With being in business for over 20 years, we’ve certainly seen many new web development and web design businesses come and go – and one of the most frustrating things for some of their clients has been the issue of site speed. Many of today’s web developers seem to give site speed hardly a second thought; while they may create websites that some think are “beautiful,” there’s no point if no one visits, or search engines penalize them due to speed issues, or if people simply leave because the site is taking too long to load.
We’re going to take a long hard look at site speed issues, why its important, and what can be done. While some solutions do require a budget that is more than the costs of a basic shared hosting account, even with this type of hosting, there are things that can be done to improve website speed. Let’s get started! The full article is below the Table of Contents, but you can click directly to sections that interest you.
Table Of Contents
- Site Speed & Search Engine Rankings
- Visitors Won’t Wait For Slow Websites
- The High Cost Of Mobile Data
- The Outrageous Costs Of Data On Some Mobile Networks
- Summary – Why Site Speed Is Important
- JPG Images – Most Common Type But Not Done Right
- Progressive JPGs And Relation To Site Speed or Appearance Of Speed
- Images That Are Too Large
- More SEO Optimization For Images – It’s Not Just Website Speed
- Huge Issues (The Other Things) With Many Site Builder Tools
- Website Building Tools & Site Speed
- Website Builder Tools To Avoid
- Additonal Security Configurations & Tweaks
- Hosting Companies Support – Give Them A Break Because….
- In Summary – Shared Hosting Vs Dedicated
Why Site Speed Is Important
Sometimes, in discussions with other web developers, the topic of website speed comes up, and it’s remarkable how little attention this important subject is often given. This is especially true with new developers – even those just out of a certified educational program on web development – it seems website speed is given very little priority. But there are many strong reasons for giving website speed as much priority as any other part of the development of a website. Here’s why:
1A. Site Speed Has An Effect On Your Search Engine Rankings
Recently, we had a discussion with a local “social media” business owner. It was illuminating to say the least, in regard to their knowledge about the importance of on-site (and off-site) search engine optimization (SEO). Basically, they maintained that a good social media presence was more important than a well-optimized website for SEO. We know that many new agencies focus on “Social Media” as an “upsell” to web design and development services, and they also seem to have similar ideas. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Search engine optimization is extrememely important!
What was interesting was that later, the person we were having the conversation about admitted they knew nothing about SEO.
Being active on social media can have a great impact for many businesses – but when people are seriously searching for a product or service, where do they go? Do they go to Twitter to search for your cake decorating services? Do they go to Facebook and search? Of course not. If it were you, what would you do? Of course, you are going to open a browser, go to your favourite search engine such as Google or Bing (or maybe DuckDuckGo if you have privacy concerns), and begin your search. Perhaps once you have found a favourite business, you’ll follow them on social media, but generally, your first impulse will be to do a search on Google or other similar search engines.
Whie having a very fast website is not a guarantee of having great search engine results, it is true that having a very slow site is almost a guarantee of having not so good search engine results for your website. Google has told us many times that speed is important in how they rank sites for both desktop and mobile devices. On January 17, 2018, Google wrote:
People want to be able to find answers to their questions as fast as possible — studies show that people really care about the speed of a page. Although speed has been used in ranking for some time, that signal was focused on desktop searches. Today we’re announcing that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.
~ Source- Google Webmaster Blog
Now some will point to the fact that the speed update that rolled out in July 2018 was minor in nature and focussed only on mobile searches. Whoa – not so fast! It is true that it was a minor mobile search update, but please read Google’s statement above, very carefully: “People want to be able to find answers to their questions as fast as possible… Although speed has been used in ranking for some time…”
In other words, speed has almost always been a ranking factor, and its importance has been proven in SEO circles, time and time again. Google provides a service to its users, and it is competing against other search engines; site speed has always been a quality issue and Google does not want to provide search results that are “low-quality.” If Google users are not happy with its search results and the quality of the websites seen therein on the first few pages, those users will migrate to other search engines.
