Page speed is not only significant for SEO, even though it’s very important for it. Page speed is even more important for user experience and bounce rates. Frankly said, it’s the fewest of us who have the patience to wait for a page to load – and to be precise, 40 % of internet users abandon a site that takes more than 3 sec to load.
Increasing page speed is therefore a top priority for every site owner. Here’s how you can do it without breaking a sweat or spending money.
Check Your Page Speed
Page speed can be checked by using various services as Pingdom, GTMetrix, and Google Developers Page Speed Insights. For best results you should use multiple services and try to see which configuration gives you the best performance in all tests.
Be aware that Google’s Page Speed score is the most difficult one to affect with small tweaks as it requires that you strictly follow all recommendations. Also, Google is the one to decide how you’ll rank, making compliance even more important. Therefore it’s a good rule of thumb to take into account these results when measuring the effect of your improvements.
Page speed tests give you a lot of detailed information about your individual pages’ performance as well as a final score. This is a very good thing as it tells you exactly what you need to work on and how much you achieve when tweaking settings on your site. On the other hand though, you can get mislead to believe that something of lower importance is a top priority.
Luckily, today most pro WordPress themes and plugins are SEO optimized, meaning that you don’t need to tweak that much to achieve good results. Most of the time, though, there’s something left for you to optimize. Here’s the list of the usual sinners considerably slowing down your pages:
- Server loading times
- Query strings
- CSS, Java, HTML
How Much Can You Increase Page Speed?
It really depends on how optimized your pages were before you started working on them. When doing the tests for WPBN with GTMetrix, for example, I noticed only slight improvement in my Page Speed score – 3 points, to be exact, but a considerable spike in my YSlow score – 10 points.
Even more importantly, I reduced my page loading times with 7 sec on average! (Yes, my pages were that slow).
When checking with Google’s Page Speed Insights, I noticed an impressive improvement in my overall performance scores with about 20 points for mobile and 10 points for desktop:
Increase Page Speed Dramatically and Instantly
What you need to do is to install and activate the plugin. Then you go into Performance ->> General Settings in the Admin Panel to set your preferred caching settings. Enable the functions that you’d like to use. Basically, you should enable everything with the exception of CDN (see the section about CDN below). In most cases you should be fine with the default settings. Just choose Disc: Enhanced method for Page Cache and leave the rest to the plugin.
Then you should go into Browser Cache in the plugin settings and basically tick everything (read description under option if in doubt). What’s very important though, is to leave Prevent caching of objects after settings change unticked.
You have to look through all the options for the different elements and untick this option in each section. If you don’t do that, you’ll end up with a lot of query strings slowing down your performance.
If you are uncertain about further settings, you should be fine just with these and the defaults for the rest. If you know what you’re doing, you can tweak down to cache rules for each site element. Be aware that wrong settings might result in your pages not showing up on your site as they are added or changes and bug fixes not getting immediate effect!
If you use additional caching services, as for example such provided by your server provider or CDN, this might cause some cache malfunctioning and difficulties when trying to set – or understand – caching rules.
When running a website with lots of images, you must optimize your images and you must automate the process. Therefore your best choices are services as TinyPNG, EWWW Image Optimizer, and Kraken. The good news is that as long as you aren’t using too many or too big images, you can do the whole thing for free.
There are, however, some things you should know about image optimization as a page speed booster before you start. There’re different types of compression (lossy and lossless) and different compression processes (internal and external compression).
Lossy compression gives best performance in terms of file size reduction – up to 90 % – but it reduces image quality as well so you should be careful with this method if images are important for user experience or content on your pages.
Lossless compression, on the other hand, preserves image quality but reduces file size much less – around 11-40 %.
Internal compression is a nice thing as everything happens on your own server so you don’t run the risk of getting your images stolen. It’s, however, not all server providers that allow you to do that.
External compression means that you upload your images to a cloud service and then download the optimized versions with the obvious risk of exposing sensitive data.
If you want to see how the different services out there compare, you can read this post on image optimization options by Matt Cromwell.
If, however, it turns out that you don’t have that many images that have to be optimized – you can see the precise list when clicking on the respective point in your page’s analysis in Google Page Speed Insights – you can optimize the images by simply scrolling down the page and downloading the optimized files which Google prepares for you automatically. Then you have to replace the original images on your pages with the ones you downloaded – and you’re done.
Benefit from Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
Now, this is one of those optimization moves that belongs to next level optimization. You shouldn’t therefore think that it’s a must to do it – and you shouldn’t do it before you completely understand how it works and what the risks are. It does, however, improve page speed dramatically so you should consider it if your pages load too slowly.
CDNs benefit not only those with slow servers (many beginner bloggers, that is) but also those who target globally or use servers based in another country due to better conditions, such as lower cost or more features.
The reason is that CDN works by setting up servers all around the globe to make content globally available at an instant. Thus, the number of involved servers gets reduced and delivering content to far ends gets much faster (far ends are basically all locations in a different region than the originating server’s region).
Most CDNs provide also cache, security, and optimization options, which will definitely benefit many site owners out there.
You’re advised to perform page speed tests with the services mentioned above before you start using a CDN and after. If the difference is considerable, you should go for it.
You must, however, be aware that using a CDN is not without risks and using a reliable and secure provider is crucial. If you’re going for a free service, choose a well established CDN to not risk your work.
You still need to be aware that hacker attacks of the type DoS and DDoS aren’t that rare but it’s rare for free plans to offer protection against them. Therefore you should start backing up your site even more regularly than otherwise just to make sure that all your efforts aren’t erased in a second.
And there you are: your page speed should already be considerably improved.