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How to Speed up a Website in 9 Simple Steps
How do you feel when the food you order is served after a long wait? Or when there’s a big line behind the checkout counter in the supermarket?
You simply hate it.
Guess what, your viewers don’t like it any better when your site loads slowly.
Worse for you, they show their displeasure by giving your site fewer visits and sales.
Every second extra that your site takes to load leads to:
- 11% loss in page views
- 7% fewer conversion
Slow site impacts greatly your ability to entice customers and generate.
If you are online, loading speed is crucial.
How to speed up a website then? Glad you asked.
Just follow the speed fixes discussed in this post. Pure and simple.
You see, contrary to what many believe, creating a fast, sleek site is not beyond the average person.
Even if you don’t know any coding, you can improve your site’s performance easily.
I’ll show you how to go about it.
But before I discuss any website speed optimization steps, first let’s get absolutely clear about one thing: Slow speed, if not fixed quickly and efficiently, is an issue that can shove your online business toward an early grave.
The Importance of Speed Optimization
How website speed affects conversions? Does it make harder for you to convince visitors to do shop at your site?
Your cart abandonment rates climb to 87% with just a 2-second loading delay during a transaction.
Slow speed = low conversion rates
But it gets worse…
Delayed page loading turns your first-time buyers into strangers.
Research shows 64% of online shoppers who don’t like your site’s performance will not come back.
And if that was not enough, 43% of unhappy customers will do their shopping at a competitor’s site next time.
This means your loss is competitors’ gain.
That’s the last thing you want. I know.
But the thing is…
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can also convert more viewers into paid customers, keep them loyal to your brand, and march proudly toward online success if you get serious, real serious, about web site speed optimization right from this moment.
What Is a Good Loading Time?
If your site loads in 3 seconds or less, that’s acceptable. Anything beyond 3 seconds causes the bounce rate to climb up sharply.
The bounce rate probability increases to 32% when load times increase from 1 second to 3 seconds. However, this number for pages with load times of 5 seconds is as high as 90%.
Another study reveals 75% of users will not revisit a page that takes over 4 seconds to load.
So the writing on the wall is loud and clear.
If your page load times exceed 3 seconds, you must make improving web performance your priority number one.
But before you work on speed, there’s one more thing to do…
Find out your site’s current average load time.
How to Measure Loading Time?
Time to First Byte (TTFB) and page load time are two different ways to measure page speed.
TTFB measures the time it takes for a user’s browser to receive the first byte from your server after submitting an HTTP request to it.
TTFB gives some idea about server response time but doesn’t mean much to users.
A visitor is more concerned about when her browser will load the entire page than when the latter will receive the first installment of the server’s response.
That said, an extremely high TTFB value in your website speed test can herald bad news. If your server takes a long time to send just the first byte, the entire web page may take an eternity to load.
So what’s a good TTFB score?
A TTFB value of less than 200 milliseconds is perfectly acceptable while anything beyond 500 milliseconds is slow is starting to slow down the overall performance.
Page load time, in contrast, measures the time it takes for a user’s browser to download and serve up the entire web page. This metric, as you can probably guess, is more important to user experience.
You should try to keep it as low as possible because anything above 3 seconds is too high.
There are several free software applications that not only measure page load time but also identify hidden performance bottlenecks and offer insightful answers to the all-important how to speed up a website question.
Here are 5 top free tools for monitoring website speed. Because these tools test website speed somewhat differently, I suggest you use all of them to get the most accurate picture.
Except for Load Impact, all of them replicate end-user-experience. The former, on the other hand, focuses on how your server responds to increased load.
Powerful and easy to use, GTMetrix.com gives you an incisive report about everything related to page speed.
You can select the browser type (Firefox or Chrome), test from 7 different locations, and check site performance on different connection types (broadband, cable, or mobile).
GTMetrix assigns your site a grade from F to A and lists the most important page details.
Go through the various entries in the report one-by-one to learn how your site performs on every individual thing that affects its load time.
You will need to invest some time to browse through all the resources. However, if you want many actionable how to speed website recommendations, the time investment is definitely worth it.
WebPage Test is just as detailed as GTMetrix but offers more options (40+ server locations and 25+ browser types, including mobile).
Using it is a cinch. Paste your site’s URL, select the server location and browser, and hit the Start Test button.
This free, open-sourced tool captures a number of useful metrics and catalogs and displays them in different tables and charts to help you spot performance delays and increase website speed.
Pingdom is one of the more popular website monitoring services today.
Just like WebPage Test and GTMetrix, it allows users to select the location from where they want to run the test. However, Pingdom doesn’t let you run a speed test with different browsers.
Pingdom covers all the main aspects of page speed and displays information in a neat, compact way. Compared with the first two tools, it is less comprehensive.
