We’ve heard for a while now that Google considers site speed as key factor in their search rankings. In other words, they look favorably upon sites that load faster and thus give them preferential treatment in search rankings when someone is searching on Google.
Site speed can also dramatically effect visitor experience. If your site is slow to load, visitors may be more likely to bounce or leave the site prematurely. You all know the feeling when you visit a site and it takes for ever for content to show up. You don’t want to be that site! You want your site to deliver content quickly, especially with the increased use of mobile web browsing.
There are several actions you can take to speed up your site. Let’s cover a few of the basics to get you started.
Measure your site’s speed
Google is nice enough to provide an entire set of tools to help speed up your site, including a handy Chrome speed monitoring extension for Developer Tools and an online Google Speed Test tool.
The report from this test explains potential issues effecting your site’s speed and categorizing them into high, medium and low priority. Obviously, it’s in your best interest to address the high priority issues first and work your way down the list. In my case, I had site caching disabled which raised a “high priority” flag.
I also ran a second site speed test at WebPageTest.org. The feedback from test results are similar in nature to those generated by Google’s online tool with one major advantage: WebPageTest let’s you compare site speed before and after improvements. My original test tracked my site’s Page Load Time at nearly 9.5 seconds, which is dreadful. After a few tweaks I managed to reduce page speed to 5.8 and eventually to 5.4 seconds. I’m not done yet!
WebPageTest.org also gives you a score on a scale of 0-100 and allows you to bookmark your results so that you can come back any time to run additional tests. Maybe you could compare your site to a competitor or another site that you think loads quickly?
Cache your WordPress site to increase page speed
I recommend you install a WordPress caching plugin, such as WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache. These services basically “generate static html files from your dynamic WordPress blog, so that they load faster. After an html file is generated your webserver will serve that file instead of processing the comparatively heavier and more expensive WordPress PHP scripts.”
There are a ton of settings within both of these plugins, but the good news is that they are pretty self-explanatory with plenty of documentation to help you set things up right.
Once activated, you’ll notice a difference in site speed right away. Note that because you’re now caching your site, when you make changes to your site, they may not appear when you refresh your browser. To overcome this, either turn off the caching while updating your site or clear your browser’s cache file. It’s no big deal, but it can be confusing the first time you experience this.
Minify and Optimize your CSS
You can see in this screenshot that my page speed decreased by another full second after activating WP-Minify! Sweet!
Optimize your WordPress Database
If you’ve had your site up for any length of time, it’s likely that your MySql database is cluttered with extra content that is negatively impacting your site’s speed. Fortunately, there’s a great WordPress plugin to help clean up the mess.
WP-Optimize is a WordPress 2.9++ database cleanup and optimization tool. It doesn’t require PhpMyAdmin to optimize your database tables. It allows you to remove post revisions, comments in the spam queue, un-approved comments within few clicks.
Was this helpful? Let me know if your site speed improves!