At present, thousands of websites are browsed by various visitors for several reasons every day. But many of them are slow and clunky due to the poor performance of the servers. Poorly optimized server leads to several critical issues like slow loading of websites, browser incompatibility and so on.
Page loading time of any website is the deciding aspect for a user to stay or leave the website. Page loading time is also one of the key factors that help to improve the conversion rate of any website. A website conversion plays a critical role in the success of any online marketing strategy. It means getting a visitor to perform an action (purchasing a product, download a wallpaper, sign up for a newsletter) when he views the website.
Tips to increase server efficiency and improve website conversions
1. Choose the right hosting system: Selecting the right host creates a big difference in the performance of any website. Shared hosting might be the cheapest option where resources like CPU, disk space and RAM are shared with other sites hosted on the same server. VPS hosting also shares the server with multiple sites but provides dedicated portions of the server’s resources for a particular site.
Dedicated hosting system provides tons of space and complete control over the hosting. This is the most ideal option to increase the server response time and speed of the website. Increase in the server response time and loading speed will automatically improve website conversions. Examples for dedicated servers include SingleHop, Hetzner.
2. Maximize Speed with a CDN and Caching: Using a content delivery network (CDN) remarkably enhances the speed and performance of the website. Using of a CDN links the static content of any website to an extended network of servers across the globe. This facilitates the loading of data for the user from its nearest geographical server. Usage of a CDN also compresses the files of the website for quicker delivery across the globe.
When a user first visits a website the elements present in the specific page are stored into a temporary storage or cache on the hard drive. When the user makes a next visit to the website, the browser loads the page automatically without sending an HTTP request to the server. Only a few components need to be downloaded for the subsequent visits of the user. Enabling browser caching saves a significant amount of time of the existing users. It also provides an improved user experience which in turn improves the website conversions.
Example: For a WordPress website use plugin W3 Total Cache to enable caching. Memcached (high- performance distributed caching system) increases the speed of dynamic web applications by minimizing database load.
3. Optimize the images and compress files: Large images can drastically slow down the website. Reduce the file size of the images without compromising the quality. One method is to crop the image to the correct size. Next method is to compress the image files using different tools. For a WordPress website, WP Smush is a great option.
The file type used for different images also affects the file size. The file types JPG, PNG and GIF are the best options to be used for photos. GIF file type is used for small or simple graphics files. Once the correct image size and format are set, use the right code to implement them. Avoid empty image src codes. When no source is specified, the browser sends a request to the directory of the page. This creates unwanted traffic to the server. Specify the image file path or remove the extra tags altogether.
Minimum the file size, faster will be the loading of the file. Compress the files using GZip and reduce the loading time of the website. GZip minimizes the response time by around 70%. Such optimization enhances page loading performance resulting in improved UX and so conversions.
4. Reduce Round-Trip-Times (RTTs): When a user accesses the website, each asset of a file (CSS files, java files, image files) is requested individually. A request is sent to the web server and the server returns back the information to the browser. The same is repeated for every single file. This process is referred to as RTTs. Minimizing the RTTs can significantly increase server efficiency.
To reduce RTTs,
- Combine all the small background images into a single file using CSS sprites.
- Avoid CSS @import. Use a <link> tag for each stylesheet instead of CSS @import. This enables the browser to download the stylesheets in parallel with other files.
- Reduce the number of DNS lookups. Avoid using several domain names when loading a website.
5. Minimize the number of plugins used on the website: Deactivating or deleting the plugins that are no longer in use can help faster loading of the website and improve the server efficiency. Always evaluate the plugins installed on the website on a regular basis. Monitor the plugins to see if they are outdated, inefficient and properly configured to avoid any negative impact on the site’s performance. Use Plugin Performance Profiler to identify plugins that are causing problems on the website. Fast loading and good response rate of the page because of active/valid plug-ins ensure a better experience that can potentially result in conversions.
6. Make use of the Lazy-load option: Usage of lazyload feature enables the browser to load the images that are within the user’s view and subsequently load the remaining images as and when the user scrolls down. This tremendously helps in improving the loading speed and also helps to reduce the bandwidth by loading only the required data for users who do not browse the entire page.
7. Add an Expire Header: Loading speed of web pages is enhanced by the browser using cache to minimize the size and number of HTTP requests. A web server makes use of the Expire Header in the HTTP response to inform the browser as to how long a component can be cached. Implement ‘Never Expire’ policy by setting far-future Expire Header for static components and use an appropriate Cache-Control header to support the browser with conditional requests.
8. Monitor the speed of the website on a regular basis: Monitor the speed of the website and study how the speed changes on a daily/weekly and monthly basis. This helps to catch and resolve any issues and maintain the website in a good shape. One of the best tools that help to track the overall performance of the website is Pingdom’s Website Speed Test.
Also loading files asynchronously can help to quickly load the web pages rather than loading the files synchronously. If a script is loaded synchronously, it is loaded one at a time in the order they appear on the webpage and only after this gets complete, the rest of the elements begins to load. If a script is loaded asynchronously, the browser continues to load other elements on the page simultaneously. This saves a lot of time and brings about a rapid increase in the loading speed.
One more step in enhancing the loading speed is to defer large files from getting loaded first. This ensures that the remaining contents of the website are loaded quickly without any delay. An example includes WP Rocket plugin which helps to minify and combine different files in a WordPress website. It can also be used to defer loading of large files temporarily.
The above formatting options help to significantly increase server efficiency, loading speed of the website, which in turn contributes to a prominent rise in the conversion rate of the website.
Now, let us investigate a few other options to improve website conversions:
Compelling buttons: Make sure to use an attractive, eye-catching button to get the user to perform your desired action. Also make sure that this button isn’t hidden and clearly visible on the website.
Seamless Navigation: Ensure that the website is crisp, clean and can be easily navigated. Users should be easily able to move to the place where they desire to.
Include images: Use eye-catching images to attract users especially if a webpage is dominated by text. Images help the users to break up the content easily and also keep them fully occupied. Be careful not to include too many images.
Include tempting, Clickable PPC Ads. Ensure that PPC Ads that are included are highly relevant to the content a user searches. Use long-tail keywords as such searches have a greater possibility for conversion.
Ensure relevancy: Make sure the contents included on the website are relevant to the ads used for pulling in customers. The landing page should deliver the contents promised on the ad and help users to complete the desired action (signing up a newsletter, buying a product or downloading a white paper).