Having a blog or website that is slow to load can kill your traffic and send your readers packing. If your site doesn’t load in just a few seconds, your average I-need-it-now-or-forget-it web surfer will be on to greener (and faster) pastures.
According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. – From Kissmetrics
I first suspected my blog was slow to load when, well… it was slow to load. It teased me for a while—it would load quickly one day, slow the next, or slowly in the morning and quickly at midday. I didn’t know if it was the blog, or my my wireless connection was wacky, or maybe I was just imagining the whole darn thing. So I decided to do some sleuthing. [If you’ve already confirmed your site load time is slow, jump to Part 2, where I provide tips on how to fix the problem.]
I used two tools to diagnose my site speed problems—Pingdom Tools and Google’s Webmaster Tools. With Pingdom Tools, you simply enter your website or blog’s URL and it will run a site speed check. In your results, you’ll get the overall loading time plus a list of your files and how long each of them took to load. That way, you can see what specifically is slowing things down. Pingdom will save your test results so you can compare different days and times. You don’t even have to register, it’s fast and free.
Once you set up Google’s Webmaster Tools for your site or blog, it will automatically log your site’s load time every day. You can view these stats under Diagnostics—> Crawl stats. Webmaster Tools doesn’t have as much instantaneous data as Pingdom, but it will show you trends over time. For me, it validated my suspicions that my blog really was loading much more slowly than it had the previous month.
There’s also a brand new tool from Google called Page Speed Insights that I didn’t discover in time to use for myself, but it looks incredibly useful. Enter your URL and Page Speed Insights will give you a speed score on a scale of 1 to 100. Then it lists specific recommendations on how to improve it, in order of importance. Very cool, and highly recommended, especially for beginners who may need additional guidance about what their site data means and what actions to take.
The diagnosis for my own blog was rather grim. Over the course of five days, I ran about a dozen Pingdom load time tests at different times of day. According to Pingdom, my blog was taking about 7 seconds to load on average, which is definitely a long enough delay to affect my traffic. On a few occasions, my site was taking almost 20 seconds to load. 20 seconds! That’s practically an eternity. No one is going to wait that long (except maybe my mom).
Once you’ve diagnosed a load time problem, what next? In Part 2 of this series, I discuss some of the most common things that can slow down your blog, and how to fix them. I’ll also reveal what (somewhat major) change I made to solve my problem for good. Read Part 2.
Photo credit: emples on Flickr