How to Fix Your Slow Site

The 10 Most Common Reasons Why Your Site is Slow and How to Fix Them

You have no doubt read or heard many laments about how we live in a society of instant gratification. We want things to work right away and if we have to wait, we’ll move on. Whether or not you think that’s a bad thing, it’s the expectation that has been set. This desire for fast and instant has an effect on our web browsing habits as anyone who has closed a tab after waiting only a few seconds for a blank page to load can attest.

 

But, if your website is the backbone of your business, load times and site speed matter quite a bit. The situation goes from feelings of annoyance and impatience to lost sales. Forbes has spotlighted several studies which demonstrate how users and customers respond to site performance. Statistics like a one second delay in load time translates into 11% fewer page views, a 7% decrease in conversions, and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction. If anything, in the years since these studies, customers have become even less tolerant of slow sites. We also now know that Google does factor in page load times in their ranking algorithm, though not explicitly and the exact mechanisms are rather in depth.

 

All of this is to say if you’re noticing your site isn’t performing as well as you’d like it to, your first impulse might to be to contact your hosting company to see what’s going on. While it’s true that your server clearly plays a significant role in how a site runs, it’s far from the only contributing factor. In fact, there’s a good chance that what’s causing your site to not run at optimal speeds is something within your control.

 

Here are ten of the most common reasons why your load times could be slow and what you can do to fix them.

 

Traffic Levels have Increased Substantially

 

If you’re currently on a shared hosting plan, this could be the reason why you decide to finally make the switch to a VPS. If your site is taking off to the extent that the amount of traffic coming in is causing performance issues, the only real solution is to upgrade your hosting solution to accommodate it. However, you may not be sure that it is the traffic. To confirm your suspicions, check your visitor numbers in Google Analytics and check your bandwidth usage in cPanel.

 

Your “Neighbors” are Using More Resources

 

Typically, if it’s not increased traffic, it’s the other accounts that share your server space that finally convinces you to move on from shared hosting to a VPS. The biggest lure of shared hosting is that it’s cheap. But, much like renting an apartment, the lowered cost comes with the downside of sharing finite resources with all of your neighbors. If another website on the server that your site lives on sees regular spikes in traffic or requires more resources for whatever reason, the performance of your site can be negatively affected.

 

Your CMS is Outdated

 

A CMS can sometimes be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes updating content pretty much a breeze. On the other hand, it can be the culprit when it comes to performance issues. This can happen for a couple of reasons. It’s your responsibility to do the regular software updates that come out for your CMS. If you’re negligent, not only are you opening yourself up to security issues, but the build you’re using could be less efficient than the latest one. Each update brings bug fixes which improve performance. If it’s not outdated, it could just be your CMS is a more demanding piece of software than you realize. Which brings us to the next point.

 

Too Many Plugins

 

Many of the most popular CMSes, like WordPress, derive much of their functionality via plugins. These small modules can help your website accomplish a lot of things, but each one can add a fraction of a second to your load times. Not all plugins are equally sluggish, however, so you may have to do some trial and error to find the plugins that help your site work to your specifications without bogging it down too much. The same can be said for the theme you choose to give your site its appearance.

 

Redirects Are Out of Control

 

Sometimes redirects are unavoidable (though you’ll want to use 301s for this) and you need to update the URL for a piece of content that has moved to somewhere else on the site. This is really for the purpose of SEO and so users don’t need to update their bookmarks. Keep in mind that if you’re using redirects, you are essentially giving the directive to have a page load twice before the user reaches their destination.

 

Images Aren’t Optimized

 

A lot of sites likely have this issue. There are rarely any scenarios where you need images on your site that are megabytes in size rather than kilobytes. If you’re taking images from your camera or from elsewhere on the web and just inserting them into your content without taking the proper steps to optimize them, you could be adding needlessly to your load time. If you want a comprehensive guide to optimizing your images, check out this guide.

 

Use Text Rather than Graphics Where Appropriate

 

To go along with the above point, images take longer to load than text. If you have made the stylistic decision to use images instead of plain text where the latter would suffice, you may want to reconsider. Unless there is a pressing design reason for this, it’s always better to opt for the faster loading text.

 

Code Isn’t Optimized

 

The coding of a site plays a huge role in how “snappy” it feels. A fairly minimal site built on mostly HTML/CSS will load faster than a site that also uses JavaScript and PHP to perform a bunch of dynamic functions. While you shouldn’t sacrifice your creative vision, it’s important to make sure you or your developer is committing to clean code that requires minimum loading times to populate in a browser.

