This is an amazingly common problem, and something that is often overlooked when sites are built.
The very fact that you might be asking yourself this question now means it is enough of an issue to be noticed actual visitors, the problem will be much worse in the eyes of search engines. Site speed is a major factor in deciding how your site ranks in relevant search queries, a slow site will often find itself at the bottom of the pack in this respect.
What makes a website slow?
There are a few likely culprits, the usual causes are:
Incorrectly sized images – high resolution images have a larger file size and take longer to download.
Videos – be especially wary of videos if they are used at the top of pages as backgrounds, these can be huge in file size.
Excess scripts – this can be anything from conversion tracking to chat widgets. If you overload your site with them you’ll be increasing the load time of the site.
Too many plugins – if the site is built on a content management system (such as Wordpress), installing lots of plugins can have a catastrophic effect on load times. Plugins should be restricted to only what you require.
Server speed – if you host your site on cheap hosting located abroad, you’re already on your back foot. If the server is a cheap and poorly managed service it could be hosting hundreds of websites. This will be a real bottleneck when people try to browse your site.
Comment spam – we’ve seen this one a few times, if the comments section doesn’t have a spam filter or approval systems, you could potentially attract hundreds of thousands of comments which will bring your site to its knees!
Inefficient code – if your website developer has been a bit lazy when building your site, all it takes is a few poor database queries to put a high load on your site and slow things down.
There are lots of other causes, but these are the ones we see the most often. The best way to check for your site speed performance is to go to Google Pagespeed Insights at https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/. This will run a live test on your site to see how well it performs.
In addition to aspects that can cause a slow loading site, there are also lots of different issues which can result in a low score on this test. You’ll also see some recommendations on how you can improve your score. Some of these are easier to address than others. You might see something like “Defer offscreen images”, this means your site is trying to load all images on the page, even if they’re not visible until the user scrolls. A better idea is to “lazy load” the images only when the user scrolls down to them – this results in a faster responding page.
If you’ve had a bad result in this test and would like some assistance, get in touch with our team. There’s lots that can be done to vastly improve the scores of most sites.