Imagine you visit a website to shop online, and the website takes a long time to load. How would you feel? Are you patient enough to look at the “loading” sign? Or will you close the tab or press the “Back” button? In most cases, people tend to leave the website that loads slowly. Remember, 47% of consumers expect websites to load in two seconds or less, and 40% will abandon a page that takes three or more seconds. This means that if your site takes more than three seconds to load, you lose almost half of your visitors before they even arrive on your site. That alone is a huge blow to your potential conversions. And for the visitors that decide to stick around, your slow load times can deter them from returning in the future.
This clearly means that a slow website doesn’t work, and you need to speed up your website for amazing results.
How Your Website Speed Influences Visibility
Now that Google takes speed into consideration when ranking sites, your load times can also influence how easily users can find you in the first place. This is especially true now that it is rolling out its mobile-first index. As of December 2017, the search engine has started ranking all search results based on the mobile versions of pages. Mobile searches outnumbered desktop searches for the first time in 2015, and its share of overall search only continues to grow. This means that it’s in Google’s best interest to cater its search results to mobile users. They don’t want to direct their users to sites that won’t load or function well on their devices. As a result, mobile user experience will now play a major role in search rankings, even in desktop search results.
Now, pages are indexed and ranked based on the experience they provide mobile users. So if you want to maintain (or improve) your rankings and visibility, it’s essential to know how to reduce the loading time of your business website. You must have a site that provides quick, easy user experience, on any browser or screen size.
And this isn’t as difficult or complex as you may think. There are tons of factors that influence how long each page on your site takes to load, so there are many different tricks to speed up your website. Here’s how you can speed up your website and help your business.
Change Your Website Theme
The theme of your website can also affect your website speed. No matter how good your server configuration is, if your website theme has a complex code, your website will load sluggishly. It’s not uncommon, especially in WordPress, to change nothing but your website’s theme, only to find there’s a big increase in page load time.
Therefore, consider changing your website theme and make performance one of the priorities when choosing a theme, instead of only looking at aesthetics. You can check the page speed of a particular theme’s demo with the help of one of the tools for testing website speed so you can see how quickly the theme runs.
Reduce External Scripts
Although you should certainly not eliminate all your external scripts, you should reduce them, as that will help you speed up your website. You can use Pingdom, for instance, to check which external scripts are taking the longest to load and, if they happen to be unnecessary, you can eliminate them. If you embed videos and other multimedia files from websites that happen to be slow, your website speed can be negatively affected. To improve your page load time, make sure you request external files only from fast and reliable websites. You may also want to consider limiting the number of external requests your website makes altogether.
Fix Broken Links
Minimize HTTP requests
According to Yahoo, 80% of a webpage’s load time is spent downloading the different parts of the page, like images, stylesheets, and scripts. An HTTP request is made for each one of these elements, so the more on-page components, the longer it takes for the page to render. The first step to minimizing your requests is to figure out how many your site currently makes, to use as a benchmark. If you use Google Chrome, you can use the browser’s Developer Tools to see how many HTTP requests your site makes. Right-click on the page you want to analyze, and click “Inspect,” then click the “Network” tab. (If you don’t see the “Network” tab, you may need to expand the Developer Tools sidebar by dragging the left border to the left.)
The “Name” column shows all of the files on the page, the “Size” column shows the size of each file, and the “Time” column shows how long it takes to load each file. In the bottom left corner, you’ll also see the number of total requests the site makes. Reducing this number of requests will speed up your site, look through your files and see if any are unnecessary. You may not notice anything immediately, but some of them are likely to prime candidates for combining, which we’ll get to in the next steps.
Choose the Right Hosting Option for Your Needs
Most new site owners choose the cheapest possible option for hosting. While this is often enough in the beginning, you’ll likely need to upgrade once you start getting more traffic. Don’t skimp on your host, get one that you can trust. There is a great set of reviews on the best web hosts here. When looking at hosting, you have three different options:
– Shared hosting
– VPS hosting
– Dedicated server
Shared hosting is the cheapest option and you can often get it for about five dollars per month. While it’s fine for low-traffic sites, shared hosting does struggle to keep up with traffic spikes and high-volume sites. And it is possible for your site to be impacted by traffic spikes from other sites using the same server as you. With shared hosting, you share certain resources like CPU, disk space, and RAM with other sites hosted on the same server. With VPS hosting, you still share a server with other sites, but you have your own dedicated portions of the server’s resources. This is a good in-between option. It protects your site from everyone else on your server without the cost required for dedicated hosting. When you live in an apartment, you share certain facilities like laundry rooms and parking lots and have access to the building’s maintenance team.