Finally, in regard to site speed, it is most certainly not the only search engine ranking factor – obviously, any website must have some content for the words and key phrases that they want to rank for. But it is a factor and one that you might want to be concerned about.
Summary Statement: Site Speed Can Have An Effect On Your Rankings!
1B. Visitors Won’t Wait For Slow Websites
Let’s say you have a wonderful website that looks gorgeous and you actually do have some great content! And let’s say, that for some reason, perhaps you’re in a specialized niche, despite the low site speed, you do get pretty good rankings in search engines in Google. People even click on your website from the search results (or your wonderful social media accounts that have beautiful images) – but they don’t stick around.
Do you know why? Let’s go back up to what Google writes on its blog, above:
“People want to be able to find answers to their questions as fast as possible — studies show that people really care about the speed of a page.”
It does not matter how amazing your social media presence is, how fantastic or enticing the graphics are – if your site is slow loading, visitors will just leave. They click the “back button” and look for another link to click on.
We know this because we know Google has done the studies; we don’t need to duplicate the same studies and research. Google spends millions of dollars on usability studies – if your web designer says that it’s okay that your site takes a while to load because it’s just so darned beautifully made, your web designer is leading you astray. Perhaps they want to upsell you on a social media campaign (that may be beautiful, don’t get me wrong!) – to cover up the website performance issues that they don’t know much about.
How fast should your website be? Some studies indicate that in this day of instant gratification because of the Internet, people might get bored after three seconds of waiting! Think that is an exaggeration? Well – think about your own browsing habits. How often do you wait for websites to load? If you are like most people, not very long.
High-Speed Internet Is Not Universal!
This is a really sore point with me. I live in a small town (Orangeville, Ontario) that, while it has most of the conveniences you will find in the “big city,” it is still generally a rural town. We are surrounded by farms, forests, lakes, rivers and then – we have very small communities – some are no bigger than hamlets – outside of town in every direction. At one point, my business was the only customer on what was then called, “the last mile” of fiber-optic cable. We had the fastest connection anyone in town could get – a full T-1 (which by today’s big-city standards, is actually very slow). But it was the best available, and all my neighbours, including businesses, made do with dialup internet.
It was not until around 2004 that some people in town started to have “high-speed” internet available to them. Today, in Orangeville, ON, just about everyone has high-speed and so you will find some local developers designing pages for local businesses – but they have completely forgotten the fact that there are literally thousands of people in rural areas surrounding Orangeville and parts beyond, that still do not have high-speed internet! Not only in their homes, but even mobile cellular connections are spotty, and in some instances, non-existent. We recently spoke with a client in Caledon, Ontario who has to drive to Orangeville in order to access a local coffee shop’s WiFi in order to do his important work that requires internet speed.
Why is this a sore spot?
Because so many developers and website designers don’t seem to care. In rural areas, this should be part of the initial consultations with clients – ensuring that there is an understanding that while enormous images with large file sizes might look great, there’s still a considerable number of individuals, families, and even rural businesses that do not have access to dependable high-speed internet access. Businesses are actually being failed when their development team give no consideration to the many who just cannot view the site’s web pages due to slow speeds and enormously high total sizes in MB of data to download a single webpage.
And that takes us to another issue – even when high-speed is available…
The Outrageous Costs Of Data On Some Mobile Networks
While many geographical locations including whole nations have low data rates (either due to government regulations or brisk competition with a robust mobile infrastructure), there are still many of us who pay outrageous fees for data. Canada is actually known for its very expensive data rates on mobile cellphone carrier networks – and while it would be easy to try to have some regulators step in to reduce fees, it’s also true that in our country, there are vast areas with low populations – and building and maintaining these networks is expensive. Someone has to pay. This is also true of other countries as well.
If your website is slow, and part of the reason is due to the size of the data that is required to download onto your mobile device, your website is responsible for adding unnecessary costs to your visitors!
But My Web Developer Says They Can Configure It So Users On Mobile See Something Different
Yes, we’ve heard this before, and it is true – and sometimes, there is a time and a place for showing something different to mobile users over desktop users. But this can create its own unintended consequences as well as site management issues – why not just optimize things properly, in the first place?
