Slow loading sites are a pain! Your users don’t like it, and Google doesn’t either. So if you want to improve your WordPress site speed for SEO, you’re in the right place.
Why do I focus on the WordPress blogging platform rather than others? Because, with plugins, you can make WordPress fast and efficient. How? That’s what I’m going to cover here.
My speed test results
In this blog post, I’m going to go over how I was able to get this speed test result:
For now, let me go over why you should really care about how fast your blog loads.
Why your site speed matters
There are two reasons why your new blog needs to load fast.
- User experience
First and most importantly, user experience. You will lose a lot of traffic because people just don’t want to wait longer than 2 seconds for any page to load.
Here is a graph (source) to illustrate how the bounce rate (people leaving) jumps up at the 2-second mark and continues to increase after that.
The speed of your blog is a ranking factor (among many other SEO ranking factors) in Google search results. We’ve known this since 2010, when it was first announced by Google (source).
Then in 2018, another site speed update for mobile sites was announced (source).
And to serve as proof Google uses site speed as a ranking factor, Neil Patel analyzed the data on 143,827 URLs to see if site speed really matters.
In the chart below, we see how the pages at the top of the search results load faster than the others. (source).
So, it is imperative to have a fast-loading blog because slow sites just won’t get their share of valuable Google search traffic.
How to test your website speed
When you run a test, use a blog post (not the homepage) to test your site speed – since those will be the major entry points into your website.
How does your blog stack up? Here are a few tools to test your site speed.
Use these tools for what they are: tools to help you identify problems with your site speed. Don’t waste your time trying to get a good letter grade score.
You can really lose days of productivity trying to get a better score (while not really improving site speed).
These two are visual metrics that are important to providing a good user experience.
Why your WordPress blog is so slow
So, how did your site fare? If your blog is slow, we need to identify the problem first and then fix it.
Your blog could be slow for a few different reasons. Each of them will need to be addressed if you want to have a fast-loading blog.
I’ve split this blog post into the most important (and common) causes of a slow blog (in order) and how to fix them.
1. Move to a faster host like WPX
If you are using a host that overloads their shared servers with too many sites, your blog will be slow. There’s just no way around it.
While there are some optimizations you can make (see the rest of this post for suggestions!), if your host is slow, you need to switch hosting companies.
I recommend new bloggers start with HostGator. They are very affordable and offer great support for newbies. The downside is, of course, blog speed.
Bluehost crams a ton of sites into each server, and that obviously causes a major slowdown.
If you want to speed up your blog, you’re going to need to switch to a faster host like WPXHosting. They are one of the best blog hosts and the one I use!
While WPXHosting is still shared hosting, they keep far fewer websites on each server to ensure your site is always fast.
2. Switch to a lightweight theme like Astra
Many free WordPress themes are not properly coded. For example, there may be too many PHP calls and sloppy code, which slows down your site.
The solution is to get a WordPress theme that is optimized for speed., such as Astra.
While Astra does have a free version, I recommend upgrading to unlock all of its’ features. Plus, when you pay for Astra, you are paying for the developers to constantly improve both the speed and features of the theme.
Here are the blog themes I recommend for improved site speed:
- Astra (Lightweight theme)
- Divi (visual blog builder)
- Thrive Theme Builder (This is who I use)
3. Optimize & compress your images with Optimole
The faster your images load, the faster your website will load. Oftentimes the problem of a slow-loading website is huge images that haven’t been optimized or compressed.
Uploading full-size images to your blog will only cause the weight of your pages to be heavy. The answer isn’t having small, bad-quality images but rather having images that are well optimized.
One of the biggest ways you can improve your site speed is by optimizing your images with Optimole.
Using an image optimization plugin like Optimole is a MUST if you want a faster-loading blog. With Optimole, your images are compressed, scaled, served as lightweight Webp images, hosted on a CDN, and lazy-loaded to make sure your images aren’t the culprit of a slow website.
