Digital marketing

The 5 Factors That Affect Website Speed and Tools to Check

13 November, 2019

5 Factors That Affect Website Speed 001

If it’s annoying for you to wait for a website to load, think about how your visitors feel. The speed of a page plays a vital role in a website’s conversions and user experience. Unfortunately, too many website owners place a priority on bells and whistles and sophisticated website design instead of focusing on performance.

It doesn’t matter how nice your website looks; it’s speed matters more than ever. Research shows that nearly half of all internet users expect a site to load within 2 seconds or less, and many will leave a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

This may be a bigger deal than you think because it’s costing you money. Research also concludes that as much as a one-second delay in page load speed can translate into a 7% reduction in conversion rates.

Google has also announced that page speed is one of the signals that it’s using to rank pages. So, longer load times are also going to impact your standing in the search engines and your exposure to people who are looking for your business’s products and services.

Whether you’re a business owner, a blogger, or something in-between, you want people to see what you’ve posted online. This is less likely to happen if your website is loading at a snail’s pace. Fortunately, there are several common factors that contribute to poor website performance and some free tools that you can use to test your website speed.

5 Factors that Affect Website Speed

When it comes to the page load time of your website, every second counts. Website speed is one of the major contributing factors to abandonment and high bounce rates, which is why you should be proactive in eliminating these common issues that can create a drag on your site.

1. Heavy CSS and JavaScript Use

The common culprits with sluggish websites are CSS and JavaScript files that add functionality and styling to your site’s front end. This is a particular issue when it occurs with above-the-fold content.

The best solution is to move the tracking code and scripting to a below-the-fold location. This will avoid slowing down your site with First Content Paint (FCP) or First Meaningful Paint (FMP) of Google PageSpeed Insights.

5 Factors That Affect Website Speed 1

PageSpeed Insights can analyze the website and give suggestions to make it faster.

For WordPress website, you can find and use the plugins such as Head and Footer Scripts Inserter and Scripts To Footer to do this. These plugins give you the ability to move your code or script to the footer section of your website without editing your theme file.

2. Bad Server/Hosting

Your choice of hosting company and the server that it uses to store your website can have a significant impact on page speed. If you make the wrong choice, both your visitors and your business are likely to suffer.

Always choose a host and a plan that matches the needs of your website. For example, websites with massive databases may not perform as well on shared hosting. Some of the performance factors to consider when you compare hosting include:

  • Server Response Time – Look for independent data on Time to First Byte (TTFB), which is the measure of how long it takes for the server to respond to a request.
  • Equipment – Solid State Drives (SSDs) are much faster than mechanical drives.
  • Accounts Per Server – If it’s shared hosting, an overcrowded server can reduce performance.
5 Factors That Affect Website Speed 2

The chart above shows the overall speed performance of a web host from 10 different locations.

You can learn more about the reputation and performance of various web hosts through platforms such as Trustpilot and Hostscore, where you can read real user reviews and learn about server consistency.

3. Poor Coding Standards

Not every website developer can write efficient code. Some produce websites with massive blocks of code that only perform minor functions. This results in poorly coded websites that also load slowly.

By removing unnecessary elements from your code such as extra spaces, line breaks, and other formatting data that are not required to do the job, you probably see a boost in your website speed.

To refine your code, there are many tools that are designed to fix this problem. Dirty Markup and Pretty Printer are some of the great tools you can use to clean up or beautify your website code.

If you are not comfortable working on the code, you can always work with an experienced developer who can improve your website. At the same time, make sure that any theme you use for your website is well-coded as well.

4. Too Many Widgets and Plugins

If your site is run on WordPress, it can be easily customized with widgets and plugins. Unfortunately, the same features can also be the cause of slow page load speed.

The more widgets and plugins you use on your site, the longer it takes to load them. First, make sure you are only using the ones that you truly need. Second, only use items created by reputable sources that have been recently updated.

5. Hotlinking

Hotlinking means that you are showing images on your website that are hosted on a different server. For example, someone might use the URL of one of your images to display that photo on their site.

If this is happening, it is using your server resources for the benefit of someone else’s site. The site which links to your images could send a couple of hundred to a couple of hundred thousand queries to your server. This can obviously slow down your server and could even trigger suspension of your hosting account.
You can prevent hotlinking by adding some code to your .htaccess file. Here’s an example of code:
/* Prevent image hotlinking in WordPress */

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www.)?yourwebsite.com [NC]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www.)?google.com [NC]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www.)?twitter.com [NC]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www.)?facebook.com [NC]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www.)?put-other-websites-here.com [NC]

RewriteRule .(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [F]

The code above prevents Google, Twitter, Facebook and other websites you listed from accessing your site’s images.

Tools to Check Website Speed

When you’re trying to gauge improvements in your website performance or optimize for SEO, it helps to have a benchmark. Fortunately, there are several free tools that you can use to test the speed of your website, evaluate the current issues, and make improvements.

WebPageTest

WebPageTest was created by a Google Chrome engineer named Patrick Meenan. It is a free, open-source tool it allows you to run website tests from around the world using a variety of browsers.

5 Factors That Affect Website Speed 3

The result above shows the overall performance of a website based on several metrics.

This is one of the more trusted and reliable speed testing tools online. Some of its strengths include:

  • Ability to create custom settings for each run of a website speed test;
  • Can be configured to test on over 25 different browsers (IE, Chrome, Firefox), so that you can see if your website is faster on one browser than another;
  • Users can choose from more than 40 different locations for the test;
  • Can perform multiple runs of a test to gauge consistency in results.

Your result will be a grade from A to F based on several performance tests such as compression, TTFB,  effective use of a CDN, and caching. Your report is divided into multiple sections, including a summary, performance review, and screenshots.

One of the unique things about this test is that it runs both a first view and a repeat view. This can help you diagnose whether your issue is with a DNS lookup delay or something else. There are also advanced features such as ignoring SSL certificates, disabling JavaScript, and video capture.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Google PageSpeed Insights is Google’s own page speed testing tool. It measures the performance of your web page for both desktop and mobile devices.

Once the test is run, you’ll receive a score from 0 to 100 points. Higher scores are better, and a score of 85 or over is an indicator that your page performs well, and a score below 50 is considered “slow.”. This tool uses a system called “Lighthouse”  that separates the audit of your website into three sections:

  • Opportunities – suggestions for improving the performance metrics on the page.
  • Diagnostics –  this gives information about how a page adheres to various best practices.
  • Passed Audits – this is a list of the audits that were performed on the page.

Conclusions

If you find that your website is taking too long to load, don’t panic. Use the tools that we listed (or some alternatives here) to test your website speed and address the factors we outlined that can affect the speed of your site.

When you streamline your site, you’ll begin to see significant improvements in your website speed.

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