A slow website can actually hurt your SEO and ranking on the search engine results page (SERP). How?
When viewers go to your website, they expect that it will load quickly. If it doesn’t, your visitors will leave, resulting in a site “bounce” as reported by Google and other search engines. The higher your website’s bounce rate, the more Google will assume that visitors aren’t finding what they are looking for by going to your site.
As a result, Google will knock down your website on the SERP on the calculation that it probably contains irrelevant material. And, as we all know in the world of SEO, it won’t matter how good your content is if search engines don’t render your site to visitors.
Luckily, there are several reasons why websites become slow, as well as several methods that you can use to speed up the load time of your website.
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1. Too many plug-ins and widgets
Plug-ins add useful features to an already existing software platform like WordPress, while widgets are unique bits of software in their own right that are typically operated from a side bar or column.
Unfortunately, having too many of these tchotchkes on your website will inevitably slow down its ability to load quickly. Some plug-ins even pose a malware/spyware risk to your website if their updates, which usually contain added security features, aren’t being searched for and installed regularly. Likewise, some plug-ins already contain malicious code and can hurt or shut down your website.
The solution is to deactivate and remove those plug-ins and widgets that you don’t need, can’t vouch for or haven’t used in a long time.
2. Too many and huge image files
You might think your website looks pretty snazzy with all those large and high resolution images. However, every one of those images also requires its own http request, increasing your website’s response time. Factor in a slow connection speed for at least some of your website’s visitors, and you have a real problem.
To get around this issue, consider condensing your image resolutions to 72 pixels/inch, which is the standard in web resolution. Also, you can take advantage of image sprites to reduce the sizes and numbers of your image files. To this end, CSS Sprites is a great tool for combining several images into one larger image. Another popular compression tool is Gzip.
3. No cache control
Caching enables a website to store its assets on visitors’ browsers, thus speeding up load times. To accomplish this, the website might use what’s called an expires or cache-control header to retrieve certain site components from the visitor’s browser cache.
Typically, these components don’t change much, so it’s safe to store them and use them over and over when responding to http requests. For example, your site logo, favicon and background probably don’t change much on a month to month basis, so a cache-control header would just retrieve these these elements from the cache over and over again. In this way, repeat visitors to your website need not create multiple http requests every time they access the site.
4. Limited bandwidth and storage
If your website contains a lot of images or video files, it will need a generous bandwidth (i.e., data transfer rate) because even small image and video files eventually add up and require a lot of room (or data bits). Bandwidth is typically measured in bits per second or bps. The bigger your hosting bps, the faster your site will load and the more visitors it can be served to through your network or host.
Your web host should be able to go over various bandwidth options with you and their respective prices. However, if you are hosting your website through a budget host, you may have no choice but to eventually move your website to a bigger one that can accommodate your files.
5. Bad coding
If you’ve been inputting a lot of code snippets into your website or inserting page redirects and the like, you may have inadvertently added elements that are now confusing the browser as it reads and tries to interpret the code. Bad coding can even hurt your site SEO; too many <H1> title tags, for example, make Google more likely to assume that your site is ad-centric.
Luckily, there are tools out there that help you run coding diagnostics on your website and fix coding issues. Start with Google Webmaster Tools, which will provide you with a quick summary of your website and any dead links, 404 pages or other issues it may have. Additional (and free) “website health” tools include HTML Tidy and W3C markup validation.
6. Lack of regular check-ups
Much like you see your doctor on a regular basis, you also need to perform regular check-ups on your website. To this end, you should run regular page speed tests to analyse each page of your website and diagnose loading issues.
There are many online tools to help you, including Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Yahoo’s YSlow. These tools also provide you with suggestions on how to improve your page and website loading speeds.
Website speed and your bottom line
While there are numerous issues that can affect your website speed, causing it to drag or not even load, the ones described above are the most common and fixable. Keeping on top of your website speed issues can drastically improve your SEO and conversion rate, which helps you generate more sales and site revenue in the long run.