If you are running an online business, whether it’s based on affiliate marketing, e-commerce, or whatever else, you most likely have a website that presents your business to the world. In fact, if your business doesn’t have a website, then you should stop reading this article and go and create one, as it’s an absolutely essential component of any online business these days!
It may surprise you to hear it, but one of the most important aspects you need to pay attention to when creating a website is actually its loading speed. Not only is a slow website frustrating for your visitors, perhaps even so much so that they might leave, but it’s also bad for SEO. A slow website gets less favor from Google, and as a consequence your ranking in search results can actually suffer, meaning fewer visitors in the first place. Google even judges site speed on both desktop and mobile, so you need to have both performing well to get good rankings. Depending on the nature of your business, fewer visitors can mean lower ad revenues or fewer customer acquisitions, so getting your website speed sorted should be a top priority.
Firstly, you’ll want to check the loading speed that your website currently has. An ideal tool for this is PageSpeed Insights, provided by Google itself. Once you get your results, it even has a set of recommendations for you, telling you which specific areas need improving. This tool is definitely worth checking out to get the best idea of the next steps you need to take with your website.
So once you have decided that you need to make some speed improvements on your website, where should you begin?
The most obvious place to start is your hosting company. Some hosting companies are simply faster than others, so it’s crucial that you choose one that provides the best speeds.
If it turns out that your current hosting company is not the fastest, there is no need to worry. It’s easy to migrate your site to a faster host, and the new host that you are transferring to will be able to help you make sure that your site migration goes as smoothly as possible.
It’s common to see many people using slower hosting companies because they are usually cheaper, and the low price is obviously a big draw, especially for those starting out with their new business on a shoestring budget. As soon as you can afford it though, you should definitely move to a more premium host that can provide the best speeds possible for you.
In many cases, you may find that even switching plans within the same company will solve your problems. Most hosting companies have a basic, barebones package, and in many cases, if you upgrade this to one of their more premium packages, the dedicated resources that you get will solve all of your speed problems.
One of the biggest factors determining the overall loading speed of your site is the amount of data that needs to be downloaded by your visitors’ devices when they access your site, and image files make up a significant portion of that data. Some image files can be very large, and if you don’t optimize your images for web use, you might find that they slow down your website significantly.
The first tip here is to get rid of any unnecessary images that you have on your website. However, do bear in mind that a site without images can look very plain and boring, so we’re only talking about getting rid of superfluous images. Make sure that you keep the ones that are appropriate and help to make the site look good.
Once you’ve cut out any unneeded images, you can then set about optimizing the ones you have left. You can do this by editing the images to make them smaller in size. For example, you can crop out any unnecessary areas, and then compress them into smaller image formats. The JPG image format is great for reducing file size while preserving quality, so it works very well for websites.
Additionally, if you have a WordPress site, you can make use of Smush, a free plugin that automatically removes unnecessary data from your images as you upload them. This is a great way to reduce filesize in an easy way, and you won’t lose any image quality at all.
While we are on the topic of WordPress plugins, it’s definitely worth mentioning that while they are incredibly useful, having too many plugins active on your site can actually slow it down. This is because plugins always create extra files on your server, and if you end up with too many of these, loading times can become slow. So make sure that you are only using the plugins that you absolutely need.
Unless you’re a programming expert, there’s no way that you’ll be able to clean up your code yourself, but thankfully there are several WordPress plugins that can do it for you! Check out the W3 Total Cache plugin, which actually offers a whole suite of performance-related tools, including one that allows you to clean up your website’s code and make it more efficient.
Using the W3 Total Cache plugin, you can also make use of the caching feature to dramatically increase speeds for repeat visitors to your site by storing local data on their devices.
As mentioned before, Google looks at your site’s mobile loading speed as well as its desktop speed, so both of these formats on your site are of equal importance. In fact, given the huge prevalence of mobile browsing now, we’d even say that mobile speed is actually the most important of the two. So what can you do to improve mobile speed on your site?
The first big tip for optimizing your mobile site speed is to have a responsive design. That means that your site should change dynamically according to whether it is being accessed from a desktop or mobile device, instead of having two separate sites for each device type.
The second big tip is to keep your site as simple as possible. Not only is this great for user experience on a mobile device, but it will also ensure that your site has lightning-fast load times. Focus on a simple, minimalistic but elegant design and you won’t go wrong on mobile.
Another great thing you can do for your mobile site is to implement something called ‘lazy loading.’ This is a technique through which everything above the fold, that is to say, everything that is on the screen at the top of the page before the user starts scrolling downward, will be loaded first.
Traditionally, the entire page would be loaded at the same time, including everything further down the page that requires scrolling to be seen. This means that a visitor could be left waiting longer to see the first elements of your site at the top of the page – not good!
On WordPress, you can use a plugin called BJ Lazy Load to change the order that elements get loaded so that everything above the fold will be loaded first, enabling your visitors to get a much better first impression when they arrive at your site for the first time. This can massively improve the perceived loading speed of your site on a mobile device.
Website loading speed can be quite a tedious topic and many people might overlook it completely, but it can really be a make or break thing when it comes to your business. Studies have shown that many people give up on a website if it doesn’t load within three seconds, and the SEO impacts of site speed can also be huge. We definitely recommend that you invest a little time and money into making sure that your website is performing at top speeds on both desktop and mobile – the payoff in traffic and conversions could be very significant for you and your business success online.
All the best,
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