How to Speed Up a Website | Website Speed Optimization

Introduction

Do you have an amazing website but are disappointed in the results concerning traffic, leads, and sales?

Did you spend valuable time and money to create the right web content and design for your brand, only to discover you’re a victim of painfully slow page loading times?

That’s because how fast your website loads plays a crucial role in acquiring and retaining new customers for your business.

The entire internet is literally at our fingertips, and users have come to expect a fast-loading website. They’ll bail immediately if they don’t get what they want.

If your competitor is taking those important leads from you at the speed of light, then it is time to get your website speed optimized for maximum benefit.

With just a few simple website techniques you can decrease average page load times–so if you’ve been wondering how to speed up a website, this article is for you! 

We’re about to walk you through the same steps we use to provide website speed optimizations to the clients we serve through website hosting management. Best of all you can implement these steps as soon as you finish reading.

First, for those who need a quick review, let’s investigate the two following questions:

  1. What is page speed vs. site speed?
  2. How does website performance impact the success of my business?

What is Page Speed vs. Site Speed?

Before we jump into the technicalities of how to speed up a website, let’s understand what is meant by page speed and site speed.

Page speed refers to the amount of time that passes between a browser’s page request and the final product: the fully rendered website content. In other words, page speed is the amount of time that it takes for a single web page to fully load.

It’s important that you don’t get page speed confused with site speed. Although they depend on one another, they are not altogether the same thing.

Again, page speed is how long it takes for an individual page to load. Site speed instead refers to the speed at which your site loads as users navigate through your pages.

How does site speed affect my business?

Having a website that has lower average page load times is detrimental to business because it not only decreases the website user experience (i.e. bounce rate), but it weakens your search engine optimization (SEO).

In other words, website visitors will spend less time on your website, are less likely to convert, and will ultimately go back to their original Google search to seek out a competitor.

How Website Performance Impacts Business Success

Although it is often overlooked, website performance – or, the combination of your site speed and page speed averages – is one of the most important factors to consider as you optimize your website for speed.

Imagine you have a beautiful and state-of-the-art website that features your products or services. Yet, when prospective customers want to do business with you, your website takes ages to load.

It’s the same kind of frustrating experience someone would have if they visited a physical store, but couldn’t get in because something was blocking the entrance.

What’s the bottom line? A too slow website is detrimental to conversions and ultimately sales, while faster than average page load times can improve sales overall.

Seriously: if someone is considering doing business with you, they will just leave your website in search of another company who can solve their issues. In these cases you don’t even get the valuable contact information you need–they aren’t even considered ‘landed’ users!

Worse yet, slower than average page load times damage the website user’s perception of your business and your brand.

That’s why when you optimize your website for speed, you get a few immediate benefits, including increased conversion rates, a better user experience for your loyal audience, a positive business image, and better SEO rankings.

Increased conversion rate

Websites that load quickly and have fast site speed will ultimately receive more traffic and thus have better conversion rates. Kissmetrics has done extensive research on how loading time affects your bottom line, but when it comes to conversions, it’s all about website speed!

We also do a full breakdown of how increased website speed directly impacts conversions here.

Better user experience

Having short page load times and enhanced response times provide a greater customer experience.

If a website user is able to quickly navigate through the information and make an informed decision faster, they are more likely to complete the purchase. You’ll quickly discover that conversions, engagement, and reviews take on a more positive tone.

The idea here is that when you have fast load times, customers are primed to make positive decisions about your website, services, and products.

Improves business image

A fast-loading website shows that you are up-to-date with modern technology and trends, which gives a good image of your business to new and existing customers. Think of a fast average page load time as a cozy welcome mat.

On the contrary, a clunky website that takes forever to load is like a hideous ghost haunting your doorstep: it gives the impression that you aren’t to be trusted, and that the information contained on the website is outdated and not worth spending time on.

Higher ranking in search engines

A faster website adheres to SEO best practices that get you ranked higher. This ultimately increases your SEO visibility, and gives customers a clearer pathway to your products and landing pages.

For example, Google emphasizes efficient site speed and faster than average page load times and rewards businesses when ranking them for a given set of search queries.

How? By determining your First Contentful Paint (FCP) score.

What is a FCP score?

Your site’s First Contentful Paint (FCP) score is the metric that measures the time it takes for a page to load, from when the page starts to load to when any part of the page’s content appears or is rendered on the screen.

The main benefit of a great FCP score is that you can decrease bounce rates while improving conversion rates. You also get to make a better brand impression, while improving website reliability.

At this point, you’re probably asking how to speed up a website.

That’s where we come in!

We’ve optimized website speeds for almost 100 different companies, so believe us when we say we know what we’re doing when it comes to website speed optimization.

We’re talking video optimization and compression, content delivery networks, and page redirects…but if you want to skip the technical stuff and get straight into the action, we’re always up to get your website performing at its best.

Schedule a Consultation

Otherwise, here are the 10 simple steps we use to deliver website speed optimization to our web host management services

10 Easy Steps to Website Speed Optimization

Now that you know why you should speed up your website, it’s time to learn how to speed up a website.

We call this website optimization and it may sound like a time-consuming process, but in fact you can complete these optimizations in four simple steps–even if you don’t have a lot of technical experience.

Now, depending on whether you run your own website, or if you have a developer or designer doing this for you, you may want to share this article with another person on your team.

Whatever the case may be, here is our take on how to speed up a website based on our tried and true methods to shorten average page load times and optimize website performance:

  1. Optimize Images and Video
  2. Use a Content Delivery Network
  3. Enable Text Compression
  4. Reduce Redirects
  5. Load Fonts Locally
  6. Enable CSS Delivery 
  7. Use Proper Heading Caches
  8. Move to a Super-fast Host
  9. Defer Javascript
  10. Disable plugins for certain pages

How to Speed Up a Website

1. Optimize Images and Video

Images and graphics increase user interactions and interests, but they also slow down your website.

The more images and videos there are on your website, the longer website visitors will have to wait for your website to load. If they wait too long, they’re going to bail.

However, with these quick tips, you don’t have to compromise speed for high-quality image and video content on your website:

  • Select the right format:
    If you have images that do not require modification before uploading on your website, use JPGs. PNG format is beneficial for images with logos, illustrations, and texts. Some image formats like AVIF and WEBP require modern browsers to view and extra QA to improve compatibility, but web host managers like us can often enable this type of file format and increase usability as well. If you have more questions about selecting the right format, check out our recent article on increasing website conversions, or schedule a consultation to learn more.
  • Ensure files aren’t too big for your browser:
    Make sure that your images are sized according to the browser’s capabilities. In addition, make sure that they can be easily opened across different devices through dedicated quality assurance and testing.
  • Compress all existing images and videos:
    If you do not regularly compress files, it’s time to go through and do that for the images and videos on your site. This ensures you don’t lose the quality of your images and videos, and don’t sacrifice load speeds either. With video files for example, you don’t want to use huge video backgrounds at the top of your page, and can often deploy static images (that only move when users hover over them. For images, you can refer to the file format choices above, or double-check this article for further suggestions and breakdowns.

2. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Content delivery networks (CDNs) are a group of servers distributed geographically to facilitate fast content delivery online. They are designed to host and deliver copies of your WordPress site’s static and dynamic content to the server closest to the computer of your visitor.

Not only do CDNs boost performance, lower spending costs, and provide SEO advantages, but they also help improve your site’s compatibility within a global market. This article from our blog talks more about Content Delivery Networks–so if you’re unfamiliar with this type of system, we recommend reading.

3. Enable Text Compression

One effective way to speed up WordPress is to utilize text compression–a feature which is normally already enabled by your chosen web host manager or provider.

So for example, our website uses WordPress, and so we rely on GZIP. GZIP compression is a technology that compresses data files before it is sent to users’ browsers. This reduces the file download time, which makes your website faster.

Using GZIP compression also allows you to efficiently transfer data, boost page load times, and reduce the load on your website hosting, which makes it an essential step towards improving your website speed and performance.

4. Reduce redirects

When you move or delete something on your website, you want your visitors to arrive at a new location, not the old one. A redirect is a function that automatically sends your website visitors to the new location.

