If you are using WordPress and looking to boost your site speed, you are at the right place. I am going to show you how I boosted my site speed with this easy 5-step method. This works perfectly with WordPress sites as you will need to use a few plugins to speed your site up and make it load smoothly.
I have come up with this method to increase site speed the hard way: I checked the speed of this site (https://bootstrap-affiliate.com) the other day as I was writing my post on free SEO tools – in which I mentioned Google PageSpeed Insights.
Poor site speed can dramatically effect SEO: if the page does not load in time Google may think that this website provides poor user experience, and may favor other websites instead of mine…or yours…
So I was shocked to find out that my site speed score was a whopping 26.
I was devastated.
For a whole 5 seconds.
I started investigating straight away.
Fortunately Google PageSpeed Insights told me exactly why my page-speed plummeted, which building blocks and modules loaded painfully slowly, which images were poorly optimized etc.
The reasons for my poor site-speed were not unique at all. It was a combination of;
- Slow plugins
- Unoptimized images
- Theme issues
- Other Script issues
So after a couple of hours of trial and error I managed to get the score back to:
95 on mobile.
How did I do that?
Slow Website – Reason #1 – Hosting
Before looking for anything on MY site, I had a brief look at my hosting provider. There were no announcement of any scheduled maintenance, but I was aware that they had been migrating sites from the old servers to the newer (faster ones).
I logged on to the dashboard of my hosting provider and checked that all the speed enhancements that come free with my subscription were turned on.
They were, so I ticked this off.
I ran PageSpeed Insights again, to see if it was a temporary issue or not. If it had been temporary, by that time it would have (should have) reverted back to ‘normal’, whatever that might be.
It was still on 28, so I started looking at other things that may cause slow page-load speed.
Reason #2 – Slow Plugins
I started deactivating every plugin that was not necessary, one by one.
PageSpeed Insights ‘sort-of’ told me which plugins I should look at first. Some java scripts that load before anything visual appears before the user were awfully slow (in the red), and Google told me the name of the folder those slow java scripts were stored. So I could recognize the name of the plugin.
The first misbehaving plugin was a plugin called WP Date Remover. This removes the date from the posts when they appear in the search result. I was thinking of removing this plugin anyways as none of my posts are THAT old, so when they come up in the SERP neither of them is like 5 years old or anything.
I am a d*ck reason #2 is that the theme I use (Donovan) can do just that: I simple should have turned this option on to remove dates from under my blog posts.
I also turned off the social media plugins, as Google indicated that they were slowing the site down too.
Then I turned Collapse-o-matic off too and ran the speed test again.
47…improving, but I still have an issue with the theme and images. And still in red…
Reason #3 – Images Are Not Optimized
Which is strange, as I have an image optimizer plugin installed. As a matter of fact, Kraken.io is an industry leader image optimization plugin, and with Wealthy Affiliate, they run it on their server so you get your WordPress site pre-loaded with Kraken.io
I must admit I did not understand how on earth my images could be an issue if I have a decent image optimizer installed.
Google also prompted me that some of the .jpg files I have uploaded were in an ‘old format’, and they were really much larger pictures than the rest, albeit those were .jpg images too.
Google also suggested the use of a Lazy Load plugin, as some of my posts were packed with larger images (hidden) for Pinterest.
Related post: Must Have Plugins For A New WordPress Blog
So first things first, I deactivated Kraken.io and started looking for another image optimizer / lazy load plugin.
I found SMUSH.
It is free, and although limited in features and you can only process 50 images in one go, it did not take more than 10 minutes to optimize all the images on the website and turn the lazy load plugin on.
I ran the speed test AGAIN.
Much better, but still some issues with the larger ‘old format’ .jpg images. I will have to reformat and upload them again manually.
Still some .jquery issues, they take too much time to load, so – again, as Google suggested – I looked for a plugin that defers all non-critical JS/styles. Don’t ask what does it mean exactly, because I have no idea!
Reason #4 – Slow Running Scripts
From the same developer who created SMUSH I found a plugin called Hummingbird. I am telling you there aren’t many plugins that come up if you search for a ‘defer critical JS’ plugin, but thankfully, Hummingbird is a great one.
I just clicked through the setting up process and ran the site analysis, and then I let Hummingbird to do whatever it does to speed up my website.
I can say that the effect was dramatic…94. YAAAY!!!
Still some yellow (orange? amber?) identified as opportunities for further enhancements, but definitely getting there.
Reason #5 – Theme
The last thing I was going to check was the theme. Google identified that some elements of the theme were loading slowly, ie. fonts. I was hoping that I did not have to change the theme cause that would have been a massive pain in the back. Its a free theme I use, and its a pretty good one for now.
Fortunately, by this time none of the earlier issues were present. As I disabled the plugins that were slowing my site down, Smush and Hummingbird optimized images and scripts, site-speed was good as gold. The rest of the scripts now could run fast and uninterrupted.
If, despite all efforts, site speed was still unsatisfactory then I had no chance but trying out a few new themes to see, if any of them would make any difference.
As a last resort, if changing the theme did not make much difference, then I would look at changing the hosting arrangements and find a provider with faster servers.
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5-step Method to Improve Site Speed – Recap & Lessons Learned
So as you can see, with only 5 steps or less, you can dramatically increase site-speed. I did it in a couple of hours, going from 26 to 99. You can do it too, if PageSpeed Insight gives you a low score:
Step 1 – Check if there are any temporary issues with the server
Step 2 – Turn Plugins off one by one (and run the speed-test after each to see, which one makes the most difference)
Step 3 – Install SMUSH and optimize images. Turn on the Lazy Load feature. If necessary, re-upload images in a different format.
Step 4 – Install Hummingbird to optimize those slow running scripts
Step 5 – Trial other themes to see if it changes the page-speed score
I started to turn plugins back on, one by one. So ultimately I have Collapse-o-matic back, but I had to look for another Social Media Shares plugin (I now use Sassy Social Care).
Strangely, whenever I turned Social Media Shares back on, site-speed dropped dramatically. Before I found Sassy Social care, I trialed a few other plugins, some were even worse in affecting page-load speed. Even a small ‘Pin it’ plugin (that makes the ‘Pin It’ button appear over the images) can slow the whole website down dramatically.
But its sorted now.
- Even one tiny plugin can cause massive issues
- Even if one plugin works perfectly in itself, it may slow down if others are slow too
- Always prefer the built-in features of the theme to a 3rd party plugin
- Use PageSpeed Insights regularly
- Care more about the maintenance of my WordPress. Smush and Hummingbird are a must to ensure that everything runs smoothly
How fast is your site? Are you happy with your hosting? Have you got any favourite plugins, or plugins that you avoid like plague? Let me know in the comments!