Got a slow WordPress site? Then you’ve got unhappy visitors and lower Google ranking. Here’s how to fix that…
The Importance of Website Speed
In 1997, web usability guru Jakob Neilsen wrote:
“Currently, the minimum goal for response times is… no more than ten seconds“
In 2007 Akamai reported that:
“30% to 50% of transactions above the 4-second threshold bail out“
In 2010, Radware reported :
“Demand for loading speed has increased over time … in 2010 a page that took six seconds to load witnessed a -40 percent conversion hit. In 2014? That same loading time suffered -50 percent conversion hit.“
In 2010, Google filed a patent* titled “Using resource load times in ranking search results“
In 2011, Google considered a web page slow if its load time was over 1.5 seconds*
Visitors are demanding faster, more responsive websites. If you don’t provide them, they’re going elsewhere. Scary stuff.
What’s Your Page Speed?
Maybe you’re now wondering how fast your website is? Here’s a quick way to find out:
Visit Pingdom and enter the URL for your site. Note the Load time. Repeat the test three more times and note down the numbers.
Here’s how you might interpret the figures
- If the average is less than 1.5 seconds, you’re looking good
- If the average is less than 2 seconds, you’re doing fine
- If the average is between 2 and 5 seconds, there’s room for improvement
- If the first page loads significantly slower than all the rest, it may be a cache kicking in. You have a small problem.
- If the tests return wildly different speeds, there’s a problem
- If the average is greater than 5 seconds, there’s a problem
- If the average is greater than eight seconds, there’s a serious problem
How Well do Established Sites Perform?
To help you see how others are doing, here are some comparison tests* on well known UK companies. From the fastest to slowest, they are:
next.co.uk – 0.396, 0.417, 0.586, 0.496 – Ave 0.474 : Download Size 616 kB
tesco.com – 0.732, 0.941, 0.731, 0.737 – Ave 0.785 : Download Size 228 kB
amazon.co.uk – 1.02, 1.28, 1.11, 1.66 – Ave 1.2675 : Download Size 3.7 MB
asos.com – 1.54, 1.46, 2.54, 1.56 – Ave 1.775 : Download Size 913 kB
dunelm-mill.com – 2.07, 2.22, 2.02, 1.97 – Ave 2.07 : Download Size 1.2MB
*Performed on 30 Oct 2014. All testing done at the same time of day.
How Does Site Speed Affect Google Ranking?
In 2010, Matt Cutts of Google reported that site speed is one of 200 signals that Google use in determining search rankings.
He continued by saying
“Also take a step back for a minute and consider the intent of this change: a faster web is great for everyone, but especially for users. Lots of websites have demonstrated that speeding up the user experience results in more usage. So speeding up your website isn’t just something that can affect your search rankings–it’s a fantastic idea for your users.”
Summary : Users love fast sites and Google loves to please users.
If you need that underlined, then in 2011, Google said “At Google, we’re striving to make the whole web fast.”
Real Examples of Site Speed Affecting Google Ranking
Moz did a series of tests to test the theory: Does faster site speed mean better Google ranking? The answer? “Our data shows there is a correlation between lower time-to-first-byte (TTFB) metrics and higher search engine rankings.”
Ben Hunt attributes a jump of 11.6% in traffic to improving the speed of his site.
Achieving High Speed at Low Cost
There are hundreds of thousands of articles that show how you can improve the speed of your website. Many of them have great advice. There are white-papers and articles. Even eBooks!
But unless you’re intending on a career in website administration, you probably just want a quick and simple answer. So here it is:
Change your website host.
It’s a simple solution that will work for most. If you feel you already have a great website host, then maybe you’ll benefit from one of the whitepapers? But maybe checkout some more of this article before deciding.
Why Does This Solution Work?
Most solutions will advise things like:
- Use caching
- Reduce the size of your graphic images
- Remove plugins from your WordPress installation
- Try zipping files
These solutions are useful but, without the right website host, it’s like putting lipstick on a pig.
The Main Cause of Slow Site Speed
A lot of website hosts have multiple websites on a single server. It’s not unusual to be sharing with 9 other sites. In some circumstances, you could end up sharing with 300 or 400 other sites!
To find out if you’re sharing a server, try My IP Neighbours It’s a free service that will show which other sites are on the same IP address as you.
Here’s what comes back when I searched on creatabetterblog.com:
Website hosts will tell you this isn’t a problem. They’re accustomed to handling this. But where it becomes a problem is when a number of those other sites becomes popular. Or when one or more of those sites start eating resources on the server. The more they take, the less for you, the slower your site.
The outcome is that the speed of your site is variable and dependent on sites sharing your server. Something that you have no control over. As an example, one website that I looked after had a speed rating between 1.5 and 29 seconds per page! Despite weeks of effort, I was never able to overcome this. As you’ll have gathered, the cause was my IP neighbourhood.
Give yourself a reliable, consistent base for your website. Only when you’ve done that, should you consider other options for improving the speed of your site.
If you want a recommendation, try WP Engine. I host a couple of my websites with them and have been very impressed. Here’s what happened when I changed to WP Engine for one of my sites:
The chart shows average website response time. Lower is better. The average was 2.3 seconds before I changed host. It’s now less than half a second.
WP Engine have an entry level offering that costs only $29 (£18.13 at time of writing) per month. You can reduce that though to only $4 (£2.50) for the first 3 months by using this coupon code on the checkout page : ARTOFBLOG