Do you hate slow loading websites? Well, if you do, you’re not alone, your site speed might be more important than you think for your content marketing efforts online.
Slow loading websites are often clicked away from.
We’ve become impatient in our need for information from the internet and if one loads too slowly, it’s a normal reaction to just click back and try another page that might load faster. You know it, I know it – Google knows it too. If you weren’t aware – your site speed plays a role in where you’re ranked in search engine results.
So what’s site speed got to do with your content marketing?
Well, a large part of your content marketing efforts should be drawing potential customers to your website using your content. You can follow all the best advice, write really useful content that your customers are searching for, optimise it for search engines and promote it well – but a lot of your customers won’t bother to read it if they can’t load up your website quickly.
So in short – it can have a giant affect on how well your website draws in leads.
Because of this, I wanted to offer some tips on how you can check your site speed – and what you can do to improve it too.
These tips are intended for a non-developer, but if you have a great web developer – showing them some of your site speed details might even help them speed your site up even more!
How you can find your current site speed
Google loves sites that are useful for their searchers – and because of this they’ve made it really simple to find out your site speed, and even let you in on tips on how to increase it.
Simply go to their page speed insights here, enter in your domain and they’ll throw up your site speed score – for both mobile and desktop devices.
Now, unfortunately, a lot of the suggestions Google will throw at you here are only fixable by your developer. If you’re happy to spend the cash, we’d suggest getting a quote for improving the site speed from them – simply send them a link to your page speed insights and they should be able to get a handle on what work is needed.
If you have some time to do some DIY however, here are a few things you can do on your own to improve your site speed without the developer cost.
Images can take a up a large chunk of your site size and can slow down the time it takes to load while your customers are trying to open your website.
But images are great for enticing your customers to be more engaged and ultimately buy from you – so what’s the solution?
Well, honestly, optimising images is a big subject – there’s file types to consider, physical image size, resolution and more. But rather than spend hours on every image I upload, I like to stick to something really simple:
Just keep it under 100KB.
The only exception I would make to this rule is if I had a really giant top image on my home page that was seriously important and engaging; other than that everything should be under 100KB.
So how can you resize your images?
Obviously there’s things like Photoshop and programs and plugins you can employ; but I like to keep it very simple, and rather than optimising a huge batch of images at once, I also like to physically see the reduced image before uploading it, in case it comes out terribly. While I want smaller images on my website, I don’t want to upload anything that detracts from my high quality content.
My solution? Paint.
Just plain old Microsoft Paint is all you need to resize your images.
Simply go to your start bar and search for paint – as long as you have a Microsoft PC it should already be installed.
(I’m less familiar with Macs, but you should be able to perform a lot of these same tasks using the free app ‘Preview’ already pre-installed on your Mac)
Open up your image in paint by right clicking on the image and clicking ‘edit’. Paint should be your default image editing program, but if it opens in something else, you can simply open paint first and choose a file to open up within Paint.
You’ll notice lots of tools at the top, but for resizing, I want to draw your attention to the bottom of the screen. Here it tells you clearly the physical size of the image in pixels (1280 x 750px) and the memory it’s taking up on your computer (195.4KB).
We want to aim to reduce the memory size to below 100KB if possible, but without losing the effectiveness of the image.
For blog posts, I normally use a physical size of around 850 by 350 pixels; so resizing the physical image is a good place to start.
In the top bar you’ll notice a ‘resize’ button. Click here, and click by ‘pixels’ rather than percentage. Because I want my image to end up 850 pixels wide, I will start here and put in 850 width. As long as you have the ‘maintain aspect ratio’ box ticked, your image height should reduce to the right size automatically. Click ‘okay’ and the image should shrink.
Don’t panic if it’s too small – your image hasn’t permanently changed until you save it. If you’re ever unsure, simply save your resized image by clicking ‘save as’ and giving it a different name to your original – then you can load up the resized image on your website and decide if the size is suitable without losing your original.
Before you save your image, you’ll notice the memory size stays the same while your physical image size changes; you can see the memory size is still 195.4KB below even though I’ve resized the image:
Now, if you’d like to crop your image (cut part of the image off) this can help reduce the memory size too. As my image is still 498 pixels in height, I can simply crop it by clicking on the bottom white square below the image and dragging it up until I’m happy with the size. Once it’s at 350 pixels, I simply click ‘file’ in the top right, then ‘save as’ then ‘JPEG Picture’. Unless your image is a logo or graphic of some kind, I would recommend saving as a JPEG to reduce the size of the file. Change the name of the new resized image and hit save.
