The speed of your website can have a huge impact on your business overall.
Slower websites are generally going to have a larger number of potential customers leave straight away, rather than wait 20 seconds for your super-cool high-resolution image slider to load.
In fact, Google now considers your website and mobile loading speeds as a part of where to put you in the search engine rankings (SERPS), so you could say that page speed has a direct impact on your websites SEO.
To check your page speed right now, visit https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ or https://gtmetrix.com/ to find out what is slowing down your site.
Here, we'll be looking at 5 of the areas where your site speed may be holding you back, how to fix those issues and some excellent tools which can be used to check your website speed.
1) Image Optimisation
This here's a biggie in terms of both page speed and the overall size of each of your pages, and it's something which I've already covered briefly in my article about SEO Tips for Small Businesses.
This issue is often prevalent on website where a user is able to add their own images to their site without proper instruction or training from whoever built the site for them, or in some cases the owner may have built the site themselves using a popular website builder or blogging platforms such as Wix, Weebly or WordPress.com.
Here a few ways to optimise your images for super-fast loading times and tools which can be used to help with the process.
Image Size & Compression
One of the biggest issues which are seen with the size of images when they are uploaded directly from a Smartphone or digital camera.
The images may look great, but they are often huge files, huge resolution and the highest quality possible. All these things will seriously slow down your website if you don't do any optimisation.
The first thing to look at it is the image size with most modern phones and digital cameras producing images ranging from 1600x1200 up to 4064x2704.
The key to this is to reduce the image size down to what you will need it for on your website, for example, if the image is just going to be a small picture on your site, make the image smaller so that the browser doesn't have to resize the image for you, therefore impacting your speed even more.
Another aspect which I look at is image quality, in most cases, this can be reduced to around 80% of the original quality, which will provide huge savings on the image size, with only a very small, barely noticeable loss in quality. For some smaller images or images which are maybe going to have an overlay on them, I would reduce even further.
The general rule which I try to stick to is to keep large banner and full-screen images under 200KB, and all other images under 100KB.
Image Editing Tools
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) - https://www.gimp.org/
This program is a superb, free open-source browser-based piece of software for Windows. It's basically a free slightly watered down version of Adobe Photoshop, although it still has enough features for everyday or casual use, including the ability to resize, compress and edit images.
Adobe Photoshop - https://www.adobe.com/uk/products/photoshop.html
The original and most popular image editing (among other things) tool for professionals. While you may not need a lot of the features, it's exceptional for the uses mentioned in this post and even includes a handy 'Save for Web' option for quickly saving your image ready to be uploaded.
Mass Image Compressor
This tiny piece of software can be download completely free from Sourceforge here. If you have a large number of images which you need to compress for uploading to your site, then this tool can do this for you in seconds. You simply select the folder which contains the images, select how much you want to reduce the quality and size by, click go, and within seconds they will be saved in a separate sub-folder all ready to be uploaded to your site.
2) Browser Caching
While this is a bit more technical than resizing your images, it's a vital part of speeding up your website.
What Browser Caching actually does, is store your website files locally in your visitor's browser cache.
This means that if your site isn't making use of browser caching, then every time a user visits your site, all your site files will need to be downloaded again for each visit.
The key to this is to set static assets on your site to be cached for a long time so that they will be loaded much quicker than if they haven't been stored in memory.
Some assets may not be able to be cached when they are loaded from other platforms such as Google Analytics (although you can in WordPress using CAOS Plugin), Google Maps, Google Tag Manager, Youtube, MailChimp and many others.
The most common way to make use of caching is by editing your websites .htaccess file, or if you're using WordPress you can install a plugin for this such as Autoptimize, WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache.
3) Enable Compression
Much like browser caching, enabling compression on the server level is maybe not something that everyone can or would want to do themselves.
The benefits of doing this though are huge, and in some cases can reduce assets on your website by up to 90%.
The best way to ensure that your site is using compression is to edit your .htaccess file to enable a program called Gzip on the server level. The method for this will vary depending on your hosting platform, with the most common being NGINX, Apache and IIS.
For more information about compression visit: https://developers.google.com/speed/docs/insights/EnableCompression
4) Get Faster Hosting
Your hosting can sometimes be a real issue when dealing with a slow website.
This issue is particularly prevalent when using cheap, shared hosting or even worse, free hosting.
Hosting providers come in all shapes and sizes, some good, some bad and some in between, and it's always a good idea to check user reviews and also how scalable your plan is before purchasing a hosting package.
One of the issues which come with shared hosting is that you are basically sharing a server with lots of other sites, and you're all sharing the server's resources. This may not be an issue for many small sites, with relatively small traffic numbers.
For larger sites, e-commerce and corporate sites though, you would be better off looking at the dedicated servers which most providers also offer, as these are your own server with dedicated resources to handle high loads and huge traffic numbers.
One final key factor when choosing your website host should be their customer service, which is why I recommend reading reviews before purchasing.
5) Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Using a CDN can dramatically improve your website speed if setup correctly.
A CDN works by storing versions of your site across multiple servers worldwide, this allows users to access your site contents from the nearest server, meaning that the requests don't have to travel around the world and instead are served from nearby, making the process happen much quicker.
Many hosting providers provide CDN access as part of some of their hosting packages, or access can be purchased as an add-on. One of the most popular CDNs is Cloudflare, which is extremely easy to setup and use.
Cloudflare has a number of plans to use, including a free version which can be used as long as you have access to your domains DNS records, and also comes with a number of excellent tools which you can use including analytics, caching, firewall and HTTPS tools.
So there you have it, this my short list of 5 ways to speed up your website. The list is by no means a full breakdown of everything which can affect your website speed, but fixing these issues could go a long way to keeping users on your site for longer, and for your website to get a boost in the search engine rankings.
In our free audit, we can provide a full overview of any speed and SEO issues which your site is suffering from, and compile a report of actionable tasks to get your site in tip-top shape.
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