Website performance can be a real concern for site owners with the seemingly never ending higher bar setting by Google and expectation of visitors for a great user experience (UX).
The fact is that Google has adopted a mobile first design strategy and wants sites to load in around 2-3 seconds to be considered as having a good load time. The reality is however that the majority of mobile sites take up to 27 seconds to fully load on mobile devices [Backlinko], so the question is, why is that so bad?
Well, statistically, users run away from a site at the rate of 53% if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. In monetory terms, that means you’ve already lost 53% of sales on an eCommerce site just by having a slow site.
What can I do about it?
The bad news is there’s no single magic bullet to fixing site performance as there are alot of variables in the technology world. Variables such as how many images are on your site, how far your users are from where your website is hosted and of course your level of technical comfort in fixing issues.
The good news is that, if you can save yourself issues down the road by doing it right from the start and learning how to check things yourself. In the next section, we’ll show you how!
Hosting Plan Choice
Not every hosting plan is the same, so choosing a provider that offers a WordPress plan is a good start. WordPress gets bloated easily with plugins, theme files and graphics which means that a WordPress hosting plan that targets and remedies these characteristics is highly recommended. If you have a little more money and expect higher volumes of traffic, stay away from shared hosting and pay extra for more webspace (>10Gig).
Dedicated hosting plans offer more bandwidth for users to your site and decrease the all important value known as TTFB, or time to first byte when loading your site.
On the webspace side, hosting providers have a nasty habit of taking your site offline abruptly if you exceed webspace capacity, definitely not what you want.
Look for Errors
Missing images, fonts, pages and plugin files can seriously effect load times while browser sessions try to load. These errors can be detected using the developer tab in most browsers (Ctrl+Shft+I in Chrome) Option+Command+i (in Safari).
You can also use web testing tools like GT Metrix and PageSpeed to see where potential problems lie. Also, very importantly, you should check Google Search Console for site errors. Google will often refuse to index and serve parts of your site if there is a problem. Typical errors like text to small, 404 page not found, robots.txt blockages are very common which need to be remedied.
Use a CDN
Using a content delivery network is a great option for serving your website, particularly to a global audience. Content delivery networks like Cloudflare use distributed caching servers to serve up your content more quickly from hundreds of locations around the globe. You will often see dramatic jumps in load time grading when enabled. Site speed checkers use a grade scheme from A-F on performance. Often there is a separate score for desktop and mobile performance. Good mobile load times are harder to achieve on mobile devices, hence they deserve particular attention in trying to increase response times.
Caching plugins like Total Cache and WP Rocket are a must for WordPress sites. Most of the configuration is set to default for these plugins but sometimes there can be compatibiliy issues with third party plugins. This can happen with plugns that rely heavily on JS, such as sliders, but it’s less common these days.
WordPress is built on a MySQL database on the backend which stores most of the information that it uses. Like any database though, it needs to be maintained to some degree to reduce the bloat. Plugins like WP-Sweep do a good job in optimisation of the backend database when you choose the option to sweep wll. Just be sure to ensure your site is backed up before beginning the procedure. It would be a good idea to do this procedure once per month for best effect.
Images and hosting plans are perhaps the two most important factors in your site’s performance. Too many images, images that are excessively large, not scaled or use older formats can literally kill load time. There are plugins like Smush that do a good job at reducing size of the images in your uploads directory, but really the answer lays in proper image formatting before upload. Moving away from .png and jpg toward webp which is served at a proper scale is essential. Also, stay away from locally loaded video, use Youtube for hosting your video.
Many site owners will see little evidence that there site has been hacked but yet may wonder why they’re site is running slowly or their emails are been blacklisted. This can happen when your site has become a victim of botnet and is being used to attack other victims. Hackers will have usually compromised admin credentials on your site at this point without your knowledge.
Using geo-blocking and plugins like WordFence, Google Recapcha and Spam Talk can all go a long way in defending against malicious actors.
What is Geo-Blocking?
Geo blocking is a method of blocking countries countries from reaching your site. This can be done with configuration of the .htaccess file found in the root directory of WordPress installations.
The fact is that spam is often a hacker knocking on the door of your site and clicking on a link is letting them in. Using some of the plugins and techniques from the beginning will greatly secure your site. The unfortunate fact is that security is often an afterthought and most web designers barely spend much time on security as they are intimidated by it and skip the important counter-measure stuff.
For more information about managing your site, visit our Maintenance Service page for more information.