Speeding up your website not only makes your website much more user friendly, it also helps with SEO too!
The only thing in life that is worse than slow internet is a slow website, mainly because the person who owns the website could actually do something about it.
It's not just me and my own pet peeves though; there are several pretty important reasons why you should be keeping an eye on your website's load time...
Why is a speedy site important?
1 // It impacts your website's conversions
If your website visitors are having to wait for long periods of time for each of your webpages to load, they're probably going to forget about, or give up on, whatever they were planning to do (such as signup to an email list, buy a product, or use your contact form).
2 // It impacts your website's bounce rate
Your site's bounce rate is the percentage of people who land on your website's homepage, or in fact any page on your website, and leave straight away. Much of your bounce rate can be put down to bots and spammers, but if it's particularly high (anything above 50% would be considered high) it can be a serious concern. The speed of your website can often having something to do with this - in fact a recent study by Kissmetrics showed that 40% of people abandon a website when it takes more than 3 seconds to load!
3 // It impacts peoples' impression of your brand
To put it as politely as I can, a slow site will p**s people off. It will frustrate the very people you are trying to please with quality content and beautiful branding, and will put them off visiting your website again in the future (or worse, interacting with your brand at all in the future).
4 // It impacts your search engine ranking
I'm no SEO expert, but apparently the load speed of your website plays a big factor in how Google will rank you in searches. It can also affect its ability to index your pages, meaning less of your content will be found by Google, and therefore less will show up in search queries.
How do I check my website's speed?
Using a tool like Pingdom is really useful, but you should be wary about taking these ratings too literally. They're a helpful but basic indicator of your site's performance.
You can also check your Google Analytics, and look at your Average Page Load Time. Again, a pinch of salt is needed with this metric as other factors can affect this rating.
So what is a good page load time?
Well, considering the current average loading speed is 5 seconds, and most peoples' patience gives up between 2 and 3 seconds, you want to be aiming for less than that! Any longer than that and you may want to consider trying some of the things below...
So how do you fix a slow site?
There are many things at play that could potentially be affecting how fast your website loads, and it can get a little complex. Here are a few things you can try that can help improve your site speed:
1 // Try a caching plugin
If in doubt, try this out! Caching means that instead of WordPress fetching data from your database and packaging it up for each and every viewer of your website, it will create a HTML copy of that page to show quickly (along with various other things). Awesome caching plugins include:
Wordfence (this is what I use; it deals with caching AND security)
W3 Total Cache
WP Fastest Cache
2 // Optimise your images & content
If you're running a blog or an image heavy website, this could be a key culprit in what's slowing your website down. There are a couple of things you can do to help this:
- You can make sure each image you upload is optimised for web (you can do this in Photoshop; it keeps the file size small without compromising quality too much)
- You can crop/resize your images to the required size before uploading them to your website (rather than editing them within WordPress for example)
- You can install a plugin that compresses your image files for you! My favourite plugin for this is Compress JPEG & PNG images
3 // Clean up your database
As you create more pages and blog posts and get more comments on your webpages, your database can become cluttered and crowded. This is easily sorted by trying a plugin like WP Sweep and getting rid of old 'post revisions' and spam comments.
4 // Reconsider your themes & plugins
I know I'm suggesting all these plugins to you (and they are really useful), but you should also be keeping an eye on how many you're installing onto your site. Having over 20 plugins, for example, could be excessive, so it might be an idea to try and consolidate these down as much as you can.
Also, be wary of what themes you're using. Some themes are enormous files that can make your website overcomplicated and bloated; generally these are themes with HUGE lists of features that you probably won't use. Sometimes less is more.
5 // Reconsider your hosting
You probably don't want to hear it, but you do get what you pay for. Using value hosting providers like Bluehost and Godaddy is all very well for your bank account (and can be good when you're starting out) but for the sustainable growth and performance of your website, it may not be the best option.
If your budget won't allow you to stretch, my suggestion would be to look for slightly less well-known hosting companies rather than the market leaders PURELY because of the tech support they're able to give you. Bluehost are hideously slow at helping with support issues because they're so huge (I'm talking hour long wait times and days before tickets are resolved), whereas less popular companies aren't as bogged down so will be quicker to respond.
These are more expensive but can be very worth it if you're planning on seriously investing in your blog or website.