Before I begin with the needed steps that you have to make in order to speed up your website, I have to answer some questions.

Why website speed is so important for your website?

Internet users don’t have the patience:

Almost half of the Internet users expect a website page to load for less than 2 seconds. Most of them will start to feel impatient if a website page loads for more than 3 seconds. Around that mark you can see a significant increase in page abandonment and bounce rate.

Website speed is even more important for E-Commerce websites. According to Kissmetrics if your website makes $100 000 per day, a 1 second delay could potentially cost you more than $2.5 million in lost sales.

The world is going mobile:

Mobile devices like tablets and smartphones are becoming the norm for accessing the Internet. Day to day activities like Internet browsing, Email sending and communication through the social media are mostly accomplished via mobile devices, living the PC for more complex-tasks.

According to Gartner by 2018 more than 50% of the users will be browsing the Internet through mobile devices. This will result in website speed being an increasingly important factor for user experience.

Google includes website speed in its search ranking algorithm:

Since 2010 Google counts website speed as an important factor in determining your website quality. Websites that load faster will rank higher in the search engine rankings, thus resulting in more exposure. This means that including website speed optimization into your SEO techniques is a must. Google has its own tools for determining how well optimized for speed is your website. You can asses your website using PageSpeed Insights.

Evaluating your website:

The first step you have to undertake is to evaluate your website. You can achieve this by using several tools. My favorites are PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom and GTmetrix. There are several things you need to know in order to properly understand your results.

What is Time to first byte?:

This is the needed time for your server to start delivering your web page. If your response time is more than 200 milliseconds this may be the result of improperly configured web server, low server resources or overcrowded web server. Even problems with your themes and plugins can result in poor server response time so don’t blame it only on your hosting.

What is Caching?:

Caching is the process in which your static files like HTML, JavaScript and Images are stored in a Cache. When a request is made those files are being served faster resulting in lower website load time. Also when a user access your website for the second time, he requests the cached version of your web pages thus getting better page load times.

What is Minifying?:

Minifying is the process of combining multiple JavaScript and css files into one single file. For Instance if you have 16 JavaScript files they’ll be converted into one. It’s the same for the css files. When a user makes a request he receives only one JavaScript and one css file. This lightens the work that the browser has to do and as a consequence decreases the page load time.

As a rule of thumb your website load time has to be under 2 seconds. Anything above that will lead to bad user experience and will affect your search engine results.

Tips for increasing your WordPress website speed:

Hosting

The choice of a Hosting provider is one of the first major decisions a website owner has to make. There are several types of hosting companies. Some of them are more general like Hostgator, others provide managed hosting for WordPress-Wpengine, SiteGround. The managed ones are more costly but provide better service for users which don’t have much knowledge in the field of hosting.

The more general hosting companies offer different services- Shared hosting, VPS and even Dedicated Servers. If you aren’t familiar with those topics you can check this article-Shared Hosting or VPS?.

The importance of a good WordPress theme

The WordPress theme is the backbone of your website. The choice of a good theme is important for the usability of your website. A well coded theme will provide you with better security and improved website speed. There are some great themes out there. A good place to start looking for a theme is Themeforest. If you want to use free WordPress themes keep in mind that there is no guarantee for how well coded they are.

Concerning the plugins- the less the better.

You have to choose your theme in a way in which later on you’ll need to use a small number of plugins. The reason behind this is simple. Each plugin comes with some disadvantages: more memory and space usage and a possibility to leave an open door for hackers. When choosing a theme you have to download it only from reputable developers. This way the chance that they are well coded and secured is bigger.

If you don’t use a plugin delete it. You can always check which plugins have the biggest memory usage using the P3 plugin. This way you can determine which plugins slow down your website the most.

Use a Content Delivery Network- CDN

When you use a CDN your static files are being stored on servers in Data centers across the globe. When a user connects to your website those files are being served to him from the closest possible location. With the use of CDN you can drastically increase your WordPress website speed. You can see a decrease in your page load time up to 50 %. Also using a CDN gives you a certain degree of protection from DoS attacks.

If you are looking for a free CDN provider Cloudflare is for you. It has servers around the world. It also comes with a firewall and the ability to minify JavaScript, css and HTML files.

Another great choice for a CDN is MaxCDN.

Use a caching plugin:

A caching plugin can drastically speed up your website. It stores your static files into a cache thus providing faster access when they are needed. A great plugin for accomplishing this task is W3 Total Cache. This plugin also has the ability to minify your HTML, JavaScript and css files. I strongly recommend to backup your database before installing any caching plugin. Caching plugins have a reputation for breaking websites.

Optimize your Database

Before you do anything backup your database-better safe then sorry.

The database is the very soul of your website. Databases become clogged with Spam, drafts and revisions of your posts. In order to clean your database you can always use Wp-Optimize. If you are more of a do it yourself person you can achieve this with the use of PhpMyAdmin.

Optimize your Images

I advise you to optimize your images before you upload them to your website. You can achieve this with Adobe Photoshop or similar software. If your images consists from only graphical elements it is best to convert them into .jpeg. Jpeg is the smallest possible file extension. If your image has text into it then you can go with .png, because in jpeg your text can get a bit blurry. There are plugins that provide you with the ability to optimize your images once you upload them automatically. Such plugin is Wp Smush. The great thing about it is that it also provides you with an option to optimize all you previously uploaded images.

Disable Hot linking

Hot linking is a process in which a user links to images which are hosted on your web server. Not only that they steal your images but they also steal your web server resources and as a consequence slow down your web server. In order to disable this you have to add this code to your .htaccess file:

Before proceeding backup your .htaccess file!

Add expiration to static items

Static items are stored in a cache. It’s a good idea to add an expiration time- the period before an element is re-fetched in that cache.

Add this code into your .htaccess file:

 A604800 is the time in seconds

Add Lazyload for your images.

Lazyload is the process in which only the images that a user sees are loaded. When he scrolls down the page all other images are being consecutively loaded. To enable this install BJ Lazy Load.

Conclusion

In order to optimize your WordPress website you need to pick a reliable hosting provider. You also have to be careful in your choice of themes and plugins. Adding website speed optimization to your SEO practices will benefit not only your users but also your search engine rankings.

Your Turn

Share with us your WordPress speed optimization techniques. If you have some questions I’ll be happy to answer them.