Site Speed Is Money – How I Earnt $30,587 In 6 Hours

Site Speed Is Money – How I Earnt $30,587 In 6 Hours

Your slow website is costing you more money than you think.

A one second delay in load time decreases conversions by 7%!

But what does that actually translate into for this blog specifically?

Let’s take a look at the conversion loss calculator to measure how much money the blog is missing out on every day because of page-load times.

I suggest you do it for your own site as well!

Woah! So reducing site speed by 3 seconds will result in an extra $29,076 per year profit!

Even if I could reduce it by just a second I can make an extra $8,988 a year!

That’s a whole bunch of money I’m leaving on the table! More than some people earn in a year that I’m throwing away by not making a few simple changes.

There are numerous case studies and reports on how site speed directly influences conversion rate.

How To Measure Site Speed

You can use a couple of free tools to measure the speed of your site from various locations.

  • WebPageTest.org – This has a huge amount of locations and browser choices.
  • Pingdom – A much simpler / lightweight approach to testing your site speed.

I actually use both tools to measure my sites speed. I use WebPageTest after each optimisation step to ensure I haven’t increased the load time by mistake and I use Pingdom before and after the speed optimisation is complete.

You also need to consider where your audience is located – for the most part my readers are USA/UK based with India taking the 3rd spot so I made sure I measured the site speed from each of those locations.

How To Make Your Site Load Faster

So now you know how slow your website is and how much money your losing everyday it’s time to fix that!

Here is my original Pingdom test-

And here is the same test, from the same location after my optimisation-

I reduced my load time by 4.37 seconds to just half a second which puts me at least $29,076 better off this year.

Not bad for a day’s work!

So let’s take a look at exactly what I did to achieve that and precisely how each step affected load time.

Testing Details

For the purpose of the granular testing after making each change I used WebPageTest.org.

The reason for this is because it allows me to test from more locations with different browsers and run 5 tests back to back to get an ‘average’ result.

I decided to monitor how my changes affected 3 key pages of the site-

Original Performance

Before we start the test let’s measure how each of the 3 pages currently perform.

Page Miami London Delhi
Home 5.682s 5.121s 7.022s
Tutorial 7.974s 9.682s 9.127s
Forum 5.802s 5.583s 6.728s

Update WordPress & Plugins

The first step in my speed optimisation was to update to the latest version of WordPress and update all of the plugins.

Always make a backup of your site before doing this or making any other changes to your site.

To perform the updates just click on Dashboard > Updates and follow the instructions

Time Saved

Page Miami Time Saving London Time Saving Delhi Time Saving
Home 5.293s -0.389s 4.772s -0.349s 6.492s -0.530s
Tutorial 7.799s -0.175s 8.173s -1.509s 9.127s -0.103s
Forum 5.894s +0.092s 5.594s +0.011s 6.520s -0.208s

Well that took about 60 seconds to do and already the site is loading 0.35 seconds faster on average across all of the tests.

Just another 0.65 seconds towards the first 1 second goal which is worth $8,988 to me!

WPEngine

Next I decided it was time to move away from my cheap shared hosting to a much more robust and professional host.

After a lot of research and reading I settled on WPEngine.com – WordPress & speed is their specialty.

They have some fantastic features such as a CDN, automatic daily backups, one click backup/restore, separate ‘staging’ area to test changes without affecting the live site and a bunch of other stuff.

They have their own custom written hardware based caching system so there is no need for separate caching plugins like W3 Total Cache for example.

The servers run Nginx which is much faster than Apache and resources scale based on demand so your site never slows down even if it hits big spikes of traffic.

And last but not least, they were providing near instant support on Christmas Day!

But how did the move affect the load time of the site?

Time Saved

Page Miami Time Saving London Time Saving Delhi Time Saving
Home 3.888s -1.405s 4.166s -0.606s 5.646s -0.846s
Tutorial 6.788s -1.011s 4.527s -3.646s 7.304s -1.720s
Forum 4.764s -1.130s 4.966s -0.628s 5.82s -0.700s

WOW! – That’s an average saving of 1.299 seconds!

