall, caching server, database server or multiple http servers could all be part of a larger solution. It’s fast and reliable hosting. Adding multiple servers or getting help designing the perfect configuration for you is part of the service. Blackmesh (my personal favorite) is the Drupal-specific company for this kind of hosting. Also consider Rackspace.

Dedicated Server(s)

A dedicated server provides low latency which means a fast response time for most small to medium-sized sites. Consider that you need to provide technical staff to manage the hardware and software stack. Examples include HostGator and Viawest.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is scalable. The “cloud” means that there is a data center with lots of dormant servers. As your site’s needs scale up (or down) the servers in the data center respond with more server power. While it may be a panacea for some, latency and cost are critical concerns. Examples include Acquia Cloud, Pantheon, and Platform.sh.

Virtual Private Server (VPS) / Server Slice

A VPS offers a good balance between cost and performance. It’s similar to shared hosting in that you share a single server with other tenants. However, you get a guaranteed amount of performance on that server. Maybe 10% (or more) dedicated to you which preserves your performance. Examples include HotDrupal and Green VPS.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is the rookie league of hosting. Your site sits on a server with many other tenants. It’s slow and not scalable but it’s inexpensive. Examples include Bluehost and SiteGround.

Learn More with Drupal 8 SEO

If you would like specific details on how to speed up your Drupal 8 website and optimize it for higher Google rankings, take a look at Drupal 8 SEO. This book is the definitive authority on SEO for Drupal 8 websites. Check it out.

Contact Volacci if you would like our Drupal SEO experts to create a plan and implement best practices that will maximize your website performance and improve Drupal SEO.

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