Every website owner aims to create and maintain a satisfying online experience for its present and future visitors.
When was the last time you went to a website that loaded so slowly? Did you immediately close the tab while it was still loading?
It is one of the downsides of owning a website that loads very slowly. In this fast paced world where out attention spans are getting shorter, it’s frustrating for website visitors when it takes a lot of time for the site to load.
Keeping this in view, I thought of putting together this guide in why it is essential to keep your website’s loading speed fast. I will share a few tricks on how to improve your website’s speed.
For a summary regarding this topic and why it is crucial, you can view the video below:
Why optimize your website for speed?
A website’s loading speed, also known as page load time, is a performance metric that reveals the time needed for a page to show on the user screen.
For a website to be successful, three factors should be satisfied: conversion, visibility, and usability.
Let us explore these three factors.
This factor is the ability to turn your website visitors into customers. It happens if any user can buy a product, subscribe to newsletter campaigns, register for a webinar, or download a guide.
Hubspot declared in their report that every second’s delay in page loading speed contributes to a 7% reduction in conversion. Amazon learned that they lose $1.6 billion in sales for every second lost to page slowdown.
I mentioned that more people would be unhappy if a website takes long to load and Kissmetrics studied this in detail. They found out that 47% of the visitors want the sites to load in two seconds at most, 40% will abandon it if it exceeds this amount, and 79% of visitors will not return to a website that loads at least three seconds too.
To motivate you to keep your website loading faster, 52% of shoppers said that they would be loyal to a site that loads faster and almost half of them will relay to their friends about poor site experiences.
A real-life story you can aspire to when it comes to increasing your website performance is Walmart. They learned that every second shaved off their site’s loading time increased their conversion rate by 2% and every hundred milliseconds shaved off increased their revenue up to 1%.
It reveals one thing: if users aren’t willing to wait for your websites to load, ignoring the need to improve your website means that they’ll immediately leave it.
Apparently, the faster your website loads, the more search engines increase your rank in its search pages. Google does it actively to rank websites.
This success factor revolves around how often your website appears in the first few pages in search results.
Aside from that, Google has ranked websites based on their mobile versions since December 2017. It was included in their assessment as they want to help users avoid websites that will not work correctly no matter what device they are using.
They changed their assessment as they realized that mobile searches outnumbered desktop searches for the first time since 2015, and the numbers continue to grow from there. They were able to adapt to how the trend reversed itself.
We can then conclude that shaving off one’s website speed can increase one’s rank in search results at the same time.
Remember that I have talked about how users will turn away from websites that won’t load fast enough?
Users will also turn away from websites that are hard to use as well.
For example, if your background image is too big, the screen will take some time to load it, thus increasing its page loading time in the process.
Having a website with elements that weigh down your loading time will increase your bounce rate, which decreases your chances of keeping them in.
This way of thinking also works if any of your visitors are having a hard time loading one of your pages even if it is the only page that is loading slowly. They will think that the other pages load as slow as it does, thus decreasing your chances of retaining an audience in the long run.
I would always recommend you keep your website lightweight, mobile-responsive, and fast to help it stay up and get more visitors.
How to check your website’s speed
It is important to learn a better way to know how fast your website loads. One of the smartest ways is to use tools that will not only display metrics of how fast it loads but identify which parts one needs to improve.
For this tutorial, I will show you how to make use of Ezoic, one of the many tools I use to improve my own site. Before that, I will introduce you to what it is and how it works.
What is Ezoic?
Ezoic is a software suite aimed to improve a website’s usability or content discovery. A technology company from San Diego, California created it.
It was founded in the 90s by Dwayne Lafleur, an internet entrepreneur, who also founded Facebook’s first ad network, Cubics.
For this article, I want to highlight its Big Data Analytics module.
Ezoic Big Data Analytics
The GIF above shows some of the features of this software suite on your website.
You can get granular details regarding how your website visitors behave, such as visitor engagement by page and traffic source. Aside from that, you can find the best combinations of recommended pages, social shares, and scroll percentages, among many others.
You can also find out what kind of visitors your website attracts too. For example, you can check their language, location, local time, local time zones, and weather.
