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Over the course of building a blog and marketing your website in general, you’ll come across the issue of site speed. It’s important to know as much as you can.
I’m going to share the answers to a few key questions users like you are asking. These questions will not only clarify, but will give you the breakdown on what to do to speed up your WordPress site.
Some of these key areas are important for you to know and understand before you even build and design your WordPress site.
These are key questions that drill into what makes a site “zippy”. By knowing the answers, you’re on the right track to speeding up your WordPress site and your bottom line.
Using these tips, it’s possible to decrease site loading time by 10 seconds. In terms of bounce rate, that’s reducing the likelihood that your visitors are popping over to competitors by 123%.
Site speed is important.
A recent study done by Google in June of 2020 shares that just a 0.1-second increase in on-site speed drove up retail conversion rates by more than 8% for retail and 10% for travel site conversions.
Ultimately, people leave when a site takes more than a few seconds to load.
Consider the following:
In a 2018 Google study, a difference of 1 to 3 seconds resulted in a nearly 30% bounce rate, meaning that users leave before even touching down on your page.
The reality is that the vast majority of websites often take much longer than 3 seconds to load.
According to Backlinko, the average site load time is more than 10 seconds on desktop and approximately 27 seconds on mobile devices.
The biggest issue here is that most of your audience is actually coming through the mobile version of your site.
Curious on how fast your site loads?
How to Test Site Speed in WordPress
The following programs linked below are the three major sites that allow you to submit your main site URL for speed results, no matter where you host your site – WordPress or otherwise.
All three give quick feedback and don’t require email sign-ups to access results.
Remember the following when these sites give you any kind of letter grade or score:
Knowing your site speed is more important than the score. The score is for vanity, the true site speed is the heart of the issue.
Don’t let the score beat you down, but know that there are a number of things you can do, and if all else fails, I include a reference at the end of this post, who can help turn you in the right direction. They’ve certainly helped me on various fixes in the past.
How could your site speed be better? How can you level up in your loading time to keep visitors from hopping over to your competitors?
How To Increase Site Speed in WordPress
Site speed is a combination of items. A number of key areas presented in this post will help you shave off precious seconds in load time, when done in tandem over the life and development of your website.
If you’re here for SEO purposes, I have to impress that site speed does not overcome the immense need to have quality content that’s edited for SEO purposes, along with quality backlinks.
If you want more information on how to do that, you can sign up for my free SEO mini-course here. It’s delivered by email over five days and I give you the 4-1-1 on free keyword tools and SEO myths that can trip you up.
Back to site speed now.
I’m answering the more commonly asked questions when it comes to this topic that will help you drill down on what to do to speed up your site.
What’s the best hosting for site speed?
The first item on the list is undeniably hosting. A lot of people discuss the pros and cons of one host or the other.
Based on research, blogging industry experts with WordPress, and user reviews over time, Hostgator and Bluehost are on the lower end of the spectrum in supporting speed in scaling web visitors, along with Namecheap, Hostinger, DreamHost and GoDaddy.
The ones that are determined to better support visitor scaling and lend more resources toward site hosting are companies like Big Scoots, Siteground, Namehero, and Kinsta.
Many of these higher-end hosts recommended in the paragraph above are more expensive, but that pricing is for a reason.
Cheaper, low-grade hosting is done on shared servers.
Higher-grade hosting gives you more bandwidth and faster speeds. These come with hosting options and packages where you can leverage cloud hosting and VPS (virtual private servers).
Comparing low vs. higher grade hosting is essentially a comparison between an apartment and a house for your website to live.
Basically, you have more dedicated resources to support your website. Vroom, vroom.
That means you can scale in the tens of thousands of site visitors easily and it won’t drag your site down. (This happens, which is where low-grade hosting really puts the pressure on you.)
I share more on Bluehost and Siteground here, and which I recommend depending on the stage you are at in starting out with your site in WordPress. (I also share straightforward recommendations for blogging in general relating to WordPress here.)
Essentially, invest where you can in the hosting that puts your site in a good place for the future.
If you’re in it for the long haul (several years) and have a few extra dollars to spare in the startup phases, opt for Siteground.
I recommend it more than any other hosting space for beginners – because of its quality.
How do you deal with publisher ads for site speed?
Unpopular advice, but don’t apply for publisher ad networks in general. Then you don’t have to worry about contacting and working with network representatives to speed up ad serving on your site.
This is important for the reasoning, so hear me out.
Don’t apply to the beginner ad networks.
For WordPress, this includes sites like Ezoic, Monumetric, Adsense, Media.net and similar.
Not only does this help you in the long-run with not dealing with being banned by ad networks (big issue on future revenue), but your site stays fast in being free of ad code.
