Think of your website like a building. The structure is your code and database, the land it is built on is your hosting provider or server, and its address is your domain name. In order for a user to have a good experience, all these factors need to be solid, reliable, efficient, and accessible. However, a fault in any of these parts can lead to a subpar or even unusable experience, in addition to serious WordPress performance issues.
Many of you are probably looking for tips for speeding up your WordPress website. Your website needs to work as fast and seamlessly as possible. But, that may not always be the case. So, what makes your site slow? Do your site speed problems come from your WordPress site or your hosting provider? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to cover today.
We’ll go over all of the culprits of slow web pages and we’ll even get into some methods of improving website loading times.
So, if you’re looking to optimize your WordPress business website, this is the article for you. Strap in and get ready for life in the fast lane!
Why Should I Care?
You’re probably wondering “why should I even care if my website is slow? My content is good. We offer good products and services. Isn’t that enough?”
You’re actually not wrong. There was a time when good content, a slick UX, and good business offerings were enough. But, the internet has evolved way beyond what it was, and the rules tend to change quickly.
Internet Evolution in Google
One of the main drivers of all this innovation is Google. Google has become synonymous with the internet and rightfully so; the company is responsible for transforming web browsing, shopping, advertising, and search as we know it!
Every year Google is updating its algorithm, essentially getting “smarter” and “more human” as it evolves. All websites need to cater to what Google wants in order to thrive in the digital marketing space.
The reason this is important to hosting is that as Google gets smarter it’s placing much more importance on site speed – especially when it comes to mobile devices. A slow website leads to a high bounce rate. And, if your bounce rate is high, Google will likely not treat your website kindly. As a result, you could find yourself becoming virtually invisible to your customers on the internet. This is why having a hosting platform that puts a premium on speed and uptime is so important in the modern age of the internet.
In order to know where your site is slowing down, you need to test it objectively with tools that give you sizes and load times. If you are using a modern browser like Chrome or Firefox, these tools are sitting right in front of you. While in either browser click on the Help item in the menu and type in Developer. You will see options that open as a new window that shows all the information about the page. The Network tab allows you to see how long the page takes to load and the size of various files involved.
If you are looking for more in-depth testing and site performance information, we have a complete write-up on using performance testing tools to improve your WordPress website.
Causes of Site Speed Problems
It’s important to understand common causes of site speed problems so you can be quick to find a fix. Let’s take a look at some of these issues.
One of the sneakiest culprits slowing down your site is any media on your pages. Basically, any pictures or video.
In the last eight years, the overall size of an average website has grown over 300%. This has resulted in sites that look nice, but users never get to see them since they take too long to load. The average user gives a site three seconds to load before hitting the back button and going somewhere else. Any media on your site needs to be optimized so Google can crawl it, and it also needs to be optimized to stop slow loading times.
How do you do this? Well, shrinking the image is always an option. But, this goes back to the user experience of your site. Are small, grainy images what people want to see?
The good news is that you can actually use tools – like Jetpack Security Daily – that help you to compress your image and video file sizes. Jetpack (a premium plugin that’s included for free with your Pressable hosting subscription) allows you to serve your images and videos through Automattic’s high-speed content delivery network, as well as reduce load times by intelligently loading images as they enter the viewport.
This one is a little more advanced. Not a lot of people think about their site structure, but it’s actually easy to change. So, the concept of it affecting your site speed is advanced, but it’s an easy fix.
What does your menu look like? If you’re working with a good web developer they should be keeping it very simple. If you have pages nested in pages that are nested in other pages, like some sort of digital Russian nesting doll, it’s going to slow down the navigation of your site.
Best practice when it comes to code to use as little of each language as possible to create a speedy experience. The benefit of using a tool like WordPress is that most of the architecture is taken care of for you. The downside is that you can all-to-easily build something that is too big, cumbersome, and distracting for your user.
This is another reason why WordPress comes in handy. A lot of their features and plugins are powered by shortcodes. Shortcodes are little snippets of code that are way shorter than a traditional “coding block.”
