Why is a fast WordPress site necessary?
- Search engines such as Google (The Top Dog) rank sites for a multitude of reasons, and they take into consideration the load speed of a website. A fast website will gain more exposure in ranking results as long as all the other factors of on-page SEO is also done correctly.
- Research has shown that a site that loads between 2 – 3.5 seconds have better conversion rates than those of much slower websites. So keeping your visitors on your website would suggest a faster site.
- Online buyers are probably the most impatient consumers if you base a commerce store on WordPress be prepared to engage a battle to get your website speed at an optimum rate. As commerce on WordPress is notorious for being a resource hog, just be patient in your optimisation.
So how do you test the speed of a website?
Not just for WordPress but any website for that matter, you need first to analyse the load time of your site and determine what factors are degrading your website’s speed and performance. These can be a broad range of issues such as:
- The overall size of your HTML output (Page)
- How many requests for data to render the page
- Whether your website is cached
- What kind of content your page serves
Many pages in your website will load at various rates of speed dependent on the factors above that are applied to each page. However first benchmark your speed to the homepage of your website as this is the page that most people should land on first. Here are few of my favourite sites to use for testing your site for speed and performance.
Ok, now I am going to take you through the key factors to help improve website speed performance for WordPress site. However please note this is a guide and will depend on your site structure, theme, plugins, and content.
Ensure you have an excellent hosting environment
If you have come to this post as you are starting to build a WordPress website, this is the best place to start. For sites that are established but still suffer from slow speeds then read on.
. Your hosting environment has to be the most important part of any WordPress website build, a simple shared hosting plan that may offer unlimited space and bandwidth may sound impressive. But a shared hosting environment houses several websites, and they all share this space and bandwidth; therefore, the speed performance is also divided, so not a great start.
There is a couple of alternatives that are optimised for web developers and also dedicated to WordPress sites.
These are my recommendations:
- Site5.com Managed VPS Server – Great for multiple site installs, combine this with Cloudfare which I will cover later.
- WPEngine – One of the widest known for blazing speed and performance coupled with security for your website.
- Siteground – Similar to the above but not limited to just WordPress.
Use an optimised and lightweight theme or framework
There are millions of WordPress themes, so this choice can be cumbersome, but the question is, do you need all the bells and whistles like multiple sliders, complex portfolio grids, widgets galore? No, is the answer, think about what you need and not what everyone else has.
Choose a theme with a light framework and SEO optimised, if you are buying the item then check the comments of a forum section for topics on site speed issues or other problems that affect the rate. Also, verify the update log to make sure the author are keeping it current.
Themeforest is the most widely used template store on the internet, and personally some of my favourites are the X Theme by Themeco, Betheme by Muffin, and Osmosis by Greatives.
Optimise your onsite images
Images on a website are one of the most overlooked items on a website checklist, why? Because not everyone knows how to optimise images, Reducing the size of your pictures is a given for any website so here are a few tools you can use to reduce the file size but retain the quality.
Using any of the online or plugin solutions will give you optimal results for your images.
Minify JS, CSS, HTML, and Caching Resources
In this section I will cover the best solutions for combined results without breaking your website. Most caching plugins will automatically allow you to compress JS and CSS files along with caching, and these are the preferred tools/plugins.
Also, a great plugin that often missed is Autoptimize a plugin that is easy to configure explicit caching and compression of JS, CSS and HTML output by removing whitespace and comments from the final output.
Using a CDN is an excellent solution
If you have a website that mainly obtains visitors from all around the world, you want those visitors also to benefit from your hard work on optimising your website and experience a fast loading website.
There are many different CDN solutions also known as “Content Delivery Networks” who serve your websites content from the nearest location to enable a fast loading site around the world. So here are the best in CDN services:
Enable GZIP Compression (some of the caching plugins do this)
Compressing files as we discussed earlier is an excellent way to optimise the speed of the website, if you know how to access your .htaccess file add this to the top of your file.
Clean your WordPress website of junk
Just as you empty your recycle bin in your desktop OS (Windows / Mac / Linux) the same applies to your WordPress website. Use a plugin to clean all the redundant files, revisions and spam comments in one clean operation using WPOptimize
Deactivate or uninstall redundant plugins
After a while you will probably find yourself installing and testing various plugins for functionality, if you find that in your plugin list you do not use some of them, best to rid them by deleting them. Even having deactivated plugins on your site install will hog available space.
Keep an eye on your external scripts
The usage of external scripts such as Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, Google analytics etc. Should be kept to an absolute minimum, as all these add to the loading time of your website.
Disable pingbacks & trackbacks
Pingback and trackbacks are core WordPress components that let you know when your website receives a link. Also these two services are prone to DDos attacks and act as a back door to attack your website. Enter Settings> Discussion > Turn Off
Lowering your websites load time is something that falls by the wayside when constructing a WordPress site for many, mainly because it does not stare you in the face from the WordPress dashboard with a big button saying “Click here to speed up”.
However hopefully I have provided you with enough information to at least help you on your way to launching or improving a website that performs well, and more importantly improves your ranking and conversion rates.
If you have any recommendations for speeding up a WordPress website, or indeed you have more tricks up your sleeve feel free to add your expertise.