It’s not surprising that you have chosen WordPress to power your website.
WordPress is an incredibly powerful content management system. There is a huge amount of top quality plugins, addons and themes that can enhance your sites functionality and improve user experience. The more plugins you use however, the slower your site may become. If this sounds familiar, you may need to consider the best ways to optimise your WordPress website.
Why do you need a fast website?
User Experience and SEO
There’s nothing worse for a user than to head to a website only for it to appear in dribs and drabs on their screen. The chances are that visitors will get frustrated very quickly and head back to the Google search results page and select another site. This has a massive impact on the user experience. You could have the most informative, exciting and relevant content in your industry sector, but if no one knows about it because your site doesn’t load quick enough, then what is the point?
Speeding up your website will result in a more positive user experience as well as enhanced SEO capability. Site speed is a ranking factor in the realms of Google so it’s crucial that you are able to optimise your WordPress website. You also need to consider your mobile site speed to maximise your chances of appearing high up on the Google search results.
If the speed of your site is fast, users will generally stay longer looking at your content. This results in a better user experience, increases your chances of improved conversion rates, and your site will likely be looked upon favorably by the search engines.
For your keyword bidding, you need to ensure that your site is fast. A better user experience will enhance your site’s quality score, meaning that Google will find your website more relevant to the search term you are keen on having as your keyword. This quality score also determines how much you pay for your cost per click. With a poor quality score and a slow site, your paid for searches may not ever show up on Google, making your spending on such marketing become redundant.
Being in control
On a behavioral level, people like to be in control. When a website takes a long time to load, people feel like their control is diminishing. There comes a tipping point where a visitor will choose to navigate away from a page. Nearly two thirds of consumers will navigate away from a page if it takes longer than three seconds to load. It is vital that you can maintain a fast speed to hold onto traffic, maximize conversions and allow people to feel like they have control over the website viewing process.
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The need for speed
There are several ways you can speed up your WordPress website, to help increase conversion rates, and improve your SEO score.
Opt for high performance hosting or a VPS
A WordPress host holds all of your website’s data on a server. This includes all of your images, videos, graphics, and content. Having good website hosting is crucial to the speed of your site.
Shared WordPress hosting means that you share servers with hundreds if not thousands of other websites. As such, your website will inevitably become more sluggish at some point, whether this takes weeks, months or years. To get the biggest bang for their buck, these WordPress hosts tend to put as many sites as they can onto servers resulting in slower speeds. Downtime can quickly become the bane of your life, and you could be forever seeing error messages as you try to view your homepage.
Instead, go for a WordPress host that provides you with your own cloud based virtual private server (VPS) so there is zero risk of site overcrowding, like the hosting packages available at RelyWP. This cloud based hosting service is fully optimised for WordPress with a powerful CDN, meaning that even the largest spikes in traffic will not result in sluggishness to your website. A VPS will ensure that your WordPress site remains superfast with dedicated resources, and the space it needs to breath.
Use a content delivery network (CDN)
A CDN should be thought of as a booster to your site’s speed. While your WordPress host is crucial to ensure the initial speed of your site, a CDN is a web of global servers that can deliver copies of your site’s static files and data. A CDN will also allow you to utilise web application firewalls to limit spam from reaching your site or WordPress host. With CDN servers located across the world, latency is minimised and reduced dramatically.
The developers at Stackpath have designed a lightning-fast CDN that allows WordPress websites to enjoy up to 60% less latency. This accompanied with a superior web host will result in greatly improved speed for your website.
Go for a lightweight theme
Everyone wants their website to look beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. However, the more jazz hands you make your site, the more sluggish it can become. More lightweight themes have less impact on the speed of your site. Those with excessive features can slow down your site. Choose a theme that has the features that you need rather than the ones you get excited by. This will ensure that your WordPress site remains optimised and speedy.
Features like Google Fonts, sliders and parallax scripts can slow your website down. Ensure that your site is powered with a theme that enables you to turn the features off. This way, they won’t impact on the speed of your site.
Limit your plugins
Forget about the number of plugins that your WordPress site uses, this isn’t that important. What is more vital is the size and quality of your plugins. Bulkier plugins that you rarely use will inevitably result in a sluggish site meaning that your users have a poor experience when navigating your website. Only install the plugins you need.
Pingbacks are those automated comments that get created when another blog gets in touch. They are not useful and do nothing to enhance user experience or your SEO capability. By tweaking a whole host of features on your WordPress site, you can build up the speed capability of your website. By disabling pingbacks, you can limit all of those annoying bits of spam that can clog up the comment sections of your site. If you are running at particularly high levels of traffic, you want to limit the number of calls that your site has to make.
Optimise your images
Large, bulky images can have a large impact on page speed. However, you can easily decrease the size of your images, so that they help your pages load faster without damaging the integrity of your site.
Depending on your site, you may have more images than content making up the weight of your website. This means image optimisation is crucial to speed up your WordPress site. Don’t go too far and make your images so small that they are highly pixelated. Instead, find the balance. Compress your image files before you even upload them to WordPress and you may find that you can decrease the image by four times while still maintaining quality. Opt for JPEG formatting rather than PNG, as you can adjust the size without losing too much quality.
Alternatively, you can opt to install an image optimisation plugin such as Imagify, which will automatically optimise the images you upload to your site.
With every view of each webpage on your website, a request is made to your server, whether shared or cloud-based. This is then processed by your server and sent to the browser of the visitor. If you have a homepage consisting of a video, a menu and some content, each element needs to be requested and processed and returned to formulate a full webpage. Caching means that a server can withhold some of this data so that there is some form of functional memory when it comes to server requests resulting in faster loading times, to enhance the user experience and improve the speed of your site.
Server caching is the simplest approach resulting in your WordPress host dealing with this for you by utilising an add-on like Redis for continual object caching. Plugins such as WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache are also great third party applications for implementing caching on your site.
Both server level and plugin caching can help improve the loading speed of your site by more than 1/3. This doesn’t seem much but add this to every other optimisation measure that you will implement, and you will end up with a faster and more streamlined site.
Clean up your database
Your database will inevitably become less fine-tuned over time. This can sometimes result in some latency and downtime. Plugins such as Advanced Database Cleaner will cleanup your database automatically, by removing things such as old revisions, trash posts, and much more.
Focus on your homepage
It is vital that the initial contact that any visitor makes with your website is positive. The chances are that they will be directed to your homepage initially whether this is organic, via Google or through social media links. It’s vital that your homepage loads quickly and is fully optimised. You could choose to limit your full posts to excerpts instead. Many blog-style magazine homepages can have a neverending list of posts that end up clogging the homepage. Instead, show a maximum of 6-8 posts and allow your visitors to read on further if they choose.
You don’t need to have everything on your homepage. A page full of plug-ins and widgets is not beneficial to anyone, so don’t bombard your visitors with nothing but icons that take an age to load up and hold no use for anyone. Keep your homepage minimal, clear, visually easy to comprehend and relatively lightweight meaning that the speed of your website will not be compromised.
Utilise GZIP compression
Hire an expert to help
If you are a little overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the WordPress speed optimisation tasks ahead of you, don’t worry. Here at RelyWP, we offer all of these optimisation services within our comprehensive care plans. This means you don’t have to go hunting for ways to speed up your site, as it is all taken care of for you.