When was the last time you measured your site speed? If you’ve never paid much attention to how quickly your site loads and moves from page to page, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity to delight customers, outdo competitors, and obtain higher SERP rankings.
It might seem like a small thing to increase your site speed by 1 or 2 seconds, but what if I told you that for each additional second of load delay, you could be getting up to 11% fewer page views?
What if I told you that for every second that you improve your speed, you could see a 2-3% increase in conversions on a monthly basis?
How about when Google itself experienced a 20% traffic drop when they added an extra half-second of load time?
Even more important, these stats all worsen when the activity is mobile instead of desktop–which a majority of your traffic probably is?
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How slow is my site?
Now that you understand the importance of increasing your speed, you need to analyze your site speed and determine what you’re dealing with. First, plug your URL into Pingdom’s Website Speed Test to get your load speed and a score. I In addition, try Google’s Pagespeed Insights Tool to analyze how Google will score your site’s speed and performance.
The hard truth is that your load speed should be 1.5 seconds or less. That would delight Google and your site visitors. With he average site speed at 7-10 seconds, this goal may seem difficult to achieve, but you can easily outdo your competition by improving your site speed by even 50%. By increasing your site speed to 3 seconds, your site will be faster than half of the world’s websites.
But, how do you achieve site speed enlightenment?
Minimize HTTP Requests
A majority of your load time is coming from all of the HTTP requests that your site requires. The more that your site is downloading different page components, scripts, images, stylesheets and other elements, the more HTTP requests you’re making. These HTTP requests are like the various plugged-in appliances and functions in your home that use up your home’s energy. The more you run these things, the more energy is used. Your website is the same way.
To know the number, you can inspect your home page this way:
- Right click on your home page
- Go to Inspect > Network Tab
- You can see each HTTP request by name, size, and time
From there, you can determine if there are any HTTP requests that are just unnecessary to the function of your site. This is the equivalent of unplugging your extra electronics to save on that energy bill.
Minify & Combine Files
- Minification of your website files is essentially the process of cutting down on excess formatting, white space, or bulky strings of code. Every unnecessary code string adds to page size, so this is a great way to make sure your site is quick. Think of this as losing weight so that you can run faster.
- Combination of your website files is the process of clumping certain things together so that they don’t require separate energy to load. Think of this as pushing your twins in one stroller instead of two. The weight of each twin is the same, but the total energy to push them is far less.
Choose an Asynchronous Approach to Load
So, you’ve minified and combined your files so that they’re as organized as possible. Now, you have an opportunity to better optimize the loading order and flow. Scripts for your website are either loaded synchronously (in a single file line), or asynchronously (in pairs, or clusters). By loading your files asynchronously, more can be loaded simultaneously, quickly, and with less energy output that causes load time delays.
Think of this as getting the kids ready for school. If each one had to be bathed, dressed, and fed separately, you’d have to start your morning at 3 AM. However, because one can be brushing teeth while another is finding socks, they’ll all get to the van much sooner. There’s no sense waiting on each file to load independently.
There are three primary ways for you to host your website: shared hosting, a Virtual Private Server (VPS), or a dedicated server.
Shared hosting is your usual GoDaddy and BlueHost type of deal. You pay a little monthly fee and your site is hosted for you, and you probably forget about it. It’s the cheapest option but CPU, disk space, and server energy is completely commoditized and shared between you and all the other website owners out there.
VPS hosting is the VIP experience version of shared hosting, often offered by the same companies. This host is a little more expensive, but your site shares fewer resources with the rest of the world.
A private server is the most boutique option wherein your website is hosted independently and keeps all the yummy resources to itself – for a price. With a private server, you don’t share any resources, but you also have to handle all the maintenance on the server, thus adopting added labor and risk. In spite of that, the more you upgrade your hosting, the faster your site will be.
Think of it this way:
- Shared Hosting: You’re a business owner. You can operate your business digitally from a coffee shop and share outlets, Wi-Fi juice, and one big, overflowing garbage can with everyone else. There’s a lot of friction between you and the work you need to do. But the price to be there is a cup of coffee.
- Virtuals Private Server: You can operate your business from a co-working space where the outlets and Wi-Fi are more pleasantly dispersed, but still shared. The garbage can still overflows. But it’s still not your problem, and the cost and friction are moderate.
- Dedicated Server: Finally, you can lease an office space for your business. The Wi-Fi and outlets are all yours. The garbage is your garbage, and the bathrooms – those are yours too. But you’re paying for it all–and cleaning the toilets. Still, there’s so much less friction between you and the work you need to do.
All your plugins are slowing you down. If you’re a big plugin fan and use them to run all of your site’s bells and whistles, take heed: not all plugin code was created equally (or well, for that matter). Many plugins were built by developers who don’t mind bulky code, and those types are really slowing your site down. Also worth noting, even a plugin you don’t use but which is still installed on your site (active or inactive) can slow down your load speeds and operation speeds. If you are someone who downloaded four slideshow plugins to find the easiest one to use, DELETE THE OTHERS RIGHT NOW. We’ll wait.
When stuff takes up a lot of space, it needs to be smashed down. Do you remember those infomercials for the vacuum seal bags that you could put your quilts and sweaters in, and then attach to a vacuum, and it would flatten all your puffy fabrics down to nothing? We’re about to vacuum bag your site’s clunky files. By reducing image sizes and other file sizes, cut down on PDFs, and generally slim down your stuff, they’ll download faster. The more media-heavy your website is, the more this will be necessary. If you’re a grandma with 34 quilts, you’ll need more vacuum seal bags, what can we say?
WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache are examples of WordPress plugins that enable GZip compression technology to make this possible without a huge manual all-nighter of vacuuming. If you’re not operating on WordPress, there are other software applications available for your CMS, too!
These steps are not the ONLY avenues for reducing your site’s load time but they are some of the best. There may be other unique precautions or reparative actions you can take that are specific to your needs. Generally, it is most important that you monitor your site speed, care about the load time of your site, and work with your trusty developer to slim it down. If you need help improving the health and well-being of your website, we’d be happy to help!