The success of a website – be that in an online store, personal blog, or affiliate site – boils down to providing excellent and meaningful user experience. This takes into account the value your content offers, the overall site design, and the speed in which it performs. It may come as a surprise to you, but speed is directly linked with bounce rate – a dreaded metric that affects your site in a multitude of unpleasant ways.
Keep in mind that you only have a few seconds to capture the attention of your audience the moment they arrive at your site. Did you know that 40% of your audience will leave if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load? That is almost half of your traffic gone because you forgot to optimize for speed. Moreover, that does not even begin to cover all the consequences of a slow website.
Furthermore, bounce rate and session length also affect your page’s position in SERPs since they reflect the engagement that your audience gets. So not only are you getting fewer conversions, but you are also hurting your site’s visibility and inbound traffic.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to improve your site’s speed and SEO. Here are five of the things you can start with:
1. Choose a Good Host
The first decision you have to make when building a site is your web hosting solution. This can have an enormous impact on your site whether for the short-term or long-term. However, not many site owners can see the full implications of web hosting when it comes to their site’s performance.
Remember that not all web hosting services have the same infrastructure. This includes server hardware, customer support, and the scalability of hosting plans. Naturally, better hardware means bigger storage and bandwidth for your website. This is why you should pay attention to the specifications of hosting plans and choose the one that fits your site’s needs.
A shared hosting plan may do the trick for personal blogs, but it is nowhere near as effective as VPS or dedicated hosting when it comes to online stores, business websites, and other sites that garner much traffic. There are also managed WordPress hosting plans that are optimized specifically for WordPress users.
To help you with this step, you need to look at some decent hosts that offer managed WordPress hosting as well as scalable solutions that fit different website needs. Here are a few hosting options that you might find useful:
- SiteGround – A premium hosting company that offers 99.996% guaranteed uptime. It also offers a great shared hosting solution with optimal performance (comparable to VPS regarding security and uptime). Lastly, SiteGround offers advanced caching features as well as an integrated Google PageSpeed module, which will ensure your site follows the speed guidelines set by Google itself.
- DigitalOcean – They are one of the leading providers of cloud hosting at prices that everyone can afford. On the flip side, you do need quite a bit of knowledge about managing a VPS before you can jump the ship. If you do, however, DigitalOcean is a solid option.
- InMotion – This particular company offers one of the fastest web hosting solutions – even its shared hosting plan. This is because they only utilize SSDs or Solid State Drives to power their servers, which are a lot faster than HDDs.
- WiredTree – WiredTree is one of the most reputable managed VPS hosts. They take care of the all the hard work that is managing a VPS and let you focus on what you do best – managing only your site instead of the whole server. Their support team is also pretty popular within the web hosting space for going above and beyond to satisfy their customers.
- HawkHost – This Canadian web host has quickly made a good name for itself within the web hosting community and especially within the popular WebHostingTalk forum. They also offer plenty of room to grow, as you can move up from shared hosting to reseller to VPS, all the way up to dedicated servers with HawkHost.
- BlueHost – Last but not least, Bluehost is one of the most popular hosting companies around that can provide superior performance to your WordPress site. It is cheap, reliable, and offers an easy-to-use control panel that can help new bloggers get their site up and running in no time.
Disclaimer: I am affiliated with SiteGround, InMotion and BlueHost, and the reviews I’ve linked to contain affiliate links. If you follow the links inside the reviews and purchase their services, I’ll be paid a small commission.
2. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Speaking of managed WordPress hosting, it is worth noting that some companies already utilize CDNs to further increase the site’s speed. However, in case you are using VPS or dedicated hosting, or a managed WordPress hosting that does not use a CDN, then you should consider going for it.
3. Leverage Lazy Loading
“Lazy loading” is the concept of loading only the page elements above the fold. This is the area on top of a page that’s immediately visible upon loading. The rest of the page only loads when the user starts scrolling down.
With lazy loading, browsers no longer need to download the elements in the entire page to have something to show for your audience – significantly boosting page load speed. The best part is you can easily implement this on your WordPress site using free plugins, making it one of the best practices you can do to speed up your site.
Bear in mind that many users evaluate a site based on what they see above the fold. You can use this to your advantage by adding essential visual elements such as CTAs and directional cues. It is only a matter of planning a layout and identifying the content that can capture your audience’s attention.
4. Prevent Hotlinking
If other sites link to your content, then that is a good thing, right? Not always.
It is true that links to your articles can generate organic traffic and improve your domain authority. However, linking to your images, videos, or any other file on your site is a different story. In fact, these linking websites are actually “stealing” your bandwidth.
For example, if another blogger uses your image via the full URL, then he is essentially using your bandwidth whenever someone looks at it from his site. This is, of course, more problematic if the linking site caters to a broad audience.
To protect your content from hotlinking, you need to include a bit of code to your root .htaccess file. Do proceed with caution as mistakes may cause costly downtimes. You can read this post to learn more about how to protect your content from hotlinking.
5. Optimize Your Site
Aside from hotlink protection and lazy loading, there are several other things you can do to optimize your WordPress website for speed. First, you can compress your images using a plugin like WP Smush. This will significantly reduce the time it takes to load them without compromising image quality. You should also enable caching with W3 Total Cache to load other page elements faster.
Lastly, don’t forget to clean up your database. Remember that your database is filled with data that may accumulate and waste space in the long run. This includes spam comments, drafts, tables, post revisions, and so on. Of course, you can manually delete these objects one by one, or you can use a tool like WP-Optimize.
Today, online success goes to those who prioritize user experience above all. What kind will great content be if you greet your audience with a sluggish site?
This is why you need to build your site on solid foundations – from a great web host to the best on-page optimization practices. Not only will you get better conversions from satisfied users, but you will also enjoy higher rankings in SERPs.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.