What factors contribute to a website’s success? SEO, web design, content? Sure, they are all parts of a big puzzle that every web owner needs to solve. But if you are one of those web owners hoping to make it big online, you need to know all about another factor that’s becoming more important than the others combined - website speed and performance.
Why Website Speed Matters
Let’s start from the beginning:
Website speed is how fast your website loads on the users’ end. In this day and age, when everything comes in an instant, people prefer their pages to load just as fast. According to recent statistics, they can only wait for up to two seconds for a website to load. Anything longer than that, and they go back to the SERP to look for a faster website.
But this is just one reason why website speed is so important. Let’s explore some of the others.
“Very Fast” Is the New Standard
The truth is that it’s not just you who should be working towards improving website speed In fact, many websites out there have already set the benchmark for what fast loading website should be. While there is no exact metric for now, what we do know is that the current standard set by the big brands online is that a website must be “very fast.”
As websites are gearing themselves up for faster and better performance, we can only expect standards to go up each year. In time, users might even expect websites to load the moment they click on a link. Even though those times are relatively far away, you need to prepare yourself as early as now. This way, you’ll already be in line with people’s expectations.
Your Visitors Deserve the Best
At its core, a website is basically just an online business. Whether you are running a blog for profit or for fun, you need to value your viewers at all times. This means you have to give them the best online experience possible, as they deserve the best from you. Amazing user experience includes your website loading quickly and performing well, too.
Basically, the idea is to give your visitors what they want in the fastest possible way. Once they see they are able to get what they need from your website as quickly as possible, they’ll come back. What’s more, they’ll see your website as a valuable resource they can truly rely on.
It’s Better to Make a Great First Impression
When it comes to websites, first impressions matter greatly. The first thing you show a user will dictate whether or not they’ll carry on browsing through your pages or if they’ll come back in the future. The first impression you make won’t have to do with your content or interface - it will be all about how fast your website loads.
If your website loads at tremendous speeds, users will immediately think a lot of effort was put into it. Moreover, your website will appear more professional. People don’t trust a website that loads slowly, as they think it was made without an inch of care. The moment you hook in your visitor with a fast website, you’ll see him coming back again and again.
The aforementioned study suggests 79% of online shoppers don’t go back to a website if it loads too slowly.
Why is that? For the user, a slow website will feel unsecured. No online shopper would trust a website that feels unprofessional and unsecured with his money and online orders.
Google Doesn’t Like Poor Performers
It’s not just website visitors who aren’t fond of slow websites. Google also hates it when a website loads slowly. If the top search engine in the world is not fond of your website, what chances of making it to the top do you have? But what can Google actually do to your website if it doesn’t like it?
This is huge:
Google once admitted that website speed matters when it comes to ranking. Your ranking on Google’s results page matters if you want to get more visitors and clicks for your website. Google will see your website as somewhat untrustworthy or unsecured and not prioritize it when people are searching.
The first page of Google is every website owner’s dream. Anything beyond that is no man’s land, as people don’t even think about going to the second page.
Slow Websites Mean a Slowly Diminishing Visitor Count
If your website is a poor performer, you’ll begin to see your visitor count slowly go down. Why is that? The truth is that the long-term effects of a slow website are harrowing. Your current visitors will see your website as untrustworthy, so they won’t even bother referring to others. Once you lose your loyal customer base, you’ll begin to see your visitor number drop even further, as no one else spreads the word about your platform.
Slow Websites Are Bad Business
When we look at all these factors together, we come to the conclusion that slow websites are bad business. If your website loads slowly, it will begin to lose legitimacy and, later on, visitors as well. And once your website’s visitor count drops to record lows, you can only expect to get meager profits. Even if you are running a pay-per-click advertisement platform on your website, you won’t be getting much. Who would click on those ads if you don’t have any visitors at all?
Pretty much nobody, that’s who.
How to Improve Website Speed
With all these negative consequences in mind, we’re sure you’re worried about your website. But how can you improve website speed? You can’t simply blame your visitor’s connection speed for the shortcomings of your website. Luckily, there are many ways to improve your website’s speed and performance so that you can make the most out of your web pages.