 

Embedded Media from External Sources

 

The benefit of embedding media on your site that’s actually hosted elsewhere is that you’re using up less space and fewer resources on your server. The downside is you’re at the mercy of that external source. If for some reason that source is having loading problems of its own, your site will suffer as well while it tries to call up the content.

 

Cache

 

Enable caching through your preferred method so that users are served the cached version of your site for faster load times. This can be done through the .htaccess file or through a plugin if you’re using a CMS that supports such functionality.

 

Conclusion

 

If you’re currently experiencing performance issues with your site related to traffic or you know that you’ve outgrown your current hosting solution, it’s time to upgrade. Say goodbye to frustrating shared hosting plans and take advantage of the performance boost of a VPS with KnownHost. Contact us today and our team of experts will help you find the hosting solution that best matches your needs. Partner with a hosting company that will help you achieve your goals and that provides excellent customer service.

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Understanding VPS Hosting

12 Facts You Need to Know to Understand VPS Hosting

To understand VPS hosting, you basically need to know what hosting is and what a virtual private server (VPS) is. This piece briefly explores both of those topics as a series of facts.

 

#1. Web hosting gives companies the servers they need to get online.

 

Web hosting is the service of providing Internet-related infrastructural plans to businesses and others. Organizations that do not have their own datacenters, want to move quickly to get started on a project, or do not want to manage servers themselves will use a web host for server space, file maintenance, and online services.

 

#2. Web hosting is split into three major categories.

 

Web hosting is, generally, also sometimes called website hosting or simply hosting. However, people will talk about hosting in terms of the individual category – the major ones of which are:

 

shared hosting: many accounts on one physical machine with a single operating system and unguaranteed resources. (lowest cost)

 

VPS hosting: a smaller number of accounts per machine, each of which has their own operating system and guaranteed resources. (slightly higher cost than shared)

 

dedicated hosting: one account per machine. (significantly higher cost than shared)

 

Related specifically to our topic of VPS, as you can see above, VPS hosting is fundamentally an effort to find “the best of both worlds” – the middle-ground between the flexibility and power of dedicated hosting and the affordability of shared hosting.

 

#3. Many people come to web hosting companies for speed.

Often, companies use web hosting providers for access to their fast web connections. If an organization were to host its own servers, it would be costly to get access to similarly strong data networks. Basically, the business that buys hosting services is leveraging the shared cost of a speedy Internet connection to store and serve its files both internally and externally.

 

#4. Web hosting is an industry that was originally created by the Internet.

 

When the Internet first became publicly available as a mass-market service (the early 1990s), those who were interested in creating websites had to have their own servers. Since servers are costly, and the maintenance of them can be highly technical, there was a potential business need for web hosting. However, the first step was to build servers and create web hosting packages that would meet the needs of many users at the lowest possible cost.

 

#5. Web hosting became prominent for meeting a common business need.

 

Web hosting grew as a business when it became clear that (unsurprising to us now) not everyone wants to host a server themselves. The basic business idea, in the early days, was that it would be a good business to buy servers and rent out the resources of them at a reduced cost to customers that want to run a website – regardless of (and, in a manner, completely irrelevant and separate from) the technical aspects related to hardware.

 

#6. Web hosting demand was minuscule in the beginning, and key statistics show us why it has grown exponentially.

 

Demand was initially not high for web hosting for three basic reasons:

  •  * the amount of people online was low;
  •  * web hosting was an emergent field that was below the surface of public awareness (“farther below,” really, since many people are still unfamiliar with the field); and
  •  * web hosting was costlier because there was less competition.

These figures from The Next Web give us an immediate sense of how mammoth the Internet really is now in size. In turn, these numbers, from January 2017, tell us why web hosting companies have become of ever-increasing use to business. [source]

  •  * There are 7.476 billion people on the planet (with 54% of us in urban settings).
  •  * The total population of Internet users worldwide is 3.773 billion, a 50% penetration of the possible market (so, in a way, it’s only half as ubiquitous as it seems globally).
  •  * Active social media users are a smaller population – at 2.789 billion people, that’s “merely” 37% of everyone in the world.
  •  * Interestingly, the number of mobile users, at 4.917 billion, is higher than the number of Web users.

 

#7. The business world was revolutionized by web hosting.

 

Everyone talks about the disruption of the Internet. That digital disruption that has changed our lives in so many ways for the better would not have been possible without web hosting – which supplied the convenience to allow businesses to get online in a structured and trusted manner. The changes were really business-wide and impacted almost every industry.

