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Following my recent ‘SEO It’s All About User Experience‘ post, I received a number of queries. The main query related to the ‘Google Requirements in 2020’ section of the post, where I talked about the importance of your website being quick loading.
When you think about it, the speed that your website loads is extremely important and not only because Google thinks it is!
Not many of us are in the enviable position of Amazon, but the same trends apply. The bottom line is that a slow loading website will cost you sales and lost leads. Your website visitors are already overwhelmed with choice and distractions and aren’t going to bother waiting around for a slow loading website.
A number of people tested their website using the recommended tool in my post and wrote to me worried about a poor result, asking what they could do to improve on this result.
Before I go any further, firstly exercise a dose of commonsense when measuring your website loading time. Yes, using a tool can help but also simply keeping an eye on your browser after loading your website URL/address will give you a feel for whether the load time is good.
If you sit waiting for 5 seconds and you’re still watching that hourglass, then yes you’ve got an issue. Of course, there are varying factors at play with all things internet and the current status of your ISP (internet service provider) needs to be considered when checking speed.
I’m going to share some tips on how you can improve your website’s loading times. Don’t worry, like all topics relating to websites and the internet this can get very techie and complicated, so I’ve kept it simple! Several of these suggestions are relevant to the WordPress CMS platform only.
1) Review your website hosting
If your website hosting is of a poor standard or a low end offering, then this is likely to result in a slow loading website. Many entry level offerings are on shared environments with very limited resource allocations making this inevitable.
Recently I migrated my hosting in preparation for a website building/hosting offering that I’ll be announcing later this year and the difference was highly noticeable. Previously I would enter my website address, then wait a few seconds before it responded and then several more whilst it loaded. Now I enter the address and it displays instantly!
Don’t underestimate the importance of this. All of the other suggestions I’ve made below will not overcome the limitations of poorly performing website hosting and it forms the backbone of your website.
2) Optimise your website images
In my ‘8 Tips to Boost Your Website Conversions Using Images‘ post I talked about the importance of minimising the size of your image file sizes. I regularly visit websites where I look at blank sections which are slow loading, due to images which are often MB (megabytes) in size.
The three mistakes that I often see are:-
Resizing an image and saving it in the right format can result in a significant reduction in its file size. Your resulting images should be no larger than 200 – 300 KB (kilobytes) and this can easily be achieved by using image formats such as JPEGs that include compression.
With JPEGs you can select what level of compression is applied and you can end up with a perfectly satisfactory image for your needs. I’ve seen images that were 2-3 MB reduced to just 40-50 KB (yes, approximately 1.5% of their original file size!) with no discernible difference on a website page.
3) Establish a website cache
Sorry, I promised this post would be as techie and jargon free as possible but I had to slip this in! 😁Caching is a solution that will improve your website’s load time. It does this by storing previously requested information into a temporary storage area or cache.
Some hosting environments provide this or if you are using the WordPress platform, a plugin will handle it for you.
4) Select your WordPress theme carefully
Another factor that will impact your website load time is the WordPress theme you are using. The load times will vary considerably and you need to select a theme which is quick loading. Try to avoid the use of themes that include a lot of unnecessary bloated extras which will slow them down.
I use the GeneratePress theme on all our websites and this theme is consistently rated as one of the fastest loading themes in tests.
5) Be selective with your WordPress plugins
As I indicated in my ‘Tips to Select Your WordPress Plugins‘ post, the large assortment of plugins and the functionality they can bring to your website is one of the huge drawcards to a platform such as WordPress.
However, there are downsides and of course one of these is your website loading times. The more plugins incorporated within your website will of course increase its loading time.
During my strategy sessions, when I’m asked to troubleshoot website problems, I am often faced with websites that have 20 or more plugins installed. Always remember to be highly selective with the plugins you select and use.
6) Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
If your website is targeting a global audience then using a CDN can be of enormous benefit. One of the challenges in promoting your wares to prospects located overseas is that due to your website host likely being located in Australia, there will be a longer load time.
One way round this is to utilise a CDN which stores copies of your site files in locations throughout the world. This means that your website visitors don’t need to wait for pages to be served from a host located thousands of kilometres from their location, increasing the load times significantly.
You can for example use a service to serve your images or other content such as videos.
I hope you found the tips shared in this post helpful and that you’ve now got some ideas how to speed up your website. Are you looking for further details on any of the suggestions made? Please let me know in the comments.
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