Giving Your Website a Speed Boost

When first approached, increasing your page speed can seem a daunting task, particularly with the indepth reports and analysis some tools and websites offer these days. However, it can be broken down into a simple plan and tackled with ease.

With Page Speed now a strong ranking factor for mobile search, the need for your pages to be lightning fast is even more critical than before. A fast loading website is great for user experience, and as we all know, Google loves giving users the best possible experience when visiting sites via their SERPs.

Research conducted by Financial Times states at even a 1-second slower page can result in a 5% reduction in reader engagement.

Google themselves also state that over 50% of visits made to mobile sites are abandoned if the screen loads in more than 3 seconds. To put it simply, page speed is a critical factor in user experience and getting good ranking positions. Luckily, managing page speed and improving it can be pretty straight forward.

Minimize HTTP requests

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and start sifting through some source code with the aim of merging or eliminating certain HTTP requests.

CSS and JavaScript files are great targets here because many websites have a lot of both, depending on how they were built. There are three options to handle this:

  • Consolidate all CSS and JavaScript files into one single CSS file and JavaScript file.
  • Install a plug-in that mimics this functionality on the front end, while leaving the actual CSS and JavaScript files untouched on the back end.
  • When possible, delete calls to CSS and JavaScript files completely.

Manage Your Plugins

For platforms such as WordPress, utilising plugins for features that aren’t included “out of the box” is often a necessity. However, it can be easy to get carried away and make a mess of your plugin library. No matter how small or lightweight the plugin, it will still use up some resource on your server, and adding up multiple smaller plugins can result in quite the load. This really depends on the website itself, but consider if you truly need a plugin before installing it, and ideally it would be far more lightweight to have the functionality implemented by a developer rather than relying on bulky plugins.

Invest In Good Web Hosting

Of course, saving money is important, but if you really want to compete with fast loading websites, your hosting will play a very important part. “Bargain” web hosting platforms aren’t really built for performance, and they are often hosting a vast number of other websites that are eating into the same resource.

Your best bet is to invest in good quality, dedicated hosting and scaling the performance of the server to suit your website and the resource it requires. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference it makes and how much quicker your website will be over most of your competitors.

Minification, Caching and a CDN

You can consider this the ‘fine tuning’ stage, once you have set yourself a good foundation using the points above.

Minification –  The process of stripping out unnecessary characters from CSS and JavaScript files. This includes white space, comments and trailing semicolons. The goal here is to make the files smaller. This can often ‘break’ a website, so you will have to do a bit of trial and error to see what level of minification works best for your site in partiuclar.

Caching –

  1. If you’re still using bargain web hosting, you can use a plug-in like W3 Total Cache, WP-Rocket.me, or WP Super Cache.
  2. If you’re using a web host optimized for WordPress, they probably already have caching built into their system.

Content Delivery Network (CDN) -There are both free and paid options available for a CDN and they essentially host multiple copies of your files on different servers all over the world so that rather than visitors downloading them directly from your server, they download them from one that is closer to them. This results in a dramatically faster download.

Speed is Key!

As discussed, speed is highly important in SEO and user experience. Overall it isn’t a difficult process, it just requires some time and a little monetary investment if you really want to rev up your website.