Faster website page load speeds generally result in a better user experience, which can increase conversion rates.
Why is Website Speed Important?
User experience is important. A faster website will likely increase conversion rates, all other things equal. Google uses various metrics to understand the experience that visitors have on a website. And a better experience usually results in things like higher ranking in search results, too.
The speed at which a page loads on a website can impact a visitor’s experience. It’s actually one of the first things that impact user experience.
I don’t think I have to ramble on to support this claim. Just ask yourself: How long do you hang out waiting for a web page to load?
If you’re like most internet users, it’s not long—probably only a few seconds.
So how can we decrease page load times?
Before you continue reading…
- Keep in mind that you might not be able to implement some of these tips depending on what website platform you’re using. For instance, if you’re using Showit, you don’t have a choice over who hosts your website! But don’t worry—companies like Showit often take steps to make sure websites using their platform load quickly. That’s one of the benefits of using a company like Showit—they take care of some of technical aspects of managing a website for you!
- Getting ‘good grades’ on a page speed test doesn’t necessarily mean your website is optimized. For instance, you could speed up a page by removing all the images—but is that good for your website? Of course not! Especially if you’re a photographer or creative business.
- When performing a website speed test, don’t just test your homepage. Different pages may load at different speeds. It’s best to test a sample of pages across your website (for instance, maybe test your homepage, a sales page, your blog and single post pages, and a shop page).
How to Speed Up Your Website
There are a lot of different ways to decrease page load speeds, but we’ve decided to share five tips that have at least a moderate impact on page speed.
If you’re interested in performing a speed test before proceeding, consider checking out Web Page Test, Pingdom, or GTmetrix. Don’t get stuck in the weeds trying to understand every metric the test provides. Instead focus on the ‘high level’ metrics and those things you do understand.
How is your website built?
The way your website is built can impact its performance. The best analogy I can think of is building a home. A talented contractor with the right materials can make a home that’s more efficient and longer lasting.
The Problem: Not all websites are built equally. Some of the most common issues we see with websites are improperly sized images and too many plugins. But we occasionally see a ‘Flash’ website or websites using outdated technology, too.
The Solution: You could learn to code your own website… but a more realistic solution for most people is using a reputable website builder (like Showit) or page builder (like Elementor in WordPress) that will balance design flexibility with performance.
If you’re building a WordPress website, be sure to really evaluate whether or not you need a plugin. Plugins can definitely hinder website performance when it comes to page load times. Plugins that aren’t being used should be deleted from a site altogether; plugins that are kept should be updated as updates become available.
Impact on Page Speed: The tools you use to build your website will likely have a moderate impact on page load speeds. If you’re moving from an outdated platform to a more modern platform, you’ll likely see more dramatic increases all other things equal.
Recommend Tools: Showit, Elementor, and Astra
Choose the Right Website Host
Your website lives on some server (computer) somewhere in the world. The quality of that server or how that server is managed by your hosting company can impact your website’s performance.
The problem: If you’ve ever looked for a website host, you’ve probably come across some pretty cheap hosting plans.
Warning: They’re cheap for a reason.
When you purchase one of these cheap plans, you’re usually purchasing shared hosting. This means that you’re sharing resources with a bunch of other websites. This might not be a big deal if you don’t get much traffic to your website, your website is mostly a ‘brochure site,’ and you don’t particularly care about website speed.
The Solution: We recommend choosing a reputable hosting provider like Siteground or FlyWheel. Avoid EIG-owned hosting companies (you can research why you should avoid EIG companies if you’re interested in learning more).
After you find a reputable hosting provider, ask what plan might be appropriate for your website based on your website traffic and size.
One thing to look for when choosing a hosting company is the level of support that you’ll be provided. Live chat and phone support are super convenient when you’re trying to quickly troubleshoot an issue.
Impact on Page Speed: The quality of website host (and the plan you choose from that host) can have a major impact on website performance, including page load speeds.
Recommended Tool: Siteground’s GoGeek Plan or Cloud Plan (if you have the budget/need for it).
Use a Page-Caching Tool
Page caching tools improve the performance of a website through serving static HTML versions of webpages instead of retrieving the page from the server.
The Problem: Imagine your website is a thousand-piece puzzle, and anytime someone wanted to see this puzzle, you had to reassemble it. Of course this is an oversimplification, but the gist of it is that it takes some work for a website to load.
The Solution: Using a page-caching tool is sort of like taking a picture of the finished puzzle, and showing that to the person who wants to see it. It’s a more efficient way of serving content to web page visitors instead of doing the work of ‘reassembling’ the page anytime someone wants to see it.
Impact on Page Speed: Caching tools can have a significant impact on page load speeds. It’s important to check whether or not your website host already utilizes caching technology before installing another solution.
Recommended Tool: WPRocket for WordPress websites.
Use a Content Delivery Network
A CDN or content delivery network improves website performance through caching versions of a website on servers that are geographically closer to users.
The Problem: Remember earlier, when I mentioned that your website ‘lives’ on a server somewhere in the world? Well let’s say that server is located in Virginia, and two different visitors are trying to access your website—one is in Maryland and the other is in Australia. Your website will likely load much quicker for the visitor in Maryland because they’re closer to the server.
If you only serve a local market, this might not be much of a problem (provided your server is relatively close to the market you’re serving). However, if you’re an e-commerce website or another business that serves people regionally and beyond, this latency could become a user-experience issue.
The Solution: CDNs store cached versions of your website at different data centers across the world. When someone tries to access your website, it’s served from the nearest data center to that person.
Impact on Page Speed: Depends. If you’re a local business, this might not be a necessary investment—although CDNs can also provide security features that might make it worth it. Also, solutions like CloudFlare have free options.
Recommended Tool: We’ve had a great experience with StackPath, and especially appreciate their 24/7 live chat support. Another popular option is CloudFlare. As with page caching tools, you’ll want to ask your hosting company whether they already implement a CDN solution.
Optimize Images on Your Website
The Problem: Photographers, especially, have to balance how many images to display on a website against how quickly a page should load. In general, the more images on a page, the slower that page will load.
The Solution: Optimize images before loading them on your website. For images that are already on your website, there’s no shortage of tools to help you optimize those.
Krista has written a blog post on her entire portrait and wedding workflow, and it even includes a video tutorial.
Photographers should really consider how many images they include in something like a blog post. Does a post really need 100 images? Or can you achieve the same result with 50 of your best images?
Videos can be highly effective marketing and sales instruments; however, they might load slowly on slower internet connections. Really consider whether using background and embedded videos are ‘worth it’ on pages you’re considering adding them.
Impact on Page Speed: Optimizing images should have a moderate impact on page speed. Remember that just because you score highly on a page speed test doesn’t mean that your website is optimized. For instance, we could remove all of the images from our website and our website would likely load more quickly—but would that increase conversions? No, of course not. It’s a balancing act.
Recommended Tools: ShortPixel for optimizing images within a WordPress website. BlogStomp or Narrative.So for optimizing images beforehand.
How to Tackle Website Speed Optimization
Don’t let yourself get stuck in the weeds when it comes to optimizing your website. Many of the tools we mention above are user-friendly and have exceptional customer support.
As with any technical subject, focus on getting those things done that you know how to do. You can hire companies (like us!) to set-up most of this stuff for you if it’s something you’d rather not tackle or don’t understand how to do on your own.