Now my image is a better size for my website – both physically and for site speed!
The truth is, unless your image is for a header and needs to be full width, your images shouldn’t really need to be larger than about 850 pixels for the web, especially when being used to illustrate a blog post.
A combination of saving as a JPEG and reducing the physical size of your imagery is often all that’s needed to get your images below the 100KB threshold.
So you’ve optimised all of your images – but your website’s still being slow. Well don’t panic to your developer yet – you can always try:
Reviewing your plugins
Let’s face it, plugins are awesome. They can help you take your website from plain and boring to multi-functional, highly converting and super engaging in just a few minutes. However, installing too many plugins can be exactly what puts people off your website – because they can slow it down a lot.
A bit like imagery, you have to find a good balance between installing plugins that are helpful and not overloading your site with so many that no one can load it in the first place.
Take a look at your plugin list – if you have WordPress, it’s as simple as clicking on ‘Plugins’ then ‘Installed Plugins’ from your dashboard.
Is there anything you could afford to live without? Do you really need that Facebook page feed plugin? Maybe you have two plugins when one could do the whole job?
Figuring out if you actually need a plugin
When it comes to plugins like the Facebook feed, you can become very attached. But is it really doing anything for your visitors? I like to use the Sumome plugin for lots of things – one being the heatmap.
You can install the Sumome heatmap for free to figure out where your visitors are clicking on important pages, like your homepage. It basically records visitors as they use your page and watches where they scroll and click. Then you can review the results in the form of a ‘heatmap’ – an image of your page with coloured ‘hot’ areas visually showing you where people are clicking. This way, you can start to track which areas of your website are working well, and which are less important to your visitors.
I used to have a Facebook feed in my footer – but I’ve uninstalled it after noticing that hardly anyone ever gets to my footer, never mind clicking on my Facebook feed.
Another thing to note about Plugins is that often, they can have multiple features and you could get rid of a few without losing any functionality.
For example, Sumome has multiple uses including heatmaps but also email capture services – so by installing it, you can uninstall any other email capture plugins you might already have and reduce the number of plugins your visitor has to load when they visit your site – and therefore, reduce your site speed!
As another example, if you already have the Yoast plugin (which I highly recommend for helping to adjust your content for SEO) you might not realise, but you can use it to also write your own meta data and even choose if a page should be ‘nofollow’ for your search engines – it’s like 3 plugins in one!
Setting up browser caching
You may have read that title and suddenly got shivers – it doesn’t come across as something you could do on your own. But the truth is – you can!
Better still – it doesn’t have to cost a penny to do it.
My developer friend told me about this amazing service called ‘Cloudflare’. If you need to, there’s lots of paid upgrades, but for site speed and security, you can simply sign up for their free version to reap the rewards.
Setup should take about 5 minutes – you can find out how to do it all yourself here.
You might notice Google Page Speed Insights telling you to ‘leverage browser caching’. Browser caching is essentially when your website browser (Internet explorer, Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox etc) will ‘save’ files it has downloaded from a website. This is simply so that it doesn’t have to re-download entire websites every time you visit them, which usually will help to speed up your site.
In Cloudflare, you can go to your caching section and adjust the length of time a browser should store the same file for. At the moment, mine is set to 2 days; you can adjust yours to whatever you think is suitable. If you don’t update your site very often, you might even be able to set it to a number of weeks and increase your website speed a lot.
You can also speed up your website on Cloudflare by ‘Auto Minifying’ the source code on your website. I don’t know a great deal on Auto Minifying, but it takes a couple of clicks on Cloudflare to setup and promises to speed up your site a little – so I’m in! Go to the ‘Speed’ section of Cloudflare to find out more.
Extra Search Engine Ranking Tip – Get an SSL Certificate
Another factor of SEO other than site speed is security. An SSL certificate will often give your website the padlock symbol in the URL bar for your website – and it let’s your website visitors know they are secure when browsing your website.
It also gives you a little thumbs up from Google when they’re trying to decide where to rank your website.
To get a free SSL certificate, you can simply click the ‘Crypto’ button in your Cloudflare account and select the ‘Flexible’ option to add an SSL certificate to your website. This adds an SSL certificate to your cloudflare server, so you don’t need to do anything else.
I hope these tips helped you with your site speed and ensure your website visitors get the ultimate experience on your website. If you’d like to get more of these helpful articles to your inbox – simply sign up to our newsletter below and you’ll get weekly emails with helpful tips and our latest blog entries.
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