A goldfish has an attention span of 9sec while the average web user has an attention span of 8.25sec (down from 12sec in 2000). Attention spans online are falling, so your website must get your message across faster than ever before. If your site is set up less than optimally, your pages will take too long to load, and potential buyers will leave and give their business to your competitors. To own your niche, your site must be faster than anyone else's, which means avoiding four common shortcuts that slow your website. How fast is fast? Test your site and competing sites using sites such as WebPageTest.org. Your website needs to be the fastest. Test your speed before and after making any changes such as installing a CDN or a new plugin.
1. Not Bothering with a CDN
A content delivery network (CDN) can speed up any website by caching most of your pages' content on servers close to your users' location. Sites that use a CDN consume fewer server resources, so you won't get demands to upgrade your hosting account, and they consume less hosting bandwidth, which is important even if you are using cloud hosting.
2. Cheap Hosting
Cheap hosting is a great way to trash your business. Just get $2.95 per month shared hosting and cram your site onto a server with 200 others and watch what happens. As soon as you get any business at all your host will demand you upgrade to a VPS because you are using too many resources on the shared server. Unlimited storage and bandwidth are meaningless when the crucial factor is the demand your site places on the server's CPU. You need top quality hosting that uses SSD servers. A deadly combo would be a cloud hosting with SSD storage which going to make your site run faster but will cost more.
3. Free WordPress Theme
There are hundreds of abandoned free themes to choose from on WordPress.org. When you select a theme, make sure it is compatible with your installed version of WordPress and that it has been updated in the past three months. Good themes look good and are fast because they are well-coded. Looking good is vital because anyone visiting your site makes a judgment within one-tenth of a second. That is only long enough to take in your design and color choice, so ensure they will appeal to your target profile. Check how your preferred WordPress theme looks on phones and tablets as well as on large desktop screens because most web users use their mobile devices more than laptops.
4. 1,001 Free Plugins
Visiting the WordPress Plugin repository for the first time is like visiting Aladdin's cave. There is something there that will solve every problem you have, and many will fix issues you never knew you had. But there is a problem: Every plugin you install means extra code on your site, which means it takes longer for your server to build your page from that code. End result: More plugins equates to a slow website. Free plugins are often poorly coded and are not supported except by a users' forum. Reduce the number of plugins you use to the minimum and check how they affect your site's speed. Be particularly wary when you install social sharing and related posts plugins because these are renowned for their adverse effect on page speed. Beware also of plugins that are all-singing and all-dancing such as JetPack because every function involves more calls to the CPU, slowing down your site.
The Short Version
You need your web pages to download quickly, so you need a well-designed site on a fast web hosting service with a CDN to make it twice as fast. Test your page speed before and after every change you make. Know how fast your competitors' sites are and make sure yours is faster. Test mobile as well as desktop versions of your site to ensure every user gets the best experience.