6 Free Tricks to Speed Up Your Cheap Webhost
Ideally, you’d be running your website on a rock solid host, but top quality hosting usually comes at a steep cost, which is something you probably cannot afford when you are just starting out or running relative small (low profit) websites. Therefore, in the real world, chances are you are relying on cheap web hosting for your small business website or that new project.
That’s quite alright: so am I.
Cheap web hosting often equals shared hosting, meaning your website is coexisting on a server with hundreds (or thousands) of other websites, all sharing their bandwidth and processor-cycles. Therefore, you have to make sure your website stays lean and fast, which is something both your visitors and search engines will appreciate (and your web host, too).
Below I have outlined some tips and tricks that will help keeping your website running smoothly on cheap hosting solutions.
1. Choose an efficient platform
When available processor-cycles and memory are limited, you’ll want to pick a platform that is optimized for this and doesn’t require a lot of resources. This is one of the reasons I’m partial to WordPress, but there are definitely other platforms that fit the bill. When selecting a platform for your website try not to pick the platform with the flashiest features, but instead keep in mind the constraints your website will be facing on shared hosting and choose a solution that is optimized for this.
2. Reduce the use of plugins
Whichever platform you choose, it is bound to have a lot of extra features, usually available as plugins. Again using WordPress as an example, there are literally thousands of (often free) plugins available, making it easy to add just about any functionality you can think of. However, each additional plugin will increase the server load and can impact the speed of your website. Therefore it is best to limit the amount of plugins/features to what you really need, instead of adding more and more, just because you can.
3. Use a caching plugin
The most basic form of websites are so-called static websites. Such webpages have no dynamically generated content. But they do have one advantage: the server can instantly show those pages to visitors, without further processing. Platforms like WordPress on the other hand, create dynamic, database-driven websites. That means that each time a page is shown to a visitor, it has to load data from the database and “compose” the webpage, before showing it to the visitor. Obviously, this process taxes the server and slows down your website.
So static websites are fast, yet boring, while dynamic websites are slower, but offer a lot more possibilities. Wouldn’t it be great if you could combine the benefits of both? And you can: by using a caching plugin. Such a plugin will create a static copy of dynamic pages, making it possible to show these static pages quickly to visitors. However, the cache is also updated regularly (when required) so new dynamic content is also fetched (just not for every pageview, which is usually overkill).
(For WordPress I use and recommend W3 Total Cache)
4. Use CloudFlare
CloudFlare is awesome.
It acts somewhat like an off-site caching plugin: it basically creates a copy of your website on it’s own, speedy servers and shows this cached copy to visitors, a lot faster than that slow shared hosting server of yours ever could. It even keeps the static portion of your website online when your server goes down and offers some security features. Best of all, it’s totally free for an unlimited amount of websites. Once your website becomes more popular, you can consider upgrading your CloudFlare plan to add even more speed and features.
Since most of the work is done on CloudFlare’s system, setting this up is pretty straightforward too: you just need to point your website address to CloudFlare’s name servers and you’re good to go. This only takes minutes and requires very little technical knowledge.
5. Rescale your images
Images are part of just about any website these days, for obvious reasons. But when adding them to your site, be careful not to simple copy and paste or drag them from your digital camera or other high-resolution source. Unless your platform of choice automatically resizes the images you upload, chances are you’ll be adding several megabytes per image. These extra megabytes will have to be downloaded by every visitor of that webpage, considerably slowing down the loading time of the page, which is annoying for your visitors (and will lower your website’s score in search engines, too).
The biggest offenders are images that appear on every page of your website such as a logo, a header image or a background. By resizing your images to the actually size that they will be shown at before adding them to your site, you can avoid this unnecessary overhead.
(A detailed guide on how to rescale images is something I’ll try to cover in a separate post later.)
6. Get feedback from Google
Google is still the top dog when it comes to search engines (and probably will be for the foreseeable future). How your site is perceived by Google should therefore be one of your top priorities. Thankfully, Google provides some useful free tools that help you with this.
Even if you’re managing just one website, you’ll want to use Google Webmaster Tools. GWT has a lot of useful features, from helping you submit your website to Google’s index to notifying you when Google’s bot wasn’t able to crawl your website (which is usually a sign something’s wrong).
Another indispensable (and free) Google tool is PageSpeed Insights. This tool will scan your webpage, assign a speed score to it and give suggestions on what you can improve.
Even if you’re stuck on cheap web hosting, in this article I have shown there are a lot of free and easy ways to improve the loading times and performance of your website. Implementing some( or all) of these tips will increase the visitor-experience of your website and can help improve your search engine rankings too.
Moreover, it will allow you to make improvements to your website without increasing the cost of your site, which can be important when you’re just starting out and don’t have a large budget.
Have you implemented any of these tricks yet? Or what else have you done to improve your website’s performance, short of moving it to a higher quality (and higher priced) hosting solution? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.