What is Page Speed?
Page speed is the amount of time it takes for the content on a website’s page to fully load. In a world where people have come to expect instantaneous results, faster is better.
In fact, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds, according to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com.
But how long do most websites take to load?
The standards many have been using for page load time come from a study conducted by Geoff Kenyon where he compares website speed against the rest of the web:
- if your site loads in 5 seconds, it is faster than approximately 25% of the web
- if your site loads in 2.9 seconds, it is faster than approximately 50% of the web
- if your site loads in 1.7 seconds, it is faster than approximately 75% of the web
- if your site loads in 0.8 seconds, it is faster than approximately 94% of the web
So how can you determine how your website stacks up?
How to Determine Your Page Speed and Score
Here’s how to measure how your website stacks up:
- Hop into your website’s Google Analytics Site Speed reports. This will give you an idea of how your site has performed over various time periods and the load speed of each of your pages.
- Enter your site’s URL into Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool. This will give you a report card on your website’s speed performance on mobile devices and desktop. The report comes with some recommended actions you can take to improve your site’s speed.
- Check Pingdom’s website speed test to find out the speed, rank and percent faster than the average of Pingdom’s tested websites
- GTMetrix will provide a comprehensive look at your site’s speed optimization status.
Note: Don’t puzzle yourself when you see different speed timing in Pingdom and Gtmetrix. As Pingdom will show you load time (The time it takes to show the first result of your website—that’s what google counts and you should too) and GTmetrix will show you full load time (The time it takes to show full page with it’s full functionality running).
For further understanding, it’s always good to see the speed waterfall from both tools.
Why Does Page Speed Matter?
Bridging the gap between user expectations (2 seconds) and average website load time (5 seconds) is the goal of page speed optimization and the tactics we’ll outline later. But why exactly does page speed matter? It comes down to 3 main interconnected reasons:
1. Speed Kills UX
User experience is probably the most important reason you should care about website speed, so we’ll start here.
People don’t have the patience for slow loading websites anymore. In the beginning, just connecting to the internet required a tolerance that just doesn’t exist anymore.
Today, people are constantly online and you’ve got 3 seconds maximum to display your page or they’re gone. More than 3 seconds creates a poor user experience and the bar is only going to get higher in the future.
2. Speed Kills SEO
User experience is actually the driving force behind the SEO implications of site speed. While Google has been slow to officially reveal whether slow websites would receive ranking demotions, it appears that those days are coming. You need to make sure your website is ready.
3. Speed Kills Conversions
Your site speed’s effect on conversions is what should really catch your attention. How can you move people through your funnel if each step takes forever? Your super-fans will do it, but those new, hesitant people who are prone to buyers-remorse will bounce.
8 Tactics to Make Your Website Load Faster
Speeding up your site is not necessarily going to be a snap. If you have a small, light site you may just need to try a couple of tactics on this list.
However, large, older sites with a lot of code and content may require some persistence and the implementation of several tactics on the following list.
Here’s where to start:
1. Leverage browser caching:
When you visit sites, your browser often caches pages on the site to speed up load time.
Browser caching stores webpage resource files on a local computer when a user visits a webpage, so leveraging browser caching is when you instruct browsers how their resources should be dealt with.
Things can slow down when the response from your server does not include caching headers or if resources are specified to be cached for only a short time.
Leveraging caching will load your pages much faster for repeat visitors and so will other pages that share those same resources.
2. Optimize images:
If images load faster, your site loads faster, period. Google notes that “…images often account for most of the downloaded bytes on a page. As a result, optimizing images can often yield some of the largest byte savings and performance improvements.”
This means that you can get some big improvements when the images on your pages can be optimized to reduce their file size without significantly impacting their visual quality.
Minifying removes any unnecessary characters that are not required for the code to execute.
Sources of redundant data that you can remove includes code comments and formatting, removing unused code, using shorter variable and function names, and more.
4. Enable gzip compression:
Gzip compression drastically reduces the size of files sent from your server when someone visits your website. This will speed things up considerably.
According to GTMetrix,
“The reason gzip works so well in a web environment is because CSS files and HTML files use a lot of repeated text and have loads of whitespace. Since gzip compresses common strings, this can reduce the size of pages and style sheets by up to 70%!”
5. Reduce server response time:
Server response time is the amount of time it takes for a web server to respond to a request from a browser. This is a key issue to address because if your server response time is slow your pages will display slow, no matter how optimized your pages are for speed.