A redirect is therefore what occurs when someone inadvertently lands on a page that is no longer live, and is redirected to the newer version. A redirect happens automatically, and reduces the number of users who see an error page.

All that known, sending your visitors to the right page also slows down average page load times. We do talk about several ways to reduce redirects in Free Strategies to Increase Web Conversions if you want to learn more, but for now you can…

…remove plugins you no longer need to avoid unnecessary redirects (to live pages)

…avoid linking pages with redirects on them (this can cause further redirects and just frustrates your customer while increasing load time)

…regularly scan your website for active redirects.

5. Load Fonts Locally

Most people will use fonts from Google, which is fine, but when you pull from a popular online server, you have to wait until your fonts pull their request from that server before you receive the full page load.

Our advice is to download your fonts and install them on wordpress, which will then deliver them through your CDN. People also use fontawesome.com for similar features, since downloading these fonts will not result in calls to any external domain.

6. Enable and Optimize CSS Delivery

We won’t dig into optimization of CSS here since it does get pretty technical (which is why we offer the service to our clients by consultation), but this is a process that does increase the speed of your website by a mile. There are plugins that help you do this as well, but we always recommend a professional for the best results.

7. Use Proper Heading Caches

When you use proper header caching policies with your team, your website will get faster. That’s because they often tell you when any static images (you cache) exceed their limits. It also sets an expiry on caching you use, saving files for up to a week (or more) to promote fast load times for repeat visitors.

8. Move to a Super-fast Host

Websites with super-fast average page load times are often a little more expensive, but its worth it for the speed! The idea here is that budget hosts usually operate with fewer servers, which means slower connection to your server host during page requests.

What ends up happening is that your content will load, but its a while longer before your server has even acknowledged that there’s a visitor waiting to get into your site at all!

9. Defer Javascript

You may need a professional here, but when you defer Javascript, you prevent the blocks that may cause a user’s page to load slowly. You can also use Javascript to add delays to some of your video or static content, giving it a command to load 5 seconds after the page comes up so that you increase the average page load speed overall.

In this case you’re deferring the activity of certain code, which helps you pick and choose which actions you believe customers will need in the first seconds they visit. For example, you can defer chatbox load to increase website load speeds.

10. Disable plugins for certain pages

In our experience, there are certain plugins that are bound to slow down your page straight out the gate. However, plugins like woocommerce and learndash are equally important to a lot of what today’s businesses are trying to accomplish online.

So what can you do? Disable certain functions per page to increase website speed!

For example, you can disable social sharing plugins on all your pages but your blog, or opt for gravity forms over contact 7 form plugins. You should check in on slider plugins and other course or payment plugins to determine their necessity on each page, and remove them for slow-loading web pages.

What else can I do to increase website speed for my business site?

Your website host should give you a ton of resources on alternative options, but they’re not always easy to find! Plus if you’re not exactly schooled in website design and development, it can be hard to get started with website speed optimization.

Read through the other options we give our web host clients below, and if you decide you want us to do the dirty work, we’re right here to lend a helping hand.

4 more tips to increase website speed
  • Opt to use a great DNS management service like Amazon Route 53, which can save you critical time during page load.
  • Use products that rely on great servers. For example we use Google’s EC 2 servers, which are the best in the world.
  • Use the latest version of a stable PHP – often times the newer version scan 3x the speed of the previous version!
  • Use professional grade firewalls like CloudFlare Enterprise, who offer granular controls. By blocking bots and other spammer tools, you reduce requests on your website so it performs faster.

Top 3 Rookie Mistakes that Kill Website Speed Performance

Noting of course there are a ton of things you CAN do to increase website speed performance, there are also a ton of things you SHOULDN’T do when trying to optimize your website.

For instance, when business owners come to us for help with their websites, they don’t realize that a lot of their technical problems are based on design aesthetics.

While they’ve agonized over every single color, font, and design, they may have made choices that adversely affected their website’s performance.

That’s why when you’re running an eCommerce business or an agency online, you want to ensure that your website performs its best on all fronts – from site speed to design to functionality.

