Speed Up Your WordPress Site With These Easy Steps
On-page SEO isn’t merely optimizing your keyword density, or adding in a meta description, or even using rich media like images and videos. Your niche site’s speed is a crucial ranking factor too!
Any search engine wants its users to have the best experience possible. A fast site improves overall usability which leads to better user satisfaction. That means search engines, especially Google, use site speed as a ranking factor (read our disclaimer though).
The takeaway of this article however, is that faster sites mean increased usability and quality and these are things that Google love. Also, the steps outlined below are just a small fraction of site speed optimization – there are other methods out there and feel free to add them as you see fit by commenting below.
What We’ll Learn
- Do you really need to optimize your site speed?
- Using CloudFlare Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- 5 important plugins to speed up your site.
- Using the Save for Web feature in Photoshop.
Before Site Optimization
I wasn’t actually paying attention to my site speed until someone told me she’s planning to optimize her site’s speed. Since I wasn’t particularly busy that day, I decided to jump the gun and optimize my site. Before doing anything, I checked one of niche site’s status on GTMetrix and got these results:
Basically, I have a failing grade in PageSpeed – a staggering 56%!
Is Speed Optimization Really Necessary?
The answer is YES – you need to increase your site speed not only for the search engines but for your visitors as well. How many times did you navigate away from a website just because it takes forever to load? I know I did many times.
Now before you apply all the steps I will list below, check your site’s health first using GTMetrix. Just enter your site URL, click enter and it will show you something like this:
The more important issues are at the top of the list and those should be your priority. Sometimes increasing site speed is just a matter of decreasing your total page size. If you already have a grade of A, then congratulations! For those still interested to improve their site I have the following tips for you…
Use Save for Web Feature in Photoshop
Non-optimized images are usually the main culprits behind slow-loading sites. I literally shaved around 1.5mb in my page’s file size just because I compressed images and also used the Save For Web feature of Photoshop. What the feature does is and save the image in a lower file size than your typical Save As without compromising the quality. To save images optimized for web, use Ctrl+Shift+Alt+S.
A new window will pop up. Just make sure that you ticked the Optimized option on the upper right side and hit Save. Done!
WordPress has the awesome ability of resizing images using CSS so you can basically upload a single image and WordPress can resize it for you whenever you need it. Unfortunately, this feature has a downside too. Using CSS to resize images adds additional requests resulting in longer loading times. To go around this, you just have to resize images even if it means uploading the same image in 2 different sizes.
I’m not really sure if this is the best way to go around it – it is a very repetitive and laborious task. If any of you found an easy-to-use plugin or a workaround that can efficiently resize images, do let me know!
Cloudflare is a Content Delivery Network which distributes your website to different servers around the world. To make more sense out of it here’s an excerpt from their website:
Here’s an image of how CloudFlare works:
Image credit: Cloudflare.com
Moreover, anyone with a website (not only WP users) can use Cloudflare and setting it up takes nothing more than 5 minutes. It’s hassle free and comes with a lot of benefits!
Honestly, CloudFlare feels a bit clunky for me especially when you edit your website often. This is mainly caused by caching and you need to turn off this feature every time you make changes on your website. Otherwise, you will not be able to check if the changes were made.
Install and Configure WordPress Plugins
Ironically, installing and using MORE plugins (the proper ones, of course) will result to a faster site. Some speed optimization plugins I recommend are:
A staple in my WordPress plugin must-haves, WP Super Cache reuses data from previous requests to speed up proceeding requests. In other words, it makes fewer requests to load your site and this results to a faster loading times. Other WP users prefer W3 Total Cache – honestly, it’s superior than Super Cache. I prefer the later though because it feels less clunky and it doesn’t have an annoying popup ad every time I go to the plugin’s dashboard.
There are only 2 tabs you really need to configure. First is the easy tab:
Just tick Caching On and hit Update Status. Next, we go to the Advanced tab.
The plugin’s name is pretty simple – what it does is compress JPEG and PNG images without losing their quality. To use this plugin simply go to Tools and select Compress All Images. Take note about the compression limit however, because you only have 500 free credits per month to spend.
Another straightforward-named plugin, the Remove Query Strings From Static Sources will, well…remove query strings from static sources. You only have to install the plugin and it will automagically do its thing.
This simple plugin just makes sure that CloudFlare is in sync and running optimally with your WordPress site. Only install this if you use CloudFlare. It’s simple to configure too. Just go to Plugins, find the plugin, and click Settings. You will be taken to page that requires you to enter your domain name, your email address, and Cloudflare API key. The CloudFlare API key can be found on your CloudFlare account under Settings.
Of course, no self-respecting test should come without results. Here are my GTMetrix results as well the assumed direct effect of site speed in my rankings.
After implementing those above, here is the result of my GTMetrix scan:
I got an A or a whopping 37% increase in performance according to PageSpeed and a 12% increase in performance according to YSlow. My page loading time also decreased by 0.2ms (from 2.0 seconds). Considering how short people’s attention span is, 0.2 milliseconds is a significant amount of time, I would say. But the most astonishing result here is that my total page size also shrunk to half of its previous size (1.25mb from 2.57mb)! Overall, my site performance went better by a huge margin.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of my site and my competitor’s niche site who’s ranking on 6th now. My site is on the left:
As you can see, my competitor obviously did not optimize his site. My site is blocks ahead of my competitor’s site in terms of performance. Take note that even though my total Page Size is 318KB larger and its total number of requests are greater, my site still loads 1.77 seconds faster.
Increase In Ranking
Now here’s where things got weird…in a positive way.
I just built this niche site on July 1 so I haven’t done any link building to it yet. It did pop out on the 100-something spot after getting indexed but it stayed around that rank and even went out of radar for several days. However, after doing site speed optimization, my site suddenly re-appeared on the 72nd spot. It’s been there for 2 days in a row now. Hopefully it stays up.
Of course, I can’t completely validate if my site jumped up in SERPs because of page speed optimization, because this phenomenon has to be repeated in order to be confirmed, but it does seem to be the case. Although I tested this on a more recent site and it appeared from nowhere to the 100-ish spots as well.
- WordPress Plugins make it easy to improve your overall site performance.
- Optimize and compress your images because they are usually the bulk of a page size. Doing so can shrink your total page size up to half.
- Google uses page speed as a ranking factor. Optimizing your site will improve site usability and overall quality and will most likely result in improvements in ranking.
Don’t forget to share this article with your friends and if you have any question or comments just go ahead and comment below!