So, How Much Does My Site Cost On Mobile Networks?
Great question! Before we answer, we took over the development of a website that had been created by someone who was just getting started in the web development business (he had access to a horrible website building tool and wanted to make a go of “web development”). Slow? The front page took over 10 seconds to download on a very fast high-speed connection! It was true that when the site loaded, it was “beautiful,” – with many huge images. Downloading the home page though took up almost 50 MB of data!
So we pointed our client to this site – the same one we’ll point you to, to find out how much your homepage (just your homepage, now multiply it by however number of pages you have on your site) costs on a mobile network: https://whatdoesmysitecost.com/.
Our client, needless to say, was shocked to discover how much it cost his site’s visitors to download just one page.
Go try it yourself and type in your website’s URL and wait for the test to complete. You might be a bit shocked – even dismayed.
For comparison purposes, as of February 18th, 2019, the front page of https://ianscottgroup.com costs 2 cents on a prepaid plan in Canada and 4 cents on a postpaid mobile plan.
Summary – Why Site Speed Is Important
If the mobile data costs did not convince you, we looked at several other reasons why site speed is vital:
- It is a ranking factor for search engines
- No matter how beautiful your site is, most people just won’t wait for it if it seems to “take forever” to load, and today, “taking forever” can mean more than just a few seconds.
- Please think of the many who still don’t have access to dependable high-speed access. If they are potential customers, your excessive speed issues are driving them away.
Images – What Many Web Developers Don’t Seem To Know
Ah, images! We love great images ourselves – and while some of what we write about might give you the impression that we are anti-image on websites, what we are against is the misuse of images! And actually, there are a number of things we can show you that it is likely your web developer does not know. But the big dirty secret is that many web developers today are either lazy or totally ignorant about image optimization, compression, and correct sizing.
So many times we have seen this – especially with people who are actually AWESOME with graphics – for print – but when it comes to web, they have just not learned about web development standards, site speed issues, data download rates, and how browsers work in relation to images that they have chosen to display. Let’s look at some of these issues now.
JPG Images – Most Common Type But Not Done Right
There are actually a number of different image types – the most commonly used on the web are jpg (jpeg), gif, and png. All have their strengths and weaknesses, and we’re not going to discuss them all in great detail. In fact, in the not far distant future, we’ll likely see other file image types being used but presently, in an experimental stage and not compatible with many browsers.
JPG images are classified as “lossy” images in that when they are compressed, they lose quality. Basically, when you compress jpg images, some information is lost and in web development, we try to find that “sweet spot” for compression and file size reduction while not noticing much, the “information” that has been lost.
Many web developers never bother to compress jpg images and you end up with visitors downloading more data than they need to. Often, photographers will take photos at very high resolution and in an equivalent print dimension, such that the jpg image can be enormous. We are often sent these original images and to be honest, we love them! They are much easier to work with than receiving low quality and small images.
(A little more on jpg and lossy formats here – offsite, opens in new window).
But JPG’s have some big benefits, and that’s why it’s often the standard format that we receive images in. Unfortunately, many web developers do not make use of the benefits, and this causes websites to be slow, or to appear slow. We’ll explain further:
Progressive JPGs And Relation To Site Speed or Appearance Of Speed
Have you ever gone to a website that takes forever to load, and then suddenly it appears all at once after the image at the top loads?
What’s happened here is that likely, your web designer took the jpg images you sent them (or the stock images they found) and did not do much else with them. Like, “Save For Web.” The best photo and graphics applications have the ability to not only compress jpg images to a smaller file size (yes, losing some quality or “information”), but also make them “progressive.”
On the web, “progressive” images appear differently in a web browser than non-progressive jpgs. And in a way, it’s about progress!
When a jpg image is saved as a “progressive jpg,” it does not need to fully download before it (and the content below it) begins to appear in your browser even though it might not fully appear. It progresses to “taking shape” and presenting what the image is about.
