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Top Reasons Your Website is Slow

Your website visitors will move on to other sites very quickly if your site loads too slowly. It takes only a few seconds before you have lost a potential customer. Your site may look great and function flawlessly, but what about speed? We’ve learned to demand instant access to information and content. The average internet […]

Your website visitors will move on to other sites very quickly if your site loads too slowly. It takes only a few seconds before you have lost a potential customer. Your site may look great and function flawlessly, but what about speed?

We’ve learned to demand instant access to information and content. The average internet user today places a lot of value on speed, and the bar is continually being raised.

If you are like most business owners, you probably dread the thought of optimizing your website. Where do you start? How can you make the most impactful improvements? What makes your website slow in the first place?

We have compiled a list of the top reasons your website might be loading too slowly.

Why Care About How Quickly Your Website Loads?

Up to 53% of visitors abandon a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Even worse, another 33% of shoppers will leave a website if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load. So, performance is critical to the user experience of your website and whether your visitors are converted into customers.

Google understands this fact. Google knows that it’s counterproductive to recommend content to users if they are likely to abandon the site. That’s why they’ve continually been increasing the role performance plays when ranking websites for their SERPs (search engine results pages).

In recent years, Google has introduced core web vitals. These are metrics that help quantify how performance affects the user experience. They measure how fast, stable, and interactive a page is while loading. Ranking highly for Google is vital for your website’s visibility. For one, 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine, of which Google has a 92.7% market share. Even if you manage to land on the coveted first page of Google, the first five results get over 70% of all clicks (28% to the first result alone).

A fast-loading website is so desirable because it directly affects your ability to keep, satisfy, and even convert visitors to your website. It impacts your search engine rankings which impacts your “findability” and organic traffic.

You Need to Optimize Your Media Assets

Media and videos take up significantly more space than most other types of content, such as text, code, stylesheets, or other static files. Even a single image may consist of more data than dozens of website pages containing nothing but the underlying HTML and text.

In a Speed Essentials presentation, the Google team identified images as the largest contributor to page weight. They can consume a website’s entire performance budget if left unoptimized. Images can also directly impact all three of Google’s core web vitals – key metrics Google uses to measure the performance of a website.

However, the use of images and video is likely to continue growing, heightening the importance of finding a sustainable solution. According to HTTPArchive, images have increased by 19.3% on desktop and 42.7% on mobile.

Optimizing your images holds the greatest potential for improving performance.

Optimizing image assets requires multiple steps including:

  • Using the optimal display size and density based on the accessing device to reduce payloads further.
  • Using lazy loading to only load images as needed.
  • Using the appropriate next-gen formats which can differ depending on the user’s device, OS, or browser.
  • Appropriately compressing the size and quality of images to reduce payload without affecting visual quality too badly.

Manually going through these steps for every single image on your website can be extremely labor-intensive. This is especially true because you need to create the optimal variants for different users based on what device, OS, or browser they are using.

You can find an array of CDN services available designed specifically for providing some degree of automated image optimization. These platforms analyze the context (i.e., a specific mobile device model, OS version, and browser version) of the user trying to load one of your images and deliver a version of the image that’s ideally optimized for them.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A CDN is a network of servers spread across various regions all over the globe. It stores a copy of your website on each of these servers. When an internet user visits your site, the CDN automatically serves your website from the nearest server to that user.

This enables your website to load faster, no matter where in the world people are visiting it from. If your website was only hosted on a single server, say somewhere in the U.S., then it could take much longer to load for a visitor located in Asia than one in the U.S.

While they deliver the same core features, different CDNs are better at handling different types of content. Cloudflare, Fastly, and Akamai are just some of the most popular general-purpose CDNs around. Image CDNs like ImageEngine are purpose-built to not only serve image and video assets but also optimize them using compression, formatting, etc.

The two key factors to consider are the type of content you want to deliver via the CDN and its global coverage. However, it’s usually possible to use multiple CDNs in tandem to cover different types of content and reach a wider area.

Eliminate Excessive Overhead in Your Database

If your website has any level of complexity, you probably have a corresponding database. In fact, all WordPress websites require a database to function.

A lot of information moves in and out of the database. Sometimes, the data can get lost along the way or become obsolete. If you don’t regularly clean up your database, then this can bloat the storage size of your database, and it will impact the speed of database queries and requests.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many easy fixes for this issue available. With most hosting providers, you’ll probably need to use phpMyAdmin to manually check and scrub your data. If you have a managed hosting solution, the host’s support team might be able to help you out. In the event that you have a locally installed database, there are some tools you can use, although they’re not 100% effective.

The best way to avoid any issues is to make database maintenance part of your routine and to learn the basics of how databases work.

Utilize Caching

Caching is very effective for improving website performance. Caching stores your website content in fast-access memory in the user’s browser, enabling it to be loaded near-instantaneously by users. This can include everything from text to stylesheets to images to JavaScript files.

Without caching, a user will need to redownload everything when they navigate to or reload a page — whether or not anything has changed.

However, you should hire a professional web developer to help you with this. Not properly configuring caching on your website can lead to issues, such as users only loading out-of-date content. Most high-quality caching tools have built-in features that automatically clear the cache when you make changes to a specific website page or content. So, users will only reload content once it has been modified.

Some hosts offer out-of-the-box caching tools with their hosting service. CMS can also usually find plugins for this, such as WPRocket for WordPress.

Use a High-Quality Hosting Service

Your hosting service can be a make-or-break factor. Not only should you pick a host that has a good track record when it comes to uptime a performance, but also one that’s suitable according to your needs. You may need to consider switching hosts.

Even if you take all the steps above to optimize your website’s performance, it may still load slowly if traffic to your website is overwhelming your available bandwidth or your host’s server capacity. If that happens, some users may experience extremely slow loading times, broken features, or even complete unavailability.

For most personal, blog, or local/small business sites, a respectable hosting provider like Bluehost or GoDaddy should be good enough. However, if you plan on running any type of large-scale, high-traffic webstore, business portal, or another type of website, you’ll want premium hosting, such as WPEngine (for WordPress), VPS hosting, or even a dedicated server.

Final Thoughts

Website performance is a multi-faceted subject. Although some areas of your site may be worse than others, you can’t just address one area and expect your website to suddenly be performant.

Keep the following in mind:

Invest in proper hosting infrastructure as well as a CDN for your website.
Optimize your media assets to significantly bring down payloads without sacrificing engagement.
Keep HTTP requests low by limiting the number of files required for each of your website pages.
Maintain proper code hygiene and spring clean transients and leftover artifacts.

Finding an optimization solution for your media, particularly images, is probably the best thing you can do to improve your website performance. Regardless, you’ll want to run some tests using tools like PageSpeed Insights so you can gather data on what issues your website is facing. Then you can prioritize fixes to make your website more competitive.

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