 

Specifically, a major aspect of that disruption was in marketing. Marketers had to completely change their approach as websites became increasingly critical platforms for the branding of businesses. What used to be print became digital – following the same basic pattern of magazines and newspapers.

 

#8. A virtual private server (VPS) gives hosting customers greater control.

 

A VPS is a virtual server that is experienced as its own server and has its own unique operating system (OS). For better costs than dedicated hosting, while still offering a significant technological upgrade from shared hosting, a hosting company divides one physical server into guaranteed sets of resources for a number of different VPS hosting customers.

 

Typically this scenario is described as a virtual private server (VPS). However, the term virtual dedicated server (VDS) is also sometimes used.

 

#9. A VPS is a similar concept to having your own private computer.

 

A virtual private server is fundamentally about separation. It takes the form of a virtual machine to meet the needs of each individual hosting customer just as an independent PC can be dedicated for use by a single person. This type of server gives a business the same capabilities (including full root access from some providers) as a dedicated server, with several VPS machines, all with separate operating systems, running on the same machine or set of machines.

 

#10. A VPS gives a user much greater freedom than they’d have with shared hosting.

 

A VPS will usually include basic components such as web server and mail server programs; file transfer protocol (FTP) software; and possibly additional applications for e-commerce, blogging, and other core features. Since a virtual private server has its own operating system, the customer takes on the role of a super-user of the OS. In turn, they are able to install whatever software they choose that can run on that particular OS (typically a Linux distribution).

 

#11. VPS plan management creates a major distinction.

 

As virtualization technology has progressed, companies are now able to provide VPS hosting affordably. One of the most important features of VPS plans is the determination of the responsible party to manage the server. In an unmanaged setting, the user bears the responsibility to manage and monitor the server. In a managed VPS hosting setting, the hosting company is responsible.

 

#12. Virtual private servers are of use to small and large companies.

 

A typical example scenario in which a VPS is useful is when a startup or other small business wants to create and run a site but does not want to have to make an investment in a dedicated server. However, an enterprise might use VPS hosting as well. The VPS setup is helpful in those cases because it allows one user to control various servers; one might be designated for the production-level website and another for a sandbox server (so that a false version of the site can be used for testing updates, changes, and new software or plugins).

 

*****

 

Hopefully, the above facts are helpful in understanding web hosting, the virtual private server, and VPS hosting. Do you think a VPS might be right for your business? At KnownHost, you are scalable on demand, without any downtime: no migration of files or databases are required, and there are no changes in your settings. Compare plans.

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Powerful Hosting for WordPress

Why WordPress Might Need More Powerful Hosting Than You Think

When deciding on the backend environment of a site that will serve as the place where you’ll make all changes to content and functionality, there aren’t any wrong or right answers. While there are some specialty cases, like e-commerce, where you’ll probably want to help yourself by choosing an e-commerce specific CMS at least as a base, you can use any solution you’d like. While coding a site from scratch is a perfectly suitable solution, many people opt for a CMS for a variety of reasons.

 

For those who aren’t web developers by trade, or business owners who just prefer simplicity when it comes to making site changes, the use of a CMS is a popular choice. Though content management systems vary, the benefit of using them is that they are relatively easier to use due to being broken down into logical “fill in your content here” sections rather than intimidating users with a wall of code that they have to accurately edit.

 

The most popular CMS in the world, by far, is WordPress. Current estimates have WordPress powering more than a quarter of all websites on the internet. It’s easy to see why so many think of WordPress as synonymous with CMSes, like Xerox and copy machines. WordPress is fairly straightforward, it can be modified to do nearly anything, and the cottage industry of plugins and themes that has developed around it means the combinations are nearly limitless. But, while using WordPress is simple to a degree, it is not a simple software. If you’re just starting out with a website, there’s a good chance you’ve opted for the combination of WordPress on a shared hosting plan.

 

While this set up will probably work for you in the very early days of your venture, don’t be surprised if you quickly outgrow it, especially if this website is for your business. There are two things to keep in mind here: increases in traffic and the demands of WordPress as a software. Sooner or later, you’ll see that you’re going to need to migrate to a managed VPS in order to get the performance a professional site needs.

 

Migrations aren’t fun, so it’s best to set things up initially with an eye on your future needs. That’s why you should skip the shared hosting and go straight for a managed VPS when launching a site on WordPress. Here are some characteristics of WordPress to keep in mind and why you may need more powerful hosting than you realize.

