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Website Basics

How to fix slow websites

Suggested ways to fix your slow loading website.

February 02 · min read

No one likes a slow website. Today’s web users are an impatient bunch. They expect to engage with your website and find whatever information they’re looking for as soon as they land on it. If the web page is taking too long to load, they’re as good as gone.

If you own a website with an abysmal page speed, this article explores some of the most common reasons why, as well as what you can do to improve the load time.

Why fast website load time matters

Slow websites are synonymous with lost traffic, low conversions, and poor SEO performance. Don’t just take our word for it. Here are some recent website speed stats worth noting:

  • Over 47% of online users expect a web page to load in no more than two seconds
  • 46% of people who use their mobile devices to browse the web say they hate having to wait for the web pages to load
  • Almost 40% of online users will exit a website if they have to wait for more than three seconds to load. That’s nearly half of your visitors lost before they even interact with your website.
  • On average, websites with a response time of five seconds or less experience 70% longer browsing sessions.
  • An additional one second to a web page’s load time can reduce conversions by as much as 7%. For an e-commerce site making an average of$100,000 per day, that 1-second delay could potentially result in a loss of $2.5 million in sales every year.

Sources: neilpatel.com and unbounce.com

Website loading speed is an SEO ranking factor

This means the load times of your website can influence its visibility on Google’s results pages. What’s more, this applies to both desktop and mobile sites, though more emphasis should be placed on optimizing page speeds on mobile sites ever since Google rolled out its mobile-first index.

Mobile searches have continued to outnumber searches made on desktops. As a result, Google caters its search results to mobile users. Sites that load too slowly or generally have poor user experience will see less visibility. For the website owner, this means lower organic traffic levels, and ultimately, lower conversions.

Another consideration is the bounce rate — the percentage of people who land on your website and exit without checking out other pages. A website with a high bounce rate tells Google that it doesn’t have the right information that users are searching for, based on that keyword or search term. Else, the users would have stayed on the site longer and visited other pages.

As such, the search engine will allocate that ranking to other websites that can entice users to stay long enough and engage with their content. In other words, your website’s loading speed not only influences whether users stay and convert but also affects whether or not users can find it in the first place.

How fast should your website load?

The prevailing standard for regular websites is three seconds or less. For e-commerce sites, two seconds or less. Any additional loading times increases the probability of your site recording a bounce from that visitor.

However, the reality is that these standards are not always attainable as there are tons of factors that can influence website load speed. On average, website speeds on desktop are clocked at around 10 seconds, while on mobile, they can go as high as 15 seconds or more.

Still, it is essential to optimize your website performance as much as you can — even milliseconds count.

First, test your site speed from a new user’s standpoint

Most likely, your website is cached in your browser, which in turn causes the pages to load right away when you land on them. For your first-time website visitors, however, this is probably not an accurate reflection of their experience. Hence the need to test your site’s response time from their perspective.

There are many programs available for testing site speed, the most popular being Pingdom Tools. This free tool can measure the load speed of your website under various conditions. Open the tool, enter your website and where you want to run the speed test from, and it will pull up the results. Pingdom will also offer suggestions on how you can improve poor results.

Other popular tools include GTmetrix and PageSpeed Insights. They both work like Pingdom and can help you identify whether you have a slow loading website. They also provide optimization recommendations to get your site speed up, even by a few milliseconds.

9 possible reasons behind your slow loading website

1. Poor quality web hosting

Web hosting is the starting point of any website. If you have a slow site, it could be because it is hosted on a slow web server or that there’s insufficient bandwidth available to match your site’s needs.

Opting for a cheap hosting provider may have been an acceptable option initially, but as your site grows, it’s important to consider how the web host affects its current performance.

What to do about it

Upgrade to high-quality web hosting. Shared hosting plans are among the most popular options for small business web hosting, but they can often get crowded since you’re sharing the web server with several other websites.

Ideally, dedicated server hosting is the way to go, but if you can’t afford it, consider switching to cloud hosting or VPS (virtual private server) hosting instead. A web host with HTTP2 protocol support can match your bandwidth needs and improve overall website performance.

2. Too many plugins installed

There’s no shortage of plugins out there promising amazing features and functionalities for your website. And while they may perform as advertised, installing too many of them can contribute to slower page load times.

The more plugins you have, the longer it will take for your website to load fully. Another concern is using outdated plugins. These too, can mess up your website speed.

What to do about it

Reassess your website plugins and remove those that don’t serve any important purpose. If you must use a plugin, go for something that can handle multiple functions. Lastly, choose plugins that run on their own server so there is no additional strain on your site’s web server.

3. Network problems

In some cases, a site loads slowly because the network connection to the server is not stable. Sometimes the problem isn’t even with your local Internet Service Provider, but with the network “hops” between the web server and your physical location.

This is a common issue among e-commerce sites that cater to an international audience. Because of the distance between their location and the server’s location, there are usually several “hops” required to establish the connection.

What to do about it

Ask friends or contacts who live in a different country or state to load your website. If they experience faster loading times, whereas yours is slow, then it’s likely you’ve got a network problem.

Alternatively, you could use a proxy server to load the web page. If the page load speed is acceptable, then the issue is with the network connectivity.