Stay in the running for Mediavine and Adthrive by not applying for ad networks that you can get banned from, while also not slowing your site down for getting mere pennies a month.
If you get banned, you CANNOT get into high paying ad networks. (You also can’t get in if you are rejected and never get accepted.)
If the above happens, you miss out on major potential revenue. I know site owners that make anywhere from 2-11k per month with Mediavine and Adthrive.
Save yourself the heartache in trying to optimize ads for your site speed (it’s wasting your time) and focus on creating great content, editing for SEO, and then affiliate marketing on your website for a source of revenue.
However, if you do have ads on your site, remove them from areas that are geared more toward viewers on the desktop view. Maximize your ad placement within your blog posts, rather than sidebars and footers on your homepage that no one will see.
Consider instead where the ad placements would work best on mobile view, and minimize placements to focus on where traffic is going to be most plentiful.
Are sliders good or bad for WordPress websites?
Depending on your site’s design, you can actually be slowing down your website speed through a design element known as a “slider”.
You have a bunch of photos collected in one area and they slide in and out of the user’s view on scrolling your website.
You also should aim to remove any social media feed sliders and their related plugins from your site. Like the main slider design, these gather several images to display.
A popular plugin related to the social media feed sliders is Smash Balloon Social Photo Feed.
Case in point: I shaved off 2+ seconds when I took down the Footer Instagram Feed I used to have on my site a while back, with use of Smash Balloon.
You’re probably asking the following:
Why remove all these design elements? Wouldn’t they be more helpful to have?
Overall, they lead to slower loading times for your site pages.
In custom development, the sliders are harder to translate to both desktop and mobile views in a clear and optimized way. (I know because I’ve worked design for websites.)
Additionally, since you are stacking photos and content in a carousel, you aren’t allowing your audience to see all your key offers.
Not only is your site speed affected, your conversion rate for prospective leads is lessened.
Finally, when it comes to Instagram feeds, your traffic really isn’t likely to convert through your feed plugin. Especially when it’s in a side margin of your site or footer, which is hard to view on mobile.
Transitioning your audience from one media platform to another can be done in many ways that don’t include sliders on your website.
Talk with your site designer, or remove the widget displaying the slider in your WordPress dashboard (in the case of a social media feed). Overall, removing on a WordPress site is relatively easy.
What are the fastest WordPress themes?
Going off your site design elements, the structural design of your website can impact your site speed.
These structural designs in WordPress are known as parent themes or page builders.
The best parent themes as of writing this post, are Genesis and Astra.
The ones that are slowest based on user feedback and reviews is Divi and Elementor.
When you seek out your ideal site design (child themes), look for theme styles that are built with faster parent themes.
How do you resize mobile phone images and stock photos to load faster?
Help your site work easier and faster with this tip.
Resize and compress all your images. This is especially true for smartphone photos and stock photos. (I get mine from Depositphotos.)
Stock images are huge (even at the smallest download size) and you don’t want your site to do more work to scale them to be bigger or smaller to meet the needs of your customer or reader’s screen.
Your website doing the heavy lifting is it’s “thinking time” and that’s partly where your loading time becomes an issue.
Here’s what to do if you’re starting out on WordPress and need to resize:
Before you upload to your WordPress Media Library, resize your photos in a basic image editing platform like PicMonkey or Canva to the exact dimensions that you need.
(Bonus, both platforms are free.)
Download your resized photo in the JPEG format. PNG is higher quality, but JPEG will give a better return on page speed, since the file size will be much smaller.
And honestly, you’re not going to visibly compromise on quality by going for the JPEG format.
How do you know what dimensions to use for resizing photos?
This depends on your site layout and theme.
For example, I resize in custom dimensions at 1024 x 745 (W x L) in pixels for my featured post images and in-text post images.
This is based on the creator recommendations located in my theme documentation that comes with my design, Uptown, from 17th Avenue Designs on Etsy.
I would recommend contacting your developer or designer, reviewing any theme documentation, or checking via your inspect tool.
Otherwise, you can use the generally accepted image sizing for blog banners and images by going with sizing at 1200 x 628 pixels.
That’s the industry standard.
What plugin can be used to speed up your site’s performance?
There are several plugins that can help your site’s performance, based on what you want to achieve.
If you want to speed up your site through photo compression for free and simple, use the Smush plugin.
The Smush plugin works as you upload photos. Meaning you have to manually smush any existing photos, unless you pay to bulk smush.
These are my stats so far from this plugin’s use:
Typically this is a minor fix for larger photos, due to the extent the plugin actually downsizes the photos, which isn’t too much – as you might be able to see from the above stats.