Just a 1 second improvement is worth $8,988 a year, so a 1.299 second improvement is worth about $11,600!

Not bad for a $29 per month investment & it took less than an hour to move my blog over to WPEngine!

Total Time Saved – 1.649 seconds
Total Extra Income – $14,821

Content Delivery Network

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) helps speed up your site by making sure things like your CSS and image files are mirrored all over the world.

So when someone in India requests your webpage they connect to a local server in India making things nice and fast!

This is a great way to ensure your site loads quickly no matter where the user is in the world!

It costs an extra $19.95 per month with WPEngine on their cheapest package and is included free of charge on all others.

Time Saved

Page Miami Time Saving London Time Saving Delhi Time Saving
Home 3.476s -0.412s 3.762s -0.404s 5.040s -0.606s
Tutorial 6.237s -0.551s 4.258s -0.269s 6.439s -0.865s
Forum 4.204s -0.560s 4.133s -0.833s 5.378s -0.442s

So with the CDN enabled we managed to shave an extra 0.549 seconds off the load time! So far so good and that takes us past the 2 second savings goal!

Total Time Saved – 2.198 seconds
Total Extra Income – $20,840

Remove Facebook Comments

I have thought about removing the Facebook comments system quite a lot recently for a number of reasons. Originally I used Facebook comments with the intention of them driving extra traffic from Facebook, Social activity and adding a bit more ‘authenticity’ to the blog.

However a lot of you guys get put off leaving a comment as you tend to like maintaining a separate personal and business life.

Secondly the comments section is a key area for conversion when setup correctly but I haven’t got round to making those changes just yet.

So Facebook comments were removed and I used this plugin (enable it then open every page on your site) to copy all of the comments from Facebook into my WordPress comments database so I didn’t lose any of them.

Time Saved

Page Miami Time Saving London Time Saving Delhi Time Saving
Home 3.105s -0.371s 3.401s -0.361s 4.879s -0.161s
Tutorial 5.070s -1.167s 4.001s -0.257s 6.027s -0.412s
Forum 3.924s -0.280s 3.928s -0.205s 5.104s -0.274s

That makes for yet another average saving of 0.387 seconds!

So in effect having Facebook comments on my site was actually costing me roughly $3,700 a year for the sacrifice in page load time.

So much for them being ‘free’ to use!

Total Time Saved – 2.585 seconds
Total Extra Income – $24,598

Nearly at the 3 second goal now!

Code Optimisation

Now it is important for me to point out that I suck at coding in a big way. So with that in mind someone that knows how to write code could probably have done a much better job.

Anyway the aim of the game here is reduce the total size of the page, the number of HTTP requests and to make sure Javascript is loaded asynchronously so it doesn’t block the rest of the page from loading.

Here is precisely what I did-

  1. Plugin CSS – All CSS that was dynamically inserted by plugins was moved to the themes stylesheet using this tutorial.
  2. Plugin Javascript – Exactly the same step as above but for the Javascript (I did a particularly poor job on this)
  3. Async Java Loading – I made sure Javascript was loaded asynchronously and updated social media sharing buttons. You could probably use this plugin and this one.
  4. Optimised Javascript/CSS – I used this site and this one. Although this plugin might work for you.
  5. Google JQuery – I loaded JQuery from Google
  6. Unused Plugins – I deleted all unused plugins
  7. Removed Analytics – I was running Google Analytics, Statcounter & Clicktale – I removed Statcounter and Clicktale
  8. Optimise Database – I ran WP Optimize to make sure the database was as lean as it could be.

