How to come first in the site speed race of WordPress
The online world can sometimes feel abit like the Olympics; jumping through hoops to please the search engines with excellent SEO, while racing to get the next blog post up quickly and overcoming the obstacles that are your competitor’s deals. But what about the speed your site is working at? With all the content and coding requirements we work to meet, it can be easy to forget that an increase in content means an increase in load time. And nothing is more likely to put your visitors off than an unreliable and slow website.
And it’s not just your visitors who will be unimpressed. Google has fast been increasing the emphasis it puts on site speed as a ranking factor, meaning that if your site isn’t up to scratch, you can rest assured Google won’t be recommending it in a hurry.
Here we unpick the best ways to rectify the situation before it does real damage to your website reputation in the online world…
The geography of your data centre is crucial
Your server is what pushes your site out to clients and potential website visitors, so making sure it is located close to that target market is crucial. It’s easy to find out the speed at which your site is being pushed out to Google at, from within your (webmaster tools) search console. Ideally this should be running to just a few hundred milliseconds at a maximum – any slower and Google will start to disregard your site.
Dynamic caching is one of those terms thrown around by online experts – but what does it really mean? Essentially dynamic caching deals with the problem created by page generation load time, as by default WordPress will load each page afresh every time a new visitor comes to your site. This obviously adds a delay to the load time of each page, which can cause a major problem for your overall site speed.
Dynamic caching deals with this delay by saving a copy of each page and then simply regenerating the copy to each visitor – rather than loading each page from scratch every time. This creates a more streamlined load time across your whole site by allowing the server to push content out to more individuals at once – more quickly!
In order to implement dynamic caching, users tend to opt for a plugin or by enabling it on the server itself via a user such as Hostgator. The latter option is easy for WordPress users who have optimised hosting as it is as simple as switching the feature on. For those who don’t, the plugin option is just as good and will perform the job to the same effect.
A Content Distribution Network (CDN)
A CDN allows your website server to find out the IP address of each visitor to your site, and deliver to them the recurrent content from a server nearest to them. By recurrent content we mean the things that never change – your images, backend coding and CSS to name a few. Engaging the use of the CDN through your hosting network means than users all over the world will receive content quickly and effectively, without long load times for those who live farthest away. Simply enable the CDN setting in the backend of your WordPress site and watch the visitors roll in – from all over the globe.
The beauty of CSS
The point of CSS is to make your WordPress site look great. While loading CSS files takes a while and in an ideal world would be delayed until after the page has loaded, doing this would cause your webpage to look unstyled and unattractive. That’s why we turn to Inlining for CSS – isolating the CSS rules that apply to the visible elements of your web page, and applying them to every page of the website so that they load instantly.
And voila! Beautiful web pages that load at the drop of a hat.
We get it, images are vital to your website. Whether it’s photos of your work or images to supplement your content, you need them. But they’re also adding to the size of your web page and by loading them afresh with every website visit, they’re draining the web loading capacity and adding to your site speed.
That’s why we turn to lazy loading. By enabling this, images won’t be loaded until the visitor has scrolled down far enough to see them, ensuring that only those images that will be viewed are actually loaded – i.e. if the visitor leaves the page before they reach an image, no harm done as it didn’t load anyway!
Enable lazy loading from the settings inside your WordPress site and watch the images appear by magic – as and when they’re needed.
Do you really need that smiley face emoji?
Emoji’s add a whole load of useless code to your website, and yet it loads afresh every single time the page is viewed. Yet again we turn to Autoptimize to help us here, simply selecting the option that removes WordPress’ core emojis from your CSS and subsequently cleaning up your backend coding so that only the really vital information is being loaded.
Put this all together and you’re sure to place in the site speed race rankings – just make sure you don’t get lost in the world of site speed and allow your content and SEO to suffer. Online is all about balance and Google expects you to excel in all the relevant areas – not just one.