Finally, you can see which website success factor is impacting your sales count. It can help you generate a report where you can link whether your page speed, article length, and traffic sources increases or decreases your ad revenue.
Website Requirements for Ezoic
To get Ezoic, check whether your website complies with any of the following:
- 10,000 number of visits per month on the minimum
- Has no invalid clicks or impressions
- Not falsely encouraging clicks
- Not offering copyrighted material or downloads
- Not offering counterfeit goods
- Does not redirect users to undesirable pages, sites, pop-ups, or pop-unders
- Contain gambling content
- Contain illegal content
- Does not contain automatically generated content
- Does not use content copied off other pages
- Does not have empty pages with no original content
- Does not have keyword stuffing
- Does not use adult, dangerous, or derogatory content
- Does not offer alcohol, tobacco, or healthcare-related content
- Does not have aggressive or threatening content
How to Integrate Ezoic to Your Website
After making sure your website follows all of the requirements above, follow these steps to integrate Ezoic:
- Create an account with Ezoic and follow the account creation wizard.
- Enter your website’s name server to Ezoic by following the instructions in the email you have used to create an account with the software suite. To learn why you have to do this step, read it here.
- Ezoic will then check your website behind the scenes as part of its integration process.
- If you do not see a green checkmark or a green label with “Integrated” as its text, do click the green text at the end of the pop-up and follow its instructions.
- If you see a green checkmark or a green label with “Integrated” as its text, you can proceed to do the following:
- Turn the system ‘on’ using a device.
- Choose which percentage of traffic you would like the software suite to apply machine learning to.
If it goes past step five, that means Ezoic is able to retrieve data from your website and will proceed to generate the necessary reports.
These reports can be viewed once you go into the Ezoic application after logging in. Then, navigate to the Big Data Analytics section.
Features of Ezoic’s Big Data Analytics
This is a screenshot of the full list of reports that you can possibly get when you sign up for the appropriate Ezoic account:
For each report, you can also opt to check one site, compare two or more sites, or view all of your sites connected to the suite. Aside from that, you can also compare data before and during Ezoic integration as well.
For specific details on each module and what to expect, read this Help Article.
Tips on how to speed up your website
After learning how to use Ezoic to monitor how well your website is going, let me show you my tips on how to improve it.
Tip # 1. Use a Content Delivery Network
Having a Content Delivery Network (CDN) would help increase your site’s loading speed by spreading its content across different servers across the globe that is closer to its visitors.
Let us say you own a DIY blog that gets 10,000 visitors every day and all its content is stored in one server. If all those 10,000 visitors were to go to it at once, it would increase the loading speed of everyone accessing it at once.
Aside from that, that one server processing 10,000 requests at one time will also add to the loading speed at the same time.
Tip # 2. Move your website to a better host
Before I explain how this is a way to improve your website, let me define what is web hosting.
Web hosting is a service that allows you to publish your website on the internet and to be seen by everyone else.
There are four kinds: shared, Virtual Private Servers (VPS), dedicated, and serverless.
Getting a shared hosting service is the cheapest and fastest way to get a website on the internet, in exchange for slower loading speed. Using this method involves you sharing CPU, disk space, and RAM with other sites within a server.
Meanwhile, opting for the other two options are faster. VPS involves sharing a server with other users but you have your own virtual share of it while a dedicated one involves hiring a system administrator to take care of a server setup for your own website.
Finally, the serverless option involves renting a dedicated cloud resource from any available public cloud provider like AWS, Microsoft, or Google. This offers you the flexibility to gain all resources necessary while adding unlimited scalability at the same time.
Before investing in any kind of server type, do take your time to research how you can make your website profitable enough to make the move and maintain it for as long as you want.
While you are at it, do check out my review of GoDaddy here
Tip # 3. Optimize the size of images on your website using ImageOptim
One popular strategy to keep visitors coming and reduce your bounce rate is to add eye-catching images. Their addition to your website will help improve engagement such as subscribing to newsletters or buying a product.
However, you should make sure that every image you add is not too big. Leaving it alone would significantly affect site speed in a negative way.
