How to improve your WordPress site speed for better SEO

We live in a digital world and almost everything is about speed. Lose weight fast! Climb the corporate ladder before 30! Become an influencer overnight! Everything is about getting things faster. 

When people visit your website, they expect to find what they are looking for – fast. If they don’t (because your website is slow loading), they will leave as quickly as they arrived. The success of your website relies significantly on how quickly it loads. 

If you want to improve your WordPress site speed for better SEO and happy customers, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this article, we’re going to share all the methods you can use to speed up your website  to provide a fast and competitive service. 

Why is Site Speed So Important?

Our ability to concentrate for extended periods of time is on the decline. On average, a website has mere seconds to engage visitors. In fact, one survey reported that 40% of people will abandon a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. So, if you want more traffic, higher rankings, and better conversions, prioritising site speed is extremely important.

Without a fast WordPress site, you will suffer disappointed customers, high bounce rates, reduced traffic, and few to no conversions. These factors can significantly impact the success of your business.

Photo by: Souvik Banerjee | Unsplash

And it gets worse. Google and other search engines put slow websites at a disadvantage, pushing them further down the search results, negatively affecting your rankings. So, having a fast-loading site isn’t just good for your customers, it’s also good for SEO.

How to Test Site Speed

Before we get fully into this article and explore the common causes of slow WordPress sites and how to fix them, it’s important to check your site loading time. While your site might be loading quickly on your computer, this is often because it is cached in your browser and therefore loads the page automatically, so your experience may not accurately represent the visitor’s experience.

It is always important to test your site’s speed using a third-party tool. We recommend Lighthouse, an automated tool that provides a list of improvements you can make to your website to boost site speed and SEO practice. Lighthouse can run within Chrome, DevTools, as a Node module, or even a Chrome Extension.

Ideally, your website should load in 3 seconds or less. Any longer than this – even by 1 second and you risk losing customers. So, before you do anything else; test your site speed. 

Once you understand how quickly your website loads, you can work towards optimising it for an improved customer experience.

Common Causes of Slow WordPress Sites

There can be numerous reasons for slow-loading WordPress sites. When you can identify and resolve these problems, you can improve the loading time of your site, providing a better user experience and increasing your chances of success in a competitive market. Below we have listed some of the most common causes of slow WordPress websites.

  • Web Hosting: if your web hosting server is not properly configured it can negatively impact the speed of your website.
  • Bad Plugins: Plugins that are poorly coded or low-quality can significantly slow down your website.  
  • Page Size: if pages are too big and haven’t been properly optimised for the web, you may find your page load time increases.  
  • External Scripts: things like ads and front loaders can negatively impact website performance.

How to Improve Site Speed

There are many ways to improve WordPress site speed and we have listed some of the best below.

Install a WordPress Caching Plugin

Source: WP Beginner

WordPress pages can be built and added to your site at any time. So, whether you upload a new product or publish a blog post, people can visit every new page on your website upon publication.

Caching is the process of creating static versions of your content for visitors. Having static pages means you avoid the back-and-forth database queries, greatly reducing server load and page load time. Simply by caching new pages on your website, you can increase site speed by up to 5 times. 

Check out 5 of the best WordPress caching plugins to speed up your site.

Optimise Web Images for Speed

When you upload new images onto your website, it’s not as simple it seems. While images help bring your content to life, boosting engagement, if they aren’t optimised, they can cause slow loading times.

So, before you upload any new images to your website, we suggest using photo editing software to whittle the images down to a good size that is easy to load. 

Keeping large image files between 60-100k and small image files below 30k will drastically improve the loading time of your website.  

Optimise Site Speed for Mobile

With 70% of web traffic coming from mobile phones and 61% of users avoiding websites that aren’t mobile friendly, optimising your site for mobile is essential. Google prioritises fast loading mobile sites, helping them achieve higher rankings and traffic levels as a result.

“When real users have a slow experience on mobile, they’re much less likely to find what they are looking for or purchase from you in the future. For many sites this equates to a huge missed opportunity, especially when more than half of visits are abandoned if a mobile page takes over 3 seconds to load.” – Google

To optimise your site for mobile, you can use a mobile responsive theme, enable Google Accelerated Mobile Pages, and use mobile optimisation plugins. 

