How to Increase Website Speed and Performance

How to Increase Website Speed and Performance

Increase Website Speed and Performance

Your website is up and running but it feels like it is taking forever to load. What are you going to do?

Do you wait for the webpage to load in its entirety or do you simply close the browser and move on with your life? Or are you getting worked up?

Page load time has a dramatic impact on user experience, conversion rates and on search engine optimisation.

No matter what the type of website you may have whether it is a blog, an e-commerce store, an online forum or an affiliate landing page.

It is in your best interest to provide the fastest site speed and performance possible. But how do you get that?

1 second delay in page oad time

A one-second delay in page load time yields:

  • 11% fewer page views
  • 16% decrease in customer satisfaction
  • 7% loss in conversions

A few extra seconds could have a huge impact on your ability to engage visitors and make sales.

For the visitors that decide to stick around your slow load times can deter them from returning in the future. In one survey, 79% of customers said they would not return to a site with poor performance.

how website performance affects shopping behaviour

In another study, the relationship between load times and conversion rates showed a 25% decrease in conversion rates with just one extra second of load time.

It is clear that putting in the effort to increase your site speed by one second could have a major impact on conversions.

Mobile Friendly Response

Mobile searches outnumbered desktop searches for the first time in 2015 and its share of overall search only continues to grow.

loading time impact on conversion

This means that it is in Google’s best interest to cater its search results to mobile users. They do not want to direct their users to sites that would not load or function well on their devices.

So if you want to improve your rankings and visibility, it is absolutely essential to know how to reduce loading time of website.

You must have a site that provides a quick and easy user experience on any browser or screen size.

Page load time and Bounce rate

Plus as page load time goes from one to ten seconds the probability of a mobile user bouncing increases by 123%.

load page time with bounce rate

Highlighted below are some ways that you can use to increase load times, improve performance and boost the user experience on your website.

When your site is hosted on one server, each user who visits it sends requests to that same server.

This means that when your site experiences high levels of traffic, the time it takes to process each request increases thus slowing down load times for all of them.

When you consider that high-traffic times present a ton of growth potential for your business, this is far from ideal.

It is faster for someone in Los Angeles to access to a server in San Francisco than it is for that same person to reach a server in London or even Chicago.

Best-Digital Marketing Service content delivery network -cdn

A CDN or Content Delivery Network can help you eliminate these issues. With a CDN  you cache your site on a global network of servers.

When a user’s browser requests files from your site that request is routed to the closest server.

The goal of a content delivery network or CDN is to improve website performance by picking a server that is closest to the end user.

CDN options

For example, let’s say your origin server is in California, but uses a CDN to host files globally. Your network might look something like this:

cdn to host files globally

The content that user receives is identical but can load much faster than it would if their browser were making requests to a server that was geographically far away.

This eliminates loading lags and latency issues that users located far from hosting servers sometimes experience. 

If you want to start using a CDN your best options are Max CDN and Cloudflare.

Max CDN is a full CDN that means that it only offers CDN services. They have more data centres and focus solely on improving load times.

On the other hand Cloudflare combines CDN service with security and optimisation features.

The one you choose depends on whether you want those extra features or just want to focus on improving speed and either way setting up is fairly a quick process.

Images can play a major role in your site speed. They are often very large files which can slow down page load times and removing them altogether is not an option.

One of the best ways to get your conversion rate to increase is to include lots of helpful product images. In one survey, 66% of consumers said they wanted to see at least three product photos before buying.

Part of this has to do with resolution and also with the level of image compression and other factors as well.

There is no real reason to upload and display a massive 20-megapixel photo if you are just going to resize and show it as a thumbnail that is only 200 pixels wide.

Images make up over 40% of the content on the page thus reducing their size could likely have a big impact on how long the page takes to load.

Images make up most of content on page

In one study shows that resizing 22MB of images down to 300KB has resulted in a 70% reduction in time to interact or the amount of time a user needs to wait before they can interact with a site.

reduction in time to interact

You do not need images that are several megabytes in size. Depending on circumstances, you can get away with 200 KB or less with no real discernible loss in quality for most users.

WordPress Website

If your site runs on WordPress, WP Smush is a great option.

Check the box next to Automatically smush my images on upload and all of your new images will be compressed without an extra work.

You can also use this plugin to automatically resize all of the new files you upload. Set a maximum width and height and any images that exceed them will be smushed.”

WP Smush

Minimise Your HTML, JavaScript and CSS

One of the first and easiest places for you to look in terms of improving page load times is by addressing unnecessary inefficiencies in your site’s code.

