How fast do your website’s pages load?
If you have no idea if your site loads more like a plodding mule than a speeding locomotive, it’s worth taking a moment to find out. For more on this, see How to test your site
Don’t forget your pages may load much faster for you than they do for people who’ve never visited your site before. This is because some of your site’s content may be stored in your browser cache.
Caching plays a big part cutting page-load times, as we’ll see in a moment. But your browser’s cache only speeds things up for you or someone viewing your site on your device.
How to check what your site looks like without clearing your cache
You’ll often hear people say you need to clear your cache to see the most up-to-date version of your site. For example, if you’ve just updated your tariff or your calendar, you may wonder why the changes you’ve just made ‘haven’t worked’.
Emptying your cache forces your browser to fetch the page content anew. So you see your site as other people see it.
But you don’t need to clear your cache. You can open a private browsing window instead.
In Firefox you’ll find this in File > New Private Window.
In Chrome, it’s File > New Incognito Window.
In Internet Explorer, click on Settings > Safety > InPrivate Browsing.
Under two seconds? Well done!
If all of your pages load comfortably in under two seconds, congratulations! If not, you might want to explore these ways to speed things up.
1. Route your site through Cloudflare
This takes minutes to set up and costs you nothing. Yet the improvements in page-load speed are well worth having.
Not only that, routing your website through Cloudflare’s intelligent global network brings significant benefits in security.
The default setting blocks threats and limits abusive bots and crawlers from wasting your bandwidth and server resources.
For more info, visit the Cloudflare website
2. Change your hosting provider
Can you remember why you chose the hosting provider you’re using? Price? Convenience? Rating on a review site?
With so many hosting companies competing for your cash, it’s easy to simply plump for one and stay with them.
I know because that’s exactly what I did. In the end it wasn’t a desire for improved performance that spurred me to switch, but appalling customer service. Had I known then what I know now, I’d have changed years ago.
GiteWise sites now use cloud web hosting by TSOHost. TSOHost’s website describes their service as “the ultimate shared hosting platform, renowned for delivering superb page speeds and consistent reliability…”
I’ve certainly seen the difference. On top of that, TSOHost’s customer support is outstanding.
Moving your website to a different host may seem like a hassle. But it doesn’t have to be – in fact most hosting companies including TSOHost will handle the migration for you.
Visit the TSOHost website
3. Get your site properly optimised
If you test your site with any of the tools I listed here you’ll see how well your pages score on some 30 or more page-speed factors.
These tools can be a huge help in identifying what’s slowing your site down and what you can do to improve on your score.
How you go about implementing these optimisation measures depends largely on the software platform your site is built on.
Plug in to instant optimisation in WordPress
If your site is on WordPress, your choice of plugins and how you set these is the key to page speed optimisation. In spring 2015, I spent several weeks trialling various permutations and testing one caching plugin against another before arriving at my preferred setup.
My no-cost option used the free WP Super Cache plugin along with two others that covered things WP Super Cache didn’t: WP Performance Score Booster and Autoptimize.
Although my tests were extensive, it’s important to understand what works for my sites may not work for yours. I soon learned that optimisation is like making a cake or tuning an engine. Change just one thing and you change everything.
That said, I recommend WP Super Cache over and above any of the other free caching plugins. The default setting should serve your site well enough, but you can always tweak this.
Add WP Performance Score Booster for GZIP compression, remove query strings from static resources, add vary: accept-encoding header and leverage browser caching. And Automoptize for CSS HTML and JS minification.
Do this before you route your site through Cloudflare, or pause Cloudflare if you’ve already activated it.
Test each change you make as you go with GTMetrix and Pingdom.
Once you’ve arrived at something close to your optimal setting, come back 24 hours later and test your site again.
Reactivate Cloudflare, and test again in another 24 hours.
Depending on how your site is designed, it may be worth testing more than the home page during this initial phase. Once you’re happy with your basic setup, go through each page in turn and address any issues that come up.
A small price to pay for even faster-loading pages
If you want to take your site optimisation a step further, and you’re willing to pay a small premium, you could check out the plugin I install on GiteWise sites – WP Rocket.
At first I was doubtful WP Rocket could improve on my WP Super Cache + WP Performance Score Booster + Autoptimize configuration. But I was wrong. I’ve since switched all my sites to WP Rocket and can often achieve a page-speed load-time of 800ms or less on Pingdom.
WP Rocket is easy to set up, is actively and professionally supported by live chat and email and has an excellent knowledge base that covers just about any optimization issues and misconception you can think of.
Visit the WP Rocket website