I couldn’t be bothered with slow websites anymore. I immediately hit the back button to look at other options in the search results, as I’m sure most of you do.
Google is less inclined to favour slow websites. Website speed is an important SEO ranking factor for your website. Search engines generally consider a slow website with a bad user experience. So if yours is too slow, your chance of a high ranking in the search results is adversely affected.
Even if your website has a good position in the search results and loads slowly, people will go back and click on other links resulting in those websites overtaking you.
Does website speed affect sales?
It sure does! A case study by Radware concluded that a 2-second improvement in page speed more than doubled conversions.
Page speed affects sales on your online store.
The article mentions that 70% of people abandon their carts when checking out. That’s a staggering amount. The number 1 culprit? Slow loading times.
How fast should a page load?
Most people expect a page to load in 2 seconds. This time should be your benchmark speed. 2 seconds is a complex task for larger platforms, but try to make your website load quickly.
What is a good Google page speed average?
Web Vitals is a fantastic tool for measuring front-end performance. The front end is what a person can see and interact with on your website. It also provides suggestions on how to make your site load much faster.
It rates your front-end performance on a scale of 1-100. Anything over 89 means your site is performing well.
My current Google page speed score.
Let's boost these scores into the green zone.
This is how you make your website load much faster!
You can increase your website speed substantially by following these simple steps.
This demonstration is on a WordPress site. Unfortunately, I can’t demonstrate all content management systems because there are too many. But you will be able to implement the steps I’ve used here, on your platform.
Ok, let’s get into it!
Update your website and plugins.
Your first step is to update your plugins and website to the latest software. Software updates come with more efficiencies.
Before you go ahead and do this, make sure to back up your site. Your hosting service provider should be running daily backups for you, but I like to play it safe in case they get hacked or don’t have the latest version.
When the export finishes, you will see this pop-up message to download your file.
Once your backup is complete, go to your dashboard to see which version of WordPress or the content management system you use is the latest. If it’s not the latest, update it.
Update all your plugins and delete the ones you are not using.
You may need to log in again.
Now you are running the latest version of your website and your plugins.
Boost your website speed by distributing it in the cloud.
We know that the faster your site is, the higher it will be ranked. By distributing your website on a content delivery network or CDN, the quicker you can deliver it.
A CDN is a distributed server system designed to deliver web content to users based on their geographic location. A CDN has an impact on your website speed.
For instance, if your website is hosted in South Africa, and somebody views your website from the same country, that information doesn’t have to travel that far, so your pages should load quickly. But if somebody opens up your website from Japan, that information has to travel much further.
When you place your website on a CDN, it distributes your content worldwide. So wherever your website is accessed, it will always have a shorter distance to travel, making your website speed much faster.
There are several services available to you. I use Cloudflare. It’s free if you have a small website like this one, and you get SSL, a type of encryption for your website. Google also favours sites with SSL.
Content Delivery Networks: a word of caution.
If a website shares an IP range with other websites and the hosting company makes changes that result in a change of IP addresses, it can impact the CDN.
The CDN relies on the IP address of the website's origin server to properly route and deliver content to users. If the IP address changes, the CDN may not be able to properly route the requests, resulting in broken links, slow loading times, or even complete failure of the website to load - the latter happening to my website.
If you decide to distribute your website on a CDN then keep a close eye on the IP address of your host’s origin server (where your website is hosted) in case you need to make changes or updates to your CDN configuration. Some CDN providers offer automatic IP address detection and updates, which can help to minimise the impact of IP address changes.
Additionally, using a dedicated IP address instead of a shared IP range can help to mitigate these issues, as the IP address remains the same unless you change it yourself. However, dedicated IP addresses often come with an additional cost.
Setting up your Cloudflare account
Visit Cloudflare and create an account. Then add your site.
Select the free plan.
Once you’ve done this, you will get a list of your DNS records for your review. You may see a few on your list, e.g. you may have a blog on a subdomain like blog.yourdomain.com. Go through your list to see if any are missing. Add them here.
Then click continue.
You should see something similar to this:
Now you will transfer your data from your current host to Cloudflare’s hosts. Most registrars will have a zone editor in your control panel where you will implement this configuration. Each one will be slightly different. For a detailed walkthrough, visit Cloudflare’s support page to find the steps to update name servers for all major domain registrars.
On your dashboard or control panel, you should have a menu where you can manage your DNS.
Here you will replace the name servers for your domain with Cloudflare’s name servers.
