How To Improve Your Small Business Website’s Loading Time

If your website doesn’t load quickly, your customers will leave. Your website has to be fast, otherwise, it’s just not going to be an effective selling or branding tool.

It’s not just about human visitors, though. Even Google bots are irritated by slow websites, and that can negatively impact your search engine rankings.

Improving your website’s loading time can help provide a better user experience and increase customer satisfaction. Combined, this can go a long way toward helping you increase sales as well.

In this post, I’ll provide 16 specific tips that you can follow today to make your small business website load faster.

16 Steps To Improve Your Small Business Website’s Loading Time

When it comes to improving your website’s load time, there are a lot of possible ways to start. Your plan of attack will vary, based on whether you are trying to get your website built correctly from the ground up or you’re trying to optimize a 300-page monster.

This list is a motley crew of tips you can follow to improve your website loading time. You don’t have to do all of them – just focus on ones that you can implement. Even taking a few to heart can have a massive positive impact on your website’s loading time.

How To Improve Your Small Business Website's Loading Time, Pt 1

#1: Choose a lightweight site theme.

Most modern websites are built using pre-existing themes. Choosing the wrong one in WordPress, Shopify, or any other system you use can hobble your website load time from day 1.

Make sure that any website theme you use has a good loading time from the start. You want to choose themes that are simple, efficient, and don’t have a lot of junk code.

The best way you can do this? Find some themes based on how they look and make a short list. Then test them for loading time before you go to the trouble of the rest of your website setup. That way, you can eliminate problem themes before you commit to using one of them.

Easy Step 1: If you’re using WordPress, check out this article by Hostinger about fast WordPress themes. I can personally vouch for Astra, Sydney, and Hestia.

#2: Use the minimum number of plugins.

Most modern website systems allow you to customize your website with plugins. But each plugin will add extra code in order for you to use your features. That means having unnecessary plugins can slow down your site.

Don’t install anything you don’t need. As you install plugins, test them one at a time and make sure they don’t tank site performance before you continue using them. It’s also a good idea to regularly review and remove unnecessary plugins from your site, which will also make your site more secure.

Easy Step 1: Don’t install plugins you don’t need or uninstall plugins you don’t.

#3: Set up a content delivery network (CDN).

Content delivery networks (CDN) distribute your website’s content across multiple servers around the world. This helps reduce the distance data – like images and videos – need to travel to reach users, resulting in faster loading times.

Setting up a CDN allows your visitors to access your site quickly, no matter where they are located. It also helps handle large amounts of traffic more efficiently, improving overall site performance and reliability.

Here is a list of CDN services for WordPress, compiled by WP Beginner.

Easy Step 1: Check with your web host and see if it comes with a CDN by default.

#4: Choose a web host with a good server response time.

If your web host is slow, nothing else you do will matter. Fast web hosts make sure that, as long as you do everything else right, your site loads quickly because they use efficient servers and networks.

Research different hosting providers and read reviews to find one known for excellent performance. Don’t believe everything you read, though, because a lot of web hosting endorsements come from undisclosed affiliates.

Easy Step 1: Pick a fast web host like Siteground, Hostinger, or Webflow.

#5: Don’t junk up your database.

Forgive me for being a bit technical for this one. The crux of this is that you need to get read out unused data on a regular basis. If you have old posts or pages, revisions, spam comments, and other junk data, make a note to clean it out from time to time.

Depending on what software you use to manage your website, there are plugins that help you do this. Siteground, in particular, a web host that I like, has a good plugin for WordPress users of their service which does this for you.

Easy Step 1: Regularly clean your website’s database.

#6: Optimize your images.

Optimizing images is a simple but stunningly effective way to speed up your website. Large image files can and will tank your site performance.

Use image compression tools to reduce file sizes without compromising quality. You can Google “image compressor” and find any number of great tools to do this at any given time, almost always for free.

You may also want to consider using next-generation image formats such as WEBP for additional performance improvements.

Easy Step 1: Compress images to reduce file sizes.

#7: Minimize HTTP requests.

Every time you pull a resource from another part of the internet, whether it’s an image, a snippet of code, or a stylesheet, you make an HTTP request. Too many HTTP requests can slow down your website.

There are two ways to combat this:

  1. Don’t use images, scripts, or stylesheets unless you need them.
  2. Combine CSS and JavaScript files where you can.

The latter point is more technical, but most website platforms have a good way for you to do this. WordPress, for example, has free plugins like WP Fastest Cache that can easily and effectively do this.

Easy Step 1: Reduce the number of HTTP requests.