The best place to get started is with your HTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript (JS).

These are extremely important files since they determine your site’s appearance. It also adds to the number of requests your site makes every time a user visits it.

You can reduce this number by “minifying” and combining your files which reduces the size of each file and the total number of files.

This is especially important if you use a templated website builder. These make it easy to build a website but can create some messy codes that can slow your site considerably.

minimise html-css-javascript

Minifying a file involves removing unnecessary formatting, whitespace and code since this just adds to the size of your page.

By eliminating extra spaces, line breaks and indentation this will ensure that your pages are as lean as possible. If your site runs multiple CSS and JavaScript files you can combine them into one.

There are several ways to minify and combine files and if your site runs on WordPress there are free plugins like Autoptimize, Fast Velocity Minify and Merge + Minify + Refresh.

You can read and compare all 3 of these plugins here.

The Results

The results found during their tests were in line with our expectations. Each plugin delivered a small increase in performance but nothing out of the ordinary:

top WordPress minify plugins tested and compared

The top plugin turned out to be Fast Velocity Minify. It delivered the best results and also offered far more settings than its competitors which make it ideal for power users.

You will need to make a full website backup before you execute any of the above plugins.

The tool works by removing whitespace, stripping comments, combining files and optimises or shortens a few common programming patterns.

Recap

Below is a recap of the 3 WordPress minify plugins:

AutoptimizeAn easy-to-use plugin that delivers decent results.

Fast Velocity MinifyA tool offering solid optimization and multiple settings to help you customize your experience.

Merge + Minify + RefreshA simple plugin with decent optimization results and a handful of settings.

Once you have minified and combined your files you can also optimise the way that they load on your pages. Scripts like CSS and JavaScript can be loaded in two different ways: Synchronously or Asynchronously.

If your scripts load synchronously – they will load one at a time in the order they appear on the page.

Synchronous or Asynchronous loading

If your scripts load asynchronously – some of them will load simultaneously and this can speed up your pages.

This is because when a browser loads a page it moves from top to bottom whilst loading other elements on the page at the same time.

There are several ways to minify and combine files and if your site runs on WordPress, using a paid plugins like WP Rocket it makes the process fairly simple.

If you have this plugin installed, go the Static Files tab and check the options next to Render-blocking CSS/JS.

Defer JavaScript loading

Deferring a file means preventing it from loading until after other elements have loaded. If you defer larger files like JavaScript then this ensures that the rest of your content can load without a delay.

If you have a WordPress site you can use WP Rocket plugin as mentioned above to defer JavaScript loading. Simply tick the box next to Load JS files deferred and you are on your way.

Defer JavaScript loading

Click on Save Changes and test your site to make sure that everything loads correctly.

Reduce HTTP Requests

The simplest sites are going to be the ones that load the fastest. If you have a simple, plain HTML page with plain text and minimal images it will fairly quick to load.

If you have a dynamic page that calls upon a number of other factors and content types then you are going to get bogged down.

A HTTP request is made for each one of these elements so the more on page components you have the longer it takes for the page to render.

steps to minimise

The first step to minimising your requests is to figure out how many your site currently makes to use as a benchmark.

If you are using 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 analyse and click on Inspect then click on the Network tab.

Google Chrome developer tool

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 can see the number of total requests the site makes.

Reducing this number of requests will speed up your site by looking through your files and seeing if there are unnecessary files to remove.

You can dramatically increase the speed of your site by reducing the number of HTTP requests.

There is a free performance-oriented plugin for WordPress – WP Performance that optimises your site really easy.

While many site owners and bloggers might not understand what each of these settings or commands actually are.

The tool makes it extremely easy to check on or off which performance options you would like enabled.

Upgrade to Dedicated Hosting

Most starters and many veterans who are just starting out usually opt for shared hosting because it is usually the most cost-effective option.

What this means is that you are sharing resources server and bandwidth with other customers and you have no control over how they are using those resources.

Best-Digital Marekting Services - web hosting

When looking at hosting you have three different options:

  • Shared hosting
  • VPS hosting
  • Dedicated server

shared hosting

Shared hosting is the cheapest option and you can often get it for about £9.99 per month. While it is ok for low-traffic sites however it struggles to keep up with spiked traffic and high-volume sites.

Best-Digital Marketing Services - Shared hosting

And it is also impacted by traffic spikes from other sites using the same server as you since you share certain resources like CPU, disk space, bandwidth and RAM with other sites hosted on the same server.

