How to Actually Increase Your Page Speed on Shopify

James Kirkby
July 31, 2023

In the bustling world of ecommerce, everyone seems to have a magic hack to sell you. "Boost your page speed with this one simple trick!" they proclaim, promising you a silver bullet solution. But let's be real, optimizing page speed isn't a walk in the park. It's hard work, and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling snake oil.

The truth is, optimizing page speed starts at the very foundation of your online store - the theme. An efficiently coded theme can save you a world of trouble down the line. It's like building a house; if you start with a solid foundation, you won't have to worry about patching up cracks later.

In this post, we'll guide you through the process of picking the right theme, optimizing your site using Google Page Speed Insights, and finally, we'll reveal the only 'magic hack' that will actually and dramatically increase your page speed. Buckle up, because we're about to dive deep into the world of Shopify page speed optimization.

Picking the Right Theme

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: never, under any circumstances, should you buy a theme off a third-party marketplace. These themes don't have to meet Shopify's stringent requirements, and there's no telling how poorly they might be coded. It's like buying a car without an engine check - you're setting yourself up for a world of trouble.

Instead, start your theme hunt in the Shopify marketplace. Here, you can trust that the themes meet Shopify's standards. But don't just pick a theme based on aesthetics and features. You need to dig a little deeper.

Once you've shortlisted a few themes that catch your eye, it's time to check their Google Page Speed scores. Shopify lists example stores for each theme on their pages. Use these as your testing ground.

Pay special attention to the recommendation "reduce unused JavaScript". Check how much of the total JavaScript is First Party JavaScript that comes directly from the theme. These files are usually called Theme.js or Vendor.js.

If a theme's reference stores have poor page speed values, it's a red flag. Only pick a theme if the reference stores for it have good page speed values. This way, you're starting off on the right foot.

Optimizing Based on Google Page Speed Insights

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of optimization, let's set some expectations. If you're dreaming of a perfect 100 performance score on mobile, it's time for a reality check. Due to certain limitations of Shopify, reaching that elusive perfect score is, quite frankly, impossible. But don't let that dishearten you. There's still plenty of room for improvement.

When you run your store through Google Page Speed Insights, you'll likely find that your main recommendations revolve around JavaScript and images. We'll tackle the JavaScript issue later when we discuss apps. For now, let's focus on images.

Images can be a major speed bump on your road to a faster page speed. They're necessary for showcasing your products, but if not optimized, they can weigh your site down. Here's what you need to do:

Firstly, all images should be uploaded as WebP files. This format offers superior compression and quality characteristics compared to other image formats like JPEG or PNG. It's like getting the best of both worlds - high quality images that don't take forever to load.

Secondly, size your images correctly for the container they will be displayed in. An image that's too large for its container is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole - it just doesn't work. Plus, it wastes valuable loading time.

Lastly, ensure your images are no larger than 2 MBs. Anything larger is overkill and will only slow down your page speed.

Removing Apps

Now, let's talk about the elephant in the room: apps. They promise to add functionality to your store, to make it better, more efficient. But at what cost? The truth is, every app you add to your store is another component that needs to be loaded. And these components are loaded via scripts, which can significantly slow down your site, especially if the rest of your site has to wait for them to load.

Common culprits include bundle apps, cross-selling apps, and timers. They might seem like they're adding value to your store, but in reality, they're dragging it down.

So, what's the solution? It's simple: remove any app that adds components to your website.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "But I need those features!" And you're right, those features are important. But there's a better way to get them.

Invest the money and hire a developer to build these features for you. It might cost you a couple hundred bucks upfront, but think of it as an investment. An investment in a faster, smoother, more efficient website.

You might be tempted to opt for the cheaper app, but remember, the lost revenue from a slower site and inconsistent site experience will far outweigh what you pay the developer. It's a classic case of penny wise, pound foolish.

Handling Tracking Scripts

Finally, let's turn our attention to the unsung heroes of ecommerce - tracking scripts. These little snippets of code are the silent gatherers of data, working behind the scenes to provide you with the insights you need to run your business. But, like a stage full of overzealous actors, too many scripts can turn your well-orchestrated site into a chaotic mess. So, how do you ensure your scripts play their parts without stealing the show? Let's dive in.

Use Google Tag Manager: This is your secret weapon. Google Tag Manager allows you to manage and deploy marketing tags (snippets of code or tracking pixels) on your website without having to modify the code. This not only makes your life easier but also helps improve site speed by reducing the amount of code that needs to be placed directly on your site.

Prioritize Essential Tags: Not all tags are created equal. Some are more important for your business than others. Prioritize the loading of essential tags over less critical ones. This ensures that the most important data is collected first, without slowing down your site.

Use Asynchronous Loading: This is a fancy way of saying that the tags should load alongside the rest of your website, rather than one after the other. This can help improve site speed as it doesn't block other elements from loading.

Regularly Audit and Clean Up Your Tags: Over time, you may stop using certain services or tools, but their tags might still remain on your site. Regularly auditing and cleaning up unnecessary tags can help keep your site running smoothly.

Be Mindful of Tag Firing Order: Some tags depend on others to work properly. Be mindful of the order in which your tags fire to ensure they work as intended.

Use Tag Sequencing: This allows you to control the order in which tags are fired. For example, you can set up one tag to fire only after another has already fired.

Limit the Number of Tags: More tags mean more HTTP requests, which can slow down your site. Limit the number of tags to only what's necessary.

Test, Test, Test: Always test new tags to ensure they're working as expected and not slowing down your site. This way, you can catch any potential issues before they become major problems.

Why you should optimise your Shopify store with us

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