If you have a website and aren’t paying attention to it’s speed, you are literally leaving money on the table. Google has started using page speed as a ranking factor when determining their search results. Why? Because speed is also a factor for people visiting your website and a slow site can hurt their experience, therefore Google may lower the rankings of your site if it is slow.
Did you know? You only have about 5 seconds to engage the visitor on your site, or they will bounce right back to Google. Not only that, but with Google, they have something called a “bounce rate”. You can see this statistic inside of your Google Analytics account. Don’t have one yet? Get one now, as you are missing out on a ton of information that can help your site gain more visitors from Google. Also, be sure you have Google Webmaster Tools set up, another invaluable tool. Getting back to bounce rate, this is basically a measurement of the amount of people who find your site in Google for a keyword and click to visit your site. However, if they don’t find what they are looking for, they will use their back button and go back to their original Google search results, effectively “bouncing” back to Google from your site. Google considers this a ranking factor itself. It makes sense really, if people continually bounce back to Google from your site, it means they haven’t found what they wanted and your site will likely be lowered in those search results for that keyword. Google wants the best experience for their searchers and with a high bounce rate, they likely think your site isn’t helping visitors. So, let’s say, 100 people search for “blue unicorns” from Google and your site is all about blue unicorns, so your site comes up in the Google search results for “blue unicorns”. 100 people click your listing and visit your site, but, hold on, your site is really slow, so of the 100, 68 of them go right back to Google to try another site in their search results. So this calculates to a 68% bounce rate, very high. Though it can often be higher. If you are a site owner, it’s in your best interest to reduce your bounce rate to as low as possible. This is where page speed comes in, though there are many other factors that can affect bounce rate (such as your content), but one of the main ones is page speed.
Did you know? Every second that your site takes to load, means less conversions? On average, just a one second delay can lower conversions on your website by up to 7%. A 4 second delay in load time generally reduces page views by 12%. For sites that sell anything, this means less conversions, and less conversions mean less money.
Did you know? In studies, nearly 80% of users say they would not return to a website which had overall slow or poor performance.
It is generally thought in the SEO industry that a website that takes 4 seconds or longer to load will receive lower rankings in Google. The results are worse if the site is an e-commerce store, where a store that takes 2 seconds or longer to load will receive lower rankings in Google.
So page speed is super important! Let me details 3 top reasons why your site might be slow (in my experience) and how you can remedy these issues.
Large Images & Videos
This is a big one, literally! How often I’ve seen people with slow sites have massive images that are scaled down to a smaller size. Images are important, you want them to be sharp and non blurry of course, but amateur and self designed websites almost always use pictures that are not properly sized or optimized at all. One huge uncompressed image can be responsible for 5 or 10+ seconds of load time itself. Images you use must be sized properly, cropped when appropriate and optimized or compressed. Luckily, there are some good WordPress plugins to help with this, such as Smush and others.
Bonus Tip! You don’t need Photoshop or some other fancy (and expensive) program to optimize your images. You can use a free program called Irfanview to batch optimize, crop and even resize your images all at once before uploading.
If you thought that you were going to save money by going with that cheap host, well, you were very wrong. Cheap hosting will definitely cost you more money if it is slow. By definition, cheap hosting IS slow. In order to make money, cheap hosts have to sell a lot of hosting accounts in big volume. So, they load up their servers with thousands of other websites (I’m looking at you Godaddy). These other websites will be your site’s neighbors, and their performance and problems will affect your website’s speed, and often it’s security as well. Your site might be on the same server as a huge resource hog, or maybe even a dozen resource hogs. Your site will share in the resources of the server, so this means your site gets less access to resources, often making it perform slower. Not to mention that cheap hosts are generally less secure. Less security usually means more malware and hacked sites, and in turn, this can affect the performance of your site as well.
So what can you do about it? It’s easy, get a better web host and don’t be cheap about it! Cheap hosts are fine if your site is a personal blog or a hobby site which you won’t be making any money from. However, for any legitimate business, with which you intend to make money, you need a good web host. Using a cheap host will negatively affect your business in the long run. Even if it’s not slow now, it may be later. Not only that, cheap hosts simply cannot afford to provide good support when you need it. You’ll be waiting for many hours, even days for responses, where a good host will respond within minutes or a few hours at the most.
If your site is WordPress based, consider getting WordPress optimized hosting, it can be a huge boost to your site’s overall speed and security. If you’re looking for a recommendation, the best WordPress only host I have found is Kinsta. They have very good speed and security as well.
Hosts to stay away from? I would not recommend Godaddy or 1and1.
Here’s another common reason why sites are slow, they’ve been hacked or exploited! You might not even know you’ve been hacked, often it’s hard to tell. However, one common symptom is site slowness. This is why it’s worth it to get a host that is serious about speed and security. There are many types of malware and WordPress hacks, ranging from mild to serious. For mild malware, we’re talking having thousands of spam comments auto approved on your old blog posts. This can cause other issues with your search ranking since these spam comments will often include links to adults sites and illegal sites, therefore hurting your site’s overall reputation. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to figure out if your WordPress site is the victim of hacking or malware. First, you need to find out if you have this issue, enter your URL on these sites to find out:
If your site comes up clean, congrats! But if not, you need to clean up your site ASAP!
The main plugin we use to scan for security issues AND to fix them, has a very good free version, it’s called Wordfence. Install it from your Plugins area inside your WordPress dashboard and have it scan your site. It will detect malware and tell you if it can fix it or what you need to do to fix it.
Even if your site doesn’t have any malware or hacking issues, it’s important to install Wordfence or another security plugin and set it up to scan at least once a week. You should also get used to making backups for safety and security. A plugin like UpdraftPlus Backups can take care of this for you for free, you can even set it up to make backups on a regular interval, so it is hands off.
Another reason why a site might be slow is having too many plugins active. Not just too many, but many poorly coded plugins can slow down a site. Consider deactivating plugins you don’t absolutely need and make sure you keep your plugins, WordPress and themes updated to their latest versions. Updated versions of all three of these elements can include better or updated code that is faster and more secure, and more compatible as well. When updating, don’t forget to BACKUP first!