How To Speed Up Your Website

Is your website slow?

An important part of building a good website is speed. A page that takes more than a few seconds to load is guaranteed to drop visitors. Dropped visitors means lost business. While your page is still trying to load, your potential customers have already given up and moved on to look for faster results. If you’re at all conscious of your online presence, you’ve probably already noticed your loading time and read a little bit about page speed. But where to start? That’s what I’m here for. I’m going to give you my favorite testing tools and advice on how to increase your page speed.

Tools For Testing Page Speed

User friendly speed checkers:

Website Grader by HubSpot – This is my favorite right now. It’s really simple, easy to use, and even keeps you entertained while you wait for it to finish evaluating your site. It provides enough insight to work with, but it doesn’t overwhelm you with technical terms. However, it won’t tell you the exact resources or urls that need to be optimized for speed. Instead, the “Read More” links will take you to informational articles on how to improve page speed.

SEO Analyzer by Niel Patel – Just as its name says, this tool is primarily an SEO analyzer. But, it will also check your speed and give you recommendations. It’s a little more specific than Website Grader but not as tech-heavy as the next set.

Tech advanced speed checkers:

GTmetrix – I like this one because it’s packed with useful settings. You can test from different locations, different browsers, and different connection types. This one is not just a little, but A LOT more tech-heavy. It will tell you what you need to know in minute detail … but it also gives you the most brutal page speed evaluation you will probably find anywhere. This one will convince you that your website sucks, in no uncertain terms. So, only use it if you’re looking for something specific or are looking to micro-optimize down the the milisecond.

PageSpeed Insights by Google – This one is good to keep in mind since it was made by Google. That’s important since Google is the top search engine and the most important contributor in SEO. (And yes, your page speed Definitely factors into your SEO. Read more about SEO in our article: 9 Things Your Website Needs For On-Page SEO) That being said, it’s not always the best speed evaluator. It often doesn’t pick up changes very quickly, and it doesn’t like to detect optimization for mobile. Use sparingly.

Things to keep in mind about tools to check page speed:

  • Check your page, make your changes … but don’t check again just yet. Give your changes some time to take effect and your tools some time to uncache info they may have stored for your website. All of the tools I’ve listed here cache information.
  • You will Never be able to get a perfect score in these tools. What you need to aim for is an A or B score. And don’t even worry about the Y-slow score that some of these tools will show you; you have to have almost nothing on your website to get a decent grade on that .. which is why most people no longer pay attention to it.
  • Javascript and query strings – You won’t be able to eliminate these completely. Whether you use plugins or insert code, just do the best you can. Focus more on image optimization and other caching.

How To Improve Page Loading Speed And Performance

So now that you know what’s wrong with your website, how do you fix it? Here are some tips for fixing your page speed and performance. Keep in mind, you will need access to your website files and certain things on your hosting. So, you will NOT be able to do most of these with a website builder.

1. Improve server response time:

It’s important to make sure your hosting can handle your website. It’ll load slowly if your hosting server can’t handle the processes fast enough. Check your resources at your hosting account to make sure that you’re not regularly hitting the limits. If you are, it’s time to upgrade. If you’re using WordPress, make sure you have hosting optimized for the specific needs of WordPress websites.

2. Use a CDN:

A CDN (Content Delivery Network) stores copies of your site on various servers in different locations. That means a visitor doesn’t have to wait for their request to get all the way back to your website’s server to get your page. They can load it from a server location much closer to them, saving precious time. There are many CDN providers out there to choose from, and you may have to try a few before you find one that works well with your hosting, SSL, etc.

3. Limit use of plugins:

If you’re using WordPress, your website is going to load separate files for each plugin you use. Limit the number of plugins you use on your website to improve speed. Fun fact: that Includes speed optimization plugins. So if you go that route, try to find one that pretty much does it all.

4. Optimize and compress images:

You’ll want high-quality images on your website. That often means using large images. These can usually still be compressed to reduce their file size for faster loading. You can find a lot of free resources for this online with a quick google search, such as TinyPNG. Optimize before uploading, and you’re good. Or, you can use a plugin for this too; I recommend WP Smush.

5. Combine and minify CSS & Javascript:

If you have a static website (not built on a CMS or website building platform), you will likely need to know how to combine your code manually or hire someone to do it. However, if you’re on WordPress you can use a plugin to do it for you, or some themes come with settings you can enable. Divi is a theme that has some automatic CSS & Javascript optimization settings. Some good plugins for these are WP Total Cache, WP Fastest Cache, and Autoptimize. I use Autoptimize regularly.

6. Enable browser and server caching:

Caching is where a version of your website is stored (cached) so that it doesn’t have to reload everything fresh every time it’s visited. I won’t get into the different types of caching involved on the user’s end and on the server end, but I will tell you that any good WordPress hosting comes with built-in caching. You can also use plugins for additional caching benefits. The same mentioned for CSS & Javascript are also good for caching, so you can kill two birds with one stone on this.

Things to keep in mind when optimizing for speed:

  • When using plugins to improve speed, make sure you aren’t using more than one plugin for the same thing. They’ll interfere with each other and can actually increase load time. Similarly, make sure you don’t have settings on your theme enabled that do the same things as your plugins, especially where CSS is concerned.
  • When combining and minimizing CSS, you can cause issues with the way your website displays online. If you optimize and then your website just looks like a bunch of text and images with no styling, you’ll have to do some troubleshooting. Many speed plugins have settings that allow you to exclude specific file types. If you’re not confident using those, consult a professional. When you use a theme that combines and minifies CSS & Javascript and a plugin that does the same, use the theme settings and not the plugin (unless the theme specifically says you can use both).
  • You will likely need to play around with settings and plugins and re-test several times before you get the fastest speed your website is capable of. That can be time consuming, but it’s well worth it for the SEO and conversion benefits.

Remember: The User Matters Most

When you’re improving website speed and performance, don’t get too hung up on all the small things. A query string here, a little javascript there, a fluctuating load time .. it’ll drive you crazy. What matters most is user experience. Are your visitors able to get your website loaded in a few seconds (preferably under 3)? If yes, then you’re fine. Get people you know to test it out for you, on their computers at home and on their phones while out and around. If they’re satisfied with the performance, you should be too.

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