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How to Improve Conversions by Increasing Page Speed [Tips & Tools]

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?

Page Speed - We Waited, No Service

Find the problem

Page Speed Test Google Developers
Google Page Speed

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.

WordPress user, beware

P3 WordPress Page Speed Test
P3 in action

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).

Don’t add – subtract

Web Performance Best Practices for Page Speed
Guidelines from Yahoo for boosting web performance

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.

Under the hood

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.

Content delivery

One way to solve site speed problems is to use a content delivery network (CDN). There are a lot to choose from but what they all do is cache and serve up your content, keeping it in multiple locations so that pages can be served quickly. And some of them will also apply other fixes that boost your speed. Cloudflare, for example, has built in tools to minimize and optimize HTML, Javascript, CSS and images – all of which help to increase page speed. You can also specify how long visitors will see the cached version of the page and you can use Cloudflare to block spammers and bots, which was its original purpose. All of these will boost your page speed beyond recognition, making it more likely that visitors will stick around.

Lastly – your host

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.

Now, take action!

Page Speed Performance GTmetrix
a GTMetrix analysis of Mozilla’s site

So here’s a recap of the steps to take to identify and eliminate page speed problems:

  1. Analyze your site with a page speed tester like YSlow.
  2. Profile WordPress plugins with P3 and remove the memory hogs
  3. Delete unnecessary plugins and code snippets from your site.
  4. Streamline your site design or blog theme.
  5. Consider a CDN.

— Sharon Hurley Hall

About Sharon Hurley Hall
Self-confessed word nerd and polymath Sharon Hurley Hall has the perfect job as a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer and ghostwriter. Connect with Sharon on her website or Google+.
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