The fastest thing in the universe may be the speed of light, but your prospective clients expect it to be your website.
Web pages that take longer than three seconds to load lose an average of over half their visitors. Every millisecond of agonizing wait is losing your business potential leads and sales. Additionally, Google uses site speed as one of many factors that determines your position in search results. Google wants users to find the information they are looking for while enjoying a seamless and user-friendly experience. Website speed is essential to this, which is why long loading times will not only contribute to customers leaving your page – slow loading speed may also lower your rankings.
Site speed is a key component in your businesses’ success online. If your WordPress website isn’t loading in 1-3 seconds, here’s eight easy ways that you can bring it up to par.
1. PICK A LIGHTWEIGHT THEME
The “theme” is the foundation of your website and it has a profound effect on your site’s performance and loading time. It can be tempting for new web designers to pick beautiful themes that include all the bells and whistles, but that can get you into trouble. Those themes tend to be larger in size and have a higher number of HTTP requests which contribute to slower loading times.
Instead, you should look for a simple theme that meets the bare minimum of what you need. If your website is informational in nature, and you’re using a page-builder like Elementor, a clean and basic theme like Hello Elementor will usually suffice.
For eCommerce websites, you’ll need a theme like Astra or Ocean WP, and both have built in WooCommerce functionality. If you’re not sure where to start looking, this article has some great recommendations for the best lightweight WordPress themes.
What’s important to remember is that your choice shouldn’t be based on looks. Right now, the concern is choosing a strong foundation for better site speed optimization – you can always customize the design of your website later on.
Gone are the days of using a theme to design a website on WordPress. If you aren’t using a website page-builder and your design requires a heavy theme, it may be a good idea to switch things up. After all, you don’t want to be at mercy of your theme when it comes to site speed and user experience.
2. MINIFY YOUR RESOURCES
HTML, CSS, and JavaScipt are three distinct coding languages that control the elements on your website. These code files are doing a lot of work behind the scenes, which is why they can be extremely large in size. “Minify-ing” them will reduce the files’ size and the smaller the file – the faster your website will run.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to download an optimization plugin like WP Rocket. After downloading you’ll want to enable these settings:
- Basic settings: Minify HTML, combine Fonts files and remove query strings from static resources.
- CSS Files: Minify and combine CSS files, also optimize for CSS delivery.
Not all of these settings will make sense for every website. It’s up to you or your web developer to determine what is needed. A best practice is to minify as much as you can and only leave a file unoptimized when minifying it causes an issue with how the site is loading.
3. ENABLE BROWSER CACHING
Browser cache is a temporary storage area in memory or on your disk that holds the most recently downloaded pages. When leveraging browser caching, users that visit your website will store the page data in their browser cache, making the pages load much faster the next time they visit because they don’t have to wait for the pages to download again.
If the content on your website isn’t constantly changing then lengthening the lifespan of the cache will give users a better experience and faster loading times. We recommend you set it for around 10 days at a minimum. For websites with more dynamic content, specifically one that allows users to post or comment, you’ll want a shorter lifespan to ensure that all the content is visible to returning users.
The cache settings can also be found under options in the WordPress editor, but a plugin like WP Rocket simplifies the process of managing cache settings and gives you more freedom to control the duration of the caching settings.
4. OPTIMIZE YOUR IMAGES
Images take up a lot of space on your website. The larger the images, the slower your website will load. But images add so much to the aesthetic and design of your website, two items that we aren’t willing to compromise on. In lieu of removing images, there are a few ways make them more speed-friendly:
- Resolution: Reduce the quality of the image to the lowest resolution needed.
- Compression: Increase data efficiency by shrinking the file size, without losing image quality.
- Repeat for all devices: Loading times are even more important to users on the go, so be sure to make changes to the images on mobile and tablet as well.
These enhancements can be made in Photoshop or other digital editing software, but there are many easier ways to accomplish this. At Ranksey, we use a premium WordPress plugin called Imagify. This tool optimizes and resizes all site images, across all devices, with the click of a button.
5. ENABLE LAZY LOADING
Lazy loading prevents images from loading until a user scrolls down to where it is on the page. Taking advantage of this strategy helps get users to stay on your site by making the initial page loading time quicker. It also saves users the trouble of waiting for images to load when they may find what they’re looking for at the very top of the page.
Enabling lazy-loading can potentially increase your website speed by 33%. With the recent release of WordPress 5.5, you can quickly update this setting natively under WordPress options or, you can enable this setting within WP Rocket (the plugin discussed earlier in this post).
6. KEEP YOUR DATABASE CLEAN
When creating a website, many web designers will try out different plugins, widgets and media files but not all of them will be used in the final product. You may not be able to see them, but these items are taking up space in the back-end of your website. Taking time to go back and erase un-used images, previous drafts, plugins and widgets will speed up your website and you won’t even miss them.
7. UTILIZE GOOGLE PAGE SPEED INSIGHTS
Because speed can have such a profound affect on SEO rankings, Google has developed a tool to help developers improve this metric. Google Page Speed Insights, no longer powered by Google, does a great job at uncovering what is causing your website to be slow.
The tool generates recommendations for changes that have the potential to improve website speed. These recommendations are ranked by the amount of impact that they will make. Not all of these suggestions should be followed; some of them will not make a substantial difference to loading times or may require huge design elements to be removed. Nonetheless this tool provides a great starting point and can highlight issues with site speed that you may not have known were there.
Check out this article that explains why Google PageSpeed Insights scores aren’t as important as you may think.
8. USE A CONTENT DELIVERY NETWORK
A CDN “Content Delivery Network” is a network of servers that deliver website pages based on the geographical location of the user.
CDN’s are mainly used to keep high traffic websites fast to all of their visitors, regardless of their location. However, utilizing a CDN on your website will deliver your content to your users faster. In addition, a CDN will protect your website from sudden surges in traffic.
We recommend using a CDN service like Cloudflare, but it’s ultimately up to you to pick a CDN service.
KEEP YOUR WEBSITE RUNNING FAST
No one likes a slow website. Decreasing the time it takes your website to load may seem like a daunting task, but there are many easy ways to improve. Using these tips will make your website run faster, preventing potential customers from falling through the cracks.