The Complete Guide on Website Speed Optimization: Steps, Tools and Managed Solutions

Website Development
The Complete Guide on Website Speed Optimization: Steps, Tools and Managed Solutions
Article by Maria Martin
Last Updated: June 04, 2024

Did you know that a mere one-second delay in loading your website can result in 11% fewer page views and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction? Poor page loading speeds negatively impact the user experience and your website’s ability to engage visitors. A website that loads fast is also an essential component in ranking well in Google search results. In this article, we will discuss the five most effective website speed optimization methods and why having a solid, reliable hosting plan is one of the crucial considerations for search engine optimization.

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Why Website Speed Optimization Matters

About 47% of consumers expect websites to load in two seconds or less. Also, 79% of users would not return to a website that performs poorly.

This is a potentially major blow to conversion rates for a website that isn’t optimized.

Website speed improvement is one of the essential web design lessons. Not only is website speed an extremely important UX consideration, but it is also vital for your search engine visibility. In a nutshell, improving website speed is also an SEO improvement.

Google considers website speed when ranking websites in its search results. Therefore, the levels of website optimization also determine how easily your prospects and customers can find you online. When considering how to fix SEO, consider website speed also.

In a nutshell, website performance impacts these crucial aspects:

  • Sales: The quality of online services (or products, in the case of eCommerce websites) has a major impact on business sales. However, converting website visitors into buying customers also depends on the type of customer satisfaction a website provides. This is where website performance parameters like fast page speed come into play.
  • Conversions: Improvements in website UX, particularly page speed and website responsiveness, go hand in hand with marketing campaigns in boosting website conversion rates.
  • Visibility: As noted before, Google takes website loading speed very seriously — so much so, that it is one of the known (publicly stated) factors that impact the rankings of any website. If a website takes a long time to load, it has no hope of ranking on the first page of Google results for its relevant keywords — no matter how well optimized for the search engine it is in other regards.
  • User engagement: Websites that perform well in terms of speed impact user interactions and their feelings towards a website, both of which determine user engagement. When this emotional and behavioral connection between a website and a visitor exists, businesses can more easily build trust and convert visitors into repeat customers and even brand ambassadors.
  • Usability: Visitors expect websites to deliver relevant information, be understandable and easy to navigate, and be available across multiple devices. All of these, along with the basic prerequisite of high website speed, are vital to maximizing the website’s usability which leads to greater customer loyalty.

The Most Common Factors That Affect Your Website Speed

Any website’s speed may be compromised due to a number of varying reasons, but the most common factors that affect website speed include:

  • Poor hosting plan/server
  • Excessive amounts of plugins and widgets
  • Large image sizes
  • Big JavaScript and CSS files
  • No browser caches
  • Linking resources from slow servers

It is important to establish which of these factors affect your website’s performance before proceeding to apply one (or several) of the following steps on how to improve page load speed.

[Source: Cloudways]

How to Increase Website Speed in Five Steps

There are numerous ways how to speed up a website, but here are the five most essential ones that should be part and parcel of any website development and website maintenance.

1. Reduce HTTP Requests

Web browsers use HTTP requests to load different parts, scripts, files, and images from a website’s server. These requests come with certain downtimes when establishing the connection between the remote web server and a user’s browser.

Also, browsers often come with a limited number of parallel network requests that they can handle. In case there are many lined-up requests to be processed, some of them may be blocked in order to fully load the page.

Identifying the unnecessary requests and eliminating them should be the first step in optimizing your website page’s loading speed. To know this, find out what is the minimum render time required for your website and load only the necessary resources.

This effectively means eliminating excess images, JavaScript files, stylesheets, fonts, and other elements that may affect web performance negatively.

In particular, you should reduce the usage of website plugins and widgets to only those that really are essential. As a part of this step, you may also want to compress your JavaScript and CSS files because well-optimized websites load all the necessary CSS and JavaScript files in a single request.

2. Optimize Image File Sizes

Modern-day websites use visuals, graphics, and photos in abundance. They contribute to the website’s messaging, brand identity, content consistency and overall aesthetics.

High-res, uncompressed images that are not optimized for the web slow down a website’s performance considerably. This especially goes for high-density retina screens as websites use 2x or 3x resolution to display images on them.

Too large image file sizes are also a waste of bandwidth as they boost the load time for website visitors, especially on mobile data/Wi-Fi connections.

Using responsive images and specifying multiple image sizes that load according to the device, screen size and user’s connectivity allows the browser to choose the appropriate image in order to optimize the website experience for the user.

It is also vital to reduce the image file sizes as much as possible (without sacrificing the quality of an image) before uploading them to the server. Most image editing software comes with a “Save for Web” option that can reduce the image size from several megabytes to an acceptable 50-100 KBs.

3. Minify JavaScript, CSS, and HTML Files

As mentioned, minifying and combining separate JavaScript, CSS, and HTML files into single files helps load them in a single request.

