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Why having a slow website will hurt your blogging income

There are a lot of bloggers out there aiming to make a living from their blogging (or at least supplement their main income a bit). In the blogging world, content is king, but there are other factors as well. One major factor is basic human impatience.

If your blog loads slowly, to a lot of people it might as well be down. Even if you have good content, they will simply move on elsewhere to a website that loads within a few seconds. If it’s your blog they leave behind, the monetization of your blog won’t go well.

Since we here at Pingdom run an uptime and web monitoring tools, we figured an article like this could provide some helpful advice to those who, unlike us, don’t deal with website uptime and performance issues every day or use our page speed monitoring.

Traffic jam

Above: Unlike these cars, your visitors CAN take another route and leave your blog behind.

Negative effects of having a slow blog

  • Frustrated readers = loss of existing subscribers and returning visitors.
  • New readers being put off = fewer new subscribers and less returning visitors.
  • Fewer inbound links. Who wants to link to a really slow and unreliable website? It could make them look bad. Which will also have another effect:
  • Lower search engine rankings, which will lead to less traffic from Google and other search engines.
  • Unhappy advertisers. If you sell ads, your advertisers will want to know that they are getting their money’s worth. Imagine them evaluating your blog when it’s really slow. Would you buy ads there?

That last point directly influences your income, and the other four points contribute to giving you fewer readers. For the vast majority of monetized blogs, fewer readers will mean fewer clicks on ads and fewer ad impressions, which of course means that you will earn less from your blog than you otherwise would have.

And the worst thing is of course downtime. If your blog is down often, you may have the bad luck of Google indexing error pages on your blog instead of the real content, and if they come by your blog repeatedly when it is down, your blog may end up being removed from their search index entirely. And of course, while your blog is down you have ZERO visitors and ZERO ad impressions. And let’s face it, downtime just doesn’t look good.

What can make my blog slow?

  • Shared hosting has a lot of pitfalls when it comes to performance. It’s very affordable, but never forget that you are sharing server resources with potentially hundreds of other websites.
  • Slow external resources, like external scripts (e.g. for statistics or other functionality), ad servers, etc. Your own web server can be lightning fast, but if you use a lot of external resources, make sure they load fast, or your blog will appear slow to your visitors.
  • Excessive traffic. This is a luxury problem for a blogger, but if your blog grows in popularity or tends to end up on the front page of Digg a lot, make sure your website can handle the extra load or you will be throwing a lot of that progress down the drain.
  • Hosting far away from your actual readers. If your blog has a strong local focus, it can pay off to choose hosting geographically close to your readers. For example, if your blog is hosted in the US and you have most of your readers in Europe, or vice versa, make sure your hosting provider’s network has good network peering connections so performance doesn’t suffer. Same thing if you target a world-wide audience. Make sure your web host performs well from all around the world.

These are just some of the things that can make your blog load slowly. There are of course a lot of other things that can slow down a website, including the way the website itself is constructed and hosted. Yahoo has a good collection of advice that you can look into, though some of it may be overkill for a blog (such as using a CDN).

How to stay on top of things

  • Measure how fast your blog loads and if any specific parts of it are slow. You can use Yahoo’s Yslow add-on for Firefox (it’s integrated with Firebug) to measure from your own computer, and Pingdom’s Full Page Test for a similar web-based test. If your blog takes more than five seconds to load a page, you are probably losing visitors.
  • Monitor your general web server performance. You can do this with Pingdom and other uptime and performance monitoring services. This will let you spot trends and changes in performance, and has the added benefit that you can be alerted if your blog goes down or reports other errors. (If you don’t know your blog is broken, how are you supposed to fix it?)
  • Cache for a quicker blog. Caching can increase your performance by a factor of 100, and will (usually) let you keep your head above the water if the likes of Digg come knocking. There are plenty of free plugins to for example WordPress that can help you with this.

They key to having good performance to be proactive. Do your research, use the load-time tests mentioned above, and put in the time to make your blog as fast as possible. Your existing readers will appreciate it, and you won’t drive away new ones.

We hope you found this article helpful. Please feel free to add your own advice in the comments!

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