My blog is just over a year old and gets over 9,000 monthly readers from Google. Every day I see bloggers asking the same question over and over again. How do I improve my SEO ranking? How do I get more organic traffic from Google? While there are many ways to improve your SEO ranking, there is one that is usually overlooked. In this post I want to talk about the importance of website speed optimisation. Because no matter how good your content is, how well you use header tags, or how many inbound and outbound links you have, your site will not get many visitors if it takes too long to load. Your website speed is key to better SEO ranking! Here is what you need to know about site loading speed and how to speed up your website.
Update August 2018: My website is now 2 years and 9 months old and everything I said in this article is still just as relevant. My site now gets over 9,000 daily readers and website speed is a very important factor in facilitating this incredible growth.
How to speed up your website - overview
Speed up your website and why it matters
1. Speed up your site – improve your site’s SEO
According to Google, website loading speed is a very important SEO factor. Google takes page loading speed into account in their website ranking algorithm. Don’t believe me? See what Google says. Fast sites make users happy and that’s what search engines want.
Fast site = better SEO rankings = more organic traffic from Google
You’re much more likely to get to the first page of Google if your site loads blazing fast.
2. Faster site – better user experience
How often did you leave a website because it took too long to open? It happens all the time. Your mom or your best friend will probably wait long enough to read your newest blog post or to see what new products you are selling on your website. But most users will leave your site if they have to wait just two extra seconds for a page to load.
Slow site = increased bounce rate = low SEO ranking = lost customers
What is a good site loading speed and how to check yours
The faster your site loads, the better of course. A site that has many images and videos will generally take longer to load than a website with just some text. Let’s just say that page loading speed of under 3 seconds is very good, anything under 5-6 seconds is ok, but you should look for ways to make it faster. If your site takes more than 6 seconds to load, you really should get it optimised for speed.
How to find out how fast your site loads?
Note that the loading speed will be a bit different every time it’s tested. A lot depends on the location from which the test is performed. When I tested my site’s loading speed today, I got mixed results ranging from 735ms to 2,1 seconds. As long as it’s in this range, I’m happy. How did I get my site to load so fast? Read further…
Here are two examples of the website speed check I performed when writing this post today:
The first one is of a website that I happened to run across recently. It took me more than 20 seconds to open the home page, and this test just confirmed it. 99,99% of customers will not wait this long.
The second example is my blog’s site speed check. Notice the difference in site speed and how it compares to the other websites? Note that my site is faster than 94% of TESTED sites. Which probably means that it’s faster than at least 98% of ALL sites. What do you think this means for your SEO…
And the third image is of my WordPress blog stats showing how much traffic I get from Google. Note that my blog is just over a year old at this moment. In general Google doesn’t trust ‘young’ sites, but last month I got over 9,000 readers from Google alone.
How to speed up your website
There are several ways to increase your site’s page loading speed. Here are the three main things to consider.
1. Move your website to a better host
A good reliable host is extremely important for any website. Site’s load speed is just one of the factors; consider security, uptime, and overall user experience.
There are so many website hosting services available that it might be difficult to choose. And while I don’t know 90% of them, I do know the good and the not so good names of those that come up in the Facebook blogger groups and website designer groups all the time.
I don’t want to talk about those hosting companies that get complaints (and there are quite many, including some very well known names), I’d rather focus on the ones that get fantastic reviews. So if you are looking for a reliable hosting for your website, I can highly recommend SiteGround or GreenGeeks. These two hosting companies have earned their reputation of being the very best affordable shared hosting providers on the market anno 2017 and offer impeccable service. With thousands of happy customers and the prices starting at just 3,95USD/month including a free transfer of your website, you really shouldn’t hesitate to make a switch.
TIP: If you want to know how well your hosting provider performs in terms of uptime and speed (or are looking to switch your hosting provider), you can best check the shared hosting monitoring website HRANK.com. They monitor over 50 mln websites and more than 300 hosting providers and give them a rating based on various factors and their performance over a long period of time. Choosing the best hosting provider for your website is one of the most important decisions you have to make and not only for improving your site’s load speed, so it’s always good to be able to compare and make an informed decision.
