Let’s start by traveling back to a time when Google and Yahoo! were still evenly matched. Imagine Google’s clean homepage were to take 10 seconds to load, while the Yahoo! homepage loaded in 2 seconds. Do you think Google would be the top search engine in the world today? Speed matters – you have 8.25 seconds to capture the interest of your reader. If you fail, they will move on to the next site.
According to a report by the Microsoft Bing search team, a 2-second delay in page responsiveness reduced user satisfaction by 3.8%, increased lost revenue per user by 4.3%, and reduced clicks by 4.3%. Google is blatant about including your site speed into its ranking algorithm, with their PageSpeed Insights tool to test your site speed.
The importance of website speed when it comes to SEO, visitor attention and retention and eventually, your bottom line, cannot be overstated. This infographic by KissMetrics further drives home the point of having a fast website.
3 Steps To Speed Up Your WordPress Website
There are 3 simple steps to speed up your WordPress site.
1. Perform A Speed Test
The first step is always to know where your website currently stands. Use one of the following three tools to test your website speed. Not only do these tools provide you your site speed, most also offer a slightly deeper analysis to fix the problems.
Type in your website URL, and GTmetrix will generate a report for you to analyze. It only tests from a server in Canada for their free version.
Put your website link and choose “test from” to select a location nearer to your server, if you’re a localized website.
As mentioned earlier, Google’s own tool to test your speed.
2. Address The Low Hanging Fruits
Once you run your site speed test, you will likely be left with a score, a ranking or a grade, and an analysis of what you could improve. Depending on your technical know-how, you may or may not be able to understand all the items mentioned, which is why we wrote this. Take note that there will likely be some items, such as ‘Server response time’, that you cannot directly control. If you’re on a shared server hosting, you may face this problem and you probably cannot address it unless you switch to a higher level of hosting.
That’s why it’s always best to focus on the low-hanging fruits when it comes to the analysis.
3. Call In The Developers
Once you tackle the low hanging fruit with your WordPress site, you may find your site speed has improved to a satisfactory level. You may see anywhere between a 20% to 70% improvement in speeds, which is good enough for most folks. However, if you REALLY want to push the envelope, then it’s time to give your WordPress developers a call to fix the final few issues and bring your website to blazing speeds.
Basic Site Speed Tweaks
The following are tweaks you can attempt for yourself on your WordPress website to see some immediate wins in the loading times for your website.
1. Optimize Images
This is the simplest thing you can do if it is highlighted as a problem. Many of our clients tend to upload high-resolution images, which may be unnecessary for the web. A lossy compression on an image can reduce its file size by over 80% while still looking great. While WordPress has built-in functionality that you can activate for compression of images, it requires some technical knowledge. So we suggest you use one of the following 2 free image optimization WordPress plugins instead. Do be wary of the settings and keep a backup before proceeding.
- WP Smush (Go Pro for more benefits) – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/
- TinyPNG – https://wordpress.org/plugins/tiny-compress-images/
Explore optimizing images further with this WooCommerce article on how to get fast-loading, fantastic-looking product images.
2. Enable Gzip Compression
If Gzip compression is currently not enabled for your website, you need to get on it right away. It is a standard practice for most websites and in essence, it compresses files, making them smaller for a faster transfer over a network.
Your hosting provider may be able to do this for you, so drop them an email or open a ticket to see if they do. If they do not, you can either install a WordPress plugin that just does Gzip compression or you can use a caching plugin, which we discuss in the next section.
3. Leverage Browser Caching & Enable CDN
For these items (and more), you would make use of one of the popular caching plugins available for WordPress. Some of the free ones you can utilize include W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and the one we’re going into detail for this post – WP Fastest Cache. If you have a specific preference (you’re already ahead of the curve if you know your caching plugins and have a preference), then here are guided articles for the other two WordPress caching plugins:
- W3 Total Cache Plugin + Cloudflare (CDN) is a great combination to speed up your website – https://www.bloggingwizard.com/w3-total-cache-cloudflare/
- WP Super Cache Configuration Guide – https://www.shoutmeloud.com/wp-super-cache-wordpress-optimization-plugin.html
The purpose of creating an actionable guide for WordPress caching is to show you how simple it can be. To make our guide comprehensive, we also show how to set up a working CDN option (free as well) to ensure you get the best improvements possible. Do note that every WordPress site uses a different set of plugins and themes, so it’s possible this configuration may not work the best for you.
