This is my recommendation post on how to speed up your website. This page includes only products that I use and feel confident in. This post will give you access to all the tools you need to decrease the load time of your website.
Why does site load time matter?
Nowadays Website users will come to your site by desktop, tablet, or even on their mobile devices. We can all agree that having a fast loading website is better than a slow loading site.
Let’s have a look at some data to find an answer.
In this 2014 video we get an insight as to why shoppers abandon there shopping carts online.
According to 2018 research by Google, 53% of mobile users leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load.
This is a problem since the same research revealed the average mobile site takes 15 seconds to load.
Based on 2018 research by MachMetrics, most sites have a load time of around 8-11 seconds.
That might not seem too long, but the reality is that every second loses you visitors and customers.
“So we have hypothetical data and practical data so we don’t really have a threshold to give away but basically the recommendation I would say is just make sites fast for users that’s what it boils down to” Martin Splitt, Google, 2019.
Because of the importance of page speed on user experience, Google rolled out a new page speed update to their algorithm in July 2018. This makes speed a critical factor for everyone.
Thanks to the available technology, it’s not a difficult problem to solve.
All you need to do is understand some of the major factors that are causing your site to load slowly and where you can improve things to speed it up.
I have included my exact methods for speed optimization. Over the years I have tried different ways to decrease my website load speed, and this current method has been working well on multiple websites.
How to Speed up Your Website
You can bookmark this page and check back from time to time as it will be updated on a regular basis with the best tools for your website.
Each of these tools measure aspects of your site to determine speed. You will be given a speed report that shows you where you can make improvements.
Here is an example of a site I am building out for a friend. We have been working on this site to achieve full load times of under 2 seconds.
This is the latest gtmetrix results.
This is an especially critical area to your website. As you add images to your website that are not properly sized, they will add bloat to your site. You will want to compress your images as much as possible while preserving there details.
1. IMAGE OPTIMIZATION
Shortpixel is one of my go to sites for manually compressing images. If you are using WordPress to host your site you can find a plugin for shortpixel.
The plugin will allow you 100 images optimized for free then after you will need to set up an account. Setting up an account is useful for bulk image optimization.
I use the shortpixel website. You can compress unlimited images without setting up an account. You can easily compress images and add them to your website.
For WordPress websites you can download a plugin call SMUSH. Install and activate the plugin. After you’ve manually compressed an image you then upload the image to your website.
SMUSH will automatically compress the image. If further optimization is possible SMUSH will show you the details of how much more compression was added.
Using Shortpixel as my manual compression tool then uploading to my website and SMUSH adding further automatic compression here is an example of an optimized image.
The image above is 849kb. This is before optimization.
The image below is 65kb. THis is after optimization.
That’s over 85% reduction-Your first step to optimization is image sizing!
What is caching? This is the process of storing data in a cache. In other words when you go to a website your browser requests files of that site.
You see the end result which are images and text or even video. Caching stores the data from the webpages you visit, keeping them in a temporary cache (subdirectory).
By storing a web page in a cache the time to load that web page is reduced because you’ve visited that page before it does not have to load from scratch.
Caching is a critical part of of your optimization strategy. Reducing the amount of time it takes to load your web pages for your visitors will ultimately help to keep those visitors on your website create a good user experience.
There are several WordPress plugins you can use for caching. Both free and paid. I have used both and for the purpose of this guide I am recommending the best free WordPress plugin that I use on all my websites.
WP Fastest Cache has been a reliable plugin that does not conflict with any other plugins I am using. It is easy to use, and does an effective job with caching.
3. LAZY LOAD IMAGES
You can easily go in SMUSH settings and just activate lazy load and that’s it.
Ok so what is “lazy load”. When your website is loading in a browser the visitor will only see the top portion of the site.
If you have several images on your site lazy load will show each image as your visitor scrolls down to each image.
This option is another way to reduce page load time. Instead of your site loading everything at once images are loading as needed so to speak.
4. ADD EXPIRES HEADERS
When you are using a cache plugin the files that are being cached can not be stored forever. So the Expires Headers function will tell the browser when to discard cached files and fetch new ones.
For me this caching stuff was pretty intimidating at first. I’m not a super tech person so it took time for me to fully grasp these concepts.
The great thing about using a WordPress plugin is that you can install it and activate it and let it do its job.
