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In 2010, Google announced that page speed is now part of the search ranking signals. For webmasters on the world’s most popular content management system, WordPress speed optimization became an important issue.
WordPress is a great content management platform. No doubt, but one drawback, though, is the site speed.
This article explains the WordPress speed optimization possibilities on almost free resources. You don’t need a BIG marketing budget to utilize the resources mentioned in this post.
You can do it on an almost zero budget.
As a side note, this article is aimed at do-it-yourself bloggers. Webmasters looking for a quick and easy fix to WordPress speed and performance optimization.
Websites owners on a tight budget. So this article should be considered a beginner’s friendly no-cost budgeting speed optimization.
If you’re a blogging superhero, this article might not be of great benefit to you. In this case, consider the premium advanced WordPress cache plugin – WP Rocket.
WP Rocket is the most advanced all-in-one WordPress caching plugin. You can check out my review of it here.
Despite this fact, this doesn’t take anything out of the performance and optimization tips on this page.
After the optimization process, I achieved a decent Gtmetrix, Google page speed insight, Pingdom, and IsltWP page speed score for the blog homepage.
Take a look yourself…
Pingdom Testing result for Cybernaira
IsltWP page speed result
GtMetrix page speed result
And a 99% grade result for Google page speed insight…
As you can see, this is far from a fluke.
This results from months of hard work, research, small investment, and a few organized tools.
Although Google’s pagespeed insight score doesn’t necessarily mean much in the real world, it is a good indication that something is actually working.
This is because page speed is not calculated in points (0 -100) but in seconds. So it is safe to say the Google page speed insight score is based on website performance and not the average speed of the web page.
In essence, Google page speed Insight is a tool that helps you improve page speed by analyzing your web page element and not a page speed measuring tool.
So let’s begin with the obvious…
What is Website Page Speed?
Website Page speed is the time it takes to load the content on a specific web page fully.
In some scenarios, it could be described as the time to the first byte. The time it takes for users’ web browsers to receive the first byte of information from your web server.
There are some helpful tools to evaluate or analyze your website page speed score. With these tools, you can tell what the causes of your slow web pages are.
I have already listed some website speed test tools above, so let’s see…
Why Are my Website Pages Loading Slow?
To optimize your website pages for maximum performance, you need to discover the causes of your slow web pages.
Discovering what slows down your site pages is the key to making positive improvements that have long-term success.
In most cases, your website page speed testing tool reports will indicate where the problem is. But in all of it, much of the grammar will make no sense to you.
And for beginners, it could just be another jargon.
So let’s take a look at what mostly causes slow web pages without bothering you with all the reports jargon…
Website Factors That Cause Slow Page Load
External/third-party Script – Third-party scripts such as ads, analytics codes, font, etc…have a huge impact on website performance.
Web Host – How good your web host server is also has a huge impact on your website performance. If your web server is poorly configured or you’re running an outdated PHP version, this is likely to make your web pages run slow.
Poorly Coded Plugins – Plugins are what bring more functionalities to your WordPress blog. But many of these plugins are not coded properly. Poorly coded plugins can impact the speed of your website.
Page Size – The total size of your website will make a significant difference in how fast your web pages load. Mainly, images and other hosted media such as videos can drastically increase the overall size of your website.
See how to optimize WordPress images for maximum speed and size here.
Insufficient Server Resources – This is true for websites on a shared hosting server. If other websites on the same server experience spike in traffic, your website may be affected and eventually run slower during this period.
These are just a few of what might be the cause of your website loading slowly.
How Website Page Speed Affects SEO
Often, webmasters do ask…
Does website page speed affect SEO?
The short answer is Yes, page speed does affect SEO. If it is not, Google won’t report in mostly all its website analytics reports.
The longer answer is…
SEO is all about giving the best user experience. And since page speed is part of user experience, it is right to say page speed will directly impact SEO.
Thus, page speed will indirectly affect or influence search ranking. Since a slow web page can lead to poor user experience (high bounce rate and reduced duel time), slow pages will affect SEO.
Now that we’ve known how slow website pages affect SEO, the importance of speed optimization, and what causes slow web pages…
Let’s look at how to speed up WordPress pages without breaking the bank in the process.
The tools mentioned here are what I used for WordPress speed optimization on this very blog.
You may find alternatives or better tools if something doesn’t work rights on your end. WordPress is blessed with thousands of developers who create helpful blog functionalities with WordPress optimization plugins.