There are so many ways you can successfully optimise your website that makes it compatible and fast loading on mobile devices. And if you want your site to stay competitive, attract more customers, and grow your business, mobile optimisation is essential.

Run a Site Speed Diagnosis

Taking the time to analyse your site speed and diagnose any problems is an important step in understanding your site performance and what can be done to improve it. 

Tracking site speed should be done very regularly, particularly after you install a plugin or make a change to your website that may affect loading speeds.

To analyse site speed, you can run diagnostics using tools like WP Engine Speed Tool or Page Performance to see exactly how fast your site is loading.

Update Plugins

Photo by: Stephen Phillips | Unsplash

There are many behind-the-scenes admin tasks required when it comes to running a successful, fast loading website. One of these tasks involves updating your WordPress plugins.

Plugins are an essential element of a functional WordPress site. However, overloading your site with plugins can hinder rather than help. Plugins (particularly if they’re not in use) can clog up your website loading time, detracting from overall site performance.

This is why it’s essential to regularly clean out your WordPress site of unnecessary plugins and outdated themes. This means running updates and deleting what you’re not using. We recommend removing the plugins that you no longer need and then sourcing high-quality replacements for those you want to keep.  

Manage Your Media Library

If you want your site to run faster, it’s time to clean up your media library. We know, it’s a mammoth task that takes time, but it could be the key to boosting your site speed.

Over the years, your media library will have accumulated hundreds, if not thousands, of images that are no longer used. 

To free up space, you should remove all unused media either manually or by using a plugin like Media Cleaner. This will give your website the best chance of loading quickly.

Choose the WordPress Gutenberg Page Builder

Photo by: Fikret tozak | Unsplash

Gutenberg writes surprisingly light code that helps your pages load faster and your website run smoother. Among the list of its benefits is that it will reduce code bloat, which is a big factor in page load times.

More often than not, WordPress sites can become bogged down by themes with complicated coding and too many plugins. Gutenberg Page Builder reduces this problem by keeping coding light and prioritising page performance.

What’s more, Gutenberg Page Builder relies heavily on your WordPress theme. This means that although it allows you to add custom CSS for content blocks, it doesn’t override your chosen theme of settings. This is extremely helpful for creating pages that not only look great but load quickly and work well for users. It is also an excellent option if you want to create custom pages unique to your website.

Minimise CSS, JavaScript, and HTML

Over time source code files can build up, causing your website to slow down. To help pages load faster, consider minifying the code on your site. Minification involves reducing the file size of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files and removing unnecessary characters like line breaks, comments, and spaces.

Minimising CSS, JavaScript, and HTML drastically reduces the amount of data transfer required to load your website, helping everything to load and run faster. Thankfully, you don’t have to carry out this process manually. Instead, you can use tools such as Rocket, Autoptimize, and CSS Compressor to get the job done in half the time.  

Limit the Comments Section

Comments are a great feature to add to your website as they help engage readers with your brand. However, often the comments section can slow down page load times.

Therefore, it can be helpful to break the comments section into pages, limiting the number per page so that users can easily navigate their way through without waiting for the page to stutter into life.

Transfer to a Dedicated Server

If your site receives high volumes of traffic, it is best to transfer your website to a dedicated server. Otherwise, if you are working on a shared server and the traffic to your website suddenly spikes, you could be left with a slow running site or a server that crashes under the pressure. 

To give your website the best chance of managing high volumes of traffic, investing in a dedicated server is a must.

The Site Speed Optimisation Tools We Recommend

Site speed is a complex topic, but thankfully you don’t have to work out the problems on your own. Instead, there are a variety of great optimisation tools available to help you get the most out of your website speed. We recommend the following tools:

Each tool works differently when it comes to measuring and reporting on site speed, as well as suggesting improvements. 

We know that by investing in the tools above, using WordPress Gutenberg Page Builder, and using a custom wordpress theme, you will enjoy a fast-loading website that meets the needs of your customers.

Final Words

In an online world, every millisecond counts. You have 3 seconds or less to engage visitors. So, your site needs to run fast and be fully optimised no matter what device they’re browsing on. We hope the information we have outlined in this article has been useful. If you have any other questions on how to improve your website speed, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

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