As Google aims to rank websites based on their usability and experience, one of the important factors that Google considers is page download speed. Consider your own search experience… Ever clicked on a search result only for the page to take too long to download? What do you do? I am guessing click the back button. This registers a bounce on the website which is a negative ranking factor for Google.
If Google bot visits your website and has the same problem, you run the risk of the page not being indexed and skipping past it.
How Fast is My Website?
As it happens, Google have their own tool for testing the speed of your website in Webmaster tools (a sure fire hint that speed is an important ranking factor!)
To help with this blog post, I thought that seeing as my website is now coming up to its 2nd week since going live, I would use it as the case study.
So to start with, let’s run a page speed test. I got the following result with the Smite SEO website:
Looking at the score of 62 out of 100… that’s not too great. The one thing with WordPress is that it can be a little heavy on the server. The more Plug-Ins and images you add to your website then the heavier it gets.
Fortunately, there are a few tricks to help us out:
- W3 Total Cache Plug-In
- Smush.it Plug-In
- Tidy up your WordPress back-end
Let’s look at each in detail…
1. Install The W3 Total Cache Plug-In
You can either do this by searching for it in the Plug In directory, or download from the WordPress Directory and upload. Once installed you should now see the option for Performance in your left hand menu. Click on it to take yourself to the dashboard and see an overview of the plug-in.
The W3 Total Cache Plug In has many features but for the purpose of this blog and because I don’t know the ins and outs of your website set up and hosting arrangements, we will stick with the basic options.
- Hover over performance and select Page Cache, enable the setting and leave as the default which should be fine for most basic websites. Page Cache is simply a quicker way of serving up static content than having the server dynamically download the content each time.
- Next, go to Browser Cache, and check the box and save settings. Now hover over performance and select Browser Cache for some more advanced settings. In the General box, select all the boxes but the last one for 404 errors. Browser Cache simply lets your browser store images and files for a specified period of time so that it doesn’t have to wait for the server each time.
- You can also activate the Minify setting. I would experiment with this. Sometimes it can make a difference, but with small websites, it might not. Minify just looks for ways of saving kb from static file types but can upset the display of your site. I would recommend ignoring unless you know what you are doing.
2. Install The Smush.it Plug-In
The Smush.it plug-in simply strips image file sizes when you upload them by taking out loads of useless meta data and other optimisation techniques, but is a lossless compression, meaning that no image quality is lost. This can help speed up your website dramatically, especially if it has a lot of images.
3. Tidy Up Your WordPress Back-end
If you are like me, I hate having messy files on my computer. You should treat WordPress the same:
- Delete all the spam comments
- Delete plug-ins that you don’t use
- Remove pages and posts that also aren’t being used.
By keeping your database trim and clean helps keep it healthy.
So, I made the changes above to my website, re-ran the speed test and I have now come out at 85 / 100 with these subtle changes. An increase of 23. Well worth the time I think.
There are many other ways of speeding up your website and if you have a global website, I would strongly recommend using a CDN (Content Delivery Network). I will save that post for another day.