It has long been common knowledge that site speed is a crucial factor for SEO. Google itself confirmed that its algorithms consider site speed when ranking sites and pages. While perhaps not as important as backlinks and local citations, it’s nevertheless a ranking factor you can’t afford to ignore.
Not only that, but site speed optimization is especially significant for ecommerce websites. That is because, with so many product pages, it’s easier for your site to slow down. Slow-loading product pages can also lead to an increased bounce rate and fewer sales.
Here are six ways to speed up your ecommerce site.
1. Check Your Website Speed With Online Tools
The first step is checking your website speed using online tools. There are many awesome tools out there, but I’m going to focus on the best ones here. Bookmark these tools and use them to test your site speed frequently.
These tools will run site speed tests, using different servers, to determine whether your site speed is lacking. If so, they will tell you ways in which you can improve it. Some tools will further break down your site speed for desktop vs. mobile.
Bear in mind that site speed can vary depending on where the test server is. If you are using a tool like Pingdom, select a server in a country or region where most of your readers are. Depending on the tool, you may be able to speed-test individual pages as well.
Google PageSpeed Insights is particularly useful, because it will give you actionable advice on how to speed up your site. You might not understand all the technical jargon displayed in the report, but scroll down a bit to the “Opportunities” section, and you will see actionable tips, alongside the real-time impact you can expect from implementing them.
2. Change Your Hosting Provider
Not everyone knows about this, but your hosting provider can have a major impact on your site speed. Factors such as whether the hosting provider uses SSD vs. HDD storage and how much SSD storage is allocated to each site can come into play. Whether they offer unlimited bandwidth and the number of websites hosted on a shared server also play a role in determining load times.
In addition, some hosting providers use technologies such as built-in caching or servers spread around the world to speed up your site. Providers with better uptime will also prevent your site from going down.
Hosting providers such as SiteGround, Bluehost, and Hostinger are known for being quick, but there are other good options. If you already tested your site using the tools mentioned above, and you are at a loss as to how to further speed up your website, changing to a new host might do the trick.
You may also want to switch from a shared hosting plan to a dedicated server or a virtual private server. Shared hosting plans are common for smaller sites, as they are the most affordable. However, with many sites hosted on a single server, site speed can be negatively affected, depending on how many resources those other sites are using.
The larger your site is and the more your budget grows, the faster you should think about switching to a dedicated server, so you don’t have to share resources with other sites.
3. Use a CDN
We don’t often think about how the internet works. We expect pages to load instantly, and it regularly feels like they do — but that is not the case. Content and data still need to travel across the world. While it might usually take less than a second, the reality is that when a user is further away from the origin server, it will take longer to load the data they are requesting.
If the origin server is on one side of the world, users from the other side will experience slower load times. When you operate an international ecommerce site that serves users from many continents and countries, using a CDN can speed up your site’s loading time, regardless of where your customers are.
A CDN is a network of servers that serve cached content to users. These servers are distributed all around the globe. They take the content from your main site and replicate it, so that they can quickly serve that data to users near them. A CDN will route requests to the server closest to the user.
Furthermore, CDNs speed up websites through techniques such as file compressing.
Not only does a CDN speed up your website significantly, but it comes with many other benefits. It increases security by reducing your site’s vulnerability to DDoS attacks. In addition, it decreases your bandwidth usage.
A CDN is not a replacement for web hosting, but rather an add-on that you use in addition to your hosting. One popular CDN is Cloudflare, and you can configure it with your hosting provider and by installing the Cloudflare WordPress plugin.
4. Cache Your Resources
I mentioned caching in the previous section when talking about CDNs, but caching is a unique technique that can speed up your site, even without a CDN. When someone visits your site, they are requesting information; it takes time for your server to process that request and send that data to the user.
Caching involves storing static files, such as images and HTML code, so they can be quickly displayed to users. With browser caching, that information is stored in the browser. With server caching, such as CDN caching, that data is stored in the server, but it still takes a lot faster than processing each request from scratch.
Of course, when you update a page, it will take longer to load, as the new data will not be cached yet.
Tools like WP Rocket use browser and server caching, as well as tactics such as cache preloading, to immediately display data to users. If it takes more than three seconds for your site to load, the majority of visitors will leave, according to WP Rocket.
5. Limit Page Sizes
When pages contain more data, the amount of time it takes them to load will increase. By limiting the size of your pages, you can decrease loading times and improve speed. Fortunately, you don’t have to compromise on quality or content to do this.
First, remove unused, broken, baggy, or excessive code. A good coder can get things done with as little code as possible, to put less strain on your site’s loading times. If you are using WooCommerce or Shopify, uninstall plugins you are not using. Look for well-developed plugins, as lower-quality plugins may have excess code as well.
Compress your images. Using a plugin like WP Smush, you can reduce the file size of each picture you upload to your site, without compromising on quality. You may also use an online tool like TinyPNG. You’ll be surprised by how much you can reduce the size of each image. When you have a lot of product descriptions on a page, all that extra baggage adds up to slow down your page.
As you may expect, videos slow down a page a lot more than images. If you must upload a product video, try to make it short and sweet. The longer the video is, the longer it may take to load. Consider uploading the video to YouTube or Vimeo and then embedding it into your page instead of uploading it to your site directly, as that will save a lot of space.
Finally, if your page generates a high number of HTTP requests every time a user loads it, it won’t load as quickly as it could. Here are some ways you can reduce HTTP requests:
- Remove unnecessary images or other assets, like videos or GIFs, that do not add value.
- Compress images
- Remove integrations, such as Twitter boxes
- Combine CSS files
- Minify CSS files
Using a tool like Website Grader, you can discover just how many requests your webpage is making when loading.
6. Always Monitor Your Website Speed
Website speed can change over time. Even if you optimize it now, it may slow down again in the future. New issues that you didn’t know about may arise. Therefore, it is crucial to constantly monitor your website speed.
Use the tools mentioned in the first section to monitor your website speed. You may run a test every week, every two weeks, or every month. The important thing is to do it consistently, so you are aware of new issues that arise. You should also make a list of your top pages and check them. Furthermore, speed-test the pages that experience the highest bounce rates; they may be loading slowly.
While most ecommerce site owners know that page speed is critical, not many know how to speed up a slow website. By now, however, you should know exactly how to test page speed and diagnose issues. Using the tips in this article, you will be able to decrease load times, thereby improving the user experience and increasing conversions and sales.