So let’s start with something you probably can’t do without online, and most importantly, that makes a HUGE difference in page speed optimization.
1. A Good Web Host
Everything being equal, your WordPress hosting will make the biggest difference in your optimization efforts.
There are many good shared hosting providers today, but the harsh truth is that if one or more websites on the same server get a massive spike in traffic, it affects every other website on that server.
So it doesn’t matter what you do on your website or how well you optimize it for speed. Other people’s success might bring failure to your business.
The best is to go the route of managed WordPress hosting where you don’t share server resources with other websites.
This blog is hosted on the NameCheap EasyWP cloud server. Since I upgraded from Stellar shared hosting to managed WordPress hosting, life has been easier managing this blog.
EasyWP runs the latest PHP 7, Nginx server, and notably, you don’t share server resources with other websites. So noisy neighborhood doesn’t affect your business.
They’re not as expensive as other competitors yet and provide one of the best services in truly managed WordPress hosting.
You can get started for just $1 for the first 30 days on EasyWP to see how it works. Take EasyWP with our special offer here.
Or take Cloudways for a 3-day free trial offer and enjoy a 20% discount price when you upgrade to a paid plan with our special promo code “CYBERNAI20” on the checkout page.
2. Install Cache Plugin
WordPress posts are built on the fly. They’re dynamic content.
This means every time a user requires information from your site, WordPress has to run the process each time, process it, and serve it to the user.
Practically, this is what happens on your website each time a users demand information from it:
Your web server will retrieve the information from a MySQL database and PHP files for every user who requires information on your website.
Next, it processes the information together in HTML content and sends it to the user browser.
This process can be time-consuming, involves many steps, takes longer to complete, and can really slow down your web pages.
To reduce all these steps and serve the user-required info in a fraction of a second, you need a cache system on your blog.
If you use a WordPress Managed hosting like EasyWP, you don’t need another caching plugin. It is built-in with your WordPress installation.
But if you’re stuck with a shared hosting server, you might need a cache plugin like WP Rocket, WP Super Cache, W3 Total cache, etc.
WordPress caching system copies your website pages at the first load and then serves that cached page to the user on subsequent visits.
This process reduces many steps between your web server and the user browsers and can make your website pages load 2x, 3x, or even 5x faster.
While there are many WordPress cache plugins today, I only recommend WP Rocket, Wp Super Cache, and W3 Total Cache.
Though WP Rocket is a premium plugin and unarguably, it gives you more cache and optimization features for your money.
WP Rocket is a full WordPress speed optimization plugin that provides great services to the following:
- Browser caching.
- Page Caching.
- Gzip Compression.
- HTML and CSS minify .
- Combine CSS files.
- Inline Critical CSS codes.
- WordPress Heartbeat Control.
- Database optimization.
- CDN Integration.
- Remove JQuery
- And lots more…
Once again, you can check out WP Rocket Review here. It’s in-depth with visually more information to help you decide what’s best for your business.
3. Image Optimization
Your website images contribute a lot to WordPress’s slow-to-load pages.
Although, images bring beauty, life, and more engagement to your WordPress post and pages. But if these images are not well optimized for speed, they could pose more harm than good.
The two main issues with images are their size and weight.
You want images to be responsive to the user’s device and minimal weight without losing their quality.
Images are not render-blocking; they’re loaded asynchronously. But if you have lots of images on your blog without maximum optimization, it could add to the overall size of your blog.
The best approach to image optimization is to compress the file size before uploading it to your post.
But here at CyberNaira, I used JetPack “Site Accelerator” features at the time of writing. And it has helped save yet, the installation of other WordPress plugins.
Plus, it worked straight out of the box. No other configuration is needed. Just activate, and you’re done; forget it.
JetPack Site Accelerator is an image CDN, editing, and accelerator service hosting WordPress images on its servers. This reduces the extra load on your hosting server, and it serves your images to users from anywhere around the world.
If the user’s browser supports the .webp image extension, JetPack will serve the .webp image format.
To turn on JetPack Site Accelerator, hover your mouse on “JetPack“, then click “Settings” ===>>”Performance” tab.
JetPack is now serving, editing, and optimizing your images from an image content delivery network. This is a great plugin to speed up WordPress post-load time significantly.
Among all the “free image optimization” tools I have used on this blog, JetPack has been the most effective, with significant improvement in page speed.
