Website speed matters more than some webmasters realize. A slow website can negatively affect your SEO because Google gives priority to faster websites. Slow loading times can also frustrate your visitors to the point of abandoning your site altogether. And as if these factors weren’t problematic enough, Facebook is now going to change its newsfeed to favor faster websites over slower ones.
The combination of negative SEO plus annoyed web visitors can spell disaster to your businesses’ sales. But it doesn’t have to be this way! If you’re concerned about your site’s slow performance, here are five ways to bring it up to speed.
1. Upgrade to a Better Hosting Plan
Several kinds of web hosting plans exist, including Shared Hosting, Virtual Private Server Hosting (VPS), and Dedicated Server Hosting.
Some webmasters go with a cheaper hosting plan when they create their site. And this typically means choosing a Shared Hosting option. In shared hosting, a website lives on a server that also houses other websites. In other words, your website is “sharing” a server with several other websites.
Shared Hosting works fine for newer websites that don’t yet have much traffic. With minimal traffic, a site doesn’t drain much of a server’s capacity. But as a website’s content and traffic builds over time, it starts outgrowing the Shared-Hosting server and the site gets slower.
If you’ve noticed this slowdown happening to your site, a good option is to upgrade your hosting plan. Many webmasters find that this is the easiest method for boosting a site’s speed and performance.
What type of hosting upgrade should you choose? If you started off with a shared plan, you might want to consider either a Virtual Private Server (VPS) plan or Dedicated Server hosting.
VPS hosting “mimics,” so to speak, a Dedicated Server, yet dwells in a shared-hosting environment using many servers. This makes it simultaneously Shared Hosting and Dedicated Hosting. Upgrading to a VPS plan will bring noticeable improvements to the loading speed of your site.
With Dedicated Server hosting, your website lives alone on its own server. This means all the server’s bandwidth is dedicated only to your site. This option is expensive, so webmasters of growing sites often choose a VPS plan.
Each type of plan has advantages and disadvantages, so do a bit of research before selecting which kind of hosting plan you’ll choose.
2. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Many of your competitors are probably already using a content delivery network (CDN) to improve their website’s speed. If you’re not using one, you may want to consider making the investment. (Hint: it’s not very expensive!)
A CDN is a network of servers that are housed all across the globe. When you don’t use a CDN, your web visitors view your website via one single server. This often causes slow website speeds for visitors who live far away from that server.
Although website data travels fast, it often has to travel a very long distance – often to the other side of the world. Long distances mean slower connections. A CDN gaps the distance between web browsers and faraway servers.
In a nutshell, a CDN’s servers all store cached versions of your website. Your site’s content is therefore located in many places at once. So now, rather than your visitors accessing a server that’s located overseas somewhere, they can instead access a nearby server that’s storing your website’s files. The result is faster loading speeds and happier web visitors.
Besides loading speed, there are other advantages of using a CDN. A few more benefits include the ability to handle larger traffic loads, the blocking of spammers, and protection against malicious DDoS attacks.
3. Use AMP to Accelerate Your Site on Mobile
AMP is short for Accelerated Mobile Pages. As its name suggests, it dramatically speeds up web pages that are accessed on mobile devices.
AMP is a pretty big deal. An official description, from ampproject.org, is:
“The AMP Project is an open-source initiative aiming to make the web better for all. The project enables the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.”
A collaboration of thousands of developers, AMP reduces web pages way down to their bare-minimum amounts of coding. Also, these pages are more-easily cached. This means Google can instantaneously display AMP pages directly from its own servers any time a user clicks it on a SERP.
Google shows a small lightning-bolt icon next to web pages that utilize AMP. This visual signal gives users the opportunity to skip slower pages and select faster ones instead. Using AMP also provides an SEO benefit, because Google places SERP priority on these pages.
If you use WordPress and you’d like to start using AMP, one excellent tool to consider is the AMP Plugin built by Automattic. To learn more, you can also head over to the AMP Project website (which is linked above.)
4. Optimize Your Site’s Images for Internet Friendliness
Your website’s images play a major role in loading speed. Specifically, a high number of images with larger file sizes makes for a sluggish website. So, you’ll want to offset this problem by reducing the file sizes of JPEG photos and cutting the number of images you’re using.
This is not to say that images aren’t important, because they are. They break up large sections of text and help you provide your visitors with a better user experience. Nonetheless, if your images are slowing your site, you should certainly eliminate unimportant ones and reduce the sizes of the others.
It’s smart to use an image editing tool to optimize your photos for the web before uploading them. Photoshop is, of course, one such tool. Other good image compression tools include JPEGmini and a WordPress plugin called WP Smush.
Some people wonder what shrinking an image’s file size will do to its quality. But with the right tools, you’ll find that you won’t even be able to tell the difference between the original and the compressed image.
5. Check for CMS Updates Regularly
For many e-commerce and Content Management System platforms (such as WordPress,) it’s important to keep up with new releases. Whenever you see that there’s a new CMS release available, it’s important to update your website asap.
Smart developers constantly make efforts to improve their coding to optimize website speed. So when you’re proactive about updating your site to the most recent version, you’re taking advantage of the best possible coding.
Besides website speed, another important advantage of keeping your site up to date is improved security. WordPress, for example, is attacked by hackers regularly due to its overwhelming popularity. When you update to the latest version, security vulnerabilities are often fixed along the way.
If you have a WordPress website, you can check for updates in the Update tab within the dashboard.
TIP: If you think you’ll have a hard time remembering to keep track of your website’s updates, consider setting up a monthly reminder on Google Calendar (or whatever system you prefer.)
You don’t have to check for updates every day, or even once a week, necessarily. Once per month should keep your site fast and safe.
Boosting Website Speed Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
As you’ve hopefully seen from this article, it’s not an overly-complex endeavor to turn a tortoise website into a rabbit.
This is certainly not a complete list of speed-boosting tactics. (Listing every possible strategy could fill a novel.) But if the short list of tactics I’ve covered here are implemented, you’ll certainly notice an increase in website speed.