Why Website speed is important

This post was last updated on April 9th, 2021

Stopwatch in persons hand - Why Website speed is important

Why is website speed important? One thing that we often hear is that your website or blog should load quickly.  It goes without saying that it makes your website much more user-friendly and less frustrating for people who visit you online.  Having said that, there are other really important reasons to maximise your website speed.  In summary:

It’s important because Google generally ranks faster-loading pages higher in search results.  Of course there are a myriad of other ranking factors, but it remains clear that page speed improves the user experience (UX).  It also reduces the number of people that back out when they click on your site in search.  

One of the main things that improves SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is your page load speed.  The search engines are continuously crawling the web and measuring the loading speed of your site.  Accordingly, sites that load faster are seen to be of higher quality by the search engines. 

This load speed isn’t the only factor that affects your Google ranking but it is one of the key factors and is probably one of the easiest to fix.

Slow Page Load = Users Backing Out

Most people are time-poor and want information quickly.  So when someone clicks on your page in Google, you want their experience to be a good one.  If they experience a delay they will often back out of your site and look for the next listing.  
 
If this “back-out” occurs regularly, it signals to Google (or Bing) that your site isn’t as useful or relevant as other sites.  This is unfortunate as you might have a really informative post that you’ve spent a lot of time on.
Google search on Iphone - why website speed is important
This signal which Google (or Bing) receives, is one of the factors (amongst others) that they will use to rank your site in search results. 
 
It’s something that you really want to avoid and it’s easy to fix.  Let’s now discuss some ways in which we can maximise page load speed. 

Choose a Speed-Optimised WordPress Theme for your website

If you are using self-hosted WordPress on your site, choose a theme that’s already optimised for speed and SEO.   This information will be prominent on the theme’s display pages.  Avoid any themes that are bloated and go for one that is super-light.
 
One of the fastest themes that I recommend for WordPress is GeneratePress.  This theme is extremely SEO-friendly, mobile responsive, highly customisable and super-fast out of the gate.
GeneratePress Best WordPress Theme
When you’re first looking at SEO-optimised themes out of the box, these themes might at first appear to be lacking in bells and whistles.  This is because they’ve been coded for maximum speed.  Nonessential features are optional items which can be turned on as required in these themes.
 
My recommendation is to read reviews and go for the fastest theme you can get.  Make sure to look at the demo site of the theme that you are considering to make sure that it can do what you need it to do.
 

Choose Fast Website Hosting for Website Speed

WordPress hosting can be differentiated based on whether it’s hosted in the cloud or web server based.  Having said this, some hosting providers such as Siteground offer both types of hosting.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting has become more prominent in recent years.  With cloud hosting, your website is stored in the cloud and shared between a number of web hosts.  The main attractions are security and scalability.  

As the operation of your website isn’t constrained by just one server,  your site won’t go down in the event of an outage at one web host.    This can be really critical to your business as you will not lose business traffic during an outage.  

Cloud Computing - Kinsta

The other advantage of cloud-based hosting is that it will easily scale to spikes in traffic if one of your posts goes viral.  This could lead to you being charged more by your provider for a huge spike in traffic but on the flipside, this should be bringing in a lot more business. 

The increased revenue should offset any increase in hosting cost.  In comparison, other hosting providers may be unable to handle the traffic of a viral traffic spike.

Isn’t Cloud Hosting Expensive?

One question that often faces small to medium companies is how to get cost-effective Google cloud hosting. Google cloud hosts some of the biggest companies such as Spotify, Best Buy and Home Depot. 

Of the providers, one of the most popular value-for-money entry-level cloud hosting providers is Kinsta which has plans starting from only $30 per month.  They provide great features such as scalable traffic, automatic backups, a staging feature and excellent customer support. 

Kinsta Home Page - What is Host ?

Please feel free to check out our full review of Kinsta here.

Web Hosting

Whereas cloud-hosting is often seen as the ultimate in hosting, those seeking a more cost-effective but still very fast hosting provider should aim for a web-based provider that uses SSD (Solid State Drive) servers.  These SSD servers provide much greater speeds than conventional HDD (Hard Disk Drive) servers as there are no moving parts.  

One of the fastest SSD web hosting providers is Siteground which has data centres based in the USA, UK, the Netherlands and Singapore. They provide reliable managed WordPress hosting and have plans starting from $4.95 per month.

 

Siteground Main Screen

Please feel free to check out our full review of Siteground here.

Why You Should Minimise Plugins

WordPress plugins can substantially slow down your web page.  What I have found is that it’s not necessarily the number of plugins that you have installed but also the type of plugins and how they are configured.  

We recommend de-activating all but the essential plugins when building your WordPress site.

Plugins that install code on your pages and posts should be avoided, particularly when you’re just starting your blog.   

Examples of plugins that often slow your site include:

  • Email opt-in popups
  • Plugins that include analytics.  This will slow your page and isn’t necessary as you can get this separately from the Google Analytics website.

