The point is that we have become picky and impatient during our browsing experience: waiting for a page to load makes us puff, and we unconsciously judge the quality of a website (e-commerce especially) by its perceived speed.
A high-performance website is vital to establishing a robust online presence, whether you own an e-commerce store, are a freelancer, a blogger, or offer any other type of service online.
Statistics show that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
We’re living in the era of instant gratification. That means you can’t afford even a second’s delay in your website’s performance.
If you feel your website is not performing at the optimum level, it might be hard to figure out what exactly is slowing it down.
In this post, we’ll address the key factors that are responsible for your site’s performance and what you can do to optimize them.
Ready? Let’s go!
Why You Need to Monitor and Improve Your Site Performance
There are several reasons why you should strive to run a high-performance website.
Let’s see them briefly:
1) Making Your Site Appear on the SERP
If you write or sell products/services online for a living, one of your goals is to be found by your target audience. This means that you need to appear on web search engines when users type keywords related to your business.
Since page speed is a ranking factor for Google, you certainly can’t neglect this aspect.
Faster load times (expressed in seconds, not with a score) will help your site rank higher on the SERP and will allow your audience to land on your pages.
2) Improve User Experience
You might be familiar with that sense of impatience we described at the beginning of this post: waiting in front of a spinning wheel for the content on a page to load is a frustrating experience we all encountered at least once.
According to a 2017 report by Akamai, 53% of consumers will leave a website if they have to wait more than three seconds for pages to load. Also, a two-second delay in web page load time can increase bounce rates by 103%.
Improving the performance of your website, in the end, shows respect for your users: you will save them time and patience, and this is invaluable!
3) Improve Conversions and Revenue
Running a faster website is also a matter of conversions. To improve your website’s conversion rate, the performance of your site must be top-notch.
Conversion rate is the percentage of your total visitors who perform a specific action (one of your goals) on your page: it can be clicking the “buy” button, subscribe to your newsletter, etc.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the set of techniques to push conversion rates as high as possible. And loading time has a lot to do with it.
According to Google, a one-second delay in mobile load times can impact conversion rates by up to 20%.
You have enough data to prove that web performance should be on the top of your priorities list if you want to run a successful website.
Now that you know why it is essential to take care of your site’s performance, let’s see how you can optimize it.
5 Main Factors Affecting Site Performance
Web performance optimization (WPO) is a science where many elements come into play. These are the five main factors you should keep under control:
1. Server/Host Performance
Choosing a high-performance hosting is crucial because you’re basically deciding on whom to entrust all the resources contained in your site. Content, images, videos, and all your website’s data are stored on a server in the host’s data center: you don’t want to take this decision lightly, do you?
According to the type and size of your website, you can choose between shared, VPS, dedicated, and cloud hosting.
There is a direct correlation between your host’s performance and your site’s performance: it your host is slow, your site will be slow, too.
There are plenty of hosting providers out there, but not all offer great services. Some hosts are notoriously known for lags in loading and downtime more often than not. Online reviews are a great (and free!) tool to find out which hosts are better than others.
Compromising on good performance to save a few bucks on the hosting plan will prove expensive in the long run as you lose more and more visitors.
2. Excessive Number of Ads
Banner ads work with small snippets of code (trackers) that deliver advertising.
According to a 2018 study by Pingdom, 82% of trackers deliver targeted adverts based on a user’s browsing history. Pingdom found that while trackers help gather
data on website visitors, they are also able to increase the average page load time.
3. Plugins and Themes
Crowding your WordPress dashboards with numbers of plugins and themes won’t do any good to web performance. Most of them require resources from your website’s server to run their activities. This means resources that could be used to keep your site performing at optimal levels will be diverted to running unwanted themes and plugins.
Next, many people rampantly use pirated versions of plugins or themes they’re free. But such pirated software usually carries pre-loaded malware. Once the plugin or theme is activated, the malware will be injected and use your web server’s resources to run their hacking activities. This will ruin your site’s performance.
4. Unoptimized Images
Everybody loves images on their websites; but it’s also true that adding too many image files to your pages can increase the amount of data to load. Page load time, in fact, can be greatly affected by the format, dimension, size, and resolution of the images you choose for your site.
When you add images that are not optimized to your pages, you are making the browser load more data and sacrifice speed.
That’s why knowing how to optimize images, and work on their size and dimensions, is key (and we will see what to do later in this article).
5. Bloated Database
Last but not least, your database. It has a great responsibility: storing all of the content of your site, including posts, pages, comments, revisions, spam comments, and the settings for your themes and plugins.
It’s easy to imagine how it can soon become a bloated monster overburdening the performance of your site.
7 Strategies to Boost Your Site Performance
Now that you know what the factors affecting your site performance are, it’s time to learn how to tame them.
1) Choose the Right Host
There are so many factors to take into consideration when choosing a web host, and you might feel overwhelmed while looking at all their offers. The critical thing to remember is: be aware of your needs and don’t go for the cheapest offer. Try to answer the following questions:
- How much content is your website going to need? Will you be uploading many images and other multimedia files? If so, think about granting your content sufficient storage space.
- How much traffic does your website get (or do you expect it to get in the long run)? This is important to evaluate the bandwidth limits offered by each provider.
