Miriam Schwab on 9 ways to speed up your WordPress website and make Google happy

Static and headless WordPress. In one click.

PRESS for WORD 2018 in Tel Aviv had everything a WordPress fan could want. Great swag (especially from Elementor). Informative lectures. Networking. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. A photobooth. Even coffee and beer with your photo on it (see photos here). And even more photos here.

But best of all, Joost de Valk of Yoast SEO came all the way from the Netherlands to Tel Aviv to speak at the conference.

Joost talked about voice search and how ranking in the number two slot in Google search results will count for very little since Alexa, Siri, and other voice technologies will use the first results from Google to answer people’s questions.

Since that number one slot in Google is becoming even more valuable for businesses, it’s critical that your site is as fast as possible, since it’s one of Google’s major ranking factors. Having a fast site shows you care about your website visitors and want them to have a good experience.

Miriam Schwab, CEO of Strattic, gave extensive tips on how to speed up your WordPress website and make Google happy.

In the past 5 years, web page sizes have doubled in size, becoming increasingly bloated. Google and people expect a website to open quickly.  Even if you have the most beautiful website, but it takes forever to load, chances are that people will lose interest and try elsewhere. And Google takes notice of that and may rank the website lower in the search results. Ultimately, Google is trying to provide people with the best results, which means an all-around good experience which includes everything from relevant content to page load time. To say it another way, performance should be considered part of the design process.

1. Themes

Many ready-made themes offer way more features than you could ever possibly need. Make sure to run a new theme through the Query Monitor plugin to make sure it doesn’t have too many database queries, which can slow your site down.

2. Plugins

As your site gets older, it may have way too many plugins. It’s important to do some spring cleaning and get rid of as many plugins as you can, including the inactive ones. Try to move as much plugin functionality as possible to functions.php instead of using plugins so that you are utilizing more efficient code. You can use the P3 Plugin Profile plugin to check which plugin is using the most resources with their handy pie chart. Just remove the plugin after you use it since it’s really outdated.

3. Images

Images are usually the biggest assets that need to load on a website. You can use tools like Pingdom to see what resources are taking the longest to load.  Make sure you’re using optimized images. You can use tools like Short Pixel to help automate the process.

Page Weight is another tool to see how much more image optimization you can do on your site.

Google PageSpeed tool can also check your site speed, but it usually reports that all sites are horribly slow, so take the results with a grain of salt. Actually, the most useful part of Google PageSpeed tool is a hidden little link that lets you download the optimized images for your web page!

4. Hosting

Hosting is a huuuge factor when it comes to page load times. If you’re using a shared hosting plan, it means that you’re totally reliant on the other websites being hosted on the same server to behave nicely. If one of those sites experiences a major traffic spike or uses too many resources, it’s possible that your site may slow down too or go down altogether.

Before your website even loads, the browser needs to communicate with the server to fetch the assets it needs to display your website. This time may vary, but Google has made a statement that it should be less than 200 ms.

One way to check how your hosting fares is to enter your domain into Bitcatcha, a tool that grades hosting based on performance. If your site gets a bad score, it may be time to consider switching to a new hosting platform or even going serverless (Hello, Strattic)

5. CDN

CDN’s make a copy of your site and send that copy to different locations around the world, so that people can view the site as if it were being hosted as close to them as possible. This can dramatically increase the speed of a site.

6. Caching

Caching creates a static copy of your site so that people who visit your site a second time will have a much faster user experience. There are a bunch of caching tools such as WP Rocket.  Just be careful when you set up your caching plugin because if you overcache, it could mess things up such as causing your CSS to break and your site to display quite funky.

7. Gzip

GZip is a form of data compression that can help load time by compressing your assets so that people visiting the site will be downloading smaller files. It can compress files up to 70% for faster delivery. However, don’t get carried away and compress already compressed files – you may run into trouble.

To see if your site is using Gzip, you can use this Gzip Compression checker tool 

7. HTTP/2

HTTP was created literally decades ago and hasn’t been updated until very recently with HTTP/2 which allows browsers to use multiple TCP connections to issue parallel requests, thereby making your website load faster. Make sure your hosting provider offers HTTP/2. I know Strattic does 🙂

In order to use HTTP/2, your site must have a SSL ceritificate. Speaking of SSL, Google has openly declared their preference for sites that use SSL. So if you haven’t done so already, make sure you get your site SSL’ed asap. Or…you can let Strattic handle it for you.

You can check if your site has HTTP/2 applied with this tool.

8. AMP

AMP is a program from Google that works on mobile as follows: A user searches for something in Google. Google offers a bunch of results. The user then clicks on one of the results and it loads practically instantly. This happens because much of the page’s original content can be stripped away and the page is optimized for mobile. It’s a little creepy because it feels like Google is encroaching too far into the website territory.

You can use the AMP for WordPress plugin developed by WordPress and Google and other major players to implement AMP on your site.

9. Static = Strattic

Generating a static version of your site can greatly reduce page load time. Even though you can use all the methods mentioned above, it will take some serious time and energy getting all the configurations exactly right so that it’s not over-optimized or under-optimized. Making your site static means compressing all the files into a pre-rendered version of your site that doesn’t need to query the database to display information on your website. The static files are served as HTML with CSS and Javascript. You can think of it like a flattened Photoshop file.

If you’re looking for a static generator, Strattic does that too. Strattic optimizes sites by making them static (so there’s no queries to the database) and using serverless architecture so that your site is always available. Strattic also includes a CDN which means a copy of your site gets made in many locations all over the world so that it’s served closest to the user’s location making the load time even faster. Strattic also makes your site more secure because the website that the world sees is separated from the Dashboard, so there’s no database to hack.

Basically, Strattic is a platform for having the fastest, safest website possible.

We’ve seen some pretty incredible results with Strattic – with some sites being up to 16x faster.