To help, here are some common mistakes that new and experienced business owners make that increase average page load times and decrease sales. They’re often called ‘the silent killers, since they affect website speed without you knowing it!

1. Use too many, or outdated plugins and themes

There is no doubt that plugins provide great insights and add functionality to your website for both the user and you, but it comes at a cost.

Running plugins on your website requires resources, and for those resources to run, they need more time to load.

We suggest committing to regular scans so you can keep an eye on plugins you no longer need, to speed up WordPress and other websites.

For example, we work hard to disable plugins when not necessary and always optimize for the latest version of our clients’ websites when they switch over from their original hosting service.

2. Choose the wrong hosting service

Business owners often underestimate the importance of choosing the right hosting service when learning how to speed up a website.

The right web host allows your site to run smoothly and efficiently, providing ease of browsing to your website visitors.

If you are using a shared hosting service, this could ultimately slow down as users are distributed on that service.

On the other hand, if you have dedicated hosting, you won’t have to share with anyone else, and that allows your users to reach your website faster than those who have shared hosting.

Say for example you are using a GoDaddy domain (like we do). Ideally this points to the named servers inside of our existing hosting platform, but because of the shared server issue load times can be problematic.

To solve that problem, we simply use Amazon Root53 and Google Cloud Platform EC2 to reduce server checks–in fact this is how we manage the named servers for all our clients while delivering incredible site loading times.

3. Mobile unfriendliness

Internet users are connected through many devices, and your website should be optimized for them all. If your website is mobile-friendly, those on tablets and mobile phones can access and navigate your website easily.

With mobile site visits on the rise, it’s truly imperative that you improve mobile speed too!

When you start seeking out methods on how to speed up your website’s mobile site pages, consider the following steps:

  • Choose a mobile-responsive theme or template
  • Change button size and placement for mobile use
  • Use a large and readable font
  • Eliminate pop-ups
  • Test regularly

Website Speed Testing – How to Identify Speed Problems

As you perform website speed optimization steps on your website, you should perform a website speed test as you go.

A website speed test indicates how to speed up a website by analyzing and locating flaws within your website that could hinder you from achieving faster than average page load times.

The following is a checklist you would want to complete BEFORE you run your website speed test:

  • Check speed test location: being close to your data center is important because it affects the website loading speed. Therefore, it is important to be connected to CDN, so your website can load faster and you can conduct a proper test using important tools like GTMetrix–which we use here at The Digital Navigator to test from different areas.
  • Run multiple tests: running multiple tests allows you to properly evaluate your website speed and diagnose more problems. This will allow you to work on your website issues and ensure that it is fully optimized for speed.
  • Using speed testing tools: there are various testing tools available online but you must choose the right to run tests effectively. For instance, Google Page Insights can be used to speed up a website, whereas Pingdom can be used to speed up WordPress–though we do caution that Pingdom can also have a problematic effect on server speed times.

How fast should a website load?

The faster, the better.

While the average page load times we see industry-wide are about 1.8 seconds (47% of users expect desktop sites to load in 2 seconds or less), we recommend under one second for simple websites, and about 1.5 seconds or less for websites with advanced functionalities or designs.

Anything longer than three seconds is considered a truly bad load time for each page, or even as an average page load time. According to Kissmetrics, 40% of polled internet users reported abandoning a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

Final Thoughts: Website Speed is an Important Factor in Getting More Sales

Every company needs its website to deliver an excellent user experience, no matter their industry.

Buyers in today’s market are expecting gratification in an instant, so you should utilize proper website speed optimization tactics so that your website loads fast and smoothly.

Google began utilizing site speed as a ranking indicator in their algorithm in 2010, and it is still one of the many criteria that influence where your website appears in the search results today.

Now that you’ve learned more about how to speed up a website, don’t make the mistake of overlooking your website’s performance. Having a great product or service might never be seen by your market and/or your visitors will leave you if your website’s technical performance is lacking.

Customers want your pages to load quickly, and if you don’t satisfy their expectations, they’ll be less likely to return. When it comes to online competitiveness, every fraction of a second counts, therefore it’s critical to start your website speed optimization journey ASAP.

Good luck!

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