Google says you should reduce your server response time under 200ms. So how do you make this happen?
6. Avoid landing page redirects:
Your site can really slow down when you have more than one redirect from the given URL to the final landing page. This sets off a redirect loop that takes time to process.
Here are a few examples of redirects that can slow things down:
7. Prioritize visible content:
This is the exact message you’ll get from Google’s PageSpeed tool when additional network round trips are required to render the above the fold content of the page.
However, this is a common message you’ll get from Google about site speed, and addressing it can really take your page speed up a few notches.
Note: This is the hardest thing to fix for most people. There are WordPress plugins that just do it but they can make your site look like Frankenstein on every load.
Want lightning-fast, Google Cloud-hosted WordPress sites? Contact us today!
SEO is the key to conquering the internet, and as the digital climate becomes increasingly saturated, it is becoming more important than ever to make sure that you are making every effort to get seen on the web. One of the easiest ways to give your sites a little extra boost is by implementing the right WordPress plugins.
Wait… I thought that finding the right SEO plugin was my problem?
You’re close. Everyone wants the one plugin that is going to single handedly cuddle their site up against that ever-desirable Google search bar. Although this result is possible, the reality is that the SEO market is becoming an increasingly competitive and saturated one. This context makes it more important than ever to have a better structured and optimized website with a search engine friendly hierarchy so that you can set yourself apart, and be ranked above your competition. Much to your dismay, that may involve a bit of a plugin stack.
The Essential SEO Plugin Stack
Whether you’re building sites for clients, or your own business, mastering SEO will be the key to growing and sustaining a strong online presence. Fortunately, we know how to get you there.
There are 7 critical pieces to the SEO puzzle. To start, you NEED an overall on-site SEO plugin to cover the basics, such as: meta tags, sitemaps, robots, etc. Then, there are an additional 6 complementary sections for plugins that will offer that competitive edge that you’re looking for:
- On-site SEO
- Mobile Optimization
- Broken Links
- Image Optimization
- Rich Snippet
It is true that it’s a bit of a catch 22 when it comes to plugins and website speed, being that the shear volume of plugins being used will have an impact on the website speed. However, by using the right stack to build your SEO, the benefits will outweigh the harms.
Let’s dive in.
1. On-site SEO Plugins
An on-site SEO plugin will be the foundation of your infrastructure. For your convenience, we narrowed it down to only 2 contenders, Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack.
These 2 plugins have both been around for a decade already, and are still at the top of the food chain.
Price: Free with Paid Premium Option
Through walk-throughs and advanced settings, Yoast is the one stop shop for beginners and experts alike. Featuring sitemaps, title and meta descriptions, and the ability to connect Google Search Console, this plugin does everything to please users and search engine spiders alike.
With built in content and SEO analysis, Yoast can also insure that your content is always killer (in Google’s eyes as well as prospect’s eyes). By upgrading to premium, you also gain access to a local SEO extension which adds a local schema markup to your web pages. Other premium features include video and news extensions.
- Most used SEO plugin on market with 5M+ active installs
- Thousands of daily downloads
- Effectively combines content and SEO
- Uses JSON_LD for local
- 5 star-rating across nearly 20,000 reviews on WordPress.org
All in One SEO Pack
Price: Free with Paid Premium Option
All in One SEO Pack is the original SEO plugin that works out-of-the-box for beginners with advanced features for developers. XML sitemaps, and overridable meta descriptions/keywords allow users to to optimize their SEO efforts.
This plugin is also highly durable being that it is translated into 57 languages and works well with a variety of other plugins. All in One provides local SEO recommendations and keyword ranking for users as well.
- The ONLY free plugin to provide SEO Integration for e-Commerce sites, including WooCommerce
- Over 3M active installs
- 4.5 star-rating across 500+ reviews on WordPress.org
The On-site SEO Winner
Yoast SEO. Industry experts and Vendastians all agree that Yoast is essentially the modern-day standard when it comes to WordPress SEO plugins. The free version will accommodate users of all levels of expertise and ensure all of your bases are covered.
2. Mobile Website Optimization Plugins
This SEO factor earned itself a priority seat due to the fact that Google is now favoring outlets that are running on AMP code. Google announced just last month, January 2018, that it would begin prioritizing pages with fast mobile loading speed in their search algorithm. What this means is that mobile optimization will now be a high ranking factor in every sites overall SEO performance on Google.