When a JPG is not saved as a “progressive JPG,” yOu have to wait for the full image to fully download before you see anything. This is frustrating, especially on slow connections, when you do have to wait.
When a jpg image has been saved as a “progressive” jpg, you can actually see the image forming, while the content below it appears, as the image data is downloading.
So many new web developers and agencies have no clue about this or are too lazy to compress and save jpg images as progressive. Even if the jpg, for various reasons, must have a large file size, saving it as a progressive jpg has the advantage of the visitor being able to see at the least, something happening and loading in front of their eyes.
The other advantage is that making a jpg “progressive” also can shave off some file size, reducing the total size of the data being downloaded. Granted, it’s not a lot, but every kb counts.
Many people (and even web developers) think that progressive jpg’s were more important back in the day of “modem speeds” (dial-up internet), but in fact, it is still very useful today with the fact that it can shave off some file size – and for larger images, it can make a noticeable difference as it loads in the browser. And please don’t forget, as mentioned above, many still do not have high-speed access! Do those people the favour of eliminating as much file size as possible, while they patiently wait and see the image loading!
Images That Are Too Large
One of the things mentioned above is that we love working with big images. The bigger the better! So do others, but they don’t bother resizing for the actual display requirements. Part of the problem is that website builder tools will often “resize” the image in how it should appear on the website in pixel dimensions – but the web developer has actually uploaded the full-size original image!
That means, every time a visitor visits your web page, although the coding says to show an image that is 600 pixels wide and 600 pixels high, they did not bother to resize the image to that size and instead, uploaded an image that is 3,000 pixels wide by 3,000 pixels high.
Sure, it appears in the browser as 600X600, but in fact, the entire image must be downloaded! Then the browser fits it into the display dimensions.
This is just pure laziness. And horrible for your website speed and data transfer. Of course, doing it the lazy way saves development time, and in metropolitan areas where high-speed is not a factor, you might not even notice that you are downloading a full 2 MB file when in fact, all that is really needed is a correctly sized image of 25 KB or less. But it takes time and some work to do, correctly.
More SEO Optimization For Images – It’s Not Just Website Speed
Another sore spot for us is when we see websites where the developers/designers seem to have no clue about image alt tags, or think they do not matter. While in years past, some would stuff this “tag” with keywords, thinking it would help with search engine optimization (it didn’t), today, many don’t even bother with the tag.
This is dead wrong.
Yes, it can take a little extra time to make sure images have an alt tag. But it’s important for at least two reasons:
1. It tells search engines what the image is.
An image cannot be indexed for any written content within the image, and while Google is getting pretty good at image recognition, it’s still important to use the alt tag. These tells Google what the image is of, and this can help you with your search engine optimization, especially in “Image Search” at Google. If a Google user does a search, and then clicks on the “Image” tab, they will see images related to their search. While it is no guarantee that adding an alt tag will ensure your image appears in that search, it can help – and increase traffic to your website.
2. It’s a usability feature.
Often we fail to think about people who have vision problems and that they will often use a “page reader” when they visit web pages. For visually impaired people, the alt tag provides the ability for the person to know what the image is, even though they may not be able to see it. This is what the tag was originally created for, and if you are not using, your website usability is decreased.
This is also a reason why your alt tag should not be “keyword optimized,” but rather a direct and short description of the image. If your image is of a person fishing on the Saugeen river, put in your alt tag – “person fishing on the saugeen river.” Or something similar, without making it long, or too “keyword” stuffed. If you know the name of the person and have their permission, use that like this: “john doe fishing on the saugeen river.”
Why so many web designers don’t bother with alt tags is beyond me. Perhaps they are either lazy or are not really all that well-versed in web design standards.