There are many ways to reduce an image’s size without sacrificing its quality. In this tip, I will show you how to use ImageOptim and explain what image compression is.
Understanding Image Compression
Simply put, the act of reducing the total file size of an image with or without sacrificing its quality or dimensions is known as image compression.
If you perform that while sacrificing its quality, it is called lossy compression. Preserving it is called image optimization.
A simple way of explaining image optimization is that it eliminates every redundant pixel in any image and replace it with an artifact that corresponds to a repeated line or chunk of pixels.
Doing this is simple: it will increase the image’s loading speed, thus improving your website speed as a result.
ImageOptim is a free software tool that can be used on Mac devices and can compress JPEG, PNG, and GIF files.
Before using this software, do make sure to create a copy of the original photo you want the program to work with. Doing this will help you have a backup in case of emergencies.
Now then, here are my steps on how to use the tool:
- Open ImageOptim.
- Upload photos to compress by drag-and-drop or clicking the + symbol to browse and select files.
- Wait for the program to finish.
- If a green checkmark appears next to the file, it means that it has been successfully optimized and you can see its new file size and how much it was able to shave off.
- Else, do check what is wrong with it and try again from step 2.
Aside from using this tool, you can read this guide to learn how to customize the program to change its algorithm to how much optimization it should do.
Tip # 4. Manage plugins using Jetpack (WordPress websites only)
If you are one of the many WordPress users that made their website using a ton of plugins, it may take a while to maintain it by yourself.
Aside from that, the larger the number of plugins, the longer a site loads at the same time. Make sure to add, remove, and edit the right ones for your website while it is live as it will keep you from getting new visitors in the future and returning visitors from the past.
I would like to introduce you to Jetpack, an all-in-one tool that includes a way to manage your content plugins.
How to use Jetpack
First, make sure to install and connect your Jetpack plugin to your site by going to Plugins > Add New. Then, search for Jetpack and click Install Now to add it easily.
Then, once it’s successfully installed, you have to navigate to Jetpack Settings > Appearance> Widget Visibility to enable its Widget Visibility feature.
After it is enabled, you can add, edit, and remove widgets by visiting Customizer > Widgets.
There are two options that can be made for each widget. The first one asks you whether the widget should be hidden or shown while the second option lets you set the conditions as to how it will be shown or hidden.
This file type has an extension of .js and it is used to allow more functionality in websites. Adding this file helps you do all sorts of things from submitting forms to hiding certain elements within the same page.
If you have any of this file type, avoid having unnecessary lines of code and too many spaces in between lines. This will increase your website’s loading time as a result.
There are three ways to do this: edit the .js files yourself, hire a web developer, or use a minifying tool.
The first two options are straightforward. It is basically editing the files to remove said lines of code and remove unnecessary spaces.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
This file type is the reason your website looks pretty.
Ending in .css can affect your page in various ways such as aligning elements to changing its background colour.
Reducing unnecessary spaces and lines will definitely keep your website’s theme look good as it is while shaving off its loading times.
If you want to do this, you can also opt to edit them yourself, hire someone else to do it, or use a minifying tool.
Editing it by yourself or by someone else would involve opening Notepad or another similar app and individually checking which lines to remove or not.
Meanwhile, the last option not only helps you save time in updating your website but it also helps you avoid the mistake to delete an important line by accident.
Tip # 6. Implement Gzip Compression
After I showed you that reducing your website’s individual file sizes will decrease your website’s loading time, this tip will take the compression a step further.
This will feature gzip as a file format. It is known as a method to compress files to increase server response time which will decrease website loading time as a result.
How it works is that after a visitor uses their browser to load your website, Gzip puts all its contents into one file, compresses it, then sends it to the visitor’s browser. Then, the visitor’s browser decompresses the files and loads everything before showing it to them.
In order to enable this feature for your website, do check here to know which code snippets for your specific configuration you would have to do.
Tip # 7. Use website caching
This tip involves the use of caching in order to reduce loading time for your visitors.
Caching is defined as storing your website’s current version in a hosting service and presenting this version while updating it.
It helps as it prevents any visitor from loading from scratch from any of their devices, which helps saves them time and reduces their bounce rate.