This makes it more critical than ever to have your sites optimized for mobile. Considering that the majority of browsing these days is conducted from mobile devices, it just makes sense.
AMP for WordPress
Ever get frustrated when you’re trying to look something up on your phone and it takes 3 full days to load? We all lead pretty busy lives, and just don’t have time for that nonsense.
By using AMP for WordPress, you can insure that your prospects never give up hope as a result of a slow mobile site. By creating AMP content, which Google is now factoring into SEO rankings, this plugin caters to the needs of major AMP consumers such as Google Search.
- Built by WordPress, not a third party, so compatibility is not a concern
- Many 1 star reviews, and a 3.5 star overall rating on WordPress.org
- 200,000+ active installs (best in class)
AMP for WP
Price: Also free!
These guys also spared no creativity in terms of naming themselves, but I guess that there’s no harm in getting to the point either…
AMP for WP is pretty straight-forward, and simply adds AMP functionality to your WordPress site to improve mobile site speed through search engines (like Google!).
- 100,000+ active installations
- 4.5 star user rating on WordPress.org (best in class)
- Yoast (and other SEO) plugin integration
The Mobile Optimization Winner
AMP for WP (the latter—these 2 are damn confusing). The reality is that both of these plugins are going to meet your mobile optimization needs, but it just feels like AMP for WordPress (the loser) has not put as much effort into customer satisfaction. Installs are declining and 1 star ratings on WordPress.org almost pair those of the 5 stars; which might be cause for some concern, ex:
Not what you want to see…
3. Broken Link Plugins
Links are kind of like family photos—sometimes they just go bad. Pages can be deleted, a site that you link to may vanish, or someone might move a post or page without updating others. These actions can all cause broken links.
And there is NOTHING worse than hitting a “404 Page not found” when you’re trying to find a new photographer for your family pictures.
By managing broken links on your site, you can mitigate user frustrations, questions of credibility, lost conversions, and damage to your SEO ranking. Yes, broken links factor quite heavily into your SEO ranking.
Broken Link Checker
Broken Link Checker scans your posts, pages, comments, blogs, and custom fields to detect links that don’t work, images that may be missing, and link redirects. This parsing can take some time as it verifies each and every link tied to your site. Once completed, it will present you with a list of broken links so that you can manage redirects and prevent prospects and customers from losing interest or losing track of you.
- Has not been updated in 6 months…customer service?
- 500,000+ active installs (by far best in class)
- 4 star rating across nearly 400 reviews on WordPress.org
- Offered in 30 languages
The Broken Link Winner
Only one candidate, and only one winner. Use this plugin, it will save your customers and prospects a lot of headache, and it will help optimize your overall SEO.
4. Speed Plugins
Page speed is a huge factor in search rankings because it a huge factor in user experience. Google recommends pages load in less than a half second, and that’s not always easy to achieve.
To tie into the above AMP category, this element has actually never been more important with Google recently announcing that page speed is now a ranking factor for mobile searching (where most searches occur).
I have offered up 2 site caching alternatives that will have a substantial impact on site load times, particularly with high volumes of traffic.
WP Fastest Cache
Price: Free, the best price.
With most of the functionality automated, and active page statistics, the WP Fastest Cache plugin is very user friendly. It creates a static html file so that high quantities of traffic do not produce slow render times on your site, and offers numerous options for managing cached files. It also comes with minify html and css options so that users can decrease the size of pages and css files.
- Does not yet support WordPress Multisite
- 5 star rating and over 500,000 active installations
- Offered in 17 languages
W3 Total Cache
Price: Free, always.
W3 Total Cache improves SEO and user experience by reducing dowload times and increasing performance. W3 comes with a host of caching options, minification features, as well as various security features. It also offers improved server performance to help weather those high traffic periods.
- Only 9 out of 108 issues resolved in the past 2 months
- 4.5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)
- Used by many large companies such as AT&T
The Speed Winner
This is actually a really tough one. I am going to crown W3 Total Cache as the victor for now due to the sheer volume of active users and the number of industry experts that swear by it. However, WP Fastest Cache is an excellent caching plugin, and is growing in popularity and downloads, so it would also make for a great alternative should you choose it.
5. Security Plugins
Security is a factor that owns varying degrees of concern. If you are a financial institution or a related field of business, security will likely hold a much greater precedence in your site infrastructure.
