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. Nowadays, when most people access the Internet on the go from mobile devices, site speed has become especially important. 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.
Ever since the introduction of Google’s Mobile First Index, site speed is Google’s official ranking factor. This means slow load time means decreased rankings, hence poor site visibility.
Site speed has a huge effect on usabiloity and conversions. If people are leaving because your site is too slow, they are not converting.
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:
- Amazon Cloudfront
- 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. 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 TimeSpeeding 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
Use a Web Design Platform Made for Site Speed
If your current content management system or theme is giving you a bad time, speed-wise, switch as soon as possible. Don’t try to fix or adjust. Use a website builder that gets it.
Duda is a solid example of an agency-friendly website building platform built from the ground up to minimize load times. Duda CTO Amir Glatt even published a detailed article describing what they have done to get Duda’s infrastructure as aligned as possible with Google’s best practices for page speed, achieving better scores than Wix, Weebly and even the mighty WordPress:
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.
Test, Audit, Fix
Testing, monitoring and auditing how your site performs should be done on a continuous basis. Your site might be generating errors any minute due to redesign, new features, new sections/products being added, seasonal traffic spikes, sudden social media success, etc.
Serpstat is an advanced SEO platform that can help with auditing your website and alerting you of errors on a regular basis. It will break loading speed issues into two groups for you to easily prioritize:
- High priority
- Middle priority
It will also provide explanations for each item they are checking for you to better understand any issue and easily delegate the task to a non-SEO team member.
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.
How do you decide if a web host is a good choice? Are disk storage features and bandwidth still important? Choosing a web host for your site is almost more of an art than a science. But, there is also a methodology to it all. It is a matter of you defining the process that works for you.
For many, it can be downright tricky. This is especially true if a person doesn’t know what to look for in a web host. It is really helpful to have a checklist to help you get through all that trickiness. Defining the checklist is almost a personal journey, but a little help (qualified, that is) never hurt anyone, or at least that is what they say.
What is the Big Deal About Hosting Companies?
Nothing is more important to your website’s functionality than a reliable web host. Your web host needs to operate on a powerful enough server and have a stable network connection to the rest of the world. The recommended uptime score is anything above 99.5; with the unacceptable rate being anything below 99 percent.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the people factor. That can include the customer service, but also the knowledge level. Many times there is a fair amount of knowledge floating around at a hosting company, but one needs to beware of the hosting companies (usually occurring in the smaller companies more so than the larger, established companies) that have people who are more talented at selling used cars than understanding the definition of DNS.
Tips for Choosing a Hosting Service
If you look online, you’ll find plenty of articles with information about publishing platforms. However, while these platforms work well for building an online presence, a web host can easily taint even the prettiest web page.
Also, keep in mind that the definition of a publishing platform can include user-generated-content (UGC) sites like blogger.com and medium. Those are platforms where you can publish your own content, by virtue of the fact that the owners of the domain/site give you permission to do so. These sites are hosted, yes, but you are not the one that has to deal with the hosting company. Instead, you are dealing with the owner of the site who has given you permission to publish using their publishing platform/software.
In cases such as WordPress, you may have a publishing platform, like WordPress.com or you may be downloading the WordPress software (from WordPress.org) and installing it on your own web host. When you go through the installation process/choice, you have a publishing platform that is called WordPress, but it is a choice of using the WordPress.com (who handles their own hosting issues) or setting up your site and having your own publishing platform installation (downloaded from WordPress.org). In the second case, you are the one who is dealing with the hosting company and therefore, the choice of which hosting company you want.
Does it still sound a bit confusing? Check out this article on the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. That should help clear up the WordPress explanation as well as applying to other similar situations.
We will come back to a discussion that is specifically catering to WordPress in just a bit. But first, let’s return to the discussion about that host of ours, shall we?
How Can the Selection of a Bad Hosting Affect Me?
Many people may initially think that saving money is the end all and all that is important, especially when starting out with a shoestring budget.
Oh, sure. It is important not to be throwing your money at unnecessary doodads, but at the same time, be careful. Many times it is a case of getting what you pay for and if you are not paying that much, think about what you are getting in return.
Choosing the least expensive web host many save you money, but it can also lead to slower download speeds, freezing web pages, and a loss when it comes to the Return-on-Investment (ROI).
You really need to do your homework and find out the answers to your questions, before selecting that host. Not doing your homework beforehand can:
- Negatively affect your ranking;
- Waste your money;
- Affect your online authority.
