We live in a time where people skim instead of read, glance instead of look, and scroll instead of stroll. With the abundance of quality content and design on the Internet, people just don’t have the patience to navigate around a site that takes more than 10-20 seconds to load. In fact, around half of website visitors would immediately leave a website if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load.
You may have updated, groundbreaking content on your meticulously designed site, but with people quickly sifting through terabytes of information, failing to respond quickly to user request will render all of your hard work nearly useless. That said, here are 15 useful tips to speed up your website and therefore boost site traffic and rankings in no time:
1. Switch to a different web host: to date, there are four types of web hosts available:
- Shared Web Hosting
- Semi-Dedicated Server Hosting
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
- Dedicated Server Hosting
A lot of people who are just currently starting out often choose shared web hosting because it’s the cheapest, however, shared web hosting only works best for sites with low user traffic. As soon as your site starts to get more visitors, the whole server starts to slow down. Since you’re basically sharing a server with other websites, anyone with massive user traffic may also affect your site’s performance. That said, you’ll want to upgrade to either of the three other options mentioned, with semi-dedicated server hosting being a good option for medium site traffic and dedicated server hosting being a good option for heavy site traffic.
2. Switch to a different web server: to date, majority of the websites you browse run Apache, Microsoft IIS, or Nginx. A lot of people go for Apache because it’s the most popular web server available, serving over 50% of the world’s websites. While it remains robust, flexible, and powerful enough to run even the most complex websites, a massive influx of visitors could instantly slow the server down to a crawl. That said, a lot of people have switched to Nginx or an Apache-Nginx hybrid and have noticed consistent site performance regardless of site traffic.
3. Reduce HTTP requests: whenever you load a website, it downloads a bunch of CSS stylesheets, scripts, images, etc. For each element, an HTTP request is made, which means that the more elements you have, the longer it takes for the whole web page to appear. The solution is simple: declutter your website by doing the following:
- Reduce the number of elements in your website – this actually serves both to shorten website loading times and prevent visitors from being overwhelmed seeing too many elements in one page.
- Switch to vector graphics whenever possible – vector graphics are great for simple illustrations, as they don’t eat as much space as high-resolution images.
4. Switch to a better theme: themes with too much bells and whistles tend to load slowly because of the various elements made with design in mind and not performance. You can use a tool like Pingdom to compare between themes and their performance. It’s best to use the theme’s demo for comparison to see how well the themes perform without any content.
5. Enable Keep-Alive: without keep-alive, sites would need to keep opening new connections for each new request – that’d be a nightmare, especially for dynamic websites! In order to enable keep-alive, change the part of your HTTP headers that say: “connection: close” to “connection: keep-alive”. You’ll also have to check with the type of server you’re using and the type of control you have over them and check if you have access to toggling keep-alive.
6. Take advantage of browser caching: “Expires” headers tell browsers whether an element on your website needs to be fetched from the server or from the browser’s cache. By setting an expires header for elements in your website like images, the browser will store those elements in its cache, therefore loading the site much faster the next time the visitor comes.
7. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN): the closer a web server is to a person’s computer, the faster the websites on that web server loads. That said, CDNs are a bunch of web servers spread out in different locations in order to deliver content to users within a certain range.
8. Reduce redirects: as mentioned before, additional HTTP requests slow down a website. Whenever you can, avoid redirecting visitors in your site. If this is unavoidable, just make sure that you don’t redirect more than once just to get to another page.
9. Keep your URLs in check: broken links not only push your site several ranks down Google’s search results, but they can also triple your site’s loading time. Imagine how upsetting it would be for a visitor to load a slow site, only to see missing images and broken links. You don’t have to manually check all the links in your site though, since there are plenty of online link checkers available.
11. Optimize your CSS stylesheets: your website can access your CSS code either through an external file or inline code. You’ll want to go with an external style sheet to reduce redundancies in code. Also, you’ll want to make sure that you only have one external style sheet so you don’t increase HTTP requests made.
12. Optimize your images: images are usually the biggest space-hogs common in most websites. Fortunately you don’t need to reduce the resolution of the images to get a decent speed boost; you can simply compress the images you upload in a lossless manner, which means that the only data stripped off from the images are the ones the naked eye won’t notice.
13. Reduce your server response time: you’ll want to get a server response time of 200ms at maximum. There are plenty of web apps that could easily benchmark your site for bottlenecks in performance in order to help you cut the response time.
14. Enable compression: using Gzip, you can set up your server in such a way that files are compressed in Gzip format before being sent for download. This effectively reduces the bandwidth of your pages and makes them faster to download. Different techniques apply for Apache, Nginx, and Microsoft IIS, so make sure you use the appropriate setup for the web server you’re using.
15. Track the plugins that slow you down: P3 is a useful diagnostic plugin that helps you see which plugin drastically impacts the loading time of your webpages. A lot of times, the culprits are social-sharing plugins, however, some buggy plugins can also significantly slow down your website. By knowing which ones negatively impact your site’s performance significantly, you can choose whether to remove, replace, or reconfigure them.