It can take 24 hours to activate the new name servers. An email notification will confirm your activation.
You should notice an increase in your website’s speed by now.
Caching places information on your computer so that the websites you visit load faster. Caching works like this: When a user visits a website, the browser stores a copy of the website's static elements, such as images and CSS files, in a cache on the user's device.
As a result, websites load faster on subsequent visits, as the browser can retrieve the cached content from the user’s device instead of having to fetch it from the server again.
Three variations of caching will enable your website to load much faster.
Browser caching allows people visiting your website to navigate pages more efficiently as it reduces the load on the website's origin server and the amount of time it takes for a page to load.
Unlike browser caching, which caches static content on the user's device, object caching caches dynamic content on the server.
Object caching improves website performance by reducing the processing required for each request, as the server can retrieve the cached data instead of regenerating it.
If you have a large website that generates a lot of traffic, your server can get loaded very quickly, slowing it down and impacting your site’s performance. Object caching will deliver queries to people much faster and improve your website speed.
Page caching saves the entire HTML layout rather than the individual design elements of a page.
Page caching is especially useful for websites serving static content, like information and blogs. This caching can be configured on the server or with browser caching.
Configuring the cache on your WordPress site.
I use WP Rocket to configure the cache on my website. You will need to pay for a license, but they have a few options for you or your organisation. Another excellent plugin that you can add for free is W3 Total Cache.
The configuration for both is straightforward.
After installation, go to your dashboard, under “Getting Started”, and view the second video: “Finding the Best Settings for Your Site”. The video will show you how to set this all up.
I used standard settings for my configuration.
How to configure Cloudflare to work with WP Rocket.
Then set up your Cloudflare add-on by following these simple steps.
You can’t use the Cloudflare add-on and the WP Rocket add-on together on your WordPress site. If you have the Cloudflare plug-in enabled, deactivate it.
Once you’ve installed and activated the plugin, go to general settings to enable your page, object and browser cache and save all settings.
Configure Cloudflare to work with W3 Total Cache.
Once you have saved your settings, go to extensions, enable Cloudflare and authorise the extension by entering your API key and the email address you used to create your Cloudflare account.
Your accounts are now linked. Your website speed should be much faster now.
Images can slow your website down: here is an image compression technique that solves this problem.
Another web performance tool I use to see how efficiently my images load is GTmetrix. It offers similar features to Google’s PageSpeed Insights, but it gives me a more accurate diagnosis.
There are a few reasons why these two performance tools produce different results. GTmetrix has modified Google’s original open-source PageSpeed library from 20 to 27 metrics for a more detailed and accurate score.
Head over to GTmetrix. Under the dashboard, input your domain and click analyse.
You will see there are two scores. One for Google (PageSpeed Score) and the other for Yahoo (YSlow Score).
My PageSpeed score is below average. I want it to be green. My YSlow or Yahoo score is good, so I don’t need to worry about it.
Under the PageSpeed tab, performance recommendations are provided for you, ordered from lowest to highest score.
You can see there are issues with the images. When I expand on these two recommendations, it shows me in detail which images are causing problems.
How you can optimise and compress your images for your website without losing quality.
There are a few plugins you can use to compress your images. I prefer plugins that result in lossless compression, meaning you won’t lose image quality.
The first image compressor I use is compressImage.io, my favourite image compression tool to reduce file sizes.
A reader also recommended this image compression tool by Website Planet, so check that out too.
Once all images are in my media library, I use Smush to compress them even more.
Under your plugins menu, select add new and search for the keyword smush. Install and activate the plugin.
Go to your Smush dashboard, click on bulk smush now and save your changes at the bottom of the page. Leave the settings on default. You may need to bulk smush more than once if you exceed the file size limit.
Website templates and website speed: a word of caution.
For a while, I was using Elegant Themes as my WordPress theme. Now, it’s an excellent page builder, and I don’t want to disparage it, but it comes with limitations.
When increasing your website speed, your biggest challenge is your CSS, scripts and images with large file sizes. Many WordPress templates still load CSS and run scripts even if you are not using them.
Slow website templates can affect your online sales.
Both of these builders make an enormous difference to my website speed. So before you build your site, make sure you know the ins and outs of the template system before using it, as it can slow your website down and hurt your sales!
Website speed infographic
Hopefully, this article is a call to action for you to prioritise website speed optimisation. A faster site means a happier user and more sales for you!
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