During one of your usual website check-ins (which you do regularly, right), you notice your page load speed is lagging.
It’s not so slow that you have time to go pour yourself a cup of coffee, but it’s definitely not lightning fast. What gives?
You may not be overly concerned but you should try to get to the bottom of why anyway.
Slow website page load speed can negatively affect your SEO, which will lead to decreased traffic.
And then those people who do make it to your website will have a poor user experience, so even if you get them there in the first place, they are less likely to convert from visitors into clients.
What does all of that add up to? Fewer leads and less revenue for your business.
What do you do? Increase your page speed!
What is Page Speed Optimization?
Let’s step back for a second and talk about how slow is too slow, because one person’s acceptable is another person’s lifetime. So, we’ll go with the gold standard. WWGS? (a.k.a. What Would Google Say?).
Google says blink.
According to Google, 2 seconds is the limit that your visitors are likely prepared to wait for a webpage to load.
Crazy, right? Don’t shoot the messenger.
The good news?
Just a small improvement in page speed will have a big impact.
How Do You Measure Your Page Load Speed?
There are a lot of tools that exist to help evaluate a website’s page speed, and they each have their own place, but for the typical creative professional who may be DIYing their sites, we usually recommend Google’s Page Speed Insights and Pingdom, as they’re the easiest to interpret.
Regardless of which tool you use, we usually recommend taking screenshots or notes of your page speed scores before any optimization is performed, so that you can compare it to the results after you implement your optimization efforts.
Without a benchmark, you won’t know if it’s working. I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen this simple step missed.
How Does Google’s Page Speed Insights Work?
Essentially, Google’s Page Speed Insights tool will run a series of tests that interpret your website’s code and provides you with results and instructions on what you can do to improve your ranking (and subsequently to have a faster website).
Realistically, it’s unlikely that the typical creative professional who is DIYing their website would be able to fully interpret the data and know what to do with it, but it’s an effective tool for you as far as determining how your site is performing, before and after the improvements you implement (which I’ll tell you more about below).
5 Ways to Improve Your Page Speed
Let’s dive a bit more into the weeds in the various areas that you can improve your page speed. There are five main ways you can accomplish this:
- Improve your images
- Get a caching plugin
- Other changes you can do yourself
- Other changes your developer can do
- Get better website hosting
As a reminder, get a backup system in place first before you start making changes to your website. I recommend VaultPress and their Personal level plan is often sufficient for many small business owners (and very inexpensive).
1. Improve Your Images
This is the most DIY-friendly option to improve your page speed and it can often have a pretty significant impact. You can reduce your website’s page load time by doing the following:
- Use the correct image format
- Resize your images
- Choose the right image resolution
- Optimize your images
- Reduce the number of images on your website
Check out our post on image optimization to learn more specifics about how to fix your images and make sure they aren’t slowing your site.
2. Get a Caching Plugin
If you’ve used a site builder like Squarespace or Wix, you can skip this section. This is specifically for creative professionals whose websites are built on WordPress.org.
What is a caching plugin and how does it work?
This is going to get a little technical but, bear with me here. Essentially, caching is a complex technology that does one simple thing really well: it makes your website really fast.
Caching is your computer’s way of saving data from a webpage you visit regularly, to be used later. It should, theoretically, make your pages load faster because some of the data is already there, from having been stored earlier.
A caching plugin will essentially take a snapshot of your site and deliver that snapshot version to whoever is visiting your page. It makes your page load faster because you’re not having to download all new information.
Still following? If you’re looking for an effective caching plugin, we recommend and have had good success with WP Rocket.
3. Other Changes You Can Do Yourself
If your website is on WordPress.org, go through all your plugins and disable and delete any plugins you are not using. Do this VERY carefully, using the intructions we’ve provided here… and make sure you have a backup in place first!
They could be adding assets to your website that you aren’t aware of and that are slowing down your page speed.
If your website is built using a site builder, you will be more limited in the control that you have over page speed optimization, and you will need to focus mainly on the image optimization options available to you.
I recommend checking your particular site builder’s help articles to see if they provide any further details on your options for page speed optimization. Here are links to a couple of relevant support articles for two of the most popular site builders:
Remember, images and videos are generally the heaviest items on your website. Try to limit the number of them as best you can.
Pay particular attention to your homepage feature slider if you have one, as that’s often where I find very large images that can be better optimized.
4. Other Changes Your Developer Can Do
Your website developer can do a lot of things I would not recommend a typical small business owner tackle, so if you have a website on WordPress and a developer you trust, ask them to look into the following items:
- Htaccess edits
- Image optimizations within the theme files
- Loading plugin assets on the pages they are used
You hired a developer for a reason. Take advantage of their expertise!
5. Get Better Website Hosting
Your hosting provider does play a role with your website’s page speed. I know it can be tempting to sign up for the cheapest hosting package you can find, because “aren’t they all the same?”
Nope. They’re not.
Some website hosting providers tend to “crowd” their servers (i.e., putting too many customers on one server), so businesses who host their websites on those hosting providers can tend to experience slower websites, essentially because the resources are being exhausted.
Additionally, some cheap hosting providers don’t properly maintain their servers. Just like a car, the older it gets, the less reliable it becomes.
There are a lot of web hosting companies that will keep their clients on old servers because it saves the company money, and if no one is complaining, why spend money to improve it?
Not all hosting companies are like this mind you, but it’s certainly a trend among some of the more low-quality web hosts out there.
Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure if your hosting is a primary factor in your website’s poor page load speed is to actually migrate your website to a reliable, well known host, and then compare the before and after page speed test results.
(Remember those page speed screenshots I advised you to take? You’ll want those to know if your change of hosting made a significant impact.)
However, migrating a website not a particularly quick undertaking, so it’s usually one of the last measures we’ll recommend, unless we know with some certainty that you are on a poor-quality hosting provider.
SPEED IMPROVEMENT: WHAT TO EXPECT
There’s really no clear answer on how much to expect your page speed to change after you’ve implemented the recommended changes because a lot of it will depend on how your theme has been coded.
A custom coded WordPress theme isn’t automatically going to mean better page speed over a pre-developed premium theme (e.g., something like Avada), unless someone is considerate of this from the start.
There are countless things that can lead to a better optimized and faster loading website, so your best bet is to implement the simpler methods I’ve described above.
Then, if that doesn’t lead to a significant improvement, you may want to consider enlisting the help of a website developer to help you to migrate your website to a reputable hosting company.
Long gone are the days where a slight lag in page load speed wouldn’t be an immediate turnoff to visitors to your website.
Today, a blink of an eye is all it takes. Thankfully, there are a lot of things you can do, right now, to make your site load more quickly and to delivery the quality content your website visitors expect.