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Speed up your website with these 6 easy tips

Written by Kieran Jones

Whatever kind of website you run, be it a community forum, a blog, or an online store, speed is very important. This is particularly true for eCommerce sites where studies show that for every 1 second which visitors spend waiting for your site to load, your conversion rate decreases by 16%! For an online store taking £100,000 worth of orders per day, that extra 1 second delay could cost your business £2.5 million in a year!

For any website, 40% of visitors will give up and go elsewhere if a page takes more than 3 seconds to load, and 47% expect a website to load in under 2 seconds. As a result, Google and other search engines now including page speed as a factor in their ranking algorithms, so a slower website could mean that you your competitors appear ahead of you in search results.

Pages loading slowly ultimately means less visitor engagement; whether it’s less subscribers to your blog, less interaction in your online forum, or fewer sales with your online store - a slow website is bad news. We host thousands of websites and we understand a thing or two about making websites go fast, in fact we’ve become a little obsessed at times running website speed tests to try and shave those last few milliseconds off the loading time!

To help you make your website super fast, here are our top 6 things you need to do to improve your website loading time.

  1. File sizes In order to load your website, all of the pieces of content which make up the page need to be sent to the visitor’s computer, so the smaller you can make the website files the better. Reduce image sizes and keep pages simple (but still pretty obviously) to reduce the amount of data that needs to be sent to load your page. Use an image optimisation tool or even a command line tool like “convert” to reduce the file sizes of your images without loosing data, this is where the biggest gain can be made. Less data = faster load time = happy visitor.

  2. Caching Caching makes everything faster and so it’s important to enable it wherever possible; firstly we want to enable server side caching of the pages themselves so that they don’t have to generated by slow PHP code and databases queries every time a page is loaded, secondly we want the static files like images, scripts, stylesheets etc, to be cached on the visitor’s computer so that next time they visit one of your pages they are already stored locally and doesn’t have to be downloaded again. Popular web applications like Wordpress or Magento have a plethora of plugins available to help handle this all for you. If you’re using Freethought’s ultra fast LiteSpeed powered ULTRA hosting with Wordpress (including WooCommerce), Magento, PrestaShop or XenForo then installing the LiteSpeed cache plugin will handle this all for you and give your website a serious speed boost by maximising every caching technology available with advanced server side caching smarts built right into the web server.

  3. Minify and combine Minifying is the process of removing unnecessary data such as white space, comments or long variable names from the code which makes up your website. All of that extra information can add up to a considerable amount of extra data over a whole website. Combining is the process of taking multiple individual files like Javascripts or stylesheets and incorporating them together into a single file. This one file may be larger, but it eliminates the overhead of transferring multiple tiny downloads separately which can take more time. There are lots of plugins available for Wordpress, Magento, and other web applications to do this for you, but be careful as things can sometimes go wrong so you may need to experiment until you find a plugin which works for you. If you happen to use Wordpress on our ULTRA hosting then you can dispense with multiple plugins as the LiteSpeed Cache plugin for Wordpress will minify and combine files for you automatically in one single plugin for extra performance.

  4. Reduce redirects If your visitors are regularly hitting redirects then that means extra requests, extra overhead and a delay getting to the page that they want, so try to avoid them wherever possible; stick to using just one domain as the main domain for your website and try to make sure that Google and other search engines are indexing that primary domain you use. This also includes the protocol which visitors use to connect - if your website is SSL enabled (which it probably should be these days), then make sure that search engines are returning the secure URL for your website and not the insecure URL, that way visitors don’t need to be redirected from the insecure to the secure URL as part of the first page load.

  5. External resources Modern websites often rely on a plethora of third party scripts and other content; anything from Google Analytics, to CDN delivered Javascripts like Font Awesome, to social media plugins. The problem is that anything included on your page which needs to be loaded from an external location is not only another file to download, but it’s also at an entirely different URL so a visitors browser has to make a whole new connection including overhead with things like SSL which adds precious milliseconds to your loading times and undoes some of your hard work combining all of your Javascript or stylesheets etc. together. With every single plugin or script, you should think carefully about whether you really need it and if it can be hosted internally with your site, or perhaps can we just not use it at all.

  6. Pure hardware power The final piece of the puzzle is a simple one, faster servers mean a faster website. If you are on a mission to make your website as fast as possible, then you want hosting which is as fast as possible. For ultimate speed you need hosting that is using Solid State Drives (SSDs). Unlike a hard disk, a SSD has no moving parts, and so can be up to 150,000 times faster! When you run a website speed test there is normally a simple “wait” time, which is the time between the client sending the request and the server returning a response. For static files, that wait is more often than not the time it takes for the server to locate the files on the drive, but using an SSD means that the files can be found and loaded almost instantly. Not all SSDs are created equally however, so make sure that your chosen host aren’t using cheap consumer grade SSDs in their servers rather than enterprise grade SSDs. The other thing to consider with server hardware is how busy the servers are; some budget hosts may well be using powerful servers with SSDs for their hosting, but then have thousands of sites crammed onto one server. Look for hosting such as Freethought’s ULTRA hosting that is not only using state of the art high quality SSDs but also an industry leading maximum of 30 sites per server! Not to mention all of the usual high specifications such as 16 CPU cores and 128GB of memory.

With these 6 simple things, your website should be running lightning fast in no time. We recommend that you check your website’s performance before and after making any changes using tools such as the Pingdom website speed test so that you can carefully monitor just how much of a difference you’re making.

Remember though, your website is only as good as your hosting. If you host your website on very cheap hosting then you’ll get performance (and support) to match - make sure to choose a host that offers great support, is willing to help you get the most from your website, and most importantly offers a high quality high performance hosting solution such as Freethought’s ULTRA hosting.