Google PageSpeed Insights
Want to know how to speed up a website right off the bat?
Use this free tool to know your site’s current performance, and, more importantly, get advanced tips based on the latest industry best practices for enhancing site performance.
Unlike some other tools, Google PageSpeed provides reports for both the desktop and mobile version of your website.
The tool scores your site on a scale of 1 to 100. The higher the score, the better.
Anything over 85 is pretty good. If your score sheet reads 85+, you can pat yourself on the back for putting a good show.
A cloud-based tool, Load Impact runs a website speed test by using virtual users, up to 50 in the free version, to record your server’s performance when it is put under strain.
It is well backed by a detailed help section, where you will find extensive information about each part of the tool. While browsing through its comprehensive documentation takes some time, it’s really worth it and provides you a real insight into how you can make your site leaner and faster.
However, the cross-browser feature is missing here. If you want to execute tests with different browsers, you’ll have to try another tool.
9 Ways to Improve Website Speed
The first thing you’ll realize when you run speed tests is that these tools report some common issues.
This is because, even though multiple things impact site speed, several improvement techniques work in all situations.
Also remember that a neatly-coded site, WordPress or any other, trumps a poorly-coded one, anytime, any day.
WordPress users don’t have to worry about poor-coding issues as long as they use premium themes and plugins.
On the other hand, if you have a custom-coded website, make sure you use a written code that follows the best practices, and routinely clean up your text and image files.
Here are nine best how to speed up website hacks that can give your site’s performance a shot in the arm.
1. GZIP Compression
Unzipped text files can scare the hell out of a web browser. After all, downloading a 100KB HTML file can’t be much fun.
You can make the browser’s life easy by asking your server to compress files before passing them on.
Zipped files mean less work for the browser. And so it loads your site quickly.
However, the question is: which compression technique to use?
Your webserver can’t trim files any way it fancies. That will lead to hara-kiri.
If the user’s browser isn’t able to make the head or tail of the compressed files pushed down its throat, nothing will load on the screen.
The viewer will fume, swear not to waste even a second more on your site ever, and hit the dreaded back button.
That’s why always use a compression technique that popular browsers can read with ease.
At the same time ensure the files are compressed substantially to aid the overall page speed optimization.
GZIP can do that easily.
Most hosts and web browsers support this compression technique. Also, it can substantially reduce the size of your text files, like HTML and CSS files.
Text files contain a lot of similar code. GZIP temporarily replaces the strings of repeat code and white space in your HTML and CSS files, making them lighter in an instant.
How to turn on GZIP?
All WordPress users need to do is to install W3 Total Cache, a free WordPress plugin, and follow these steps.
- Navigate to the Settings page of W3 Total Cache
- Click Browser Cache
- Select the box before Enable HTTP (gzip) compression
In just three steps you can enable GZIP and increase website speed. According to a report, this compression technique reduces load time by almost 70%.
If your site is an HTML static one, you can enable Gzip compression by adding a snippet of code in the .htaccess file. Your host can tell you the exact code, so I recommend you contact its support team.
2. Compress Images
GZIP is good, very good—but it can’t thin down your images.
This is because they aren’t compressed the same way as text files.
But compress the images you must, as they impact your site speed quite a lot.
Image files tend to be large and as such can seriously slow loading speed. Without trimming them, you will always struggle to achieve much page speed optimization.
However, deleting them is completely out of the question, particularly if you run an e-commerce site.
In a report, 66% of online shoppers said they like to see at least three product images before buying.
Nicely clicked product photos can help you improve conversion—provided they load speedily.
This is exactly what one study found. In it, 39% of online shoppers said they leave a site if its images take a long time to load or don’t load at all.
You can use Pingdom or any other website speed test tool to get an exact picture of the kind of impact images are having on a particular webpage.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Copy the URL of the page you want to test
- Go to Pingdom official site, paste this address into the URL box, select a server location, and finally click the Start Test button
- Wait for a couple of seconds for the test to finish and then browse to the Requests by content type to get the desired information
In the following example, images make up for more than 40% of the content.
Clearly, if you speed up image loading, it will make a world of difference to the overall page load time.
How to compress images?
If you are a WordPress user, I recommend you use WP Smush. It’s lightweight, easy to install, and works like a charm. Within seconds it can customize all your new images and help solve the how to speed up my website conundrum once and for all.
After uploading the tool, just choose the Automatically smush my images on upload option.
WP Smush also allows you to set up maximum width and height. If you load any image that’s larger than the defined limits, the tool will automatically compress it.
If your site doesn’t run on WordPress, you will need something like Compressor.io, an online tool for compressing photos and images.
Simply go this site, upload or drag and drop an image, and select the kind of compression you want, lossy or lossless. The tool selects lossy by default.