2. Optimize image size
High quality images are very important for every website. However, big images mean slower sites. Optimizing images will reduce the file size and will improve your site’s loading speed tremendously.
What is an optimal image size?
The answer is different for each site, depending on the theme you use. It also depends how big is the picture that is being displayed. A picture covering full screen will have to be bigger than the one you use in your blog posts.
For example, the pictures I use on my blog are 878 x 585 px. The biggest picture I currently use, the one covering the whole screen on my home page is 1920 x 1280 px.
How do you know what’s the optimal image size for your site?
Open your website or your blog in Google Chrome. Right-click on a picture and choose ‘Inspect’. The window showing the code behind your website will open and you’ll be able to see the size of your picture that is actually used on your site (which may be much lower than the size of the file that you uploaded). That’s the size you should be uploading your images at, and not a pixel more.
How to reduce the images to the right size?
I use Adobe Photoshop not only for editing, but also for optimising the picture size for my website. However, this is not enough. You should optimise images even further. There are various plugins and other tools available that scrape all the information from the file without degrading the quality of the picture. I use a FREE image optimisation tool TinyPng.com (they also have a FREE plugin if you prefer that) and it reduces my images’ size with another 20-35%.
Once in a while it will happen that a small optimised image really doesn’t look good enough on your site. In that case, I always choose for quality rather than size, but even then I try to make the file size as small as possible while maintaining the quality. To put things into perspective, this happened only two or three times to me and my blog uses lots of high quality pictures. Optimizing image size really doesn’t mean that you’ll lose quality of your pictures. If you are not convinced, take a look at some of my travel blog posts:
- Visiting the indigenous tribes of Namibia
- 39 Amazing Destinations – Our Favorites from 15 Years of Traveling
- Iceland winter trip itinerary
3. Get your site optimized for speed
What if you have taken care of the first two steps to improve your website’s speed, but your site is still not blazing fast? You’ll know that there is still room for improvement if you see many white and red lines on your GTmetrix report. Here are two examples.
Fast site’s speed performance report.
Slow site’s speed performance report.
There are many factors that can be slowing your site down. My friend Alexei (aka The WordPress speed specialist) from WPSpeedGuru calls them ‘bottlenecks’. These bottlenecks can be different for every site. Alexei can help you find what slows your site down, he will also show you how to implement several changes that will help your site load faster.
I cannot recommend Alexei and his speed optimisation services highly enough. He helped me to speed up my site when I was starting out and knew nothing about the technical side behind my blog. My website was loading in 4-6 seconds, sometimes as slow as 10-13 seconds. After optimization, my site’s load speed improved dramatically, to under 1 second! I did add a lot of plugins and hundreds of new images since my site has been optimised for speed, but despite all of that my site is still loading blazing fast.
Check WPSpeedGuru.com for the best ways to increase your site’s loading speed. I chose the Do-It-Yourself version and Alexei guided me through the whole process. But then I’m a DYI girl and like to know how everything works behind my blog. If you don’t care about the technical side and just want to have a fast website, you can have it all done for you for a lower fee. Alternatively, you can chat with Alexei on Skype and he will share some of his secrets with you and you’ll get access to some of the best WordPress site speed tutorials.
How to increase your website speed – conclusion
Do you want a fast website? Make sure you follow all the three steps I listed above. Each of the steps separately will help to speed up your site a bit. But combine all three together and you will have a website that is faster than 90% of other sites on the web. Google will reward you for that and you’ll have more happy customers/ readers and ultimately also more income.
The best bloggers always say that to earn money you have to invest money first. It’s true and not only for a blog, but even more so for any website that is selling a service or a product. If you want a better SEO ranking and more happy returning customers, you have to make sure that they get the very best user experience. Reliable hosting and a fast website are the two most important (yet very affordable) investments any website owner should do.
Are you looking for more practical tips for starting a blog or improving existing website? Read our tips and tricks for starting a successful blog.
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