#8: Turn on browser caching.

Browser caching allows your website to store static files on a visitor’s device. This means that when they return to your site, their browser can load previously downloaded files instead of requesting them again. The end result of this is faster load times and less server load for you.

Configure your server to set appropriate caching headers for static files like images, CSS, and JavaScript. Here is a guide by Elegant Themes to help you do this on WordPress.

Easy Step 1: Enable browser caching for faster load times.

How To Improve Your Small Business Website's Loading Time, Pt 2

#9: Minify HTML, JS, and CSS.

Most of your website’s look and feel comes down to three types of code: HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. There are others, but these are the main three.

Minifying HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files involves removing unnecessary characters, such as spaces and comments, to reduce file sizes. Smaller files load faster because they require less bandwidth.

Here is a list of plugins that can help you do this on WordPress.

Easy Step 1: Minify your site’s HTML, JS, and CSS.

#10: Optimize CSS delivery.

Optimizing CSS delivery involves reducing the amount of CSS that needs to be loaded before your page renders. This can be done by inlining critical CSS directly into the HTML document and deferring non-essential CSS. 

In English, it makes sure that the code most necessary for your site’s look and feel loads first. This can get really technical, but most speed optimization plugins have a setting for this.

If you really want to go down this rabbit hole, you can use tools like Critical Path CSS to help identify and extract critical CSS. This is pretty advanced, though, so try to fix easier issues before you do this.

Easy Step 1: On any speed optimization plugin you choose to use, select Optimize CSS Delivery and make sure it doesn’t break the site.

#11: Defer JavaScript loading.

Deferring JavaScript loading means postponing the loading of JavaScript files until the rest of the page content has loaded. This prevents large scripts from blocking other important elements of your page from loading.

Use the “defer” or “async” attribute in your script tags to implement this. By deferring JavaScript, you can significantly speed up the initial load time of your website.

As with the previous tip, most speed optimization plugins have a setting for this.

Easy Step 1: On any speed optimization plugin you choose to use, select Defer JavaScript Loading and make sure it doesn’t break the site.

#12: Enable Gzip compression.

Gzip compression reduces the size of your website’s files, making them easier to download on slow connections. Enabling Gzip on your server compresses HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files, which can significantly speed up load times.

Most web servers support Gzip compression, and it can be enabled through your server’s configuration files. This simple step can enhance your website’s performance by reducing file sizes.

Easy Step 1: Contact your web hosting provider to see how you can enable Gzip compression.

#13: Optimize web fonts.

The theme of “don’t use it unless you need it” continues with fonts. Don’t use font-families or even font weights unless you need to, and make sure any font files that you use are compressed.

Use font-display: swap; in your CSS to control how fonts are rendered during loading. That way, if a user is having a tough time downloading fonts quickly, it at least won’t slow down the rest of your website.

This is another setting you can find on most speed optimization plugins.

Easy Step 1: On any speed optimization plugin you choose to use, select Optimize Web Fonts and make sure it doesn’t break the site.

#14: Reduce redirects.

Older sites tend to have this problem more than newer ones. Sometimes, you need to change where pages are located, so you make a redirect so anyone who finds the old link can get sent to the newer, updated page.

Redirects are OK in small amounts. But every time you have one, it takes a bit of time for browsers to send people where they need to go. So you want to reduce the number of redirects you have to what’s absolutely necessary.

Easy Step 1: Eliminate unnecessary redirects.

#15: Turn on lazy loading.

Lazy loading means that images and videos won’t load until they are needed. For example, for larger web pages, lazy loading can help make sure only images and videos that are in the current viewing area start loading.

As you can imagine, this reduces the initial load time. If you’re editing code directly, you can add the loading=”lazy” attribute in your image and video tags. Otherwise, this is another setting available on most speed optimization plugins.

Easy Step 1: Use lazy loading for images and videos.

#16: Set up performance monitoring.

If you’re really serious about improving your website’s load time, you need to track it. Here are three good tools you can use:

Each of these can give you real data on how long your pages take to load, as well as provide tips on what to fix. It’s worth using these tools every once in a while to make sure your efforts are effective.

Easy Step 1: Use GTMetrix to monitor site performance.

Final Thoughts

You need your website to load quickly. Visitors are not patient.

Providing a fast load time is absolutely essential to providing a good user experience and ranking well in search engines.

Fortunately, there are a ton of things you can do to speed up your website. Even following a few of the 16 tips in this guide can help you make clear, tangible improvements to your small business website’s loading time.

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