Nobody likes a slow website, and a slow website can cause a drop in search engine results. Novice business owners may not realize how important page speed is for SEO. We commonly come across websites that have a slow loading time and clients have a hard time figuring out how to address the issue and where to start.
We’ve created a handy guide to help you speed up your slow website.
Measure your website speed
Before we work on improving your website speed, we need to find out how slow your website really is. Several tools exist online to measure your website speed but our two preferred tools are GTmetrix and Google Pagespeed.
GTmetrix provides an overall, very detailed view of how your website loads, and recommendations for improving the loading speed.
Google Pagespeed looks at the website from a user perspective but also from an SEO perspective.
Load your website in both tools to get an overall picture of your website speed woes.
Use fast website hosting
Your website hosting determines how fast the server responds to a visitor’s request. If you are using a shared hosting provider your website may be approaching its resource limits.
Recently we had a client that had fully optimized his WordPress website but was still facing 10+ second load times. We transferred the client to a new AWS lightsail plan and his loading time dropped 95% on average with a 50% reduction in monthly billing.
Some shared hosting providers are notoriously slow regardless of how well you configure your website hosting (GoDaddy is a prime example of this, read why you should avoid GoDaddy Hosting)
Use a caching plugin
Caching plugins are crucial to achieve any noticeable website speed improvements. Caching is the process of storing copies of files in a cache, or temporary storage location, so that they can be accessed more quickly. Without a cache on your website, the website will be retrieving a fresh copy from your server on each page load. The more load on your server, the slower the response time.
Thankfully WordPress is loaded with some really great caching plugins. Our preferred caching plugin is W3 Total Cache.
W3 Total Cache is a free plugin that can be almost set to plug and play. It will create a cached version of your website while also offering to minify your files, and set up a database / object cache. Once you install the W3 Total Cache plugin, use the Setup Guide to walk through the easy setup process.
Use a CDN
A content delivery network (CDN) is an external server that works alongside your website hosting. It can be configured to serve your website files to users from a faster location than your website hosting. A CDN will also help relieve stress on slower hosting.
Cloudflare is a free CDN that works by delivering your website files from various locations and caching your servers files. Cloudflare also provides security by protecting Internet properties from malicious activity like DDoS attacks, malicious bots, and other nefarious intrusions.
Both speed tests are going to tell you to optimize your images, and serve them in a next-gen format. If you have a large already established website this can be a daunting task to take on.
Optimizing images is the process of making sure the image is sized appropriately for your user. Optimizing an image can consist of compressing the quality, or shrinking the dimensions.
Several plugins exist to help you manage this automatically including our preferred plugin Shortpixel. Shortpixel gives you approx. 100 images / month to automatically compress, and can easily be upgraded for a one-time fee to 10,000.
Shortpixel allows you to easily bulk compress past images in your media library as well and will compress images as you upload them in the future.
Another great tool is Compressor.io which allows you to upload an image, and compress it before uploading to WordPress.
Measure results again
The last step is to measure your speed results again. If you followed the above steps you should notice a large speed improvement.
If not, keep tinkering or contact us to help you improve your website speed today!