Gary Illyes and John Mueller insist that it is only a small factor, while still reminding us about the importance of a site’s performance. Improving conversion rates for example. However you look at it though, slow sites are not good. No one wants to wait more than a few seconds for a page to finish loading. So let’s have a look a few tips to help you boost your page speed.
#1 – Hosting
Your choice of web hosting provider counts for about 60% of your page speed. It is an important choice to make and there are a lot of options on the market. Here are a few tips to help chose the best solution for you:
- Geographic location. Your servers should be as close as possible to your end users. We host our websites in a premium Hosting Provider located in Frankfurt optimized for maximum performance.
- Avoid cheap offers (a few dollars per month). They are usually limited or have hidden costs, which is why we don’t recommend or use these companies such as Bluehost.
- Prefer cloud-based web hosting that can evolve in a few minutes (extra processor power, RAM, disk space, etc.)
- Up to date hardware and software. Your web server should be using SSD or NVMe hard disks, PHP 7.4, MySQL 8.0, etc.
- Dissociate your domain names from your hosting solution. In case you have a problem with the hosting, you can still manage the domain name and keep the site alive.
#2 – DNS (Domain Name System)
Domain name providers are not all equal in terms of speed. If your domain name takes more than 200ms to reply to a request, it is too slow. A domain name server should reply in less than 50ms.
#3 – WordPress Theme
There are a lot of themes available for WordPress and it is already difficult to choose a good one. Especially at this moment with changes coming to the WordPress editor that should allow full-site editing for the end of 2020. Many website owners choose popular themes with lots of features, but these are not always the best choices for page speed. Here are a few tips for choosing the best theme for performance and improved conversions:
Avoid overcomplicated themes with features that you will never use. Such themes add bloated JS and CSS that slows down the pages.
Don’t judge a theme by its demo site
The demo could be hosted on a very powerful server and you may not obtain the same page speed scores on your own server. Try to see if you can test the theme for a few days for free before buying. Use built in debug tools on your navigator (accessible via F12, or right-click on the page and chose “Inspect”; Or on Mac, Cmd+Opt+I). In the Network tab, when you reload a page you will see information on the size of each resource (CSS, JS, images, fonts, etc.). Even if you are not sysadmin or developer, try to compare the results of different themes. Prefer simplicity. Whatever theme or page builder you choose, think through every block you add to every page. Is it useful to have a Google Maps block on this page? Is it interesting to load social media feeds on the home page (the answer is no)? What do 3D animation add to your slider (probably display errors, poor accessibility and crawl errors)? Whenever you add a different block to any page, you are effectively slowing it down.
#4 – PHP Version
We mentioned this in tip #1: you should be using the most recent version of PHP.
PHP is the programming language that WordPress uses to work server-side. Officially, the minimum version of PHP required to run WordPress is version number 5.6.20. However, this version has reached official end-of-life and using it will expose you to security risks. It is not faster than more recent versions either. Many improvements with load time up to 2 or 3 times quicker have were applied since versions 7.0 of PHP.
Many plugins and themes are no longer maintained for PHP versions before 7.0. At the time of writing PHP recommend 7.3 or higher.
We make sure our servers are running the latest PHP version and prevent older PHP versions on our servers.
This is done to protect ourselves and our customers from any security issues usually found in older versions of PHP.
#5 – MySQL / MariaDB version
Like PHP, it is important to have the most recent version of your database management system to get the best performance. This also affects the stability and security for your WordPress site.
At the time of writing WordPress recommends MySQL version 5.6+ or MariaDB version 10.1+.
We make sure our servers are running the latest versions of MySQL and MariaDB.
#6 – Caching Plugins
A caching plugin will help you gain the last 10% to 20% of page speed performance your site needs. Whether free or premium the plugin should:
- Provide a static cache of your pages
- Minify and concatenate CSS and JS files
- Compress files
- Delay image loading
- Delay script loading
- Optimize your database
- Ensure that you configure the plugin correctly to avoid side effects.
Always test the most important pages of your site (like payment or contact forms) after implementing this sort of plugin.
This ensures all the heavy lifting is done by our team and your website will be optimized to the max without any technical issues.
#7 – Update WordPress, Plugins and Themes
We are never going to repeat this enough: update WordPress regularly. By doing this you are sure to correct bugs, remove security risks, add new features and improve page speed. This same advice applies to themes, plugins and even translations.
We update our customer’s website through a central dashboard to ensure your peace of mind.
Pay attention to the number of plugins you add to your WordPress site and, for more security, delete plugins that you no longer use.
In reality, the number of plugins does not have a direct impact on the speed of your site.
However, you may have one plugin that heavily impacts your performance. The fewer plugins you have, the less likely you are of having conflicts or performance problems. You will also have to spend less time updating plugins!
Our design methods ensure the minimum usage of plugins to guarantee faster loading and less troubleshooting.
#9 – Optimize Images
Images can often represent the lion’s share of total page size and therefore of the time it takes to load a page. Here are a few tips to reduce the size of your images:
Choose the correct file format: JPG/JPEG for photos, PNG for logos and infographics, SVG for icons, illustrations, and logos. These are good guidelines, but you can always test different formats and compare file sizes. Compress images. JPG/JPEG formats can usually be compressed up to 60% (you can even try 40%) without losing too much quality. With PNG files try saving using 8-bits rather than 24.
SVG files can also be compressed but be careful with rounded forms as these may become pixilated very easily. Image size. You do not need 5000-pixel-wide photos for a website! Resize and/or crop your images before loading them. However, bear in mind that HD screens (Retina devices for example) will need 2 to 3 times more pixels. Software like Adobe XD can make it easier to prepare images. Adaptive images. When you add an image to a page WordPress automatically adds srcset and sizes attributes to the IMG tag. If your theme has been programmed correctly, it should only load the most appropriate image for user (screen size, resolution, etc.) On Mac you can use Preview to optimize your images for free (it even lets you perform batch exports). You can also turn to paid software solutions like Adobe Creative Cloud or Affinity.
Finally, you also have the choice of many WordPress plugins to optimize images automatically when you load them into the WordPress Media Library. Have a look at Imagify, EWWW Image Optimizer, ShortPixel Image Optimizer, reSmush.it, Compress JPEG & PNG images, and Smush.
#10 – Gzip
Gzip is server-side technology that will compress files, therefore reducing their size and the time it takes to send them across Internet. Compressed files are then decompressed by your navigator.
Tools like Pingdom Website Speed Test will let you see if Gzip is installed on your server.
We ensure every website we host is Gzip compressed.
That winds up our 10 top tips on improving your page speed. We hope that this helps you improve your WordPress site’s performance and get better rankings and conversions.
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