Based on current research, web analytics, and real-world reports, stats are all showing that decreasing your site’s load time is now every bit as important as producing valuable website content. Performance of your site is crucial for your business’ bottom line, and it affects every key metric you care about online: search engine rank, bounce rate, page views, time on site, conversions, and revenue.
Why Is Site Speed Important?
With Google announcing that they will be using site speed as a ranking factor and several large online brands providing metrics on how milliseconds affect revenues, companies are now making site performance a top priority.
Take, for example, Walmart. After finding out they weren’t the fastest retail site on the internet, compared to Amazon, eBay, and others, they decided to overhaul their site. Here are some of the results:
- For every 1 second of improvement, they experienced up to a 2% increase in conversions.
- For every 100 milliseconds of improvement, they grew incremental revenue by up to 1%.
Other major online brands did the same and made their results public:
- Shopzilla sped up average page load time from 6 seconds to 1.2 seconds and increased revenue by 12% and page views by 25%.
- Amazon increased revenue by 1% for every 100 milliseconds of improvement.
- Yahoo increased traffic by 9% for every 400 milliseconds of improvement.
- Mozilla received 60 million more Firefox downloads per year, by making their pages 2.2 seconds faster.
Think about it—it’s no different than waiting in line at a brick-and-mortar store. The longer you wait for your product or service, the more dissatisfied you’ll become and decide to go somewhere else or not come back. Every Saturday morning when I wake up, I crave donuts, so I load my kids up and venture out. As I pull up to the closet donut shop, I know that if the wait is going to be long, my craving can wait…or I’ll go to the next donut shop. It’s the same with your website. How fast can you deliver what your customer wants before they move on?
Below, we guide you through some action items you can do right away to make a real impact.
How Can You Measure the Performance of Your Site?
Now that you know it’s important, what’s next? Time to face reality and see where your site measures up. There are several great tools available to get a baseline on where you’re at and recommendations on what to do next.
PageSpeed is a speed test tool that analyzes the content of your webpage then generates grades about your website on a scale of 1 to 100. The closer you are to 100, the better optimized your site is. A score of 85 and above indicates that your website is meeting standards. PageSpeed gives you reports for both the desktop and mobile versions of your site. As part of these reports, you get recommendations for how you can improve your site score and performance.
GTMetrix is also a great tool that gets into more details that includes PageSpeed metrics, assigning your site a grade from A to F. Its reports are divided into five different sections, including PageSpeed, YSlow, waterfall breakdown, video, and history. You’re able to run the tests with various options, ranging from different locations across the world to various connection types. Other advanced features include the ability to create a playback video to analyze where your bottleneck is occurring and the ability to run Adblock Plus. With ads disabled, you can see how they affect the loading of your site.
How Can You Improve Page Speed and Performance?
There are hundreds of ways to speed up your WordPress website. In this article, we are only going to cover some of the top recommended tips and best practices that have worked for us.
Keep Your WordPress Site Updated
Another important thing you must do is upgrade your core WordPress to the latest release. WordPress is updating frequently, and each update will not only offer new features, but also fix bugs and security issues. Also, don’t forget about keeping your theme and plugins up-to-date. Not maintaining these updates can eventually create security risks and make your site slow and unreliable. As part of this process, we also recommend removing any inactivated or unused themes or plugins.
Choose a Good Hosting Provider
We are going to start with the basics, and this might seem very obvious, but a lot of the times, people try to save a few bucks and compromise quality by going with a cheaper hosting solution. It’s not worth it. Pay the extra money, and get a better hosting solution. Do your research. Pick one that’s reliable, and make sure their servers are built off of a strong backbone like Amazon. Also, built-in features like automated daily backups, malware scan and elimination, CDN-ready, caching, and staging environments are a major plus.
Recommended WordPress Hosting: WP Engine. They have proven to have the support, reliability, and stability. Plus, they include all of the extra built-in features above.
Use a Caching Plugin
A great caching plugin generates static HTML pages from your dynamic pages of your website and saves a copy of each. Then when that page is requested again it serves up that copy instead of running all the PHP code each time the relevant page is called. This speeds up the amount of time it takes to render that page. There are a lot of caching plugins available for WordPress.
Recommended Caching Plugin: W3 Total Cache. It’s one of the best most comprehensive caching plugins available.
Optimize Your Images
Image are necessary to bring your site to life and boost engagement. But without proper optimization, images could be hurting you more than helping you. Image should always be web-optimized, which means reduced down to the necessary resolution and file size. There are some great plugins for that.
Recommended Image Optimization Plugin: WP Smush. It reduces image file sizes automatically upon uploading to the media library.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Users are located at different geographical locations across the world and can experience different load times based on where they’re located. That’s because the location of the hosting server could be closer or farther way depending on where they’re located. Using a CDN can help speed up load times by caching up static files to a network of servers around the world. Then, when a user requests a file, it will serve it up from the closest location to that user, reducing the time it takes to render the results.
Recommended CDN: Cloudflare. The largest CDN on the web today, it comes with a lot of built-in tools to help speed up your site.
Minify and Compress Your Sites CSS, JS, and HTML
Every byte counts, and with your CSS, JS, and HTML, there are a lot of blank white spaces. The blank space and additional comments in your code add more bytes to be downloaded. When you minify and compress these files, it removes all of the extra space. This reducing the amount of bytes need to be downloaded and increasing the speed of your site.
Recommended Minify and Compression Plugin: Autoptimize. This tool speeds up your website and helps you save bandwidth by aggregating and minimizing CSS, JS, and HTML.
Keep in mind that these are just a few tips and tricks to optimize your site for better performance. Be sure to monitor your site’s speed before and after the updates to measure the real impact.