Some plugins like security admin, only operate in the back end of WordPress so don’t slow down your site at all. 

Examples of plugins that don’t usually slow your site include:

How to Test if Plugins are Slowing your Site

I have a process which I like to follow to test if a plugin will slow down my site.

  1.  Firstly I check the load time of one of my standard posts using the free tool GTMetrix.  I’ll usually run it a few times to make sure the reading is fairly accurate as it can vary slightly.
GTMetrix Speed Testing Screen
  1. I’ll then install the plugin which I’m testing.  Any un-install capabilities will be configured and any parts of the plugin that i won’t be using will be deactivated.
  2. I then purge my site’s cache and re-test the page on GTMetrix a few times.
  3. If there is no measurable effect on page load speed, I’ll usually keep the plugin. If speed is degraded, I’ll see if I can reconfigure the plugin or remove it all together.

Turn on all Performance Optimisations for Website Speed

Most hosting providers including Kinsta and Siteground provide free additional performance optimisations which you should turn on.

These include:

  • WordPress caching.  There’s no longer a need to install additional plugins for this as most hosts, including the two described above, provide this free service from Cpanel.
  • CDN (Content Delivery Network).  CDN is especially important if you have a worldwide audience as it allows your site to be distributed to users from regional servers around the world.  This provides a superior website experience for users in remote locations.  

 

How Cloudflare Works
  • For next level speed performance, consider a next level CDN like Cloudflare Automatic Platform Optimization (APO).  APO has the potential to enable top tier speed from average shared hosting.  As Cloudflare explains it:  “Automatic Platform Optimization puts your website into Cloudflare’s network that is within 10 milliseconds of 99% of the internet-connected population in the developed world, all without having to change your existing hosting provider.”

Conclusion – Why Website Speed is Important

Website speed is absolutely critical to how your website ranks for SEO and for the overall experience of your users.  So the choice of WordPress theme, hosting provider and WordPress plugins can have a profound effect on the speed and hence, ranking of your website.

We have written a useful guide here with all the steps needed to start your SEO maximised website which will help you to setup your website as quickly as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions – website speed

Do inactive plugins slow down WordPress?

Plugins generally won’t slow down your site if they haven’t been activated.

They will, however, slow your page load when they add code (primarily Javascript) to your pages which pull in other resources during the load process.

Accordingly, if a plugin isn’t activated, there’s no code being added to your pages.

It’s a good idea to visually inspect the HTML of your posts occasionally to see if any extraneous code has been added by plugins.

It’s also good practice to uninstall plugins if you’re not using them anymore. It’ll save you time updating them when software updates come through.

If it is something like a maintenance/under-construction plugin, you might still need to use such a plugin occasionally. In this case, it might be better to keep it and deactivate it while you’re not using the plugin. Installing and uninstalling plugins too often isn’t good as it can fragment your registry.

Do all plugins slow down WordPress?

No not all plug-ins will slow down WordPress. Plugins slow your page speed when they add JavaScript or other code to the header of your pages and posts. These need to be processed before the rest of the web page loads.

Should I allow WordPress to automatically update my plugins?

As long as the plugin is popular and from a high tier provider,  the benefits of auto updating plugins outweighs the potential risks.  This feature has been available since the introduction of WordPress 5.5.  You can set individual plugins to automatically update when new releases come out.  The decision to use auto-update needs to be made on a case by case basis by each WordPress user.

How can you increase website speed on a site builder platform like Wix or Squarespace?

You could try reducing the size of images and optimizing them to make them even smaller.  If you embed YouTube videos into pages, make sure to use an image as the thumbnail for the video. This will stop all the heavy YouTube software from being downloaded upon page load.

Unfortunately on these website platforms there’s not many other ways to increase the speed of your website.

How do I increase page load speed on self-hosted WordPress?

Thankfully, there’s many ways to increase speed if you’re using the WordPress CMS. Amongst these methods: you could change to a faster hosting provider, switch to a lean & optimised theme or reduce the size of embedded images.

How can I embed YouTube videos in my web pages without slowing down my site?

Use a page builder such as Elementor. Then when embedding your video, add an overlay image to the video. This will mean that when a visitor clicks on an image, the heavy YouTube code/assets will only be downloaded at the time that they click the video, not when the page is loaded.

What’s the quickest way to increase your web page speed?

One particularly low-hanging fruit is images. If you’ve downloaded images from stock media platforms and haven’t reduced their file sizes, the images are going to be too large for the web.

Start by reducing the size of the image. They should be in the range of approximately 680 to 700 pixels wide. Then run your pictures through an image optimiser to further reduce their size. The resulting image size should be less than 150 kB.

Also only use JPG files not PNG files. This is because JPG files are smaller and hence are more suited to the web.

Main Photo by Veri Ivanova on Unsplash
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