The primary impact of a security plugin for other business demographics is in regards to an SSL certificate (https). This certificate helps your site maintain rank on search providers and is rumoured to become a requirement for google sites in the near future. An SSL certificate can also directly translate to growth in rank, while also encrypting user data – an essential component on many websites.
Besides, who wants to be hacked by some sneaky black hat spammer?
Price: Free with Premium Option
Wordfence Security was built for the specific application of WordPress sites. It includes an endpoint firewall and malware scanner, as well as a Threat Defence Feed that insures that Wordfence is always up to date with the newest firewall rules, malware signatures, and malicious IP addresses it needs to keep your site safe.
- 2M+ active installs (best in class)
- 5 star rating across over 3000 reviews on WordPress.org
- User friendly feeds to monitor performance
The Security Winner
We decided to keep it simple on this one being that Wordfence Security is all around best in class. This plugin is a favorite by industry experts worldwide, so it will surely meet your firewall and malware needs in the free version—with the option to pay for premium as you grow.
6. Image Optimization
The images that you utilize on your site build can have a huge impact on user experience as well as click and conversion rates. However, it is critical that you don’t forget to use an image optimization plugin to reduce image sizes (often up to 50%), and therefore page sizes, to boost your SEO rankings by greatly increasing page speed and user-friendliness.
There are hundreds of compressors, but really only a couple in the runnings.
Smush Image Compression and Optimization
Price: Free with Pro Option
Smush, seems like a fitting name right? This plugin does the bulk of the heavy lifting for you, so you really don’t need to stress about a steep learning curve. Smush automatically cuts the size of all of the images on your site to provide speed and quality. It also now allows for image resizing and is compatible with numerous other plugins on the market.
- 5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)
- Huge benefits for mobile speeds
- Highest performance reserved for paying customers only
Price: Free with Paid Premium
Short Pixel is on this list as a result of its cheaper premium option in comparison to the other image optimizers on the market. This plugin will accomplish relatively the same as Smush, but nearly all of these image optimization plugins are drastically limited in the free versions.
Therefore, if you find yourself growing, and in need of something more than what these free versions can offer, Short Pixel has one off the most affordable paid rates on the market, and will still reach upwards of 60% optimization.
- They have resolved every single issue that has been reported to WordPress.org in the past 2 months (can somebody say customer service?)
- 4.5 star rating across nearly 300 reviews
- Also offers huge benefits for mobile site speeds
- One click bulk optimization (major time saver)
The Image Optimization Winner
Being that I recognized each of these plugins for different benefits, they are both winners in their own light. Smush is a near unanimous favorite for basic free image optimization, and ShortPixel is a great alternative if you are ready to take that first step into the realm of “paid plugins,” but don’t necessarily want to invest the capital that Smush or many others require.
7. Rich Snippet Plugins
What is a Rich Snippet?
Rich snippets are the fields that spice up your search result listing. You know those sites that have pictures and external ratings linked into their descriptions? There is less sorcery involved than you may have thought.
What’s special about this plugin is that you don’t have to write any code what-so-ever (and if your coding is anything like mine, this is a major blessing). Rich Snippet plugins present fields that you fill in, and the plugin automatically generates the code and tags for you.
Many website developers might not consider rich snippets an important tool in terms of SEO, but I’ll tell you why this interaction is important. Although rich snippets do not directly help you rank, they do provide increased visual appeal to your SERP result as you approach that first page of google. This visual appeal will likely increase your click through rate (CTR) which will then cause you to rank higher in terms of SEO.
It’s as simple as that.
All In One Schema Rich Snippets
Want to add review, event, product, recipe, video, article, or other schemas to your site snippet? All In One Schema Rich Snippets makes it possible in a highly user-friendly format so that you can make your site more interactive and improve your click through rates.
- 70,000+ active installs (by far best in class)
- 4.5 star rating across 100+ reviews on WordPress.org
- Helps Facebook display proper information when users share your links on Facebook
The Rich Snippet Winner
I know, I did it again…to date, All in One Schema Rich Snippets has more or less monopolized the market, and is your best choice if you want to master all of the categories of SEO on your WordPress build.
Seven is the number of plugins you are going to need to have a world class SEO optimized site:
- Yoast SEO
- AMP for WP
- Broken Link Checker
- W3 Total Cache
- Wordfence Security
- Smush or ShortPixel
- All In One Schema Rich Snippets
And one is the page number of Google results that you will likely find yourself on the keywords that matter most if you leverage this plugin combination.