We’ve talked about page speed before. In our professional opinion, it’s one of the most important factors of your website – whether you run a blog, business, or build sites for others. A poor page speed can hijack your efforts before a user even sees your page!
Poor page speed is one of those hidden killers that doesn’t get enough attention. These days Google expects your page to load within 2-3 seconds. And if it doesn’t, you can expect your search rankings to be downgraded in favour of faster websites. You want your website speed to be just as fast, if not faster, than your competitors.
A poor page speed can also increase your bounce rates. I know I’m not the only one who has gotten impatient waiting for a site to load! If I stare at a blank screen longer than a few seconds, I’m out of there.
There is a slight difference between page speed and site speed. Page speed refers to the time it takes to load a particular page on your website. Site speed refers to the loading time of your website in general. Both are factors in Google rankings and need to be addressed.
Here’s how you can easily check your own website speed.
Here’s our top 10 things that could be ruining your page speed and how to fix them
1. Your server host
Unfortunately, not all hosting providers are created equal. In general, you can expect to get what you pay for. I understand that if you’re just starting out you may not have the budget for a quality host provider. But it’s definitely something to take into consideration down the track.
There’s many reasons your hosting can affect your page speed, but as a general rule, some hosting providers have quicker loading times than others. We use and recommend Siteground. Not only is their speed up to scratch, they are professional, have great customer service and we’ve never had any issues. Plus they offer a bunch of free add-ons with plans greater than StartUp including priority support, SSL & Cloudflare.
2. Your CMS
Similarly, some content management systems are better with optimising page speed than others. Choosing a CMS for your website shouldn’t be taken lightly. A third of the world’s websites are run on WordPress, which can provide a great speed. Squarespace would be a distant second, while other options like wix and weebly are way off. If you’re wanting a website for professional reasons that are easily scalable, WordPress is the best way to go, particularly for scale.
3. Image size
One of the biggest mistakes we see designers and people in general making on their websites is uploading images that are just way too big! Images for the web really don’t have to be large. This counts for static on-page images, sliders and images within blog posts. If you have multiple images on one page, the amount of data that will need to load can be exponentially blown out of proportion from oversized images! Aim to get your images down to around 100kb each. Of course the easiest way to make professional web ready images is using Photoshop. And a great tool we use to optimize images uploaded to your WordPress is Imagify, which works to reduce image size without compromising on quality.
4: Certain plugins and unused plugins
If your website is loading slow, you may want to check if any plugins you’re using are affecting your page speed. You can do this by temporarily deactivating each plugin and then running a site speed test. Some plugins are more likely to slow down your speed, such as chat bots. However, if these plugins are a great tool for you, it may be beneficial to work on other aspects of your site speed first.
Don’t forget to deactivate & delete any plugins you aren’t using. These can just ‘weigh down’ your site unnecessarily. Make sure you check and test your site thoroughly before deleting and ensure you have backups!
5: Very content heavy pages
If you have certain pages with slow speed, you may want to take a look at how content heavy the page is. If it’s a popular page on your website, consider splitting the content across multiple pages (adding internal links, of course) to help speed up the page. You may notice a decrease in bounce rate and an increase in time on page by doing this.
6: Not using a CDN
A Content Delivery Network works by serving up your website’s content through the nearest geographical server. That way, your content can be served locally, depending on where in the world your audience is searching from. This works to decrease loading times. For example, if your hosting server is located in Singapore, a user in Australia should have a fairly quick load time. But for a user in New York, the load time will increase as it is bouncing off a server half way around the world. A CDN would allow a New York user to be served up your content from a New York-based server. Therefore decreasing the load time of your site. Cloudflare is a great CDN choice and is what we use.
7: A heavy scripted theme
This is probably one of the least discussed issues surrounding websites. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a VERY GOOD theme. But the cost of simply using any old theme on your site could be more drama in the long run than you realise. One mistake Julian made earlier in his career when searching for a theme was that if he was working with a mechanic, he would search for a ‘mechanic’ theme. This makes sense for a beginner, to think that a ‘mechanic’ theme would be the most ideal.
What he found was code heavy, bloated themes that were really hard to use and very in-flexible. He has since learnt so much more about choosing themes and now uses a premium flexible theme that can be used across almost all of his clients. It’s also so much better when approaching theme building holistically! A great theme will allow you to easily add UX, SEO, Performance & Speed that is so required for a website.
8: Having a premium browser caching & compressing plug-in
Now, there are some decent caching plugins out there and we are not criticising them. However we have tried the majority of them and have found that not all caching plugins are created equal! Particularly when it comes to free ones. An example is W3 Total Cache, which loads files onto your server that are not fully necessary. Even having a Facebook Pixel on your site can slow it down by up to 10%! The WordPress HeartBeat ‘checkup’ that is performed can slow down your site too.
If you’re like me and take your website seriously, then you no doubt have Google Analytics, a Facebook Pixel, a CDN and a range of other tools embedded. We’ve found that only one caching plugin stands head and shoulders above the rest, working very hard to help reduce the pull on these external scripts. That plugin is WP Rocket.
9. Pulling a lot of resources and ‘live feeds’ from YouTube, FaceBook & Instagram
YouTube is now the largest search engine in the world, and for good reason! People love watching videos. And videos are a great way to engage with your audience. However depending on what sort of theme/page builder/plugin you are using to embed these precious videos, they can add seconds to your load time.
It is also a popular stream of thought that having your Facebook and Instagram feed embedded on your website is a good thing. In our experience having these feeds can significantly slow things down as they are constantly trying to ‘pull’ the data from your social media accounts. On top of that, you need to think about what you want your visitor to do? Do you really want to push them away from your site that you’ve worked so hard to get them on? No. You want them to take that primary or secondary call to action.
10. Google AdSense & Display Ads
We tried Google AdSense once, and it was good for the extra pocket money (roughly $100 a month if your site is getting more than 20,000 visits). However we came to two conclusions after utilising them for 6 months:
- Two: We asked ourselves, why are we displaying these ads only to have our precious users be pushed away from our site. It has been far more beneficial to us to create our own enticement for our visitors to buy or sign up to our website. For example, stats show that the average email subscriber is worth $4. Compare that to the 0.01c value of your ad. It’s a no brainer! Forget the quick fix, focus on your long game and what is going to work for you!
Hopefully the above tips were eye-opening about what exactly is slowing down your page speed. Apart from giving a great user experience and allowing your website’s content to shine, your page speed can also have a detrimental affect on your SEO efforts. To read more about optimizing your website for SEO, read about the three unspoken SEO ranking factors here.