We live in a world of powerful devices and fast Internet. But this doesn’t mean that all websites load lightning-fast. In fact, most websites are slower than Google’s recommended loading time – three seconds. That’s where website speed optimization comes in.
Website size is a crucial speed factor and Google wants webpages to weigh less than 500kB. Lower page size equals faster loading times and happier users. Luckily, there are many website speed optimization guidelines you can apply.
Before you read the suggestions below, keep in mind they are somewhat technical. However, some of them are easy enough you might be able to do them yourself, even if you’re not a developer or web designer. Check out these nine website speed optimization tips:
1. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights for Website Speed Optimization
Before performing any website speed optimization, you first need to check which parts are slow. Visit Google’s PageSpeed Insights, a free tool to test a website’s speed.
Using it is simple. Enter your site URL and click “Analyze”. After a few seconds, you’ll see speed scores for the mobile and desktop versions of your site. What’s more, it also shows what you can improve. It’s always best to do what Google recommends in terms of website speed optimization.
Some elements of your website, such as images and HTML, may already be optimized for speed. PageSpeed Insights shows you optimizations that are already present. It is helpful to know exactly which areas of your website you should improve, and which are already fast enough.
2. Get Better Web Hosting
Web hosts are not all created equal. Some are low-budget options that offer shared hosting, cramming tons of websites on their servers. Needless to say, the loading time on shared hosting is sub-par as the number of websites on the server grows.
More expensive and better quality web hosts come with dedicated hosting. For WordPress, WP Engine is the best web host you can get. For other platforms, choose dedicated servers like SingleHop or Inmotion.
Another option to consider is using a Virtual Private Server (VPS). These distribute content on many servers and you’ll enjoy greater private disk space and resource access.
That said, popular and inexpensive web hosts like GoDaddy, Bluehost, or Hostgator are acceptable overall if you’re launching a new website or you have little traffic on your existing website.
3. Use a Content Delivery Network
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are networks of servers scattered around the world. These servers keep a cached copy of your website data. When a user accesses your site, the CDN will give them the data from the nearest server to the user’s location. This speeds up your site’s loading time for that user.
For example, let’s say that your own web server (or web host server) is in Florida. If someone from Australia wants to access your website, a CDN will know where they are and send data from the server closest to their location.
Cloudflare is a popular CDN that can be integrated with web hosts such as Bluehost or GoDaddy. Their services are free but have weak protection against DDoS attacks, spam, and bots. Popular but paid alternatives are Akamai or Amazon CloudFront, all of which offer enhanced security. Other web hosts like LiquidWeb have their own CDN.
So, you have two options for website speed optimization: get a web host and a separate CDN, or use a web host that provides a CDN.
Webpages render faster if you minify your resource files by getting rid of excess spaces and comments. The best way to minify your code is by using automatic tools that are available online or in your Content Management System as plugins.
For WordPress, you can use plugins such as Autoptimize. Online, tools like willpeavy.com do a great job. A word of warning: minified code may not be perfect. So once you’ve minified everything, be sure to test your website.
5. Reduce HTTP Requests
Websites contain many resources, and each of them requires a separate HTTP request. The problem is – the more requests, the slower the webpage loads. Websites load faster when there’s less “stuff” to download.
That’s why you need to drop as many HTTP requests as possible. Keep your website design simple and with as few individual elements as possible.
Use sprites for images, too. An image sprite is a collection of images put into a single image. Using image sprites reduces the number of server requests.
6. Enable Compression
When a user accesses your website, the browser downloads files from your website’s server. The smaller the files, the faster your website. That’s why it’s important to compact those server files as much as possible.
To do that, enable GZIP compression, a feature that compresses the requested files. GZIP compresses your website files which the browser unzips when it requests them. Users won’t have to do anything extra as all modern browsers support GZIP.
GZIP reduces the file size by up to 70%, drastically increasing your website speed. An average page size of 100kB will be compressed to 40kB or less.
7. Enable Browser Caching
Browser caching is a way to store your webpage files on your visitors’ devices on their first visit. Next time they visit your page, it will load faster as they have already downloaded your page files.
Visitors download new webpage elements only when you add them. Thus, caching reduces the number of downloadable elements, cutting down on load times. Browser caching also saves bandwidth as the user has already cached your page files.
8. Optimize Images and Video
Many people upload images from their cameras (or stock websites) onto their websites. Images are important on your website, but they should enhance and not slow your website down. You should always compress them first.
Images make up 90% of an average website’s storage space, so it is common sense that reducing their size is critical for website speed optimization. Large images are displayed more slowly, frustrating users and lowering your SEO rank.
Platforms like WordPress allow you to upload images of any size. That’s why you should rely on tools like Smush for WordPress, Photoshop, or an online tool.
Also, it’s important to know that you don’t need a 2000 px image if you show it at 1000 px on your site. That’s a waste of disk space. So resize your images based on where you use them.
As for videos, here are a few tips for website speed optimization:
- Compress them without loss of quality
- Determine the ideal format for your website and users (MP4 as it has the smallest file size)
- Determine the optimal size based on your average user’s screen size
9. Remove Unnecessary Plugins
Plugins on CMSs like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal enhance functionality and offer easy customization. Yet, if your plugins are outdated, poorly made, or you just have too many, your website may be slow.
On WordPress, many plugins are outdated and may cause website problems. Pages of old plugins show “This plugin hasn’t been tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress”. So be careful what you install or already have installed.
If you have a lot of plugins installed on your website, go through each of them periodically. Decide which ones are necessary and switch off those that aren’t. Your website loading times may greatly improve.
Improving your website speed is key to better user experience and SEO. You’ll likely gain and/or retain more customers for each small boost in website speed.
To improve your site speed, first test your website to find out which parts are slowing it down. Once you’ve identified the potential problems, solve as many as you can.
These website speed optimization tips help you improve both desktop and mobile sites. However, Google is now using the mobile version of your website for indexing and ranking. Check out our essential mobile SEO tips for your website.