A 10-Step Guide To Improving Website Loading Speed

It’s a fast and furious world we’re living in these days and speed makes a huge difference when it comes to building a successful website.

Average internet user doesn’t like spending more than 3 seconds waiting for a website to load. After all the effort you put into bringing in traffic to your website, it’s your job to make sure to keep your website visitors from leaving.

How fast is your website? Does it load in less than 3 seconds? What can you do to improve website loading speed?

In this step by step guide, we’ll show you how to check your website speed and the best tricks for speeding up your website. Let’s get started.

Why Care About Website Loading Speed?

You can no longer blame slow internet connections for your website taking too long to load. Now, it’s entirely up to you to optimize your site for maximum performance.

Even Google now considers a website’s speed as a ranking factor when ranking your website in Google Search results. So, your website speed is no longer just about convenience, it’s also part of your SEO.

If SEO is not your concern (it should be), then you should at least speed up your website for the sake of keeping your website visitors from leaving your website. Especially when it comes to eCommerce websites, slow loading website could cost you a lot of sales.

According to a case study done by Redware, a 2-second delay during a transaction could lead to a customer abandonment rate of up to 87%.

Speed may kill on the road. But, on the Internet, going slow may actually kill your business. It’s time you gear up to boost your website speed for best results.

How To Check Your Website Loading Time

First, let’s figure out how long it takes for your website to load. You can do this using the Pingdom Website Speed Test tool.

Simply copy your website URL and paste it into the Pingdom tool to check for speed and see the page size of your website.

You can also use Google PageSpeed Insights to analyze your website and see how you can optimize the website for best performance.

If you haven’t done any optimizations for your website, the results of those tests may shock you. Don’t worry, you can still make improvements by yourself without having to break the bank. Simply follow these simple steps.

Step 1: Remove Useless Plugins

Plugins are great for extending the features of WordPress. Since plugins are so easy to install, most bloggers easily get carried away and install dozens of plugins on their websites to add more functions.

What you probably don’t know is that each plugin you install adds more weight to your website which results in more server resource usage. Getting rid of some of your non-essential plugins is the first step you should take to speed up your website.

Every WordPress website has at least one or two useless plugins. For example, JetPack is one of the most popular plugins that adds no value to your website. Get rid of it. Also, try to find plugins with multiple uses to minimize the usage of server resources. Like Yoast SEO, which has both SEO tools and a sitemap generation tool.

Step 2: Install A Caching Plugin

Next, install a caching plugin on your WordPress website.

Website caching allows websites to perform faster by creating static HTML files of your web pages. This minimizes the requests sent to your server whenever someone visits your website by instantly delivering the HTML page instead of having to process each individual element (eg: sidebars, icons, logos, etc) on your website separately.

If you know your way around WordPress, you can install a free plugin like WP Super Cache to setup caching for your website. Installing this plugin requires a bit of technical knowledge so proceed only if you know what you’re doing.

If you’re new to WordPress, you can use a premium plugin like WP Rocket to easily add website caching without having to edit your server or theme files. WP Rocket can be installed with just one-click.

Step 3: Setup A CDN

A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is another effective strategy you can use to speed up your website by globally distributing your website through a network of servers.

Global CDN is a network of servers located around the world. What a CDN does is it reduces the load on your main server by caching your website and distributing through the network of servers and delivering it based on the geo location of the website visitor.

For example, if someone from Malaysia visits your website, then your CDN will pull your website information from one of its servers in Singapore to deliver the content faster to your visitor instead of getting the info from your main server in the US. This reduces the load on your main website server and resource usage.

You can use CloudFlare to setup a CDN for free. Setting it up is also easy.

  1. Signup with a free CloudFlare account.
  2. Enter your website domain name and start scanning.
  3. CloudFlare will automatically scan and pull DNS records of your domain.
  4. Then you can replace your domain’s default nameservers with the CloudFlare nameservers.
  5. That’s it!

Step 4: Optimize Images

Images play an important role in website design and also in creating effective blog posts. More images mean more user engagement. However, the more images you have on a web page, the more it will add to the size of your web page.

One of the best ways to reduce your page size is to compress your images. And you can do this without having to buy any expensive image processing software.

