With the use of mobile devices overtaking desktop or laptop computers in recent years, it’s never been more important for your website to be lean and fast loading. Google is now ranking websites on their page load speeds and also how mobile-friendly they are.
Fortunately, our friends at Google have created a useful little tool, called Test My Site, which analyses your website and scores you on Mobile Friendliness and Speed. A few of my clients used this recently on their WordPress installations and we worked together to improve their scores. Here’s what we learnt and some of the tools we used to get the job done.
Before we begin, it’s important to note that it’s unlikely you’ll get to 100% in every area. Like any kind of website optimisation, you could spend a lot of time and money making improvements, so it’s a process of working through the quickest, easiest and cheapest fixes first.
1. Remove unnecessary plugins
Do a review of your WordPress installation and identify all the plugins and what they’re used for. Less is more when it comes to plugins, too many will start conflicting with each other and slow you down. If you don’t need it, or don’t use, then get rid of it.
2. Get a faster website host
Most of the cheaper WordPress hosting I see is way too slow, and it’s cheap for a reason. Shared Hosting works for low traffic websites, but they’re slower to load, and if you get hit with a sudden surge of traffic, they simply won’t deliver. I recommend WP Engine as the best place to host your WordPress website. Technically it is still Shared Hosting (a Dedicated Host or VPS will cost you more) but I’ve seen much better performance over time than anything else in the same class.
3. Optimise your images
This is the biggest area where most people need to improve. The most common thing is to see website owners uploading large images to their site with no consideration about how this affects load times. I wrote a post about how Size Matters, so follow this every time you add a new image to your site. For images that are already uploaded, you can try the following plugins which we’ve had some success with: EWWW Image Optimizer, Compress JPEG & PNG and WP Smush.
4. Activate website caching
Some hosts (like WP Engine) have this already built in, but if not then WordPress caching will seriously improve the performance of higher traffic sites. Our favourite caching plugins are W3Total Cache or Speed Booster Pack.
5. Use a CDN
A Content Delivery Network will place copies of your images and web pages on different servers all over the world, in order to be able to deliver them quicker to visitors in their local area. WP Engine offers their own CDN for an extra monthly fee, you might also want to investigate CloudFlare or CloudFront by Amazon.
6. Optimise your theme
Once you’ve worked through all the items above, you should see a noticeable improvement in your score. If you want to improve further, you can look at optimising your theme. Some WordPress themes and page building plugins tend to create bulky code and additional page weight, so these should be avoided if not required. There are some plugins out there to Minify CSS and HTML, but I haven’t had much luck with them. If this is something you think you need, better get a developer to take a look at your theme.
We’re always looking for new ways to improve our clients websites and Google rankings, so if you’d like to get the team at Agent Digital to run some tests and advise on areas of improvement, please let us know.