Nowadays, having your own website is an essential prerequisite to compete in a highly cluttered marketplace. It’s one of those must-have marketing tools that you can no longer do without. But setting up a beautifully designed website with impressive content to dazzle your audience will only get you halfway through the journey.
A website that takes an eternity to download, for instance, could seriously hurt your customer experience. A slow load time is not only frustrating but is a sure way to send your customers running to your competitors. So, optimizing a site to achieve speed is a priority for any business to deliver a seamless digital experience to their stakeholders.
And in this quick guide, we’ll get you up to speed on the importance of website speed optimization, how to increase your website speed, and the essential role that tools, techniques, and optimization services can play to help you achieve it.
What is website speed?
Now, to your customer, none of these matters, except how fast your website could appear on their screen. So, every second matters. According to Think with Google, when your page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds, the probability of bouncing increases by 32%. This explains why top brands focus so much on getting their sites performing at lightning speed. There’s much at stake when things slow down.
Why does website speed matter?
In business, speed is imperative, whether it’s getting your product to the market or reaching your customer before your competitor does. This rule of speed applies to your website’s loading time, too.
Here are 3 reasons why you should care about page speed.
1. A slow website could drive away your customers.
Today, consumers are impatient. They are leading incredibly fast-paced lives and speed dominates their decision-making process. Research shows that 53% of users will abandon a mobile site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. That’s the cost of a slow website. When your website’s user experience falls short, your customer will go in search of alternatives. This will send your bounce rate up and could ultimately sabotage your customer engagement, conversions, and the ability to monetize your website. And once you lose a customer to a competitor, there’s a good chance they might never return.
2. Website speed will affect your search rankings.
It’s no secret that Google’s complex algorithms use various criteria to rank search results. This helps deliver relevance and ease to its users. Now, desktop and mobile website speed is a critical ranking factor for Google to determine how far up the result pages your site should appear. So, neglecting site speed could hamper your website’s search ranking and leave you with countless missed opportunities.
3. A sluggish site will leave a bad impression.
When your site takes ages to download, it could look like an internet-age dinosaur to your customers. To them, it might signal an outdated website and a lack of focus on customer experience. This could leave a bad impression and damage your brand image and reputation.
So, the benefits of page speed optimization are evident and compelling. Ignoring them could cost you customers and leave you with severe long-term ramifications.
What is your current website speed?
So, do you know the real speed of your website? Of course, visiting your site using different browsers and devices is the easiest way to get an idea. But it’s not enough. For instance, if you’re aiming to reach a global audience, then you have to understand your site speed in each geographic location. The bottom line is, you need proper data to analyze your site’s speed performance, benchmark it against your competitors, and set goals to improve it further.
Here are 3 tools to help you out.
1. Google’s PageSpeed Insights
This is a free tool by Google to analyze your page speed on both desktops and mobile devices. PageSpeed Insights uses lab and field data to assess your site and provides a performance score together with recommendations for improvement.
GTMetrix is an excellent speed analytics tool that offers both free and premium features. It can test your website for different countries, browsers, network connections, and various other criteria. Apart from a summary of performance, you can also access features like scheduled tracking and alerts when your website slows down.
Pingdom is another popular tool to check your site speed with up-to-date reports. It’ll help you understand your site performance and quickly identify what needs attention. Several annual plans are available on its site with a 30-day free trial.
4 factors that contribute to slow load time
Now, if you find that your website has gotten sluggish, you first need to understand why before determining remedial action. Typically, there are 4 major factors that could slow down your site.
1. Sloppy HTML coding
Sloppy coding could add unnecessary bulk to your web pages and sabotage their performance. For instance, too much formatting that doesn’t really add value could contribute towards draining the site speed. So, it’s essential to clean up the coding with a good developer and keep things concise.
2. Heavy unoptimized images
We all love high-resolution visuals. But your website speed could take a hit when you start using lots of bulky images. Some file formats like PNG and GIF are also heavier than others.
3. Server location
Your servers’ proximity to the website users plays an important role in your site’s performance. When the server is located far from the audience who’s accessing the website, communication back and forth will take a longer time. This could make your website slow to load.
