Website speed has a big role to play in User-Experience. The better the user-experience, the better are the chances that you will get a lot of returning hits to your website. There are also a lot of discussions in the SEO community if Google uses website speed as a ranking factor. We in seoFriik believe that one of the fundamental parts of a great website is its speed and it should be every webmaster’s goal to give the uttermost to make the their web as fast as possible. Don’t you just hate when something takes forever to load? Yes, we do as well, it is very annoying and frustrating. In this article I will give you hands-on advice how to speed up your WordPress site.
Step 1 – Install W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache
Those are two great plugins which can improve your website performance beyond recognition. Easiest way to install them is to click “Plugins -> Add New -> Type in “W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache”. Click install and that’s already half the job done or you can click the links which are in this subheading and download/upload them directly. WordPress Community claims that WP Super Cache, once configured properly will speed up you website more compared to W3 Total Cache. On the other hand, W3 Total Cache is more straight forward and easier to use. That is up to you to decide, which you prefer, but we would recommend W3 Total Cache, at least in the beginning. It is much easier to use and set up. Once you have installed W3 Total Cache, activate it and go to its settings(Performance – > General Settings). Enable Page Cache, Minify, Database Cache, Object Cache and Browser Cache. Pay a lot of attention to “Minify”, since it can cause some trouble. In the future we will make a post in regards to configuration of WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache.
Step 2 – Integrate Content Delivery Network (ex. Cloudflare) and channel all the traffic
Most of us don’t have money to spend on fast Akamai or other CDN networks. However, nowadays Content Delivery Networks have been becoming a big part of web hosting and speeding up the web. As for those who are not familiar with the concept of the CDN – imagine your website being hosted on 100 different servers which are located in different places in the world. Once a user hits your website, the CDN network will determine where is the nearest server for this person and loads the data from that server. In other words, your website is copied to various locations in the world, so users could load the data as fast as possible. This is something what a normal user doesn’t see as everything is going down in the background, however he/she might notice that the website is somehow super fast. Again, all this is contributing to user-experience which in turn contributes to SEO. Google will definitely note that you are using CDN and making your website better for your visitors.
Now we would like to recommend you Cloudflare. It is a free CDN solution well suitable for small businesses. It is relatively easy to integrate, you just need to point your website on their IP and wait for few hours for the servers to propagate, they have easy setup guide for this, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Cloudflare also comes with a security, so you can actually sleep better at night knowing that all the malicious traffic is handled by Cloudflare servers. There is a PRO account available which is dirty cheap, if you have a bit to spend, definitely worth to subscribe. Clouldflare totally integrates with W3 Total Cache as well, those two combined is a power house. Lately, there have been many other CDNs popping up, as we are a little outdated with the latest, it definitely doesn’t hurt to browse around a little.
Step 3 – Image removal/optimization/resizing
As we’ve seen from most of our clients, the typical speed issue comes from using heavy images which are not optimized. The problem is that images with higher resolution take awful amount of time to load, so therefore, if you’re displaying an image at 300×200 and you’re getting it from an image with a size of 1024×800, then obviously you can cut back quite a bit. The other part is optimization of the images, e.g. Yahoo Smush It, which does a brilliant job. You also should critical look to see which images you’re not using or which are not really essential for your site. It is incredible how much you can speed up your website by resizing your images. It is a dirty and nasty job, but will pay off.
Step 4 – Measure your website performance with GTmetrix and make the additional changes
GTmetrix is a website speed measuring website. All the Steps which I brought out previously are included also in GTmetrix suggestions. All the suggestions are documented well in GTmetrix help page, definitely check it out. If you feel like you’re not able to make some of those changes, feel free to leave a comment or drop us letter.
A few suggestions when you’re applying the changes
1) Optimizing transparent images (.png) might end up badly as the optimization might change the transparent background into black. If you have a white as a background of your website, just turn the image into .jpg and optimize it then. Otherwise, just keep it as it is, just make sure that the resolution of the image is brought down to minimal.
2) Enabling caching and CDN might cause problems when developing the website. When you’re simultaneously working on the website, switch to development mode in Cloudflare settings and disable the caching, this will save you a lot of confusion and frustration, believe me, “been there, done that”.
3) Don’t over do it, if you see that you’re already destroying your website’s beautiful design, just stop, 80% GTmetrix score is more than enough. It is true, that speed is very important, but you can’t sacrifice your expensive design to squeeze that extra second, it it not just worth it.
Good luck guys!