I don’t know about you, but I can honestly say that i’ve never had a conversation with someone where at one point they said something along the lines of “Man I wish we could go back to dialup.” Have you? Doubtful. Slow websites suck. As our friends over at Moz have pointed out, while there is not a definite correlation between page speed and ranking in the Googles, there is a correlation between TTFB (time to first byte), and ranking in Google. Why do you think that is? In my best guess it has a lot to do with the fact that Google wants to send people to websites that load fast, because they do not want you to click and “bounce” before seeing the content. To me this makes sense, and even if there were no discernible effects on ranking from speed, its still nice to speed up your website…just cause. So tonight I sat down, determined to make PeterFoti.com the fastest site it could be. I was not able to get a perfect score on the Google page speed analysis tool, but I did see an noticeable improvement. When I started, my page speed was a paltry 60/100 (as pictured)
So what 5 steps did I take to rectify the situation?
Step 1 – Treat everything on your server and your WordPress installation as a liability and delete it!
So maybe not everything, but chances are there is a lot of junk sitting around on your website that you simply do not need. For me, this included a number of plugins, themes, and files that were sitting there doing nothing, and had to be removed. Ultimately I removed 2 old themes, 3 plugins, and 3 files off of my server. This alone did not have a direct performance impact but helped to secure my site and declutter it. Note, the three files I remover were: Readme.html, license.txt, and wp-config-sample.php. If you have these files, delete them! They’re easy way for hackers to track down your site, and they do nothing except take up space.
Step 2 – Install a caching plugin
This one is probably the most straightforward, so I’m not going to do a deep dive into all of the settings (perhaps in a late post?). I ended up installing W3 Total Cache which seems to be the de facto WordPress plugin for this sort of thing. There are a number of options out there, and had it not been for #5 on this list I might’ve gone with something “simpler”. Even still, if you’re a power use this is definitely the plugin for you.
Step 3 – Setup Cloudflare
Cloudflare is like a pseudo CDN service, that speeds up the delivery of your website and can help to protect it from bots and hackers. They offer both paid and free versions, but for the sake of this article I signed up for the free version. I use this on all of my websites and prefer it to just about anything else. Setup was a cinch for me because I use A Small Orange hosting and in my cPanel there is an option to add Cloudflare to my domains. If you don’t use ASO (you probably should), you can set it up through W3 Total Cache, or just do it manually. Either way it doesn’t take long and the effects are rather pronounced.
Step 4 – Optimize Images
Chances are, images are hurting your page load time more than just about anything else. They tend to be large, and if you don’t optimize them you’re going to be paying a pretty continuous price. Luckily there is an easy way to combat this problem and I actually got the idea from SDavisMedia. The idea is simple, first download ImageOptim (free), then go to your wp-content/uploads folder, and go through each subfolder, download the images, put them into ImageOptim, once compressed upload them again (name will never change), and voila, you’ve got compressed images! I don’t have a ton of images on PeterFoti.com…yet, but if I did it would’ve taken a little while longer. Even still, the speed benefits make it all worth it.
Step 5 – Setup MaxCDN
The final piece the puzzle is the only one that costs money right off the bat, and it is MaxCDN. This service allows you to setup “pull zones”, which can then serve your CSS, JS, and other files from servers around the world depending on what is closest to your incoming visitor. The service is easy to setup through W3 Total Cache, and costs $9 per month for the cheapest plan. Unfortunately I am in a bit of a dispute with them right now, I use a coupon code when signing up for the year, my price in cart was $67.50, but after checkout I was greeted with a $90 invoice. Thus far they’ve not shown even a shred of customer care, and so far the only thing they’ve told me to do is cancel and sign up for a single month at $7, then $9 thereafter (gee thanks). So there customer service might not be great, but the service is, although if they do not refund me properly I may be forced to cancel. Will update with more as it comes in.
Step 6 – Get a new theme (optional)
I realize this isn’t really an option for everyone, but at PeterFoti.com I was fine with it, and I think it played a pretty big role in my page speed going up. Most themes are poorly coded and/or they include a ton of fluff that you simply do not need. If your goal is speed, go with something minimalist, there are plenty of themes that fit this build available for free.
So what did all of this get me? Well as of right now my Google page speed score is……
I think it was all worth it. What do you think? What steps have you taken to increase your page speed? Let me know in the comments, I’m always looking to improve and would love to hear from you!