Imagine going to a store to buy a bike. You would expect to find someone to assist you. That store should be experts on how to fix bikes, be very friendly, approachable, and be ready to answer your questions. Imagine if you waited 5 minutes, walked around trying to spot someone and realized that no one was around to assist you. What would you do? Even if the bikes were exactly what you were looking for, you would walk away, and maybe never go back to that store. Moreover, you would never even dare to refer your friends or family to the store.
The bike anecdote here simply shows what happens when visitors come to your site. You may have taken the time to create relevant, engaging, and expert content. You may have linked to high authority sites and ensured proper content distribution. However, when people visit the site, it takes too long to load. Just like in the bike store, they may wait a while. After a few seconds, they may leave and never come back. The longest that they can wait is 10 seconds.
High bouncing rates are bad for you as a webmaster. If you are an e-commerce site, you are actually losing money. 80% of visitors are likely never to buy from a site if it loads slowly. In fact, studies show that customer satisfaction declines by 1% every time there is a delay, and conversions decrease by at least 7%.
Below we’ll get into your WordPress site speed, what it really is, its importance, how to measure your own site’s speed and how to increase it.
Understanding WordPress site speed
Every second counts, at least when it comes to your site’s speed. But do you really know what site speed is? This will be a good place to start before we get to how to increase WordPress site performance.
i) Page load time
When we talk about site speed, we subconsciously refer to page load time. Page load time can be defined as how long it takes for a particular web page to display the entire content. It is measured in seconds. Below are other factors that we should consider when we talk about a site’s speed
The TTFB – Time to First Byte is the time it takes from when a user makes an HTTP request (by entering a keyword or URL) to when the user’s browser receives the first byte of the page. In simpler terms, it is the time it takes for a site to begin loading. The smaller the TTFB, the faster the site loads.
iii) File size
Huge images in high resolution make a website appealing. However, if your WordPress site has many images or large images that take up too much memory, the site loads slowly.
The number of servers, their capacity, how powerful they are, and the bandwidth to handle user requests at the same time, all affect a site’s speed.
Is site speed important?
Now that we have a clearer picture of what site speed entails, the next question we should ask ourselves is, is site speed important?
1. Google rankings
To answer this question, we are going to refer to a post on the Google Webmaster blog. The blog was posted in 2010, but we can still see its significance to date. The blog post cited that site speed was going to become a vital part in Google’s ranking algorithms.
Following that announcement, Google, later on, created PageSpeed Insights, which basically allows you to analyze your site’s speed. We will look at how to analyze your site’s speed later on.
If Google will be using site speed in its rankings, it only means that if your site loads slowly, it will rank lower in search engine results. This will definitely affect your traffic and conversions since most people will not go past the third result on SERPS (search engine result pages).
2. User experience
As aforementioned, 80% of users will leave a site if it doesn’t load fast enough. Site speed is, therefore, important for user experience. User experience is also closely related to search results rankings. Google ranks sites where users spend a longer time higher.
How do you measure site speed?
You cannot afford to rank lower in search results due to a slow loading site with high bouncing rates. You need to know how well your site is doing with regards to speed.
a) PageSpeed Insights
As aforementioned, Google created a platform to allow you to analyze your site’s speed. Here is how to go about it:
– Copy your site’s URL
– Go to PageSpeed Insights
– Paste it in the text box written “enter a web page URL”
– Click “analyze”
– Wait for the results
The results will be published under “suggestions summary”. There are results for both mobile and desktop. If for instance the result under the mobile category is “optimize images”, there is “show how to fix” right beneath the suggestion.
When you click on “show how to fix”, you will be redirected to the PageSpeed Insights reference with a detailed explanation about optimizing images. There are more recommendations here, for instance, the specific images to optimize, how much space you will save, and the links that you can follow to fix the problem. For instance, there is a link to the image optimization guide. If you have some coding knowledge, in this case, it will be easier to understand the procedures and explanations here since they are a bit technical for someone with zero coding knowledge. We will discuss how to increase WordPress site speed in the last section of this article.
b) Other Site Speed Checker
For now, let’s look at other tools that you can use to analyze your site’s speed. Here is a list of tools that you can try:
With WooRank they audit your site and score your site based on two new criteria: Asset Compression and Asset Cacheability. Both being a factor in determining a website’s overall SEO Score. Learn how compression and caching impact page speed and SEO here.
How to increase WordPress site speed
Now that we have identified the problem and defined it, it is time to fix it. There are three aspects that you need to look at when you want to increase your WordPress site’s speed. These are:
- a) Web Performance Optimization (WPO) – this refers to the techniques that aid in the optimization of web page speed. You need to analyze all the components of a web page and optimize them to improve the page load time.
