Is your website slow to load? Does your website seem to take forever on mobile? A slow-loading website will not only affect your website traffic and conversions, but it will also hold back your site in the search engines. In this blog, we’ll take a look at how you can test the speed of your site and look at the improvements that will make a difference and help transform your site from a tortoise to a hare when it comes to speed.
Since the introduction of mobile-first indexing in 2019, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your website is fast to load on mobile devices. According to the latest statistics around 63% of all searches on Google are done on mobile devices, and since 2016 website load speed has been part of Google’s core ranking algorithm. In short, if your website is slow to load then don’t expect it to rank particularly well in the search engines.
Test your site speed
Before we delve into how you can improve the performance of your website, you’ll first need to carry out a speed analysis on your website in order to get a baseline to work against. One of the best tools for carrying out a website speed test is Google’s own PageSpeed Insights.
Now that you’ve got your baseline let’s take a look at some of the easiest ways that you can improve the loading speed of your website pages. In this blog, we’ll focus on WordPress as it is the most common CMS platform in the world, but the same principles apply for other platforms.
1. Enable caching
Caching your website can drastically speed up and improve the performance of your website and help your users see your content in lightning quick time. Instead of serving dynamic content to your website visitors each time your site is loaded, caching allows the webserver to store a static cached version of each of your webpages.
Google is a strong advocate of caching and for a good reason. Caching can help your website load up to six times faster compared to dynamically serving content to users. For WordPress users, one of the best options is a plugin called W3 Total Cache which is completely free.
2. Remove unused plugins
In the same way that unnecessary programs and applications slow down your computer over time the same is true for your website. Platforms like WordPress make it incredibly easy to add new functionality to your website through the use of plugins and extensions, but many people install 2 or 3 different plugins that essentially do the same thing. Image sliders, contact forms, and fancy effects can all take up valuable resources which will slow down your website.
Generally speaking, the more plugins that you have installed on your website the slower it will be. Plugins often add additional scripts and styles that need to be requested as well as extra calls to your database which will slow down your site. Before installing a plugin stop to ask whether you actually need it.
3. Reduce the size of your images
Yes, images are an essential part of any well-designed website but there are plenty of ways that you can reduce the size of these without compromising on quality. The larger an image the longer it will take a user’s web browser to download it, so it is important to reduce the size as much as possible while still keeping the image looking sharp. There are plenty of plugins that can do a good job of optimising your images, but we’d always recommend optimising images prior to uploading them to your website. Also, where possible you should load the most relevant sized image for each viewport e.g. mobile users should be served smaller images than desktop users to help keep load speeds as low as possible.
Some great resources for compressing images include:
4. Use a content delivery network
A content delivery network (CDN) helps to minimise the load on your web server and speed up the serving of your content. Using servers all over the world a CDN aims to minimise the distance between a user and your website by serving them content from the closest point to their location. In addition to reducing the distance, a CDN also enhances security for your website and protects your business against DDoS attacks that try to take down your website server.
There are many different content delivery networks available with Cloudflare, Akamai and MaxCDN just a couple of the more popular options.
6. Gzip and minification
7. Lazy load offscreen images
If your website is image-heavy, then a good way to speed it up is by deferring the loading of offscreen images by using a feature known as lazy loading. As well as helping to speed up the initial webpage load lazy loading also ensures that a web visitor only downloads the content that they view, so if they don’t reach the large image gallery at the bottom of the homepage, then their browser won’t download those images.