Here’s a quick guide on how to fix network connectivity issues.

4. No content delivery network

The job of a content delivery network (CDN) is to serve a website to online users based on their location. Essentially, it streamlines content delivery to users around the world. Using a CDN with your web server means data travels at a shorter distance and the communication between the user’s browser and the server goes much faster. This leads to faster response times.

What to do about it

Simple — implement a CDN! One of the most popular CDN service companies around is Cloudflare. The sign-up process on Cloudflare is pretty straightforward, plus their CDN service supports most hosting providers.

Cloudflare CDN is also highly customizable, allowing you advanced control over how much of your web content is cached on its network.

You’ll need to provide your DNS records and website URL and choose the right CDN plan that fits your needs. After processing your request, you will need to update your DNS records for the CDN optimization to take effect.

5. Your website’s coding contains bloated scripts

JavaScript files and jQuery plugins allow you to add dynamic content to your website easily. Other coding languages, such as CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) are also important for making your website more engaging.

Implemented incorrectly, however, these codings can cripple your website’s page loading speed. Script bloat can be a real problem and can result in lengthy delays in your web pages’ loading speed.

What to do about it

  • Minify CSS and javascript files — Optimize blank spaces. Utilize compression tactics. Place the JavaScript coding at the bottom and CSS at the top. This allows the CSS to render quickly, while the Javascript runs only after the web page itself has loaded.
  • Use HTML instead of PHP for non-dynamic content – PHP runs through a processor, whereas the web browser can directly interpret HTML.
  • Update to the most recent PHP version available
  • Use asynchronous loading

6. No caching or related plugins in place

A key component of getting your website to load fast is to use caching. Most hosting providers use Linux hosting, which though reliable, isn’t always the fastest when it comes to retrieving files, fetching the code and translating it to HTML, and then finally displaying the web page.

Caching stores your website’s static files locally, allowing users access to the web pages quickly since there’s no need for the database to retrieve the files and translate the code each time there is a request.

What to do about it

Some web hosts have caching built-in or provide a compatible caching plugin so websites can run faster. If not, then you can simply set up caching for your website through a plugin. For instance, if you have a WordPress site, you can use caching plugins like WP Rocket or W3 Total Cache.

Important note: Don’t install two caching plugins. It could mess up your website at the hosting level and make it inaccessible.

7. Large media file sizes

If your site has tons of unoptimized images and lengthy videos, it will take a longer time to load. It’s tempting to want to include stunning images and interesting GIFs for better website engagement, but too much can impact the user experience.

What to do about it

  • Compress images without sacrificing quality — Try to keep the file sizes below 500 kb. For WordPress users, you can install the WP Smush plugin to reduce the images’ file size automatically.
  • Use the right format — If you must absolutely include a large image, it’s better to use a JPEG format as it will load faster than other formats, such as GIF or PNG.
  • Add lazy loading to your site — Lazy loading means that the image will not load if it is not on the user’s screen. It is a helpful feature for mobile browsing as the web page will load much faster since not all the images will load immediately. It’s only when the user scrolls down to where the image is supposed to be that it will load.
  • Disable autoplay — Autoplaying videos and sounds can impact your site speed. Google Chrome already doesn’t allow autoplaying. Check and make sure this is the case on other web browsers.

8. Excessive HTTP Requests

Websites with too many loadable files can lead to increased HTTP requests. This is when the user’s browser pings the server with excessive requests because it’s trying to load all those files every time they visit that website. As you can expect, this would result in a slower page loading speed.

What to do about it

Prioritize simplicity, especially for the mobile version of your site. Some design elements are necessary, of course, but don’t go overboard with your designs, widgets, and coding.

9. Too many ads on the site

Ad placements on your site can be a great way to generate revenue, but it’s important to remember that these ads take up space on your site just like the other elements (images, content, video, etc.). As such, too many of them on your site can impact its loading speed.

Keep in mind that ads can also be a nuisance to your website visitors, especially when placed too close to important content or a clickable button. It can get quite annoying trying to click a button on your site only to be redirected to some random ad page.

What to do about it

Decide whether the ad revenue you’re getting is more valuable than page speed and user experience. Even if you cannot eliminate third party ads completely, consider limiting them to one or two per web page. This way, you’re at least striking a balance between revenue and site speed.

The bottom line

Sluggish websites are a nuisance and can impact everything from user experience to SEO. Taking every available opportunity to optimize site speed and performance is always worth the effort. Now you know some of the most common reasons for slow loading websites and how to fix them.

If you’ve tried all of these options and are still not seeing any notable improvements, consider hiring an experienced web developer to do some back-end digging and pinpoint the specific issue. If there are still no changes, then perhaps it’s time to move your website to a different platform.

Get a fully optimized website with B12

B12 combines the best of artificial intelligence (AI) with expert web designers to deliver stunning, fully optimized websites in as little as one to two weeks. Our web design process is so simple and streamlined that you can get a free draft of your new website in the next five minutes.

What’s more, we include everything you need to manage your website properly — SEO, copywriting, custom coding, dedicated support, mobile optimization, and easy importing of your current website.

Get started with us today. You can also check out our article Why is my website slow? or our Resource Center for more helpful info on proper web design and management.

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