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How can I speed up my website?

Posted on February 19, 2020

 

One of the things I have been looking at a lot, of late, is the speed of websites. What causes a website to run slowly, what can be done to speed one up and, most importantly, does it even matter?

Let’s tackle the ‘does it even matter’ part. Google declared in as far back as 2010 that the speed of a website was a ranking factor. It is a low-priority factor, for sure, but it is a factor. It has also become more significant with the growth of mobile search, where page speed is really important.

Speed matters, so you need to pay attention to the speed of your website.

First off, how do you find out the speed of your website?

There are lots of tools around the internet that let you check the speed of a website. They all work in different ways, and all produce different results. Therefore it’s important to realise that just because your website shows as slow or fast on one tool it doesn’t mean it will be on another. Speed checker tools include the Pingdom tool and Google’s own PageSpeed Insights.

Give them both a try now with your website and see what results they give.

Pingdom lets you choose the server from where you’d like to conduct the test, to give you a more accurate idea of your website’s speed from different locations around the world. If your business is located in the UK, and most of your website visitors should be from the UK, you should select this as the option.

Pingdom will give you a speed grade, together with a list of areas where your website needs to improve. It will also give you a table showing how large, in terms of file size, your website is. It breaks down your website by file type, showing you sizes for images, scripts, HTML, fonts and more.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights gives a similar breakdown on where your website can be improved but, like Pingdom, it’s sometimes difficult to interpret. It also gives a lot of false positives, and recommends you take actions that have already been taken on the website.

So what are the ways you can increase the speed of your website? Here are a few of the key ones that you can look at, or have a web designer look at them for you.

Server speed

Not all website hosting costs the same, and not all website server speeds are the same. Just as you can pay vastly different prices for different cars, which have vastly different speeds, you can also pay different prices for web servers which run at different speeds.

You don’t need to know the technical information about a web server to know whether or not it’s any good, you can test the server using a tool such as Bitcatcha. Paste the link to your website in there and test your server speed. This will tell you if your server is performing well. If your server is slow, there is little that can be done to help your website’s speed.

Size of images

The size of the images you have on your website is something that is very easy to control, and something that is often overlooked. When you take a photo with a camera, or with your phone, it could be a very large file size. Sometimes one, two or three megabytes in size. Images of this size should NOT be uploaded to your website as they take too long to download for anyone accessing your website.

If you have 5MB of images on the homepage of your website, every single person who looks at your website needs to download 5MB of images. Two people looking at it will download 10MB of images. 20 people will download 100MB of images, and so on. Resize all of the images before you upload them. Ideally you don’t want JPG images to be any bigger than 120KB for large images, but the smaller you can get the file the better.

Cache

Many website platforms, such as WordPress, have optional plugins where you can install and activate a caching system. These can be quite complicated in the many different settings they have, but it is well worth doing as they can drastically improve the speed of a website. With a cache in place, your website can deliver stored versions of pages and content that don’t need to be rendered by the server and database. By doing it this way, your pages download much faster for people visiting your website.

Unnecessary code

Caching systems also have many configurable options, such as minifying JavaScript and CSS files to make them smaller and quicker to download. The trouble with some websites, especially the ones which are ‘drag ‘n drop’ builders, is that they have a huge amount of code behind the scenes in order to make them easy to use. This code is often very heavy for search engines to look through, and it makes the websites slower to function.

The fastest websites are the simplest ones. This is why Google AMP works so well, as it strips out almost all of the behind-the-scenes code and stores the cached version of the website on Google’s server.

Google AMP will ensure your website loads fast – but only for mobile searches made on Google.

Try your website with the page speed checkers, and the server speed checker. How does it perform? Is it as fast as you would like, or does it need work?

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