Though, there are some JetPack Site Accelerator limitations you might want to consider before making the switch. You can find them here.
4. Lazy Load Images
This is a process of loading images/videos on the page only when the users scroll to the viewpoint.
This is especially useful if you use images and video content a lot within your post. As users scroll down to the viewpoint, your website now loads the media content that becomes visible in the user’s browser viewing area.
Generally, you can lazy load every visual element on the page:
- Post images
By default, your web page will attempt to load all the images on the page to site visitors. Load time and bandwidth might not be an issue for those visiting your website through a desktop computer.
But for mobile users, this process could be a huge concern. The view area is much smaller, and loading images not present in the viewing area is just a waste of data and bandwidth.
Once again, JetPack Lazy load is what I use on this blog. You don’t need any other configuration set up; activate, and you’re done.
Plus, you can customize how JetPack Lazy load works on different pages of your WordPress blog through the filters you can find on this page.
5. Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
You might run a speed test for your site with the result in under 3 seconds. That’s commendable and not bad.
But this does not mean every user will access your site pages in under 3 seconds.
If your web host servers reside in the UK, practically speaking, users who load your web pages from the UK will experience a faster load time than users from Brazil.
This is where a content delivery network like RocketCDN can help you speed up the distribution of your website static files.
A content delivery network stores a copy of these static files on several servers across the world. When a user requests any of these files on your website, the CDN (content delivery network) serves the user from any servers close to the user.
This process drastically reduces the time it could have taken to process the information from your host server. Thereby, reducing the load on your hosting server.
For this blog, I use Cloud Flare free account at the time of writing this line.
But if you host with NameCheap EasyWp and select the Turbo or Supersonic hosting package, you can enjoy a free NamCheap CDN and SSL certificate for your website.
6. Install Only Optimized Themes
For beginners, it could be tempting to have a blog theme design with lots of bells and whistles. You know, flashy animations, lots of layouts, colors, widgets, etc.
But the thing is, many of these WordPress themes (especially free themes) are poorly coded and not well optimized for speed.
It is best to go with a simple blog layout, and a clean, and uncluttered theme. A theme that is free of bloated features.
In addition to the JetPack plugin mentioned above, there are other WordPress Speed Optimization plugins been used on this blog:
I use Autoptimize for CSS, JS, and font optimization on this blog. Though Autoptimize has image optimization features, I don’t activate that since I already use JetPack Site Accelerator.
Render blocking is a common issue in most WordPress sites running third-party codes. Autoptimize can help fix this problem.
Minimization removes extra content or comments from your site codes without changing or any impact on the code functionalities. This helps the code load faster and slightly reduces the blog size.
Block Bad Request (BBQ)
If you run a page speed test with GtMetrix, “Avoid Bad Request” is one common error message in the report.
I have tried several plugins for that, but this one works.
The good thing is you don’t have to go through any setup page. It only takes install, activate, and you’re done. Forget it. 100% plug-and-play forget plugin.
Here is the link to Block Bad Request (BBQ) WordPress plugin.
WebCraftic Clearfy – WordPress Optimization Plugin
This one does a lot of optimization tasks – Clearfy is a multipurpose optimization WordPress plugin.
Like Autoptimize, Clearfy also minifies HTML content and inlines critical CSS codes, but it does more than that.
Cleary provides a one-click option for the following:
- Removes RSS feed – Only do this if you’re not using WordPress as a blog.
- Disable WordPress Emoji
- Removes JQuery Migration.
- Removes DNS-Prefetch.
- WordPress URL Sanitation.
- Disable Embeds (I don’t recommend using this function unless you don’t use embed videos on your blog).
- Removes WordPress Short links.
- Disable Next/Previous post link in WordPress head.
- Critical CSS files
- Minify HTML content.
- Host Google Analytics Locally.
- Image optimization.
- Enable the Perfect Robot.txt file.
- Removes duplicate title names in the breadcrumb.
In fact, WebClearfy has over 50 optimization features you may want to go through. But actually, not every one of them is useful or will benefit every blog type.
So trade carefully, read, and understand what each SEO optimization features mean before activating. This way, you won’t break what you can’t fix.
While this article explains things I did to improve website performance in WordPress, every website is unique. This means what works here might not work over there.
Use the details shared here as a starting point for your WordPress Speed optimization test and not as an absolute or clear-cut process for your website.