Move Over, Grandma! How to Improve Your WordPress Website Speed

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posted on: February 1, 2018

Does your website take FOREVER to load? Do you keep telling yourself it’s your Internet connection? Are you just unsure how fast or slow your website loads? Well, this post has all of your answers, plus why you should care about how fast your website loads!

Why Site Speed Matters!

Website speed impacts your SEO and user experience. Google considers your website’s page speed in order to rank pages. A slow page speed could mean that search engines crawl fewer pages, and thus negatively impact how your website is indexed. Even more important the SEO, a slow site results in a horrible user experience. If a website or blog cannot load quickly on my phone, I don’t bother waiting. Slow websites have been shown to negatively affect how people interact with your website, specifically sign-up, contact, and purchasing conversions.

A slow site also impacts how other features load on your page. If you want to have a website with lots of bells and whistles, you want to make sure that everything loads properly.

Is My Website Slow?

The best way to test your website is using GTMetrix. GTMetrix will scan your website, and provide you specifically details about your PageSpeed Score + YSlow Score, but also your page load time and total page size.

  • Page Load Time: An ideal load time is between less than 2.5 seconds. If you have shared hosting, this number could vary on GTmetrix, so retest your site a few different times.
  • Total Page Size: This metric is a better evaluation of whether or not your website is slow. If your website is larger than 1.5MB in size, it is way too big (likely due to images). You want to shoot for a page size that is around 1MB.

So, your website is slow. You might be having a slight panic attack, but have no fear. There’s a couple of things you can do to see dramatic gains.

Save Your IMAGES PROPERLY!

If you are a blogger and suffering from a slow website, it is likely because you are not saving your images properly down for the web. I run into this issue 75% of the time with websites and blogs I see! I wrote this extensive post on how you should optimize your images for web, but here are the key points:

  • Images should be less than 200kb in size. If you have any image that is over 500kb it is too big.
  • Images only need to be the max-width of your main content (around 600-1060px depending on your theme). You do not need to have them bigger. Bigger images require the browser and theme to size them down. No bueno!
  • 60% Quality of JPEGS will result in beautiful images. This comes up a lot. I’ve run into this way too many times. Increasing the quality of the image will not make it less blurry if the photo is blurry to begin with. If your photographs are fuzzy, you need to make sure that you are investing in a good camera and photographing in natural light.

Use a Caching Plugin

Caching is the temporary storage of data (HTML pages, images, files, etc) to help your website load faster. A caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache can significantly help your site out, but if your images are huge, it won’t help out that much.

If your website is hosted through Go Daddy, you are unable to have a Caching plugin. This reason, along with many more, is why I absolutely hate Go Daddy. You lose authority and autonomy over your site. Go Daddy sites are notoriously slow. I’ve added a blurb into my web design contracts that mention if the client chooses to use a subpar hosting service. He or she fully understands that they are jeopardizing the functionality of the website design.

Web hosting – Shared vs. Dedicate

As I mentioned above, hosting matters. If your website gets a lot of traffic, then you might want to consider moving over to a dedicated server. What’s a lot of traffic? I would say around 25k-30k pageviews per month. If you are getting less than that, shared hosting from a reliable provider – like SiteGround – should be able to take care of your needs.

A dedicated server means that you are exclusively using (renting) a computer that includes a Web server and other goodies necessary to run your website. WPEngine and Amazon Cloud Hosting are two both great options!

Set up a Content Delivery Network

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers that delivers cached static content to users based on their geographic location. So, if your web host server is located in Chicago, every user who visits your website accesses that server. Since a CDN is a network of servers throughout the world, your content is cached and stored on that network. Therefore, someone accessing your website in London is using a closer server than the Chicago one.

I find that the free version of Cloud Flare meets my needs, but there are several different options out there, like the WordPress version through Jetpack and MaxCDN.

Reduce + Optimize Your Plugins

Too many plugins is a another prevalent issue I run into. My must-have plugin list is very small, and most sites that I install have fewer than 10 plugins. This website uses 15, and the only reason for that is because I have various add-on plugins with the shop and slider. Most people do not realize that Jetpack can take care of a lot of different needs. I always encourage people to check out Jetpack settings first, before adding anything. If you are not using a plugin, delete it. Plugins are just weighing your website down.

Ads + RewardStyle

Over the last month, a few different things have come out about digital advertisers. First off, digital advertisers have admitted that their ads slow sites down, specifically on mobile. That they’ve become overzealous with the ads themselves at the expense of functionality. Then, Safari has made it possible for people to install ad-blockers on their website. On the Grid podcast had a wonderful episode on the ethics of ad-blocking.

If users are blocking your ads, your site is slow, but you are also not earning their impressions. I encourage clients to ask themselves whether or not they are making enough money from the ad at the expense of user and reader engagement. How can you tell? If you’ve had your ads up for 3-6 months and your page views are pretty static, then consider reducing the number of ads. If a reduction in ads results in a lower bounce rate, more page views, and/or increased new users, then you know your ads were impacting your user experience.

If you use any RewardStyle widget that shows featured products, this functionality is not optimized for page loads, and when you test your site, you will see several notifications about it. If you are getting lots of clicks and revenue from it, then don’t change it, but make sure you are saving your images. If you are not generating revenue, consider mixing it up, or using links.

Action Steps

If you’ve read through this post, realize you have nothing completed, where should you start? IMAGES! As you clean up the images on your website, you want to make sure you are deleting those old, heavy images from your server. Maybe do one extra post a day! Cleaning up your posts is a great way for your to promote old content, and I will be going into this topic more tomorrow.

You might also like How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting and What’s The Difference Between WordPress.com and Self-Hosted WordPress.

Want more WordPress tutorials? Check out more posts!

Editor's Note

Some of the links included throughout this website are affiliate links, which means that Lindsay Humes LLC receives a small commission when certain items are purchased. These affiliate links provide a means for the site to earn revenue and generate free content for readers. For more details, read the privacy policy here.

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