Road Runner

According to the Google ranking algorithm, faster websites get better positions. That means, a speedier website will get you closer to #1 in the search results.

In addition, slow websites frustrate computer users. 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less – and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load (https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/)

So, how DO you inject some ‘get up and go’ into your sluggish website?

Stage 1: Assessment
You will need to measure the current speed of your ministry website. Two performance tools are GTmetrix and Pingdom. Their generated reports describe the current status and suggest great ways to improve speed and performance.
Stage 2: Improvements
Following are some of the most commonly needed improvements.

I. Who’s your daddy?

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Hosting
In the website hosting world, you get what you pay for. Cheap web hosts put a whole bunch of websites on the same server which keeps costs down, but means you are sharing resources with others. If you’re on the “almost free bonus plan” then your ministry website’s speed could be sluggish or even nonexistent.
Is your platform WordPress? Consider moving to a host that specializes in WordPress sites. Two of these are Pagely and WPEngine. Yes, the cost is usually higher but the gain in website performance is well worth it.
Using another platform or can’t afford a WordPress-dedicated host? Look around and compare. A general and reasonably priced host is SiteGround.
Content Delivery Network (CDN) + Cache
How does ‘snail mail’ (physical mail) get delivered? Simply, mail is moved in bundles to the most efficient location in relation to the receiver as follows:

  • the posted item goes from the poster’s local post office to a central post office;
  • from the central post office the posted item then goes to the receiver’s local post office;
  • from there, the postal worker delivers it to the receiver’s location.You can think of a CDN as a postal system.

The local and central post offices are web servers located around the world. The content of your website is moved to the nearest location to the person viewing it – ensuring the speediest delivery. Two popular CDNs are Key CDN and Max CDN.

You can think of a cache as a bundle.
The loading default of your church website is page by page, image by image, file by file. To speed things up, you can cache (or bundle) website items so that loading goes much faster. Three caching plugins available are

II. Every picture tells a story

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Themes

The theme of your church website (the layouts, styles, and colors) is very important because it is part of your branding. It is also important because poorly-coded themes contribute to slow website speeds.

To find well-coded WordPress themes:
Check it out with WordPress’ Theme Check. Do not choose out-of-date and abandoned themes.
Take a look at WordPress’ Coding Standards.

Not a WordPress theme? Read the reviews on the Internet. Chances are, any issues with the theme you are using (or considering using) will have been discussed already.

Thumbnails and other images
All images add value to your ministry website and may even increase its traffic. Yet, unoptimized images can load very slowly, causing people to become impatient and leave.
Before you upload an image, crop it to the exact dimensions required by the website page. (Website platforms can resize images as needed but this takes time.) Then, optimize the cropped images for the web. You can read about some free image-optimizing programs here. Two compatible with WordPress are Optimus and Tiny PNG.
Your ministry website platform automatically creates thumbnails (thumbnail-sized images) for use in plugins and themes. Over time, as these plugins and themes change, so do the thumbnail specifications. Unfortunately, outdated thumbnail copies do not get deleted. Your website platform may offer a Thumbnail Cleanup program. Here is the one for WordPress.

III. Spring clean on a regular basis

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As people live, they usually acquire more ‘stuff’. Same for your ministry website. Website ‘stuff’ comes in the form of plug-ins, links, redirects, pingbacks, trackbacks, spam, revisions, and new code.
The more ‘stuff’ your church website has, the slower it performs. It is recommended to tidy things up about once a month.

Here are your church website cleaning steps:

1. Assess your plugins. Most website platforms offer a Plugin Performance Checker. Here is the one for WordPress.
For each plugin, decide if its need justifies the impact it has on your site’s speed. That is, the slower the speed of the plugin, the more important it should be to your website in order for you to keep it. Deactivate and delete all the plugins you can.

2. Fix broken links and redirects. Go through every web page. Click on every link or redirect. Make sure each one brings you to the page or site intended.
Broken? Fix the ones you can by updating the link URLs in your website text. Delete the ones that are no longer valid.
Your website platform may offer a Broken Link Checker. Here is the one for WordPress.

3. Update your software. On your ministry website’s dashboard, you may have noticed an icon that indicates an available update. All good software gets updated from time to time. These updates are usually made for serious reasons such as bug fixes and better security. It is critical to perform such updates as soon as you possibly can. In fact, one of the most effective ways of preventing your website from being hacked (link to hacking blog) is to keep your software updated.

4. Optimize your church website.
Sweep away rubbish such as outdated code, pingbacks, trackbacks, spam, revisions and unnecessary fields or tables.
Your website platform may offer programs to do this. Here are the options for WordPress:
Plugins Garbage Collector
WP Sweep
WP Optimize
DB Manager

REMEMBER!!! Always backup your database, themes, plugins, and uploads folder before running any cleanup software. Corruption to database files can cause damage to your website, including total destruction.

Stage 3: Re-assessment
After performing your improvements, go back to GTmetrix or Pingdom and re-measure the speed of your church website. How much did it improve?

So, where are you in the process? Made any improvements and gained some speed? We’re interested to know about it. Have any questions about the speed of your particular ministry website? We’d like to answer. Just having a say on the matter? We’d like to hear it. Please leave us a comment or question in the comment section below.

SEE ALSO: So, how DO you inject some ‘get up and go’ into your sluggish website?

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