You may think nothing of clicking on a link to open a webpage, but occasionally you’ll take this action, and not much happens. Today, users expect websites to be fast, and if they aren’t, there are some consequences. Here is why the speed of your site matters more than ever, five reasons why your website speed might be slow – and ways to address those issues. 

Does Website Speed Matter?

Mobify’s 2016 Q2 Mobile Insights Report

Yes, it definitely matters whether your webpage loads quickly, slowly, or not at all. When a website doesn’t load as fast as expected, this impacts the user experience (UX), and it will have a strong effect on your conversion rate. 

Specifically, studies have shown that just two seconds more in page loading time can increase the bounce rate on a website by 103%. And fractions of seconds count, too. Only 100 milliseconds of extra loading time can cost a company 7% in their conversion rates. 

If that weren’t reason enough to pay attention to page load speed, this is also something that impacts your visibility. Google announced in 2010 that site speed would be used as a site ranking factor, so a sluggish site could punish you in the SERPs. 

Finally, the speed of your website is a reflection of your brand. If you can’t deliver a quality online experience, what makes people think that you’ll give them the products or services they want and need? Your online presence is the gateway to your business, so it makes sense that you would invest some time and resources in making it as functional (and fast) as possible. 

The Reasons For A Slow Website

Some things in life are relative, but the website speed isn’t. Ideally, your webpage will load in less than 2 seconds. Under 1 second is amazing, and less than 3 seconds is just “ok.” Anything over these benchmarks is completely unacceptable, and you’ll want to investigate how to make some improvements. 

The first step is testing your page speed. You can do this through Google or some other tool like GTmetrix. Once you see where you’re at, here are some of the reasons that your website might be slow as molasses. 

1. Server Performance

When someone clicks on the link for your site, it loads from the ground up. Think of it as turning the key to start a car’s engine. The click is the request for the engine to fire up. 

The first thing that happens is the visitor’s browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc.) sends a message, or ping, to your server. It signals that there is a request and asks that the server begin to load information (text, images, etc.). 

If your server’s performance is bad, it’s going to take a long time to respond. Even if your website is perfectly optimized, a slow server is going to frustrate everyone involved. 

Yes, you need to stick with a reputable web hosting provider. But how do you measure performance? Most hosting review sites, such as hostingadvice, only evaluate a host from a certain point. A better measure is one that gives an overview of server consistency, which is what you’ll get from HostScore. 

2. Server Location

The physical server location has an impact on data travel time (source).

Even if you pick a fast web host, your performance will be compromised if the server is too far away from the users. In this respect, the data center location can impact your website speed. 

Data travels across the internet via a vast network of cables. Even though the speed of these signals is lightning-fast, the longer it takes a message to reach a destination, the slower the response. The math is simple enough. 

If you run an eCommerce website that targets customers in India, and the web host you choose only has data centers in the United States, those signals will have to travel halfway around the planet to load the site. Likewise, once they are on your site, every click to open a new page is going to be sluggish because it makes a new request to that server. 

You could look for hosting companies that are only local, but this may not be the best option. Instead, seek out an international provider that can give you a choice of data centers to meet your needs. 

3. Larger Images

When your server loads your website, heavier (larger) files are going to take longer to load. If you have a ton of large images on your site, this is going to slow it down significantly. 

The size of the images is important, but so is the file format. Browsers can load PNG, JPG, and GIF images faster than BMP and TIFF images. Those last two are ones to avoid whenever possible. 

Look through your images to see what you can optimize. Better yet, use an image optimizer to compress your images and a caching plugin to store and deliver static copies of your website’s files. 

4. Long CSS or JavaScript

You can use tools such as GTMetrix to check your website files

CSS and JavaScript files are common culprits when it comes to slow website speed. They are necessary because they add the styling and functionality to your site, but the code is often unwieldy. 

If there is a tracking code, it should be moved below the fold so that it doesn’t slow down the First Page Content (FCP). A few ways to optimize CSS on your site include:

  • Check for duplicate or unnecessary code. 
  • Use CSS minifiers to compress your file and avoid too much white space. 
  • Package your images into one .png file with image sprites to reduce HTTP requests.

5. Plugins and Themes

Poor quality plugins and themes are common causes of slow websites. There are thousands of plugins available for WordPress, and it can be tempting to install a dozen or more. But, each one will use some resources and slow down your site. Make sure that the plugins you choose are performing an essential task that will benefit your site and not hurt it. 

When it comes to themes, ensure you’re using a trustworthy source for your theme and keep it updated. Use a security plugin to detect any anomalies in your site that might slow it down or cause other serious issues. 

When a visitor clicks on your website link, hundreds of actions are taking place behind the scenes to deliver their content. There’s a lot going on, and a ton that could go wrong. If you haven’t chosen the right web host and optimized your content, your website is likely to be slow, and the user experiences not what anyone would hope. 

Use these tips to get to the bottom of why your website isn’t performing at its best so that you can get better rankings, have happier customers, and improve your conversion rates.