Time Saved

Page Miami Time Saving London Time Saving Delhi Time Saving
Home 2.943s -0.162s 3.250s -0.151s 4.445s -0.434s
Tutorial 3.395s -1.675s 3.828s -0.173s 5.598s -0.429s
Forum 3.768s -0.156s 3.921s -0.007s 4.974s -0.130s

So all of that comes out to an average saving of 0.368 seconds adding another few thousands dollars onto the annual total.

I’m sure someone that knows what they are doing could do much better though! I plan on hiring someone to perform this step once I have finished tweaking the blog to my liking the coming weeks.

I have already made some changes that have undone parts of my code optimisation.

Total Time Saved – 2.953 seconds
Total Extra Income – $28,072

Image Optimisation

You can usually reduce the file sizes of images substantially without sacrificing on quality. This will mean users have to download less data each time they hit your page.

First of all I downloaded my entire site and ran it through the JPEG Reducer which is a great piece of free software. Once that was done I uploaded all the files.

Then I installed WP Smush.it to bulk compress again to ensure maximum savings were made.

Once you have ran the Smush.it plugin please disable and remove it, leaving it enabled actually slows your site down!

Time Saved

Page Miami Time Saving London Time Saving Delhi Time Saving
Home 2.835s -0.108s 2.912s -0.338s 4.292s -0.153s
Tutorial 3.192s -0.203s 3.814s -0.014s 5.344s -0.254s
Forum 3.516s -0.252s 3.697s -0.224s 4.688s -0.286s

With all of the images optimised that amounts to a further saving of 0.203 seconds on average which takes us past our 3 second goal!

Total Time Saved – 3.156 seconds
Total Extra Income – $30,587

Wrapping It Up

So in just 6 hours with a few simple changes I was able to shave 3.156 seconds off the average load time of the site which will results in an extra $30,587 profit because of the increase in conversion rate this will bring.

Not bad for 6 hours work huh?

The biggest change came with the move to WPEngine and enabling the CDN service which took less than an hour!

Those changes on their own accounted for an 1.848 second improvement which is worth roughly $17,910 to my bottom line profits per year.

Granted my hosting now costs $48.95 per month instead of $0.99 per month but I think I can swallow that expense ;)

That only leaves one thing to do – a little jiggy dance in celebration!

Page by Page Summary

For all you data geeks check out how each change affected each pages load time step by step.

Homepage

Miami Time Saving London Time Saving Delhi Time Saving
Original 5.682s - 5.121s - 7.022s -
Update WordPress 5.293s -0.389s 4.772s -0.349s 6.492s -0.530s
WPEngine 3.888s -1.405s 4.166s -0.606s 5.646s -0.846s
CDN 3.476s -0.412s 3.762s -0.404s 5.040s -0.606s
Facebook Comments 3.105s -0.371s 3.401s -0.361s 4.879s -0.161s
Code Optimisation 2.943s -0.162s 3.250s -0.151s 4.445s -0.434s
Image Optimisation 2.835s -0.108s 2.912s -0.338s 4.292s -0.153s

Tutorial Page

Miami Time Saving London Time Saving Delhi Time Saving
Original 7.974s - 9.682s - 9.127s -
Update WordPress 7.799s -0.175s 8.173s -1.509s 9.024s -0.103s
WPEngine 6.788s -1.011s 4.527s -3.646s 7.304s -1.720s
CDN 6.237s -0.551s 4.258s -0.269s 6.439s -0.865s
Facebook Comments 5.070s -1.167s 4.001s -0.257s 6.027s -0.412s
Code Optimisation 3.395s -1.675s 3.828s -0.173s 5.598s -0.429s
Image Optimisation 3.192s -0.203s 3.814s -0.014s 5.344s -0.254s

Forum Post

Miami Time Saving London Time Saving Delhi Time Saving
Original 5.802s - 5.583s - 6.728s -
Update WordPress 5.894s -0.092s 5.594s -0.011s 6.520s -0.208s
WPEngine 4.764s -1.130s 4.966s -0.628s 5.820s -0.700s
CDN 4.204s -0.560s 4.133s -0.833s 5.378s -0.442s
Facebook Comments 3.924s -0.280s 3.928s -0.205s 5.104s -0.274s
Code Optimisation 3.768s -0.156s 3.921s -0.007s 4.974s -0.130s
Image Optimisation 3.516s -0.252s 3.697s -0.224s 4.688s -0.286s
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74 Responses

1.14.2013

Thanks for that Matthew, as always a very detailed and well written article. I’m not sure I’ll change my hosting just yet, but I’ll certainly look at implementing some of your other suggestions.

