Consider all of the resources you pour into your SEO, content, and social media marketing strategies to attract new leads to your website. The time and money spent bringing in new web traffic can be well worth it if your website successfully converts your visitors; however, it’s all a waste if visitors don’t convert. Something as simple as your website’s speed can turn visitors away. If a new user clicks on a link to your site and your page loads too slowly, chances are good that they’ll leave and never return. It’s why you need to keep an eye on your website speed and why you should do everything you can to improve load times if you want to improve your website’s ability to convert leads.
People are impatient. If your website is slow, they won’t stick around for long. Page load speed even affects businesses like Amazon. Ten years ago, they ran A/B testing to determine how big of an impact page loading speeds would have on their sales. It turns out, for every 100 milliseconds of latency, they would lose 1 percent in sales, which means that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost them as much as 1.6 billion in sales annually. Page load speed even affects Google – they calculated that if their SERPs loaded just four-tenths of a second slower, they could lose up to eight million searches per day.
A slow website will do a lot more than just frustrate your visitors. A slow website can hurt your business in the following ways:
A good CMS (content management system) will go a long way towards ensuring that your website functions and performs at a high level. CMS solutions, such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are excellent options. However, not all CMS solutions are as reliable as these. If you use a cheaper CMS solution that has lower standards, it could slow down your site speed. Fortunately, you can optimize your site’s speed no matter what CMS you use. And no matter what CMS you choose, be sure to update it regularly. Updates often become available with the purpose of making your website run better — and faster.
Knowing how much your website speed can impact your business, the last thing you want is a slow website. But considering the fact that your site can be negatively affected even if your pages load milliseconds slower than normal, how exactly can you tell if your website speed needs to be improved? Fortunately, there are some website speed analytics tools that you can use to not only identify how fast your site is loading, but that will also grade your site speed performance and provide recommendations for how you can make your site faster.
We’ve identified some tools that allow you to measure how fast your website is and give you an assessment of what needs to be addressed to improve your site speed.
The perfect loading time is anything under one second. Of course, this isn’t always possible, especially if there’s a lot of content to load on your page. Anything between one and three seconds is still acceptable. If your page loads slower than three seconds, you’re at risk for losing visitors. It’s estimated that around 40 percent of visitors will leave a page that doesn’t load within three seconds. Users are even less patient when it comes to mobile pages. Google itself reported that 53 percent of mobile users leave pages that don’t load within three seconds. Additionally, visitors are 32 percent more likely to bounce from your site as your page load time goes from one second to three seconds.
Slow page loading speeds affect your chances of converting visitors. Many visitors are likely to leave your site if page speed affects their user experience, which means that you’re missing out on potential opportunities to convert. Secondly, you could end up losing leads who were ready to convert because your landing pages or opt-in forms weren’t loading quickly enough. It’s estimated that just a one second delay in page load time can result in a seven percent loss in conversions. Optimizing your website speed can help to improve your conversion rate. For example, improving your page load speed from eight seconds to two seconds can increase your conversion rate by 74 percent.
The following are a few simple things that you can do to improve site speed by the way you serve your site:
So how do you go about enabling browser caching? This depends on the CMS you’re using. If you’re using WordPress, you can just install a caching plugin, such as W3 Total Cache. If you’re using Drupal, you’ll need to use the Varnish Cache software. If you’re using Joomla, then you don’t need to download anything — you can just enable browser caching through its main dashboard.
Whenever a visitor requests a certain file, the browser will request permission to download the file from the server. It can take up a lot of bandwidth, memory, and processing power to do this for every single file and will slow down your website. You can prevent this by enabling HTTP Keep-Alive which will speed up your website by allowing the server to tell the browser to download multiple files at the same time. This can help save a lot of bandwidth since you’ll be limiting the number of connections to your server as a result. You can enable HTTP Keep-Alive by adding the Keep-Alive code to your .htaccess file.
Mobile pages will generally redirect your visitors to a different URL, so it’s a good idea to make a cacheable redirect. Doing so will make the page load faster when the visitor returns to your site. To make your landing page redirects cacheable, use a 302 redirect that’s limited to a cache lifetime of a single day. To ensure that only visitors from mobile devices will be redirected, make sure that the redirect includes Vary: User-Agent and a Cache-Control: Private.
Gzip compression works in a similar way to ZIP compression. When you compress files as ZIP files on your computer, you reduce their size. By using Gzip compression, you can do the same thing to your website’s files. Enabling Gzip compression will compress your website files to reduce their size and increase website speed by saving bandwidth. When someone visits your website, your website files will automatically be unzipped so that they can access all of your site’s content. There are two ways to enable Gzip compression: install a compression plugin for your CMS, or do it manually by adding specific code to your .htaccess file.
