Nothing is more frustrating than a slow website.
A slow website is bad not only for the end-user, but also for search engine optimization (SEO). Meaning, it can cause your website to rank lower in search engine results. That translates to fewer page views and less ad revenue or customer conversion for you.
Below I share seven ways you can make your website load faster. While this article shares some general tips, it also includes some for WordPress sites only. Throughout the article, I indicate clearly which tips are for WordPress users, and which can be for everyone.
Are you ready? Let’s start! )
Measure Your Site Speed
There are plenty of free ways to measure your website’s performance. One is Google page speed insights. Another is webpagetest.org. Simply enter your site’s URL and it will give you detailed analytics of your site speed. If it’s under 3 seconds, you don’t have a speed problem. If its higher, you have some changes to make.
Along with using an online tool to measure your site’s speed, test it with human eyes. Are there elements that take longer to load than others? Ask friends or family to evaluate and provide honest feedback.
Getting Started with Sitemaps
You can create your sitemap with a third-party tool or on your own, so there is some freedom when choosing what works best for you. To create a sitemap, first select the specific website pages you would like search engines to crawl.
Pro tip: You will also want to determine the canonical version of your pages, which is the original version you want search engines to point to. This saves your site from looking like it has duplicate content, which can hurt your SEO.
After reviewing your XML file, you can test it in Google’s Search Console Sitemaps tool before submitting it to search engines. Once you get the all clear signal from Google that everything looks good, you can submit it.
- There are two main ways you can submit your sitemap to Google:
- Submit it to Google by using the Search Console Sitemaps tool.
Insert the following line anywhere in your robots.txt file, specifying the path to your sitemap: https://example.com/sitemap_location.xml
Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
Hosting your media files on a content delivery network is one of the best ways to speed up your site, and can often save up to 60% bandwidth and halve the number of requests your website makes.
CDNs work by hosting your files across a large network of servers around the World. When a user visits your site from Thailand, they are downloading files from the server that is closest to them.
Because the bandwidth is spread across so many different servers, it reduces the load on any single server and also protects your sites from DDoS attacks and traffic spikes.
Here are a list of best CDN provides in 2022.
Evaluate Your Plugins
Plugins can bring new functionality and features to your website. However, the more plugins your website has, the more work it has to do to load. Poor or outdated plugins can dramatically slow down website performance as well.
This can be easily fixed by carefully evaluating your current plugins and removing those that duplicate functionality, are out of date, or are no longer in use.
Upgrade Your Hosting
When first getting a website designed and developed, a lot of people opt to go with the cheapest hosting package. At the time, this might be a viable option, especially for new businesses. However, as your business grows, so should your hosting. “Cheap” hosting usually means your website is on a shared server.
This server isn’t just loading your website, it is also loading a variety of other websites. So if and when one of those websites gets a lot of traffic, it could have a negative effect on your site speed. Or worse, it could bring down your site completely.
The best way to ensure that your site stays speedy is to switch to a host that offers dedicated servers and prioritizes speed.
Browser caching allows assets on your website to be downloaded to your hard drive once into a cache, or a temporary storage space. Those files are now stored locally on your system, which allows subsequent page loads to increase in speed.
Tenni Theurer, formerly of Yahoo!, explains says that 40-60% of daily visitors to your site come in with an empty cache. So when users visit, you need to make it so the first page they see load quickly enough so they will inevitably continue through the rest of your website (with even faster load times).
Enable HTTP keep-alive response headers
HTTP requests are simple: they grab a single file, distribute and close. That said, this process is not always fast. Keep-alive allows the web browser and server to agree to use the same connection to grab and send multiple files.
In other words, the server holds the connection open while a user is on the site instead of opening a new connection with every request, easing the load for the processor, network and memory.
Make Images Internet-Friendly
Site size generally, and image sizes specifically, make a huge difference to your site speed. The larger your content/images, the slower the site.
Some basic ways to counteract this is by shrinking the file sizes of images on your site, reducing the number of images you use, or eliminating them altogether. (This is why I removed featured images on my blog reel last year when I redid the site.)
But having no images on your site is boring! Rather than removing them, optimize images before uploading them to your site by:
- Changing the resolution: reducing the “quality” of the image (and thereby the file size)
- Compressing the picture: increasing the efficiency of image data storage
- Cropping the picture: when cropping, you are cutting out unneeded areas and thus making the image smaller in size
For Mac users, there is a free program called ImageOptim, which “optimizes compression parameters, removes junk metadata and unnecessary color profiles.”
On WordPress, there is a free plugin called Smush, which removes hidden information present in images. Smush scans images as you upload them to WordPress, and prevents unnecessary data from hanging on. It decreases the file size while maintaining the quality of the image.
Fix Broken Links & Site Errors
Broken links commonly occur when permalinks are changed or when content is migrated to another domain. You can fix this by including a 301 redirect to the link’s new destination.
It’s smart to put your website through a broken link test before publishing your website. You can do this through Google Webmasters tool or another third-party site. This can be a relatively easy fix and makes a world of difference for your SEO.
Broken links are only one kind of site error, so you’ll also want to put your website through a site error test to make sure it is ready to launch.
Remove Unused Plugins
Plugins are add-on scripts that provide different functionality to a website. In todays world, they are the backbone of the functionality of a site. However, too many plugins can lead to a bloated website that loads very slowly.
Many plugins are loaded on every single page (whether needed or not). To see an immediate reduction in speed, remove any plugins that are not 100% necessary.
Currently, a typical user expects web pages to load less than after 3 seconds. If you don’t meet this expectation barrier, you lose a lot of website traffic and, as a result, your revenue.
So, I recommend applying a simple yet effective website speed optimization approach:
- Check and evaluate the key factors of website success, considering conversion, visibility, and usability.
- Test your current website speed and prioritize the pages and features that need the most attention in regard to these three factors.
- Start your optimization with the most speed-reducing aspects and focus on the pages that define your conversion success the most.