Putting more space between lines of code enables it to be read more easily and makes for a much faster experience.
WordPress offers a lot of plug-ins to add features to your website. Plug-ins are like chocolate cake – they’re great as long as you use them in moderation.
Every plug-in you use is making what’s known as a “file request” on your website. Too many file requests and your site slows down. It’s important to evaluate which plug-ins you need and which ones you really don’t.
It also helps to audit your plug-ins every so often. If you have someone running your WordPress site they can do these audits for you. Go through your dashboard and delete/uninstall any plug-ins you’re not currently using. If they’re still installed, but not helping your page, they’re only going to hurt it. If you’re not really sure what you’re doing though, let a professional handle it. You don’t want to delete something important for the backbone of your site.
Are You Using a CDN?
Content Delivery Networks have been around for a while, but it has only been in the last five to 10 years that access and cost has allowed them to become available to the majority of websites. Today, your web host should include a CDN service out of the box, like Pressable does.
When your site is connected to a CDN, two things happen: 1) Your images are delivered from a number of servers across the globe, reducing strain on your main server, and 2) users get images, video, and content delivered from a location that is closer to them. This allows your server to focus on processor-intensive tasks like database requests.
Inherently in any CDN scenario, caching has to be involved. This allows an image to be kept on the various CDN servers for longer periods of time. There are a number of configurations for caching but your hosting provider should take care of most of them for you.
Maybe It’s Your Hosting Provider/Server
A huge factor when it comes to WordPress website speed and reliability is your server or hosting provider. And, it’s here that you often get what you pay for.
There are a few big-name cloud-based hosting companies that provide low-cost web hosting. As you may expect, service providers that offer rock-bottom prices on their hosting are likely uninterested in maintaining optimal performance for your website.
In the early stages, you may find that everything works as intended. In fact, the performance may be on par with premier web hosting and cause you to question why you would ever upgrade.
As time goes by and your site grows, the increased traffic that you experience could result in a handful of negative effects that keep you from fully capitalizing upon it.
Since cheap web hosting devotes minimal resources to your website, there’s a good chance that it may not be able to accommodate the increased traffic. This will cause your site to experience slower loading times, which could easily lead to your audience navigating away from your content. For those who have online stores or rely on their website to capture actionable leads, this could also easily result in lost revenue.
An entirely separate scenario could involve your provider intentionally throttling your WordPress or WooCommerce website if it runs on a shared server. This makes complete sense from a business standpoint, as your site would be costing them far more money than they are making from your business.
Similarly, it should come as no surprise that cheap hosts allocate subpar servers for their lower-priced plans.
For instance, a company that utilizes relatively cheap web hosting shouldn’t expect to have access to servers with the most contemporary professional software. Additionally, the servers may not be well-maintained, which can lead to performance issues. The problems that you encounter become amplified if you’re making use of a shared server, as it will likely be unable to accommodate all of its other users.
So, while it can be intimidating for many businesses to set aside the money for more expensive web hosting options, you will get far more out of your investment with a premium managed WordPress host. In addition to avoiding the pitfalls of cheap hosting, premium WordPress hosting also comes with a large number of benefits that you can take advantage of – such as an included CDN, 24/7 WordPress hosting support, website malware monitoring, and more. In many scenarios, these will also significantly boost your company’s productivity.
Is Your Current WordPress Host Not Delivering on Performance?
With the above information about website performance in mind, you’ll be able to troubleshoot your website and make an educated decision about hosting that’s right for your company’s future. Under the right circumstances, you may even find that your company grows faster than you thought was possible.
Want to learn more about how we can help? Feel free to get in touch with us today to see what we can do.
Zach has 12+ years of experience with WordPress, from creating and maintaining client sites, to providing support and developing documentation. A knack for problem-solving and providing solutions led Zach to pursue a job with Automattic providing customer support in 2015 working with WooCommerce support, and now Zach has recently joined our team here at Pressable. Outside of work, Zach enjoys spending time with his family, playing and watching sports, and working on projects around the house.