By Monica Pitts

Google’s algorithm is changing and dinging rankings for slow-loading sites. So if your site is slow, it’s less likely to show up when people search for it. Plus, people will abandon a slow site before even fully loading the page. Which is a signal to Google that your site is slow … and then it won’t share your site on search engines, so now we’ve come full circle.

So really, you need a fast-loading site because it doesn’t matter how gorgeous your site is. If people never get there, all that pretty just goes to waste.

First you’re going to run a test.
Check your website’s load time using a few free testing tools like Google Page Speed Insights, GTmetrix or Uptrends. These reports will tell you where you’re bogged down and give you suggestions for fixing. But to be honest, some of the stuff they tell you is going to look a lot like geek (no, not greek, geek) because it is. So I’m going to define most of the common challenges for you now.

1. Enable Caching
Once the site is loaded on a device, the browser stores or caches most of the content on the page, so the next time the page is loaded, the content is stored locally and loads faster. That’s why sometimes when you update your site you can’t see the changes you made until you clear your browser cache.

You’ll manage this through a plugin. We usually use WP Rocket.

2. Minimize CSS and Javascript
A site has lots of moving parts, and each takes time to load. Each plugin, and your theme as well, often have their own CSS and javascript files. So, for example, for your website to display, it may need to pull 10 or more files, process, and load them before the viewer can fully use your site. When you minimize CSS and javascript, you only have to load two files to achieve the same result.

3. Use a CDN
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a collection of servers that helps speed up site load time by reducing the physical distance between the server and the user. Because just like light and sound, it takes time to deliver data as well. And the farther it has to travel, the longer it takes.

4. Choose the right host.
I can’t make a blanket statement about which host is right for you…maybe just don’t pick the cheapest…it’s cheap for a reason. If you have a super cheap hosting space, it’s because you’re renting a room in a hostel. So if one person throws a party, you’re all going down.

  • Pick a package that matches your site. See how many visitors you have and the bandwidth you’re using. Also, match your hosting space with your site format. For example, some hosts specialize in WordPress or WooCommerce sites – offering specific features that speed upload time for those site types.
  • If you really need site speed, look for a dedicated space. A dedicated space is an apartment of your very own. You’ll have specific resources dedicated to your site to make sure it’s loading swiftly on the regular.

5. DBD with your images and video
We don’t have many policies at MayeCreate (I think we have 3 to exact), but our #1 policy is DBD – Don’t Be Dumb.

You can certainly use a plugin like Smush to optimize images on your site. But you also need to be smart about the images you upload to the site as well. People tend to update a website without knowing how image size impacts load time.

  • Get your images close to the size you want them before you place them on the page. They don’t have to be crystal clear – fast loading trumps clarity.
  • Remove or resize huge header images, slideshows or videos on mobile.
  • Use an external host like Vimeo or YouTube to stream your videos. Odds are good your web host isn’t made for that type of streaming.

Optimizing for Next-Gen Formats
Use a plugin to convert your images into Google’s version of a web image. In the past, it was JPG and PNG, and now it’s WEBP. This will improve load time considerably on almost all sites.

6. Lazy Load iFrames
When you “embed” something, you’re asking your site to load it from another location. That could be a YouTube video or an animated gif, the fancy graphic the BBB gives you to put in the footer of your site. Without lazy loading, if you place five YouTube videos on a page, your site will load each of the scripts it needs to play a video five times…with lazy load, it only loads once.

Monica Pitts is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of MayeCreate Design. She spends her days constructing a marriage of form and function; creating art with her design team to grow businesses through websites and online marketing. Monica considers herself an artist, marketer and web dork with the ability to speak geek and English.