When we talk about optimisation and websites, two angles on this can get confused – search engine optimisation and technical site performance optimisation. Both are incredibly important concepts to get the most out of your site but they are two separate discussions. Having said that, they are not completely independent of one another e.g. site performance impacts SEO rankings. In this article we are concentrating on how to optimise your WordPress site in terms of technical performance. Along with these tips we suggest that you ensure that your web host has the performance that you require. Many hosting providers such as SiteGround already have built in cache software for example which instantly speeds up your loading speeds.
If you have noticed your pages are loading slower than they used to, or that your bounce rates are getting higher, looking at your website performance is a very good idea. Slow loading websites lead to frustrated visitors and you really don’t want to lose those visitors before they have engaged with your business.
To start off, it will be useful for you to perform a speed test on your website. No, we don’t mean sit and time each page as it loads, there are free tools that will test it for you. Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great tool to use, you simply paste the url of your website into their analyser and it will score your site’s performance and list some recommendations.
A common issue is with large images that haven’t been compressed. Publishers often upload images in a hurry and the end result leaves huge file sizes and therefore slow loading pages.
To avoid these problems there are a number of actions you can take. For a start, you can use vector formats, which are scalable so when you resize them they do not lose any quality. This helps to keep the file size really small compared to other image formats. PNG formats tend to be a bit bulky as they save the original image quality, whereas JPEG compresses to reduce the file size. However, you can still have a huge JPEG file if you don’t save the right dimensions. So it is a good idea to scale down a large image using Photoshop or similar, keeping the full resolution.
If you don’t have access to software like Photoshop there are other options available such as ImageAlpha (for Mac). You will probably find that the majority of your optimisation recommendations are related to image size issues unless you have been really good with monitoring your file sizes. If you have gone a bit mad with image uploads it might even be worth thinking about removing some of them unless they are an integral part of your content.
Another thing that can greatly slow down your website is having lots of plugins installed. Plugins can do great things for your website but if they are not essential, get rid as they can be responsible for bringing your site to a crawl. If you have installed plugins that you are not using, make sure that you remove them.
Also, make sure that you check your site for 404 errors, which are generated when there is a missing file. Again, this can cause your website to operate slower. You can check for broken links quite quickly using Screaming Frog for instance.
Your HTML could also be filled with unnecessary code, for example if you have copied and pasted content from a word processor. Try to avoid copy and paste, if you have to copy text then paste it into something like notepad to remove all of the formatting before you paste into WordPress.
Remember, the majority of visitors will leave your site if it takes more than a few seconds to load so it is very worthwhile doing work to optimise your website performance.