So you’ve partnered with an amazing digital marketing company to create your website (perhaps it was Extract Marketing…wink) and they’ve whipped up an equally amazing website design. However, once you go to launch, your gratification is delayed because of your site speed. This can be a result of many factors (with solutions that Extract layers-in from the get go). But fret not, below are our Top 5 tried-and-true techniques to have you merging into the fast lane with improved load times.
1) Your Hosting Plan/Server:
In our experience, a lackluster server speed can greatly reduce your site score, even after deploying the other 4 strategies below. Resist the ploy to get the cheapest plan you can find. Like many things in life, not all are created equally. If you are running a WordPress site, we recommend a Linux server and if budget allows, your own designated one (vs. a shared plan). There are a bevy of products these days: classic physical servers & the scalable cloud versions. The benefit of cloud plans are the ability to enhance your traffic capability as your business grows. The more visitors you receive will dictate the amount of CPU you will need. And while you’re at it, snag a dedicated IP address; this will ensure you aren’t using a shared one that could potentially be blacklisted by bad apple counterparts.
And while we’re talking nuts and bolts, make sure your plan includes automatic, daily server-side backups of your website. This is particularly useful if someone happens to alter an element they shouldn’t within WordPress and ends up giving you the white screen of death. A simple backup can reverse your site to a previous date when things were still kosher. Not to mention peace of mind, knowing your creative baby is safe and sound.
2) Minify your CSS + JS files
The larger your files are, the longer it takes to read. Often CSS & JS files have line breaks and special formatting to make it easier for developers when creating code. This is great for humans, but when the website loads, the less “extra” formatting, the better. Essentially you are optimizing your website styles and functionality, for a server speed read.
When you run your website on Google’s Page Insights/Speed Test, it will generate an automatic minified file. You simply replace your current files via FTP. You will just need to note the correct file structure in order to upload it to the correct directory. If you want to minify your files yourself, there are a number of handy tools online.
3) Compress Your Images
If your website is photo-heavy and you have image files over 1MB, this will greatly slow your roll. The larger your file, the longer it takes to render. If you are running WordPress, we are fans of the Smush plug-in. Smush will compress your image files & render various versions that will load for different formatting and screen size scenarios. There won’t be any image degradation – your photo quality will look like the original.
If you want to invest time in your own manual compression, Compressor.io is a fantastic resource. At Extract, we often use this + Smush; thus squeezing out as much space as possible.
An optional feature you might consider is “lazy loading” – which means only the images you first see on a page load will be painted. Once your site has loaded, the other images below the fold begin downloading in the background & once you start scrolling they will reveal themselves. We find this feature is both great for speed & visually appealing with a fade-in motion.
4) Eliminate Render-Blocking Resources
One of the more time-consuming tasks is identifying which files are needed to initially load your site. When performing a page speed test, you may be presented with 20+ files. Unfortunately, even with Sitespeed plug-ins, the render-blocking tools aren’t plug-and-play. Essentially you want your vitals to load first and have less important files (such as a contact form JS) to load once your site is rendered.
If you are using W3 Cache on WordPress, you will see a section to assign different placement of your files. Instead of getting in the weeds with technical jargon, you will want to do a bit of homework on setting up the best hierarchy of your files and where they should load. Using a skilled marketing firm that specializes in optimization is your best bet.
5) Connect with a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
A CDN is less complicated that it looks. To break it down easily: Your site loads from a central server. Your server may be located in Chicago. Visitors to your website may live in a different part of the country and are accessing your site from further away – distance does in fact effect speed. What a CDN does: Your site is copied to multiple servers across the country. So that devoted customer located in Arizona can have your site rendered by a CDN in Phoenix, instead of “cyber traveling” your data all the way from Illinois. Most CDN networks will refresh your content regularly, which is ideal if your site isn’t static, i.e. you have daily content, such as blogs or promotions.
A crowd favorite is Cloudflare. You can dip your toe with a free account if you receive a modest amount of visitors in any given month. As your site grows, you can invest in more robust paid features. A CDN is particularly valuable for large corporations, since they have built in security features, as well.
If you are familiar with nameservers, you essentially sync your website with a CDN & then use your CDN’s unique nameserver instead – it’s pretty seamless and easy to implement.
By following these Top 5 techniques, you will certainly see evidence of faster load time. Improved website site speed is not only a benefit to the end-user, but search engines will also applaud your efforts with potentially improved search engine optimization ranking
About Extract Marketing Group
Extract Marketing represents decades of digital marketing and advertising expertise. Everyone at Extract has both client-side and agency-side experience. Exceeding client goals is our #1 priority from the initial planning phase, through the development process, and across the long-term evolution of your marketing campaigns. Contact us today for more info on how Extract Marketing Group can help with web development, SEO optimization, and SEM digital marketing.