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Getting stuck in traffic on a hot, stuffy day. Waiting for hours in line with screaming kids. Sitting at a restaurant for over an hour and a half until you’re full on bread sticks, but your meal is nowhere to be seen. No one likes slow. We live in a fast-paced world. We want fast internet, fast cars, and fast food. Maybe it’s because we’re so busy and maybe it’s because our patience is just wearing thin, but whatever the reason, it’s our reality.
Whether our obsession with speed is good or bad is up to the sociologists and psychologists. As marketers, we have little choice but to embrace it. And if you want to keep up with the pace, one of the first things you’ll need to do is pick up your WordPress site’s speed. Here’s why your site speed matters along with some tips for improving it.
Image via Flickr by teamstickergiant
Think of your own experiences on the internet. How long do you give a webpage to load before you exit out and try another? Do you ever visit that slow website again? Of course not, because it provided you with a poor user experience. The importance of load speed comes down to providing users with a convenient, fast, and accessible experience. And by focusing on creating a user-friendly experience, you’ll also see your SEO rise, and as a result, your brand’s visibility will improve.
In fact, a website’s load speed is an important SEO ranking factor. According to Google, a fast load speed increases sales, reduces resources required, and draws people into spending more time on a website. Many of the highest ranking pages on Google will load in less than two seconds, assuming that a user’s internet connection is up to par. This is crucial to retaining visitors because attention spans have dropped across the world, and they’ll continue to drop as society keeps picking up its pace.
Within a few seconds, you need to convince a visitor that your website is the place they’ve been looking for. If your site doesn’t load fast enough to convince them, they’ll simply go back and find another site on their search results that provides similar information. No one wants to wait, so here are a few ways you can increase your WordPress site’s load speed.
This is probably the easiest, most overlooked, way to keep your website load speeds where they should be. Unless we get an automatic notification, many of us neglect to update programs and software until we’re a couple of generations behind. And while some of us forget to update WordPress, others don’t, and that means their sites will have all the benefits that yours is lacking.
Keeping WordPress updated will ensure that old, buggy software isn’t holding back your load speeds. Updates often also include more effective security measures, so you won’t have to worry about threats slowing you down. Some updates are less significant than others, while some improve the entire WordPress experience. Keep an eye out for the latest WordPress updates.
Normally, WordPress builds your pages from the ground up when the site is visited. Basically, data is taken through several different channels before it finally appears on the screen. As you can imagine, this can slow down the load process considerably. Especially if any of those channels are backed up, your site will feel the burden.
To bypass this process, you can install a caching plugin. With this plugin, instead of WordPress building pages from scratch, it will pull up the page from the plugin, which copied the page the last time it was visited. Good caching plugins also recognize when pages have been updated and will update the cache as well. Installing a caching plugin will make your website two to five times faster. There are plenty of these plugins out there; just make sure to read the fine print to ensure compatibility.
Images can make or break content. Good images improve SEO and hold the attention of visitors, but bad, pixelated images can reflect poorly on the website and even slow down load speeds. If you want to give your users an engaging and quick experience on your website, you’ll want to take the time to optimize every image and video you place on a page.
Why do you need to optimize images? Isn’t it as easy as copy and paste? Unfortunately, image file sizes are often too big to be displayed in the best quality. But simply reducing the size doesn’t fix all your problems, either, since that often also reduces quality. The easiest way to optimize images is to download an image optimizer that can tailor your images for your website. A relatively recent update to WordPress also adds responsive image software that automatically adjusts images when they’re updated.
Want to upload a video to keep visitors on your site for even longer? Video file sizes are often even larger than images, so it’s often best to upload your video to a streaming service, such as YouTube, and then embed a link in your website. This will take some of the burden from the server and speed up your site.
Where you decide to host your website plays a significant role in website speed and SEO. Hosts differ, however, and you’ll have to decide which works best for you. Most opt for shared web hosting since it’s cheaper. Many strong shared web hosts, like Bluehost and Siteground, also optimize your website’s overall performance.
Other WordPress users, however, dislike shared hosting because when you share hosts, you share servers with other customers, which means that when other sites are slowing down the servers, your site will be slow as well. Instead, some use other hosts, such as a managed WordPress hosting service or a virtual private server, both of which are more expensive, but are more likely to increase your site speed.
Marketing these days is much like a race. If you’re not the fastest, you’ll probably lose traffic and customers to faster competitors. With a WordPress site speed overhaul, however, you can put yourself back in the running.