AskPat 151 Episode Transcript
Pat Flynn: Hey, what's up everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to Episode 151 of AskPat. Thank you so much for joining me. As always I'm here to help you by answering your online business questions five days a week.
Today we have a great question from Pete, but before we get to that I want to thank today's sponsor which is FreshBooks. FreshBooks.com is an awesome, easy to use cloud-accounting solution helping millions of small-business owners, including myself, save time with invoicing and getting paid faster. But not only that: Organizing everything that has to do with your finances. You can try FreshBooks right now for free. If you just go to GetFreshBooks.com and enter show name “Ask Pat” in the “How Did You Hear About Us” section, you can get your awesome free trial from FreshBooks. Thank you. Now let's get to today's question from Pete.
Pete: Hey Pat. This is Pete from ElfBox.com. My website loads very slowly. Is there something I can do to speed up the way it loads? Thanks.
Pat Flynn: Pete, thank you so much for the question. This is a very common question and, you know, there's a lot of different ways to approach this. There's simple things you could do. There are complicated things you could do. There are cheap things you can do, from things that are free all the way up to very expensive things that could cost a lot of money. So, it depends on a lot of things.
But I think the first thing people think about when they think about speeding up their website is they say “Wow, I need a better server, I need to get on a better server,” and that could be true. That could be true, but I wouldn't start there because you might not need a better server, you just might need to optimize the things that are on your website for speed, which I'll tell you about in a second. But in terms of your server, your server could make it slow if you don't have enough bandwidth or if you are sharing a particular server. For instance, you're using shared-hosting solutions and other people on that same server are just taking that bandwidth as well.
You know shared hosting is a great way to start. I still have a number of hosts or, excuse me, websites that are hosted on shared hosting through Bluehost specifically—AskPat.com/bluehost if you want to get that for $3.95/month. But, the thing is, you are giving up a little bit of control with such a basic package because other people are on that same server. That's where VPS's come in, or Virtual Private Servers, which make it a little bit more under your control and then you get into dedicated servers which . . . obviously the price goes up for Shared hosting all the way to Dedicated. And then there're these super-dedicated servers with all the bells and whistles. You don't necessarily need that, but of course you want to know how much traffic you have and how much, you know, bandwidth is being eaten up everyday and to hopefully have a server that will be able to serve that.
But, let me go over some things you can do to your website right now or things you should be doing over time, especially from the beginning, to make sure you are giving yourself the opportunity to load your page the fastest.
Now before we even get into that, why is it important to load fast? Well one, obviously for user experience. When a page is super slow to load, especially in today's age, we sometimes will just not even wait. We won't even give it a couple seconds sometimes: We just exit. Now it's important for that reason, for user experience, but it's also important because faster web time, or faster load time, means higher rankings in Google. It's true. Google actually takes load time into account—it's one piece of their gigantic, complicated, sometimes mysterious algorithm that helps you rank your page higher. And, you know, that sort of makes sense when you think about it because Google wants to make the user experience as good as possible. So, of course, if there's a better user experience because of a faster load time, they are going to rank those pages faster. So that's why it's important.
So along those lines here are the things you can do to increase the load time on your site. This is a really quick thing you could do as well. If you use a lot of images . . . Oftentimes we find images, sometime we use images from Flickr, then we give credit to them, or download them from iStockPhoto.com or another picture place. Or we even upload our own pictures from our camera. Whatever the case may be, oftentimes we don't even pay attention to how big they are. They're just . . . That's the size and we post them up there. And we don't realize that every sort of megabyte that's up there is another megabyte that somebody has to load before the page is fully loaded. So you want to make sure your image files are as small as possible. Now if you don't have any Photoshop capability . . . maybe you don't have the software or even if you do it can be a little complicated sometimes, you can use a webpage called PicResize.com to help shrink those files. They'll keep them the same, they'll keep them the same size, and you can if you want. Or you can actually change the size on this site if you want. But you can keep it the same size, it just reduces the file size, which is really helpful. So again, that's PicResize.com.
Now if you do have a little bit of Photoshop or Photoshop, like software experience, all you have to do is save the file as a lower quality. Just a little bit lower quality to make a big difference in terms of how big it is. So for Photoshop, for example: If you go to the Menu, and you go to File and then ‘Save As Web' or ‘Save For Web,' you then have the option of choosing a .png or a .jpeg and then within the .jpeg file you can choose from highest, medium, medium to low, and then lowest quality. Even just going from highest quality to high will make a big difference. But of course it depends on what that image is. If it's a photo you want to make sure it's on high, but if it's just a graph, or a chart or something, you could even go low and make that image just really, really small. I remember posting a few images that were in the ten's range of kilobytes, like fifteen kilobytes. So it's almost instant in terms of it coming on the screen and somebody loading the page with that image. So smaller image files is Step number one.
Tip number two: Less plugins. The more plugins you have, if you're on a content platform like WordPress, the faster your site's going to run. That's just they way it is because plugins, as convenient as they are, they do slow down our sites. And the more that you have, the more things that are happening internally on your website when people load the page. A lot of things are happening: plugins are talking with other plugins and things are sort of coming up in order as they come in, and there's calls from third-party things that come in . . . it just creates this mess. So minimalize your plugins; minimal plugins. It might be a good time to go in there, into your plugin section and see, “Which ones am I actually using?” Or even more importantly, “Which ones are actually working for me right now?” I remember the first time I was told to clean up my plugins, I had cleaned up about forty different plugins. Yeah, forty . . . Yeah. My page was loading thirteen seconds before it was finally done. That was crazy.
