So my buddy Zach messages me and he's like: "Hey, can I hire you to speed up
my WordPress website?" And I was like: "Dude... Just do A, B, and C, and I'm pretty sure you'll see a huge performance boost."
A few days passed and he said: "The speed tips you gave me worked perfectly." So today, I'm going to show you how to speed up your WordPress site with three simple steps, and take your site speed from something like this... to this.
Google has used site speed as a ranking signal for desktop searches since 2010. And as of 2018, page speed became a ranking factor for mobile searches too. And even though speed improvements will only affect a small percentage of slow websites, faster page load times lead to better user experience and ultimately, more revenue.
In fact, a study by Google shows that as page load time goes up, bounce rate rises with it. Now, there are numerous reasons why your website might load slowly.
But the most common reasons that I've seen are due to slow connectivity, caching, page size, and sometimes more technical reasons like render-blocking JS.
But if you're anything like Zach, who's not exactly the most technical person, then the three steps that I'm about to show you should help you get better performance from your site.
Now, before we get started, it's important to note that the things I did for this site won't necessarily translate perfectly to your site.
There are tons of things to consider when it comes to WordPress site speed like your theme's code, specific plugins you might be using, server configuration, image file sizes, and more.
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So as we go through the tutorial, I'll try and explain the more technical reasons behind poor performance, so you can hopefully diagnose further issues yourself. Alright, so let me give you a background on the website we'll be optimizing and we'll start with some benchmark speeds.
This is a brand new affiliate site built on WordPress using the free WP Astra Theme. He's activated seven plugins, many of which will contribute to page load time in big and small ways.
Now, to keep things simple, I've run a single post, which has text, images, and a video through three page-speed tools.
PageSpeed Insights shows a mobile score of 45 and a desktop score of 79.
Pingdom shows a load time of 1.72 seconds, page size of 1.7mb, and 63 requests.
And GTMetrix, fully loaded in 4.3 seconds with a page size of 1.55 megabytes and 61 requests.
Now, since these tools only allow you to view
one page at a time, I ran a full crawl using
Ahrefs' Site Audit tool.
And if we look in Page Explorer, you'll see there were a total of 23 pages with a load time of 1 second or longer, which is basically all of the site's pages.
So there's definitely some room for improvements. So the first thing we did was to switch DNS providers to Cloudflare's free DNS service.
Now, in order to understand why we used Cloudflare, you need to understand how the web works, at least at an elementary level.
Websites are just files on a computer that are made accessible through the Internet.
Now, each device that's connected to the Internet has an IP address, including the server that hosts your website.
So if your server is located in Los Angeles, California, and your visitor is in Las Vegas, these two IP addresses need to create a connection. in order to download the file contents to the device.
Now, IP addresses are tough to memorize and I doubt many people would key in an address like this to visit your site.
That's where DNS comes into play. DNS stands for Domain Name System.
And it's often referred to as the "phone book of the world wide web."
In short, DNS maps domain names to IP addresses so people can type in a domain name to visit a website.
But the thing with this is that when someone types in the domain name in their browser, a DNS lookup occurs to find the IP address
of the server.
So that takes time. And usually, free DNS providers from your domain registrar are usually slow to respond, creating slower page load times.
Cloudflare's DNS on the other hand is pretty darn fast, considering it's free. But again, your mileage may vary depending on the DNS provider, you're currently using.
So to set this up, sign up for a Cloudflare account and then click Add a site.
Enter your domain name, select and confirm your plan, and after a few seconds, Cloudflare will give you a chance to review your DNS records.
Click Continue and you'll be asked to change your nameservers, which is something you'd need to do with your domain registrar.
Boom! Step one is done.
The next thing we did was purchase and install the WP Rocket plugin.
WP Rocket is an all-in-one site speed optimization plugin for WordPress. And they make it super-simple to make technical optimizations even if you have
no clue what you're doing. The plugin handles common page-speed optimizations
like caching, preloading, compression, and lazy loads
images to name a few. After activating the plugin, you can access the
WP Rocket settings from the top navigation bar.