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Speed Optimization with Optimocha

In this interview, we discuss website speed optimization with Barış Ünver from Optimocha.

This week, we spoke with Barış Ünver from Optimocha about speed and performance optimization of WordPress websites. Check out our interview below and scroll to the end to read our short personal review on the service.

Q. Hi, Barış! Welcome to the WP Mayor blog. We’re excited to talk about site speed so I’m going to jump right in! You’re the founder of Optimocha (cool name, by the way, I’m curious to see how you came up with that!). What services do you offer and who is your target customer?

Thanks for having me! WP Mayor is among my primary news resources for WordPress, so I’m glad to be here.

Optimocha is, in a nutshell, a speed optimization & maintenance service for WordPress-based websites. Our main focus (obsession, really) is to improve the overall performance of each website we work on, but since specific metrics affect ranking (more on that later) and clients tend to ask about it, we concentrate on getting better Core Web Vitals metrics for our client websites. We also acquired Speed Booster Pack in 2019 and we’re developing a few more products/services, two of which will be released by the end of 2021.

And thanks for your kind words about the name! After writing down over two hundred names (mostly combinations of words with a prefix like “opti-” or “speed-”) to find the best brand name, I decided on the name “Optimocha”. It was a pretty fun exercise and since rebranding is hard and annoying even for the smallest businesses (and near impossible for bigger ones), I thought it was important to find a good brand name.

Q. We all know that site speed is important, but what are the real benefits of having a fast website? Does it bring in more conversions, do you rank better on Google?

Both… and then some.

The biggest and most obvious improvement is a page’s ranking on a search engine result page (SERP). Google announced that Core Web Vitals will be factored in rankings, meaning that if your page has improved CWV, it will have better rankings. And since that directly affects the success of a web page (conversion, subscription, sale, etc.), it should be the main reason for each website owner to have their pages optimized.

Even when SERP rankings aren’t important, like when a website is promoted via social media or offline, overall website performance plays a huge role in visitor/user satisfaction. We might not realize it all the time, but all of us tend to get bored when a page loads in more than a few seconds – especially on mobile.

That boredom can lead to frustration and increase the chance for a visitor/user to close the page before it loads. That doesn’t show up in analytics tools because the visitor leaves the page before the analytics script even starts running. I have clients who told me that their pageviews doubled after the optimization job – the visitors merely stayed on the page instead of getting bored and leaving. Simple as that.

There are more advanced reasons (like already-converted customer satisfaction) but these two are the most important reasons for website owners to consider investing in improving their website’s performance.

Q. What are, in your opinion, the key things one should look out for when trying to optimize a website for speed?

This is a heavily debated topic, and speed optimization experts (myself included) tend to think differently from Google… but all in all, customers decide what they want. Here are a few key metrics website owners, speed optimization experts, and Google cares about, and whether they’re right or wrong:

PageSpeed score: Right off the bat – this is nonsense. Not only is it a false depiction of your website performance, it also isn’t taken into account even by Google. NEVER pursue a 100% score, but try to improve your Core Web Vitals metrics. Also, all the “grades” and “scores” calculated by tools like GTmetrix, Pingdom, and WebPageTest are insufficient.

Core Web Vitals: This is the name of the group of metrics Google says is a factor when it comes to rankings. Right now, the group has three members: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). It’s still not the perfect depiction of your website performance, but it’s as close as Google gets right now (and they’re pretty close in my opinion).

Time to First Byte: Also called “server response time”, TTFB basically measures the time it takes for your server to respond to a visitor’s page view request. Obviously, the better this metric is, the better all other time-measured metrics will be.

Onload time: “Onload is when the processing of the page is complete and all the resources on the page (images, CSS, etc.) have finished downloading”, according to GTmetrix. This is, in my opinion, the most humane way to measure the “speed” of a website (not “performance”, mind you). But of course, opinions are like belly buttons – everybody has one.