Before we move on to the next tip, something I want to share with you is how to track how long your page is loading. You don't just want to just use a stopwatch and be like, “Okay, done.” Because you actually might not know that there's other things going on behind the scenes. So there's actually three tools I want to share with you in terms of understanding what's happening behind the scenes when your page is loaded. So there is one called GTMetrics.com. GTMetrics.com is the first one. It's free, you just put your URL in there and press a button and it spits out this report for you: Not only how long it takes to load your site, but what's taking the longest. And then you can take that to a developer, or even if you have some experience on your own, you could see what parts will make the biggest difference in terms of changing things up in the future. Another one is called YSlow.org. Y (as in the letter ‘Y'), slow. It's similar to the other one. It'll give you a report and help you figure out what you need to do to make your site move faster. And then number three, another fun sort of site to work with. It doesn't really tell you anything except how long it takes your site to load and then how long somebody else's site takes to load. So you can actually compare your site against another site. Perhaps your competitor's site. And then, maybe that'll give you the motivation to actually do things to make it move faster. Or you might actually see that yours is running faster than your competitor's. It's kinda cool. So again, that's WhichLoadsFaster.co. And there was GTMetrics.com and also YSlow.org.
Okay, so the next tip I want to give you is probably going to be the one that gives you the most dramatic change in terms of page load time. However, it can also provide the most problems because I'm talking about caching plugins. Caching plugins sort of create a static version of your content and delivers it to your visitors. It might sound a little technical, I'm not going to go over it. But there's a lot of different caching plugins out there. The reason it works so well, it essentially makes stuff that happen on your site all the time show up much faster. And the issue is that there's a lot of incompatibility issues with plugins that are out there. So there's two caching plugins that I want to share with you but I will warn you that if you were to install these without some help, you might run into some issues. They do have good support, so utilize them if you can. But this will make you the biggest difference if you do this right, and there's a lot of settings involved, again, way over my head. I have people doing this for me now. I recommend you have people do it for you too.
And that's in conjunction with my fourth tip which will make that happen faster, is a CDN, or a Content Delivery Network, which essentially utilizes incredibly fast servers out there to deliver bits and pieces of your site much faster to your audience, based on what they've already seen. So, for example, if you have something in your header that's shown in every page or something in your sidebar that's pretty much on every page, those things are going to be pulled much faster and essentially skipped because they will already be there when people visit your site. So it'll make your site load much, much, much faster. And so, that's a Content Delivery Network. Again, pretty technical stuff here but I started with the easy ones, but now we're getting into some technical stuff. MaxCDN is the one that I use. So that's MaxCDN.com. You can get more information about that. But if you were going to use the caching plugin, I would recommend using also something like MaxCDN, or a different Content Delivery Network to make your site load even faster. And again, hopefully this is a good introduction to you if you're just starting out. Perhaps keep this is mind in the future. Or if you are hiring someone to help you, this is the kind of stuff you'll want to tell them that you want.
Then number five: This might sound simple, and it is, but there's a lot of things going on behind the scenes here. And that is to perhaps use a more optimized theme. There are themes out there, premium themes that you pay for, that optimize for SEO and make sure that everything's good on the back-end in terms of getting found and ranked in Google. A lot of those sites are also optimized for speed as well. They're coded in such a way that the parts of the page that show up are shown much faster, in a more logistic fashion in terms of all the coding. Again, over my head a little bit, but keep in mind that your theme will make a difference in terms of how fast your page loads. There's a couple of platforms, or theme platforms out there, that work really well in terms of optimizing for SEO and speed. And that is Thesis and that's the one SmartPassiveIncome.com uses. And there's also Genesis as well, plus a whole slough of other ones that are great too.
Next tip: If you wanted to, and you have the resources—and this is my last one—I would definitely hire out. Hire somebody who can help you make your page load faster. See what other sites they've done in their portfolio and go to their sites and see how fast they are and make that happen on your own site. There is nothing more beautiful than a fast-loading page. When people don't tell you how slow your site is, that's a good thing. You want your page to load so fast that it's just kind of seamless, the whole experience is seamless. And that's what I want for you guys. So hopefully this stuff helps. And even if you pull some of these things out now and do some of these things later, start something now in terms of making sure you're optimizing for maximum speed on your website.
So Pete, thank you so much for your question today. I really appreciate it. An AskPat t-shirt is going to be headed your way. You'll get an email from my assistant very soon about that. For those of you listening, if you have a question you'd like potentially featured here on the show, just head on over to AskPat.com. You can ask right there on that page. I look forward to listening to your question.
And finally, I want to thank today's sponsor again, which is FreshBooks.com. You can get it for free, right now, if you go to GetFreshBooks.com and enter “Ask Pat” in the “How Did You Hear About Us” section. You can start your free trial today. I've been using it; it's been great for organizing. And the best part about it is during tax season: It's just a couple clicks of a button to get all the sheets and forms that my CPA needs to understand exactly what's going on in my business. At any point in time, I can actually go in and see how I've been doing in any certain time period. How does this month look compared to last month? It's just super great, you know? You have so many other things you need to spend your time doing other than just organizing your finances. This is something that should almost be done for you, and it can be done for you with something like FreshBooks. So again, GetFreshBooks.com and enter enter “Ask Pat” in the “How Did You Hear About Us” section.
And finally, as always I like to end with a quote, and today's quote is from Burt Rutan. And his quote is, “Testing leads to failure, and failure leads to understanding.” You gotta test, always be testing.
Cheers, take care, and I'll see you in the next episode of AskPat.
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