Only a few things are more frustrating than a slow loading of the page we clicked on: a slow website kills conversions and affects its rankings in search, and Google has repeatedly reiterated that the speed of the website is a factor it takes into account to determine the ranking and will be even more important from next year, with the start of the Google Page Experience update.

So, time is the most valuable resource and you have to be careful of 10 “silent killers” that could hit your site.

The effects of time on the site

Optimizing the speed of your website is not a necessity, “but a must, especially if you want to beat the slower competition“, writes Irina Weber on Search Engine Watch, presenting this analysis on the 10 silent killers most difficult to locate.

In support of this consideration, the author recalls some interesting statistics on the relationship between loading a website and performance:

  • A study by Akamai showed that “47% of customers expect websites to be uploaded in seconds or less” and that a delay of one hundred milliseconds can result in a 7% loss in conversions (we talked about this when Google brought AMP to Gmail.)
  • A second delay on Amazon could cost 1.6 billion dollars on sales every year.
  • According to Pingdom, 78% of the top 100 retail websites take less than three seconds to load.
  • The average loading time on the desktop is 1,286 and on a mobile device of 2,594 seconds.

Therefore, if “we notice that the site is loading for more than three seconds, it is time to understand what can be slowing down its speed and improve the overall performance“, starting from these 10 causes perhaps less known, with relative solutions.

1.      Caching issues

Storage in the browser cache is very important for regular visitors. When a user accesses our website for the first time, their browser stores all files such as images, CSS and Java files for a specified period; on the next visit, browser caching allows you to quickly publish these archived files.

By reducing the number of steps you get faster page loading times and improving the user experience: according to Weber, “caching can definitely help you accelerate your website, but it’s not without problems” and, if not set correctly, “may compromise user interaction”.

If the site is running on WordPress, we can use some cache plug-ins to improve performance; otherwise, you can add Cache-Control and Entity (Etags) headers to http response headers, that reduce the need for visitors to download the same files twice from the server and reduce the number of HPPT requests.

2.      Overloaded Database

A database overload can be a silent killer when it comes to website performance. WordPress sites often risk having an overloaded database of multiple post revisions, disabled plug-ins, saved drafts and more: “trackbacks and pingbacks have no practical use in WordPress”, says the author, so it is better “to disable them both because they clog up your database and increase the number of requests”. Another good practice is “deleting other junk files like spam folders and recycle bin, transients and database tables that can slow down your website”; again, some plugins allow you to perform all these operations in a practical way.

3.      Obsolete CMS

Running an outdated version of the CMS can not only slow down the site, but also cause several security vulnerabilities; moreover, even using the latest versions of the plugins and any software will result in faster loading times.

4.      Excessive use of social media scripts

Social media have become a crucial part of the online project: “regardless of the size of your site, you still have to connect social media and make it easier for users to share your posts”.

But the excessive use of scripts and plugins from various platforms can compromise our performance, so the advice is to limit them only to the social media we actually use and to find alternative ways to plan and automate social activity, looking for systems that automate the process.

5.      Use of chatbots

Chatbots are “great for handling customer requests” and according to a research “69% of customers want to use chatbots to accelerate communication with a brand”. There is, however, a pitfall, because these systems can damage the speed of the website “in case the script is not implemented properly and take longer to load”.

First, we must make sure “that the chatbot loads itself asynchronously“, that is, “any action performed on the website – such as starting a conversation with a customer or sending pings – must be addressed by external servers”. So, you have to use the right code that enables this action and check if there is any problem with the chatbot scripts thanks to the Google Pagespeed tools.

There are, also in this case, software and systems that allow you to configure chatbots in a simple and automatic way.

6.      Broken links

We know the problems generated by broken links in terms of annoyance for visitors to the site or Google scan difficulty (and we have also included them among the most frequent errors on sites) but we must not overlook the effect they have on bandwidth drainage.

Irina Weber says she has carried out “a detailed analysis for the site of a customer, detecting many 404 errors; after resolving them, the average loading time per user fell from seven to two seconds and there was a sharp reduction in the bounce rate“.

7.      Render-blocking JavaScript

Each time “the website is loaded into the browser, it sends calls to each script in a queue: the queue of these scripts must be empty before the site appears in the browser; if this is very long it can slow down the pages without allowing visitors to view the site completely”. These types of script queues are called Javascript and CSS render-blocking files because they indeed block the rendering.

To speed up the loading of Web pages, Google recommends deleting rendering blocking scripts; “before removing them, identify which scripts cause problems using Pagespeed Insights“, the author suggests, recalling how many “traffic and conversion analysis platforms are installed using Javascript code that can slow down your site”, but there are also lighter software to embed asynchronously in the page.

8.      AMP

“Everyone knows that AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages – is a Google project created to speed up Web pages on mobile devices by adding a brand next to snippets in mobile devices”, but according to Weber there are “some challenges” still open.

If on one hand the “creation of AMP improves the performance of the website, removes all the dynamic features that slow down websites”; in other words, “change the design of your website and offer less functionality to your visitors, and this can lead to a reduction in conversions,” and a case study confirms this. The well-known Kinsta hosting service “saw its mobile leads drop by 59% after adding AMP, so they disabled accelerated pages“.

9.      Gravatar

The Gravatar service “offers convenience and easy customization to your user base, but there is a drawback, speed”. This aspect is not really perceptible on smaller websites, “but if you have a large website with many comments on the blog, you will notice a slowdown”.

There are some options to fix this problem:

  • Disable the gravatars in WordPress.
  • Remove comments that have no value.
  • Use caching systems for Gravatar.
  • Reduce the size of Gravatar images.
  • Layout comments in WP Disable.

10. Invalid HTML and CSS

“If you stop using invalid HTML and CSS codes, you will improve the web page rendering time and the overall performance of the site,” Irina Weber says as last point. So we must be sure to “create HTML and CSS in line with W3C standards if you want browsers to interpret your site more regularly”, using validation tools or third-party validation packages.


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