Optimize Website Beginner’s Guide

By | March 2, 2021

Every website needs to prioritize performance.

When visitors land on a web page, they expect instant load times and a responsive experience as they navigate. Slow load times frustrate visitors and ultimately lead to increased bounces and abandonment rates.

The solution? Website optimization.

If you’re ready to optimize your site for speed and performance, you’ve come to the right place.

What is Website Optimization?

Website optimization is a combination of tools and strategies to improve the performance of a site. The ultimate goal is to improve the user experience (UX), which is how users experience your website.

Site optimization typically starts with speed. Fast-loading websites perform well, make it easier for visitors to consume content, and even positively impacts search engine optimization (SEO).

Optimized websites generate more traffic, boost site performance metrics, and drive more conversions.

5 Tools to Improve an Optimized Website

As someone with extensive experience in running websites, I know what it takes to ensure your site is optimized for peak performance. These are my five favorite tools to optimize website speed.

#1 — A2 Hosting

A fully optimized website starts at the web hosting level. In terms of speed, A2 Hosting is an industry leader in this category. This web hosting provider is known for delivering some of the fastest speeds on the market today.

With turbo boost servers, you can get a hosting plan that’s up to 20 times faster than the competition. I like A2 Hosting because they have something for everyone. Whether you’re launching a brand new website and starting from scratch or you’re interested in switching hosting providers to improve performance, A2 Hosting should be at the top of your list.

Choose between shared hosting, VPS (virtual private server) plans, or dedicated servers for the ultimate experience. In addition to speed, A2’s servers are extremely reliable. A 99.9% uptime commitment backs all plans, so you won’t have to worry about downtime or unexpected outages.

For those of you currently hosting your site elsewhere, A2’s experts offer free site migrations, so you can easily move your site to A2 Hosting at no cost. A2’s fast servers reduce bounce rates, improve SEO, and ultimately generate higher conversion rates. All plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

#2 — WP Engine

WP Engine is another web hosting provider. This service is a bit unique compared to other web hosts on the market today, as WP Engine is built specifically for WordPress sites (hence the name). More than 1.2 million sites in over 150 countries worldwide rely on WP Engine for hosting needs, including Yelp, Petco, Pandora, AMD, and Sleep Number.

This is a fully managed WordPress hosting service, which definitely falls into the more advanced category of web hosting. WP Engine’s entry-level plans can support up to 25,000 visitors per month. The platform is built to scale and can even accommodate large websites with millions of monthly visits.

If you’re launching a new WordPress site or currently using WordPress as your CMS, WP Engine should be a top option to consider. As a managed service, all of these hosting packages are fully optimized for WordPress, making WP Engine one of the fastest WordPress hosting services on the market today.

The optimization tools built into WP Engine lead to increased speeds and improved site performance metrics, ultimately boosting SEO and conversions. All plans include a global CDN, ensuring that your visitors get the fastest possible page loading speeds, regardless of their locations.

#3 — Cloudflare CDN

Cloudflare is an industry leader in the world of website infrastructure and Internet security. The provider is best known for its CDN (content delivery network) services. CDNs ensure that your site is optimized for users all over the world.

With a Cloudflare CDN, you’ll benefit from a group of servers that are geographically distributed across the globe. This ensures that your site content like images, videos, HTML pages, stylesheets, JavaScript files and more, all load as quickly as possible, regardless of the visitor’s location. Even major sites like Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix use CDNs to optimize performance and speed.

It’s worth noting that Cloudflare is not a web hosting provider. Instead, it helps cache content to improve site performance. In addition to providing faster load times, Cloudflare will help reduce bandwidth consumption costs, increase content availability, and increase redundancy.

Cloudflare also adds an extra layer of security to your site with built-in DDoS protection. Cloudflare CDN is fully customizable, so you’re in full control over how content on your network is cached, what gets cached, and how long it’s kept. Overall, it’s arguably the best CDN on the market today.

#4 — Google PageSpeed Insights

Google PageSpeed Insights is one of the best free website optimization tools in existence. Any time you want to see how your site is performing in terms of speed, just run it through this quick tool, and you’ll have a full report generated within seconds.

PageSpeed Insights analyzes the content of your site. Based on those analytics, the report will automatically provide you with suggestions that will make your site faster. Every webmaster should leverage this tool, especially since the planet’s biggest search engine provides it. If Google tells you to do something on your site, you do it.

All sites run through this free tool are rated on a 0-100 scale. You’ll also see additional scores related to FCP (first plentiful content), FID (first input delay), LCP (largest contentful paint), and CLS (cumulative layout shift). All of these are part of Google’s Core Web Vitals, which measure user experience and ultimately impact SEO.

You might see opportunities and diagnostics in the report telling you to remove unused JavaScript, avoid redirects, or avoid large layout shifts. With Google PageSpeed Insights, you’ll learn how to optimize your site for desktop and mobile alike.