Your website’s content, from the type of content to the amount of content displayed, can impact its ability to load quickly as well. Here we offer a few tips on how you can reduce the effect your content has on your page load speed:
You’ll want to create redirect pages whenever you move or delete pages. Redirects also help deal with some of the issues involved with broken links. However, each redirect will result in an additional HTTP request, which will slow down your website speed — especially on mobile devices. It’s best to reduce redirects whenever possible. You can use a tool like Screaming Frog to scan your website for redirects and to identify what their purpose is. You’ll want to delete any redirects that don’t serve a necessary purpose.
Additionally, you should look for redirect chains. These are redirects that point to other redirected pages. Redirected chains create extra HTTP requests that are unnecessary. If you identify any redirect chains, edit your .htaccess file to direct all of your redirected pages to the most recent versions of that page.
404 and 410 errors result in unnecessary HTTP requests. To avoid 404 and 410 errors, you should address any broken links on your website. You can use a variety of tools (such as the free WordPress link checker) to scan your site for broken links so that you can fix them or remove them.
Before a browser can begin loading your website, it must perform a DNS (domain name system) lookup. A DNS lookup involves requesting the nameservers associated with the domain so that users can access it. Without DNS, users would basically have to type in an IP address to access the site. DNS lookups can take some time to complete, and slow down your website speed. Here are some ways to reduce DNS lookups:
If you have a large social presence across multiple channels, limit your social buttons to the major platforms. You can also configure your social buttons to load asynchronously. This ensures that if a social channel crashes or experiences an outage, it won’t slow down your site as a result.
Expires headers tell the user’s browser how long to store a file in the cache so that the browser doesn’t have to download the file again for subsequent page views or visits. By implementing expires headers, you improve the page speed for returning visitors (it won’t affect the page speed of first-time visitors). When a user returns to your website, their browser will be able to see the last time it downloaded certain file types. If the downloads were recent (within the expiration date), they will be displayed from the cache. If they weren’t, then the browser will download the newest version from your server.
You can implement different expiration dates for specific files. For example, elements that aren’t likely to change soon, such as your logo, should have a later expiration date.
Your website theme consists of the look and layout of your site. It’s an incredibly important component of your website’s overall design. Unfortunately, some website themes may have complex code, causing them to affect the speed of your website. Use one of the free speed testing tools to test the page speed of a particular theme’s demo. This will give you an accurate idea of how fast a theme will run and whether you need to change your current theme. In many cases, changing themes can greatly improve the overall speed of your site.
The more images you have on your site, the more bandwidth you take up, resulting in slower website speeds. And the bigger your images are, the more server resources they’ll need to load. However, you can optimize your images to reduce their loading times in a number of ways. First, if the resolution of your images are too high, your images will slow down your site. To ensure the ideal loading time, keep your images under 100kb. You should also save your images in the JPEG format instead of the PNG format. These tweaks will also help optimize images:
Reducing the size of your images will make them load faster — and you can do so without affecting the quality of the images. It can also take a browser longer to load a page because it’s trying to figure out the size of the images to be displayed on that page. By specifying the dimensions of your images, you reduce the number of steps the browser has to take to load the page which improves the load speed.
To ensure that they don’t lose resolution when you specify image dimensions, use a plugin that will compress your images. If you have a WordPress site, use WP Smush, which will automatically compress all of your images as soon as you upload them to your media library. Kraken is a good alternative if you’re using Drupal or Joomla!
Plugins can be very useful for your WordPress site, but keep in mind that the more plugins you add, the more resources are required to run those plugins. If you have too many plugins, it can not only reduce your site speed, it can also potentially cause your website to crash regularly. To avoid this, perform an audit on the plugins you’ve installed. Any plugins that you no longer use or that you deem unnecessary should be deactivated and deleted.
Keep in mind that the number of plugins isn’t necessarily what causes your site to slow down, although it can certainly affect your site speed. Instead, it’s usually the type of plugins you’re using. It’s the plugins that load a lot of scripts and styles and that perform multiple remote requests by adding many database queries that will really slow your site down.
Hotlinking occurs when people use the content being hosted on your server for their own websites. This means that they are essentially taking advantage of your servers and your content and adds server load on your end. To prevent people from stealing your server’s resources, you should disable hotlinking. Disabling hotlinking will require you to add the necessary code to your server. Your web hosting provider should be able to assist you with this — although there are a few tools out there that can help you add the right code as well.
In addition to disabling hotlinking, avoid the practice of hotlinking yourself. For example, instead of linking to images on another website, load them onto your own server instead. Hotlinking might save you some bandwidth, but if the images you link to are unreliable and slow, they will end up slowing down your website. Loading images onto your server before linking to them can help prevent your website from crashing as well.
