This is the first of a series of posts we plan to publish about Optimising your WordPress Website. This post covers improving the speed (load time) of your website. Future posts will cover Optimising Conversions (CRO), Improving Search Rankings (SEO) and Maximising Website Security.
Is Website Speed Actually Important ?
Having a FAST website is probably more important than you think…
Optimising the speed of your website is likely to improve both your Conversion Rate, AND the Google Ranking and number of visitors your website receives.
Usability and Conversions
Do you get frustrated when trying to access a website if it takes ages to load ? So do your own website visitors… The average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 7 seconds over the last 15 years… and studies have shown that a single second (yes just 1 second) increase in page load time, leads to a 7% loss in conversions, 11% fewer page views and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction…. In other words, decreasing the load time of your website by just 1second could result in a 7% increase in Sales/Enquiries.
Way back in 2010, Google admitted that “Speed” was being used as a ranking factor (and they included a Page Speed Report” in Webmaster Tools in December that year)… The load time of your website has already been influencing your search rankings for many years.
Whilst Speed is just one of many things which can influence your search rankings, and many SEOs believe it is a relatively minor factor… it is one that you can control relatively easily, so why wouldn’t you ?.
How to Check your Site Speed
One of the more obvious ways to check the speed of your site, is to open it up yourself and see how long it takes to load..and often beginners think that their website is OK just because it doesn’t feel slow on their computer. That’s a BIG mistake…. The load time for you is likely to be a lot faster than the load time for your average visitors. Modern day browsers will “cache” content of pages that you load regularly… they keep a local copy of content (sometimes for days or even weeks) so simply loading your own site is NOT an effective way to check your site speed.
Just because your site seems to load fast for you does NOT mean that it is loading fast for your visitors.
A much more reliable (and sophisticated) way to check the speed of your site is to use one of a number of online tools. These also have advantages of
- being able to check the speed from various locations world-wide
- breaking down different elements that are affecting your site speed
- offering tips and guidelines for improving the speed.
GTmetrix is a free tool that analyzes your page’s speed performance. It incorporates Google’s PageSpeed and Yahoo’s YSlow speed check tools. GTmetrix generates scores for your pages and offers guidelines for improving your site. You can signup for a free account which allows you to check your page load times from multiple locations world-wide, and will also save historical speed tests.
Another Free Website Speed Test (with a paid upgrade option) to analyze the load speed of your websites, and learn how to make them faster.
Note: different tools test in different ways – so may give different results and offer varying optimsiation suggestions – so it is worth using a variety of tools when optimising your site.
There are MANY factors which have an influence on the speed of your website – here is a summary of some of the most important ones :
- Hosting – Both the location and configuration of your hosting server can have a major impact on the speed of your website. Try and use a host provider that is physically located in the same country as your primary target market. When your web hosting server is not properly configured it can hurt your website speed. If you are consistently waitng for WordPress Dashboard pages to load when you are making changes to your site – this is a pretty good indication that your hosting is slow and you may need to consider an alternate web hosting provider.
- WordPress Configuration – If your WordPress site is not serving cached pages, then it can overload your server and cause your website to be slow.
- Theme – a badly coded theme can dramatically effect your website performance
- Images – Large or unoptimised images are one of the major causes of poor load times
- Page Size – too much content on a single page (particularly for a home page) will effect performance
- Bad Plugins – If you’re using a poorly coded plugin, then it can significantly slow down your website.
- External scripts – External scripts such as ads, font loaders, etc can also have a huge impact on your website performance.
This post has already become a LOT longer than I had planned… so I have created 9 ways to Optimise the Speed of Your WordPress Website as a separate post 🙂
If you’d like to learn how to optimise the speed of your WordPress Website
– we offer training and consulting sessions.
We also include Speed Optimisation as one of the activities in our WordPress Website Maintenance plans.