It’ll be interesting to see how much difference to your revenue the speed increase will make, if indeed it’s possible for you to quantify it.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

No worrys let me know how it goes!

Reply

Yikes I thought I knew a lot about this and you’ve given me a lot more to do – removing Smush it is a real surprise!

Thanks for all the detail and references Matt.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

No worrys hope it helps you out!

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1.14.2013

Wow, super great and very detailed post about optimizing site speed. Awesome.

I don’t think that i can afford $50 per month for hosting yet, but when i do, i think i’ll also migrate (hostgator can be really slow sometimes).

And i found several awesome free plugin from this tutorial, thanks a lot!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Well when your blog reaches that stage you can pat yourself on the back :) I had noticed that with the increase visitor load the site and especially tutorial pages were performing poorly so it had outgrown the host =D

I would say over and above that it is worth spending time minimising http requests for good results.

Reply

1.15.2013

Small sites cant afford the luxury of hosting. I have also heard of thesis framework or something which will speed up and rank website fast.

Are you using wpengine or linode servers ?

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Well regardless of the size of your site, the fact of the matter is for every second longer it takes to load – you lose 7% of your profits. Perhaps poor hosting is why they cant afford good hosting ^^

Thesis is a lightweight framework/theme for WordPress – I have investigated getting the site converted to it but the cost vs reward was borderline.

Reply

Casey Dennison
1.15.2013

Great write up Matt!

Look’s like I’ll be upgrading to a new host, soon. Your blog is coming along pretty well. This year should be a good one, and I’m sure I’ll be around to watch it grow even bigger.

Take care,

Casey

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi Casey,

Thanks very much – it’s getting there slowly now :)

Reply

1.15.2013

Traffic influences the revenue, instead of the loading time of a website.

Of course, loading speed of each website must me fast for all visitors, don’t use any heavy scripts which cause a site get slower. If a site get loads of traffic, consider VPS hosting or dedicated servers as main web hosting, not “shared” servers. e.g: 50,000+ unique visitors per month.

Both are more expensive but good investment for huge traffic.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Yes traffic does influence revenue but design/speed/conversion influences it much more. You can be sure I earn more money from 100 visitors than most people earn from 1000.

Reply

1.19.2013

Hi Matthew,

Great tutorial. What about W3 total Cache? Do you also use it to speed up your site?

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

No WPEngine have their own custom written hardware based caching system so there is no need for separate caching plugins like W3 Total Cache.

Reply

1.19.2013

I learned more from this post than 95% of all other articles ever read! I new a bit about this, but I didn’t think there was this much to it. I’m turning up the heat and maximizing my site for better results from my existing traffic!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Thanks very much :) Your site definitely needs the speed treatment!

Reply

1.20.2013

Very cool post. Almost convinced me to sign-up to WP Engine. Good job hah :)

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Your site is already pretty speedy =D

Reply

1.31.2013

Hi Matt,

Linode is showing up as your host on a sneeky whois search.

You have a UK website are you hosting it in the states or in the UK and are you still with Wpengine ?

How have they been ?

Like your blog keep it up!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Yes I’m still with WPEngine and intend to stick with them for the performance gain it offers. The site is now hosted in the USA though but my audience is 25% USA, 20% UK and 5% India which is why I tested from all 3 locations :)

The support is superb!

Reply

2.1.2013

Matthew you a rock star. I’ve been using wpengine for a while now with my sites and clients sites. Love it. Only down fall is they don’t handle email…. not a huge biggie, but be nice to have the option.

