Even though site loading time is now a crucial part of ranking well in Google, it’s surprising how few sites are optimized to load as fast as they could.
Over time that will mean lower rankings and less visits – especially if your competitors have optimized their sites. The good news is you can make a big improvement with just a few simple tweaks.
Go on a Widget Diet
A major cause of slow loading sites is too many widgets. Those multiple Tweet, Like, Blogger and news feeds might look pretty but because widgets pull in data from external sites they’re almost always the slowest loading elements on a page.
It’s time to get ruthless and get rid of any widget that you don’t really need – especially if it regularly takes three seconds or more to load.
Take an honest look at what’s on your page – if you notice that no one ever uses that Digg This button you’re loading on every page, drop it.
Check your stats – you’ll probably find most of your social media traffic comes from Facebook, Twitter and maybe Google Plus. So consider dropping everything else.
Remember too that many dynamic sharing widgets can be replaced with static icons and image links, meaning they’ll load in an instant and still give you the advantages of a social media link.
Slim down Images
Most sites these days are fairly image intensive and there’s no doubt that good use of imagery can really help bring your site to life and get your message across. But make sure you’re not overdoing it. Try to reduce the number of images you use and compress the ones you do to make them as small as possible.
Consider Using Image Sprites
Rather than separate images, think of a sprite as one large image that combines several smaller ones. By using CSS markup like background-image and background-position you can show the correct segment needed for each area of the page. Loading one single image – even if it’s a fairly large one – is still faster than loading a large number of smaller ones.
Use External CSS & JS Files
External files are cached by the browser and so load almost instantly on repeat visits or when moving to another page of the site that reuses the same file. It’s also a good idea to compress or minify external files.
Consider Using a Content Distribution Network
A CDN is a network of servers across the world that display copies of your site based on user location. For example, suppose your site is hosted by GoDaddy on their servers in Scotsdale, Arizona. A user in New York will normally be sending & receiving requests to and from Arizona while on your site.
But with a CDN in place, the data will be sent from a location much nearer to them, probably Washington or New York itself. The smaller journey for data results in a noticeably faster loading time for your users. That’s especially true if you’re using U.S. hosting for an international audience, where using a CDN is a must.
Good News for WordPress Owners
Most of these steps can be put into action in a less than hour and you should see a noticeable improvement in your site loading, bounce rate, page views very quickly, with a likely improvement in your search engine rankings not too long after.