Your website speed has an effect on traffic, conversion rates, and revenue. A poll that was conducted by Akamai showed that 47 percent of people want their webpages to load in two seconds or less. If it takes more than three seconds for the page to load, 40 percent of people navigate away.
In 2010, Gomez did a study that interviewed 1,500 customers to determine how website speed and performance affects their shopping experience. The results showed that if a website load time increased from two seconds up to 10 seconds, there was a 38 percent increase in page abandonment. During peak traffic times, if a website experienced delays, up to 75 percent of customers would leave and visit a competitor’s website instead.
These studies are not abnormalities. In fact, Aberdeen Group did a study and found that if a website delays even one second, there is a seven percent decrease in conversion, a 16 percent decrease in customer satisfaction, and an 11 percent decrease in page views. You should also know that Google will look at your website speed when determining its rank. How can we sum up all of this information?
If your website is slow, you will see a negative impact in:
- Conversion Rates
- The Reputation and Perception of Your Brand
- Traffic and Page Views
My goal is to help you build successful websites. To that end, I’ve created a guide that can help you increase your website speed. Here are 21 ways to accomplish this goal.
Before we get into the steps, you should Google PageSpeed Insights or visit Pingdom to get an accurate indication of your current speed and then compare the changes that happen after your site has been tweaked.
Also, backup your site because some of the tweaking methods we are going to discuss mean that you have to edit your files and this could mess your site up. Here’s a way to do this for WordPress sites, and here’s a way to do this for other sites.
Okay, let’s go!
1. Enable Expires Headers
The response time of your server plays a large role in the speed of your site. If you make a ton of requests to your server, it takes your website a lot longer to load. Expires Headers lets your browser know when certain files should be requested from the server as opposed to from your cache.
If Expires Headers is set up so that your visitor’s browser only asks for the file on a monthly basis, the file will not be requested until the month has passed. This gives you two benefits. It minimizes the number of HTTP requests on your server and minimizes the load time because you’re not requesting the same file over and over again.
2. Let’s get rid of unneeded plug-ins and unneeded add-ons.
These can slow you down a lot. It’s important that you pay attention to plug-ins and add-ons if you are using CMS’s, such as WordPress or Joomla!.
Remember, it’s not just the number of plug-ins you have installed but their quality. There can be a site that has 100 quality plug-ins that runs a lot faster than a similar site with 25 low-quality plug-ins. Remember, plug-ins are needed to improve the functionality of your site. But choose the right ones to keep your site functioning properly. If you’re using WordPress, check out P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) to determine which plug-ins are causing you problems.
3. Limit, or If Possible Completely Remove, Social Sharing Buttons from Your Website
You don’t need hundreds of social sharing buttons on your website. There’s no research linking having a ton of the social sharing websites to increased traffic. However, there is plenty of research that shows how a slow website reduces traffic.
4. Get a Higher Quality Web Host
This sounds like a no-brainer, but we need to throw it in here. If you try a lot of the tricks we mention and you do not see a drastic improvement in your site speed, you may want to change your web host.
Cheap servers may give you a response time of 250 ms, whereas a dedicated server will give you a response time of seven ms. No amount of tweaking can mimic those results. Our testing shows that these three hosting providers should be among the fastest:
- A2 Hosting ~300ms
- SiteGround ~400ms
- HostGator Cloud ~500ms
5. Ad Code and Analytics Should Load Asynchronously
Analytic tracking codes can have a negative impact on the speed of your website. It’s worse if the remote server is down. However, if you trigger all of your codes to use asynchronous delivery, a delay or outage with your ad network will not affect your site.
6. Enable Caching
If you want your website to be much faster, enable caching. Research has shown that this can drastically reduce the load time for your site. There are a number of ways to enable caching based on the platform you’re using. With WordPress, for example, you can install:
- W3 Total Cache
- W3 Super Cache
7. Install Google Page Speed
Google Page Speed is a module that optimizes the speed of your website while you make modifications on both your files and your servers.
8. Use CDN
A CDN, also known as content delivery network, makes your website load faster regardless of where your visitors are located around the globe.
This is accomplished by distributing your website files over a network of servers located all over the world. This way, a person visiting your site in London will get information from a server in Europe as opposed to a server in India. Here are a couple of good options for CDN’s:
9. Pick the Right Website Theme
Your website theme will have a huge impact on the speed of your site. By switching themes, you may able to drastically reduce load times. Even a perfect server configuration will not speed up your site if you have a bloated website.
10. Optimize Your Database Regularly
Don’t ignore this powerful tool for improving site speed, especially if you use a CMS that relies on heavy database usage to work. Some plug-ins increase the data stored in your database, making your site slower. Automatically clean and optimize your database using WP-Optimize plugin for WordPress, or you can do it manually if you use other platforms.
11. Optimize or Reduce Image Size
Images larger than one or two MB should be reduced and optimized, allowing your site to work faster without impacting the quality of your photos. Here are some tools that can help in this regard:
- WP Smush (for WordPress users)
- EWWW Image Optimizer (for WordPress users)
- Kraken (for everyone – Drupal and Joomla!)
12. Use Gzip Compression
Gzip compression will take the files on your website and compress them.
14. Group Background Images into Image Sprites
The more requests your server makes, the slower your site will be. Multiple background images require visitors to make a number of requests when trying to load the site. By combining those images into one image, your visitor’s browser only needs to make one image request when loading your site. This can be accomplished using image sprites. Try SpriteMe to do this.
15. Enable HTTP Keep Alive
HTTP Keep Alive guarantees that the file requests to your server are made through a single connection. Your site will load faster for your users because the number of connections to your server is minimized. To enable Keep Alive, copy the following code into your .htaccess file: “Header set Connection keep-alive”.
16. Fix Broken Links on Your Website
17. Avoid Image Hotlinking
This is the practice of linking an image to someone else’s website as opposed to the server. On the surface, this seems like a great idea that can save you a ton of bandwidth.
18. Use a Trusted CMS
Your CMS is the basis for your website. Using a popular CMS, such as WordPress, or even using simple HTML is fine. However, the less reliable the CMS, the more you risk having a slower website.
19. Minimize the Number of External Requests
Most sites rely on files and sources from outside websites, such as embedded videos or multi-media files, to work. While this isn’t always bad, if you are requesting too many external files from slow websites, it will affect your site loading time.
20. Use a PHP Accelerator
PHP prevents needing to input the same information on your website all the time, but it can also make your website load slowly. Try replacing PHP with static HTML files if it’s possible or use a PHP accelerator so your site runs faster.
21. Stop Others from Hotlinking Your Images
If other people hotlink to your images, every time a person tries to view an image on their website, a request will be made to your server. You can fix this by disabling hotlinking of images hosted on your server.
Now, it’s time to test your site. Here are some options for testing your website speed:
- WebPage Test
- Google Pagespeed Insights
- Webpage Analyzer
- Pingdom Website Speed Test