Speeding up your WordPress site could have a huge impact over the long-term.

Site speed impacts 3 important things that have a direct influence on your bottom line.

  1. User experience—when your site loads slowly, especially on mobile devices, people bounce which means you lose traffic.  Those are people who didn’t see the ads, affiliate links, and info products on your site.  Bounce rate also impacts search rankings.
  2. Ad Revenues—ads are often the last thing to load on your web pages.  So the slower your site loads, the less view time your ads get.  That directly impacts your ad revenues.
  3. SEO—Site speed is a ranking factor.  Google cares about the speed of your site for the same reason we mentioned in number 2.  If ads don’t load, people don’t see them, and Google makes less money…

I want to make one thing clear.  Speeding up your site probably won’t have a huge impact on your traffic and revenue overnight.  In our experience, we haven’t seen almost any difference in the short term.  But what if it makes just a 1° difference in your growth trajectory?  6 months or a year from now your traffic and income would be noticeably higher.

Now there’s one more thing I want to make clear.  Every single resource on this page is 100% free, which is why there’s absolutely not a reason to not take these steps.  Making these changes now will only help your site grow more quickly.

Test Your Site Speed and Performance

Before you put in the effort to speed up your site, it’s best to get a baseline of how your site is doing.  Then, after you’ve sped up your site, you can run these tests again to see how your site improved.  I like to look at all 3 of the tests below because each one tends to give me different results and recommendations.

I also like to test not only my homepage but other pages on my site.  While the homepage is important, it’s actually not usually the page the people first see when they get to your site.

So start out by running the tests below and just take a screenshot of your results on each test and then move on.

The first tool you should check out is Google Page Speed Insights.  This is actually a Google developer tool.  Page speed insights will give you either 1 or 3 numbers for both Mobile and Desktop.

  • FCP: First Contentful Paint is the time it took for the first bit of content to load on your site.  This could be an image or text.  It’s just the first content to fully appear.
  • DCL: DOM Content Loaded is how long it takes for the full html file to load for the first view on the webpage.
  • Optimization: This is a score from 1 to 100 that Google provides based on how well your webpage complies with certain rules.  This is a really useful number, but once you get up above about 85, you’ve done about as well as you should.  From there you can get it higher, but the impact on site speed will be minimal at best.

The second test is the Pingdom Website Speed Test.  Again, just enter the URL for the page you want to test.  Then, choose where you want to test from.  If you test from a location far from where your site’s servers are, you’ll get very different numbers from a test at a closer location.  Then click “Analyze”.

In the results you’ll get a performance grade, load time, and some other comparison numbers that can be interesting.  Also, down below you can get lots of insights about how to speed up your site and a waterfall showing each file that loaded and how long it took.  This can be really insightful and can help you catch an image or other file has a big impact on your page load speed.

The third test I like to run is GT Metrix.  It’s a lot like Pingdom in what it provides, but it gives you some different performance scores that can be pretty insightful.  The output from GT Metrix looks like this.

You get a PageSpeed Score, a YSlow Score, the load time and page size.  I worry less about what each of these numbers is trying to measure and focus more on how the numbers compare across my sites and how the activities below improve each of these numbers.

For details behind the numbers and recommendations to improve them, you just scroll down.

Once you have a baseline, it’s a good idea to test your plugins.  To see if a plugin is having a big impact on your load speed, just deactivate it and test your site speed again.  Did it improve?  It can be a good idea to temporarily deactivate all plugins and test your speeds.  If they didn’t get significantly worse, then the plugins that you have are probably just fine.

Improve Your Site Speed and Performance

This is our 30-minute process for speeding up a WordPress site.  As long as your image sizes aren’t more than 2MB each, you’ll be able to complete all these steps in under a half hour but the impact to your site speed will be significant.  In fact, we cut our page load speeds about in half with just these steps.

Step 1.  Compress your images.  We were sure we were doing a good job compressing images by decreasing their size before uploading them to WordPress.  But it wasn’t enough.

It’s still a good idea to resize your images before uploading them.  We resize large images down to 900 pixels wide and small and featured images we resize down to 350 pixels wide.  You can do that easily with Photoshop or for free at resizeimage.net.

But once your images are uploaded, they’re still not compressed as much as they should be.  That’s where we use a plugin called Imagify.  Imagify takes all the images on your site and compresses them further.  Even with the resizing work we do before uploading images, Imagify manages to cut the file sizes down almost another 2/3 or 66% on average.

Once you install Imagify on your site, go to settings and choose the following settings.

The “Aggressive” optimization level will reduce your image files a bunch without really any noticeable difference in photo quality.  With “Ultra” you tend to get images that look a little hazy.

Once those settings are done, scroll down to the bottom and click on the button that says “Save and Continue to Bulk Optimizer”.  This will take you to the page where you can optimize all of the images already on your site using these settings.  Follow the prompts and in a few minutes, you’ll be done.

Imagify gives you some optimization for free each month.  So if you have more images than Imagify will do for free, you can either sign up for a paid plan, or just wait a month and optimize the rest of your images.

Here are a couple more tips for optimizing your images before uploading them to WordPress.

  • Resize them first.  If an images is over 2MB to start with, Imagify won’t optimize it unless you pay for a premium plan.
  • Save images as JPG files.  The only exception is when you need a part of the photo to be transparent.  Then save it as a PNG.

If you use these tips plus Imagify your site load speeds will thank you.

Step 2.  Install a good caching plugin.  We recommend WP Super Cache.

A caching plugin just creates cached versions of the pages on your site and stores them on your server.  What that does is allow people to load a cached version of these web pages rather than having to run all the code and render each page on your site every time they navigate to them.

Once you install WP Super Cache, just go to the settings and click on the “Advanced” tab.  Then pick these settings to get started.

Leave the boxes unchecked on all the settings below this and then click “Update Status” below.  That’s it.

Step 3.  Install and set up Autoptimize.

Autoptimize is a great plugin that takes all of your JavaScript and minifies it into a single file that it defers so that it loads last.  That will make the content on your page load first, before the JavaScript.  It also minifies your CSS and HTML code so that your page loads more efficiently.

Once you have Autoptimize installed on your site, just go in to the plugin settings and on the “Main” tab, check the 3 boxes and click “Save Changes”.  You can have it show the advanced options, which you’ll want to do if you have an ad company showing ads on your site.  They may have some JavaScript that they don’t want minified and deferred.

Then go to the “Extra tab and select the option to “Combine and load fonts asynchronously with webfont.js and click “Save”.

Step 4.  Replace your highest impact plugins with better alternatives.  If you have plugins that have a significant impact on your site speed, do some research to find a better alternative.

It’s also best to keep the number of plugins on your site to a minimum.  A new site doesn’t need more than about 5 plugins.  Even as your site starts to get more feature-rich, we like to keep the number of plugins to around 10.

And that’s it!

In 30 minutes you can do all 4 of these steps.  These simple changes will make a significant and noticeable difference on your site load speed.