Website loading speed has always been important but Google’s core web vitals update made it a top priority for all website owners who want to remain relevant in search. While implementing WordPress speed optimization and boosting loading alone aren’t likely to improve your ranking, neglecting slow loading pages will definitely have a negative impact.
But before we delve into the nitty-gritty details of how to speed up WordPress, let’s clear up what “speeding up your site” really means. Is it how much time all resources take to be downloaded and initialized or how much time the user is waiting in order to see the information he or she came for?
The two main ways of thinking about speeding up your site technically are divided into perception and data transfer. Thanks to that difference it’s easier to understand certain techniques of speed optimization.
Now that this is out of the way, read on to find out how to speed up WordPress and improve your website performance both with users and search engines.
Related: Effective Tips for Evaluating Your Website’s Performance
Is WordPress Speed Optimization Worth Bothering with?
Yes! Nowadays, people have little patience to wait for slow-loading pages, and with the abundance of options online, slow sites lose visitors to better-optimized competitors.
Furthermore, as mentioned, Google deeply cares about the user experience and has stressed multiple times that page speed is an important factor in your site’s ranking. So, speeding up your WordPress site is definitely more important than it used to be.
We recommend “The Ultimate Guide to Boost WordPress Speed & Performance” by wpbeginner for further reading if you want to know more on why speeding up your WordPress website is so crucial.
Now that you now that you simply have to do it, let’s focus on how.
How to Speed Up WordPress
You can optimize the server requests, lower the resources being downloaded, reduce the number of scripts manipulating the DOM (jQuery is pretty much what does that usually), lower the size of the needed resources, compress, cache, and so on. Some parts of this can be done using plugins as described below and some not.
Two sites loading in exactly 2 seconds can seem different depending on the way they load. If site A displays the text first and then everything else, the user can start reading the first second they open your site, while on site B other things are loaded earlier, but the page remains white.
This perception is not something you can deal with by simply installing a plugin and calling it a day. You need to care about your visitors, you are not only running text and images, you need to consider usability and user experience as well.
Here is a very good breakdown of all the listed issues and solutions as well as the impact they can cause to the overall experience for your users.
Now let’s see what you can do about the technical part.
Plugins Are a Double-Edged Sword
Of course, don’t take this as an absolute definition as there are many great coded and thought out plugins by amazing developers, as well as awful in every way spaghetti code disasters. The second type is not often seen, but does exist, so you need to make sure you know what extra plugins you can add to your site(s), so you can improve WordPress speed.
Now, how do most of the famous plugins help you speed up your site? In general, you can read a lot about it on theWordPress Cache page, consisting of some of the most famous and secure plugins that will take care of the geeky stuff for you.
Simply said, caching plugins try to store static pages whenever possible for a certain amount of time. If there are updates, the static files being served are updated. This means that sometimes the latest updates might not be visible.
It tries to serve the resources from the closest possible location for every site visitor using CDN (content delivery network).
They will try to minimize as much code as possible from the files being served on every load. Creating all the code on one single line can reduce it from 10% to over 30-40% of space.
You Have Plugins Installed That Are Speeding up Your Site – What Now?
Not so fast! While the standard WordPress speed optimization plugins may do a great job, there is a lot more you should be concerned with, that they cannot offer.
What is it that determines the speed of your site which cannot be dealt with with plugins? The theme your site is running on and the server infrastructure.
If you decide to go for a $50 solution or asking your friend’s son because he is “good with computers” to make you a site, you will have to pay the price in the form of “bad performance” of your site and “lost visitors”.
What makes your site slow exactly? Well, first there are the requests it makes. How many separate files it will have to load for the viewer of your site every time a page is reloaded.
This is a problem caused by both your theme and the extra add-ons you add to your site like sliders, galleries, forms, ads, popups, notifications, chats and the list goes on and on. Every single one of them adds its own stylings and scripts and they all must be loaded with the rest of the site even when they are not in use on that particular page.
So, Does Disabling Plugins Help in Speeding up Your Site?
Yes and no. Depends on the plugin. In general try to use only what you need. It is like investing — you don’t go left and right spending money. You need to be sure if it’s worth it and decide if the cons are balanced by the pros.
There are plugins that won’t change your WordPress website speed performance and there are ones that will literally break it. The safer measure of this is having separate installation (staging server) — a copy of your main (production) server, on which testing any changes can be performed and measured.
Is it Really Important to Take Care of These Extra 1-2 Seconds of Loading?
Funny thing is that it’s not always 1-2 seconds. Using specific techniques you can boost loading time even more than that!
Slow sites frustrate users. Really, how many times have you simply closed that white tab with a small spinning icon? Google is also not happy with it and it will lower your page rank because of it.
It’s simple. If Google sees that people always leave your page if they wait X amount of time, then there is no need to promote your site above others that perform better.
It is surely not the only factor, but you should still check what Google thinks about your site in terms of speed here – Google Insights. It will output a number ranging from 0 to 100 which indicates how well your site is performing on the bases of well-defined rules, many of which no plugin can deal with on its own. Analyzing your pages’ performance will give you a clue about the issues you should address.
Improving the speed of your website is not something you can do overnight. There are usually multiple minor (or major) issues that pile up to make your pages load slowly and flounder.
Working with a WordPress Agency or a freelance developer to help you identify and fix whatever’s causing the problem, will improve the user experience and reduce your bounce rate.
In addition, it will give you a better fighting chance in the SERPs and may provide a competitive advantage over other websites that are not taking the issues seriously.
If you need assistance in optimizing your core web vitals and analyzing plugin performance, don’t hesitate to give us a call.