When you live in a condo, on the other hand, you don’t use common spaces, and you’re responsible for certain repairs and maintenance. There are also fewer residents in the building. You can look at dedicated hosting, then, as owning a home. You don’t share resources with anyone else, and you’re responsible for all maintenance. With a dedicated server, you have much more space – but you also have more work to do with configuration and technical setup. If you need tons of space and want complete control over your hosting, this is your best bet. As you may have guessed, though, it’s the most expensive option. you’re at a point where your traffic levels are slowing down your server response times, it may be time to switch from shared hosting to a VPS, or from a VPS to a dedicated server.
Upgrade Your Web Hosting Plan
Many people opt for cheap web hosting plans when they first create a blog or website, so they choose shared hosting. Over time, they provide more content and their websites grow, ultimately slowing down. If that is your case, the best choice would be to upgrade your web hosting plan. Upgrading your web hosting plan is the simplest and easiest way to improve the speed of your website. But make sure that you choose the best hosting company that will fulfill all your needs. If you have shared hosting, you should either move to a Virtual Private Servers (VPS) or a dedicated option. Either way, you will notice a significant difference in your website speed. Making a decision between the two options depends on your own business needs, so make sure you explore both of the options carefully and thoroughly.
Here’s just a quick note on both of them. VPS hosting is perhaps the best option to go for since it uses multiple servers for content distribution (sometimes even hundreds of servers). It is also a scalable solution and appeals most to small and medium businesses, as well as bloggers.
On the other hand, with dedicated servers, you get full control, since you get dedicated resources. You don’t have to share RAM, CPU, bandwidth or anything else since all of the resources are dedicated only to you. Also, the bandwidth limits are higher but, since you don’t have multiple computers, this hosting option is a lot less flexible. However, it is much more expensive than VPS hosting.
Enable Browser Caching
However, caching works for repeat visitors only, since, obviously, first-time visitors don’t have a cached and stored version of your website. Nevertheless, enabling full caching for your website can reduce your page load time from 2.4 to 0.9 seconds. This is due to the fact that there may be 30 or more different components that need to be stored in the user’s cache the first time they visit your website, but only a few components need to be downloaded for subsequent visits. Depending on the website platform you’re using, there are different ways to enable browser caching.
Expires Headers tell the browser whether a particular file needs to be requested from a server or from the browser’s cache. They also tell the browser how long it needs to store those files in the cache so that they’re not downloaded again during subsequent visits.
Enable HTTP Keep-Alive
When your web server receives an HTTP request from your website visitor’s browser, that is, when a visitor requests a certain file, the browser asks the server for permission to download the file. It does so for each and every file individually. This takes up a lot of bandwidth and memory, not to mention that it uses more processing power. Eventually, it causes a lot of load on your server and slows down your website. You can make your website faster by enabling HTTP Keep-Alive, which will create a single open connection for multiple file requests to your server, thus greatly speeding up your website. Simply put, the server tells the browser it can download multiple files at the same time, without putting too much load on the server. When the number of connections to your server is limited, a lot of bandwidth will be saved.
How to Test Your Website’s Speed?
1) PageSpeed Insights is Google’s free tool for testing your website speed and it is very easy to use. All you need to do is enter the URL of your website and the tool will analyze its content and generate suggestions on how to make your website faster.
2) Pingdom is also a very useful tool that not only tests your website speed but also reviews and grades your website’s performance. It also tracks your website’s performance history, so you can have insight into any potential changes regarding your website speed.
3) YSlow is a tool that tests your website speed and offers advice on how to improve it. It can also provide you with a Chrome extension for checking the speed of your website.
If you’re not getting as much traffic as you expect or if your visitors are not spending much time on your site, it’s time you should ask yourself one question that matters – how to speed up your website?
Speed affects all things that are important for your business, from page traffic to bounce rate, customer satisfaction to customer loyalty, and conversion to repeat purchase rate. In short, if you ignore website performance, your bottom-line will suffer. None of these changes requires a major overhaul of your small business website. Yet they can significantly improve your small business’s website speed. Even if you implement only a couple of these suggestions, you should see faster page load times.
Ali Salman is an online marketing strategist who have worked with Coca-Cola, Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito, KIA, Honda and other Fortune 500 companies. Ali Salman now heads Rapid Boost Marketing - Canada's fastest growing search marketing agency. RBM clients include Fortune 500's and medium size businesses across North America. Ali as RBM CMO leads his team in building and managing quality, high-performing and cost-effective interactive campaigns and programs for our company's customers and partners. In his career, he has significantly improved campaign performance for large brands such as Government of Alberta, Liberal Party, Workopolis, Cathay Pacific, as well as medium to large retailers and high-tech B2B-enterprise niches.
Ali and his team develop online promotional concepts that spark viral growth through search and social media for RBM clients, devising strategies that use search engines and more to reach key demographic segments in the ways they're most likely to be receptive. Ali Salman also oversees corporate marketing initiatives for Rapid Boost Marketing, including strategic communications counsel, public and analyst relations and client education programming.