How To Speed Up Your Website – No Matter Which CMS

How To Speed Up Your Website - No Matter Which CMS

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.

Why Your Website’s Speed Matters

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.

Factors Affected By A Slow Loading Page

A slow website will do a lot more than just frustrate your visitors. A slow website can hurt your business in the following ways:

  • SEO ranking – The Google algorithm was built to rank web pages based on their overall quality, both in terms of the quality of the content on the page as well as their technical quality. They use a variety of different factors to determine SEO rankings, one of which happens to be site speed. Not only is website speed one of the signals used to determine a page ranking, but slow load times hinder the ability of search engines to crawl your website. This could affect your indexation negatively. Of course, the lower your ranking is, the less exposure your site will have on Google’s SERP (search engine results page).
  • User experience – You want your visitors to be able to navigate your website with ease. They’ll become frustrated as they attempt to explore your content if your site is slow. Even if it’s just a little slow, if it’s enough to notice, it will hurt your user experience. You don’t want visitors to be distracted by technical issues, you want them to be focused on the content that you’ve provided. A slow website can hinder their ability to even reach the content that they’re looking for.
  • ROI – When you allocate resources to your marketing strategy, you do so with the hopes of obtaining a high ROI (return on investment). When visitors leave your site or decide not to return to your site as a result of slow loading pages, it hurts your ROI. A technical issue is costing you, potential customers.
  • Overall conversion rate – You have no chance of converting leads who leave your site almost immediately as a result of low website speed. However, it can also hurt your ability to convert leads who were actually interested in your brand and who may have spent some time engaging with your brand, whether on social media or on your site. For example, they may decide not to return because they were just too frustrated with your website. Or maybe they attempted to fill out a form, but your page was taking so long to load that they gave up. These missed opportunities will hurt your overall conversion rate significantly.
  • Your brand image – Those who even remember your brand after abandoning your website due to slow loading speeds won’t have a great impression of your brand. If you can’t be bothered to provide customers with a usable website, then what does that say about how much you care about their overall customer experience? If your website is of poor quality, how will you convince them that your product is of high quality — especially if you’re selling a software product or service?

Why You Can Optimize Regardless Of CMS

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.

How To Tell If Your Website’s Speed Needs Improvement

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.

Test The Speed Of Your Site

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.

  • PageSpeed Insights – PageSpeed Insights is a free Google developed tool that’s incredibly easy to use. All you have to do is type (or paste) the URL of the page you want to test into the search bar. It will then run a speed test and provide an overall score of 1 to 100. Anything from 90 to 100 is considered good. A score from 50 to 89 is considered average and should be improved. Anything less than 50 is bad and it means you have some serious issues to address. PageSpeed Insights also provides lab data (such as Speed Index times and Time to Interactive times) as well as a list of opportunities to improve your speed (such as eliminating render-blocking resources, removing unused CSS, or deferring offscreen images, to name a few examples).
  • Pingdom – Pingdom is similar to Google’s tool. Simply type in the URL and it will judge the speed of the page from your test area (such as North America). It will provide you with both a number (1 to 100) and letter grade along with some basic information, such as page size, number of requests, and exact load time. It will also provide a breakdown of your page’s content type and size, and requests. You’ll receive grades for a number of factors (such as Avoid URL redirects or Reduce DNS lookups), while at the same time receiving insight into how you can improve your webpage speed.
  • Yslow – Yslow. can be downloaded as a browser extension. It will grade your page, provide recommendations on how to improve your page speed, summarize the components of each page, and display insightful statistics about each page.

What Is A Good Load Time?

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.

How Website Speed Optimization Influences Conversions

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.

A. Start With How You Serve Your Site

The following are a few simple things that you can do to improve site speed by the way you serve your site:

1. Enable Browser Caching

By enabling browser caching, the static files of your site (which include HTML documents, images, media files, JavaScript files, and CSS files) are stored on the user’s browser in a cache (which is a temporary storage) when they visit your website. When the user returns to your site, their browser will be able to retrieve those files quickly from the cache, enabling the site to load faster. If you don’t enable browser caching, the browser will have to send an HTTP request  for each file every time the user returns to your website. This can slow down even further if there are more requests being made to your server at the same time.

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.

2. Enable HTTP Keep-Alive

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.

3. Make Your Landing Page Redirects Cacheable

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.

4. Enable Gzip Compression

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.

B. Work On Your Content

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:

1. Reduce Redirects

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.