- b) Server Maintenance and monitoring – this entails monitoring server and databases to determine their performance, capacity, and availability.
- c) Infrastructure – this is a focus on the server’s capability and capacity. How much traffic can it allow simultaneously?
The above three factors are what we touched on when we were defining site speed. They are the same areas we will focus on when looking at increasing site speed.
Let’s dive right into your site speed solutions:
1. Hosting provider
Your hosting provider could be the cause of your low site speed problems. Some cheap hosting options or shared hosting may not be worth your while when it comes to speed. You may want to ultimately go for individual packages or change hosting providers. In a number of web experiments, hosting via WP Engine and Pagely has shown some improvements in WordPress speed site.
2. WordPress Theme
3. Optimizing different components of your WordPress site
Like we have been saying, large files will slow your site down. You need to optimize your files (images and caches). You should ideally optimize your images before you even upload them to your site. Let’s delve more into this below:
a) How to optimize images
The most popular way to optimize images is via using plugins. Here is a list of some that you can use:
b) How to optimize caches
Optimizing caches clears site cache instantly. This way, your servers have less to do. You can also use some plugins to optimize caches on your WordPress site. You can use the W3 Total Cache.
When using plugins, look out for plugins that will conflict with others.
4. The number of plugins
While plugins are useful to help improve certain features and aspects on your WordPress site, having too many plugins will also slow your site down. Plugins tend to take up quite some bandwidth. Have a maximum of 15 plugins on your site. That said, here are a few more plugins that will help you increase your WordPress site’s speed:
– BJ Lazy Load – this plugin is of particular interest because of how it works. It replaces images, posts, iframes, embedded videos, gravatar images, and post thumbnails with a placeholder. The content loads when the user scrolls down the page.
5. Using a CDN
One of the reasons why a site’s speed decreases is due to having all your files on one server. All your website files are usually stored in an “origin server”. When a user makes a request, the origin server receives it and then responds. If the user is very far away from the server, it will take longer for them to receive a response. This is what is interpreted as slow site speed.
A CDN, content delivery network, distributes the site’s static files to different servers around the globe. These servers temporarily store the site’s static content on servers that are closer to your user’s location. When a user makes a request, they are directed to the CDN edge server that is closest to them.
Some popular CDNs are MaxCDN and Cloudflare. CDNs are ideal for sites with high traffic.
With a CDN, you can save over 60% of the site bandwidth that you would have paid for, and reduce over 65% of the requests that your site could have handled. You reduce the page load time by 50%.
CDNs also increase your website’s security. If a hacker makes a request, the CDN is able to block the malicious request before it gets to the origin server.
Now that we understand how CDNs help to increase site speed, let’s delve more into one of the most popular CDNs: CloudFlare (https://www.cloudflare.com/)
An overview of CloudFlare
CloudFlare has a free option. It automatically caches static content on the site. You need not configure it after it starts running.
How to set up the free version of CloudFlare
You can follow the instructions based on these links:
If your hosting provider is not on this list like Inmotion, you can simply Google Search how to add nameserver to (hosting provider) like I did with inmotion: http://www.inmotionhosting.com/support/domain-names/dns-nameserver-changes/change-domain-nameservers-amp
How to Sign up for CloudFlare account:
- Go to https://www.cloudflare.com/ and sign up for an account.
- To do this, click “sign up” at the page’s top right
- Enter your email address and create a password
- Agree to terms and conditions
- Click “create account”
- Add your domain name to your account. To do this, copy your site’s URL and paste it in the textbox under “add your website”. Remove the protocol part, in this case, https:// and the last slash / to remain with www.cloudflare.com
- You can add more than one URL, separated by commas
- Click “Begin Scan”
- CloudFlare will scan your domain name to see where it is pointed. This takes about 60 seconds.
- After it is done, click “continue”
- You will be directed to a page titled “verify that all of your DNS records are listed below”. Here you can use your hosting cPanel to countercheck the listings. Make sure that these two A and CNAME of your domain are enabled and continue.
- You will be directed to next page to select the plan you wish to sign up for. Click “continue”
- Choose your plan. The free plan is okay for most sites. If you, however, want more security, especially if your site has any e-commerce on it, you may want to go for the pro or other higher plan.
- CloudFlare will request you to change your name servers. You can do this from the domain section of your cPanel. For inmotion hosting, under AMP, you will click “Domain”, then “Manage Domain”. You will then click on “Point your Domain” where you will be directed to change your nameserver.
- You will need to remove your current Primary and Secondary and replace it with the Nameserver Cloudflare has provided you.
Site speed is vital for good rankings on Google, more traffic, and increased conversions.
After creating highly relevant and authoritative content, it is best to support it via a site that loads fast. This way, you will have very few bouncing rates associated with your WordPress site speed.