Page speed matters now more than ever

How fast is your website? Does it load quickly? If not, it’s time to work on that. Google has been saying for a long time that page speed is going to start counting in their ranking algorithm and the time is upon us.

What is page speed?

Page speed is simply a measurement of how fast the content on your page loads. That’s all there is to it. When you go to your website, does it come up fast? Do you have to wait?

The bad news is that if you have to wait more than two seconds, then you’re going to be considered slow. In this digital era where everyone is on their phone and in a hurry, people don’t want to wait around for your content. And neither do the search engines.

So you need to work on your page speed and you need to be continually working on it. There are always things you can do to make your site go faster. Here are a few tips I have to create a faster loading page.

Page speed matters now more than ever

Start with caching

Caching is important. All it really is is the process of storing data in a cache temporarily so that the data can be served up quickly. There are a ton of caching plugins you can use, both free and paid. I have tried them all. There’s W3 Total Cache, a developer favorite for many years. I myself found it to be confusing and had trouble getting a lot of good results. There’s also WP Super Cache, which is easier but again, wasn’t giving me the results I wanted. Comet Cache and WP Fastest Cache. Just go to the WordPress repository and type in cache. There are a ton.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not afraid to to pay for a premium plugin, so I was happy to give WP Rocket a try. I found it pretty easy to set up, and did see some pretty good results after installing. I’ve been using it for years. Combined with Autoptomize, I was getting decent results.

Until a week ago. I’m in a lot of techie Facebook groups, and one of them is on speeding up WordPress, and it seemed like every post in the group was about this plugin called Swift Performance. I figured, why not, I’ll give it a try. And I was blown away. Not only did I see a very immediate improvement in the performance on my site right away with my own use, all my page speed scores went up on every test I tried in Pingdom and GTMetrix. It was immediate and it was, well, swift. There is a pro version of Swift Performance, but I am currently using the Lite version and I am super impressed with it. It was really easy to install, the configuration wizard worked great, and with minimal effort I saw huge results. I’m a convert!

Other Tips for Speed

Stop using crappy hosting. So many people would rather by $3.99 a month for hosting than spend a few extra bucks to get a solid host. Trust me on this, there is a huge variance in quality between hosts and often times, your page speed can be affected by other users on a shared host. Check out my list of best web hosting companies to see the ones we think provide the best service.

GZip compression for the win. If you haven’t yet turned on gzip compression, you should do it. What is it? It’s just a method of compression files (making them smaller) so they transfer faster. A WordPress specific web host will have this already done for you, but there’s an easy one click way to enable it if you have cPanel hosting. Here is a more comprehensive list of ways to enable Gzip.

Optimize your images. Guess what? Images you take with your phone or camera are usually pretty big. Stock photos you buy are downloaded at a huge size. The reason is so you can use them in marketing on print materials. Images have to be a super high resolution to make them look good on printed materials, but they don’t have to be that high on the web. So take a few extra steps with your images.

  • First, shrink it down. Your web image does not need to be 4000 pixels wide!
  • Save it as a JPG. Unless you need transparency, you don’t need a PNG. They are bigger than JPGs.
  • Use an image optimization plugin like Shortpixel or TinyPNG. You can even upload your images right on the TinyPNG website and download compressed versions. I do this a lot when I’m building a site so that the first image I upload is compressed as much as possible.
  • Create your images in the exact size that you need them. Blog grids are fun. I love blog grids. But you should set up your site to use the correct image in your grid, and not load the full size image and resize it. It takes more time to resize an image via HTML than it does to load the image at the correct size.

Switch to PHP 7. If you haven’t upgraded your site to PHP 7 yet, now is the time. There are huge performance increases by doing this single step alone and unless your site is super old with old plugins and themes, you shouldn’t see any problems.

Clean up your database. Databases can get cluttered up with old junk and can slow down your site. Set up a schedule to remove all this clutter. A lot of caching plugins allow you to set up a schedule and wipe this stuff out for you. I use ManageWP to manage websites for myself and my clients, and it has this option built in so that I can easily click to clean up sites.

Delete unused plugins and themes. If you aren’t using it, it doesn’t need to be on your site. Simply your life and your site by removing unused plugins. I logged into a site the other day that had 43 plugins. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not the quantity that matters, but the quality of the plugin. But in this site, they actually had three different form plugins and three different page builders. That is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY. And it makes your site slow! Find what works, stick with it, ditch the rest.

Having a fast loading site is going to be a boon for you, as well as your users, because nobody wants to wait around. You’ll see better results from the people who visit and from the Googlebots if you work on speeding up your site.

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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