#5 — reSmush.it

reSmush.it is a bit unique compared to some of the other tools on our list. It’s a free image optimizer designed to compress PNG, JPG, GIF, and more for improved loading speeds and better web performance. Over 12.6 billion images have been optimized using this tool.

Large image files slow down the page loading speed. By reducing the size of those files with a compression tool, your visitors will benefit from faster loading times.

Another reason why I like reSmush.it so much is because the tool is so versatile. It’s supported on WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Joomla, PrestaShop, and more. Depending on the CMS platform you’re using, it’s easy to add reSmush.it using a plugin, module, or extension.

With the bulk optimization feature, you can optimize images in just two clicks. You’ll have full control over the optimization level, and you’ll have the ability to exclude certain images from the optimizer.

The Basics of Optimizing Websites

In addition to the tools listed above, there are a few other things you need to know about optimizing your website. I’ll break down the core components of an optimized website below.

Web Hosting

Site optimization all starts at the server level. That’s why it’s so important to have the right web hosting plan to accommodate your needs. Whether you’re just getting started with a new website or you need to optimize an existing website, check our list of the best web hosting providers to ensure your host can deliver what you need.

Not every hosting provider, hosting type, or plan is built for everyone. Switching to faster servers or upgrading your plan to accommodate higher traffic volumes can make a significant difference in page loading speed. If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, switching to a hosting service that’s specially optimized for WordPress can have an immediate impact on your website performance as well.

Page Loading Speed

Page loading speed is the ultimate performance metric when referring to website optimization. Highly optimized websites load quickly, and poorly optimized sites do not. It’s as simple as that.

Loading speed metrics can be broken down even further. Websites should all be taking steps to optimize their pages according to Google’s Core Web Vitals. This includes metrics like LCP, CLS, FID, and FCP. These metrics help measure the way real users will experience any given website. Understanding these concepts and taking steps to improve them can really help put you in a position where your site is optimized for speed.

Mobile vs. Desktop

It’s important to understand that there are multiple versions of your website. Don’t forget about mobile users, or your performance metrics will suffer. We’re living in an era where everyone is carrying around a computer in the palms of their hands at all times. More people are browsing the web from smartphones than ever before, and there’s no sign of this trend slowing down in the foreseeable future.

So, once your website has been optimized for desktops, make sure those adjustments translate to mobile. The best website optimization tools will provide you with built-in reports and resources for mobile performance.

File Size

Large files slow down your website. This has a direct impact on optimization and speed.

Themes and multimedia content are two of the biggest offenders in this category. Many webmasters use these visual design tools to make their sites look good, not realizing the impact on optimization. Always choose lightweight themes, and avoid adding large multimedia files on your pages. Keeping your code clean and eliminating unnecessary blocks will keep your site running smoothly.

Geographic Performance

One of the benefits of running a website is the global reach. However, not every location in the world is optimized for speed and performance. Things like bandwidth, client-server technology, and government policies can prevent optimal site performance.

For example, let’s say you’re running a site in the United States using a hosting provider with local servers within the continental US. A website visitor in Texas might experience faster load times than a site visitor in Australia or South Africa. But there are tools out there, like CDNs (content delivery networks), that can solve this problem. Even some web hosting providers have global servers and built-in CDN services to accommodate your needs.

3 Tricks For Optimized Websites

These are a few of my favorite quick hacks and tricks that can significantly impact your site performance. Even as a beginner, you’ll be able to implement these tactics immediately.

Trick #1: Make Sure You’re Using the Right Hosting Service

As previously mentioned, site speed starts with web hosting. Maybe it’s time to upgrade your plan for additional resources that will improve performance. Or maybe you need to jump from a shared hosting plan to a VPS or dedicated server.

Consider leveraging WordPress hosting if you’re using that CMS to manage your site. You could always switch to a better web hosting provider with servers optimized for speed. We recommend Bluehost.

Trick #2: Compress Your Images

One or two images probably won’t destroy your site’s performance. But over time, as you continue adding more images, you’ll notice slower speeds. That’s why it’s so essential to start compressing and optimizing your images from the beginning. Reducing the file sizes ensures that images load quicker, therefore ensuring that your pages load faster.

Take advantage of compression tools. You can use a compression tool before images are uploaded to your site or leverage a tool that optimizes those before getting published. A simple plugin is usually the best solution here. Some plugins can even compress images that are already published and live on your site.

Trick #3: Monitor Your Performance Metrics

If you’re not sure where to get started, run your site through a quick performance analyzer. This can be accomplished within seconds. Even free reports will tell you what your site is doing well and what needs improvement.

Monitor your performance metrics regularly. An optimized website is never truly complete. Just because you’re happy with the performance today, things can change in the future. Running a quick report every month is a good habit to get yourself in. You’ll have answers in less than 60 seconds, which will really help you optimize your website’s speed and performance.

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