When you pick lossy compression, a tiny bit of data is lost. However, the naked eye can’t really detect the difference.
On the other hand, in lossless compression, there’s no loss of data.
Naturally enough, lossy compressed images are smaller.
If a web page contains lots of images, you may want to opt for lossy compression to ensure you get the maximum benefit from this simple DIY how to speed up your website tip.
When crisp detail and clear lines are a top priority, you should go with lossless compression.
The tool starts compressing the image the moment you load it and takes only a few seconds to complete the job.
Now simply download the compressed image file on your desktop and then upload it on your site.
Compressing images allows you to speed up image loading a lot, so don’t ignore this fix.
3. Content Delivery Networks - Speed and Security
Your web server spends computing power to process every site-access request it receives.
When traffic is normal, all is fine. It can send the requested web page to a browser speedily, without breaking a sweat.
However, all hell breaks loose when traffic soars.
Then the server huffs and puffs, and works tirelessly like a foot soldier, but still takes more time to complete each request.
How can it not?
You haven’t yet adopted the time-tested website optimization tips, and the server has limited resources. There’s only so much it can do in a single clock tick.
As a result, load times for all users increase during high-traffic times.
That’s not good at all because users hate an unresponsive site. If the requested web page doesn’t load on their screens in a couple of seconds or so, they’ll walk away—angrily.
And instead of happy customers, you’ll be left with unsatisfied visitors, who will not miss an opportunity to tell others that your site is as lazy as a mule.
A survey reveals that for 52% of customers, page loading time is important for potential future visits.
At the same time, 44% of shoppers say they share their bad online experience with others through one social networking site or another.
It’s clear, then. You must find a way to help your server handle the deluge of requests it gets during peak hours more efficiently.
Otherwise, improving web performance will stay a pipe dream.
CDN Negates Distance
Apart from high traffic, there’s another thing that can cause load times to climb up—greater physical distance.
Even if your server were to take the same time to process every request, its response will take more time to reach viewers located farther away because the information has to travel a greater distance.
With all other factors being equal, load times for these viewers will always be higher than for viewers who are physically closer to your server.
There’s nothing your web server can do here. The laws of physics stall its good intentions.
But you can do something. Actually much more than just something.
You can give the server a helping hand and increase website speed by ensuring there is more than just one pair of shoulders sharing the responsibilities of handling the site traffic.
Ever heard of a content delivery network (CDN)?
It’s a system of distributed servers that can speed up the delivery of your content in rush hours and to users who’re very far from your server.
Basically, when you use a CDN, you cache your static content on different servers spread across the world.
Now when a user makes a request to see your content, the server that’s closest physically handles the request.
The servers in a CDN, i.e. cache servers, work shoulder to shoulder with your main server and help improve website speed, just like how this image shows.
CloudFlare is among the top CDNs, but there are other worthy options too. It’s mighty helpful and easy to use.
Many of the top website hosting providers work closely with CloudFlare and the integration is incredibly simple.
CDN Increases Security
Another major benefit of using a CDN is the increased security, as the CDN servers can mitigate DDoS attacks.
They have inbuilt mechanisms against such attacks. Granted, the best web hosting providers deploy strong DDoS defenses, but a well-orchestrated attack can still bring a single server down with relative ease.
A CDN can offset the traffic influx, as the very presence of a server network which handles incoming traffic mitigates traffic floods.
Additionally, if your site goes down for maintenance, the CDN servers can still display cached copies of it to the end-users, helping greatly the overall uptime.
4. Remove Useless Plugins
Did you know that WordPress has more than 50,000 plugins?
It’s easy to be careless with them and install a few too many.
Even though many WordPress plugins don’t cost a dime, they come with a price because they increase the load on your database.
Whenever a WordPress page is requested by users, it checks the database for information. Processing these database queries takes time and resources.
More plugins make your database process a larger number of queries, i.e., it works harder in vain.
Besides putting a huge strain on the database, extra plugins cause databases to bloat. This can affect their efficiency and consequently increases load time.
Also, plugins that stay unused often are neglected when updating WordPress. Outdated plugins severely compromise security.
To cut a long story short, having too many plugins is never a good idea. When wondering how to speed up website performance, deleting all unused plugins is always a good place to start.
5. Use a Good Host
All hosts are not made equal. Some are significantly better than others. That’s why we test them so carefully.
Selecting the right host is paramount. Without a decent host, you will fail to get many benefits from the tips shared in this post.
Server response time can vary a great deal from one host to another.
In fact, one report states that while good hosts have a loading speed of 0.7 – 0.8 seconds, slow hosts can double that.
A slow server response time can prevent your site from entering the coveted under three-seconds club, regardless of how many other website optimization tips you implement.
