Image courtesy of Cyber Rabbit at Pixabay
A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend about my website and got out my smartphone to let her see it. To my embarrassment it seemed to take a long time to load up which made me ask the question, "Why is my website so slow?"
I assumed that as soon as someone clicked a link to my website or entered the URL that it would be displayed immediately but it’s a lot more complicated than that, with hundreds of requests instantly pinged around the world to bring the text and images to your visitor’s screen.
In fact, there is so much going on in those few short seconds, that there is a LOT that can go wrong – and frequently does.
And a slow website is BAD news for you. If you are trying to get your website ranked in search results then the Search Engines are increasingly focusing on the user experience as well as the information contained on your website. If your site fails to deliver the information in a matter of seconds then users might not wait for it and go elsewhere to find the answers they want.
It can cost you thousands of visitors and conversions, not to mention all the lost revenue.
If you’re Amazon, a one second delay can cost $1.6 billion annually. That’s how much speed matters on the internet.
First, let’s test your website to see how fast it’s loading.
And remember, this is just one snapshot in time. You really should test your site numerous times over the course of a day and even a week to truly get a good look at what’s happening.
The best place to test you site speed is Google page speed insights which you can find at:
Once you have checked to see your speed score for your website you can start to look at some of the reasons why it is slow.
Here are some of the most common reasons for slow-loading websites:
1: Slow Server Performance
When someone clicks on your website link, their browser sends a ping to your server. But if your server doesn’t quickly answer that ping, then it will take longer for your site to load.
Cheap hosting usually gives you a shared server, which means you’re sharing space and resources with countless other websites.
If your site is slow, it’s probably waiting in line to get out the door and to your visitor’s screen
If you discover that your server is one of the big problems then I recommend you start looking straight away at what might be a better option for hosting your site.
2: Distant Server Location
Long distance calls take longer to connect because information has to physically travel to get where it’s going.
Think of it moving through cables, transmitting over satellites and so forth. A similar thing happens when someone clicks on your site.
If your server is based in the US, then when someone in Asia clicks on your website, the information has to travel halfway around the world to request access to the server, and then your website information has to travel all the way back again to load it to your visitor’s screen. It's worth taking a minute just to consider how far that distance actually is!
3: Big Image Filesizes
Remember dial-up? Images loaded a bit at a time.
The same thing is still happening today, only faster. If you have a lot of complex files on your page, it’s going to take longer to load than a simple page of plain text.
Pay attention to file formats. Browsers can load GIF, PNG and JPG images quickly, but heavy formats such as BMP and TIFF will take longer. Wherever possible I recommend you use JPG images. These are good quality without being too big. Check the size of the images before you upload them and if necessary reduce the size by using a tool like Pixlr-X. I created a tutorial on how to do this here
4: Excess Code
Yup, if you have a lot of code, your site will be slower.
5: Text Graphics
If you’re using images to display text, your site will be slower.
It’s better to use a regular font whenever possible.
6: Too Many File Requests
Again, big elements take longer to load. And it’s not just size, but also quantity that matters. Every image, every social sharing button and every piece of your website requires a different file request to load.
If your page has 50 files and 50 people are trying to load your site at once, that’s 2,500 simultaneous file requests. You can see why websites crash if traffic gets out of hand.
7: An Excess of Traffic
You’ve seen this one happen – A lot of traffic is sent to a website, and it slows down. Send enough traffic, and it could crash. Your server can only handle so many requests at one time. The more requests there are, the slower your website gets. Yes, it’s tough to be popular. It's another reason to make sure you use a good quality hosting package.
You walk to the gate at the airport, only to find out the gate has been changed to one on the other side of the airport. So, now you’ve got to walk all the way over there. A redirect is like that. It’s like loading a page twice, and you want to avoid that whenever possible.
9: Outdated CMS
If you’re using WordPress (or Drupal or Wix) to manage your site, then you’ve probably noticed regular popups asking you to install updates or new versions of the software.
Updates are good – kinks have been worked out and speed has often been increased. Be sure to install the latest version of all software and plugins to load your site faster and more smoothly.
10: Too Many Plugins
This is more stuff that has to be transmitted to get your site to your visitor’s screen, which again will slow things down. Only use plugins you absolutely, positively need. Remember your plugins don't need to be constantly activated. If you aren't using one then deactivate it for a while until you need to use it and then just reactivate it.
Bottom Line: 47% of people expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less.
If your site is taking longer than that, you’re losing views.