As average internet connection speeds increase around the world, web users are becoming less and less tolerant of slow load times. At the same time, Google has stated unequivocally that it prefers to reward fast sites with higher positions in the natural search results.
To take advantage of these dual benefits, you need to make site speed a priority on your site. Any of the following seven tips will help you to get started on this important path:
If you use a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla, you’ve probably noticed that you can upload images at full size and then adjust their display size within your website’s backend. However, doing so forces web browsers to execute multiple commands – pulling up the initial images and then re-sizing them on-the-fly – which can slow down your site.
To prevent this from occurring, use an image editing program to adjust images to the correct size before adding them to your site.
The huge number of plugins and scripts that are freely available today makes it tempting for webmasters to add more than they truly need. Keep in mind, though, that every plugin you add requires resources to run – and more resources mean a slower site.
Before adding any new plugins to your site, ask yourself if the functionality you gain is worth the trade-off in site speed, or whether the plugin’s content could be coded into your site’s theme instead.
Depending on the CMS or ecommerce platform your site uses, you may need to check back regularly to determine whether new releases of your site’s scripts are available. If they are, upgrade your site as soon as possible (making sure that you have a current backup file in place first). Site script developers are always working on improving their code for future releases, particularly when it comes to site speed. Updating your scripts to the latest versions could go a long way towards eliminating coded roadblocks that prevent your site from loading quickly.
Content delivery networks – or, CDNs – are vast networks of servers that are housed around the world. When you store website content like images using these services, rather than storing them locally on your hosting account, you enable the CDN to serve up your information from the server that’s closest to your website visitor. The result? Faster load times that will make your customers and the search engines happy.
Browser caching is a technology that allows a website visitor’s browser to store copies of your site’s individual pages so that, if the visitor returns in the future, the content can be called up from within the cache – rather than reloading the entire page. This saves on the number of resources used to display your pages, resulting in faster overall load times.
The easiest way to enable browser caching is with a plugin, like the WordPress W3 Total Cache tool. Alternatively, talk to your web developer about ways to integrate browser caching into your site’s code.
Gzip compression is a technology that minimizes the size of browser-based HTTP responses – sometimes by as much as 70%. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. Long story short, using Gzip compression can speed up your site’s load times significantly.
There are three ways to turn on Gzip compression on your site. You can:
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
2. Add the following code to the top of your HTML or PHP page:<?php if (substr_count($_SERVER['HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING'], ‘gzip’)) ob_start(“ob_gzhandler”); else ob_start(); ?>
3. Install a Gzip compression plugin like the WP HTTP Compression tool for WordPress (just keep in mind what we said earlier about installing too many unnecessary plugins!).
Although these are only a few of the different techniques that can be used to speed up your site, they’re some of the easiest to implement. Start with this list if you notice your site slowing down, but don’t hesitate to contact a developer for more technical solutions if these steps alone don’t solve your site speed problems.