Speed Up Your WordPress site with WP Fastest Cache + Jetpack
Even though there is a premium version for WP Fastest Cache plugin, the free version is usually good enough to get considerable benefits from. It is a plugin that is gaining in popularity – with over 300,000 downloads already! When we tested it against other free plugins, we found that it was the best in terms of usability and simplicity. Jetpack, a popular WordPress plugin pack with over 3 Million installs, comes bundled with new WordPress installs and provides you with a free Content Delivery Network (CDN).
So let’s begin!
Setup & Configure WP Fastest Cache
- Go to your WordPress dashboard
- Go to Plugin -> Add new
- Search for WP Fastest Cache
- Install & Activate the Plugin
- Navigate to WP Fastest Cache settings from your sidebar
- Choose the settings as below. These are usually Minify, combine, Cache System, Gzip and Browser Caching. Be careful with the settings – it’s better to take things slow. Make one update at a time and refresh your browser to test if anything is broken before moving on to the next. That way, if your website doesn’t work correctly, you can quickly roll back to a working setting.
- If everything is fine, test your website’s speed again for any improvements.
Setup & Configure Jetpack
- Go back to your Plugins page and search for Jetpack.
- Install the plugin & activate it.
- Connect your website to wordpress.com (If you don’t have an account, you can create one for free).
- Follow instructions and choose the free plan.
- After Jetpack redirects you back to your WordPress dashboard, click Activate Recommended Features.
- After that, go to the Settings Tab and select “Media and Activate Speed Up” image.
- Now go back to WP Fastest Cache settings, go to the CDN Tab and click CDN by Photon.
- When you click it, a popup will appear, and all you need to do is follow instructions.
- When “Enter CDN URL” field appears, choose one that you like.
- After this step, your setup and configurations are complete!
- At this point, check your Page Speed again. You should see a significant improvement.
Is This Enough?
The answer is no. Aside from the issues mentioned earlier, there are still other factors that can affect your WordPress site speed. In fact, some items in the Page Speed Insights test are extremely hard to resolve due to services that Google themselves offer, like Analytics or Google Fonts.
Many novices end up with a broken website after installing a caching plugin, because they are unable to grasp the nuances of minifying the files on their site.
If you cross that hurdle, you will notice that every new plugin you install will degrade your site speed. While a fast website is great, it is also paramount to have tight WordPress security and your marketing will surely require additional plugins. Therefore, it’s an on-going process and you should probably seek a professional to help keep your page speed up and everything running smoothly every quarter.
A Case Study – Does Speed Really Matter?
A case study is able to illuminate the impact of speed on an actual website much better, in our opinion. We recently did a talk on Features Of A Good Business Website, where we presented a case study of a client we helped with their page speeds. While you should probably go through the entire slide deck, we’ve clipped the case study results slide below.
For the startup client mentioned in the slide above, the GTmetrix data on the left shows the results before we worked with them. The GTMetrix on the right shows data 9 months AFTER we worked with them. The 51.4% improvement in page speed down to 5.3s has had a significant impact on the business for this startup.
More visitors are not immediately leaving their website, as evidenced by the bounce rate improvement of over 80%. This, in turn, has led to visitors spending a lot more time on the site, and looking at 68% more content than before. These online improvements have translated into more leads and greater revenue for their business. And we still work with them every quarter to tweak their page speeds and help their site metrics keep improving.
By this point, I hope you have a definitive conclusion of your own as to the importance of website speed, as well as some actions you can take right away to improve your own site speed. If you have any concerns or experiences with making your website faster, feel free to share in the comments section below or contact us directly.