How to improve WordPress site speed and why it matters

1 June 2021

How to improve your WordPress site speed, and why it matters

The online world in 2021 is all about speed and efficiency. Website users, including your potential customers, expect sites to load quickly. Research has found that 40% of consumers would abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Slow WordPress site speed can have a direct impact on your bottom line. Fast loading webpages improve customer experience, help with SEO and in turn increase your page views. This article will help you understand why a fast website is important, tell you how to measure your website’s speed and give you tips to improve speed up your WordPress website.

Why site speed matters

After you have ticked the box of building a great WordPress website, the next best thing you can do for your business is optimise it for speed. Online consumers are impatient, 67% of UK consumers say that a website’s slow loading times are the main reason they would abandon an online purchase. It’s easy to see how page load speed can have a massive impact on your bottom line.

So how fast should a site load?

General best practice is to keep your loading times at three seconds or less. Research shows that when loading times go from one to three seconds, the probability of the user bouncing (leaving right away) increases by 32%. Add to this that 53% of visits are abandoned if the site takes longer than 3 seconds to load on mobile and you can see why it’s so important to keep your page load speed under 3 seconds.

However, with Google’s recent Core Web Vitals update, you ideally want to aim for the bulk of your website’s content loading on the page in under 2.5 seconds. Slow website speeds may prevent potential customers from finding you. With this recent update from Google, page speed is an even more important ranking factor in searches which means a slow site can negatively affect your SEO rankings. This means it’s more important than ever to improve your WordPress site speed and make it as fast as possible.  

How to check your WordPress site speed

What we measure gets managed. The first step in improving your WordPress website speed is understanding how fast your website loads right now. Once you’ve checked your site speed, I recommend adding it to your list of website metrics to check regularly to ensure it stays as quick as possible. There are a variety of ways to check website speed. I’d recommend utilising a few tools to get a holistic understanding of your site speed.

IsItWP’s free website speed test tool is one of the most user-friendly website speed testing tools, and it’s great for beginners. This tool allows you to quickly check your website performance and simply displays the results so that you can find out what’s slowing down your website. They categorise improvement suggestions so that you can look into each area and see what you need to do to troubleshoot website performance and speed issues.

Another popular website speed monitoring tool is Pingdom. Simple to use, it’s another great option if you are new to site speed optimisation. The results are shown in an easily understable overview, and then you can drill down into the more detailed results. Like IsItWP, you also get site performance improvement suggestions.

Google’s Page Speed Insights is a great free website performance monitoring tool, however it can be a bit intimidating to begin with as its recommendations contain a lot of technical jargon. It gives you website performance reports for both mobile and desktop views. However, if you’re optimising your site for Google’s Core Web Vitals update, their Page Speed Insights too is the one you should use.

How to improve your WordPress site speed

After you have checked your website speed, you’ll have a list of personalised recommendations of changes to make to improve your site speed and overall performance. Working through these suggestions is the best way to increase your website performance and decrease website loading speed.

If you are not sure where to begin, don’t worry. There are some relatively easy things you can do to speed up a WordPress website. Once you have implemented these suggestions, make sure you re-run your page speed tests for updated recommendations.

1. Ensure you have a good WordPress host

Whilst hosting may be low on your priority list, and perhaps you opted for the cheapest when you were just starting out, your WordPress host plays a key role in your website speed and performance. A shared hosting provider will often also take extra measures to optimise your site’s loading times, as well as providing other important services like automatic backups and WordPress updates.

Though there are lots of great hosting platforms to choose from, I recommend Siteground’s hosting plan to my clients as an excellent choice for both reliability and performance. You can read more about the criteria I consider when choosing a reliable hosting plan.

2. Optimise images for speed

Good images are key to a high-converting website, but they can also play a huge role in slowing your website down. Unoptimised images are one of the most common culprits on websites with speed issues.

Before you upload a photo to your website from your computer, resize the image for the web. In original formats photos can have massive file sizes, but brilliant images online don’t need to be so big. Editing software can help you reduce your image size by up to 5x whilst still keeping them picture perfect.

For images that have already been uploaded to your website, you can use a free plugin to reduce their file sizes. There are lots of options to choose from, and Smush is a great option to consider in order reduce the file size of your images whilst not reducing their quality.

I also ran all my images through SmartPixel the other day and it hugely reduced the size of my images.

3. Lazy load long pages

For sites which have a long home page, about page or one-page sites, Lazy Loading can give you a quick win in improving page loading times.

What is lazy loading you ask?

In practice, lazy loading stops the elements lower down on your page (those below the fold) from being loaded until the user scrolls down to see them. Not loading all of the content of your long page at once allows your site to begin rendering faster – improving loading speed in the process.

One of the most popular plugins used for this is BJ Lazy Load.

4. Make sure to keep your WordPress website updated

WordPress is updated regularly and each update fixes security issues and bugs, as well as introducing new features. Plugins and your chosen WordPress theme may have regular updates too. Making sure you keep your site, theme and plugins updated means that your site will be as reliable, secure and quick as possible.

Neglecting to update your website may make your site slow and vulnerable to security threats. It’s important to back up your website before running any updates, so make sure you remember to do so before updating.

In Summary

Give these four techniques a go to improve your WordPress site speed without any technical knowledge. Remember to test your site speed before and after implementing these changes to see how actioning them has improved your website’s performance.

To conclude, your website speed is a key factor in your continued business success – and is therefore a metric you should pay attention to on a regular basis. A fast website ensures a good user experience (UX), a good UX leads to higher website conversions, and higher website conversions ensure consistent business growth.

Vicky Etherington

Vicky Etherington has been running her own online marketing agency since 2003, and in 2015 transitioned to working with coaches and therapists to teach them how to create their own client-attracting websites. 

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