Tips to improve your WordPress site loading speed
“You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.”
Google’s Webmaster Central Blog (April 2010)
As you can see from the above excerpt from Google’s official blog on websites indexing, Google has started ranking websites based on the speed a website loads since a few years ago. This means how fast or slow your website responds is a criteria which determines how high or low your website’ search engine rankings will be!
Not only that, your readers and customers will also appreciate the fast loading too. Internet users are notoriously impatient and slow loading is a major reason for webpage abandonment (and thus high bounce rate).
Many researches have shown that slowing down a website will result in reduced page views and sales. Google noticed that by reducing the search engine’s speed by less than half a second, there was 0.2% to 0.6% fewer searches made. And another study showed that for every second of delayed loading, an e-commerce website that is earning $100,000 per day can stand to lose almost $2.5 million of sales per year as a result of lower conversion rate.
So you see, a slower loading site will cost you lost of pageviews and also sales as well as SEO ranking!
What can you do?
Actually, there are lots of things that are under your control. Here are a few suggestions that can easily be implemented and can improve your website’s speed.
Test Your Website Speed
In order to determine how fast is your website, you will need a speed testing tool.
There are a few internet based tools that are pretty effective. Just Google “website speed test” and you will find some. The one that I would recommend is Pingdom Website Speed Test. Key in your URL and test your website loading speed.
Another great speed test tool is Google Page Speed Tools, which will not only show you your website speed but also give you constructive suggestions on how to speed up your website.
Use a Good Theme
A good theme is the first step you can take in optimizing your website’s speed. Such themes use efficient coding to reduce your page file size and thus make your website load faster.
But that doesn’t mean that an efficiently coded theme will change your website’s layout. In fact, an efficiently coded theme and a badly coded theme can still produce the same look and feel to most of your visitors. However, a theme with optimized coding will have a whole lot of difference to your website speed!
That’s one of the reasons why I like Elegant Themes. Their themes are well-coded to make sure they load in the least amount of time possible, and thus speed up your website.
Check out these websites which use Elegant Themes, and see for yourself how fast they load. Some of them have testimonials which highly recommend this theme designer.
Remove Unnecessary Files
So what you can do is to eliminate those that you don’t need. If you have plugins that are redundant, uninstall them. If you have files that are unnecessary, eliminate them too. Reduce the bloat on your overall file size.
You can also minify and consolidate your files to cut the amount of files needed to be downloaded. The extra white space and tabs in codes are removable without affecting the entire coding. Your files will then be able to load faster. For WordPress users, you are in luck as you can easily do this using a great free plugin W3 Total Cache.
Optimize Image Size
The other thing that you can reduce is image size. Images are usually notoriously heavy and require more loading time. More often than not, you will find websites with images larger than necessary. This puts pressure on the website’s performance.
If possible, try not to use so many images. And make sure you are using the correct image type (.jpg, .png, .gif) for your purpose e.g. displaying photos, graphics or color-intense images. Jpg are normally great for photos while Png and Gif are great for illustrations and animations.
You can also reduce the impact images have on your website’s loading speed by compressing the images to as small as possible. My favorite image editing program, Adobe Photoshop is great for this purpose.
Use a Content Deliver Network (CDN)
When we host our website, we are actually hosting it on one server at a specific location depending where the web host’s datacenter is located. The further away the visitors are from this datacenter, the longer it takes for your website to load.
If you are receiving traffic from all four corners of the world, then subscribing to a Content Deliver Network service can help your visitors access your website faster. One that I find really effective is MaxCDN.
What a CDN does is to store your website at various datacenters located all over the world. When a visitor tries to access your website, the nearest datacenter will kick in to serve this visitor and as a result, improve the loading speed.
Install a Caching Plugin
When visitors come to your website, the WordPress application will need to do a lot of work to generate the webpages which are then served to your visitors. These include mostly querying the database. However, if we could lessen these queries, then the webpages will be able to be generated much quickly. This can be done by using caching plugins.
What they do is to keep database data which is frequently queried for a period of time, in a quick storage such as the server’s memory (the cache). When a browser request for the same data again, these data can be readily available from the cache rather than querying from the database again, thus resulting in faster loading time!
A good caching plugin that I like is W3-Total-Cache.
Do bear in mind that a caching plugin does not perform miracle. Even the best caching plugin cannot turn a poorly coded website around. You probably will be able to see a slight difference in speed but in order for the caching plugin to do its work, you will have to improve the overall website, like some of the other methods we have discussed above.
Even the most loyal readers or customers will eventually become frustrated with slow loading speed. If your website is experiencing slowness, then it is time for you to do something before you lose your visitors or sales. Even if your website is not “slow”, you can always try the above suggestions to optimize your website’s performance in order to increase user-experience and SEO. Once you have done so, give your website’s speed a test again and see the difference in the loading time.