4. Excessive redirects
Having too many redirects will add extra work for the server as it goes searching for those web pages before they could download. Redirected landing pages, in particular, could have a significant impact on site speed.
4 Website Optimization tools to help with page speed
If you want to keep track of your website speed and optimize when things slow down, there are several tools that could make your life easier. Here are 3 popular options.
1. Google Search Console
This free service by Google can provide impressive insights into your site’s performance. It offers a simple interface for you to track, monitor, and identify issues so you can troubleshoot them in no time.
GTMetrix is a Website speed and performance analytics tool, created by GT.net. It has a suite of features and options to make optimizing your website clear and easy. GTmetrix’s Report Page neatly summarizes your website performance based on key indicators of page load speed.
3. WebFX SEO Checker
Although this is mainly an SEO analyzing tool, its free audit makes it an essential option to optimize your website for speed. For instance, it’ll give you access to features like site speed analysis, image optimization, and code analysis.
Pingdom keeps constantly turning up in conversations about website speed because of the host of optimization tools and services it offers. It’s not just an excellent option to find out your website speed. But it can also monitor your site’s performance in the long run. Pingdom will test your site every 30 minutes within the geographic region you select and track performance based on each site improvement you make.
Why speed optimization services are important for your website success?
Speed optimization is often a tricky area to tread. There’s no question about the detrimental consequences of a painfully slow website. But each website will have unique issues affecting performance. And properly diagnosing these and taking remedial steps to get your website running at lightning speed might be too much for you to tackle on your own. And there’s only so far optimization tools will go without effective human intervention.
Besides, the business impact of a slow-running website is often too great for you to tackle it in-house for the sake of cutting costs. After all, a speed optimization service could add significant value by dramatically improving conversions in the long term.
So, seeking optimization services from a web developing company might be a better option to take the technical burden off your shoulders. They can offer customized solutions, depending on your site structure, industry, audience, and your business goals. And they’ll typically provide a range of services from database optimization and GZIP compression to minification and setting up a CDN.
Before speed optimization and after speed optimization results
Now, when selecting a service provider, ensure that you assess their previous work. Evaluate the performance metrics used and the results of before and after speed optimization. There should be significant improvements in the metrics tracked. This will give you an indication of their ability to deliver speed for your website.
And before signing on the dotted line, agree on performance targets for your site based on its current speed and your goals. This will help iron out any ambiguity for both parties and ensure that you know exactly what you’re getting for the fee paid.
How much does page speed optimization cost?
Speed optimizing your website could cost you as little as $100 or as much as $10,000. It all depends on who you hire and what services you obtain. For example, if you need specific activities like cleaning up code to boost site performance, it will cost you much less since you’re paying just for that service.
But in the long term, this might not be a smart option. To begin with, many companies don’t have the expertise to monitor and identify specific optimization activities their website needs. And often, it’s not just a single area that requires attention. As you go along, your website could undergo various changes, from content updates to backend software and plugin updates. So, it needs a more holistic assessment and ongoing support to keep it running at top speed. And you likely won’t be able to commit that kind of time and expertise in-house.
By hiring a speed optimization service provider, you can avoid many of these challenges. Their services will often cost a few thousand dollars, depending on who you select. The larger service providers typically have fixed plans with pre-determined service lists. There are also companies that offer customized solutions. This could work out cheaper since they’ll help you eliminate extra fees for services you don’t really need.
Use the best WordPress page speed optimization plugins
Plugins provide a simple solution to improve the functionality of your WordPress site. Speed optimization plugins are no different.
Here’s what we recommend.
1. WP Rocket:
According to its website, WP Rocket is the “most powerful caching plugin in the world”. Needless to say, caching is essential to boost site speed. And WP Rocket offers several essential features in this area, from page caching and cache preloading to browser caching and GZIP compression.
2. W3 Total Cache:
This plugin comes with several features to reduce the page load time. These include browser caching as well as HTML and CSS file minification. Plus, W3 Total Cache assures significant gains in site speed on Google PageSpeed.
