Speed up your website
IN TWO SIMPLE STEPS
Speeding up your website will give an added boost to your search engine visibility, and improve user experience. The amount of improvement will be dictated by the increase in speed.
At Canary Dwarf, we measure page speed primarily by the loading time. We use a tool called GTmetrix, which not only measures the load speed but also tells us how many services are being requested and the size of the page. In the example above, the page load speed wasn’t a huge cause for concern, but the low PageSpeed score was, As a result, the page was unnecessarily bloated and we were able to massively reduce the page size, reduce HTTP requests and increase load time. These two additional pieces of information are often crucial to understanding what’s slowing a page down.
Unbelievably, we’ve seen some pages with a GTmetrix score of less than 5%, and a whopping page size of more than 22mb. That’s just not acceptable and doesn’t need to be the case.
While WordPress is a good all-round package for building a website, these techniques are not part of the WordPress arsenal.
If you have built your own website, it’s easy to overlook these important factors in speed.
So here we go.
Step 1 – Squash those images
Undoubtedly the biggest issue we’ve seen is with image size. You take a picture, download it from your camera, and upload it to your website. It fits, perfect!
But what if that image is bigger than the space it occupies. WordPress themes will scale the image down to fit the space, but it won’t compress it. Modern cameras, even compacts, can easily have pictures that are 5000 pixels across, and that’s more than five times what it needs to be. Add in the second dimension and you’re looking at a whopping 25-times the size it needs to be.
The picture doesn’t look any different, but it has a massive impact on your page speed. Resize it before uploading and you could turn a 5mb image into 240kb,
Fortunately, there are tools which will reverse engineer your pictures to a sensible size. My two favourites are:
These two tools will both scour your website’s images and reduce them in size. You get the chance to set the size and set the compression rate. My recommendation is 1000 pixels and a compression rate of 75%
Both will tell you the savings made, but rescan your site at GTmetrix to see the difference. I will often use both tools on the same site to get maximum benefit.
Step 2 – Cache in
If you didn’t realise your website was slow because it seemed to load fast when you looked at it, that’s probably due to caching.
But there’s a way to fix this. A caching plugin will save a copy of the page before someone sees it and will serve that optimised version when they do. It’s just pure magic.
Browser caching saves a copy of the page once visited so that it loads faster when you come back. And because you’re highly likely to be a regular visitor to your own site, you get to see the sped-up version every time. That’s not what first-time visitors see.
There are a few options for WordPress:
- WP Rocket ($49/year, money-back guarantee)*
- WP Super Cache (Free)
- WP Fastest Cache (Free with $39 premium add-on available)
- W3 Total Cache (Free, $99/year premium version)
- Hummingbird ($49/month, free trial)
My recommendation is WP Rocket, even though it’s not free. It’s regularly cited as the best-in-class, but more importantly, the user interface is easier to follow. It famously takes only THREE MINUTES to setup.
There are a LOT of controls in all these caching plugins and hitting the wrong one can mess up your site. WP Rocket makes it relatively easy and provides warnings in plain English, which makes it a little easier to understand. It’s the one we use without exception when customers ask us to speed up their sites.
Step 3 – Speed-test
Now go and test your new sped-up website, If you’re using GTmetrix, aim for a page load time of three seconds or less. But don’t fret if you’re slightly over. Look at the page size and number of requests. If there are higher than average, you could look at the data to see what’s causing the imbalance, it could be one picture, or one plugin and fixing an isolated problem could help.
Keep coming back to test it, once a week, or once a month, just to make sure you haven’t accidentally introduced pictures of plugins that drag it down again.
Other things to bear in mind
Go back to GTmetrix and check your score. You could easily be hitting more than 90% with your new optimised website. If you’re not quite there, there could be a few more things you could do, but in our experience, these steps will make a massive difference. One of the most likely areas for concern is images which haven’t been picked up by Imsanity or Smush.
Sometimes, these plugins will miss image files if they are not part of the typical WordPress setup, for example, header images that are added manually or using a plugin which places them in a slider. You can manually compress these (see below) and re-upload them. It takes a little time, but it’s well worth it as these are often the big pictures that are the main culprits.
Keeping a check on your speed, particularly if you update your website regularly or if someone else does.
Smush and Imsanilty do a pretty good job of compressing your images when they are first uploaded, and on pictures already on your site, but there’s nothing better than getting it right before you upload them. Remember a large image will upload more slowly, even you compress it afterwards. Always resize your images before you put them on your website.
There’s an excellent tool that not along compresses your image, it shows you the effect it has on your image and provides a slider so you can manually compress it using your own eyesight to measure the impact. I’ve got incredible results with this tool and it’s totally free.
- Squoosh.app (Free)
We’ll do it for you
If you don’t like messing with plugins, we can do the whole thing for you. WP Rocket will cost you $49 (about £40), but we’ll do your image compression, install and configure WP Rocket for £49 a year. which includes the cost of the plugin, support, and our own money-back guarantee – if we can’t significantly speed up your website, we’ll give you your money back.
*We earn an affiliate commission if you buy WP Rocket directly from our link