Choosing a website host can have a big impact on your website’s speed. Most website hosts have a number of plans to choose from as well. Choosing an unreliable host will likely result in all kinds of website issues. But even if you choose a reputable host, it’s possible to outgrow the plan you chose initially, so review your plan as your website grows.
If you initially purchased a cheap web hosting plan when you first built your website, then you may need to upgrade your plan to improve your site speed. The more content that you add to your site and the more traffic your site receives, the more likely it is to slow down if you’re using a cheaper plan.
There are three main types of servers to choose from: shared hosting, VPS hosting, and a dedicated server. Shared hosting is the most affordable, while a dedicated server will be the most expensive. Choosing which server is right for you depends on what your needs are.
Many smaller businesses may choose a shared hosting plan when they first start out. This is because shared hosting is the most affordable option. Shared hosting is suitable for low-traffic sites, but once your traffic begins picking up, your website will have a difficult time handling larger volumes of visitors. And shared hosting means you are using the same server as a number of other users. If any of the other sites on your server see a spike in traffic, it will affect the speed of your site as well, even when you’re not getting more visitors.
Although each user will receive a shared amount of bandwidth, each user can also add an unlimited number of websites to their account, so that a single shared server could end up hosting thousands of websites, something that’s sure to affect your site performance.
A dedicated server will provide you with full control so you won’t have to share bandwidth, CPU, or RAM since all of the resources on the server will be dedicated to your needs. A VPS (virtual private server) requires you to share a server with other sites, just like a shared hosting service; however, unlike a shared hosting service, you’ll be provided with a dedicated portion of resources on that server, and your website won’t be affected by other sites on the same server.
Another option is cloud hosting. Cloud hosting is somewhat similar to VPS. The main difference is that whereas a VPS uses a single server, cloud hosting uses multiple servers. This is very beneficial to larger websites with heavy traffic. If one server is overwhelmed, then your website will simply be switched over to another server. This helps to eliminate any performance issues your website might have as a result of sharing resources on a single server. If that wasn’t enough, cloud hosting allows for unlimited expansion, making it a more scalable option. There are many reputable cloud hosting platforms to consider, including Google Cloud, AWS (Amazon Web Services), Azure, and Vultr, to name a few.
Web hosting providers tend to price their products by bandwidth and storage, but these are not the only things you should concern yourself with. First, avoid unlimited offers. They’re rarely as “unlimited” as they seem. In many cases, your website’s speed will be throttled once you reach a certain usage level. You should also consider not just your current storage and bandwidth needs, but future needs as well. It’s best to look for a scalable option.
There are two other factors to consider when choosing a web host: security and support. It won’t matter how fast your website runs if it’s constantly being hacked. Look for a host that has a reputation for its secure servers. Depending on your technical know-how, you may also want a provider that offers extensive customer service support to its users. Some providers offer managed services, which means that they will configure your system to your needs, update software when needed, manage backups, and monitor your system for security issues among other things.
The following are just a few extra things that you can do to optimize your website’s loading speeds and to improve its overall performance.
Lazy Load is a plugin that will only load images when they should be visible to the user. This means that if a user is exploring a webpage, the images displayed on the portion of the page that’s displayed in their browser will be loaded first. For example, if a visitor arrives at the top of the page, the images at the top will be loaded first. Any images on the page that requires the visitor to scroll down to view won’t be loaded until the user actually scrolls down to that part of the page.
Considering how many people use their mobile devices to explore the web, it’s no surprise that Google has emphasized mobile user experiences. In fact, your mobile user experience will affect your overall SEO rankings. Last year, Google revealed that it would begin prioritizing mobile website speed as a factor in its ranking algorithm as well. It’s why you might want to consider AMP. AMP basically allows you to provide a more lightweight, stripped down HTML page to mobile users, which not only improves loading speeds on mobile devices but also makes your content easier to read.
Broken links won’t slow down your website speed but they will affect your user experience. A page that doesn’t load at all due to a broken link is just as bad (if not worse) than a page that loads too slowly. After all, users who are expecting to view content will be disappointed and frustrated if that content can’t be displayed.
There are several tools that can scan your website for broken links. For example, WordPress provides its users with a free Broken Link Checker.
Although 301 redirects are necessary for pages that no longer exist or that have changed, they can still slow down your site. Take the time to identify all of your site’s internal redirects and manually replace those links with new links to live, updated pages. In addition to helping boost your page load speed, this should also help make your site easier to crawl.
The speed of your website has a direct impact on your user experience. When it takes too long for pages to load, it can frustrate your users. Not only will this end up hurting your conversion rate, but it will do some serious damage to your SEO efforts as well. It’s why you should not only optimize the speed of your website using this guide, but also regularly monitor your website speed so that you can address any issues as they come up.
Need help to optimize your site? We’ll be glad to help!