People are impatient. A one-second delay in your website’s load time can cause a 7% drop in conversion rates. And 40% of visitors will leave a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Two great reasons to ensure your website loads fast!
There are many factors that contribute to a slow-loading website. So before we begin with optimizing, let’s look at all the factors that can affect website speed.
The Ultimate Guide to Website Speed for Webmasters
Why speed matters
Page speed has been a ranking factor for desktop searches since 2010. In 2018, it became a ranking factor for mobile searches too.
Google has said that they are looking to make page speed a “first-class citizen”.
A slow website will not only rank lower in search engine results but also lead to a high bounce rate. Over 40% of visitors will hit the back button and check another search result if they see the loading screen for longer than 3 seconds.
There are many factors that contribute to a slow-loading website, including large image sizes, heavy scripts or code, and poor quality hosting.
What is considered a fast page load time?
Most experts agree that anything under three seconds is considered fast. This is especially important for mobile users, as Google recommends a load time of three seconds or less for optimal user experience.
The goal should be to get as close to two seconds or less. But, anything under three seconds is still considered fast.
Keep in mind that this is for real-world load times, not just in testing.
Tools for measuring and monitoring website performance
Let’s now look at some of the tools you can use to measure website speed.
Google Pagespeed Insights – Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool analyzes the speed and content of a web page and provides suggestions on how to make that page faster.
GTMetrix – GTmetrix is a free tool that analyzes your page’s speed. The report gives an overview of how your page fares in terms of speed, including PageSpeed and YSlow scores, page load time, and the size of pages.
Pingdom – Pingdom is another free tool that lets you test load times. The report will show you the page load time, size, and number of requests.
WebPageTest – WebPageTest is a free tool that tests the speed of your website from multiple locations around the world. You can choose from different browsers and connection speeds to simulate real-world conditions.
While these are just a few of the many tools out there for measuring website performance, they provide a good starting point for understanding your website’s speed and how to improve it.
Factors that affect page load speed
There are a number of factors that can impact the speed of your website. Some of these are within your control, while others may be out of your hands.
Here are some of the most common factors that can impact website speed:
- Large image sizes: A lot of websites use full-size images which are not necessary on the web. This can cause slow load times.
- Heavy scripts or code: Adding too much functionality via custom code snippets or plugins can slow your website significantly.
- Poor hosting: If you are using a slow or unreliable hosting service, this can also cause your website to be slow.
- Slow or no caching: Another common cause of slow website speed is slow or no caching. This can be addressed by using a caching plugin.
- Redirects: Redirects tell browsers to go from one URL to another. While redirecting pages cannot be avoided when your website grows, we recommend you keep them to a minimum.
Let’s now look at how you can optimize your website for these and other factors!
Tips for optimizing your website for better performance
Let’s look at some of the easiest ways to get your website to load faster.
Choose a lightweight theme
One of the easiest ways to speed up your website is to choose a lightweight theme like Astra. The default Astra setup scores an A grade from GTmetrix with just 167ms load time.
With Astra, your website loads quickly and efficiently, so you can focus on your content.
At less than 50KB of the default size, compared to 300kb for most WordPress themes, load times are as low as 0.5 seconds. This makes it one of the fastest WordPress themes available.
The recent updates to Astra have made the theme faster than ever before. We have worked hard to ensure that even the subtlest of tweaks are implemented for improved performance.
Astra is a great choice for faster websites because it is responsive, and easy to customize. It’s also fully compatible with popular plugins like WooCommerce, Yoast SEO, and many others.
Limit the use of plugins
Another way to speed up your website is to limit the use of plugins. While plugins can add valuable features to your site, they can also slow it down.
Many functions of a basic website can be done within 10 plugins if you choose them well.
If you are using a lot of plugins like in the screenshot above, try to find ways to limit their use or replace them with more efficient alternatives.
Enable browser caching
Another important step for improving website performance is to enable browser caching. This allows browsers to store certain resources locally, speeding up the loading process when those resources are needed again.