When comparing web hosts, also remember that bigger doesn’t always mean better. Even the best companies can get so blindsided by their success that they stop paying attention to the little guy. If their hosting solutions don’t suit your specific needs, it’s a good idea to look elsewhere.
Keeping the Hosting Features in Mind
You need to do more than looking for the highest quality at the lowest price. You need to look for solutions. For example, do you need unique software? If so, can the host support it? If you only need a simple WordPress site, be certain that your host can provide managed WordPress hosting. Deciding factors should include these types of features in the list. While things like price are important, these other factors may make or break the deal.
Don’t Forget the Advantage of Online Reviews
Each web host has different features, so to get a feel of how they function, check out their website and look to other online review sites. Use your best Google search methods to find out what others are saying about the hosting company.
Remember to remain impartial and look to see how the hosting company rates overall. Are there more than a few disgruntled customers complaining about the price? Are there numerous complaints about the host’s overall performance? These are the types of questions you need to ask before your purchase a plan.
Considering the Special Needs
We already mentioned that sometimes you have specialized needs for your website. That may be a Drupal installation, a specialized database installation for a specific application, or a case where someone has set up your site in a corporate environment, and now, as you are moving it, you realized that you are not like everyone else on the planet.
The most common specialized need is hosting for WordPress. That said, it is becoming so common that many hosting providers are ready for it and have ways for you to click a button and have the server system software install the WordPress installation for you. It used to be, in years past, that it was not uncommon to contact the hosting provider’s support team and request that they install WordPress.
The key thing, when it comes to the special needs, like WordPress, is to ensure that it is available to you with this hosting provider and that you have the level of technology help that is needed. So, if you are not tech-savvy at all, you want that click-button option. If you are really tech-savvy (as in having run your own hosting company, as we did), you may be willing to sacrifice some technology support (because you don’t want or need it in the first place) for some discount on the price of the hosting.
What Do Other Professionals Say on the Matter?
We asked a couple of SEO experts what they thought about hosting, the companies/providers, and what is most important when it comes to evaluating hosting service features. The following are their answers, compiled through the service at MyBlogU.com.
Q1. What are the most important aspects or features when considering a hosting company for your site or blog?
A1a. Mike Khorev (Independent SEO expert)
I usually host more than one website, and I always look at the number of MySQL databases, available space, and traffic allowance that the host provides. Company reputation and years in business are also important factors as I have had a negative experience with new companies being closed and taking down my domains and website files with them.
A1b. Riverbedmarketing (Senior Inbound Marketing Team Leader)
I would say that some of the most important aspects to consider are the following when it concerns the selection of a hosting company for anyone launching an online business:
- Server Reliability (How does the server handle itself under a heavy load?);
- Hosting space, size, & speed.
- Is there an option for dedicated hosting (not shared hosting) and if so, how much hosting space does the provider offer in those plans
Q2. What tips or insights can you share, when it comes to hosting companies, experiences with hosting companies, and any other tips or insights you would like to share with us?
A2a. Mike Khorev (Independent SEO expert)
I’ve used quite a few hosting companies in the past ten years, and I found one that offers the best pricing, hosting services, and flexibility to fit smaller websites. I host more than ten websites on the same account, and it would be troublesome to migrate them all to another hosting provider, so I am content to keep them running on the same account that I have right now.
A2b. Riverbedmarketing (Senior Inbound Marketing Team Leader)
Minimal downtime and fast response to server issues and inquiries are things that are important to me. A host that provides maximum control to their clients is key. So, for example, a hosting provider that allows us, as clients, the ability to access CPANEL and the ability to hand out logins to our developers freely is very important. That would be the self-service accounts.
Q3. Is customer service a key make-it-or-break-it component when deciding on a hosting company? Why or why not?
A3a. Mike Khorev (Independent SEO expert)
Customer service is of secondary importance to me. The most important factor is how fast my website will load for visitors, and it depends on server CPUs, connection speed, and database. Reliability is more important to me than customer service.
A3b. Riverbedmarketing (Senior Inbound Marketing Team Leader)
Customer service is at the forefront of what I look for when recommending hosts to my clients. This is crucial and critical in order to ensure that downtime is minimalized, especially in the case of e-commerce stores/sites.
The following is a little bit more about our two volunteer interviewees.