Virtual Private server (VPS) Hosting

With Virtual Private Server (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 and it protects your site from everyone else on your server without the cost required for dedicated hosting.

Best-Digital Marketing Services - VPS hosting

If another website on the same server suddenly sees a monumental spike in traffic, the site speed and performance of your website will suffer. There are still many variables outside of your control.

dedicated server hosting

To overcome this you might consider getting an advanced dedicated server. They have managed and unmanaged solutions but the long and the short of it is that you get a server all to yourself.

Best-Digital Marketing Services - Dedicated hosting

If you need tons of space and want complete control over your hosting then dedicated hosting is your best bet and the most expensive option.

If 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.

That means faster speed especially when you opt for dedicated servers with better hardware too. 

Enable browser caching

When you first visit a website the elements on the page you visit are stored on your hard drive in a cache or temporary storage.

This means that the next time you visit the site your browser can load the page without having to send another HTTP request to the server.

Once the page has been loaded and the different components stored in the user’s cache, only a few components needs to be downloaded for subsequent visits.

The way you set up caching depends on whether you run your site with WordPress or static HTML.

You can increase your website speed in WordPress with W3 Total Cache but make sure that you uninstall all other caching plugins (for example WP Super Cache). If you do not do this prior to installing the plugin will have issues upon activation.

WordPress Website

If you run a WordPress site you can use a plugin like W3 Total Cache to easily enable caching. Once you have installed it navigate to Page Cache under General Settings and tick the box next to Enable.

W3 Total Cache -caching

For shared hosting which most beginners use – the Disk:Enhanced method is highly recommended and save all settings.

Page Cache

This simple step on its own should give you a boost in site performance but there is more you can do to improve your results with the plugin.

Enabling browser caching lets you store a cached version of your site in a visitor’s browser. This means that when a user returns to your site it will load faster.

You can enable this option by navigating to General Settings > Browser Cache and ticking the box next to Enable and save all settings.

which server?

If you use a VPS or dedicated server you can also enable object caching to speed up dynamic elements on your site. This feature is also under your General Settings.

If you are using a shared server then it is best to leave this option disabled. Object caching is a resource-intensive process and can end up slowing down your site.

Once you have done that then let’s visit the Performance > Browser Cache page for more settings and complete the following:

Browse Cache

You can see from the image above we have enabled everything except for the 404.

When you save the settings, all settings above on that page will automatically take care of itself and these are the default settings that we turn on.

Once you have configured your settings you should see improvements in your load times immediately.

W3 Total Cache claims that its users have seen 10x improvements in Google Page Speed results and up to 80% in bandwidth savings after fully configuring the plugin.

Enabling above the fold content (Lazy Loading)

When someone arrives at a webpage usually the entirety of that webpage will try to load. Some elements can load simultaneously while others must load sequentially.

Depending on how the site is designed and laid out. Users may experience really long loading times due to elements that they cannot see or may not ever see.

You can improve user experience by having your above the fold which top of the page section load faster. Then even if the rest of the page takes a few seconds longer to load – this will not cause any issues.

This is called lazy loading and is particularly helpful for pages with lots of content and images below the fold blog posts etc.

above the fold content

With lazy loading usually the contents load first then followed by all of those photos after. In this way the user does not have to wait to access the page and the images will load as they come into view.

And if you run your site on WordPress, enabling it is as easy as installing a plugin. There are numerous options you can use to start using lazy loading on your site.

Lazy Load

Lazy Load is an extremely simple plugin that uses jQuery.sonar to only load images when they are visible in a user’s browser.

USAGE

  1. Install and activate the plugin
  2. Open WordPress Settings menu
  3. Click on a3 Lazy Load menu
  4. Turn ON Lazy Load and all preferred settings
  5. Save Changes and enjoy the improved performance Lazy Load will give your site
Lazy load screen screenschot 1

All you need to do is install and activate it and choose which elements you want to lazy load by individually clicking on each plus (+) and activating the respective elements.

Lazy load screen screenschot 2

When lazy loading is enabled elements on a webpage are loaded on an as-needed basis. In this way items further down the page do not get loaded until the user scrolls down there. 

Reduce server response time

The biggest factors in how quickly your page loads is the amount of time your Domain Name Server (DNS) lookup takes.

A DNS is a server with a database of IP addresses and their associated hostnames.

When a user types a URL into their browser the DNS server then translates that URL into the IP address that indicates its location online.

reduce server load time
DNS Lookup

A DNS lookup is the process of a finding a specific DNS record. You can think of it as your computer looking up a number in a phone book.