You can use a plugin like Litespeed cache which helps you ensure caching at all levels is functioning in the right way.
Simply install and activate the plugin and go to Settings > Browser tab and switch the Browser cache on.
From here, your visitors’ browsers will automatically store a cached copy of your website in their local storage. When the visitor comes back to your website, they’ll see the local copy first before the new one is downloaded from your server.
Avoid URL redirects
You should also avoid URL redirects whenever possible. Redirects can add extra time to the loading process, so try to keep your URLs as simple and direct as you can.
If you do need to use redirects for any reason, make sure that they are set up correctly and are not causing any unnecessary delays.
A simple redirection manager plugin like Redirection can help you ensure that all your URL redirects are properly configured. Other SEO plugins like Yoast SEO or RankMath also offer URL redirection.
The most important thing is to keep track of all the links that you’re redirecting and remove any unnecessary redirects or redirect loops that may be present.
One common cause of slow load times is large, unoptimized images. There are a number of tools and plugins that can help you do this, such as TinyPNG or the WP Smush plugin.
They automatically compress your images once they’re uploaded and serve compressed images to users.
Plugins like Smush even let you set the maximum width and height of your images. So if you have larger images, the plugin automatically resizes them to fit within the maximum limit.
While it’s a very simple process where you can run your existing JS and CSS files through a new line remover, plugins like Litespeed cache can make it happen in the background.
Simply install the plugin and go to Litespeed Cache > Page Optimization > turn on the Minify settings for CSS, JS, and HTML.
The speed impact is noticeable as every space is an additional bit which quickly adds up in terms of the page size.
Just make sure to test your site afterward to make sure it didn’t break anything!
Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
A content delivery network (CDN) is a system of distributed servers that deliver web content to users based on their geographic location.
By using a CDN, you can improve the performance of your website by delivering content from servers that are closest to your users.
There are many different CDN providers, such as Cloudflare, Amazon CloudFront, and StackPath. The most popular choice is Cloudflare because it’s free of cost for small websites and offers great value in the free tier as well as the paid tiers.
The major benefit of adding a CDN to your website is that you no longer have to worry about where the audience comes from.
If your server is located in the United States and your audience is in Europe, the CDN will automatically choose the closest server to visitors.
Switch to better hosting
If after trying all the tips above, you still have a slow website, one solution may be to switch to a better hosting provider. There are many different hosting options available, and it’s important to choose one that is optimized for speed and performance.
Some popular managed hosting providers include SiteGround, A2Hosting, and InMotion Hosting.
If you have a higher-traffic website, it may be time to move to a dedicated hosting service or even a VPS.
Services like Vultr and Linode offer great VPS at as low as $5/month making it very affordable to host high traffic sites.
By choosing a reliable hosting provider, you can ensure that your website will load quickly and consistently, regardless of traffic volume or user location.
Embrace a minimalist approach
Using a minimalist design approach can help you optimize your site’s performance and speed up loading times.
Some ways to implement a minimalist approach include minimizing the number of plugins you use, using a simple theme, and removing any unnecessary features or elements from your site design.
This is one of the hundreds of templates that are offered by Astra’s companion plugin, Starter Templates that you can import with a single click. The best part is they’re all designed to be simple and beautiful to behold.
It’s a well-known fact that speed affects your conversions. So, speeding up your website is one of the easiest ways to increase conversions.
Fortunately, there are multiple ways to speed up a website. A few of which we have shared here.
So go ahead and give them a try. You’ll see the difference they can make to your site’s speed and performance!
Do you have any other tips for speeding up your website? Share them with us in the comments below!
Guest author: Sujay Pawar is the CEO and Co-Founder of Brainstorm Force, the company behind Astra. He’s passionate about the online space and writes articles to help entrepreneurs and freelancers succeed online. A father, a Youtube addict, and the brain behind numerous world-class products, you can connect with him on Twitter. @sujaypawar.