This strategy does not only apply to assets such as background images and blog articles but also for retrieving data from your database too.
Do take note that you can only apply this tip if you have not opted to publish your website using a shared server. It does not have this feature.
If you opted for either VPS or a dedicated server, you can enable this by editing your settings and enabling this feature.
Tip # 8. Optimize database using a content management system (CMS)
Remember that in my previous tip, I mentioned that caching is one of the ways to reduce loading time when loading data from your website’s database.
This tip specifically targets your website’s ability to retrieve data using CMS.
It is a module that you can attach to your website that can increase your database capacity and store comments, blog posts, and other visitor-added content.
An example of such an application is WP-Optimize for WordPress-made websites.
Do take note that if you want to make use of CMS applications that it may increase your website’s loading time in exchange for the storage capacity advantage. You can take a look at this list to start looking for one that may fit your needs.
Tip # 9. Reduce the use of web fonts
- Consistency: This has to do with keeping your website look the same across any device, whether mobile or PC.
- Performance: This is linked to how fast your website will load all its assets to any visitor.
- Resolution: This has to do with how your website will look like when its visitors zoom in into it using their mobile browsers or view it in a browser with a smaller width and height.
- Availability: It comes into play as you want all your design elements to load properly to not only maintain your website’s consistent look but also prevent an increase in bounce rate.
- Search engine rank: Following all the points above will increase your website’s search engine rank, which will increase your future visitor count.
If you intend to use this on your website or if you are using them right now, you can optimize your site using these tips for web fonts:
- Use modern formats such as WOFF2 for modern browsers
- Avoid making use of character sets that will not be used on the site
- Avoid adding font styles that will not be used for the site
Tip # 10. Detect 404 errors
404 errors occur in websites if you are redirected to a page that does not exist. If you leave your website alone ridden with these, it will increase your bounce rate and decrease your chances of getting more visitors.
Getting rid of this first starts with detecting where the errors are located within your entire website. You can do this by making use of tools such as Link Sleuth, Google Webmaster Tools, and WordPress’ 404 Redirected Plugin to spot them.
After detecting these errors, the next step is to check how much traffic they receive. Now, if it does generate traffic, take the time to make a proper redirect to an existing page as soon as possible.
One way to redirect an important 404 error is to redirect all expired external links to an active one. Another is fixing expired internal links to active internal links.
Tip # 11. Reduce redirects
This tip has to do with 404 errors, except it determines how many websites your visitors have to go through before ending up where they want to be.
Think about it this way: if your visitors want to buy a bike off your website, but you configured your website to go through one or two of your links first before checking out, it would turn them off from buying it altogether.
Solving this problem would involve you spotting which redirecting paths are too long throughout your website. Doing this involves using a widget like Screaming Frog to identify them.
The next step after learning which ones are too long is to trim them. For example, if you spot that going from site A to B involves going to site C and D, you have to link A to B and direct users to C and D in a more efficient way.
Tip # 12. Make use of prefetching
I have introduced a way to speed up your website in a previous tip in this article called caching, which involves storing all its content in a server.
This tip makes use of another technique called prefetching.
It is defined as anticipating how your visitors will navigate through your website and loading the content before they would navigate to the next page.
There are three types of prefetching you can apply to your website:
- DNS-prefetching – resolving domains into IP addresses in advance
- Link prefetching – loading the next page in the background before showing it to the visitor when they click on a link
- Prerendering – loading an entire page or some elements before showing it to the visitor
If you want to opt for this method, you would have to add deep user behavior analysis for your website before applying any of these methods.
I showed you why it is important to make your website load faster. Simply put, this can help increase your visitor numbers and search results. I also talked about some of the tips you can adopt for your website’s better performance.
I hope that these tips will help your website rank higher in search results. To learn more about how to make your website better, do read these articles:
- A comparison of Wix Vs. Squarespace
- Review of BigCommerce: Features, pros & cons
- Review of BuzzSumo: Pricing and features
What do you think about these tips? Do leave a comment below on how your website improved using what I wrote or let me know if you use any other awesome method to improve your website speed.