Site Builder Tools – How They Can Affect Site Speed (And Other Things)
Technology is often, wonderful! Today, a website that might have cost $40,000.00 back in 1997 can be done for much much less – partly due to advanced tools, code snippets, CSS, plugins that mean lots of things don’t have to be manually custom coded, and yes – those site builder tools. Back in the early days, PHP, MySQL and the LAMP stack were mostly a dream. E-Commerce sites were hand-coded – each and every page, with CGI scripts in the background, based on PERL. We still have archives of our earliest web development; we’ll share them with you and what had to be done to make any changes to a website! We’ve come a long way, that’s for sure – but in doing so, we’ve created some unintended consequences, as well.
We use tools ourselves, here. They are an important part of being efficient and being able to reduce the time it takes to create a new website development. So, we’re not bashing website builder tools. But, let’s look at some of the issues you need to ask yourself and we’ll comment on that before we be to the site speed issues of site builder tools. Perhaps it is something you have not not even thought of.
Huge Issues (The Other Things) With Many Site Builder Tools
Many hosting companies offer some kind of proprietary website building tool and they claim that building a website is “easy” with what they provide. Granted, for someone “kicking tires” at starting a business, they can be an intoxicating draw. If you don’t have a budget for creating a professionally designed website, that is fully SEO optimized, it’s a great start. But you need to be aware of some things:
Proprietary Software Ties You Down
Many of these site building tools are proprietary. While the hosting companies will promise to back up your websites nightly, weekly, or tell you never to worry, you should worry, and history says you should. In over 20 years, we’ve seen many companies, with ridiculously cheap fees, and offerings that are too good to be true, end they end up going bankrupt or being bought out, and people left in desperation because they figured all was fine.
In fact, you should ensure (either personally or with a professional) that your website is regularly backed up! Do not ever depend on your hosting provider. If your business is important to you, you will make arrangements to personally know that your website is fully and completely backed up.
…. And here comes the big problem with many website builder tools… you can’t fully back them up, because the website building tools are proprietary, and you cannot just simply migrate to another hosting company if there is a catastrophe with the hosting company you are with now.
If you are going to tie yourself down, you are really tied down – and you can never properly migrate easily, if your needs change. While at first glance, it may seem like a great idea to use some hosting company’s proprietary website building tools, make sure you can move your data easily if you want to, or need to.
Who owns your data?
If you don’t fully control it, and can’t move it, then you don’t really own it.
Proprietary Website Builder Tools Are Not About You
They aren’t. They are about hoping thousands and thousands of people with dreams and wanting to skimp on some costs, will choose them, so they have thousands of thousands of 10.00 monthly transactions billed to credit cards. That is their business model – which is fine for bloggers or people “kicking tires,” but not if you are serious about your business.
Where Almost Every Proprietary Website Building Tool Fails:
- They don’t educate you about best practices (which will affect your onsite search engine optimization).
- They don’t explain how to properly optimize images.
- They have almost zero SEO benefits (although they will often claim to have them).
- You do not own your data.
- Your website will be at the mercy of some employee, interpreting or misinterpreting the Terms Of Service (TOS) and you can get suspended with virtually no way to appeal or get your site back.
If you are serious about your business, stay away from these proprietary website building tools. Now, let’s look at site speed issues with regard to them:
Website Building Tools & Site Speed
There are so many things that happen when you click on a link and try to view a webpage in your browser. All the things that go on, from DNS lookups to locating the IP address of the server, to the web server being configured optimally, you would honestly be amazed that it all happens in thousandths of seconds.
In fact, the DNS lookups take.. almost less than a blink of an eye, no matter where in the world it is happening. It truly is an amazing technology when you think about what goes on.
But then, there is the actual speed of the server your site is being hosted, and all the coding that must be interpreted, both by the server and your own web browser. There is so much that goes on, that it would make for another article – and you would be correctly amazed at it all!
But, for the purposes of your website, what do website builder tools do?
Ah.. it depends on how efficiently they have been coded, and how much reliance has been put on the tool, to finally have your website displayed in a browser, whether it is a mobile or desktop version.
Most of them, including proprietary website builders, are sold to you on “features” – features that you will never use, but they are coded in such a way that the code still loads, and bloats the download size of your site. And if you do actually use a lot of the “features,” that will just make things worse! They are selling you on features, instead of working through what will work, what will bring traffic, what will increase your exposure, help your visitors feel great on your website, and get you new business.