SmushIt and Imagify are two great free plugins you can use to automatically compress every image you upload to your blog without affecting its quality. These plugins will help save a lot of server resources as well.

In addition, you should also avoid image hotlinking, or adding images hosted on different websites using direct URLs. It takes a longer time to pull images from different servers than the ones hosted on your own server. This will also add more time to your website load time.

Step 5: Lazy Load Images

When you use a lot of images inside a long blog post, it could take a while for the page to load. This usually means the visitors have to wait a while before they can view the blog post.

Lazy loading fixes this problem by preventing images from loading at once. Instead, lazy loading will only load the images in the current viewport. In other words, the images will load one by one as the reader scrolls down the blog post.

You can use the free plugin Lazy Load to get that job done. If you use WP Rocket, then you won’t have to install an additional plugin. It comes with integrated image lazy loading feature.

Step 6: Enable Browser Caching

Similar to website caching, browser caching also help improve your website performance. But, browser caching leverages each person’s browser to store certain elements of your web pages instead of storing them on your own server.

When enabled, browser caching will temporarily store shared elements of your website, such as logos, menus, header, footer, on the visitor’s browser to help speed up website loading time when they browse different pages on your website or return to your website later.

To enable browser caching, you have to access your server and edit an important file called .htaccess. Be very careful when editing this file because one missing letter could break your website.

The best strategy is to get in touch with your web hosting provider’s technical support team and ask them to do it for you. Or you can also use a plugin to get it done.

Always make a backup before making any changes to any files.

Step 7: Use AMP

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is an open source project that was developed for the sole purpose of help improving web browsing experience on mobile devices. The main goal of AMP was to make websites open as quickly and smoothly as a mobile app. And it does just that.

When enabled, AMP will create special and separate mobile optimized versions of your blog posts. These AMP pages will load almost instantly on mobile devices, which will undoubtedly improve your website’s user experience.

To add AMP to your WordPress website, simply install and activate the official AMP for WordPress plugin developed by Automattic.

Step 8: Switch To HTTPS

Adding an SSL certificate to your blog is a great way to not only speed up your website but also to secure it. Google recently started flagging websites without an SSL certificate as “not secure” on Google Chrome. So, switching to HTTPS will help build authority as well.

HTTPS websites are also reportedly faster than websites without SSL. According to tech expert Troy Hunt, who’s conducted several tests, HTTP sites are 1063% slower than sites with HTTPS.

Although, switching from HTTP to HTTPS can be tricky. It takes a lot of work. Some web hosts, such as Siteground, provide easier solutions. Siteground has its own plugin that allows you to easily enable HTTPS with just a single click. New accounts of Siteground also automatically enable HTTPS.

If your web host doesn’t provide services like that, you can use a plugin like Really Simple SSL to add HTTPS to your website. After getting a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt, you can install the plugin and enable HTTPS with one click.

Step 9: Minify CSS And JavaScript

Minifying your website’s CSS and JavaScript code can greatly increase your website loading speed by compressing the code for quickly handling the website requests.

If you’re familiar with web development, you can manually minify your CSS and JavaScript using online tools and update your theme files.

Or you can use a WordPress plugin, which will minify and arrange the CSS and JavaScript in the correct order (CSS in header and JavaScript files in footer). WP Rocket also has this function integrated as well.

Step 10: Reduce HTTP Requests

An HTTP request is a request that your website sends to your server to pull files related to your website, like CSS files and images, whenever someone visits your website. The more files you have, the longer it takes for a web page to load and more server resources it consumes.

Reducing the number of files on your website will go a long way to improve your website performance. However, if you’ve already followed the previous steps of our guide, especially the steps involving minifying CSS, optimizing images, and setting up a CDN, then you’ve already taken the necessary steps to reduce the number of HTTP requests on your website. Congratulations!

Other Ways To Improve Website Speed

If you’d like to take things a step further, there are many other ways you can improve your site speed. For instance, you can switch to a faster web hosting provider or replace your current WordPress theme with a lighter and a more responsive theme.

Even though those steps can be a bit costly, it could significantly help improve your website performance. So make it your Plan B. If all above steps fail, then it’s probably time for you to change your web hosting and the theme.

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