Fast shipping is important.

Racers love the expression “speed is life.” It’s a mantra – a simple phrase that reminds every driver that going faster is the key to success.

And as it turns out, speed is life in both racing and ecommerce.

A volume of data from well known marketing nerds like Neil Patel, website service providers like Cloudflare, agencies like Portent, and many other experts shows that website speed and conversion rate are closely related. We would join that chorus and state that website speed impacts search engine traffic, website engagement, and of course conversion rate.

So, obviously, you want your site to be as fast as possible. Here’s a list of four simple steps ecommerce website managers can take to improve site speed.

1. Measure your site’s performance. You can use a variety of tools to measure site performance, but the best tools are probably:

  • Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, which will give you a simple checklist of items your developer can address
  • GTmetrix, which aggregates ratings and recommendations from a few different speed measurement tools

Measuring site speed with these tools will expose you to a lot of fairly technical, fairly detailed web development “stuff” that you might not understand. But Google’s tool does a decent job of explaining their recommendations, and most competent web developers should have no trouble implementing at least some of them.

2. Make sure your developer is paying attention. Most web developers know how to:

  • Compress JPG and PNG files in a “lossy” way that reduces size without impacting visible quality (learn more here)
  • Combine and minify CSS and JS files
  • Load JS files asynchronously
  • Implement lazy image loading
  • Implement CSS sprites
  • Configure a CDN
  • etc.

However, most developers also know that clients have no idea about all of the above. SO, they don’t make these things a priority. You can fix that by asking about each of the things we’ve listed off, or by sharing reports from the speed tools and asking them to implement the recommendations.

3. Get CloudFlare. One of the easiest ways to improve site performance is to reduce the number of file requests your website server has to process. Static files like your logo, CSS and JS files, product images – these are all files that can go on a Content Delivery Network (CDN). Instead of your website hosting having to host these files and serve them to every visitor, a CDN takes over these easy tasks.

Put another way, a CDN is kind of like a personal assistant for your website: If someone calls to ask you a question that your assistant can answer, that’s one less thing you have to do.

When it comes to buying CDN services, we recommend CloudFlare. Available for free, we’d suggest sites with any sizable traffic invest $20/month in a paid plan. And, in addition to making your site faster, CloudFlare will also help with some security issues.

NOTE: CloudFlare is not available with some hosted web platforms. BigCommerce, for example, has its’ own CDN system. Shopify also has a CDN, so be sure to check with your provider before setting up a CloudFlare account.

Also, your website developer needs to know if you plan to use CloudFlare. They may want to reconfigure your website a bit before you setup CloudFlare.

4. When your developer tells you that you can improve performance by doing “X”, listen. Sometimes sites are slow because they’re trying to do too much…they’ve got too many images, too many extra features that require javascript, too many database calls, etc. If you ask your developer to make your site faster, and he or she responds by telling you to make a change to your site, it’s a good idea to listen.

Having said that, if your developer never seems to be able to implement recommendations, or never manages to improve speed, get a second opinion.

5. Invest in good hosting. We don’t want to badmouth any specific hosting companies, but we will say that you generally get what you pay for. Cheap hosting plans are often fine for small, low traffic sites. But once your site starts getting traffic, a quality web host usually costs $100+ per month.

While that might sound like a lot considering some companies offer hosting for $3.99/month, slow websites hamper sales. The $96 you save on web hosting could cost you $20,000 in lost sales, because speed is life.