Minification optimizes the size of these vital files by removing unnecessary symbols and duplicate data in the source code and making them all shorter.

The end result is an equally functioning, smaller file that browsers can read and load faster.

Simply put, minifying a file means:

  • Fixing and formatting the code
  • Removing unused bits of code
  • Shortening code if possible

To minify files, web developers often use plugins and tools such as HTML Minify, Merge+Minify+Refresh, Fast Velocity Minify, Autoptimize, etc.

4. Optimize Your Databases

Certain websites, especially those built on CMS platforms like WordPress, store all of their pages, as well as textual and encrypted data in a single database file.

Over time, this database file can grow to be very large with unused and unnecessary content (so-called “garbage data”) that impacts website performance. This garbage content consists of:

  • Post revisions
  • Deleted posts and pages
  • Spam comments
  • Unapproved comments

The purpose of database optimization is to eliminate garbage data and content that is no longer in use. Reducing their size makes it easier for hosting servers to fetch requested content.

5. Choose the Hosting Plan Fit for Your Needs

Even though the most basic and cheapest hosting option is enough for most new businesses when they start out, every company needs a hosting upgrade once they start getting more website traffic.

Usually, when looking to procure server hosting services, businesses are faced with these options:

  • Shared hosting
  • VPS hosting
  • Cloud hosting
  • Dedicated server
  1"DesignRush Recommends: Managed Cloud Hosting Platform"

The cheapest and most common option is the shared server which, on average, costs only several dollars per month. On shared hosting plans, your website is located on a server with numerous other websites that share the disk space, RAM and CPU. It is a suitable option for low-traffic websites that do not have big user volume spikes. However, it’s a risky option from a cybersecurity standpoint because if any of the websites are affected by malware, your website may also suffer from it.

With VPS hosting, you also share a server with other websites, but you do have your own dedicated area in the server’s resources. It cuts down the cost of fully dedicated hosting while protecting your website from every other website on the server.

Similar to VPS, cloud hosting is based on interconnected servers spread over a certain geographical area that can even span continents. Businesses can serve their website visitors more efficiently because the data is spread across these widely distributed servers. Cloud hosting rarely has any data transfer and bandwidth limitations and is a good solution for hosting web apps.

As the name suggests, a dedicated server allows you to use the whole hosting plan’s capacity for your website only. You have much more space, which is suitable for websites with larger traffic. And you can also freely implement the security and other plugins that enhance your website’s capabilities. This type of hosting plan lets you have complete control over your hosting, but is more expensive and requires a greater deal of expertise to manage it.

The Tools to Measure Your Website Speed for Acceptable Speed Benchmarks

There are numerous tools that can help you measure your website’s speed, point out the culprits slowing you down and even provide actionable tips for solving the issue.

Using these tools can help you improve your audience’s user experience and boost your visibility in the long run.

Some of the most popular and best-performing website speed-measuring services include:

Always bear in mind that users lose focus and are ready to leave a website between 0.3 and 3 seconds into its loading.

Websites that take longer than three seconds to load are at risk of having increased bounce rates, according to Google’s benchmark findings. Despite the probability of bounce increasing from 32% to 123% if website loading takes more than 3 seconds, 70% of mobile landing pages that Google analyzed are still nowhere near this ideal speed threshold.

However, when measuring your own page load time, it’s important to acquire all forms of data from all types of visits — both desktop and mobile.

Why Website Hosting is a Primary Consideration for Improving Website Speed

If your business is at a point where your traffic levels are slowing down your server response times, it may be time to switch to a different server or a hosting package that is able to deliver on your requirements and fix various website issues.

A stable and secure hosting plan that can scale as your online business grows is a bedrock for delivering impeccable user experience — and this goes beyond “just” the website speed.

One cost-efficient way to ensure this is through a managed cloud hosting platform like Cloudways.

Particularly suitable for growing eCommerce businesses and busy agencies, Cloudways provides a support team at your disposal 24/7 and acts as the extension of your in-house team and helps you tackle any hosting-related issues.

Cloudways’s standout features include high-speed performance, ensured by SSD-based hosting, built-in advanced caches and enterprise CDN. There are also:

  • Managed security with dedicated firewalls, bot protection, regular security patching, etc.
  • Versatility for managing your server the way you want with a plethora of services
  • Team collaboration capabilities
  • Easy-to-use UI
  • Multiple integrations and addons
  • 24/7 server monitoring
  • And more
[Source: Cloudways]

Cloudways's managed hosting comes with flexible, pay-as-you-go pricing tiers. It begins with the choice of five different cloud hosting plans that companies can fully scale up or down, depending on their operational costs.

The five hosting plans include:

  • DigitalOcean
  • Linode
  • Vultr
  • AWS
  • Google Cloud

Each of these comes with its own set of pricing tiers, ranging from $12 per month for the most basic, premium DigitalOcean plan to $274 per month for the advanced AWS hosting plan.

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