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What’s slowing down your website?

February 16, 2016 0 Comments RSS Feed

By now, you’ve probably heard statistics that show that website loading speeds affect conversion rates of website visitors into leads, and into eCommerce sales. Loading speeds can definitely have an impact on your bottom line, especially for mobile users, whose connection speeds are more likely limited. Speeds can also impact your ability to cost effectively drive traffic to your website. Paid advertising systems like Google AdWords use page loading speed to determine your Quality Scores, a metric used to help determine where your ads will be displayed, and at what cost. It will also alter your organic search engine rankings. Search engines like Google view loading speeds as one of the many metrics that determine if your site should be well ranked.

It stands to reason that everyone wants a fast-loading website. So, what’s slowing down your site? You may be surprised by the number of factors that impact your site speed. Depending on what type of website you have, and what technology and content your site has, the answers will differ. Below are some main items that we recommend looking at:

Business Decisions

A website is the sum of many elements. The more that needs to process and load when a visitor navigates to your website, the longer it’s going to take to load. Simplicity can help significantly. Whether you’re using too many extensions/plugins, too many banners and images, or other elements in excess, the net result will be the same – slower loading times.

It’s also a matter of investment. There are things that can be done to speed up a site that, depending on your potential for return on investment (ROI), may be cost prohibitive. Think of it like squeezing more horsepower out of a car. We’d all love to have the performance of a race car, but we’re not all open to having our own pit crew on our payrolls. It’s important to make decisions on what you’re willing to invest into speed optimization, and then decide how you want to focus those resources.

Keep in mind that as your website changes, and technology changes, it’s good to re-evaluate your loading speed optimization. Upon reviewing, you may find that it’s time for a tune up.

Most importantly, be aware that overall, websites are not automatically optimized for speed. In most cases, until your website has been designed and developed, and all of the working pieces are in place, it’s not possible to fully optimize for loading speeds by compressing and minifying various files. While you may choose to address speed optimization pre-launch, you’ll probably want to audit for speed post-launch too.

Hosting Factors

Your website is hosted on a server, whether shared, dedicated, or otherwise. Like all computers, operating speeds will vary based upon hardware, hosting software, and other factors. Make sure that your host is aware of your speed goals, and engage them to help meet them. Depending on your particular needs, your host may be able to deploy speedier hardware, like Solid State Hard Drives, software like NGINX, and better caching systems like Varnish and Memcached. Having a properly optimized and configured database can be a crucial factor for modern websites that utilize software like Magento or WordPress. They can also recommend add-ons, like a Content Delivery Network (CDN), which will load copies of website files on primed servers around the globe to help distribute the processing load, and let website visitors load some files from a server that’s closer to them, cutting down on data transmission times.

What’s most important is that you select a host with the right capabilities, that specializes in using these kinds of technologies to your benefit, and assisting you through speed optimization on the server side. The hosting specifications are only as good as the team tweaking settings and optimizing for your needs.

Web Development Factors

Your website is the sum of its parts. At the end of the day, a website is a series of files of various sizes that a website visitor needs to download in their web browser, in order to render your website on their screen. How many files and how big the files are will directly affect loading speeds. Depending on the nature of your website, you can take advantage of different technologies and techniques to compress and prime your website files to be transmitted more efficiently.

Full Page Caching can have a major impact, as can optimizing images and other rich media to be more web friendly. Other tasks, like minifying CSS files and JavaScript files may offer more minor improvements, and may make it harder to continue to customize your website. It’s best to weigh the pros and cons of any website changes, looking at not just their ROI, but their impact on the long term development and management of your website.

How to test?

There are great tools to test your page speed that will report on factors that have room for improvement, such as those from Google PageSpeed Insights, GTMetrix, Monitis, and Pingdom, but remember that some items that these tests report are slowing down are having minimal results, and others have bigger impacts. Be prepared to make the tough choices on where you expect to find a worthwhile ROI, and remember that some of these items are hosting related, and other are development related. When in doubt, call in experts, like Rand Marketing, and Nexcess to assist with their respective areas of expertise.


Author – Robert Rand of RandMarketing.com was educated at NYU Poly and has managed the development and marketing of hundreds of websites. Along with Rand’s award winning team, he helps clients take their businesses to the next level by employing best practices, while staying at the forefront of the website development and internet marketing industries. From technical issues to traditional marketing efforts, Robert takes pride in providing our clients with services that will make a difference in their bottom lines.

Posted in: Webmaster