3. WP Fastest Cache:
This is a popular cache plugin with over 1 million active installations. It’s designed to help you minify HTML and CSS files, set up GZIP compression, cleanup databases, and optimize images with its premium features.
4. WP Super Cache:
Here’s another caching WordPress plugin with some excellent features. This is a free tool that’ll set you up with all the essentials, from cache preloading to CDN support. It’s also regularly updated and claims over 2 million installations.
Perfmatters is a premium plugin and comes with some great features that make it stand out. It works on specific parts of your WordPress site to improve site speed, for instance, by disabling plugins, reducing HTTPS requests, optimizing databases, and cleaning up code. But keep in mind that it won’t help you with caching. So, you’ll need to install a good caching plugin to go with it.
Best guidelines to speed up your website
So, how can you improve your website speed? Here are 12 essential steps to provide a quick boost to your site speed.
1. Optimize images
You don’t always need 10MB images to design a stunning website with high-quality visuals. And many times, this is highly unnecessary, too. Now there are plenty of design tools to help you optimize images, so you don’t need to compromise on quality, design, or speed. Opting for smaller file formats like JPEG over heavier ones like PNG is another essential option.
2. Optimize databases
If you’re using a content management system, your database could amass lots of unnecessary data over time. So, it needs regular optimization to clean up and shed the extra fat, like old content revisions, deleted posts, and MySQL queries.
3. Minimize web fonts
Web fonts are a major part of site design. But the font you choose could also weigh down your website. Some third-party web font types are heavy. And unlike system fonts, these need to download onto the user’s device each time they access your site. This makes it important to avoid web fonts. But if you must use them, choose fonts that offer compression, such as Web Open Font Format or WOFF.
4. Set up a CDN
When you host a website on a single server, it could significantly slow down site access for users from distant geographic locations. You can overcome this issue by setting up a CDN or a content delivery network. It’s essentially a network of servers located in different regions. This allows users to access your website using a server that’s nearest to them. A CDN can, thereby, improve the user experience with faster access to your site.
5. Cut down on plugins
There are many ways plugins could improve your WordPress site. But too many of them could seriously hamper website performance. So, regular housekeeping is essential to identify and remove plugins that you rarely use, leaving only what’s essential.
6. Make use of website caching
Caching allows web browsers to store copies of web page elements. This can reduce the workload for the server when a user re-visits your website. The result is faster loading time for frequent visitors.
7. Keep redirects to a minimum
Some redirects may be essential, but many are not. And they’ll only serve to drag down your site’s loading time by sending additional requests to the server. And that’s a waiting time you want to eliminate if you want to reduce the bounce rate.
9. Set up lazy loading
Lazy loading is a common technique web developers use, especially on those multimedia-heavy longer web pages. Loading all page elements at once in these types of pages could typically take time. But lazy loading only downloads the content that’s immediately visible on the user’s screen. And as they scroll down, the relevant elements will continue to download.
10. Enable GZIP compression
GZIP compression allows the server to compress web files before sending them over to the browser. This technique can help significantly cut down site loading time by speeding up data transmission from the server.
11. Apply prefetching techniques
Prefetching uses insights on user behavior to predict and execute certain instructions for site elements before the user does. There are various techniques such as DNS and link prefetching that can help speed up your site.
12. Consider managed hosting
Shared hosting is more convenient and cost-effective. But shared resources could mean significant slowdowns when traffic to other websites on the server increases. Opting for managed hosting with a dedicated server or a virtual private server is always a better solution to avoid this.
Does your website need help in the page speed department?
Is your website running slow? Has the site bounce rate gone up? Are you getting worried that your website performance is hampering sales? Then you need help with speed optimization.
If you don’t get speed issues fixed as they arise, the cost to your business could be exponential. A slow-performing website will drive away customers, drive down conversions, and leave a hole in your top and bottom line. Plus, your search rankings will plunge, and your brand reputation could take a hit. And the missed opportunities? You’ll never be able to properly weigh them up. This is why you need the help of a professional speed optimization service to troubleshoot your site and speed things up with regular maintenance.
At iExperto, our team of experts can help you do just that. We’ll diagnose your website speed issues and get it running at top speed in no time. So, get in touch for a free consultation.