During 2016 I decided I was fed up with how slow my website was running. A check on Pingdom brought me in at an average of 15 seconds loading time, which is ridiculously slow. So, with a revamp already planned, I decided to use that time to improve my page speeds and this is what I did.
The Benefits Of A Faster Website
Besides the obvious benefit to your readers/visitors, having a fast responding website is also beneficial to you. Google likes speed, if you have a fast and responsive website then you’re going to be looked more favourably at by the king of search engines. Basically, you’ll rank higher which is great for getting seen.
Your visitors will have a nicer experience so they’ll keep coming back (assuming they enjoy your content too) which means more traffic and you look more appealing to brands (at least if you’re a blogger).
A whopping 40% of people abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, which means you could be losing almost half your readership because we’re an impatient bunch.
Google reports that faster sites lead to higher earnings from ads.
What Can You Do?
As I said, last year this site was hitting around the 15-second mark to load and after my revamp, which included a few tweaks I’ve managed to reduce that time to between 2-3 seconds. A HUGE improvement.
So, how did I do it? Here are a few changes I made, though it did involve spending a little extra money in some places.
One of the biggest issues my site had was it’s hosting provider. Obviously, as a new blogger, I opted for a cheaper hosting site, not the cheapest, but I was certainly getting what I paid for. After a few issues, besides the slow speeds, I decided that after 2 years of blogging and using the same host that it was time to upgrade to something better.
After lots and lots (and lots) of recommendations from other bloggers, I decided to make the switch to SiteGround. I chatted with them beforehand via their live chat, they reassured me that they’d handle everything and within a few hours I was moved – I barely noticed. Also, as a side note, their customer service is second to none! I’ve asked so many stupid questions and they’ve always been happy to answer me.
Within days my speed had gone from an average of 15 seconds to load to seven! Yes, simply by switching hosts my loading times dropped by half. I was shocked, I didn’t believe it but it was true. So, my first tip is if your site is stupidly slow and you’re paying very little for hosting (mine was £26 a year) then it’s probably one of your issues.
Ok, this remedy might not be for everyone and luckily for me, I had Aaron guiding me through this change. Rather than opting for a pre-built theme, I installed Generate Press which allows you to customise your own theme. Both Aaron and I found that this helped our page speeds as we knew exactly what our websites contained, code wise.
It also meant that if we wanted a specific function, for example, my featured posts section on the home page, I didn’t need to install a plugin or have a theme with a carousel; like I’d had previously.
It isn’t hard to use once you know what you’re doing, so if you’re fed up with using a pre-built template then you can give it a whirl. There is a free version, with limited functions, or you can pay a one-off $39.95 and have the premium version. The premium version can be installed across multiple sites so if you plan to have more than one site it works out as even more of a bargain.
The next issue I looked at was the number of plugins I was using, I must have honestly had over 30 different plugins installed on my site (a couple of which were deactivated). I went through these and got rid of the ones I really didn’t need, but over the last year, a few more have made an appearance so I’ll be doing another strip down at the end of February when I give my site another overhaul.
One of the biggest slowing factors to any site is images. For new or inexperienced bloggers (like I was a few short years ago), you might just throw your images on to the post you’re writing with no thought to its size. I know I did this.
Even more experienced bloggers might edit their images so they fit the page fine, and the website doesn’t have to work as hard scaling it to the different screen sizes but the sheer amount of space they take is enough to cripple any site.
Using an image optimising program can help reduce the sizes (in terms of file space, not the actual image size) which means your pages will load faster. A lot of bloggers use WP Smush which is a good, free, plugin. It will go through all your old images and optimise them for you. Saving you a huge amount of space. I used this for a couple of months but then switched to a paid service.
I started using EWWW Image Optimisation which charges you per image. I spent a couple of days allowing it to run through all my images, including the ones that had already been optimised using WP Smush – in many cases, EWWW started saving me up to 70% in file space, even on the WP Smush’ed ones.
Like I said, it is a paid service. We got the first 500 images optimised for free then it cost me about $22 for my initial optimisation (I had around 7000 images to optimise). I then pay monthly for all new images that are automatically optimised as I add them and they cost $0.003 per image so it’s pence a month.
Reduced Adsense Ads
Before switching to Mediavine for my advertising, I was relying on Google’s Adsense for my (very small) ad revenue. These ads would seriously slow down my site so I made the choice to reduce the number of ads I was serving and aim them only at my most popular or potentially popular posts such as Juice Plus. I also included one in the footer of my site.
To say it is Google who judges your site based on speed, you’d think they’d find a way to optimise their ad service.
Additional Behind The Scenes
There was also a lot of other technical tweaks that were done by Aaron that I didn’t do myself. He followed the guidance of Google PageSpeed Insights and a site called Varvy which is an SEO tool. Both these websites analyse your site to look for potential problems and they give you advice on how to sort them.
Some recommendations you can easily fix, such as the hosting or images sizes, others you might need to either chat to your hosting provider or someone who knows a little more about web development (if you don’t).
Is It Worth It?
That’s a question only you can answer really. I like that my site is faster than it was, I think every extra pound I’ve invested in it has paid off and people have complimented the changes, especially my regular readers who have noticed the difference. There are more changes to come, as I’m never satisfied for long, so in a couple of months I’m hoping to have my page speed down again.
If you’re serious about your website and it’s a source of income, then I think it’s worth doing everything you can to make it a joy to visit – at least in the speed sense.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve covered in this post then please drop it in the comments and I’ll answer the best I can.
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