You also added a few more todo’s for my team to get site speed even tighter. Love the way you positioned this post.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Yeah I’ve got to say out of all the hosts I’ve used the past 10 years I have been more impressed with WPEngine than any other. Even my dealings with RackSpace left a lot to be desired.

I’m all about conversion/extracting value and site speed is often overlooked as a crucial factor in that.

P.s. the email problem is easily solved with http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/outlook-handles-email-domain-hosting/

Reply

2.3.2013

With the exception of the hosting (which really depends on the client’s preference), I think most of tips here are great.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Thanks :)

Although if the current host is affecting the clients conversion, it should not be their ‘preference’

Reply

2.11.2013

Hi Matt,

Great post! All I ever do is use WP Super Cache and a CDN while on shared hosting (hostgator). But after reading your post, I’m excited to try out some code and image optimization!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

No worrys – I’m going to hire someone to do the entire blog properly once I’ve stopped tweaking it lol

Reply

fesada
2.13.2013

IMHO you could get the same results by using w3total cache or any other caching plugin together with a cdn like maxcdn. This will have been cheaper than using wpengine. However though wpengine has some unique features. But is it worth it price? I don’t know

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Yes you can use that combination and I do so on my other sites (that exact setup actually) – but WPEngine do so much more than that :)

Reply

fesada Reply:

What more does it do? Besides speed what do you get more?

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

The support is awesome, they take care of the updates – its all fully managed!

Reply

hydride
3.19.2013

Hey Matthew, thanks for the post. Love it, almost tempted to switch, but then I saw the price.

What about just switching over to Cloud Fare for the poor guys?

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Yes they are a premium host and you should integrate the other suggestions first (although the host change had the biggest impact) – you can certainly give cloudflare a bash but make sure you measure the before/after effect!

Reply

4.16.2013

Hi Matt, great article. I just used some of your steps to optimise a voucher code site that I haven’t done anything with in a while.

1st TEST: pingdom was showing load time of 4.25s and page size of 675.1KB performance grade of 83/100

- removed a plugin which was not in use. Ran the test again

2nd TEST: pingdom now showing 2.91s and page size of 650.3KB performance grade 85/100

- linked to google to load jquery.js instead of loading locally

3rd TEST: pingdom now showing 1.44s :)

Still got the images to reduce but I remember using smush.it before to do most of them

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi Gary,

Great results! Amazing to see how an inactive plugin was holding you back that much!

Thats money right there!

Reply

extremeluck
5.1.2013

Hi Matt,

What was the other host with $0.99 per month?

Reply

6.13.2013

Nice article Matt,
Never thought that the load time can affect the conversions rate.
But I see that you use WPEngine hosting, is it better than other hosts like HostGator or Bluehost.
I am on HG and am not facing issues with it.
What are your views on it ?

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Do a speed test and see how it performs for you – there is a huge difference between budget shared hosting and professional hosting.

Reply

zox Reply:

As far as I can see this site is still hosted on stablehost. It uses stablehost DNS.

Reply

zox Reply:

Actually it looks more like linode. Anyway let me know what exact hosting.plan you use. I noticed load time of your site is pretty good, even you have a lot of object on pages. For example loading my site takes longer time there are 5x less http requests that there.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Its the WPEngine personal plan with the CDN addon

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

The nameservers are with stablehost but WPEngine doesn’t use nameservers for its hosting configuration, its just an A record on the DNS.

Reply

6.19.2013

Hi Matt,

quick question, why is your page rank so low?

Reply

7.31.2013

Hey Matt

Thanks for this post. My adsense account told me my site was on the slow side so this has come just at the right time.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Let me know how you get on!

