Today we’re going to talk about ways to increase site speed…
…and how a fast site can drastically improve blog traffic.
“But Ryan… A couple weeks ago you told us that we shouldn’t lust for blog traffic?!”
I know… I’m a hypocrite… What can I say… Increasing blog traffic shouldn’t be your only concern, this is especially true for small business, but growing your reader base is still crucial to the success of your online presence.
Let’s talk about why site speed is so important
The first reason is Bounce Rate (Ana Hoffman). Bounce rate is essentially the length of time that visitors spend on your page and the number of pages each visitor views. The thought process is simple, if you have a high bounce rate your blog is NOT delivering enough value.
The second reason is Return Visitors (Kristi Hines). It’s sexy to talk about new visitors… But every visitor can’t be a new visitor (insurance agents think renewals). Growth is going to be very tough if you’re always chasing new visitors. You need return visitors… That’s you’re community, you’re fans, you’re tribe, you’re friends… They’re important.
How does bounce rate and return visitors affect site speed
Let’s start with a little story about the importance of site speed:
Let’s say you’re looking at Twitter…
…and one of your connections re-tweets a post with an intriguing title, like say, “Why you will never be successful blogging.” So you decide to click on the link and see what it’s all about.
Maybe you’ve seen the author’s name before, maybe you haven’t, either way this is your first visit to this author’s website and you’re hoping, as you do every time you visit a new website, the post will be awesome and you’ll have found a great new resource…
You’re all jacked up for the potential of this article you’ve never read before… Except… one second… Except… two seconds… Except… three seconds… The little picture thing next to Internet window tab is just spinning…
Screw it… too long… Back Button!
And you never see the article. It could have been the most powerful, thought-provoking, world changing piece of writing you would have ever read… probably not… but it’s possible… except it took too long for the page to load and you have Internet surf so you hit the back button and moved on.
That’s bounce rate… You just bounced off that site.
Worst yet, now that you know this particular website takes time to load are you ever going to click on another link to that site?
You’re going to think twice and now you’re never be a return visitor.
So how do we increase site speed?
1) Get a better website host
For the first three years that this blog existed it was run on Dreamhost web hosting. When the site was very small Dreamhost was fine. But in the last year traffic has grown significantly and Dreamhost was no longer able to keep up.
I found myself downloading every plugin, trying every trick I could find on the web to get my site to load faster…
Finally, I did some research, read some reviews and made a web hosting switch to Bluehost.
Not only was my website immediately faster… I mean immediately after making the switch I went from a 7 second load time to under 3 seconds…
That’s 4 seconds off my load time!
I also saved about $100 a year switching from Dreamhost to Bluehost… I’m not saying you’ll see that much savings but I did and it made the switch to increase site speed even sweeter!
Another product I have first hand knowledge of and would definitely recommend is WP Engine. WP Engine is a hosting platform specifically designed for WordPress blogs.
Since my switch to Bluehost web hosting I’ve seen ~ a 1,500 average hit increase in web traffic. I don’t think that switching was the only reason… But those 4 seconds certainly play a role in that growth.
2) Use page cache plugin
Suggesting that you download and install W3 Total Cache is not a groundbreaking recommendation.
However… It is a must for almost everyone with a WordPress blog.
For those that don’t know (and no worries if you don’t):
“Page Cache” is a process where, in general terms, a clean simple version of your web site is delivered to web visitors making your site run faster.
Every web page, blog post, landing page you create on your site has a ton of code and script that makes it run. All that code and script takes time to load. Page Cache plugins like W3 Total Cache deliver the code and script in a simple, clean format that loads quickly.
I’ve tried just about every Page Cache plugin out there… W3 Total Cache, though not the easiest to use, is by far the best… Hands down.
3) Deliver media via content deliver network
This sounds super technical… Really it’s not.
Here’s the deal… Images take up a lot of space on your server and take a lot time to load and render on your website. This is especially true if you’re not using a tool like PicMonkey to resize pictures to a functional size.
Let me explain that, when you upload a picture and say it’s 1000px high by 1000px wide, which is way too big for your blog post, you use the resize tool in WordPress to make it smaller maybe 250px X 250px. Every time that page loads WordPress is making that conversion… HUGE SLOW DOWN.
What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?
A Content Delivery Network is a 3rd party which houses your media files off your site and deliveries the file when called upon.
Content Delivery Networks drastically reduce server load and subsequently increase site speed!
I use Amazon Cloudfront as a CDN. There is a small cost but it’s pennies. My bill last month was like 54 cents…
Here’s the awesome part. It’s so easy to set up:
- Sign up for an account using the link above (not affiliate link)
- Take the account information you get after signing up and enter it into W3 Total Cache
Another reason I love W3 Total Cache is the plugin handles my CDN delivery.
4) Use a premium WordPress theme
Again you’ve probably read many other blogs that say using a premium WordPress theme is crucial to increase site speed.
If you haven’t…
…using a premium WordPress theme, like Genesis from Studiopress, is essential to running a quality WordPress blog and site speed is a big part of that quality.
I use Genesis on this site, specifically the eleven40 Theme.
I also use Genesis on The Murray Group website, specifically the Streamline Theme.
I also use Genesis on The GROW Program website, where we rock the Education Theme (new favorite).
I manage three websites and use Genesis on all three… It’s not because I love giving Studiopress my money. It’s because their designs are:
- easy to use
- easy to customize
- and look great.
You know what blogs down and slows down a website… Tons of crap. You know all those plugins and design changes and high-resolution photos and all the other crap you put in your website.
Some of it is necessary… Some of it isn’t… But every time you add something your site gets a little slower.
What I love about Genesis and why I think a premium theme like Genesis is so crucial to increase site speed is that so much of the crap you’d have to add to a free theme is ALREADY THERE.
Plugins don’t always play nice with WordPress but when they’re built into a design, integrated properly, your site is faster.
A good alternative to Genesis if you like to shop and research is Thesis Theme for WordPress. A lot excellent blogs run of Thesis as well.
Here’s the deal. You need a fast website or people are going to leave immediately or never return.
That is just a fact of the Internet world.
No one wants to spend time on your slow-ass site.
So take some time… Spend a little money (I mean a little, none of this costs more than a $100 bucks)… Then implement changes to increase site speed today.
You’re thank yourself the next time you open up Google Analytics and the little line counting web traffic is pointing up!
Thank you and Good luck,
I am Ryan Hanley