If your website is too slow you’ll lose visitors and rankings faster than your page loads. Websites with hundreds of thousands of visits per month have been outpaced by modern lightweight websites that are lighting fast. Google announced that the time it takes for a page to load is now a ranking factor.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to lower the amount of time it takes for your website to load. I’ll cover top-level objectives and my favorite tools to decrease load times across the board.
Why Does a Website Take Longer to Load?
There are many reasons for a website to perform poorly and load much slower. The most common reasons are larger media files that are not being compressed or offloaded, too many scripts and plugins, scripts not being minimized or combined, and no type of caching system in place.
How to Make Websites Load Faster
If your website is slow there is always a way to fix the issues and get your website to load faster. Evaluate where your biggest load times are coming from by doing a simple speed audit.
Let’s look at the tools you can use to get further insight into why your website is loading slowly.
Top 3 Website Speed Testing Tools
Below I’ve listed the top ways to decrease the load time of your website. Keep in mind that in most cases you can find a helpful tool or plugin to fix your slow website.
Compress Larger Media Files
Most web pages have images and graphics that load when the user visits the page. Uncompressed files will slow down your website significantly and create a bad experience for your visitors.
Top Image Optimization Tools
Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
A content delivery network will offload your media to high-capacity servers. The main advantages of using a CDN are the multitude of data centers across the world and the ability to remove the stress from your server. If you’re not using a CDN your server is serving every asset itself instead of offloading that job to a third-party service built for performance and stability.
Personally, I use a combination of services that work well to store and deliver my content optimized and faster than ever.
I use Cloudflare on the DNS level which means it’s connected to my domain nameservers. Cloudflare has many benefits but it can also be used to reduce requests and bandwidth by enabling the CDN features.
I then use the WP Offload Media plugin which is connected to an Amazon S3 bucket. The S3 bucket stores my images and other media files, the plugin can serve up the files to my visitors from either Amazon S3 directly or from a CDN like Amazon Cloudfront.
The Best Content Delivery Networks
Lazy Load Media
A technique that most high traffic websites use to improve load times is called Lazy Loading. What this means is that you are not loading the images when the user first visits the page but instead loading the images when the user first scrolls down to that image. There is no need to prolong the content from being consumed when you can simply load the content at the same pace as the user consumes it.
Best Tools for Lazy Loading
Remove Bloated Plugins
Too many bloated plugins will kill a website’s load times. Poorly optimized plugins have heavy scripts bogging down request times or simply make too many requests in general. Do a plugin audit and makes sure you aren’t hurting your website by using hefty plugins that are request hogs.
Each plugin that you have active will load it’s code every time it runs and that’s bad if you don’t actually need it. I would stick to no more than 15-20 plugins max, anything over that could be causing serious issues for your website.
Protip: Try to add functionality to your theme instead of adding another plugin. Also if you purchased a theme, remove any functionality that you don’t need.
The problem with fancy plugins and interactivity is that it will increase the number of scripts that are loaded for every visitor. The only way to resolve this issue is by reducing the size of these scripts and combining the corresponding ones together.
The plugin I use for my WordPress websites is called WP Rocket. Not only is it one of the best caching plugins (we will talk about that next) it will also do the minification of my files and combine them together automatically. This is important because we will have fewer requests and faster loading speeds.
Use Server and Browser Caching
One of the biggest mistakes a website owner can do is not having a proper caching system in place. Caching is the process of reusing content that has already been created without doing any dynamic queries for data. Effectively this will make your dynamically generated website appear to be a static website. Implementing caching will be one of the most important measures you can take to increase performance and lower website load times.
As mentioned in the previous section, the best WordPress caching plugin on the market is WP Rocket. Another free option that we use occasionally use and it does a great job as well, is called W3 Total Cache.
This is probably the most underutilized tactic that will drastically reduce page load times. This trick has given me the power to load pages instantly for existing website visitors browsing my pages.
I use a WordPress plugin called Flying Pages and the way it works is brilliant. When a website visitor scrolls to a section that has a link visible, we preload that page ahead of time anticipating the click-through. This results in an instantaneous page load as opposed to waiting for the contents to render.
Increase Server Ram
I’ve heard of websites suffering from having an increase in traffic and not having enough ram to deal with the surge of new visitors. So although I don’t recommend this as a first step, keep this in mind when scaling your website traffic. Another idea would be using a separate server in the same zone for your database to reduce disk IO. Before you take these measures, try what I’ve mentioned above.
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