Fully loaded time: Popularized by GTmetrix, this metric differs from “onload time” because it measures all other requests made by the initial requests. As a spot-on example, this metric also takes into account all the asset downloads of the Google ads loaded on a page, which doesn’t necessarily make the user “wait” for the page to be ready. That’s why I don’t believe this is the correct metric to look at when you’re measuring speed.

Other metrics: First Contentful Paint is an old-school metric that is now replaced by Largest Contentful Paint. Speed Index is also a nonsense metric like the PageSpeed score. Page Size is important as it directly affects everything else, but you can manage to have a performant page with a larger-than-average page size. And finally, NONE of the “recommendations” of PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse, GTmetrix, WebPageTest, or Pingdom should be considered as “metrics”, “errors” or anything else other than what they are – recommendations.

PS: Obviously there are more “gods” other than Google who get to decide which metrics are important, like the ones I just mentioned. But I’m monotheistic (heh) about this and chose Google because they have the most influence in the Web Performance Optimization (WPO) world.

Q. You mentioned Core Web Vitals, can you explain what this is in more detail?

Absolutely! Since we’ve got more than a few bases to cover, which could bloat this interview, let’s refer WP Mayor’s readers to this guest post: An Introduction to Core Web Vitals.

Q. Is it possible to optimize your site speed on your own? When should you opt for a service such as Optimocha?

I’ve been in this business for over 5 years now, and I can honestly say at least half of what we do can be done by the clients and the other half falls under our expertise and the tricks up in our sleeves. But, of course, people pay us for our expertise and to not handle stuff themselves.

If you’re aspiring to optimize your website, I’ve got three important recommendations for you:

  1. Be ruthless to eliminate things – especially things that increase your page weight and even more importantly, things that grow your JavaScript usage.
  2. Be open-minded about replacing things with alternatives or, again, eliminating.
  3. As long as you work with backups, don’t fear breaking things.

If you’re ready to take on the challenge, you can try installing and tweaking Speed Booster Pack, our free plugin, to optimize your website by yourself.

Q. How often should you optimize and maintain your website?

Depends on how often you add, remove or change things on your website. Of course, I’m not talking about adding a new blog post, making a sale, or correcting a typo on your About page. I’m talking about things that could change your Core Web Vitals metrics like redesigning your homepage, switching to a new theme, or adding a plugin that adds assets (CSS, JS, etc.) to the front-end.

For sure! Hosting is not only an important factor of website performance but also website reliability. A well-structured server can work wonders on all websites – not only the ones with high resource usage. And if you’re expecting traffic spikes every now and then, you need to choose a hosting company that can automatically adjust to the surges without going down or asking ridiculous amounts of money.

I do have a few hosting companies I work with, and have one favorite – but I don’t think I should reveal them simply because the list changes depending on how well they continue their businesses.

Q. Can plugins slow down your website? How can one narrow down the list of used plugins?

The best way to answer this question is, I think, by letting the readers ask themselves this: ”Does {insert plugin name here} help you {insert conversion goal here} in a meaningful way?” Examples would make more sense:

  1. For a simple company website, does a slider plugin help more leads to get in touch with you… or you just couldn’t find anything to put into your homepage so you slapped a slider with some images?
  2. For a news website, do push notifications actually increase user interactions like more shares, more visits, or more comments… resulting in more ad sales? (To be honest, I’m not even sure people subscribe to push notifications anymore.)
  3. For an e-commerce website, are those “X purchased Y” notification boxes really inducing FOMO and helping you make more sales?

Optimization is never complete without experimenting. You can remove things from your website (for a meaningful amount of time, like a month), see if it hurts your conversion goals, and add it back if you see it actually helps.

Q. Images are one of the key factors to slowing down websites. What’s the best way to address this challenge?

I’ve got three things to say about images:

Use fewer images: Almost always, images make up the majority of a web page’s weight. Using fewer images will not only decrease that weight but will also help your DOM size get smaller too.

