Website speed has quickly become a crucial advantage in an ever increasingly wired world. Your site’s speed has a marked effect on critical factors such as loyalty, bounce rates, and conversion rates. In addition, as of April 2010, the loading speed of your website has an impact on your Google ranking.© Stockbyte, Thinkstock
Today, people are increasingly impatient; blame it on the fast life or technological advancement that has made things so much easier. Many of your site visitors do not have the patience to put up with slow loading sites. One obvious reaction is that they will opt to move one to the next site they find. That is how websites finally start losing visitors.
Google made the decision to take into account loading time into account as a factor for ranking websites because it takes longer for spiders to parse your page. If people found slow loading websites via Google search engine, they are bound to stop utilizing Google as the preferred search engine. Moreover, sites with slow load times are not appealing from your users’ point of view.
It is pertinent that you regularly check your site’s upload time. Numerous free tools available on the internet can help you with this. Once you have checked your site loading time, use the following 10 strategies to optimize its speed.
1. Choose a Reliable Web Host
Running an e-commerce website like yours, means you will add multimedia content, host large volumes of data, or even get uncontrollable web traffic spikes. To counteract the effects such factors are likely to have on your website, you need to choose a hosting service that offers you high performing servers. Your hosting service should also offer you good uptime and flexibility – allowing you to configure things as you like.
2. Choose a WordPress Theme Wisely
Badly coded WordPress themes or those with images everywhere add unnecessary weight to your web page and your website. Themes that are a few megabytes in size will add a few seconds to your page load time. To avoid this, choose designs that are optimized for mobile devices, tablets, and desktops. While Google’s search engine favors responsive designs, adaptive designs created for mobile phones help improve the mobile user’s experience significantly.
3. Deactivate Unnecessary Widgets and Plugins
Installing more plugins without proper research is likely to lead to performance issues; however, the number you install might not necessarily be the reason your website load time is slow. Some plugins are known to affect loading speeds because of bad coding, calls to external servers, or persistently updating WordPress databases. Consider installing a plugin to monitor how much load each plugin adds to your site, this way you will be able to decide which ones to remove and keep.
4. Optimizing Pictures
Large images can increase your page load time forcing your visitors to either wait or abandon your site altogether. To avoid such problems, consider resizing your images before uploading them to your website. Another way to get around the issue is to use WordPress plugins such as Smush.it or EWWW Image Optimizer (my favorites). These plugins automatically optimize your pictures as you load them to your site by converting the image files into formats that produce the smallest image sizes.
5. Use a Caching Plugin
Caching plugins store an HTML version of your website on the visitors’ systems and make the delivery of your site faster. Uploading and installing a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache on your WordPress website means that visitors do not have to wait for every element of the page to be loaded bit by bit. With caching, your entire site’s HTML assembly occurs before the visitor gets to your site, that means visitors see the content – not a white screen.
6. Add Script to Footer
Script is a client-side programming language executed and run by the user’s web browser and not on your web server. When placed at the top, browsers are likely to execute the script before moving on to the rest of the page, making load times slower. Using scripts to footer plugin moves scripts to the bottom, allowing your web server to render pages much faster. The script loads in the background making the overall load faster for your visitor and improving your Google speed score.
7. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Hosting media files on a Content Delivery Network is probably one of the best strategies of speeding up your website, and it can save around 60% bandwidth while halving the requests made by your site. CDNs host data across a network of servers all over the world. When a user visits your site from South Africa, they will be downloading files from a server that is closest to him or her. Since the bandwidth is spread across several servers, it reduces the load on a single server protecting your site from traffic spikes and DDoS attacks.
8. Add Lazy Load to the Images
Images make your content interesting; however, the more pictures you upload on your site, the longer the page upload time will be. Lazy loading images helps improve the page load time by loading those images that are visible to your reader. Lazy loading also helps in saving on bandwidth requiring fewer data to load your images for users who might not scroll all the way to the bottom of your web page.
9. Change PHP Requests to Static HTML
PHP is great for your website making it more efficient and reducing the number of times one has to enter the same information multiple times. However, if your page has to execute PHP queries every time it is loaded, it will add to your site load time. Replace PHP queries with static HTML to make your pages load faster.
10. Use CSS Sprite
A sprite is a large image file with all the individual images placed next to each other. With CSS, you have the capability of hiding the image apart for a particular section you require through a set of coordinates. Sprites help speed up your website since loading a big image is much faster and simpler than loading a set of small images.
Optimizing your website is no longer an optional task. With Google search engine placing so much value on speeding up web pages, it is critical for your website’s success (and your business) to have fast loading pages. 99% of optimizing your site is following the good practices I have explained above, taking advantage of CDNs and caching.