Site speed has been a Google ranking factor for some years now. Research by the Aberdeen Group has established that a one second delay in loading time reduces conversions by 7 percent, decreases page views by 11 percent and reduces customer satisfaction by 16 percent. A 2009 study by Akamai found that almost half the number of site visitors expect a website to load in less than 2 seconds and, 57 percent abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. It’s gotten even worse now with the high adoption of mobile devices. Internet audiences expect a page to load near instantly. If your WordPress site is slow to load, then you are losing traffic, conversions, sales and, damaging your brand.
The best way to check your WordPress site speed is to sign up to Google’s Search Console, verify website ownership, and then use the PageSpeed Insights tool to test your site’s speed on all devices.
Based on the results and recommendations from Google, you can decide which of the methods below to use to improve the speed of your WordPress site.
Install an Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Plugin
There are many ways to improve the speed of a WordPress site, and we will cover many of them in the next points below, but, AMP is currently the best ways to get a massive boost in site speed. AMP is an open source initiative by Google aimed at providing content optimized for mobile devices. Sites developed using the AMP framework are cached by Google free of charge. The result is lightning fast page loading times. Users on mobile devices can recognize AMP pages by an icon in Google search results. A WordPress AMP plugin generates AMP versions of all posts and pages once enabled.
Everyone loves eye candy, and websites with strong visual content have better engagement. But, images can also slow down a site significantly. One of the ways to optimize images for the web is to reduce their size before uploading them to WordPress. Free tools like Gimp have a “Save for The Web” feature that reduces the size of images without compromising too much on image quality. There are also several free WordPress image compression plugins that do the same thing.
Optimize Your Home Page
This is one of the fastest ways to improve the speed of your WordPress website. Having too many post excerpts and widgets on your home page can significantly slow down your website. Reducing your widgets and excerpts not only improves site speed but also improves the user experience.
A CDN stores copies of your website in several servers distributed around the world. When a user, in say Spain, types in your site URL in a browser, the CDN delivers the pages from the server that is closest geographically to the user. This has a huge effect on site loading times and also helps save on bandwidth usage.
Reduce the Number of Plugins
Plugins are a great way to extend the functionality of a WordPress website. However, each installed plugin works like a speed governor. Many plugins are well designed so that any effect on site speed is negligible, but the majority are poorly designed. The incremental effect of many plugins leads to a considerable slowdown of a WordPress site. Install only the most essential plugins and, if you aren’t using a plugin, uninstall it.
Change Your Theme
Themes aren’t created equal. While some themes are expertly coded and optimized for speed, the vast majority are poorly designed. Given that this is a highly technical area and most people may not be able to tell if a theme is well designed or not, the best thing is to stick with well-known developers. If you can afford it, buy a premium theme from an established developer and, one that comes with support in case of anything. Choosing a fast WordPress theme is one of the most important choices when setting up a new WordPress site.
Change your Host
Finally, if after going through points one to seven you realize your site is still sluggish, change your host immediately. Hosting is not an area you want to skimp on. Cheap hosting is often at some considerable compromise; you don’t want to learn the hard way. Move to a reputable host and select a good hosting package.
Mobile devices are now the main way people access the Internet. So, it pays to ensure that your WordPress site is optimized for fast loading. People now expect websites to load instantly. Failure to adapt will see you lose out to competitors who invest in delivering great user experience.