How To Make Sure Your Site Loads Like Lightning

Did you know that if your site is slow it could rank lower in the search engines? Page speed is one of the metrics Google uses to assess site quality and if your site doesn’t pass the test you could be penalized. So how do you know if your site is slow? There are lots of ways:

Is Your Site Slow? How to Find Out

You could visit it yourself or get friends to visit and see how long the pages take to load compared with other sites you visit. That’s not scientific, though, because if your internet service provider is slow, you will never know for sure where the fault is.

You can check out Google Webmaster Tools – add your site following the on-site instructions, add the HTML snippet to the root of your domain, and use the included tools to assess the health of your site. That won’t tell you explicitly about speed, but it will help you find some of the causes of site slowdown, such as the presence of malware.

Visit Google Analytics and check out the site speed report to find average page load time and other useful metrics. You can even see the load time for specific pages. Check out the relationship between page load time and bounce rate and you will see that the longer a page takes to load the less likely people are to stick around to see it. Since you want people to read your content, that’s another reason why site speed is important.

But the problem with all those tools is that even if you know your site is slow, you don’t know how to fix it. That’s why one of my favorite tools is the GTMetrix site. Just input the URL, run the text and you get both a page speed and a YSlow grade, with a detailed list of what’s slowing your site down and how urgently you need to fix it. An A-C grade means your site is pretty OK; a D-F grade means you’ve got serious work to do. Luckily the GTMetrix site also gives you a prioritized list of what you need to fix.

Site Speed – The Major Offenders

Here are some of the key areas to look at if you want to speed up your site. Since there are more than 59 million WordPress sites worldwide, and counting, let’s focus on this platform, though much of the advice also applies to other platforms and to static sites.

  1. Scripts

    Most of us want to add little bits of functionality – like displaying our tweets, social media sharing buttons, analytics for measuring visitor numbers, display ads and more. Most of these use Javascript and every snippet adds to page load time, especially if it’s in the wrong place. One way to handle this is to make sure the Javascript loads in the footer, after the rest of your page content. If there’s no easy way to do this via your theme options, then use the JavaScript to Footer plugin. Or you could manage scripts via a content delivery network such as Cloudflare.

  2. Images

    Large images are another common offender. The golden rule is that images should be the size they need to be and no larger. So the humongous hi-res photo you took on your phone or camera needs to be manually resized so it fits within your theme. Almost any image editor will let you do this or try an online picture resizer. Small file sizes mean faster loading. WordPress sites can use WP-Minify to reduce image sizes and caching plugins and CDNs usually help with this too. You can even host images on other sites to avoid server load.

  3. Database Issues

    WordPress sites have a couple more potential causes of site slowdown. At the heart of your installation is a mySQL database and everything you do on the site affects this. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep your database in tip top condition. In your web hosting control panel you can check out the database via PHPMyAdmin and repair it with a single click. You can check out the database issues in this guide to see what might be affecting your site and you can also install a database optimization WordPress plugin.

  4. Plugins and Themes

    Speaking of plugins, they are another major cause of site lag. We need them, but not too many of them. If your site is slow, try running it without any plugins for a while. If it speeds up, you know that a plugin is causing a problem. Enable each plugin in turn to see which one it is or use the Plugin Performance Profiler as a shortcut to identifying plugin problems. Remove or replace any slow plugins and you should notice an immediate improvement.

    Let’s not forget about the theme you are using on your site. Some themes require more database calls than others or may make heavy use of images and scripts, increasing page load times. It’s a good idea to choose a fast loading theme or one that is well designed, such as many of the premium themes and theme frameworks.

Is Your Web Host at Fault?

If you have addressed all these areas and your site is still slow, then visit your site control panel to see if your host is throttling your site. Some hosts do this if your site is overusing CPU resources and you might not find out till it actually happens. If it does, talk to them, get their recommendations and implement them or move to a less restrictive web host , or both.

An All in One Solution

Most people don’t want to spend time digging into the inner workings of their site. If this is you, then you have two options, which you can use separately or together. The first is to use a tool like Cloudflare to improve the causes of site slowdown with a couple of clicks in an easy to use dashboard. The second is to use a caching plugin like WP Super Cache to make sure scripts, images and other parts of your site function as quickly as possible. Then you too can have a lightning-fast site.…