Honestly, most website builders are like the ancient Sirens of Greek mythology, that call and call, and tempt you – with more time you spend to learn how to do it, and “wow, look at how this will look!” without the analysis of all the unintended consequences of their bloat, their time killing download times, and giving you something that looks “beautiful,” but in the end, you are the one paying the hosting company; you’re not attracting new visitors at all! Your website is being penalized by search engines.
After much research, we do use a website builder tool – it is not proprietary, although for updates a subscription is required but is not bloated and at the same time, we also know the back end coding to improve upon the final result, along with customizations. That will keep your website flying, and in a way that you still own your own data. We’ll discuss that with you.
Website Builder Tools To Avoid
We hate this – the idea of critiquing specific tools – but sometimes, it has to be done. Some will disagree with us; that’s fine, but we’ve done our testing.
Diva – Stay Away
Many people absolutely LOVE Diva for its ability to easily create a lot of designs and build a website. Please, don’t. Yes, you might have a beautiful website, but Diva can destroy great relationships. In making things “easy,” it is so bloated, and most websites built on it are so slow, and there is just far too much code bloat. It was one of the first we tried, about 7 years ago. We hated it then. We still hate it today. It is a killer for website speed. It hogs resources; if you are on shared hosting, and your site gets busy… expect a TOS violation from your web hosting company, suspending you. We’ve seen it happen…. and have had to fix it up. A Diva built website, getting 100 visits an hour, using up enormous server resources on shared hosting, shut down due to a TOS violation.
You don’t want that.
Trust us. You don’t want to use their present website building tool and their hosting, and expect great (or even good) website speed. Ask them about migrating your site elsewhere… and if you own your data, and can quickly redeploy your site on another hosting platform, if you need to… you can’t.
Your website data is tied into their tool, so you just can’t take your website and data with you to another hosting company.
WordPress Plugins Can Slow Your Site Down
Yes, WordPress is our preferred platform for building websites, and one of the reasons, is that there are so many amazing plugins that cut expenses in manual coding, and it’s a great platform for building a website on, and also updating regularly.
Plugins for this platform are so widespread, and if you want some new feature, you can probably find it either in the free repository, or as a paid premium plugin.
But again, we remind you of the Sirens in Greek mythology – some caution is always in order. Many plugins do more harm than good to your website. While they appear to offer some handy features or benefits, they will slow your website down considerably and may also use high server resources. Some of the WordPress plugins to avoid for site speed issues include:
- AdSense Click Fraud Monitoring
- Broken link checker
- Constant Contact for WordPress
- Contact Form 7
- Revolution Slider
Try to avoid these if you can.
We know that many people really want a slider on at least their front page, and sometimes they really add flair to a website – but all slider plugins will cause speed decreases. This goes for all plugins: Turn off features you don’t need.
For security, we do use WordFence, but always ensure that “Live Traffic Report” is deactivated. Slimstats, a plugin that will give you real time traffic statistics can be a huge hog for server resources. Use Google analytics for your traffic stats and not a plugin.
Another problem with WordPress (and any other platform for that matter) is that plugins may contain security vulnerabilities. You need to check for this and make sure that the plugin is actively being maintained. A few years ago, a popular gallery creation plugin was the cause of a very high number of WordPress sites being hacked because it contained code that was vulnerable. The maintainers of the plugin were unable to fix it up and as a result, many website owners who did not know of the problem would wake up to their websites being vandalized.
Poor (Or Non-Existent) Database Management Slows Down Websites
Every time a website is loaded, there are connections to a database where the site data, settings and other information is stored. When you have stored hundreds of page and post revisions, never clean up and delete your spammy or trashed comments, or maintain the database, this causes unnecessary overhead in processing and memory. This will not only slow your site down, but can slow down the entire server affecting other websites. You should keep in mind that if you are on a shared server, other website owners who are not maintaining or managing their database could be causing your website to slow. There is nothing you can do about that except to get your site on your own dedicated resources. Of course, this is more expensive than shared hosting, but cheap also has its costs as well.
