Even if you feel technically challenged, there are some things you can do to speed up your website. After reading this guide, you will definitely have a better understanding as to why you should make this a top priority—whether you do it yourself or delegate it to others!
While not all those websites are your direct competitors, you need every advantage when it comes to getting eyes on your website. But, how do you do this?
There are several ways to optimize your website, including keywording every page and post, but there is one way that many website owners miss—website speed.
If your site doesn’t load fast, you are losing potential clients and conversions, as a result of both a downgraded Google ranking and impatient visitors who don’t want to wait for the screen to fully refresh.
Before we start talking about how you can speed up your website, let’s look at why website speed is important.
The Importance of Website Speed
According to research from Google, if your website takes between 1-3 seconds to load, your “bounce rate” increases 32%.
(Bounce rate is the term that describes when someone leaves your site without taking any meaningful action.)
Do you sell products or services from your site? If so, bounce rate (AKA page abandonment) hurts your bottom line.
When Google crawls your site, one of the things it tests is your website speed. The faster and more responsive your site, the higher it ranks with Google (and other search engines) in organic searches.
Go to this website—GTMetrix—and type in your URL (website address) for some feedback about your website’s loading speed.
Just focus on the basics so your head doesn’t start spinning! And, don’t forget to re-check it after you and/or your website designer have worked on speeding it up.
What You Can Do to Speed Up Your Website
Even if you’re not a technical person, there are still some things you can do to speed up your website. Here are three:
1. Your Website Host
Website speed starts with your website hosting plan. Here are the three main levels:
Shared Hosting (Shared Server)—This is the most basic level of hosting and the one that is almost always represented by the lowest pricing flashing on a website host’s website. It’s the least robust as your website will be one of numerous sites sharing the resources of a single server. It’s like a dormitory room in a hostel—at times crowded and usually a bit noisy. If your website has very low traffic or it’s a simple WordPress blog, this is the best option.
VPS Hosting (Virtual Private Server)—This is the next level up from shared hosting and can make a big difference in website speed. Simply put, it appears (virtually) as though you’re running your own server even though your sharing it. Although you’re sharing resources, you’re sharing it with fewer websites. ***
Dedicated Hosting—With dedicated hosting, you are paying (a lot) for your own server. Sometimes, these services are tiered based on how powerful your server will be and whether the web host will be managing the service or you manage it in-house.
I generally recommend VPS hosting for my clients who have heftier websites with a moderate to heavy amount of traffic and SEO as a priority.
*** We offer affordable VPS hosting (and hosting customer service!) in-house to eliminate one hassle of having a small business website. Contact us for more info!
Another important aspect of your website hosting is the PHP version installed on the server.
PHP is the coding language that WordPress is built on and the version is set at the server-level by your hosting company. The most current version at the time this post was published was Version 7.4.
Your website will be up to three to four times faster (depending on which older version you’re updating from) as the latest version of PHP is always more efficient. (It will also be significantly more secure.)
Many website hosts make very little effort to inform their customers of the need to update their PHP—or that important email they sent regarding the update was missed.
Once you decide which hosting plan you’ll be purchasing, ask your website host which version of PHP is installed on the server and check on this once to twice a year.
2. Minimize Plugins
If your website lives on the WordPress platform, plugins and add-ons can drastically slow your website loading speed so you don’t want to add a bunch or your site will suffer.
It’s the quality of the plugins and add-ons that matter more than the sheer number. If you have 20 quality plugins, your site may load faster than a site with 10 bad plugins.
This is why I always recommend that you consult your website designer who knows the best plugins to use.
JetPack is a popular WordPress plugin with lots of cool features that many non-techy people love.
The downside? The basic installation activates over 20 separate modules!
If you’re tempted to go with JetPack, just make sure you know which features you really need and make sure to turn the others off. If you’re only using a few features, consider a couple of other quality plugins instead.
3. Reduce Image Size
Have you ever landed on a website only to sit and wait while a photo slowly loads? This happens when an image file is too large.
It’s frustrating and annoying and most people won’t bother waiting, resulting in an increased bounce rate that tells Google they shouldn’t send more people your way.
Most non-techy people simply upload an image they have taken, downloaded from the internet (see the related post below regarding downloading images legally from the internet!) or purchased without a second thought.
What they don’t realize is that these files are usually too large and are actually hurting their website!
One of the most popular and easy image formats is JPEG/JPG. This is a high quality format that works for complex images due to its large color palette. Be wary of both PNGs and GIFs because the file size gets huge in a hurry.
Also, graphic design websites like PicMonkey and Canva have this feature built in.
What to Discuss With Your Website Designer
Most small business owners aren’t web designers or developers and anything beyond resizing images and minimizing plugins can get confusing, so a good (and friendly) website designer is worth their weight in gold!
Here are some things to ask your web designer about when it comes to loading time for your website:
1. Your Website Theme
A website theme is the design template that is used to build and design your website. Think of WordPress as the engine and your theme as the make and model of your car.
The specific theme is extremely important because it impacts almost every aspect of your site, including the loading speed.
Beware of themes with poor coding and too many complexities as they will slow your site down without adding much to the user experience.
But, speed is not the only consideration when choosing a theme, so discuss this topic with your designer so you thoroughly understand their choice of themes.
I exclusively use the Avada WordPress theme. It is not the fastest, but it is one of the very best with more than 600,000+ websites to its name.
But, we can make it faster. Because speed isn’t a priority to every website owner, we include Basic Speed Optimization in our SEO package.
2. Reduce Clutter
Work with your designer to keep your website pages, particularly your home page, clutter-free. Don’t over-use images, buttons, or other features that take precious loading time.
Remember the last time you went to a homepage and played whack-a-mole closing pop-up boxes as the page loaded? It’s likely that it took longer to load, was extremely annoying, and you didn’t stick around very long.
Not only is a minimalist design pleasing to the eye, it loads faster, so resist adding things yourself after the designer has done their job.
3. Other Techy Stuff
If speeding up your website is a top priority, here are several other things to ask your website designer to do once the design phase is done:
Limiting HTTP requests
Enabling HTTP compressions
Enabling HTTP Keep-Alive
Limiting external requests
Preventing others from hot-linking your images
Your website designer should know what all this means! Letting them know you know something about website speed will ensure they take it seriously and that you’re both on the same page.
Don’t Frustrate Your Website Visitors!
So, now you know that website speed is important, not only to retain visitors on your site but also for ranking higher in Google (and other search engines).
In short, you want to be sure and do the following:
Invest in VPS hosting
Optimize your images
Limit the amount and type of plugins
Use a high quality WordPress theme
Keep it simple
Work with a good website designer
A faster loading site will reduce your bounce rate and encourage visitors to engage more, which helps convert them into buyers!
We have recently added a website speed specialist to our team—it took awhile to find someone who only does speed optimization, so we can get blazing results. Our test case was our very own website—and we were blown away by his results!
Drag the bar on the image below to see the improvement from the Before GT Metrix test (on the left) and the After (on the right):
Three Quick Actions
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Janet Doré is the CEO (Chief Everything Officer) of Scribaceous, Inc., and has been passionately supporting her clients since 2013. Learn more about her here and connect with her on Linkedin and Facebook!