Reduce Server Response Time
Another factor that affects your website speed is how quickly the DNS lookup takes. The DNS or domain name system is a database of IP addresses and all the hostnames related to them. Basically, this is what will translate your URL into the IP address that is indicated online. However, it’s the processing time of your DNS provider that will determine your website speed.
Here’s the good news:
You can speed up your DNS response time simply by switching to a different provider. There are many providers that can give your every bang for your buck, so be sure to check out all your options.
Reduce Image File Sizes
Chances are, you have several images on your website. And since you are unlikely to upload a low-res image, your pages might be slowing down because of the time it takes to load such files. If you want to improve your speed, browse through your website and check which images take the longest to load.
Once you find them, use an online resizer or any other program that reduces the file size of the image without having to sacrifice quality greatly. You’ll be surprised at the difference this makes, especially if you reduce the file size of multiple images on a single page.
We get it - images are important - and this is your best bet at keeping them while maintaining a fast performing website.
Manage Your HTTP Requests
According to studies, a web page’s load time is devoted to loading the various parts of a page.
You might be wondering:
“What exactly are these?”
They are the components that make up the page, including images, videos, texts, stylesheets, and scripts. Each of these items requires an HTTP request to get processed. So, the more content there is on a page, the longer it takes for it to fully load.
As much as it would hurt to do so, you may want to remove some of the unnecessary elements to reduce the number of requests. Browse through your website and look for the ones which you think could be omitted.
You can simply combine some elements on your page so that they load as one image. For instance, if there are two separate images which are next to each other, you can combine them into one. Also, try to remove any whitespace that doesn’t add anything of value to your website. The key is to become as efficient as possible.
Find the Right Hosting Service
Web hosting is a service that allows a third-party firm to run your website for you. There are some website owners who don’t give too much thought to the hosting service they choose. Instead, they’ll most likely choose the cheapest option. If you have yet to choose a hosting service, consider these three options to maximize your website’s performance.
Shared hosting - the cheapest option that comes with resources like CPU, disk space, and RAM, all of which you share with other sites on the same server. Obviously, as you’ll be sharing resources, it will affect your website’s speed. For instance, if several sites experience a sudden spike in traffic and go down, yours might run out of resources and also crash.
VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting - the second cheapest option out there. As with shared hosting, you’ll have to share a server with other websites. The difference is you have your own dedicated portions of a server’s resources. VPS is a lot faster than shared hosting, and it could be right for you in terms of pricing and performance. It also allows you to add or remove resources as you go along.
Dedicated server - the best and most expensive option is hosting through a dedicated server. You have an entire server and all its resources all to yourself. In terms of performance, your website will run the fastest through this. However, it’s a very expensive option, which is best for large-scale, high traffic sites.
Remove Unnecessary Plugins
If you are running your website through WordPress, chances are that you are always tempted to add plugins to improve user experience on both ends of the website. One thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn't be too trigger happy when it comes to adding plugins, as they will definitely put a dent on your website’s load speed.
This is important:
Just keep your plugins for what is necessary, such as Yoast SEO. Understand what your website and your users need most and prioritize plugins that provide those things. We understand that there are a ton of free plugins on WordPress, but your website can only handle so many before it gets slower.
Enable Browser Caching
When you visit a website, the elements on the page are stored on a hard drive in a cache or what’s basically temporary storage. Every time a user visits a site he has already visited, that website will load more quickly, since some of its elements are already saved.
With that in mind, enabling browser caching is a must for your website. This important feature will benefit your most loyal customers.
One Final Reminder…
Make it a habit to check your website’s speed from time to time. Simply open the site and see if there are any issues when it loads. Even if you’ve ticked all of the boxes above, some changes that could affect your website’s loading speed may go unnoticed. If you come across any issues, pinpoint them as soon as possible and have them fixed.
But that’s not all:
You should check your website’s performance on mobile devices as well. Most website owners tend to forget that a mobile website is just as important as its desktop counterpart. Make sure it is properly optimized so that you can maximize your mobile and desktop platform’s speed.
This is everything you need to know when it comes to your website and your website’s speed. By now, you should have a pretty good idea of why website speed is important and why you need to keep it at the top of your list of priorities.
And once you keep your website speed up, you’ll be surprised at the benefits it will bring you. While those benefits won’t come as fast as your website loads, it will slowly but surely affect your clicks, profit, and overall success.