Google has admitted that speed is a ranking factor for a long time now, so it makes sense that site speed optimization should be incorporated into your SEO strategy. Although SEOs rarely know as much about sites as web developers, these tips to help speed up your WordPress site are easy for any SEO to incorporate and can significantly improve speed and potentially rankings. More importantly, faster load times mean a better user experience, and better user experience is what Google craves above all else.
Before you know what’s wrong with your site, you need to run some tests. Google’s Page Speed is a good place to start; it will show you areas of improvement for both your desktop and mobile sites. WebPagetest is also a great resource for running a checkup on your site’s speed. Both of these programs will provide suggestions on how to speed up your site, and I can’t list all of them below, but I have listed some of the most effective ones.
Simple steps to speed up your WordPress site:
Get Rid of Sliders
Sliders can look cool, but they can also significantly slow a site’s speed. Removing sliders and replacing them with an optimized, properly-sized image can improve load times.
Use a CDN
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network, which is a network of servers that offer your site’s content from multiple locations. Think of it this way: You order something from Amazon and the warehouse is in your city, say Baltimore, so you get it extremely quickly. Your friend, who lives in Los Angeles, may order the same thing but have to wait a few days for it to travel across the country. However, if there are warehouses in both Baltimore and Los Angeles that ship the same product, you’ll both get them at about the same time. Think of CDNs as a network of warehouses that deliver your website (the product) from multiple locations.
I recommend CloudFlare for your CDN. All you need to do is rename the nameservers with your hosting company and you’re good to go. For using W3 Total Cache with Cloud Flare, check out this article on W3 Total Cache Settings with CloudFlare.
The below image shows the difference between a Non-CDN and a CDN.
Resizing: Oftentimes in WordPress people will resize an image in the code or simply drag the corner of the image in the post or page. This is not the best way to go about the process, and proper image resizing should be done in Photoshop or other photo editing software. In order to check if your images are properly sized, try going to Google images and typing the following search: site:yoursite.com. This will show you all images on your site. Click the image and the actual size will appear. If the image is larger than it needs to be, it should be resized. Neil Patel discusses this in Chapter 2 of his Advanced Guide to SEO, in tip #4.
Compressing: Once images are resized, they should be compressed. There are a few ways to do this. The best but most time-consuming way to compress images is to use a site or program. I recommend Compress Now (seen below).
The easier, but less effective way to compress an image is to use a WordPress plugin. For this, I recommend Smush.It. Once the plugin is installed, you can run a bulk image optimize by clicking Media > Bulk Smush.It > Run all my images through Smush.It (seen below).
Asychronous means “not synchronized”. With asynchronous JS and CSS, all JS and CSS in the <head> section of your site is retrieved prior to the <body> section being loaded. Non-synchronous JS and CSS allows sites to deliver JS and CSS at the same time as <body> content, improving speed. Asynchronous JS and CSS is like having a bunch of chores to do and doing one after another; non-asynchronous JS and CSS is like getting a bunch of friends to help you out and getting all your chores done at the same time.
Install and activate the Async JS and CSS plugin. It should give you a little speed bump with the testing programs. Note: This plugin may cause issues with certain sliders.
Optimize Your Database
Your WordPress database, which is an SQL database, can get cluttered with unnecessary information, and the best solution is to get a plugin that will help you clean and manage it. I recommend DB Manager, which will clean things up and allow you to schedule future cleanings.
Use a Caching Program
A web cache stores copies of your site’s documents in order to increase load times. An analogy of caching: Someone wants to look at a page you wrote, so you print them a copy, walk to the printer, and hand it to them. The faster way, however, would be to have copies of the document ready on your desk. They ask, you reach over and take a copy from your pile and hand it to them. That’s similar to caching.
This option can help your website speed, but it can also cause issues with your site. Probably the most popular and most recommended plugin for caching is W3 Total Cache. Personally, I’ve had some major issues with this plugin, as it can cause serious CSS updating issues and has created more problems than it’s solved. A more user friendly plugin is WP Super Cache. Caching in particular is one aspect of speed SEO that you may want to have your developer take care of, as they generally have a better understanding of how it works.
Remove Slow Plugins
Plugins are great and easy to use, but load your site up with too many of them and you’ll see significant slowdown. If your website was a van with your brand’s logo on it, plugins would be hitchhikers you pickup along your journey. They come in varying sizes, and some may be more interesting than others, but the more you pick up the slower your little van is going to move and the more gas it’s going to use up.
P3 Profiler is a great way to figure out which hitchhikers are weighing your website down the most. Identify the plugins slowing you down and disable them, then rerun your tests to see if there’s improvement. Image below
To find out more about how page speed affects SEO, read this article from WebProNews.