SEO, or search engine optimisation, is a term that many might have heard when talking websites. But for those serious about gaining traction online, SEO is one of the most critical aspects in creating an effective website. And the king that rules SEO kingdom? Google. So keeping Google happy, or at very least keeping up with what it recommends as best website practice, is at the front of anyone's mind who is even remotely serious about doing business online.
For the past few years, Google has been working towards a 'mobile-first' philosophy and today. Google ranks your site based on its performance on mobile devices, not desktop. As a result, website speed is now becoming one of the key metrics Google uses to calculate how much it will like your website. Once there were tricks that could fool the "all-knowing" algorithm, but from this year, Google has been building a holistic approach to its system, placing the user experience, UX, front and centre; today a website not only has to be fast on the tests, but it also has to be quick in the real world as well!
Unfortunately, though, these days the internet is a wild and woolly place. In the world of WordPress websites, the mantra of D.I.Y and easy, $30 website themes, have all added to give the impression that it's easier than ever to create an attractive and effective website for today's online environment. In reality, all this has done is the opposite, and Google has officially sounded its warning - get your website moving, or we will penalise you!
Here's our simple guide to helping you speed up your website.
Images are the number 1 cause of slow websites. The single biggest issue we see caused by the 'prepackaged' website is they allow the users to use big, glorious, full-screen images, yet do not explain the dangers of doing so. With loading an image as simple as using the media loader to upload and insert a new image, the vast majority of self-serviced websites are using images much, much larger than needed.
Resizing images in Photoshop, or an equivalent image editor (we recommend Affinity Photo by Serif Labs: ) to the size you want it to appear on the screen, before loading it into your site is the best way to load images. Yes, it's a little extra work, but it will save you a world of hurt down the track. If you want a fullwidth image, then the image should be no wider than 1920 pixels in width and a resolution of 72dpi.
If you already have images in your website, then there are plugins you can use that will crunch their size down. Smush (), is one of the more popular plugins that will do this for you. Use the plugin installer to find and install it, then follow the instructions to compress your site's images.
Skill level: Basic.
How you design your page can have a massive impact on your site's speed. Load it full of big images, or worse, unoptimised images and you're in for trouble. But load an image slider full of big, unoptimised pictures, and you're in for BIG trouble.
But everyone loves a slider, and many prepackaged themes make the slider a central selling point for your home page. If you must have a slider, then using fully optimised images in combination with a slider that is lean and fast is a must. For a simple, yet very efficient slider, Soliloquy ( ) does a great job, but if you want one with all the bells and whistles, yet is still super-efficient, then we recommend SmartSlider ().
And the worst slider? If your site is using Revolution Slider, then you might want to think about another option.
Skill level: Intermediate.
In simplest terms, a caching system creates static copies of your site's pages that are then shown to a visitor when they come to your site. It makes your site feel lightning fast because the server does not have to construct the page each time the browser asks to see a page. A sound cache system can make significant improvements to even the slowest of sites.
There are a few caching plugins that we employ, depending on various factors, but quite often a cache plugin is not a one size fits all affair. We have seen a cache plugin work flawlessly on one site, yet completely break another. If you are game to try a cache system, then we strongly recommend wp-Rocket as a reliable, highly effective option ().
Bonus Points! If you host with Velocity Host, our servers utilise the world's leading cache system, Litespeed. Contact us if you'd like to have this set up on your site.
Skill level: Advanced: We give this an advanced skill rating, as understanding what and how a cache plugin works and how to fix things if they break your site, requires a solid understanding of the WordPress system.
Script calls sit firmly in propeller hat territory! Themes rely on an array of scripts and files to make them work, and depending on the theme design, there can be up to 20+ individual scripts that WordPress may be calling to create your theme. Most of these files load into the 'head', or top, of the site. As a result, the browser has to run through them all before serving content.
Removing these from the head and placing them into the footer can dramatically speed up a site, especially if the theme is inefficiently built. Doing this can quickly break a website, so unless you understand the process, it may be best to leave this alone.
Skill level: Pro: Do not do this unless you know your stuff!
For the most part, the plugins we recommend are 'commercial' plugins, meaning they have a cost associated with them. While there are plugins we use, and recommend, which are free to use, for critical or complex functions, we always tun to commercial plugins. Commercial plugins come with professional-level support and are religiously kept up to date and free of vulnerabilities, meaning you still have the backup and support you need if and when something does not go quite right.
If you want to improve your website's speed, contact us to book a website performance audit