When it comes down to ways to improve your site, increasing the speed of it is something that is often overlooked. Small business owners and website creators often settle for “just good enough”, which is often when they see the site load in somewhere around a few seconds.
On top of that, there’s simply so many ways to make changes to a site – such as working on visual elements like logos or themes, or focusing on copywriting and content – that site speed can be pushed far down on the list of necessities. But it’s more important than it is given credit for.
Why it’s Important
Before we even talk about your visitor’s experience, it’s important to note how site speed impacts your SEO. That is, prior to anyone even experiencing your site, it’s important that they can find it: which is where SEO comes in.
Did you know that Google and other search engines can actively punish you if your site is too slow? Speed is a big factor in user experience and if your site is not loading in a timely manner, search engines will keep prospective eyes from ever seeing it. Not only that, but your site speed will also impact your paid search ads, whether on social platforms like Facebook or search engines like Bing. If you want to get noticed, organically or through paid options, then you should make sure your site is optimized and working as efficiently as possible.
What it ultimately comes down to though is user experience. One of the biggest reasons why people ‘bounce’, or leave your site, is due to slow loading speeds. It can lead to missed conversions and fewer repeat visitors. If you want to avoid turning potential customers away, and instead of earning your visitors loyalty and trust, keep reading as we’ll cover five of the top ways for you to increase your site’s speed.
Tip #1: Use a Lightweight Theme
The majority of WordPress sites built nowadays are done so using themes. The framework of your theme is what the site is built in so you want to make sure that you aren’t using one which is overly bloated and full of things you don’t need. The more complicated your theme is, the longer your WordPress site is going to take to load. You may be better off avoiding the fancy high-end themes and opt for one that is lightweight and flexible, as long as it can still build exactly what you’re looking for.
Tip #2: Optimize the Size of Your Images
This tip is easily overlooked, especially people in service businesses that just get a quick website built to advertise locally. Consider a landscaping company, for example. They may take beautiful pictures of their finished work with their phone or camera and then upload them directly to the site. But that image might come in at 4 MB and a resolution of 4000×2500, which will spell disaster for any page that it is placed on. Doubly so for mobile users, who may have poor connections or be accessing your site through their personal data plan – which you are doubling up on scaring away.
The solution? Make sure your images aren’t larger than they need to be and use an image compression service before uploading them, which can cut their size down by 60-80%. It’s worth noting you can achieve this without impacting the overall quality of the image.
Tip #3: Optimize Your Homepage for Faster Loading
Your homepage can often be cluttered with extra information, ads, writing from your blog, slideshows, big ‘hero’ images, and more. It should be one of the first places you look when it comes to optimizing your sites speed because it’ll likely be the first place where your visitors end up.
To keep your homepage sleek and loading fast, try to declutter it a bit. If you are showing posts from your blog, limit them to excerpts. Deactivate any widgets that aren’t absolutely necessary for your homepage to function. And again, keep image size manageable and optimized since you will probably have more on your homepage than elsewhere.
Tip #4: Choose the Right Host
When it comes down to getting the right host for your website the needs, the best thing you can do is plenty of research. Each host comes with their own plans, which are often split between shared, VPS, and a dedicated server. Some, like WPEngine, even go further and have special WordPress Optimized Hosting. Ultimately, what is best for you depends on the purpose of your site. This step is most important when you are first building your website, or if nothing else is working to speed things up, then it can be an alternative solution worth looking into.
Tip #5: Cut Out Unnecessary Plugins
Depending on how long you’ve had your WordPress site for, you might be keeping a bunch of plugins around that you no longer use. Or, you are stuck thinking you need a plugin when you really don’t. Unfortunately, if there was no downside to this, it wouldn’t be a cause for concern. Not only can plugins slow down your site but they can also open it up to vulnerabilities, especially if you don’t keep them up-to-date.
The solution? Make sure you actually need the plugins you have. Try to cut out the ones you don’t need and ensure that the ones you do are kept up-to-date whenever possible. If you’re no longer actively using a plugin, you can even consider deactivating it temporarily rather than removing it completely.
Speed Can Make All of the Difference
Whether you’re competing for ranking on SEO, want your ads to get priority on Facebook and other platforms, or simply want your visitors to enjoy their experience on your site, you should optimize your site for speed as much as possible. Slow site speed is a fundamental problem and should be addressed immediately. While there are more complicated solutions available, these basic five tips address some of the most common problems for slow site speeds and should give any website owner a starting point from which they can address their concerns.