If super-fast page loading speed is your top-most priority, you should consider DreamHost. After months of testing, it is ranked among the best here on the Hosting Tribunal, as it provides stellar performance on all important parameters, including loading speed, loading speed under stress, and uptime. Additionally, the support team is knowledgeable and useful, and can help with speed optimization quite a lot.
Of course, when choosing a host, it is always advisable to check more reviews to get a clearer idea whether the hosting provider suits you or not.
An easy way to boost your site’s performance is to reduce the size of these files by removing unwanted code, space, and formatting.
Important: Back up your files before you attempt this and other advanced PHP optimization fixes. If anything goes wrong, you can restore your files in a single click. You can use a free WordPress backup plugin like BackupBuddy to make backups or the cPanel backup wizard, which is included in mostly all shared hosting plans.
How to Minify Text Files?
If your site is custom-coded, the developers should have made it as lean and clean as possible. All the same, there are online minification tools that can remove unnecessary characters and empty spaces in an instance.
With WordPress, things are even easier.
Download and install WP Rocket or any other similar plugin.
If you’re using WP Rocket, click the Static Files tab and select the file types that you want to minify (HTML, CSS, and JS).
If you asked me how to speed up your website and I had to give you a single answer, caching would probably be it. If you want a fast, responsive site, there’s no way you can say no to caching.
While caching is a pretty technical subject, its underlying principle is fairly simple. And that’s all you need to understand the importance of caching.
What’s caching all about? How does it help improve site speed?
In simple, plain English, caching allows your webserver to send a web page at a much faster pace to a browser after it has already been delivered once.
Speedy transmission of information from your server to the user’s browser ensures your web pages load up swiftly.
Now you see why turning on caching is a great way to speed up web page loading.
But how is the webserver able to deliver a webpage faster the second time around? Why can’t it serve up the page quickly the first time?
Let’s say a user wants to visit your homepage and types the relevant address in her browser.
The moment the server receives the request, it calculates the page parameters to deliverer the relevant information. To be able to do process this request, the server has to complete certain actions, all of which take time (milliseconds but still) and resources.
A few moments later another user submits a request for the homepage.
Since the new request is the same as the previous one, the server now already knows what’s to be provided; it has already stored the “answer”, the complete page in its cache memory. It doesn’t have to do the complex calculations again.
Instead, it simply hands over the answer to the browser. This, as you can guess, help to improve website speed.
The answer that the server gives to the second browser is actually a static HTML file, which basically is a snapshot of your homepage.
In both cases, the content provided is the same, but the server delivers it much faster the second time.
How to Enable Caching?
If your site is custom-coded, it is best to find a host that has server-side caching enabled. Be that Varnish, a good nginX configuration, or something else, you can get excellent results.
There is a host of free WordPress caching plugins, perhaps none more popular than W3 Total Cache.
Install it and go to Page Cache (It is below General Settings) and check the box next to it.
If you are looking for a quick tip on how to increase the website speed of a WordPress site, this is just what you need to do.
To get even more details about WordPress speed optimization, you can check out our extensive guide on the topic.
8. Asynchronous Loading
Script files are bulkier than many other page elements and browsers typically take longer to load them.
With synchronous loading, the viewer may get the impression that the page is loading slowly as the more important stuff loads up later.
In contrast, selecting asynchronous loading gives the browser a license to load other elements along with the script files.
If you’re wondering how to increase website speed in PHP, asynchronous loading is the way to go. Some web hosts like FastComet offer it out-of-the-box but it is often the case that you have to install the right plugin or add the proper coding to achieve this optimization.
When you defer a file, the browser loads it after other page elements. Deferring large files like JS files make a lot of sense because they can delay the loading of other content.
If you’re using WP Rocket, click the Static Files tab and select these three options in the Render-blocking CSS/JS section:
- Load CSS Files synchronously
- Load JS files deferred
- Safe mode (recommended)
For asynchronous loading, add async to your scripts. This will ensure the browser loads the HTML that comes after the async script along with it.
Is Speed Optimization Worth It?
If you’re not getting as much traffic as you expect or if your visitors are not spending much time on your site, it’s time you should ask yourself one question that matters—how to improve website loading speed?
Speed affects all things that are important for your business, from page traffic to bounce rate, customer satisfaction to customer loyalty, and conversion to repeat purchase rate.
In short, if you ignore website performance, your bottom-line will suffer. Big time.
Multiple factors affect page speed, but you don’t have to fix all of them at once.
Run speed tests using free benchmark tools to identify the deepest of performance loopholes hampering the speed of your site.
Start with them to get maximum benefit in the minimum time. Many of the hacks about how to speed up a website discussed above are in fact very easy to implement, even for custom-coded sites.
So don’t let speed keep you away from realizing your dream of becoming a successful online entrepreneur or blogger.
The internet is all yours to conquer. All you need is a fast site.