If your website takes too long to load, a high percentage of site visitors are probably clicking the back arrow before the page finishes loading so they can look for alternative sites in the Google search results. Who wants to wait around for a slow website? We’re all in a hurry, right?
If you want visitors to stay on your site, you need to ensure your website loads quickly.
Website performance has been an important ranking factor for search engines for a few years now. Your SEO company should certainly have mentioned this a few hundred times by now. But it’s more important than you think. Website performance is not only a direct ranking factor but also impacts other important ranking factors such as “bounce rate.”
Website Performance and Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave a site without visiting a second page. Obviously, content impacts bounce rate but so does user experience. When your website is slow, your bounce rate will go up. On mobile devices, users expect an even faster website.
When you have a high bounce rate, you are not converting those visitors into customers, and Google assumes your page isn’t very relevant to the search term the user used. After all, if your page was relevant, the traffic they sent to your page wouldn’t have bounced, right?
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So poor website performance is a killer…
- It hurts user experience and lowers conversion rate,
- It lowers your search rankings,
- It increases your bounce rate, which lowers your ranking even further, and
- It has a host of other negative implications
Let’s jump into nine tips to consider when working on website performance updates to your site.
How long… will you… wait for loading?
- 1 second or less is ideal
- 2- 4 seconds is okay
- 5 + seconds is bad
For e-commerce sites, there are additional considerations to keep in mind.
Focus on high-traffic pages first. The more people who come to a page, the faster you want that page to load. Pages viewed less need less attention. Most of the people who visit your site only visit 20% of the pages on your website. Check your analytics to see which pages need priority when optimizing the speed of your website. To make those high-trafficked pages load faster, start by making them smaller.
You can identify issues that need to be addressed on your site by running a free site audit at Free SEO Analyzer.
Don’t forget to backup your site before making changes
Consider performing a manual backup before implementing any of these tips. We recommend setting up a file transfer protocol (FTP), which is a network protocol for transferring files between a client and a server on the network. An FTP will also allow the transfer of web pages, web application files, and images to the web server. Go to your hosting provider to learn more about logging in to your FTP!
Your website host matters to website performance
A cheap, shared website host provider is likely going to be slow. Shared hosting is all about hosts trying to keep their costs down by cramming lots of different websites onto a single server, and they often don’t do much to help with your site speed.
Managed WordPress hosting is much better and usually not much more expensive. For example, White Peak offers the service starting at $25 per month, and WP Engine is just a few dollars more. Managed WordPress hosting is like a concierge service for your WordPress site, whereas regular shared hosting leaves much of the work to you regarding backups, WordPress optimization, and more. White Peak or WP Engine servers are also great for handling a lot of traffic– aka fewer site crashes. Bonus!!
Most experts recommend no more than 5-7 plugins, but sometimes this is too difficult to accomplish. Be sure you never use more than 15-20 WordPress plugins, but a lower amount is always better. So start housekeeping and remove any plugins you don’t need!
Removing plugins can sometimes be a little scary! When you remove a plugin, you might think, “But what if I need this one in the future?”
Look, if you’re not making real use of a plugin, there isn’t any value to keeping it installed on your site. Remove plugins that do not positively impact your business, and start monthly plugin check-ups. You can always add them back later. Monthly check-ups also allow you to stay on top of website speed and look for better, faster plugins!
Often you can find “all-in-one” plugins that will do the work of multiple individual plugins. Check the plugins that you already use to see if you’re using them to their fullest capacity!
Avoid using plug-ins as a security blanket. Here’s what we mean: If your plug-in tracks analytics, but you have a separate analytics tracker or if Google Analytics can do the same thing —the plug-in is acting as a security blanket, and it is time to let go!
Megabytes are bigger than Kilobyte
Find out the size of your site. If you’re over 3MB, your site is huge. Check the sizes of your photos and files. If you’re between 1-3 MB, you are doing alright, but you can probably still inspect your site further to find out where you can get more speed. There might be something hiding in your site weighing it down. If your site is under 1 MB or under 500KB, keep up the good work! Talk to us if you’d like help to perform a site audit.
It is important to check the size of your site regularly. This ensures that you stay aware of what content you have and helps you get rid of “junk” weighing it down.
Keep website speed all the time. It’s never a bad idea to eliminate unnecessary, outdated, or random files.
Optimize your images
Right-click on images or files to see their size or find them under the Properties tab. Try to keep images under 100KB. Even 100KB is pretty big. Remember, the smaller, the better!
Did I mention we have a free website audit to help you identify the files you need to optimize?
To reduce file sizes, try using TinyPNG. This website offers a fast and easy way to compress files. Also, make sure your graphic designer (or if that’s you, then you) knows the optimal file size for different platforms. Don’t just use a big file and assume your site will resize it. Select the proper image size, compress it with one of the tools above, and you’ll do yourself a huge favor.
Having a standard for dealing with images will save you a ton of time by doing things properly the first time. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself always going back over your site to fix your massive image files all the time.
Let the Content Delivery Network (CDN) become your new best friend.
But first, what the heck is a content delivery network (CDN)? A CDN is a network of servers. It’s a tool used in addition to your website host that will help with your site’s speed. We recommend that you use a CDN for your site’s images.
The closer someone is geographically located to where your website site is hosted, the faster your site will load. A content delivery network allows you to store static content, such as images, on remote servers located in various locations instead of with the rest of your site content. When people visit your site, the images load fast because it is served up from the CDN server closest to them.
We recommend using Jetpack, which is a really great plugin for WordPress. It includes many features, including Photon Free CDN. High-quality photos are a must-have on a website, but you also want a quick load time. Photon Free CDN compresses images for you, so if you use this CDN, you won’t need to use TinyPNG. You’ll also benefit from multiple levels of caching (storage), so your images appear at lightning speed.
Know what you are backing up
Backups on sites like WordPress get really big, really fast. The most effective way to back up your site is on a cloud service outside of your host and server. Try using DropBox or Google Drive services and schedule remote backups.
Now that you have a remote backup (separate from your local server backup), start cleaning out large unnecessary files!
Mobile Website Performance
The expectations for speed are even higher on mobile phones. The standard mobile version of your site must load almost instantly on mobile devices to avoid a bounce and ensure your site is ranked well. Ensuring your mobile site performs at this level is very difficult to achieve.
Now that you know the secrets for attaining super awesome website performance– take a deep breath–and please refrain from frantically counting the seconds it takes to load each page of your website, but do consider implementing some of these website performance tips. We want to see your website load quickly to ensure your conversion rates increase!
If you still feel confused and unsure where to start, please contact us via phone, email, or social media. Our website designers and developers can help you implement these tips on your website and many more to improve your website performance.
Tim Woda is the CEO and founder of White Peak Marketing. He has been on the founding team of five successful start-ups and his digital marketing campaigns have acquired more than 800 million customers for his start-ups and White Peak’s client companies. Tim has been featured by The New York Times, Fox News, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and more. Under Tim’s direction, White Peak was selected as one of America’s Top Digital Marketing Agencies for 2021 by MarTech Outlook magazine.