This is the heavy lifter when it comes to image compression. Smush is more on the side of 4%-10% when I was compressing my photos.
ShortPixel is more in the realm of 40% or more. You can already see where this is going in terms of site speed.
This is compression for one photo. I always aim for lossy compression which helps site speed the most. This is typically what works for most users.
ShortPixel is also majorly cheap for image compression and when you invest at $10, you are taken care of, considering it then helps you compress thousands of photos automatically (and it does all of them at once, while Smush does not).
This is a caching plugin that speeds up your page loading time, has settings for your images to load when you need readers to view them (as opposed to taking time to load everything from page one), and lessens the weight of various code on your site.
I purchased WP Rocket and managed to shave down another 2 seconds from this caching plugin that’s recognized and supported by WordPress.
Resulting updates have only allowed for faster service from the plugin this year.
However, don’t do what I did when I did the installation process. I made the mistake of installing while I had another caching plugin on my site. I didn’t deactivate my other caching plugin and remove it first. (For some reason I thought I could do this later. I couldn’t.)
As a result, my site couldn’t handle that conflict in plugins and locked me out of the admin view. I couldn’t do ANYTHING in the back end. I couldn’t even write a post. Talk about scary!
I had my WordPress repair guru, Grayson Bell, help me out with a quick fix to get me access back in, in less than two hours.
He also offers site speed fixes as well.
Lesson learned, but I share my mistakes here with you.
What plugins slow your site down?
While some plugins benefit, they can weigh your site down, resulting in slower load times.
Pare down on plugins and only use the essentials.
With plugins, there are two distinct ones that are fairly heavy.
This was one of the early subscriptions on my WordPress site. Back in my early time blogging (I’ve been blogging for years) I thought I knew what I was doing and wanted to get ads and security on my site.
I saw Jetpack was doing both and really felt that I was getting a bang for my buck.
You already see my naivete early in blogging when I thought a plugin was going to monetize my site with ads. *facepalm*
Turns out that Jetpack is jam-packed with all kinds of functionality beyond those two services I was signing up for, which makes for a heavy plugin.
Who would have thought there could be such a thing as too much functionality?
Jetpack has multiple modules to pull all of these functions together, leading to an issue where a site user really doesn’t need all the functions, so you pay for an ultra-heavyweight plugin being attached to your site.
It’s like stuffing your car’s trunk with a bunch of heavy boxes – where you can then visibly see the car’s tail end dragging.
That’s your site with Jetpack.
Plus, there are several plugins that can protect your site for free and perform the same functions (aside from monetizing).
I’ll be sharing more on those in an upcoming blog post.
This one is really a hefty plugin and also notorious for dragging down your site speed.
When the topic of ecommerce comes up with a WordPress website on my consult calls with clients, I aim to determine their sales strategy and what they plan to sell.
Most of my clients are geared toward digital products and courses.
That being the case, I often offer the alternative for a few other platforms that can easily carry the weight of your ultra-important business offerings.
A great platform for selling that shifts the weight from your site in relation to digital goods, is SendOwl.
For courses, I recommend working with a hosting platform that handles the transactions for you. These include Thinkific and Teachable.
Below is an example course for a company I work with in Thinkific:
If you are working with physical products and are looking for a more direct alternative to WooCommerce, I steer clients to Ecwid. It has an intuitive interface and also has a free tier for 10 products.
It’s also much lighter compared to WooCommerce (most ecommerce plugins are heavy, but Ecwid ranks the best).
Will a CDN speed up my website?
A CDN is a content delivery network and it works to connect users to your content quicker through maximizing the use of the closest internet servers to them. This helps them no matter where they are on the planet.
Otherwise, they’ll be going through a server farther away from their search location, equaling longer load times.
I recommend signing up for CloudFlare here. Do not activate it or a CDN in general through your web host. I know they offer it and it’s tempting, but it more closely ties you to your host.
Sign up for a CDN outside of your host. This makes it much easier to migrate to a new hosting service or make hosting changes to your site.
Bonus: They also offer security for your website, among many different options and settings they provide in the user dashboard.
Those are my major tips for speeding up your site speed on your WordPress website.
As I said earlier, these don’t replace the full need for optimizing a post for SEO purposes. If you need the basic run down and have some questions on how to do SEO, then this bite-sized free course on SEO is perfect.
Where can you get a site speed audit?
If you’re looking for a speed audit based on items here or are not sure of what’s happening on your site that’s slowing it down, check out the list of WordPress services from my friend, Grayson Bell.
Go forth and implement a few of these items within your site, or consider them before you build your site. They will serve you in the long run by providing users with content quickly and showing Google that they can direct traffic to your expedited site.
It’s all part of making your WordPress site a conversion powerhouse for your viewers.