Everyone in the SEO world knows that things change all the time. It’s common to SEOs that Google rolls out updates and some of those have a great impact on many websites. Nobody likes to be outdated and losing where they could be best performing. Thus, the reason for this article. Here are a few simple, effective fixes to do to your WordPress website to improve performance.
This article will be focusing on “Advanced SEO” particularly with PageSpeed and Performance. Google is always updating their algorithms to better the search results for users. In the algorithms, there are many factors some playing bigger roles than others. The same question always comes up – if PageSpeed is part of the ranking factors in the algorithm.
John Mueller of Google says this about PageSpeed:
I don't know how much of that [PageSpeed ranking factor] is still used at the moment. So we do say we have a small factor in there for pages that are slow to load where we take that into account. But I don't know how much that's actually still actually still a problem in ranking.
So that pretty much answers the question on PageSpeed. Websites with slow loading time will definitely have a harder time at ranking well in the SERPs. I believe that PageSpeed will always be important even if it's not part of the Google ranking factors. Because if you’ve got a website that takes forever to load, users will just close the page. You need to optimize for users and not for search engines only.
“Don’t lose potential customers because of slow pagespeed and loading time.” - Weslee Trout
That said, let’s get into the meat of the post, which will focus on WordPress sites.
Screengrab from WordPress.org
1. Use a High Quality Theme (Premium Recommended)
There are hundreds of WordPress themes that you can download and use for free. Although it may sound good, it doesn’t always mean that they are of good quality.
Screengrab from WordPress.org
I always tell people that if you are putting up a company website, that it is best to buy a good WordPress theme. It gives you the liberty to do pretty much whatever you want with the theme. One good thing about it is that, is that it has a lot more features than a typical free theme.
One problem with free themes is that most of them aren't 'SEO-friendly.'
I’ve tried installing random themes before just to test them out and see how they work. I discovered that most of them don’t allow you to use the theme to their full potential. When you buy a premium WordPress theme they usually come with technical support. They've got excellent SEO-friendly code. They work great across many different browsers. And, they give you that safe feeling that no one will just “hack” their way into your website.
Another is that premium themes guarantee regular updates which keeps your website performing great.
Tip – Make sure that you read reviews of the theme provider/creator before buying it, just to be safe.
2. Use the Right Plugins and Tools
Most website owners don't know what plugins or tools to use to optimize their PageSpeed. I've noticed that they tend to rely just on Google search to find what they 'think' they need. Only to find that they don't have the 'best' plugin that is available on the market.
Screengrab from WordPress.org
I’ve compiled a list of plugins with a few online tools that I use to check a website’s performance.
1: Use These Plugins in Your WordPress Dashboard
People are always asking questions such as, “what plugin is best for SEO?” “what plugin is best for image optimized?” “what plugin is best for backing-up a website?” “what plugin is best for HTML and file optimization?” and others.
There are a lot out there and if you aren’t careful you could destroy your website by installing the wrong one. For many, it is an “egg-hunt” to find the plugin that suits them and their website’s needs.
Here are some plugins that I use and what I use them for:
- Regular site backups – Akeeba Backup for WordPress
- Image loading on scroll – BJ Lazy Load
- Link checker – Broken Link Checker for WordPress
- JS and CSS minifying – WP Minify Mix
- Website caching – WP Super Cache
- Database optimizer – WP Optimize
- WordPress security – Login Security Solution
- Image optimizing and compressing – WP Smush
Another resource you can use is the plugin resources for wordpress created by Mike Wallagher.
There you have it! Those are the must-have plugins in your WordPress dashboard. All these will help you improve your website performance, so go install them!
2: Check Website Performance with These Tools
Above are the tools that you need to have installed in your WordPress dashboard. The tools below are free online tools that will help you test your website to see what else to improve.
These are the tools that I use and recommend.
- PageSpeed evaluation – Pingdom Website Speed Test
- PageSpeed insights – Google PageSpeed Insights
- PageSpeed evaluation & insights – GTMetrix Website Performance
The three mentioned above are ones that I use on a regular basis. I usually compare the results of all 3 to see what needs improvement on my website.
Tip – make sure that you use plugins that have regular updates.