 

Keep Traffic in Mind

 

Many of the factors that can make a WordPress site feel like it’s running slow or performance isn’t what you’d expect comes down to the software itself, not necessarily your hosting. What this means is, upgrading to a managed VPS isn’t necessarily a magic bullet. Rather, it gives you more room to work with to offset some of the characteristics of WordPress that can make it sluggish. The only thing your server is primarily responsible for in this equation is handling traffic loads.

 

Between the information presented in cPanel and Google Analytics (which you really should set up on your site) you’ll be able to extrapolate if you’re seeing notable increases in bandwidth usage and traffic. If these metrics are higher than they have been historically and you’re noticing that your page load time is exceeding three seconds, you probably need a more capable server. Google themselves have said two second load times should be the target.

 

If external factors are affecting site performance, a VPS should be something you look into.

 

The Nature of WordPress

 

Now we’re going to get into how WordPress in particular can be a bit sluggish. Since we are speaking in terms of literal seconds, sluggish is a relative term. But the difference between three seconds and six seconds when it comes to user behavior is significant. Pinpointing ways to shave down fractions of seconds is something you’re going to want to do if you’re looking to make money with your website.

 

When it comes to issues of WordPress itself, your host can only act as a buffer. With a more powerful hosting solution like a VPS, the added CPU and RAM provides more leeway when it comes to more bloated themes or plugin usage. The hardware in a shared hosting plan will begin to suffer under the load of a heavy site sooner. But, ultimately, it’s about striking a balance between necessary functionality, good design choices, and having a reliable host. Here are some of the aspects of your WordPress build where things can bottleneck.

 

Your Theme

 

The theme you choose doesn’t just contain the design of your site. Themes that have a bunch of bells and whistles have functionality hard coded into them. That means more elaborate PHP. This makes for heavier code that can bog down your site. When possible, go for the most lightweight theme possible. Chances are you won’t use all of the features coded into the theme. It’s better to add functionality yourself via plugins you select yourself. This leads to the next point about plugins.

 

Plugins

 

One of WordPress’ biggest selling points is the ability to easily add functionality with plugins. The downside to this convenience is you can get a little plugin happy and find yourself with many installed in your WordPress build. While plugins are necessary to get the site you want, it’s important to know that each plugin can add a fraction of a second to your page load time because the browser has to process them. It’s also important to note that not all plugins are equal. Some can be significantly heavier than others with similar functionality. That’s why you should test and evaluate to see which to keep and which to get rid of.

 

Image Optimization

 

Rarely, if ever, should you be keeping images on your site that measure in megabytes. Large images can be a culprit behind slow load times. These images add up, so a long post history with large images can absolutely cause performance issues. Get around this by installing a plugin that automatically optimizes images as you load them into the CMS. This takes the responsibility of going through and editing every image off of you for convenience.

 

Caching

 

You can help your site load quicker with a caching solution. W3 Total Cache is a popular plugin for this . It makes a variety of behind the scenes changes without actually altering your theme or plugins. It was designed to work in any hosting environment, including your VPS. Check out its long list of features. It makes many small changes to how certain content is cached in order to improve the user experience.

 

Conclusion

 

Your website depends on reliable hosting to get the results your business needs to thrive. Don’t accept slow performance and erratic uptime. A managed VPS is a great investment for businesses of all sizes. The combination of a managed VPS and WordPress could be the ideal environment for yours. If you’ve grown frustrated with your current hosting plan or you want to start fresh, contact the team at KnownHost today. We’ll help you choose the hosting solution that makes the most sense for your business.

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Why Your Hosting Could be Affecting Your SEO Efforts

Search engine optimization is one of the facets of digital marketing that provokes a love/hate response. It’s obvious that having an SEO plan is a necessity. After all, there is a lot of value in organic traffic. On average, just over half of the traffic coming to a site is via organic search. That means avenues like social, paid ads, email, referrals, etc. combined equal the traffic that Google or Bing bring to your site. While having more visitors is nice, what does that actually mean for your bottom line? Organic search traffic also brings in the most revenue across most industry sectors. While some visitors might just be researching or “window shopping” many are deliberately performing searches so they can make a purchase.