Speeding Up Your Website With DNS
When a visitor types in your website URL or clicks on a link to your site, a lot of things start to happen. To describe them all in detail could take up a whole book including the different “layers” of network connectivity and really, it’s a marvel to realize what all occurs in milliseconds! But to try to keep it brief: Your device needs to know where to locate your website, so a DNS lookup occurs. There is more than one step involved here, but basically, DNS or domain name service queries are made. When you register a domain name and host it somewhere, you include usually at least two Domain Name Servers for your domain.
Domain name servers then contain “records” for your domain: The ip address of the website, the ip addresses for any subdomains you may have, the ip address for your email service, and other records as well.
Your device begins to query a local domain name service that your networking configuration contains (this could be a DNS server of your local internet provider or some other public DNS such as Google’s DNS servers). The DNS server will then lookup your domain name, discover the IP address where your specific domain records are held to obtain the ip address of your website.
Then, it will contact the webserver software running on that IP address, and the webserver will “serve” up the URL, and your web page loads on your device.
Normally, once a DNS server has the DNS information, it will cache it for a period of time so that DNS lookups don’t have to be made every single time you try to load a page on your website. DNS records are actually quite small in of themselves, but with billions of queries being done, they could really add up to a lot of network overhead if the queries were not cached. And of course, every time a DNS query is made, that takes up time in eventually loading your website.
If your DNS servers are slow to respond, obviously, your website will be slow to load as well as excessive time is taken up to just locate where your website is. So, ensuring that the DNS servers your site uses are fast should be a priority.
There is some controversy regarding using the DNS services of CloudFlare, however, we have been using them for almost a year and have experienced no issues. Some claim that when they migrated to CloudFlare, they saw a decrease in search engine rankings but that has not been our experience at all. After we migrated and were satisfied, we’ve been migrating clients over to use CloudFlare and none have expressed any concerns (we also check ourselves) with rankings.
CloudFlare Is Pretty Awesome!
We’re not going to get into all the features of CloudFlare (that would be another long article), but suffice to say that it acts as a “reverse proxy” and really helps with site speed. They have servers all over the world that can act as a CDN for your site, protect your website against DDOS attacks, and even protect against bad bots.
They have both free and paid accounts for different services and anyone can sign up for a free account. Most people who have small websites will only need the free account; the features and benefits that the free account offers are rich and robust. Today, they handle more internet traffic than Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Instagram, Bing, & Wikipedia – combined!
And even if you don’t use all the features available to you, using it for DNS alone will speed up your website – almost anywhere in the world, as well.
Speed Up Your Website With A CDN
Years ago, using a CDN was an expensive proposition for most people, but costs have come down and the benefits in speed are well worth it. Like Cloudflare, CDN’s (or Content Distribution Networks) have servers throughout the world and can cache static content like images and scripts, which gives your visitors a speedy experience when visiting your site. Here, we have been using Stackpath in conjunction with a popular and nifty WordPress plugin that has been providing great service and speed. We highly recommend them and our clients who have been using are also extremely pleased with the results.
Get Off Shared Hosting – Dedicated Resources Can Speed Up Websites
If you are really concerned about site speed, migrating to a VPS or Dedicated server will be a priority if you can afford it. When you can dedicate CPU and memory to only your website, it will make a big difference in your website response times, especially if you incorporate our suggestions while removing the things that slow your WordPress site down.
The vast majority of hosting companies (which many of them are commonly owned by the way – you may think you’re moving to a competitor when you move from HostGator to Bluehost, but they and other hosting companies are actually owned by a single entity) oversell disk space, bandwidth and server resources knowing that the majority of accounts will not exceed their limits. But this creates big problems when a few websites on a shared hosting server end up having traffic spikes – and it gets worse if those sites are also using plugins that use up server resources. It means every website on the server could slow down to a complete crawl.
