Site speed isn’t something most new bloggers think about as it can seem scary and technical. However, site speed is one of the most important areas to focus on for both Pinterest and SEO.
Why is site speed important? Simple. If your site takes too long to load, users will leave. Some studies indicate that if your site takes three seconds to load, then 40% of users will leave. That’s a lot of lost traffic.
With a few simple plugins, you can drastically speed up your site and improve user experience. In this post I’ll simplify and break down all of the technical parts of site speed to make this step easy to achieve. Therefore, you can focus your attention and time on the more fun parts of blogging.
Disclaimer: Through no additional cost to you, I may be compensated from affiliate links included in this post. Learn more here.
Why is site speed important?
Well in addition to the lost traffic from users leaving because a page took too long to load, it can also hurt your Google ranking. Your site will get penalized from not only a slow page speed score, but also from having a high bounce rate.
Bounce rate measures the percentage of users who visit your site and then leave after just that one page. If you have a slow loading site, users won’t click around your blog and your chances of ranking in Google search will get hurt even further.
How to test your page speed?
Before you seek out to improve your page speed, you should first establish some baseline scores. Google’s PageSpeed Insights provides a score for both mobile and desktop speed. A score over 90 is considered fast and anything under 50 is slow. Google sets a really high bar for page speed but at a minimum try and get over 70 for both mobile and desktop.
You’ll also have to make some tough choices when it comes to page speed. For example, social sharing plugins will slow down your site and lower your score. However, these plugins will boost the amount of shares your posts get, in turn increasing your traffic. In this case the benefits (more traffic) outweigh the costs (slower site speed).
7 ways to boost site speed
Now let’s get into the seven tips. Each of these will require different investments both in terms of dollars and times. Ways 1 and 6 will result in the largest benefits and ways 2, 3, and 5 are the easiest. If you’re only able to tackle half of the things on this list, your scores will skyrocket and your site will become lightning quick.
1. Upgrade your hosting provider
Most of the entry level hosts (the ones that only cost 5 bucks per month) will run into site speed issues once you eclipse 50-75k pageviews per month. If you’ve eclipsed this number, first congratulations! You’re killing it! And second, it’s probably time to think about a better webhost. There are a ton of premium WordPress hosts out there, some of my favorites are Flywheel and BigScoots.
Definitely shop around and negotiate! They’ll want to know how much traffic you’re getting and how much traffic you’re projecting to get. This will tell them how many resources you’ll need from their servers and will help them determine how much to charge. Let them know you’re shopping around and you may get a better deal such as a few discounted months.
2. Compress and resize your images
If you upload an image that is 4000×6000 pixels large, WordPress will load an image that is that big, even if the person is on their phone and can only see an image that is 400×600 pixels. The absolute best option is to use Imagify or ShortPixel. These plugins will automatically size down your images to the size you choose (see image below for my settings on Imagify) and compress the images to reduce their file size. Smaller image sizes will mean that your site will load much faster.
Since both Imagify and Shortpixel do cost at least 5 bucks a month, if you’re looking for the free solution then at a minimum you should be sizing down your images BEFORE uploading them into WordPress. This will at least lower the file size a bit however you won’t get the benefit of compression. Additionally, you’ll have to manually resize each image rather than getting it done automatically for you.
What is the best image format?
This is a question I commonly see in blogging groups and the current answer is JPEG. Speed test sites will suggest other formats, but sadly these newer formats aren’t supported yet on most web browsers.
If you need a transparent background in your image, then stick with PNG. PNGs result in a slightly larger file size than JPEGs, but JPEGs do not support transparent backgrounds.
3. Lazy Load your Images
Sticking with the image theme, another way you can increase site speed is by lazy loading your images. Lazy loading means that images near the end of your post will be loaded last and images near the beginning will be loaded first. This means that readers will be able to view your site sooner because the essential elements aren’t competing with all of your images for resources.
Enabling lazy loaded images is easy (and free!) just download and install this plugin. You can find the configuration options under Settings in WordPress. Check the Images box and scroll down and click Save Changes. Then you’re done!
4. Lazy Load your Opt-In Forms
This one is a little trickier and is unfortunately not free. However, you can increase site speed even further by lazy loading your opt-in forms as well. ThriveLeads is a plugin that allows you to create beautiful opt-in forms regardless of your email provider.
With ThriveLeads you can automatically insert your opt-in form into your posts. It also has built-in A/B testing functionality which is so important for increasing conversion rates. But all that is not why I’m mentioning it. ThriveLeads also provides the option to Lazy Load your forms. You simply have to select “Displays when the form enters viewport” as your trigger.
5. Delete Jetpack
Jetpack is a jack-of-all-trades plugin that often comes installed with most default WordPress setups. While it does provide some useful features, such as Site Stats, Jetpack slows down your site massively and thus should not be used.
How else do you get your site stats? You can and should have Google Analytics installed already, all of the stats that Jetpack provides are accessible within Google Analytics along with so much more.
6. Use a caching plug-in
Caching is a method where your site is downloaded periodically so it can be quickly accessed. And then only returning users will see an absolutely current version. Caching can be kind of annoying to you when working on your site because you’ll have to “Delete Your Cache” to see new changes (by simply clicking a button on your dashboard), but caching drastically improves site speed.
There are many options for caching plugins. The best free options are W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. Each free option will speed up your site by about 20% but both can be a bit challenging to configure (I still have to Google tutorials).
For premium options, the best by far is WP Rocket for $39. This plugin is much easier to setup than the free options and will improve site speed by about 35%. And more importantly, it takes care of some of the site speed optimizations that were too technical to make it on this list.
7. Minimize the number of scripts you have installed
Sometimes it is necessary to install scripts on your site like Google Analytics or Pinterest Rich Pins. However, whenever possible it is best to install scripts that run on every page of your site. Many affiliate networks will ask you to install a tracking script so that they can have access to your traffic. Unless there’s an affiliate in one of these networks that you absolutely insist on promoting, try and avoid installing unnecessary scripts on your blog as they will slow down your site.
Now get out there and speed up your blog
If you have any questions about tips on this list, let me know in the comments!
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