Yes, it is official. The loading speed of your website has an impact on its Search Engine performance. As far back as 2010, Google’s Matt Cutts made this announcement:
“You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.”
It is not just about SERP. A good performing website is essential for keeping your viewers engaged. It is even more important for Businesses. Consider these stats:
- 47% of the users expect a site to load within 2 seconds
- 40% of the users abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load
- A 1 sec delay in page load can cause 7% decline in readership
Here is a simple guide to make sure you have done whatever you can to optimize the speed of your WordPress website, without upgrading to high cost infrastructure.
1. Measure and Analyse
The first step in understanding a problem is to measure it and analyse. One needs to know how much time does the site takes to load and then analyse the various components of this time taken. GT Metrix is a great WordPress plugin to measure site speed, which measures the performance of the website with the help of Y!Slow and Google Page Speed.
Another favourite is Pingdom. This amazing website measures your site loading speeds for free and comes up with a detailed analysis to help you understand the pain points.
Using these tools, one can know the size of the loading page, component breakdown in images, css, html and jqueries, calls made to the server etc. and to determine which component is causing the site to become sluggish.
2. Optimize the Images
A measure chunk of a webpage can be the images, especially if it is something like a photo/ travel blog. Since a normal digital image can be upto many MBs in size, it is important to optimize the images for web before uploading them. There are many aspects of image optimization, some of them given as follows:
Select the Correct Image Type
Start by selecting the right image format. Jpeg images are by far, the most compressed ones and hence the lightest. While one may be bound to use GIFs for animation or PNG for transparent background, sticking to Jpeg format for everything else is a good idea. Consider using Jpeg XR for modern clients.
Scale the Image
Serving scaled images is one of the best ways to shed unnecessary bytes from a webpage. We do not need a 3000×2000 image for a 300×200 show up. Instead of scaling the images by HTML, it is better to do that beforehand and upload the scaled version only. There are many tools available to scale images, Image Optimizer being one of them. One can also use the Microsoft Office Picture Manager which comes with the MS Office bundle and is available on most Windows desktops.
Remove Unnecessary Metadata
There is a lot of metadata embedded in each photograph which should be stripped off. This process is of two types – lossy and lossless, while lossless compression decreases the size by removing mostly the metadata, lossy compression further decreases the size of the image by . We prefer the lossless compression, and for my jpeg images use a tool called JPEGmini , which lowers the size of images by 1.5-3 x. A desktop version of this tool is also available which can process up to 20 images in free version.
3. Get Rid of Unnecessary Plugins
A big advantage of WordPress is the vast repository of plugins which extend its functionality and enable a WordPress site to do virtually anything. However, it is not difficult to get carried away while using these plugins. Each plugin consumes some resource and adds to the load time of the website.
There is a great plugin named P3 Plugin Profiler, which can scan the plugins and determine how much load they are adding to the website. So do an audit of the plugins and get rid of those which you do not absolutely need. In this case, the lesser the better.
Caching is a very important tool to cut the load time of the website. It basically caches the static elements of the page and renders them every time a user visits the page. W3 Total Cache is one of the most famous caching plugins. It goes well with CDN and Cloudflare and decreases the site load time significantly. A word of caution though: W3TC is a very powerful plugin and if configured incorrectly, it can pretty much screw up your site. So make sure you go through the installations guidelines properly before the installation. Wordfence is another great plugin which offers caching.
Though a browser has capacity to support downloads from multiple sources, if all the content is coming from just one source, it is not utilized. To increase the speed of your website, you should include parallelized rendering of images (and code). It is here that a CDN (Content Delivery Network) comes into picture. A CDN basically takes all the elements on your website to its data-centers and renders them via parallel channels. Some of the more popular economical CDN providers are MaxCDN and CDN77.
6. Optimize the Database
With time, WordPress keeps accumulating bloat in the form of redundant data and it is always a good idea to optimize the WP database from time to time to keep it in good shape. Since going to the DB directly and trying to optimize is not for everyone, there is a wonderful plugin available called WP Optimize. Install it and schedule it to run once a month and your DB headaches will be lessened to a great extent.
When you uninstall a plugin and remove it, sometimes not all plugins clean up their tables in the WordPress database, causing the database to become bloated with redundant tables. A plugin called DB Spring Clean can be used to delete those leftover tables unnecessary. This should, however be used with caution.