A slowly loading website is sure to drive away potential visitors and conversions. When your website is loading slowly, it’s time to take a hard look at how to improve website loading speed.
In fact, most website owners in the industry are well aware that users decide in under three seconds of waiting whether they are going to stick around for the site to load or go to the next best link or destination.
To make sure you avoid becoming the next Internet snail, these are 10 different methods for how to speed up a website:
- Method 1 - Reduce image sizes
- Method 2 - Remove unneeded plugins
- Method 3 - Turn on page caching
- Method 4 - Sign up for a content delivery network
- Method 5 - Switch your website theme
- Method 6 - Optimize your website database
- Method 7 - Limit your dependence on other websites
- Method 8 - Turn on HTTP Keep-alive
- Method 9 - Compress your website
- Method 10 - Change your site’s host
I’ll also explain how you can measure your site’s loading speed so you can track how these changes are working to increase your website speed.
Method 1: Reduce Image Sizes
Every time a user tries to access a page with images on it, they have to download the image at whatever size it is on your site’s server and then resize it for display.
If your images are far larger than they need to be for display, you’re wasting bandwidth that could otherwise be used to speed up your website.
There are a number of guides you can turn to in order to figure out the optimal image size for different websites and display sizes. In addition, image optimization tools like Kraken.io, ShortPixel, or WP Smush.it help you compress images without losing quality prior to uploading to your site.
Method 2: Remove Unneeded Plugins
So, if you don’t need a particular plugin for your site, disable it.
That said, your website speed is less affected by the total number of plugins you have enabled than by which plugins are enabled. Some plugins are inherently slower than others and can be removed or replaced for a big impact on loading speed.
Method 3: Turn on Page Caching
Enabling caching on your site is one of the best methods for how to speed up a website.
With caching, your site can instruct a visitor’s browser to make a local copy of the site on their computer. The browser will then load the local copy rather than ping your site’s server until you make changes to your site or the cached version expires.
There are a number of tools to help you enable caching depending on what website platform your site is built on. If you are using WordPress, you can try the WP Rocket, Cache Enabler, or WP Super Cache plugins. If you are using Drupal, you can use Supercache or Active Cache.
Method 4: Sign Up for a Content Delivery Network
In general, your site is hosted on a server in the country in which your web host is located. While that might mean fast access for anyone who is connecting from within that country, repeated queries to your site’s server from visitors on the other side of the world can take longer.
Content delivery networks, such as Cloudflare, Fastly, and KeyCDN, solve this problem by storing your website’s files on multiple servers distributed around the world. That way, when a visitor tries to access your site, they will automatically be routed to the closest server that hosts your website to increase website speed. If your site is built on WordPress, you can check out my tutorial on how to use Cloudflare on WordPress.
Method 5: Switch Your Website Theme
You probably chose a theme for your website after assessing the look and functionality it gave your website. But just like plugins, themes can slow down your website by loading unnecessary code and accessing external sites.
Unfortunately, figuring out whether a theme is fast or slow can be difficult without actually trying it out on your site and testing the loading speed.
Method 6: Optimize Your Website DatabaseIf your website is built on a content management system that relies heavily on a database, such as WordPress or Drupal, you can cut down your site’s loading time simply by optimizing the organization of your site’s files.
This is especially important if you have plugins that are constantly adding content to your site’s database, such as plugins that track visitor data or keep activity logs.
The more data that is being stored by your plugins, the slower the loading speeds of the pages that the plugin operates on.
Thankfully, most content management systems that use databases also have tools available to optimize them.
Method 7: Limit Your Dependence on Other Websites
If you have a number of external links on your site, and this is especially true for images, this can be one of the culprits of a slow-running site. Linking out to images or other pieces of content rather than hosting them yourself can be attractive because it saves space on your server. But, your site also then becomes dependent on the loading speed of an external site.
The solution is simply to host as much of your site’s content on your own server as possible. That means saving your own copies of external images and web pages. In addition, try to reduce the number of social sharing buttons on your site as these can slow down your site if social networks’ servers are running slowly on any given day.
Method 8: Turn on HTTP Keep-alive and Compress
On a typical website, a visitor’s browser will request each file from your site’s server one at a time. After each request, it will close the connection and then open a new one. But, all this opening and closing connections waste valuable loading time, especially if there is a lot of content to grab.
To force your visitors’ browsers to keep the connection open until all content on a page has been downloaded, you can enable HTTP Keep-alive. To enable this function, access your site’s ‘.htaccess’ file in the root folder of your site’s server and add the following line at the bottom:
Header set Connection keep-alive
Method 9: Compress Your Website
Just like you can compress a file on your computer’s hard drive to make it easier to send, you can compress your website’s files and pages to make them easier to deliver to visitor’s browsers from your server. While any type of compression will help, Gzip compression is typically one of the most effective compression methods to increase website speed.
You can add Gzip compression to your website by adding the following the instructions and adding the code to the bottom of your site’s ‘.htaccess’ file, which can be found in your site’s root folder on your web host:
Looks intimidating? It's actually no problem. Our WordPress htaccess tutorial should help you quite a lot. And if you're using a different platform for your website, the tutorial will still help you reach it.
Method 10: Change Your Site’s Host
If all else has failed to significantly speed up your website, the culprit may be your site’s host. If your site is hosted by a reputable web host, this is not likely to be the issue.
However, some budget web hosts have slower server speeds that can limit your site’s loading speed no matter what other changes you make to your site.
How to Measure Your Site’s Loading Speed
Of course, measuring the impact of any of these changes on your site’s speed requires being able to measure how long your site takes to load before and after. There are a number of online tools available for measuring your site’s loading speed, such as Pingdom, GTmetrix, and WebPageTest. It’s a good idea to track your loading times after each change you make, so you can see which changes are making the biggest impacts.
How to Speed Up a Website: Final Thoughts
A slow website can drive away visitors, but thankfully there are numerous steps you can take to improve your website’s loading speed.
Just be sure to keep track of your site’s speed after each tweak you make so you know what changes are doing the most to increase website speed and efficiency for your domain!
Did this guide help you learn how to speed up a website? Let me know in the comments below!