Reply

8.14.2013

Love your posts. The best thing about this or any other article of yours is the way you write “title of the post”. That’s why inspite of having extremely busy schedule you consumed my 20 minutes. By the way it’s all worthwhile.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Thanks – I’ve actually had complaints about the titles before lol

Reply

9.11.2013

Hey Matt, how’s your downtime with WPengine?

I have pretty bad experience with them so far (downtime, they don’t have their own DNS, nor email servers), since I signed up with them 5 months ago.

Today there was a “catastrophic failure” of the server and my site will be down for at least 24 hours and reversed to 2 days before, in best case scenario.

I had a couple of problems on HostGator, but never this often and especially not of this magnitude.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

According to my pingdom account zero in the last 6 months.

What happened exactly?

Reply

9.11.2013

Hey, I guess I am just unlucky then!

This is what happened:

“Around Noon CST today the server that hosts your site encountered a catastrophic hardware failure. Our Datacenter partner Linode immediately initiated emergency procedures to bring the server back online. Over the last 4 hours, we have been attempting to bring the server online and now believe it is beyond repair.”

They go on to say they will move my site to a completely new server, etc.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Ahhh well to have to replace an entire server sounds pretty hardcore to be honest, just luck of the draw with that and I was on a different server.

Push for some compensation though :)

Reply

Miroslav Reply:

Yes, it’s pretty unfortunate. They kept their promise though, and fixed everything sooner than expected. I did ask for kind of compensation and they promised they will take care of it. Thanks for the replies Matt!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

No worrys – glad to hear its sorted sorry about the problems!

Reply

Miroslav Reply:

Hey Matt,

just to follow up on this – they gave me 3 months worth of hosting for free because of all the trouble. Thanks again!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

That’s great to hear!

Reply

9.25.2013

Great article Matt, you posted it at a perfect time for my business as we just updated our site and was looking to reduce the load time and increase speed. Thanks and keep up the good work.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Let me know if you get stuck or need any help!

Reply

9.25.2013

Great tutorial! There’s definitely a lot more I could be doing to speed up my sites, this post has inspired me to take some action!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hustle hustle ^^

Reply

10.16.2013

For people who are using VPS or Dedicated Server, you can try with Varnish cache layer before your web server software like: apache, nginx,…You will be very surprised because of its performance. I believe your site will response in milliseconds (not second right now). I’ve used Varnish in some of my websites written on my own CMS and Yii framework, not WordPress but I’ve also search on Google and found out that there are some tutorials guide you how to implement it. Hope this helps.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Yes implementing varnish and also making the switch to nginx will help with site speed – but most people aren’t on a VPS or dedi and won’t have access to do that.

Its also hugely technical to setup =\

Reply

11.19.2013

You’ve done it again Matt! Great tutorial! I’m gonna go speed up my site now!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Thanks Jeff!

Reply

11.27.2013

Thank you, this is the information I need and I will apply to my website :D

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

No worrys :)

Reply

12.2.2013

It has been nearly a year. Do you feel increasing the speed of your site has added more money to your pocket?

How are you quantifying this? Granted your reports every month have shown increases, but is there really anyway to track this?

Thanks!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Yes for sure, I get huge amounts of feedback about how fast the site is so its definitely keeping people engaged and converting!

Reply

Ryan Reply:

Ok thanks Matt.

I do enjoy your post(s) tremendously, but it would be cool to find a way to quantify the increase in site speed.

Though I think that would be extremely hard to do.

Thanks,

Ryan

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi Ryan,

There are a number of studies around about this by people that have isolated that metric to measure its impact.

The thing I would love to isolate and measure with it though is how site speed affects rankings.

Reply

NJ
12.4.2013

I decided to follow-up on an email I had received from you. OMG! You have exposed me to another world. I am very thankful and excited.

Your instructional style is perfect for me and I am sure others. Keep up the wonderful work and I will continue to share your knowledge with others.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Thanks very much :)

Reply

12.8.2013

I could not imagine paying $30 each month for my network sites. Would go broke really fast.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

I wouldnt use this for my network sites either

Reply

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