2. Minify Javascript And CSS Files

The more JavaScript and CSS files that you have on your site, the more HTTP requests will be made by visitors wanting access. Each JavaScript and CSS file is treated individually by visitor browsers, and all of those HTTP requests are certain to slow down your webpages. You can address this issue by minifying (or minimizing) your JavaScript and CSS files. This will place all of your JavaScript files into one single JavaScript file and all of your CSS files into one single CSS file. Then a visitor’s browser will only need to make a single request to gain access to either your site’s JavaScript files or CSS files. By reducing the number of HTTP requests made for your JavaScript and CSS files, you should be able to improve your page load speeds significantly.

There are plenty of tools available that will allow you to minify your JavaScript and CSS files. If you have a WordPress site, consider using the BWP Minify plugin. The WillPeavy plugin is also effective and is both free and user-friendly.

3. Avoid Bad Requests

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.

4. Reduce DNS Lookups

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:

  • Use a faster DNS provider – Like your website host, who you choose as your DNS provider can affect your site speed. Free DNS tend to much slower. If you have the resources, paying for a premium DNS provider is worth it since it will reduce the time it takes to perform DNS lookups.
  • Reduce your number of domains – DNS lookups involves mapping hostnames to an IP, so if you have a lot of hostnames, it will result in a lot of requests. You can address this issue by removing requests that query different hostnames.
  • Use a CDN – Moving as many resources as you can to a CDN (content delivery network) will help reduce the number of DNS lookups involved.
  • Use DNS prefetching – DNS prefetching allows browsers to perform DNS lookups on a webpage in the background. You can implement DNS prefetching by entering DNS prefetch code to the header of your WordPress site. However, some browsers do not support DNS prefetching, including iOS Safari, Android Browser, and Opera Mini.

5. Limit Social Buttons

Adding social buttons to your website is a good practice — to an extent. You want to make it easy for visitors to check out your social pages and to share your content with just a click of a button; however, adding too many social buttons will slow your site down. This is because the majority of social buttons use JavaScript. It’s also important to note that if a social network experiences an outage, it will impact the speed of any site that has installed their share buttons.

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.

6. Implement File Header Expiration Date

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.

7. Change Your Website Theme

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.

C. Look At Your JavaScript, CSS & Images

Odds are your website is using some combination of JavaScript, CSS, and image files. There are several ways that you can optimize these elements to help reduce loading times.

1. Optimize Your Images

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:

Specify Image Dimensions

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.

Maintain Compression

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!

2. Put CSS at the Top and JS at the Bottom

Because browsers will not render a webpage completely before rendering any CSS files on that page, you should place your CSS files at the top of your page. Any JavaScript files present on your page should be placed at the bottom if possible. If you place your JavaScript files at the top, the browser will load them first. This is an issue because the browser cannot load JavaScript at the same time as any markup, images, or text, which means that the user will see a blank page while your JavaScript files load.

3. Remove Any Unnecessary Plugins

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.

4. Reduce External Scripts

When you add external JavaScript scripts (such as pop-up boxes, social media boxes, analytics tools, external fonts, and more) to your website, it will result in additional HTTP requests whenever a page loads and slow down your site. Obviously, some of these external scripts can be very beneficial; however, you’ll want to reduce external scripts when possible. You can test the external scripts you’re using to determine if they are slowing down your website by using one of the speed test tools. If they’re slowing your pages down significantly, you may want to remove them.

5. Disable Hotlinking

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.

D. Review Your Hosting Package

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.

Upgrade Your Plan

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.

Assess Your Server

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.

Dedicated or Shared

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.

Consider a Major Cloud Player

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.

Focus on More Than Just Price & Storage

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.

Consider Using a Content Display Network

A CDN consists of multiple servers around the world that will host the static files on your website. CDNs help improve website performance because they deliver those files using whichever of their servers is closest to the user who requested them. Basically, your website will become faster and you’ll eliminate latency by allowing visitors to access your cache instead of requiring them to request files from your server. You can store all types of files on a CDN, including images, videos, CSS files, JavaScript files, and more.

Other Tips and Tricks

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.

Use Lazy Load to Prioritize Visual Area

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.

Consider Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

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.

Fix Broken Links

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.

However, broken links in JavaScript, CSS and image URLs will affect the speed of your website. Take for example a broken link in an image source file. This can occur if the URL is wrong. When this happens, the broken link will create a wasted response from an HTTP request, resulting in a slower website speed. The speed is affected because the user’s browser will attempt to download the image even though it’s not available, resulting in your webpage wasting time attempting to download the image.

Broken links in your JavaScript source URL will have an even bigger negative effect. Not only will your download time be increased while the browser attempts to interpret the JavaScript, but it will result in bad script interactions as well. For example, if the user’s browser is trying to load a 404 page instead of JavaScript, then all other downloads will pause until the 404 page is completely loaded.

There are several tools that can scan your website for broken links. For example, WordPress provides its users with a free Broken Link Checker.

Remove Internal Redirects

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.

Improve Your User Experience by Optimizing Your Website Speed

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!