We’re all familiar with the struggle of slow site loads – the lag as photos fill in gaps and navigation bars appear – but do you know how harmful slow load speeds can be to your business? When pages take too long to appear, customers become impatient and navigate away without ever seeing your products or content. And if this happens too often, they’ll stop coming back entirely.
Luckily, you don’t need to leave your page load speeds to fate. There are choices you can make in site design and hosting to speed things along. By removing unused plugins, choosing optimized themes, and opting for a consistent, high-performing web host, you can ensure that your site speed leads the pack.
Know Your Hosts
When choosing a host for your website, there are several different options available. Those new to the web may opt for shared hosting, but with falling hosting prices, this is considered a suboptimal choice. You won’t save much, but you will have to fight other sites for bandwidth and CPU time. For just a little more money per month, you can shift to a virtual private server (VPS) – ultimately not much better than a shared server – or to the cloud.
If your business seems to be on a steady growth curve, the cloud is your best option because it’s a scalable solution that can grow with you. The other major benefit of the cloud is that it’s designed specifically to prevent downtime by replicating its activity across multiple servers. The cloud is a stable and flexible choice for hosting.
Once you’ve chosen a server style for your site, you’ll need to choose a specific host – and the options are extensive. By using simple load time test tools, however, you can make an informed decision about what hosting company to choose.
The three metrics you’ll want to focus on in these tests are load time, speed index, and time to first byte. These factors will help you determine the overall download speed for your site, as well as clear proportional measures based on the size of the site. Some hosts will take longer to load an entire page, but will show progress on the first byte of information more quickly than others, which has been shown to improve Google rankings.
Do You Need All That?
One of the leading reasons why your site might take too long to load is that there are too many large images included on your page, or you’ve chosen image files that don’t adapt well for optimized web use.
The most common file types – .jpeg, .png, .gif – are all older file types and don’t work well for use on the web. Instead, the lesser-known .svg is a better option because you can reduce its size significantly without losing much in the way of quality. When optimizing your images, always start with a full size image, but reduce it by at least 60 percent from there, and then to an even smaller size, depending on your page.
Another common reason your site may be loading slowly is that you’ve left excess plugins installed and running in the background. Often, when building a WordPress site, we install more plugins than we need as we try to determine which ones fulfill our needs most effectively. Unfortunately, we then tend to settle on a few and leave the other ones behind, but still installed. If you want to keep an inactive plugin on your radar for a later time, you can also disable the plugin until you need it again.
Your website’s load time is one of the most important factors in its overall performance, but it’s also one of the easiest metrics to improve. While it can take a while to boost content-based SEO or to develop new products or a new marketing campaign, it takes only some brief experimentation to remove excess files and plugins or choose a better hosting platform.
Don’t let slow speeds doom your site – in today’s competitive web environment, no one is willing to wait.