Page load speed optimisation is of many SEO factors that affect ranking performance on all websites, including WordPress. How to speed up WordPress website page load times became an important issue when Google incorporated this aspect into ranking algorithms.
Why Optimise WP Page Load Speeds
The consensus of opinion is that the following factors are crucial:
- Mobile first-index is now in place – slow sites are demoted
- Slow site speed has a negative effect on User Experience – no one like slow sites!
Eliminating unnecessary plugins from your WordPress installation, optimising all images, compressing files etc is now a critical component of rankings. Of course, better rankings are not the sole reason for carefully reducing your site’s page sizes;
Bloated websites are particularly problematic when viewing on a mobile device across a 3G / 4G mobile network! In 2019, the highest percentage of visitors to your website will be using a mobile device – smartphone or tablet.
The goal should be page sizes under 1 Mb, and Google recommends an “above the fold” load time of under 1 second.
Improving the “above the fold load time” and the overall page load time should positively impact;
- Visitor retention time
- Repeat visitor rate and,
- On ecommerce sites, each 1 second drop increases revenue by 10%
WP Page Load Speed Service Costs: US$175
Steps to Improving WP Performance
There are many elements you must consider when speeding up your WordPress website performance and page load speeds… There is a recommended process;
- Benchmarking your site on multiple load speed tests.
- Image File Size reductions provide the quickest return on efforts expended. Ensure that all images are correctly sized and compressed. Using a “lazy load” plugin stops images from loading until they enter the viewport.
- WP Caching Plugins are essential to improved page load speeds. I use WP Rocket Cache.
- WordPress Plugins all consume resources, so remove any non-essential items.
- Home Page content should be fast and simple to minimise database requests and page files sizes.
In order to monitor the incremental changes on pages, you need a range of tools because results can vary between measuring services due to traffic, latency etc. However, consistency in upward or downward trends across multiple test platforms and locations provides a more accurate assessment. Use these…
- Page Speed Insights: how Google rates the performance of any page: (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/)
- Pingdom: load speed performance from 3 test site options; Sydney, Amsterdam, New York or Dallas. (https://tools.pingdom.com/)
- GT Metrix: The free website speed analysis service tests access from several countries: (https://gtmetrix.com)
2. Optimise Image Dimensions & Compress them
Nothing slows a website faster than loading camera or phone images straight into your posts or pages. A default WordPress installation does not automatically resize and compress images like Facebook etc. Media Library settings and some themes can do a lot in that direction, but you’ve got to configure settings correctly.
Every image on the entire site should be optimised to improve website performance. Background images can be awfully big and inserting 1400 x 1000 pixel images that are not compressed and that then end up “scaled to fit” is a good way to kill your website performance.
How to Optimise Existing Website Images
Where you see a recommendation in GT Metrix results relating to “optimise images” you should examine the list to see if there are any large ones that you can quickly process for rapid improvements.
Batch Processing Existing Images in Bulk
There are good plugins for automatically processing images across your website such as WP Smush, Imagify and Shortpixel.
I use Shortpixel on all sites I manage – https://shortpixel.com. They offer a 50,000 Image Plan for US$30. You can install the Shortpixel plugin on multiple sites and share that 50k image allocation across all of them.
Batch image processing across an entire site is simple! Just pre-set the plugin parameters for lossless, glossy or lossy and set the maximum image dimensions etc and set it to work. There is an option to backup copies of original images, and to restore those if required. The thousands of thumbnails can also be processed.
Shortpixel makes short work of getting your image library under control!
WP Caching is Essential
In the WordPress environment, there are several long-serving and respected caching plugins available at no cost. Perhaps the most well-known are the freebies; W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache and Quick Cache. I’ve used all three across many different websites over several years as part of WP tech support and maintenance on many sites.
Which Caching Plugins Work Best?
For all sites I manage, I install the premium WP Rocket Cache plugin. I have a Developers Licence for that purpose. It now runs happily on Litespeed Web Servers too. Features include;
- The usual Gzip compression on pages
- Lazy Load images
- Runs on Apache and Litespeed servers
- Pre-load from sitemaps – supports All in One SEO and Yoast SEO XML sitemaps
- Easy configuration
Plugins Impact on Page Load Time
All plugins consume some resources – some are horrendous at increasing page sizes and generating database requests. Some are so badly coded that their resource usage impacts negatively on shared hosting environments and some hosting companies have banned them – e.g.;
- Related posts plugins that generate ridiculous quantities of database queries
- Statistics plugins puling data from other sites
Home Page Complexity
Striking a balance between showcasing what your site offers and keeping the page size within sensible constraints is the challenge here. In your quest to determine how to speed up website performance, keep in mind that your Home page is the most important page in the entire site in terms of new visitors landing on it. Website speed optimization is crucial to keeping them there long enough to captivate their interest.
Sometimes less is more… Show them fewer choices in terms of recent posts, latest comments, slide shows, tags, categories and featured pages or posts, top post lists etc.
Hosting location can make a significant difference to page load times. If your website targets New Zealand clients, then it absolutely should be on a server physically located in New Zealand. Otherwise the inherent “latency” in a US or Canadian-based server adds a second or more to load times!