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Tips for Speeding Up Your Website

How to Get Your Website to Load Faster

One question we get quite a bit is about how to make a website load more quickly. As it turns out, there's no replacement for experience. Hiring a website firm that has an experienced, expert staff goes a long way. You have to pay attention to the details if you want a website that runs well. Of course, Webstix is a great choice if that's what you're looking for. We test all our websites before they launch and then right after launch.

What Are the Advantages?

The advantages of having a website that loads quickly include being ranked higher and providing your customers and prospective clients with a good experience.

Does Website Load Time Affect Rankings?
Yes, if you think like Google, then you know you'll want to give people searching the best results, which means giving them websites that load quickly. Google tests how quickly your website loads (we'll get into that below). If your website and your top competitor's website are equal in every way but his loads faster, his will rank higher. Google sees that as a better result to give people searching.

A Better User Experience (UX)
Since your website very often provides people with the first impression of your company or organization, you want it to be the best it can be. If you go with cheap, clunky hosting and/or if you didn't spend enough building a great website, that matters. It's very easy for people to click away from your website and you probably won't even know they left your website because it didn't load fast enough or it looked terrible. To make the right, first impression, your website needs to be fast and be easy to use. That'll translate/transfer to what they think of your business or organization.

Bring on the Tips!

Before we work on your shiny, new website, there may be some things that can be done to give a little extra life to your current website so that it runs faster/better and works well until you're able to work on a new one.

1. Look at the Domain Name

The first place I always like to start is with the domain name. What I mean is how the DNS (domain name service) is set up. Fixing this alone can speed things up quite a bit. If the "time to live" (or TTL since us Web Geeks love acronyms), is set too low (like 1 hour or less), then basically every time someone comes to the website, there's an extra step - the DNS has to be looked up. In this case, it cannot be looked up from a near by DNS server, it has to go directly to the source - the SOA (start of authority) of the domain.

Here's what happens... you're asking one server to check for an IP (your local DNS) but then that server has to ask you to wait as it does the lookup that it needs to do. It finds out and then sends that back to you and THEN you can go look for the website. That's just WAY too long.

The TTL only needs to be set low if you're planning to move the website soon (like in the next few days). Places like GoDaddy tend to set it low. I think they do it to cover their butts in case a change needs to be made but it's never put where it needs to be and your website suffers. Heck, even set it to a week if you know you're not going to move the website anytime soon.

2. Look at the Hosting

If the server you're on is too slow or is not optimized, then no matter what you do to your website, it still won't load fast enough.

Types of Hosting
The best hosting you can get is to be Google where you have giant facilities with thousands of servers running the website in memory (versus from disk) and you'll have screaming speed. You can decide to not go quite that extreme and have a few, dedicated servers with a load balancer. Down from there, you can have a single, dedicated server. Down from there is VPS hosting (Virtual Private Server) where the CPU is limited. There's also Cloud hosting. There's also shared hosting (cheaper) or hosting with a company that uses shared hosting but is more like a gated community where the hosting company knows everyone in the neighborhood. Webstix can provide many of these options.

Use Website Monitoring
You can even set up website monitoring to find out when your website is running too slowly. If you're not checking it out all the time, how do you know how good your hosting really is? Get some monitoring set up so that you get notified when things are running too slowly or not at all. This information will help you either work with your host or else help you decide if you should move your website to another host.

Also, we get some clients that keep checking their website. Ok... it's fine to check it once in a while but know that if you're always on it, you're putting yourself in line, in front of your customers and potential clients. Get out of the way and let them get to your website more quickly. Use a monitor instead that checks your website in a smart way. Also, maybe it's loading slowly because of your ISP or the Internet connection you have. With a monitoring service, they have a better connection than you, which takes your maybe slow connection out of the equation.

3. Look at the Website Itself

Next, check out the website. Look at the HTML code and the website error logs. Make sure all JavaScript and CSS is in files that are separate from the code. That way, the browser isn't forced to download them each time - the browser can cache those separate files and use them over and over again. This speeds things up.

Your website hosting should also provide you with an error log file. In it, you'll see a lot of things - or you won't see hardly any at all if your website is tuned right and working at its best. Look through it and look for trends. Maybe there's a missing backslash or semicolon in some JavaScript code somewhere. Maybe there's a missing image or two. The less the website has to open this file and write to it as the website is loading, the faster your website will load. By taking care of errors, things run more smoothly and more quickly, too.

Again, it's being careful and paying attention to detail that helps your website be fast.

4. What Does Google Think?

Google PageSpeed Insights
One of the best tools to use to help analyze your website's speed is Google's PageSpeed Insights tool. Simply enter the URL of your home page or a specific page on your website and Google helps you figure out how to make that page load faster.

pagespeed-insights

Now, when you look at what Google says, you might quickly realize that it's a lot of "geek speak" and you might need a local nerd or someone to translate some of that for you. That's where website developers like us come in.

All in all, it's great to know what Google thinks of your website and how it sees it. This is great information and something you must do if your aim is to get the website to load faster and possibly rank higher.

Google Webmaster Tools
And if you don't have Webmaster Tools set up (or Google Analytics), then get that set up as well. You'll get error messages and other warnings and notes from Google about your website. You'll want to go through all the crawl errors in Webmaster Tools and get them fixed. Get all 404 pages fixed as well since Google's going to favor websites that are set up well (again, attention to detail).

5. Look at the Parts of the Website - Like Images

Let's keep going. The next step is to do things like optimize images and videos. There are some tools you can use to help with this like Smush.it or even using Photoshop. Read our tips about using images on your website. It's important to not have images that are too large on the website. Images on websites do not need to be at print resolution. Shrink them down!

Loading a Video?
Speaking of videos, is the website loading the code for the video player? Doing that takes time and computer resources. Don't make everyone load the code for a video player on your home page. Instead, show an image that looks like a video player and then open the video (and video player) in a lightbox if that image is clicked. This way, you're only loading the video player for the people that want to view the video and that's making your website more lightweight.

Java, Flash and Other Junk
If you're loading things like Java applets or Flash animation or other things, then that's just going to slow things down, too. If you can avoid it, then you're better off. This also goes back to the user experience since not all mobile devices will play Java applets or have support for Flash (like the iPhone and iPad, for example). That's old - get rid of it.

6. Recheck Error Logs and Test in Multiple Browsers

In order to make sure you haven't messed something else up while fixing another thing, check your logs again. Check Google PageSpeed again. Keep doing this and keep fixing things until it's cleared up or until your website is loading at an acceptable speed. It's the "lather, rinse, repeat" method like shampoo.

You should now also be ready to fire up other web browsers and test the website. Make sure it loads fine and looks right. If it doesn't, then my advice is get some help. Making websites look fine in all browsers is not really that easy. Talk to our website maintenance team and get an estimate instead of pulling out your hair - you'll thank me.

Conclusion

Like I said at the start, having a website that loads quickly takes paying attention to a lot of details. If you're using a WordPress theme that you got for free or something, then it might not be coded well (it may also contain malicious code, so watch for that). You get what you pay for with website design. If you're using a company or free service that just slaps together a website for you, then don't expect it to be the same as a website carefully crafted and tested. Also, if your hosting is cheap, then don't expect to be as fast as Amazon.com.

Get more tips about getting your website to rank higher and increase traffic with our free e-book. It includes some tips to get your website to run faster and rank higher. Sometimes just a few tweaks can do quite a bit.

If you're interested in a great, new website for your company or organization, then contact Webstix today and let's talk!

-Tony

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