 

The frustration of an SEO campaign usually lies in how nebulous it can sometimes be. That’s because search companies, especially Google, are notoriously secretive about the factors that go into their ranking algorithms. That’s why tactics that used to work don’t necessarily work quite as well a few years down the line. This means reevaluating your tactics, dealing with the ups and downs of rankings or penalties, and investing more into a new strategy. The frustration lies in not being entirely confident that the action you’re taking is the best course. Luckily, the whole thing isn’t a shot in the dark. There are definite correlations marketing professionals have parsed in order to determine how to best get higher search results. It turns out, many factors go into your search rankings. And some pretty significant ones actually relate to your site’s hosting. That’s why if you’ve been trying to save money by staying on a shared hosting plan, you could actually be giving up on revenue that would more than pay for your, say, VPS instead.

 

Surprised that your hosting company might be affecting your SEO efforts? Let’s break down what is known about search algorithms and how hosting can play a substantial role.

 

Search Ranking Factors

 

We know some of the major factors that make up Google’s algorithm through both trial and error and some guidance from Google themselves. Content plays a big part. In fact, it’s become possibly the most heavily weighted piece of signaling of the value of a site. If your site’s content isn’t determined to be “of value” then your low rankings will reflect that. Now, how does an algorithm determine the value of content? It can’t just read it like a human being would.

 

Google relies on signals that people find value in the content. A big one is social sharing. The more social media interaction there is with your site, the higher the authority and value, therefore the higher the rank. Ultimately, Google looks to approximate a user’s experience with its algorithm. That means some technical attributes of a site will factor into the ranking formula as well. Some of those attributes have to do with how well your site performs. That includes things like page load time and site speed. This is where your host comes in.

 

How Your Host Plays a Part

 

You know the reason why someone would opt for a VPS over a shared hosting plan. It’s faster. No one likes to wait for a page to load, or worse, crash. But it’s not that simple. Not only do users value site speed and load times highly, but Google does as well. First, it’s important to make a critical point. Many things factor into site speed, not just your host. Upgrading your shared hosting to a VPS will certainly be beneficial, but it’s not a magic bullet. Developer decisions play a major role in site speed, too.

 

However, you want to give your site every advantage possible. Higher performing servers will give you speed and broadband boosts. This should ostensibly increase your page load times which would reflect positively on your ranking scores. Having a higher performing hosting solution gives you a bit more wiggle room when it comes to “heavy” coding, but best practices still dictate clean code when possible. Site uptime also plays a part in your SEO efforts. Don’t settle for anything less than 99.9% service level agreements. If a search engine crawler comes to index your site during a period that it’s in downtime, that could be detrimental to your ranking.

 

What You Can Do to Improve Rankings

 

By focusing on giving your visitors the best user experience possible, you’re also going to be bolstering your SEO efforts. What does that look like?

 

Invest in a hosting solution that will help you achieve your goal of keeping your page load times to under three seconds if possible and online consistently with industry leading uptime. Cut down on things that slow sites down like complicated JavaScript or PHP scripting. If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, be careful with the amount of plugins you have loaded into the site. Each plugin can add a fraction of a second to your page load time. Enough plugins combined can add crucial seconds to your overall load time which can push you over the threshold of “acceptable” to both users and search engines.

 

Outside of the realm of hosting and site performance, you also want to make sure your information architecture is sound with proper URL formatting, high quality content, plenty of social media engagement, and a focus on keyword research.

 

Planning for the Future

 

“Future proofing” as a concept is a bit dubious. No one can predict how things will go. But, there are some best practices that probably won’t ever fall out of fashion.

 

Setting up your site with the right hosting solution right off the bat is always a good idea. Many business owners start on lower tiered hosting to save money only to find themselves in a situation where they need to migrate down the line. While migrations aren’t always a big deal, things can go wrong. Information could be lost. The technicalities of a site migration could hurt your SEO rankings. Anytime you move something from one place to another, there is the possibility of search penalties.

 

Starting right away on a VPS will save you time and headaches in the long run because you’ll be set up where you need to be from the beginning. You’ll have the performance you need to handle your site’s growth from its beginnings up to having hundreds of thousands of visitors.

 

A successful SEO campaign is all about setting up strong site architecture, including content, right off the bat and then building off of that over the years. What you don’t want to do is find yourself in a situation where you’re doing complete overhauls.

 

Conclusion

 

As you can see there is a lot riding on having a reliable hosting solution that consistently offers high performance. Every part of your digital operations is interconnected, even in some not so obvious ways. That’s why it’s important to partner with the best. At KnownHost, we know how important your website is to your business. If you’re looking for a hosting company with the experience to handle any kind of project all while providing top of the line customer service, contact us today. We’re happy to answer any questions and help you determine the best hosting solution for your business.

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