Related post: Best WordPress Plugins 2020
For the add expires headers function this is the case. All you’ll need to do is install and activate it. One other setting you may want to change is the amount of time files are stored.
The default is usually set at 8 days but you can change that to 30 days, 180 days, or even 365 days. That’s it, just save your changes and your done. The plugin will do the rest.
5. OPTIMIZE YOUR THEME
Using WordPress to build your website/blog has many advantages. It’s like using templates that are pre made and all you have to do is switch images and add your text.
The theme that you choose needs to be optimized as well. Some themes are designed with more files. When choosing a theme you will want to find one that is lean and optimized for speed.
Isabelle theme is a great example of a well optimized theme. It’s fast and lightweight and shows up well on all the speed testing sites. This theme does not offer a free version. It is a premium (paid) theme.
For a free theme that is well optimized try Astra. I use Astra on one of my websites and it offers the efficiency I’m looking for plus a catalog of templates to choose from.
6. Enable Gzip Compression
It can reduce the amount data being transferred which helps to reduce response time.
If you are using WordPress to build your website you can use a plugin to add the Gzip compression.
Thera are several available but you can take a look at WP Fastest Cache. Along with being a caching plugin it has the Gzip feature as well.
7. Reduce Plugins
Building a WordPress website you will certainly come across a ton of great plugins. The trick to using plugins is not over doing it.
You want to find a plugin that offers multiple features. This allows you to have less plugins installed.
Not all plugins are created equally. Simply said this means you run the risk of installing a plugin that may not be compatible causing issues for your website.
Plugins also collect data from your website. This can cause your website to slow down.
MORE IDEAS TO OPTIMIZE YOUR WEBSITE
This guide is designed to give you free options to optimize your website speed.
Some of the following services are premium (paid) and if you are new to WordPress, do further research so that you become more advanced with how these plugins work.
Having a fast loading website is important for your reader as it is proven that the longer it takes for your site to load the more likely the visitor will leave your site.
There are many other options you can add to further enhance website speed. Such as using a Content Delivery Network CDN.
A CDN delivers your webpage to your visitor from a server based on there geographic location. I’m in the USA so having my pages delivered by a server in this country allows my site to open quickly.
If a visitor to my site is in Australia they can receive my page from a server in their country giving them a faster page load.
A CDN is a paid service. For a website with lots of traffic it would be worthwhile to spend the money on this service.
If you are just getting started with your site you can consider the option and if you want to spend the money for a service like that it wouldn’t hurt.
If you didn’t use the option your site can still perform.
You can also reduce the amount of CSS Stylesheets that load on your home page with a tool call Asset Clean Up. This plugin will allow you to restrict the items loading on your page.
With this option you will want to be careful. Restricting css stylesheets can cause your site to break or not load.
So use caution and please read more on this subject.
Your web hosting plan makes a difference in your websites speed. If you are comparing hosting companies such as Bluehost, Hostgator, or Siteground here’s the bottom line.
Each of these companies have quality services. Your website uptime is in the high 95+% range. Each offers discounts to users who pay annually for the service.
Hostgator offers a slightly cheaper plan when compared. In my opinion not a huge difference, where talking just a few dollars.
Bluehost offers more options in there package. For example if you compare the mid level plan of each company, the Bluehost mid level plan they call it “choice plus” offers more value. Things like storage, and bandwidth.
Discover your perfect website name
For the typical website/blog owner those extra values may not be a major deal breaker. Especially if you are only running one website.
Siteground for the typical website owner, although you pay a couple dollars more for the service the Siteground hosting plans come with site speed boosters and a free CDN.
An average plan paid on a month to month basis with Hostgator is $11.95 paid monthly. This plan allows you to build multiple websites, but there are no options for speeding up those websites.
The starter plan with Siteground paid month to month is $11.95 and you can only build one site. Why would someone go with Siteground over Hostgator in this example?
Ultimately your looking for every way possible to have a fast loading website. Having the Siteground options to increase page speed and a free CDN would be worthwhile and a better choice.
IN CONCLUSION – How To Speed up Your Website
Your basic formula for website optimization is this:
- Image Optimization
- Lazy Load Images
- Add Expires Headers
- Optimize your Theme
- Enable Gzip Compression
- Reduce Plugins
Now it’s your turn
Have you started your website/blog? What are your optimization tips? What’s your go to caching plugin?
Send us an email let us know about your optimization tips. You can also leave a comment as this will help other readers.