Has your website been loading slowly? Performance isn’t quite what it should be? You may be tempted to jump over to a new hosting company, but don’t be so hasty. In all likelihood, your hosting provider isn’t the problem.
We understand your frustration, but hear us out: more often than not, your web host can be a source of help. Before you make any rash decisions, give them a call and explain your frustrations. They’ll probably be able to help you diagnose the problem quickly and easily – and you won’t have to move your entire website to a new provider. If you’re a WordPress user, check out our guide on speeding up WordPress websites.
Here are some typical fixes we recommend to our own clients to get their sites moving a little more quickly:
Use A Caching Plugin
If you’re using WordPress (and we’re just going to go ahead and assume that you are for the purposes of this article), one of the easiest ways to speed up your page load time is to install a caching plugin. We like to recommend W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache, but there are dozens of great options available.
Both of our recommendations are free, and they’re updated often. Better yet, they both promise to improve site speed by more than 20%.
Remove Unnecessary Plugins and Add-ons
Yes, yes. We just told you to add on a plugin. But if you’re like most other WordPress users, we’re going to guess that you have a ton of plugins that you don’t actually use. We get it – they all sound so fun, and sometimes you just want to see how they work. However, they can really cause a lag if you have too many.
In one study, a well-known blogger found that 87% of her site’s load time could be attributed directly to plugins. By removing just four, she was able to take her site’s load time from 4.3 seconds to 1.3.
One note: it’s important to remember that it’s not just the number of plugins you have, but the quality of them, that will affect site speed. If you only have three plugins, but they all include a ton of scripts and styles, they’re going to negatively affect site performance.
Choose A Quality Theme
Much like the WordPress plugins you use, the theme you choose can have a negative impact on your website’s performance. The thing to remember here is: just because a theme looks good doesn’t mean it functions well.
Rule of thumb: simpler is better. Lots of flashy graphics and moving images may be pretty, but they’re going to slow down your page’s load speed. This list from Venture Harbor includes several great themes whose designers took speed into account.
Enable Expires Headers
This is one of those things that most people have never even heard of but that can help you so, so much. An expires header tells web browsers when to request certain files from your server vs. from their browser cache. Basically, you set a time parameter (say, two weeks) and if their server has already requested that file within that time frame, then it can’t request it again – it has to pull it from the cache.
Install Google PageSpeed on Your Server
Last, but certainly not least, use Google PageSpeed. This totally free, open source server module can automatically optimize your website speed, make modifications to your server and files, and follow website best practices – with zero effort required on your end.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are literally dozens, maybe hundreds of little things you can do to up your page speed. Many of them you can probably handle yourself, some require technical knowledge that the average Joe doesn’t have – but that’s where we come in. If you need help implementing the above tips, shoot us a line! We’re always happy to help out.