Ever thought your website was a tad…slow?
Have you run it through a page speed test and felt horror at the results despite your best efforts?
Uh-huh… I get you!
So this week I’m talking about the 3 things I always look at first when optimising a website for speed.
Truth: Your website host really matters
The cheapest website hosts give you an easy way to publish your site when you get started and funds are low, but their services are cheap for a reason. What you buy from them is the ability to get started, but the resources they allocate to your needs are shared, and they won’t be of the highest quality.
There is nothing wrong with that so long as you use them for the right reason.
If your website is informational or you use if to publish content (blog posts, podcasts, videos) then getting started that way until you can monetize your work is a good idea. I’m all for the sensible approach, but as soon as you get traction you should take a look at your analytics data and decide: is your page speed harming your conversion rate? Or put simply, would reducing the wait time make your site more enjoyable (and easier to get back to) for your visitors? Are you ready to
If your business is e-commerce, the reality is you can’t afford to go for a cheap hosting service even to get started. E-commerce is very competitive and people lose interest quickly if the page does not load fast enough. On top of that, you need high quality images and videos for your products to get noticed. You want these to display fast.
A good website host may still offer shared resources, but these will be of higher quality. Speed is a result of the higher quality of resources.
The host I usually recommend is Siteground because they offer an excellent service and when you first sign up you get their introductory rates. The introductory rates mean you can get started for cheap, while receiving high quality services.
Gaining speed from the website itself
The best websites are designed for usability first. Speed means a better user experience.
Be careful about selecting plugins – the way they are coded can impact both security and speed. Some of them will only be used on one page but will be injecting code on every page of the site taking up resources for no reason. Others will overwrite styling with templates (good or bad) taking up further resources. There are many ways in which plugins can slow your site so next time you hover over the install button, do a double take on wether you do need this plugin, and test speed before and after installation so you know the impact.
Your theme & design, in the same way as plugins, will have a big impact. When you select a theme, take alook at what it offers so it’s as close as possible to what you need for your specific business. If you pick a bloated theme you need to override all the time, or if it has too little and you need to add a lod of plugins to compensate then your speed is likely to suffer.
The images you upload should always be optimised. Before you upload images in your site, change the pixel size so it is appropriate (for example there is no reason an image inside a page / blog post should be more than 600-800px usually, or for a full width header image, try it at 1600px – 2000px wide absolute max). To change the size without hassle, use Canva – create a new image in Canva in the size you need and upload your orginal image to fit it into the frame. It’s as simple as doing this then downloading the image from Canva. It’ll be exported to you in a web-ready format, in the correct size. After this, when you have them in the right size, run them through ShortPixel here – try lossless and check if the quality of still good enough. If not re-run them through but on Glossy. Then – and only then- upload the images to your media library. You will see a huge difference from this.
A great onsite caching setup is essential. Caching a site means a local static copy of scripts is loaded to visitors so they don’t have to reload all the code dynamically. Because the code is minimised or campacted it is faster to load. There’s more to it than that and most caching plugins come with options to optimise, but a good caching plugin will have good default settings to get you started.
Free plugins will only get you so far however if you do use one, go for the unbloated, easy to use WP Fastest Cache (in my experience, W3 Total Cache = regular fixing required so I stay away from that plugin, but to each his or her own).
If you want the best, for only $39 you can get WP Rocket and see a huge difference immediately. This is the plugin I use.
Oh and if you’re with Siteground, you get their optimizer plugin for free!
You can take things even further with caching.
Have you heard of using a CDN?
Websites are hosted in a physical location, on a server maintained by your website host or their service providers. When you sign up from where you live with a website host, they assign hosting space from a server in your region (unless you were given the choice and picked somewhere else).
Your site loads fastest for your region, but your visitors could come from anywhere.
Sure we’re talking seconds, but it all adds up.
A CDN = your site content is served from the region closest to where your individual visitors are, making it so so much faster for them.
My favourite is Cloudflare, who offer free and paid options with easy setup. If you were to go for a paid plan, your site content would be served from whichever is Cloudflare‘s fastest network path, in real-time. You only really need the free plan to see a big difference unless your site uses alot of resources.
Oh, and you’re probably expecting it by now, but good news with Siteground, Cloudflare can be setup automatically through them… so even less effort for you.
There you have it – 3 tips to speed up your site today even without redesigning your entire website, and without much tech knowledge at all.
Is your site slow? The easiest way to serve your content faster to your visitors is with caching. There are three different types you can use super-quick:
- From your website host: Pick a good host and they will do this automatically. Seriously, the best I’ve found – value for money- is Siteground. For e-commerce or to process payments on your website, pick the Go-Geek plan so your site is PCI compliant.
- Directly on your website:Pick a good theme, upload images at 72dpi (use Canva for resizing) & compress them with Shortpixel. You can also add a layer of caching on your site. Free plugins will only get you so far however if you do use one, go for the unbloated, easy to use WP Fastest Cache (in my experience, W3 Total Cache = regular fixing required). If you want the best, for only $39 you can get WP Rocket and see a huge difference immediately. Oh and if you’re with Siteground, you get their optimizer plugn is free!
- Serve your content via a Content Delivery Network (CDN): no excuses with Cloudflare being easy to use and free. A CDN = your site content is served from the region your individual visitors are in, making it so so much faster. If you were to go for a paid plan, your site content would be served from whichever is Cloudflare’s fastest network path, in real-time. Click here for a how-to on Cloudflare. You’re probably expecting it, but with Siteground, Cloudflare can be setup automatically through them… so even less effort for you.