Mike Khorev (Independent SEO expert)
Mike Khorev is an Independent SEO Expert with over eight years of experience in web design and digital marketing. Here are a few links to help you connect with Mike:
Riverbedmarketing (Senior Inbound Marketing Team Leader)
Michael Bergen has been working in the digital marketing industry for over ten years. Currently, he has been overseeing his agency’s operations. His technical strengths are in marketing analysis, SEO, content strategy, and inbound marketing. His agency has experience working with quite a number of WordPress sites and typically works with private hosting companies that provide the white glove service. Finding the right fit between client and host is very important. Here are a few links to help you connect with Michael:
Summing Up Those Three Reasons
The three powerful reasons why that host selection is essential:
- When you have an online business, you need it to run smoothly without a hitch.
- When you have technology needs, you need to have a solution that does not involve you pulling all of your hair out of your head.
- You need to ensure that no damage besets you (i.e. reputation, traffic, etc.) because of a poor (or non-existent) decision-making process in hosting provider selection.
As an online business, choosing a web host is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. You already know what features are necessary. Now, focus only on the bottom line, but not so much that you leave out some important factors. If the host has exceptional functionality, supports your specific needs, and has exemplary customer service, follow your gut instinct.
Above all else, never settle for less simply because it costs less.
Now, you might want to grab your favorite drink and sit down in your favorite spot. Next, start making that checklist of important components that you require in a web host. Then, stick to it, ok? 🙂Image source: justfunnies
1. Research and Target Relevant KeywordsIn order to get a constant flow of traffic, you first need to identify your specific niche and target audience. For instance, if you offer project management software, then your target audience will be online marketers who need to use project management software to stay in control of their projects. Further, you need to determine whether you want to target budding online marketers or seasoned marketers or both. Once you have identified your audience, you can determine the keywords they may use to find useful information. Here is how you can do this:
- Use a keyword research tool to get keyword ideas.
- Choose the most relevant keywords and segment them according to your targeted audience.
- Research about the keywords to determine whether or not its popularity will grow with time.
2. Leverage Visual Content to Maximize TrafficWhen it comes to boosting traffic, you need to leverage the traffic that is most engaged. Research proves that video is the most engaging type of content, and marketers are using it to capture users’ attention. According to a research by HubSpot, video appears to be the most favored form of content by customers and prospects. Moreover, according to KPCB, video will account for 74 percent of all the online traffic in 2017. Again, brands that use video for marketing see their revenue growing 49 percent faster compared to those who do not use videos. So, there is every reason why content marketers should leverage this form of content. Videos also help with SEO. Including video sends signals to search engines that the page contains rich media relevant to the search requests. The transcript part of the video that uses keywords improves the findability of the content. By hosting videos on YouTube, the second largest search engine in terms of the number of search queries, you can easily boost the traffic on your website. You can also share the videos on social media to increase the website traffic. Take the example of Dunkin Donuts that relies on video campaigns to sell its products. The brand took advantage of Valentine’s Day and rolled out a live streaming video. The video showed how the brand creates its new products. As a bonus, the video also featured the creation of a gigantic, donut-themed wedding cake. The video attracted more than 36,000 viewers. To increase traffic for your brand and attract attention, you can create how-to videos, DIY videos, product-explainer videos, and animated videos.
3. Become a Trusted Source of InformationBecoming a trusted source of high-quality and useful information is one of the best ways to increase traffic. Pages that offer useful and relevant content and have high demand among readers are ranked higher on the SERPs (search engine result pages). Sites that have lots of high-quality content focused on a particular subject tend to rank higher. (Tip: If you have a broad audience and cover multiple topics, make sure the content is organized based on topics or themes to avoid content silos.) One of the easiest ways to establish authority in a specific niche is by starting a blog. Blogging helps you create a base for your content marketing efforts. However, blogging requires a lot of investment in terms of time and effort. But when done properly, you can reap long-term benefits. Here are a few tips on increasing traffic by blogging:
- Use a blog design that appeals to your target audience. Starting a WordPress blog is often a great idea as WordPress offers a number of inbuilt themes that can be used to create a professional blog. You can also integrate other themes, if needed.
- Create a catchy title for your posts to attract attention quickly. Keep the titles short, use numbers within the title or use words that invoke emotions. Make sure the post offers exactly what the title says.
- Choose evergreen topics to keep the posts relevant for a long time.
- Include visuals to improve the level of engagement and offer a better experience.
- Repurpose posts to increase viewership. Turn posts into short videos, podcasts, infographics, etc. and share on various channels.