Use lazy loading: Lazy loading basically defers the downloading of images until after the DOM is loaded, meaning that the rest of the page will be loaded quicker if lazy loading is used… However you might have already guessed if you applied lazy loading to all images, including the ones in the initial viewport, you can hurt your LCP metrics. That’s why it’s important to not lazy load everything.

Use newer image formats: At the moment, WebP is the leading modern image format. AVIF comes second with much worse support and slightly better compression rates. Decide and use one of them and have fallback JPG/PNG alternatives in your <picture> tags. Easy peasy.

Q. What packages do you offer through Optimocha?

We offer three kinds of services:

Speed & performance optimization: We come, we optimize, we fly away. If you need to optimize your whole website only once, or maybe once a year, this is the service you can choose.

Ongoing optimization & consultancy: We come, we optimize, we stay. If you need us to have the website keep optimized all the time, and ask anything, anytime (part of the consultancy service), you should invest in this service.

Complete Overhaul: This is offered to websites that can’t achieve their highest performance potentials without starting from scratch. New theme, a new set of plugins, maybe new hosting… You would go with this specialized service if you (or we) think your website is kind of hopeless.

Q. How can our readers reach you?

You can get in touch with us via our contact form, or reach me directly over Twitter or LinkedIn!

Thanks for having me, Gaby, and Mark!

Our Experience with Optimocha

Whenever we discuss or promote WordPress products and services on WP Mayor, we always try our best to test them out for ourselves.

Optimocha’s speed optimization service was no exception.

We asked Barış to try his hand at optimizing our very own WP Mayor blog.

Here are the results:

Before

Largest Contentful Paint: 5.0s
Total Blocking Time: 1690ms
Cumulative Layout Shift: 0
Overall PageSpeed score: 35

After

Largest Contentful Paint: 4.1s (21.95% better!)
Total Blocking Time: 220ms (768.18% better!)
Cumulative Layout Shift: 0.016 (tiny increase but still green)
Overall PageSpeed score: 74 (211.43% better!)

The overall process was a very smooth one. Barış started out by sending us an email with a full list of the stages in which he’d be tackling the optimization process. Each stage had detailed explanations which gave us a pretty good idea of what the next month or so working with him would look like.

If you’re thinking of opting for Optimocha’s service, keep on reading. I’ll give you a breakdown of what’s in store.

What to expect

To start off, you’d first have to provide access to your site, hosting provider, and cache account. This will enable Barış to carry out the necessary investigations, tests, and implementations on your site.

Note that Barış might suggest switching hosting providers if your current one isn’t suited to your site’s needs. In our case, Servebolt does a great job at hosting our blog so we didn’t have to make any changes there.

The second thing to make note of is that you should refrain from making any big changes to the site while the optimization team is at work. Any large changes can affect their workflow and the final results. This doesn’t mean that you cannot continue to upload content or change the copy on your site. It does mean, however, that you might want to request “permission” before implementing anything major.

The next stages were pretty straightforward. We were presented with a detailed analysis of our used plugins, suggestions for improvements or new plugins to use, and a list of tweaks that we were asked to carry out. 

Elementor proved to be perhaps the most difficult to improve. As with most page builders, they do tend to bloat your website a bit – especially if you aren’t using best practices. I’ll be documenting tips on how to speed up your Elementor website in another post.

Overall, we were happy with Optimocha’s speed optimization service.

I believe it’s a great solution for non-technical users trying to improve their website’s speed. If you’re a developer with a strong knowledge of WordPress, it might be worth just spending some time reading up on the topic and implementing the changes yourself.

However, if you’re a WordPress user like me, this service is undoubtedly helpful and will help you increase your Google Core Web Vitals scores and improve the overall page experience for your visitors.

Gabriella Galea
Gabriella Galea
Gabriella is the Content Manager at WP Mayor. Architect by profession, designer by nature, she is dedicated to helping readers navigate the online world of WordPress. You can find her on Twitter @GabriellaGalea.

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