Almost anyone who runs a website understands that speed is a serious deal on the internet. But do you know how fast exactly your website is? You can check your website speed at Pingdom, GTmetrics, or WebPageTest or Page Speed Tools. These resources not only test your page load speed, but also recommend how to improve the speed of your WordPress Website.
Below is the screenshot of WP Mayor’s page speed results.
As early as April 2010, web loading speed was included by Google as one of the ranking factors for search results. This move by Google is supported by statistics that establish that a one second delay can result in a 7% drop in conversions. Increasing your website speed from 8% to 2% can increase conversions by 74%. All this leaves you in no doubt that speed is a vital factor for attracting traffic to your website. Stats aside, all users uniformly prefer fast loading websites.
Remember too that there is no need to obsess with page speed. It’s only one of 200 signals that Google considers for SERPs. As Matts Cutts of Google explains in this video, site speed is an important signal, but it doesn’t carry as much weight as the relevance of a page.
A lot of times client’s will ask about how to improve their Google PageSpeed Insights score. Scoring a 100/100 in Google PageSpeed Insights with WordPress is definitely possible, but it isn’t as important as learning about each recommendation and understanding how they directly relate to the overall performance of your site. Implement as many of the fixes as you can and in return you should see a faster WordPress site.
Now, let’s understand how we can go about making our websites faster.
We can divide our efforts into two,
– the major changes you can do that can have a big impact on site speed.
– other quick fixes that will have incremental impact on site speed.
1. Clean Code – Themes should be clean, well coded and without bloat. If all those wonderful demos in your theme are taking time to load, you should consider changing your theme. Be sure to use the right framework such as Genesis from StudioPress or Builder from iThemes.
2. Hosting – Hosting plays a big part in ensuring that your site responds quickly to queries. If time-to-first-byte is too long even after you have carried out the optimizations below, perhaps you should think of changing your hosting service provider. Examine if the hosting service offers server side caching, and uses a more recent version of PHP. High traffic sites prefer Virtual Private Hosting, Dedicated Hosting or Managed Hosting.
3. Caching – Each time a browser requests a page, it has to be composed from the database and served up to the browser. This happens because WordPress is dynamic. Caching stores this generated content and renders it repeatedly to any number of requests for the same webpage. When you update a page with a comment or revise a post, the old cache is purged and a newly generated page is cached.
Caching can give a big push to site speed. W3 Total Cache, WP Rocket, WP Super Cache are all standard plugins to help with caching. You needn’t worry about this one if your host is taking care of it.
4. Content Delivery Networks – When a HTTP request arrives at a server, the requested webpage is generated using both static and dynamic elements. CDNs like StackPath are servers located in various geographical locations. They are closer to the users’ location and can reach content to them faster than the original server.
The CDNs store the static contents of your website, leaving it to the original server to generate the dynamic page. When the same query is received, the page is rendered faster. Most high traffic websites now use a CDN for delivering static content. Cloudflare has a free plan that you can try as well.
5. Accelerated Mobile Pages – If most users access your website via mobile phones, don’t ignore making your webpages AMP compliant. The AMP Project rolled out early this year in February. It is an open source initiative that gives publishers the means to create mobile optimized content once and have it load everywhere on the mobile web instantly.
This was announced by Google in October 2015, initially for publishers alone. But many other industries like entertainment, travel, eCommerce are adopting AMP.
Other Quick Fixes To Speed Up Your WordPress Website
1. Lazy loading – enable lazy loading for videos, infographics, images and other slow loading elements. Select fast loading content to load first and stagger the slow loading content. The user will then have something on the screen to hold his attention, while the remaining content is being fetched. This avoids multiple HTTP requests hitting the server at the same time.
BJ Lazy Load and Lazy Load are among the many plugins that add lazy loading to your website.
2. Database Optimization – A periodic check and spring cleaning of database to keep it lean and easily searchable. WP Sweep is a popular plugin to remove duplicate data, unwanted post revisions and more.
3. Image optimization – Images are heavy and slow loading. They take up space in your folder and compressing them to smaller sizes will help reduce site load time. There are many plugins and tools that help to reduce image sizes without loss of perceived image quality. Tiny PNG, Compressor.io, WP Smush and EWWW Image Optimizer are good aids for image compression.
And it’s not enough to just resize the images. Specify the dimensions of the image, else the browser will load the entire image and then resize it to required dimensions. This will delay image loading.
5. Removing query strings from static resources in CSS and JS files – Developers use “?” and “&” to bypass cached files before they are purged. However, URLs with “?” and “&” are not cached by some servers. Use a plugin to remove them.
6. Trimming HTTP requests – Cut down on number of HTTP requests to server by reducing the number of files requested. Combine JS script, HTML and CSS files together.
7. Super Caching – Where you sidestep the PHP and use HTML to serve up files instead.
8. GZip – A compression technique to compress files for faster transfer. It also saves you bandwidth.
9. Browser Caching – Means a user doesn’t have to download static files repeatedly. Once downloaded, it is stored in the browser temporarily.
11. Reducing Redirects – Try and eliminate as many redirects as possible. Yes, redirects are good for SEO traffic, but you’re confusing the browser here a little, so minimize them to the extent possible.
12. Disabling Tracbacks and Pingbacks – Trackbacks (manual) and pingbacks (automatic) appear in content moderation to let you know that someone else has put a link of your post on another blog or site. Most of these links are spam. It there’s too much of it, it can affect site speed. Disable them under Default Article Settings > Settings > Discussions. Or we can use a plugin that can deal with spam, like WP SpamShield Anti-Spam.
13. Disabling Hotlinking -Sometimes others use the content that is hosted on your site’s servers for their own websites. This is simply a load on your server. To stop others from using your server resources, you need to use code. Take help from this tool from htaccesstools.com to generate the necessary code. Your host may also help you out here. It’s usually images and other data heavy content that is targeted, so if your run a site with minimal imagery, this tip may not be of much use to you.
14. Combining Images Into One – CSS Sprites – Bunch multiple images together into one big file so that the number of HTTP request needed for individual image files is reduced. You can attempt the drag and drop method available online or use Sprite Pad or Sprite Me, both useful tools to help create CSS Sprites.
15. Identify plugins that are slowing down the website – Use the P3 Plugin Performance Profiler for this purpose.
Use the performance report generated by the plugin to remove delete those plugins that are a drag on site speed.
A number of these functionalities can be handled by the caching plugins. Check this out before you start looking for other plugins to handle these functions. Once you’ve tried out all that you can of the above steps, retest your website to see if speed has improved. Don’t look for maximum performance in each category. TTFB and load time improvements are what you should primarily aim for.
So go ahead and do you can to optimize to the extent possible, but don’t sacrifice quality or features that are a must-have for your website. As Matts Cutts pointed out in this video, the factors that carry more weight are relevance, topicality, reputation, value-add, etc. Compared to those signals, site speed will carry much less weight. But speeding up your website is a great thing to do in general.
Thanks for the great info, Vishnu! I manage the http://www.ustranslation.com website, and we’re always looking for ways to make it faster. But, as you mentioned, we don’t want to sacrifice certain quality features as well.
On another note, I’ve noticed very different results from different tests: Pingdom gives different ratings than PageSpeed, etc. Which test is most reliable in your estimation?