One of the most popular tools for webmasters, including those using Shopify themes, is Google’s PageSpeed Insights service, which seeks out and identifies ways to improve your website’s page loading speed and related factors — but how much weight should you give to the advice this (or a similar) tool gives you?
Google is on record as being “obsessed” with speed on the Web and also has indicated that speed does play a role in Web rankings — so speed is obviously something that should be considered when developing any website.
That translates into the idea that sites that load faster will rank higher in search engine results.
However, it’s easy to take Google’s PageSpeed Insights advice on your Shopify theme a bit too much to heart while also ignoring some easier ways to improve your site performance.
Without getting overly technical, this is referring to utilizing some advanced Web development techniques within the structure of the code to help improve speeds.
While these techniques certainly reduce load time, they also are something that only more advanced users should tackle. Further, many “minification” tools don’t recognize the unique Liquid tags used in many Shopify theme files, which can cause the entire theme to stop working.
Another important factor to keep in mind is that every feature or design element that’s added is likely to trigger issues with any page speed testing tool. Adding cool designs or highly interactive features can be great for user experience — but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s likely a trade-off with your site speed.
A great example of this is the “quick shop” popup windows that many Shopify themes include. These typically provide a way for a user to click a button and get a quick overview of a product from the homepage or collection page without having to load a completely new page. It often even allows users to add the item to the cart without a page reload.
Pretty slick, right? Sure, but this type of feature is also one of the biggest culprits of bogging down page load times on Shopify Themes since it often has to load the content, including, most significantly, the image files for every variant or every product featured on the collection page or homepage.
One way to mediate this issue is to reduce the number of products shown per page or cut down on the number of images you add to each product.
However, the broader point is that while this feature does look nifty and can be helpful in boosting conversions, it also, inherently, adds to your page loading time. So, at the end of the day, it’s often a fine balance between features and speed — and typically it’s difficult to have the best of both
All that said, there are some solid, easy and fast ways that you can improve your site speed:
The Shopify platform itself also has some key advantages in regard to page speed. Your entire store is hosted on scalable, high tech servers that are optimized to handle the demands of ecommerce stores.
These servers are much more efficient and typically provide much better load times than other services you could find on your own.
Finally, keep in mind that Google's PageSpeed Insights is a great tool and can give you lots of great ideas, but often the recommendations can be very difficult to implement for an unknown return on investment.
It's a common misconception that fixing everything Google PageSpeed recommends will suddenly rocket you to the top of the search engine rankings — the reality is that page speed is just one of the many, many factors used to rank results.
Also keep in mind that many Shopify stores (take "handmade jewelry" for example) are in extremely competitive industries in terms of search engine rankings and it's unlikely that a small, independent merchant could outrank the larger players in the space no matter how fast the site is.
If you're truly concerned about search engine optimization, a great first place to start is by reviewing and rewriting your product descriptions.
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Using a pre-designed premium Shopify theme is a great way to get your online store and up running fast and affordably. But since there are likely many other shops using the same theme as you, how can you make your store look unique and stand out from the crowd?