How to Maximize Your Website Speed on a Budget: Twitter Chat
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As a small business owner, your website performance is crucial for your users’ experience, SEO rankings and even more importantly – for your conversion rates.
To help you maximize your website speed on a budget, we organized an #SMBGrowthChat on Twitter Spaces along with Arnout Hellemans (@hellemans), Online Strategy Consultant & SEO Expert, and Nat Miletic (@natmiletic), Web Dev, WordPress, SEO, Agency Growth. Here’s a summary of their discussion with some professional advice and expert tips on improving your website speed in a cost-effective way.
Why should you care for your website speed
Before digging deep into improving your website speed, let’s explore why it’s so important for your small business. A faster website means:
- Better user experience
Your website performance impacts your users’ experience – when your site loads faster, users are more likely to interact with it and spend more time on it. The happier they are with your website, the more visits you’re likely to have, because your brand reputation will also improve.
- Higher SEO rankings
Website speed is one of the metrics Google looks at from an SEO perspective. Arnout Hellemans, Online Strategy Consultant & SEO Expert, notes that “if a user can’t get to your site or it takes too long to load, they might not be able to consume the information on it, will go back to the search engine, and click on another result – that’s a signal you haven’t been able to answer a user’s query, which has a big influence on ranking”.
- More conversions
Website performance is also a very important factor for your conversion rates. Nat Miletic, Web Dev, WordPress, SEO, Agency Growth, points out that it’s “even more important when it comes to eCommerce because how long the checkout process takes, directly impacts sales, sign-ups, etc.”
How to track your website performance
Given the fact that your website speed is so important for your small business, you’re probably wondering how to figure out how your site is performing. Here are a few free tools you can use, recommended by our experts: GTMetrix, Google PageSpeed Insights, webpagetest.org, or SEO tools, such as ahrefs and SEMrush, which also test for speed.
“For simple tests, I like to use GTMetrix – it gives you a good overview, it’s free to use, they even have bookmarks, so you go to a page, you click it, and it’ll automatically generate a report,” suggests Arnout Hellemans.
If you’re using Google Chrome, “you can basically right click and Inspect element – you get a console and go to the Performance tab, do a Lighthouse test, which will test the whole page. Half a year ago, they introduced Performance Insights that will show you which elements on the site are influencing the core web vitals scores,” adds Arnout Hellemans.
In case you decide to use the Chrome development tools to run performance tests, beware that “it will show you localized performance tests. If you have a very fast machine and internet connection, by default, it will show you that you’ve got great performance, but if you test with some other options […], your performance picture is going to look a lot different,” warns Nat Miletic.
How to speed up your website cost-effectively
If the tests show that your website performance needs improvement, here are some professional tips from our experts on how to do that in a cost-effective way:
1. Choose a good hosting provider
If you’re still at the very beginning – in the process of starting a website, begin by picking a good hosting provider: “From my experience, I think one of the main things to worry about is the hosting and what is going on in the background. […] It all starts with good quality hosting to improve performance,” advises Nat Miletic.
2. Pick a fast and efficient theme (if you’re using WordPress)
While you’re building a website, “if you’re using WordPress, pick a fast and efficient theme, because it will make all the difference and go a long way in terms of website performance,” notes Nat Miletic. He points out that there are a lot of free themes that you can use, such as Astra, GeneratePress, and many others.
3. Apply caching mechanisms
“My personal preference for free or inexpensive tools – caching is a must, especially for WordPress sites […] It creates static pages on the server that are quicker to come up on a user’s browser,” explains Nat Miletic.
However, Arnout Hellemans warns that “when you refresh pages, make sure you purge the cache, because otherwise, people will still see the older version – if you remove a link, it will still be there”.
What is more, there are different types of caching, which can be quite complicated, especially for small business owners. That’s why Nat Miletic advises you to “pick a tool that’s easy to use – SiteGround Optimizer is very easy to use and has fairly simple options […] It’s now available to any site owner”.
4. Use a CDN
Usually, if you have website visitors from all over the world, but even if you don’t, you should consider using a CDN. It helps serve your website to your visitors from where they actually are geographically, but it also helps serve your content faster in general.
Nat Miletic reminds that “it goes back to the hosting – a lot of hosting providers have these things baked in already, so they have their own CDN network, they have their own plugins to help with performance”.
This is also true about SiteGround – our in-house built SiteGround CDN is free and makes websites load blazingly fast around the world. It now comes with Version 2.0 which increases the website loading speed by 20% on average, going up to 100% for visitors located in some specific parts of the world.
5. Compress images
There are large images that slow down websites, but there are also ways to compress them and make them more efficient: “You’ve got all kinds of image compression tools out there. Most of them are free. WebP format, in the majority of cases, is 20% better in size than .jpg,” suggests Arnout Hellemans. “There are also plugins for WordPress – SiteGround Optimizer can be used to convert images to WebP format,” adds Nat Miletic.
7. Optimize fonts
Another thing that can slow down your site is the fonts. These can be things like little emojis or social share buttons. “What you can do, instead of loading those social share icons, for example, is using the .svg version of that. If you need a Twitter button, or a Facebook button, use an .svg version of that – it’s going to be much smaller than the font,” advises Nat Miletic.
He adds that “a lot of people use Google Fonts which are typically hosted outside of your website, using the Google service. You’re making round trips to their servers in order to download fonts and it’s not very efficient. Sometimes, there are options to download those fonts locally on your site and then use them”.
With the free SiteGround Optimizer plugin for WordPress websites, you can do the above-mentioned tips with a few simple clicks. Our in-house built plugin provides you powerful features that are available to you even if you’re not that technically advanced.
Our experts all agree that website performance is an ongoing process – there’s always something to fix, so you need to make small improvements as you go and keep speeding up your website.