4. Cache your blog with WP Rocket
If you’re not already using a caching plugin, you need one. When you cache your blog, the plugin generates static HTML files (lightweight) of your blog posts, which are loaded by making a bunch of PHP calls (not lightweight).
This lightweight HTML is then served to your visitors. And as you would imagine, loading a static HTML page rather than a dynamic PHP page reduces calls to the server and instead spits out your content incredibly fast.
While there are many (good) caching plugins to use, I recommend WP Rocket.
With just a few clicks, you can see an instant speed improvement as the plugin performs speed optimizations such as caching, minifying and compressing files, database optimization, lazy-loading images, and more.
The only downside is that it costs $49, so I would only recommend this if you are going all-in on SEO and want to speed up your blog the easy way. I say “the easy way” because this plugin really is an all-in-one solution, so you don’t need hardly any other speed optimization plugins.
5. Use a CDN like Cloudflare
What is a CDN? A Content Delivery Network is a platform of geographically distributed group of servers that work together to provide faster delivery of online content by reducing the distance between the user and the server.
So in basic English, if a user on the east coast of the US goes on your blog (and your server is on the west coast), your content will load from the east coast server. This physically shorter trip alone makes your page load faster (source).
My host has their own CDN, but if yours doesn’t, I recommend using Cloudflare.
Cloudflare is free, and aside from being a CDN, they also have additional features like blocking bad bots and spammers from entering your blog in the first place.
The bottom line, use Cloudflare, and your blog will load faster.
Best plugins to speed up your WordPress blog
While the items I’ve outlined here make a big impact on your site speed, there are further optimizations you can do to speed up your blog.
While I’m on the topic of WordPress plugins, make sure to only use plugins you actually need and make sure they’re highly rated and recently updated. If you have too many resource-heavy WordPress plugins that are not well optimized, your blog speed will suffer.
Here are some of the best WordPress plugins that make additional tweaks to WordPress and speed up your website.
When we talk about page speed, we’re really talking about the time it takes for meaningful content to appear on the screen. The overall time it takes for the entire page to load is less important.
So to get that “above the fold” section to load faster, a few optimizations are needed.
Here are a few optimizations this plugin can perform:
– Combining multiple scripts into one file to decrease the number of calls to the server.
– Lazy loading images, so they are only loaded when the user scrolls down the page.
– Defers and moves scripts to the footer, allowing your content to load first.
– Minifies scripts, styles, and HTML code to decrease their file size.
The W3 Total Cache plugin has been installed in over a million WordPress blogs. It’s popular because it works.
If you use (and implement fully) the features of this plugin, you may not need many of the others on this list since this app does a lot of the same things.
We’ve talked a lot about optimizing your images and files to improve your WordPress blog speed.
But what about the database?
Your WordPress blog calls on the database to display your posts, comments, and your theme’s settings, to name a few. Is your database fully optimized?
With this plugin, your database will be automatically cleaned so that it runs at maximum efficiency. Cleaning consists of removing unnecessary data such as trashed and spam comments, pingbacks, and trackbacks.
This plugin also cleans up post revisions. When you edit your blog posts, revisions are created as you continue writing your post, sometimes dozens of them!
I currently have 50 revisions of this blog post as I continue to add/remove/update plugins from this list. Therefore, trimming just the revisions alone can remove thousands of entries from your database.
What I use to have a fast-loading blog
Here are the exact tools I use to get my blog to load fast:
- Hosting: WPXHosting
- Theme: Thrive Theme Builder
- CDN: WPXCloud
- Caching plugin: W3 Total Cache
- Image optimization plugin: Optimole
WordPress blog speed: The bottom line
Don’t go crazy trying to score an A grade on any website speed test!
While having a fast blog is important, there are better uses of your time than trying to shave off a few milliseconds of your page load time.
Optimizing your blog for speed can be a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing. Take the time to set up your blog for maximum efficiency right now – then let the plugins do their job after that.
Which of these plugins do you use? Are there any I missed that should be included in the list? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,