In the world of SEO, speed matters. Last year, Google has come out and said they use page speed in mobile ranking. When Google makes a statement like that, you’d be foolish not to listen. These six steps will help increase your site’s speed if you have a WordPress site.
Before working on increasing your site’s speed, you’ll need to figure out where you stand with site speed. Google’s Pagespeed Insights is a good place to start. Because Google uses mobile first indexing now, you should be primarily concerned with your site’s mobile speed. Most sites I’ve looked at come up in the red, 0-49 rating zone. Statistically, if your page takes longer than two seconds to load, you’re going to start losing visitors.
Google gets its speed data from Lighthouse. For more information about what Lighthouse is and what the terminology means, try this article on Google Lighthouse for SEO.
When it comes to analyzing your webpage’s load process, I prefer Pingdom, which shows a nice process waterfall. This will help you identify any problem areas.
If you see any long bars in your waterfall, that’s probably something that should be addressed.
The following solutions will resolve some of the more common issues you’ll find:
1. Disable Problem Plugins
While there are many plugins that can help improve your search rankings, some may be harming your site’s speed. Your Pingdom test may identify plugins that are taking too long to load. On my website, Hotjar created significant wait times. Hotjar is a great plugin, but only needs to run when you’re tracking visitors. If you’re done tracking, there’s no need to keep it running.
2. Compress images
The most common cause of a slow-loading page is images that are too large. The best solution is to compress all images. For jpeg files, go to https://compressjpeg.com/, for png files, go to https://compresspng.com/. Get in the habit of compressing any image before it goes up on your site. If your site images are not compressed, there are two solutions:
- Compress all images and re upload them.
- Use a plugin such as Resmush.it or EWWW Image Optimizer.
Option 1 will likely get you the best results; Option 2 is the easiest to implement. In the future, though, compress all images before you upload them.
3. Resize images
Another issue may be that your images are just the wrong size, which can cause load issues. The best option is to use a program like Photoshop to resize images and ensure that they’re not over 1200 pixels wide when you upload them. You can also try a plugin like Resize Image After Upload if they’re already uploaded.
4. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN creates copies of your website, or cached versions, which are stored throughout the world. With a CDN, if your site’s server is in Arizona, but someone accesses it from New York, they may receive a cached version of your site from a New York server. This minimizes the distance between the server and the user and decreases wait time. It sounds like it would be difficult to implement, but it’s fairly easy. Cloudflare is a free CDN option that can help, and they have a WordPress plugin to make implementation easy.
5. Use Caching
Caching helps browsers keep copies of webpages, allowing them to access information much more quickly. There are a few cache plugins for WordPress, but the most universally accepted is probably W3 Total Cache. There are a lot of articles written about the best settings for W3 Total Cache, but simply installing the plugin and activating it can help decrease load times.
6. Change hosting/server
Some things are completely out of your control. If you’re seeing long wait times in your Pingdom results (e.g. a long yellow bar after your URL in the waterfall), it may be time to reach out to your hosting provider. Ask if you’re on an older server and, if so, if there’s a way to move your site to a faster, newer server. They may be willing to move you free of charge or for a slight fee.
If your host can’t increase your server speed, you may want to consider a new host. This is the absolute last resort, and it’s not an easy solution. Blue Host and Host Gator are options, but I’ve found SiteGround to be one of the fastest.
Geoff Hoesch is the CEO of Dragonfly Digital Marketing, a Baltimore-based digital marketing agency. He’s provided website help to hundreds of companies and individuals over the past 12 years, always promoting the practice of quality over quantity. You can find his company on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.