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Remember the days of dialup Internet connections? The screeching sound of the modem connecting followed by the click of a link and the wait that felt like it took hours? Expectations have certainly changed. While the experts don’t agree on an exact figure, in order to deliver an outstanding user experience, page load speeds of no more than 3 seconds should be your goal.
The way Google ranks websites in its search engine is a bit of a mystery but there’s little doubt that page load speed is a key factor. Anecdotal evidence supports this as well. Look at the websites that rank highest and you’ll notice that they don’t make their users wait for content.
What does that mean for you, the business owner? If your page is slow, you’re losing customers. Here’s how you speed up your website.
There are plenty of free ways to measure your website’s performance. One is webpagetest.org. Simply enter your site’s URL and it will give you detailed analytics of your site speed. If its under 3 seconds, you don’t have a speed problem. If its higher, you have some changes to make.
Along with using an online tool to measure your site’s speed, test it with human eyes. Are there elements that take longer to load than others? Ask friends or family to evaluate and provide honest feedback.
Website optimization is topic much too large to cover in a single article but here are some of the basics:
Images- Ultra high-resolution images don’t work on the web. Programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator have a “Save for Web” option that allow you to shrink the resolution of your photos without losing noticeable quality. Free websites and apps (like help you accomplish the same goal.
If you’re using Wordpress, plugins like EWWW Optimizer automatically optimize your images upon upload. Image file sizes should be as small as possible without losing quality.
Remove Unnecessary Plugins- By far the most popular way to build a website is through Wordpress. If you’re using Wordpress, you likely have plugins running. Keep plugins to a minimum and delete any that are unnecessary.
Experiment by turning off all plugins and measuring your site speed again. If you see a dramatic difference, your plugins are slowing you down. Turn on one at a time, measure again, and make decisions.
Most people install caching programs that are designed to improve the load speed of a website. Ironically, some of these plugins are so large that they either offer little improvement or may contribute to slower load speeds. If you install a caching plugin, test your site before and after the install. If there’s no improvement, get rid of it.
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Pick the Right Theme- If you’re using Wordpress or purchasing a site template, be careful. Some themes are so large and feature-rich, that they slow page load times to a crawl. If your site is an informational site without the need for a lot of bells and whistles, a simple, often free theme is enough. If you want to keep your theme but its contributing to slow load times, hire a freelance developer to look for scripts that are loading in the background that your site isn’t using.
Upgrade your Webhosting- Are you paying $5 per month for webhosting and feeling really good about the unbelievable deal you locked in? Like anything in life, you get what you pay for.
Those cheap plans work fine if your site is small and simple but as your business grows, you’re going to need a more powerful (and expensive) platform. Talk to your webhost about a virtual private server. You’ll likely pay at least $35 per month but VPS pricing is quickly dropping. You may also need some help setting it up.
The little known secret to address speed is Cloudflare. To explain Cloudflare in detail would require a lot of techno-geek talk but basically, it’s a Content Delivery Network. A CDN is a giant network of servers around the world that hold copies of your website.
When somebody accesses your site, it’s delivered from the closest server allowing for faster load times. If you want to learn more about the nuts and bolts, go to cloudflare.com. Its introductory service is free.
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Studies show that tenths of seconds count. Shaving fractions of a second off of your load time will keep people on your site longer. If you rely on your site to do some of the heavy lifting that comes with running your business, speeding it up is worth the investment of time and money.
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