Read as much as possible about the web hosts you’re interested in: their servers must be reliable and stable, but they should also offer a trustworthy support service. Last but not least, do not overlook the information about server uptime, which is the time during which a server is operational: most web hosts will provide the info about their guaranteed uptime measure (indicated as a percentage).
2) Reduce the Number of Ads
The temptation to make easy money from your ad-revenue can be high, but you should be aware of how you implement ads on your pages. They are one of the most performance-killing elements on today’s websites.
Furthermore, according to recent research by the Coaling for Better Ads, consumers dislike mobile pages where ad density is more than 30%; they also loath flashing animated ads and full-screen rollovers.
Coincidentally, those are also some of the factors that make a web page load slower.
The key point here is: handle ads with care!
3) Keep Your Plugins and Themes List Lean
The WordPress repository is a gold mine of excellent plugins and themes that can do great things for your website. But don’t get carried away, or you could end up with a massive list of unused plugins and themes!
Make sure only to use plugins that you need and that don’t add the load on your server. Many plugins, for example, use their own servers to run their tasks: this is an important feature that you can check when choosing a new plugin for your site.
Also, if you install something that you end up not liking for whatever reason, delete it from your WordPress backend.
On the other hand, developers of themes and plugins work towards improving their software regularly. Bug fixes, performance improvements, new features and security patches are released in updates.
Since running old versions can impact your site’s performance, whenever you decide to keep a plugin or a theme, take care of it and launch an update every time a new version is available.
4) Optimize Your Images
Before uploading images on your website, you need to optimize them:
- Reduce image file size: this means reducing the dimensions (height and width) and the file size (measured in KB) of your images. Keep in mind that the larger the dimensions of an image, the larger its file size will be. There are many online tools and softwares that you can use to improve image file size: here you can find a few suggestions.
- Compress image files: this means reducing the weight of your image through image compression tools (Gimp, PhotoShop, but also PicMonkey, Kraken, etc.) or WordPress plugins, like Imagify);
- Apply lazy-loading to your images: with lazy-loading, instead of loading an entire page, your website can quickly load only what’s in view of the visitor. This reduces the time taken to display what’s required on the initial screen. As the visitor scrolls, the next image will load. You can apply lazy-loading through a stand-alone plugin like LazyLoad or through a web performance optimization plugin like WP Rocket.
These actions will enhance the performance of your site with quicker load times by delivering content to users only if it’s requested. The improvements you will see in your site performance (especially on mobile) will be amazing.
5) Use a Caching Plugin
There are several types of caching, and they work at different levels of your website architecture. The important concept to keep in mind is that, when you use caching, your web pages will load a lot faster.
When a visitor lands on your site, many things happen in the background. While the visitor waits for the content to appear on the page, the browser contacts your web server which starts to load up the website. This process can take some time.
But if you don’t update your pages with new content, there is really no need to reload your pages every time a new user lands on them. That’s when caching comes into the picture.
Caching provides your visitors a “static picture” of your website: instead of reloading all the image, CSS and JS files, your visitors will receive a HTML static version of your pages.
When you make any edits on your site, the cache will automatically refresh itself, meaning that your users will always access an updated version of your content.
Visually, your website will look exactly the same, but in the background there will be a huge boost on speed!
This means your visitor will be able to enjoy your content much faster than before.
You can apply page caching to your website by installing a cache plugin.
6) Use WP Rocket Caching Plugin
WP Rocket is a premium WordPress plugin recognized as the most powerful caching tool by WordPress experts. It caches your website and makes it blazing fast by applying the best practices of web performance optimization.
Upon its installation, your website will immediately take advantage of page caching, browser caching, GZIP compression. It can also apply Lazy Loading to your images, minification to your CSS and JS files, and optimize your database.
This wide range of options makes WP Rocket a perfect tool, whether you’re starting with WordPress or you need advanced features to refine your WPO strategy.
7) Use a CDN
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of web servers through which you can deliver your content to visitors who are geographically closer to it. CDNs are
particularly beneficial for international websites that receive traffic from different countries.
The CDN stands between your website’s origin server and your visitors’ location: whenever a user requests your content, the CDN can provide it quickly and securely.
Among the main benefits of using a CDN, there are:
- Application of a second layer of caching to your content;
- Reduction of latency and RTT (round trip time) to elaborate HTTP requests;
- Decrease in Time to First Byte (TTFB), which is the amount of time needed by a server to load the HTML of a website;
- Reduction of bandwidth costs.
This is the final touch to boost the performance of your site.
Now that you know the main strategies to improve web performance, it’s time to implement them in your site and measure the results!
If you wish to establish a robust online presence with your WordPress site, you can’t ignore web performance optimization.
Maintaining your website performance and speed at the highest level possible is crucial for several reasons: it helps your site rank better on the SERP, it improves user experience, and increases conversions and revenue.
In this post, we saw what the main factors affecting your site performance are. You learned that you should carefully choose your web host, reduce invasive ads, keep your plugins list and your database clean, and optimize your images.
By applying the tricks you found in this article and installing a potent cache plugin like WP Rocket, you will be able to boost your site performance, make your online project grow, and stand out from the competition.