5 Tips for Fixing a Slow Website

Tired of a slow website? Learn how to fix and improve your website’s performance to get faster page load speeds and happier viewers.

How to fix a slow loading website

A slow website isn't just a frustration for you – it's also a frustration for your viewers. In addition to frustrated viewers, slow loading websites also trigger low quality signals from search engines, which can hurt your SEO efforts. For a small business owner, its important to continually monitor and fix any speed/performance issues your site may have. In this article, I want to give you some tips to help you speed up a slow website.

Monitoring Site Speed & Uptime

Before you can fix any issues, you'll need to know your site's current page load speed and performance stats. Once you find this out, you can start tweaking your site and compare the new speed results with the old one. You can use monitoring tools to identify weaknesses in the site’s performance.

Two great monitoring tools are Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom. Google PageSpeed is free, and it has an API developers use to customize any monitoring service. It also lets you identify if your site is mobile-friendly (Google has been pushing mobile-friendly sites for its search engine). If your site isn’t mobile friendly, it won’t display in mobile queries. Google PageSpeed is beneficial if you want to monitor your site infrequently and check for mobile compatibility for free.

Pingdom is more of a true monitoring tool. It “pings” your site at a frequency you set and can alert you when you're site is down. It’s a subscription-base service with several priced plans. Each plan has a specific number of checks and offers different features.  Pingdom gives you much more information than Google PageSpeed, so it’s worth the paid service. The monitoring tool pings your site from various data centers around the globe. It lets you know when your site is down from a specific location, so you can review connectivity from geolocations. It also has an API for customization within your own applications. They do have a free speed test tool that you can use as well, but it only offers limited features.

Working to Improve Your Website's Speed

Once you identify your site's speed, it’s time to start improving it. Unfortunately, a slow website can be the result of numerous contributing factors. For example, image compression, script compression, and css minification are all things you can do to improve your site’s speed. The monitoring tools I provided above should give you helpful insight towards specific actions you can take, but here are the most effective actions to dramatically increase site speed:

Step 1: Use a High Performance Web Host

Web hosting is one of the leading factors contributing to a slower website speed. Most web hosting companies try to cram as many customers as they can onto a server, which is great for company profit but not always best for customer performance. If your site is hosted on a shared hosting account, your site is on a server with hundreds (sometimes thousands) of other sites. Just one resource-greedy site owner can affect every other site on the server. To overcome the issue, consider upgrading to a VPS hosting plan or a dedicated server account if you have the budget. Here is a list of the fastest web hosting companies that offer great speeds.

Step 2: Install a Caching Plugin

Most websites are dynamic, but have several sections that never change. For instance, your navigation bar probably doesn’t change much, your footer doesn’t change, and any other static content doesn’t require consistent dynamic performance. When you have static content, you can cache it. This also includes stylesheets, JavaScript files, and basic HTML pages.

One way to take full advantage of caching is by using a content delivery network (CDN). The most popular network is Cloudflare. Cloudflare lets you cache pages at different data centers across the globe. This means that delivery of static content is sent from the closest geo location to your site visitor. Web content served from across the globe has an impact on performance. When you serve content closer to their location, it speeds up your site for those users. This is especially important for companies that serve international customers.

If you have a WordPress site, there are numerous caching plugins that you can install. Just make sure to test after you configure them. The main reason for search engine crawling and connectivity issues on a WordPress site is due to a misconfigured caching plugin.

Step 3: Compress Your Images

High-quality images are much larger than their low-quality counterparts. Site owners who care about quality should never upload low-quality images, so they’re left with large files that slow down a site. The countermeasure for large images is compression.

A compressed image reduces the image size as it sits on the server, but it doesn’t affect its quality. When a user downloads your site content from a URL, the server sends the compressed image to the user’s browser. The browser then extracts the compressed file into the high-quality image you created for your site.

The benefit is two-fold. You speed up your site performance, and you reduce the amount of bandwidth used on your hosting contract. Since most web hosts charge for exceeding bandwidth limitations set in your contract, compressed images also save you money.

WordPress has plugins that you can download from their official site for image compression.

Step 4: Clean Up Your Code

This tip might require some outside assistance if you’re not familiar with website code. Root cause issues with coding can be difficult to identify. If you have a completely customized website, it’s best to ask the developer to identify any issues.

If you have WordPress, you can hire a WordPress developer to review theme structure and code. Deactivate any plugins that are not in use and test the site after deactivation to identify if site speed improves. Remember to test the site with Google PageSpeed Insights before you complete any speed changes.

Identify the number of JavaScript files you use. If you don’t use the files, remove them from your site. Theme creators use JavaScript to customize themes, but most site owners don’t use every theme option. If you don’t use a particular part of a theme, remove the JavaScript associated with it – again, to identify what can be deactivated from a theme might take the help of a developer.

Step 5: Limit External Embedded Content

You can fix performance issues with your own site, but you can’t control other webmasters. It’s common to embed media from external sites, but you should make sure that the site embedding your content isn’t causing a bottleneck with your own site. YouTube is generally safe from this issue, but using content from less powerful web servers could ultimately cause your own site problems. Limit the amount of media you allow other webmasters to embed from your site.

Check & Re-check your Site's Speed

After applying each of these tips, remember to use Pingdom or Google PageSpeed Insights to test the improvements. For the most part, once you fix any speed issues, you shouldn’t have any problems unless you change its architecture and code. A faster site means less frustration for you and your viewers. Applying these steps should help your site gain a significant speed boost. You might even see an improvement in the SERPs from search engines!

About the author

  • Jennifer is a software engineer guru with over 15 years of experience in .NET, C#, MVC development, database design, and triage support for emergency website crashes. She’s also a Top Contributor in Google's Webmaster Support forums and has worked with companies such as Adobe, Rackspace, and IBM.

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