Costs for some people can be high unless they have substantial server management skills but it is well worth it if speed and dependability are important to you. In addition, there are other benefits to a VPS or dedicated server.
Additonal Security Configurations & Tweaks
Hosting companies must configure their servers for security and protection in a general way but there could come a time when you require something more specific. For example, if your site is under an attack, hosting companies will rarely investigate that for you. Instead, what WILL happen is that your website will likely be suspended for a Terms of Service (TOS) violation and you’ll get an email. It will be up to you to figure it out and find a way to solve the problem before your site will be reinstated. If you don’t figure it out on your own, your left with the choice of hiring someone to help you or moving your site to another hosting company (but will the problem continue to exist there? Quite likely and you’ll receive another TOS violation suspension from them).
If you have your own VPS or Dedicated Server and it is being managed (either by yourself or a knowledgable person/business), you can react to these issues much faster and you don’t have to take your site down while doing so.
Hosting Companies Support – Give Them A Break Because….
… most of them really have limited knowledge of website technology. They are there to answer the phones (if your hosting company even offers phone support – many don’t these days and you are required to wait in line on an “online chat”) and give you the standard answers that they have been trained to give. Support at hosting companies are often on a “Tier” level, and you will hardly ever get to speak to the actual people who have skills to manage servers and investigate issues. Sometimes you will get lucky and reach a support person who does have some knowledge, but not always.
An example of this (and we could describe several examples) is when a client did receive a TOS Violation suspension from his hosting company. We were able to track down the issue by going through log files and determined that a bad bot from a single IP address was crawling the website at a rate of about 10 URL’s per second. And it had been going on for several hours. After blocking access to the website to that IP address via the .htaccess file, we called the hosting company’s support line – and it was very obvious that the person we were speaking with had limited knowledge. He refused to hear that we had discovered the problem and solved it; instead, he insisted the problem “must be” with the website’s scripts and suggested over and over that the client needed to upgrade his account to a VPS or Dedicated Server (he did, but with our management and not with his hosting company).
Although the client eventually did move to one of managed VPS packages at a later date, on this occasion, the problem had been solved and it took several demands to speak with a manager before we could explain how we found the problem and corrected it, in order to remove the TOS violation suspension. In the end, the client had many hours of downtime – and lost some business as a result.
So keep that in mind when you are speaking with your hosting company’s support and are finding the situation frustrating. They really are doing and saying what they have been trained to do, and their knowledge is limited, most of the time.
In Summary – Shared Hosting Vs Dedicated
If your a blogger and blogging is a secondary small income for you, or you don’t rely much on your website, shared hosting is fine probably. But, if your business relies on your website for e-commerce sales, new leads, local search results to bring new customers in, you really should consider the improved and higher quality services of a VPS or dedicated server.
You will see website speed improvements and you’ll have more control without risking downtime due to TOS Violations.
How We Can Help You With Your WordPress Site Speed Issues
Are you concerned that your website is not loading fast enough and that you could be losing out on valuable traffic? Maybe you have a website that looks “beautiful,” but images have not been optimized, or your hosting is the problem. Whatever is causing your site speed issues, we can help!
We can do a full site speed audit of your site and tell you what you need to do to fix it, or, we can fix it for you! But – we might need to have a difficult conversation in regard to website design philosophy and all the “features” that you and/or your web developer think you need. While having a beautiful graphics heavy site can look great, it’s not working for you if your visitors are leaving or Google is penalizing your site for taking too long to load.
Quality, when it comes to websites is more than big beautiful images! I’ll reiterate again that we love great images on websites – but we simply do not agree with the philosophy of many of today’s web developers – who have great experience and skills with graphics for print – but really have little experience in internet website standards, usability, and Google’s own recommendations.
If your site has been built with Divi (or some other bloated theme and/or building tool), or you’re on a host that you’ve used their proprietary site building tools, we’ll be honest: We may have to totally rebuild your site. But you will end up with a site that your visitors will be happy, visiting, and search engines will love the speed increase. Don’t forget, to search engines, speed is a “Quality Ranking Factor.”