3: Remove Unused Files, Plugins and Themes
Plugin and theme folders on your server take up space and reduce website performance. Don’t be a plugin hoarder and keep those unused plugins, delete them. Below are a few tips with regards to plugins.
- If a plugin hasn’t had updates in the past 6 months find a newer one and delete the old one.
- If you don’t remember what the plugin is even for, find out; if you don’t need it, delete it.
- If you have many plugins to do different things, find a plugin that has most of them in one.
- If you have an old theme, go to your cpanel and delete the folder.
- If you have images that you don’t use anymore, delete them.
Below are some images on deleting plugins and steps to delete files and themes.
First, go to the “Plugins” section on the dashboard then click “Installed Plugins.”
Second, “Deactivate” the plugin you want to delete.
Third, hit “Delete” and follow the steps to delete the plugin.
For images, old files and themes it is best to go to the backend via FTP and delete them there. Images and files in the Media section of the WordPress dashboard can be deleted but I’ve noticed that there are always some left on the backend so it’s best to delete them there.
Themes can’t be deleted via the WordPress themes page. If you want to delete an old theme go to the themes folder via FTP and delete it there. Be sure to keep one extra as a default backup theme just in case something happens to the active one.
Just as you would on your phone, computer or iPad. You need to get rid of any old, unused, space-occupying files and programs to speed them up. Your website is pretty much the same – get rid of those now and get those potential customers to convert.
Tip – Be sure to double-check if you are currently using any of the files, plugins or themes before deleting them.
4: Upgrade WordPress and Plugins When Updates are Available
Just like any other program or software installed on your computer or phone, they need to be the latest. If you don’t update your software then you won’t be able to use them or they won’t work the way they should.
It’s important that your version of WordPress is the latest. They roll out new features, fix bugs, security issues, etc. And, if your version is old, your site will be vulnerable to bugs.
You'll usually get a notification on your dashboard if there's an available update. You can update all plugins, themes and WordPress with just a few clicks.
Some images on what to look for to know if there are available updates.
First, if WordPress has an available update you should get a notification like the one below on your dashboard.
Second, you can check the “Updates” section to see all available updates for WordPress, Plugins and Themes.
Tip – Be sure to back up your website before you perform any updates.
5: Install Code on Source Pages if Possible (Without Installing Plugin)
A lot of website owners think that they have to install every plugin. Plugins like one’s for Google Analytics code are helpful but aren’t necessary. You could go to your Themes Editor and place the Analytics code there yourself. Google Analytics guides you on where to put the code, so do other software providers. It isn’t that hard to do.
The same goes with other codes. If you can place them on the template page then that is better. Plugins also add to the loading time and website performance. If you have dozens of plugins that request different things at once, your site will be slow for sure.
Here are a few images on how to get to the Editor section in WordPress so you can add codes to the pages.
First click on the “Appearance” button in the left pane, then click “Editor.”
Once you are in the Editor section, look for the page where you would like to place the code and place it there.
6: Optimize Your WordPress Website Regularly
Another common mistake is many think that just by installing the plugin it is a finished job. Well, that isn’t where it ends. For some plugins, you can schedule to run; such as backups. Others, you have to go in perform the process by yourself; usually it is just a few clicks. It may take awhile depending on the size of your website but it should be on your weekly task list. That is if you want to have better performance.
Think of your website as if it were your phone or laptop. You make sure that you've got a recent backup just in case something happens. This is so that you don’t lose all your important files.
The same with your website, make sure that it is performing 150% at all times. Simple things such as a broken link will turn potential customers away. Having an image that doesn’t load will turn some away. Again, don’t lose out because you have a slow loading time; fix it and get those customers.
Tip – Don’t think about the amount of time it takes to perform these optimization hacks. Focus on the ROI you’ll get by performing them.
Stay ahead of your competitors by having better website performance. An optimized website will definitely improve your loading time. WordPress is a great CMS but if you don't use all the features it offers, you, my friend, are losing out.
I’ve been using WordPress for quite sometime now and these six hacks have proven to work. Not just for me, but for many others including clients. Again, it does take time to put these in place. But hey, if you want to turn those potential customers into clients then you need and should get started. Now that you know the 6 hacks go and use them on your website!