How to speed up your WP site is the main topic of part 3 of the ‘Healthy On-Page SEO’ Series. Because for better or worse, everything’s about lighting speed these days. Our patience for certain things equals 0, one of them being how fast a website loads. That’s why we’ll be looking at ways to make your site faster without going into all the technical jargon.
It’s your responsibility as a website owner to keep an eye on your page load times. It’s not a primary factor for how good or bad you rank in the search results. However, it does impact it indirectly. If search engines detect that your site has a high bounce rate (people leaving after a short amount of time), it can affect your rankings. Your visitors may leave your site faster for various reasons, but a slow webpage will definitely be one of them.
1. You can always rely on the SEO Allstars
Some of the factors I’ve mentioned in the two previous posts of this series also impact your website’s speed. I’ll list them here with links to the other posts if you want to jump back quickly to check out the details.
2. It's all about the cache, not cash!
Over-simplifying what cache means: a version of your website or page is stored (on the server, site, browser) to load it faster the next time a visitor views it. It will be kept at a server, site, browser, or other levels. The idea behind it is similar to a Content Delivery Network (CDN). But of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that. If you want a more technical explanation, the blog post ‘Different types of caching’ from WP Rocket explains it very well.
Setting up the server or browser caching rules is essential to speed up your website. But if this all sounds like STRESS to you, keep it simple. Focus on the server cache to start with, using this plugin: WP Super Cache.
- Activate it,
- Turn the Caching on,
- Select the Simple Cache Delivery Method, and you’re done.
If you’re a little more advanced, go with the W3 Total Cache plugin, which allows you to set up Server and Browser Caching rules.
Keep in mind, though, that these days, hosting providers usually include a power cacher in their plans that’s ideal for their hosting environment. GreenGeeks includes LiteSpeed Cache, which can take care of the Server, Browser, and other Cache setups. You can activate the plugin on your WordPress website and stick with the default settings. Then, once you feel more comfortable, you can tweak it a little more to your needs.
Two cache-tips, in case you weren’t aware:
- When you’re working on the design of your site, turn off the cache plugin. It can keep you from seeing your updates in real-time, which is very annoying.
- After updating plugins or themes, always make sure to purge/clear the cache. To be able to see if everything looks fine.
3. Images, photos, pics! No matter what you call them, make sure they're optimized
I think that one of the reasons people don’t scale and compress their images is because there’s so much information out there that goes into too much technical detail. At least that’s what kept me stuck for quite a while. That’s why I’ll try to keep this as straightforward as possible because images are one of the main factors why websites are slow!
Rule of thumb:
- Images with a transparent background (e.g., logo, site icon) can be a png-file
- All other images (background, featured images, etc.) should be jpg/jpeg-files
- Background and featured images should be no wider than 2000px
- Make sure you scale all other images to the size you’re showing them as on your pages. That means – for example – don’t upload an image that’s 1000 x 1000px, if you’ll show it as 500 x 500px on your website.
- Compress all images before you upload them to your site. You can use Tiny png (it’s free) and many other tools for that.
- Finally, load them up to your Media folder in WordPress and integrate them on your site.
Tools to check your site’s speed:
A word of warning: don’t let yourself get sucked into analysis paralysis while figuring out what on earth is “not ok” with your site. Breathe, close the tab, and come back at a later point in time when you’re a little more comfortable with the subject.
4. Bonus: Performance Enhancer
If you’re still not getting the results you want in GTmetrix after working through all of the above suggestions. Try Autoptimize! It’s a performance plugin that works wonders. What to do:
- Run a full backup with Updraft Plus
- Install and activate Autoptimize
- Clear Cache
- Check that your site still looks and works fine
If all went well, rerun GTmetrix and see if it removed some of those errors and helped speed up your site.
5. What else?
- Well, keep an eye on the number of plugins you use.
- Deactivate and delete any that don’t make sense anymore.
- Also, remove inactive plugins.
- Browse through your media files every once in a while and get rid of redundant images.
That’s it for now. Get back to me if you have questions or have ideas for something else I can add to this list.