Your ISP will perform a DNS lookup to find the IP address associated with that URL.

DNS lookup & internet traffic

The amount of time it takes depends on how fast your DNS provider is or it may be time to switch to a faster DNS provider.

You can check out the appropriate  DNS speed comparison report  which is updated monthly to get an idea of where your provider stacks up and see which providers offer higher speeds.

If you are using a slow DNS it may be time to switch to a faster DNS provider to speed up the process.

Reduce Redirects

Redirects are necessary when you delete or move pages and also the best way to eliminate issues with broken links.

However having too many redirects can create additional HTTP requests which can have a negative impact on speed especially on mobile devices.

Therefore it is best to keep them to a minimum. In fact, Google says that site owners must eliminate them entirely and quotes we must deliver and render the above the fold (ATF) content in less than one second, which allows the user to begin interacting with the page as soon as possible.”

This is not realistic for most site owners who have ever eliminated or restructured their content however there is room for improvement.

You can use Screaming Frog to identify all of the redirects currently on your site. Run a site scan then sort by the Status Code column to see all of the 301 redirects on your site.

screaming frog status code

You can look through these redirects to see what they are accomplishing and make sure that they serve a necessary purpose.

You can also use this opportunity to identify redirects chains, or redirects that point to other redirected pages. This creates unnecessary extra requests, which can slow down your load times.

Monitor your speed over time

As you improve your site speed it is a good idea to monitor how it changes over time. This is important even after you have achieved an acceptable page load time.

There are tons of factors that affect your site’s speed and it can change at any time.

Monitoring your load times on a regular basis can help you catch any issues early on and keep your site in good shape.

How to perform a website speed test

There are many tools you can do to accomplish this. There are a few free website speed test monitoring tools one can use – Pingdom or Up Trends or GT Metrix.

Pingdom
Uptrends
GT metrix

website page speed test

Simply enter your URL then select where you want to test your site from.

If you do not have a location preference you can leave this at the default and this lets you test your site from various locations.

You will see a summary of your page’s load time and performance including the page size, number of requests and how it stacks up against other tested sites.

page load time & performance

This information gives you a glance to look at your site speed’s health and tracking it over time is an easy way to monitor improvements or decreases in performance.

You will also see a list of suggestions to improve your site’s performance and this will help you identify the issues that are causing it.

Reduce the number of plugins you use on your site

So far plugins can do a lot to improve your WordPress site like adding custom functionality, clean up your code and improve user experience and more.

They also eliminate the need to mess with a lot of code which makes it user friendly experience when working on your site and easy to install

It is easy to continue adding and installing plugins without considering the potential downside.

They can slow your site, create security issues and even cause crashes and other technical difficulties.

Maintenence and updates

Keeping up with maintenance and updates can be tedious when there are a lot of plugins involved.

It is always a good idea to evaluate the ones you have installed on a regular basis.

This is to check if they are outdated, inefficient or incorrectly configured to reduce negative impact on your site speed.

Deactivating and deleting those which are unnecessary can improve your overall speed and make maintenance easier.

reduce number of plugin
Evaluate plugin process

There is only one way you can evaluate the plugins on your site and weed out any that slow your site speed.

Individually selecting and disabling each plugins then measure your site’s performance. 

This can be a tedious and long process if you have a lot of plugins however it will show you the difference each one makes.

Run a speed test with all of your plugins enabled. You can do this with tools like GTmetrix, Pingdom or Up Trends site speed tool.

Then experiment by deactivating your plugins one at a time and re-testing your speed.

GT Metrix page speed test

Make a note of your page load times after each test and which plugins you deactivated to achieve faster speeds. Remember if you have a lot of plugins this could take a while.

Conclusion

It is a challenge to get your page load speed to where you want it to be but it will have a great positive impact on your overall site performance.

It is important to remember that all of the tips on this page can help you achieve your site speed goals you do not need to implement all of them in one day.

Spend some time looking through your site’s speed test results and look for the issues that have the greatest impact on your load times.

Focus on those high impact factors and take the necessary steps to get them into shape.

SEO Services

You can contact our skilled SEO professionals at Best-Digital Marketing. We know how to implement all these SEO strategies and more to increase your website speed to enable you to start ranking on Google.

It will save you lots of time and work and will also net better results. Contact us now to learn how Best- Digital Marketing specialist with creative knowledge and experience help you improve your SEO on SERPs. 

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How to Increase Website Speed and Performance