No one likes a slow website. Studies show that people will generally leave and click on something else in search results if a site is slow. That is potential lost customers and sales, not to mention that search engines like Google measure site speed in their algorithm. They want users of their service to be satisfied and if a site is constantly slow, chances are they’ll take note and move you down the search result list for the next person.
Fortunately, there are many tools and services online that can help you check your site speed (and do something about it). If you’re having this problem then here are some tools that can help you diagnose and fix any lags.
The first thing that you’ll want to do is use a tool to measure the load time for your site. There are quite a few of them online and some plugins (if you use WordPress), but we recommend two. The first one is the website speed test at Pingdom. It’s free and does the job nicely.
Simply type in your URL and let it go. It will measure how long it takes to load, how big the page you’re currently trying to load is, and how many requests from the server there are. It will then give you a performance grade.
What’s great about Pingdom is that it will give you a flow chart of each element and the file size of that element on your site under that score. This is pretty awesome when you’re trying to debug where delays are.
Once you get your results, take a look at the list and see what is loading that is taking a long time. Most of the time, the culprit will be images or scripts.
Bonus Tip: Before you do a test on Pingdom, you’ll want to hit the little “Settings” button under the input box. That will expand and give you some additional options. There’s one in particular that is automatically checked: “Save test and make it public”.
There are people and web development companies that like to collect some of the public results and then send you (or your client) emails selling their optimization services – because they can see how slow your site is on the public report. If you don’t want to be bothered, uncheck that box before testing and your results will not be public.
Another great tool that you can use is PageSpeed from Google.
Google will analyze your site and not only give you suggestions on what to fix, but will give you helpful information on how to do it. Since they are pretty much the kings of the Internet search, it’s wise to listen to their suggestions. PageSpeed will check your load time on both desktop and mobile devices. Run your site through both of them for optimal results.
Bonus: If you haven’t already, register your site on Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). It’s free and actually useful. You’ll see how many of your pages Google has indexed, and if there were any crawl errors and missing pages. You can also submit your Sitemap and help them index your content better. This alone will make Google like you more, because you are helping them help you.
Microsoft’s Bing search engine also does something like this. Be sure to register your site with the free Bing Webmaster Tools to better manage your site and search results there as well.
Is your site GZIP compressed?
GZIP compression can save at least 50% of bandwidth usage when pages are delivered to visitors. If you’re on a well known hosting service, chances are they already have this enabled by default. You can check it here: checkgzipcompression.com. They also have a WordPress Plugin.
Fixing Image Size Issues
If you have unusually large images, you’ll have to run them through your graphic software program to scale them down and/or change the quality to make them smaller. If you don’t have a graphic editing program, or just want to do it quickly, then use an online tool. We like TinyPNG
This site is simple and quick – simply upload your image(s) and it’ll shrink the file down and tell you how much you saved. Download these optimized images and replace the larger versions on your site. Quick and simple!
If you’re running WordPress, a plugin like Smush will help you optimize and shrink your images down within your Media Library. This is helpful if you’ve got a ton of images and don’t want to go through a process of downloading, optimizing, and re-uploading.
Watch the Scripts
If you have a lot of scripts loading in your Pingdom and PageSpeed results, you’ll want to go through your site and figure out what you can strip out. For example if you’ve got a WordPress-based site and have a ton of plugins installed, that is usually one of the major things we see on slower sites. What you’ll have to do is go through each one and disable any plugins that are not essential to the functionality of your site. This might be difficult, but in the end it’ll speed up your site.
We always tell our clients to not go “plugin crazy” and install anything that looks cool. That’s the quickest way to kill your site, not only with speed but also with security. We had one client that had 43 plugins installed at one point and could not figure out why his site was slow as molasses. Out of those 43 installed plugins, about 25 or so of those were loading their own style sheets and scripts that made that particular plugin work correctly. Stripping everything down doubled the speed of his site instantly.
Now fixing, combining and optimizing scripts and plugins is a whole other post. Until then, hopefully these tools will help you speed up a slow site!
As always, if you need advanced assistance (or all this just overwhelms you) feel free to get in touch. Our virtual assistants would be happy to help you clean up and optimize your web site.
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