How to speed up your website
Whether you're a B2B SEO agency or a business owner looking for insight into the functionality of your site, we'll be covering how to speed up your website! It is a well-known fact that website speed matters. Users are impatient, and want access to information they seek as quickly as possible. Google is well aware that faster loading sites provide a better user experience, which is why website speed plays a role in its ranking algorithm.
Alongside gaining a rise in search engine rankings (and therefore more traffic), having a faster website will increase page views and lead to more conversions. To test how fast your website loads, there are several free online tools you can use, such as Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix. Each of these tools also provide suggestions on how to speed up your site.
There are so many factors that determine how fast a website loads, which is why it's crucial to carry out a thorough investigation. The purpose of doing so, can help you determine why your website is loading slowly. Nonetheless, in this article I will provide a brief overview of the four most common culprits for slow site speed, and how to fix them.
The size of webpages varies greatly, from a few kilobytes to 10+ megabytes. A larger webpage means more data needs to be downloaded from the server that is hosting the website, which in turn delays how quickly a visitor can interact with the webpage.
More often than not, having uncompressed images on your site are the cause of excessively large pages. An example of this is downloading a high resolution image from a stock photo website. If you were to skip the compression process, and upload directly onto the site, it will likely be 2MB+.
Just recently it came to my attention that a client was loading extremely large stock images to their site. This was causing the site to load at a snail's pace! Reducing the dimensions of these images and then further optimizing them decreased their file size to a fraction of the original. As a result, the pages they were placed on started to load a lot faster.
Services such as TinyJPG compress images and help to significantly reduce their size. This is a fantastic tool to use if you are struggling to efficiently compress your site's images. With TinyJPG, you will be able to upload up to 20 images to their website at a time. Or alternatively, you can install their WordPress plugin, either option will allow you to optimise the images.
Besides images, videos also influence page speed. So, instead of hosting videos directly on your servers, a better option would be to upload them to YouTube or Vimeo, and then embed them into your webpages.
Underlying Website Code
For example, website themes, templates and page builders that offer lots of interactive functionality (sliders with multiple effects, animations, parallax scrolling etc.) tend to have extremely bloated code. This is because preferences differ from person to person, so all the various ways in which people would want to style their websites need to be accounted for.
This presents a problem because the unnecessary code first needs to be downloaded, parsed and understood by the visitor’s web browser. I have seen many cases in the past, where upon investigating a client's website I have immediately realised the cause. Code bloat, which has negatively impacting site's speed and performance.
In some cases, however, the best option for long term returns is to hire a professional web developer to rebuild the website from scratch. Provided they do their job correctly, the results will be immediately apparent.
Web hosting plays a major role when it comes to website speed. Due to there being no shortage of hosting providers out there, it can often feel overwhelming on who to choose.
The standard of service provided by web hosts can vary greatly; some have excellent uptime and customer support whilst others are subpar.
A good way to filter out the good from the bad is to search for reviews left by other people online, on websites such as Trustpilot. For example, if a web host has a Trustpilot rating of at least 4.5 based on thousands of customer reviews, you can rest assured that their services are of high quality.
Thanks to the reviews on Trustpilot being left by real customers, ratings are far more reliable than simply googling “best web hosting”.
Another factor to consider when it comes to choosing a web host is where your website audience is located. If most of your traffic is from the UK, it makes sense to also host your website on a server located in the UK, because your website will load a lot faster for your visitors.
Adding caching to your website can have a dramatic effect on page load times. Most especially if your site uses a content management system such as WordPress. Below is a simple explanation of how caching helps:
Every time a visitor lands on URL of your site, a request is sent to the server that hosts your website. Your server then builds a webpage and returns it to the visitor. Depending on the information requested, your server may have to run some scripts. Whilst also downloading external resources, or interacting with a database, all of which take time to complete.
Caching resolves this issue by building webpages beforehand. This means, that when a visitor requests a certain page, all the heavy processing has already been completed in the background. This way, a response can be sent to the visitor much faster.
The above describes server-side caching, not forgetting client-side caching! This is where certain resources (images, CSS files etc.) are saved by the visitor's browser for a certain period. This means that the visitor does not have to download these resources the next time they visit the same site, thereby speeding things up.
The caching solution you use will depend on how your website has been built. If it's built on top of WordPress for example, there are many caching plugins (both free and paid) to choose from.
I hope this article provided an overview of the steps you can take to speed up your website. If you would like us to carry out an audit of your site speed, please feel free to get in touch.
Polaris is an award-winning SEO agency in London specialising B2B, e-commerce and the healthcare industry.