How to Increase the Loading Speed of Your Website

Imagine this: your e-commerce site is losing visitors on Black Friday or the recent record-setting Cyber Monday —traditionally the two biggest shopping days of the year. What’s worse is that this situation is totally unnecessary. You could have kept those visitors if you had just reduced your website’s load time. By neglecting something so important, you are losing a significant amount of money and will continue to lose revenue until you tackle this problem.

Why Speed Matters

Speed matters first because it is one aspect of an efficient, high-functioning website. But site speed also matters because people’s attention spans are getting increasingly shorter. Data shows that almost half of all internet users expect website pages to load in less than two seconds. If your site takes longer than three seconds to load, 40% of users will move on. And speed matters to Google. If people are leaving because your site is too slow, then you will have a high bounce rate. A high bounce rate tells Google that your site is low quality, and your ranking will suffer. For these reasons, web developer Robert Mening says that increasing site speed is “an essential skill for any website owner.” He provides an extensive list of strategies for speeding up WordPress (WP) websites in particular.

Evaluate Your Site

First, you should objectively test the speed of your site. To do so, you can use GTmetrix or Pingdom, both of which provide a detailed analysis of what (if anything) is causing your site to lag. These tools measure if your site is too slow and you can also use them to continually monitor its performance. Remember that your goal should be for your pages to load in under two seconds. Faster than that is even better.

Have a Good Foundation

Make sure that you have a good hosting provider. Most likely your best bet is to opt for a virtual private server (VPS). Shared hosting will slow you down too much, and a dedicated server probably has more power than you need and is too expensive. You should also consider managed WordPress hosting created especially for WP sites. With managed hosting, you won’t have to be responsible for the technical aspects of your site. Keep this same mentality when selecting your theme. Choose one that only has what you need, keeping it as lightweight as possible. One strategy is to opt for a minimal theme and then add plug-ins to add additional functionality. You might also consider utilizing a content delivery network (CDN). The closer a server is to a user, the faster the loading time will be. A CDN takes your static files and distributes them on various servers across the world so that your site is closer to people than it would have been otherwise. There are even solutions that will allow you to host parts of your site through a CDN. Some CDN resources you can check out are:
  • MaxCDN
  • Amazon Cloudfront
  • Cloudflare
  • Jetpack (a plugin)
  • WOT Cache

Updates and Maintenance

It should go without saying that you should keep all of the elements of your site as up to date as possible. This includes everything from HTML and PHP to your theme and plug-ins. Your hosting provider is responsible for your site’s primary updates, but you should still keep any eye on them. The more up to date your technology is, the more secure your site will be and the more efficiently it will run. Use tools such as WP-Optimize and WP-Sweep to clean up your database as it gets bloated with data you aren’t actually using. You should eliminate anything you aren’t using (plug-ins, widgets, etc.).

Other Tactics for Decreasing Loading Time

Speeding up your site is about enabling it to do as little as possible. With this principle in mind, consider doing the following:
  • Don’t host videos on your site—auto-embed them
  • Compress your images and your website files
  • Reduce server requests (e.g., limit how many posts you show on each page, break comments and posts into pages, implement lazy loading for images)
  • Allow caching
  • Concatenate files (i.e., combine them into one larger file)
  • Minify files
  • Limit what you can (such as post revisions, buttons, and widgets)
  • Deactivate pingbacks and trackbacks
  • Include an expires header in your static resources (this determines the length of time a visitor’s browser caches content)
  • Optimize CSS delivery
  • Prioritize above the fold content
  • Install WOT Cache for an overall WordPress Cache Plugin solution

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

It’s old news that people are using mobile more and more for all of their online activities. Not only does your site need to load quickly but it also needs to load quickly on smartphones. Because of the widespread use of mobile, Google has released Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which is “a whole new way of creating web pages and effectively changes the mobile web.” AMP is an open-source software designed to boost loading speeds on mobile devices. Even before AMP, Google took steps to favor mobile-friendly sites. So the better your site’s mobile friendliness, the better its ranking. You can learn more about AMP here.

Everyone Benefits from Fast Loading Speed

No matter what area of life we’re talking about, people appreciate having experiences that are orderly, seamless, and fast. Optimizing your site for speed will set you ahead of the majority of websites on the internet. The result will be that you lose fewer visitors and increase your revenue. Image source: pixabay.com

What You Need to Know to Improve SEO Using CDNs

Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can improve page load speed and bring more traffic through better search engine positions. But only if you use it correctly. Network Optimization firm Incapsula, a provider of cloud-based CDNs that aid in defending and optimizing webites, has shared their in-depth knowledge of this topic in multiple posts on their blog. In this post I will summarize the points they made.

Debunking CDN SEO Myths

Let’s start with eliminating some common SEO myths. None of these are true:
  • Many sites on a single IP are bad for SEO; in this Google Webmasters official forum discussion the official Google rep stated “We generally do not treat sites hosted on CDNs any differently”.
  • CDNs create duplicate content; each copy of your content has exactly the same URL, so Google’s crawlers will not see multiple copies regardless of which location presents the content when they crawl it.
  • Bot blocking will stop Google’s crawlers; bot blockers only block bad bots; they never block crawlers from recognized search engines.
  • CDNs will hurt my ability to rank for my geographic location; the IP address is not the primary signal Google users to determine the location of the server that hosts your site; Google first looks at your Webmasters Tools setting and TLD country code. CDNs also whitelist their server locations to prevent any localization errors.

CDN Affect on Page Speed

We all know the importance of reducing page load times and increasing page speed. Moz has been very clear about how webite speed impacts search ranking. What many do not realize is that what really matters is “Time to First Byte” (TTFB). CDNs impact on TTFB Using a CDN will not improve your SEO unless you optimize not only how long it takes to load the first byte, but also what you load. Ilya Grigorik, developer advocate on Google’s “Make the Web Fast” team rejected a study claiming TTFB does not matter, explaining:
“It’s not only the time that matters, but also what’s in those first few bytes… Of course it doesn’t matter if you flush your ‘200 OK’ after 1ms vs 1s…. But if you know what you’re doing and craft the response right, then it can make a huge difference”.
The primary cause of slow TTFB is processor time required to dynamically generate html pages. Sites using any database driven CMS (WordPress for example) dynamically generate your home page for every new visitor. Loadtime comparison of html, javascrips, images and CSS An excellent solution would be to classify the HTML components as static and have them delivered directly from a CDN, with no processing and from the nearest possible location. Some CDNs are using advanced caching algorithms to identify and cache more html to store statically, thereby reducing the time and amount of html that must be dynamically generated.For example, Incapsula wrote in CDN SEO Benefits and Advantages:
At Incapsula we see a double (and event triple) digit site speed improvement among the websites using our service. This improvement is achieved not only by CDN content Caching and Geo Distribution capabilities, but also by clever uses of existing assets. Namely, we will automatically Minify your source code, GZip your files and even Cache your “Un-Cacheable” dynamically generated content (especially useful for websites with dynamic catalogs, on-site search features and etc). As a result your website will load faster, achieve higher SERP rankings and provide better overall User Experience, thus also improving Bounce and Conversion rates.

More advanced CDNs use various methods of compression to automatically Minify your source code and GZip your files for additional reductions in load time. CDNs can be used to improve on-page SEO and search rankings, but only if you choose the right CDN and take advantage of faster TTFB, reduced dynamic html, and increased compression.