It only takes a few seconds for your site to make an impression on a visitor. If it hasn’t loaded in that time, then they might be gone, baby, gone. Since you already know that a fast website increases conversions, then it’s obvious that a slow site does just the opposite. The question is, how do you fix a slow site?
Do you really have a problem with website speed? Two good ways to find out are with the Google Page Speed extension or the Yslow extension (you can also use them together online via GTMetrix). Input the URL, run the report and get a snapshot of the speed bumps in your Web infrastructure. When you do, you might have to address some of the areas below.
I love WordPress for its almost infinite extensibility but that same attribute can slow your site to a crawl – something I learned the hard way. Take a poll of non-techie WordPress users – that’s the ones who don’t do their own coding – and you will probably find that they have 20 or more plugins to provide different bells and whistles. When you see a feature you like on someone’s site, it takes just a minute or two to add it to yours, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Do a plugin audit and see what’s hogging the bandwidth. A good tool for doing that is P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler). Use it to root out the culprits (and don’t forget to disable it when you’re finished).
Take the same pared down approach when it comes to the look and feel of your site. Everything you add to your site makes it even slower. Everything. Use your speed tester of choice and you will find that all those lovely add-ons–drop down bars like the Hello Bar, analytics code from different providers, comment plugins, gravatars, sign up forms and affiliate code–keep your site crawling. Google fonts, Google translate, the Facebook button, Dropbox downloads – all of those can be bandwidth thieves. Keep server calls light by eliminating whatever you don’t need.
Some themes and site designs are built with SEO features, social media buttons and pretty much everything you will ever need. Get one of those, and you can immediately replace even more bloatware. The less stuff you have making calls on your SQL database, the faster your page will be – and that might just raise your speed grade from an embarrassing F to a passable C or higher. Of course, not all themes are alike – some of them might actually contribute to the page load problem. Don’t believe me? I ran a Yslow test on my writing blog and half of the culprits identified were images in the Thesis theme for WordPress folder which surprised me as it’s considered to be one of the best themes available. Luckily, the theme was recently upgraded to address some of the speed issues.
Finally, if you fix everything you can and your site is still slow – maybe it’s your host – especially if your hosting is shared. Some of them throttle your site till it can hardly breathe and that won’t do any good for your conversion rate.
So here’s a recap of the steps to take to identify and eliminate page speed problems: