A page on your website should load in less than 1 second according to Google. Reports show that if your page loads in more than 3 seconds, then more than 1/2 of visitors abandon the website. What if your site takes more than 10 seconds to load though? According to Google, you should be prepared for a significant drop in organic traffic.
Find the Right Theme
How fast your page loads is largely affected by the theme you use. You can either go with a free WordPress theme or buy a premium one. An averagely configured free WordPress theme takes around 5-7 seconds to load on an average broadband connection while a well configured and optimized premium WordPress theme only takes about 2-3 seconds to load.
So, you see there’s definitely a difference in loading speed when using different themes.
Fast Loading WordPress Themes
GeneratePress: GeneratePress is the fastest of all WordPress themes available on the market. It was created with speed in mind and it does not have any widgets or theme options that would slow down your website’s loading time. Not only is it fast, but also very easy to use even for someone who has never used a WordPress theme before.
It is fully compatible with every major WordPress plugin out there including WooCommerce, WPML, Yoast SEO, etc. Plus you can get lots of cool customization options thanks to its Drag and Drop Builder which works just like Visual Composer does for sites running on the Genesis Framework.
HireBee is a multipurpose WordPress theme that can be used for businesses like digital marketing agencies, web development companies, and many more. This one too has been created with speed in mind and you can see that as soon as you try to load your website; because it loads really fast even on mobile devices.
You get to choose from 4 different post styles – standard posts, audio posts, video posts, and gallery posts. You also get four header layouts and unlimited color options so you can change the look and feel of your site as per your preferences.
Hello Elementor: Hello Elementor is a free and responsive WordPress theme that has been created on the top of the Elementor page builder. You will love using this one because it’s lightweight and easy to use.
Hello Elementor is a fast theme because it comes with a custom AJAX loading system which means the content on your pages loads as soon as you click to view something.
Hello, Elementor also supports customization options via drag and drop widgets. You can experiment with different layouts until you find one that suits your website’s needs perfectly.
Tested, and proven, Hello Elementor is a great theme for creating pages that load super fast.
Choosing A Good Hosting Provider
Your website’s loading speed is also affected by your hosting provider’s location and their servers ( how fast they respond ). Many hosting providers promise high speeds but deliver poor performance in real-time due to their shared server environment with hundreds or thousands of websites hosted on each server.
For example, Bluehost offers shared hosting for as low as $2.95/month but you should know that such plans will not give your website the speed it needs to rank high on Google and keep visitors happy. On average, Bluehost only delivers half the speed of other major providers when these plans are averaged in.
Here are some things to look out for when choosing a good hosting provider:
- Number of servers and locations
- Server response times and uptime test scores
- Uptime guarantees
- Server-side caching support
- Server load balancing
You can easily find all this information just by checking each provider’s website.
A good hosting plan also includes a free SSL certificate which is very important for your page speed as well as your SEO score.
According to testing performed by Matthew Woodward, these are the fastest WordPress Themes for 2021:
Kinsta: Kinsta is a fast WordPress Theme as it comes preinstalled with a cache plugin and the best hardware you can get for your money. It has been designed to offer 100% up-time and site speed, as well as security.
Kinsta is fully scalable: if your traffic increases you can simply add more server power to handle that traffic and keep your load times low. Kinsta is very popular among users who want their websites to be hosted on WordPress but who also demand reliability and performance.
SiteGround: SiteGround is known to deliver great results with its SuperCacher which comes with all hosting plans that are 3-years or longer in length. This plugin utilizes built-in caching plugins like WP Rocket, W3 Total Cache & Autoptimize to reduce load times drastically. SiteGround also offers limited free SSL certs for your site.
WPEngine: WPEngine is on the list of fast hosting for WordPress websites because it has a great and easy-to-use caching system that runs even when you sleep. The result is a much faster website than the competition. WPEngine comes with free SSL Certificates as well as Google Apps integration which means your site will benefit from both speed and security.
My list of suggestions for fast WordPress hosting includes Flywheel. Flywheel has an excellent caching system that’s built into the stack so you don’t have to rely on other plugins to deliver great speeds. Flywheel is also faster than WPEngine and SiteGround.
Flywheel provides a user-friendly interface, developer-centric tools, and DDoS protection at every tier of service. They use Nginx instead of Apache so there’s less memory usage and fewer CPU cycles required. You also get daily backups which means you don’t have to do anything manually, and no extra plugins are required.
Avoid Too Many Plugins
Plugins and themes can sometimes affect your website page speed so it’s always best to keep the number of plugins to a minimum. It’s easy to get addicted to plugins. I did this myself at one point. But there’s no denying that too many plugins can slow your site down.
Cashing is important for page speed. Here’s why.
Your website has to load a lot of information from the database every time a page is visited, and it has to do this over and over again. The more pages your site visitors view, the slower your site will become as your server tries to keep up with demand.
There are plenty of WordPress site load time optimization plugins available that you can download for free and many popular themes come with caching plugin support right out of the box. In most cases, using a caching plugin is better than using no cache at all which is what you get from some sites when they don’t have any caching built into their design or theme.
In fact, some very popular WordPress cache plugins like WP Super Cache run on Apache but don’t offer compression which means data has to be sent uncompressed before being processed by Apache and then recompressed afterward resulting in a slower website.
Here’s a list of Caching Plugins:
- WP Super Cache
- W3 Total Cache
- WP Rocket
Another way to add caching is through a Content Delivery Network or CDN. A CDN works by caching static content from your website on servers around the world, nearest to where your visitors are coming from which means they won’t have to go as far to get the data resulting in faster access times.
Here’s a list of CDN’s:
SiteGround: SiteGround also uses MaxCDN which is the same CDN used by WordPress.org itself, so it’s no surprise that it’s known for delivering great speeds.
Cloudflare: Like SiteGround & FlyWheel, Cloudflare uses MaxCDN as well so there’s no reason to use a different CDN when all three support HTTP/ and have already partnered with one.
Optimize Images & Videos
Images are a top reason that some web pages load slowly. Page speed experts agree that optimizing images is one of the main things webmasters can do to improve loading times.
Just because you upload an image at full size and don’t crop it doesn’t mean your page will load faster. All of those extra pixels have to be sent down the wire so they need to be compressed as much as possible before being used. And if you’re using a content distribution network, each image on your website needs to be loaded separately which puts more strain on your servers than multiple images coming from just one domain name.
Here’s how you can optimize images for WordPress:
Use Compressed Images: Use tools like Smush which is a plug-in for Photoshop & GIMP respectively that automate the image compression process.
Use Lazy Loading: Since images are often one of the biggest reasons that your website takes so long to load, you can include codes in your theme template files that will delay loading until after page load. Here’s an example of how to use the Lazy Load script on your WordPress site.
Use WebP Images Instead Of JPG & PNG: WebP images are similar to .jpeg or .png but they’re smaller in size because they use lossy compression which means they lose data each time it’s compressed. So if there’s a file format that does less compressing and keeps all the data intact, wouldn’t you choose it over another?
Here’s a list of Plugins for compressing/optimizing images:
Compressor.io: Optimize images through the free cloud-based API which then generates a compressed version that can be hosted on your own website.
TinyPNG: This is one of the most popular image optimization WordPress plugins for compressing .png, .jpeg & .gifs to make them smaller in size without losing any clarity.
WP Smush It: A basic plugin that lets you bulk optimize your images by uploading several at once to reduce their file sizes before transferring them over to your site’s media library.
Ewww Image Optimizer: Offers lossless compression which means it will keep all data intact while also giving you options to resize or crop each image before optimizing it so that you have full control over how it looks
Here’s a list of Image Optimization Programs:
- GIMP: GIMP is a free image editing program which means you wouldn’t need to download anything else in order to work with your images before uploading them to WordPress as long as they’re already optimized.
- Photoshop: If you have more of a budget then Photoshop is one of the best tools for working with images before uploading them to WordPress.
- Imagify: Imagify is another image optimization platform that works within your browser which means you don’t need an extra program installed on your computer. It also supports animated GIFs, offers built-in code modification Content, and has integrations with Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal & Magento.
JSMinifier: Another tool for compressing js files through the command line or the cloud.
Closure Linter: This is used before running Google Closure Compiler in order to identify potential problem areas like usage of eval() or configurable properties that can’t be minified or arbitrarily accessed (causing infinite recursion). All unnecessary code is removed; all minifiable code is minified and it can produce a source map for debugging.
There are a lot of ways to minify your CSS files in order to improve page speed, but here are two of the most popular ones that you can use directly from the dashboard without having to download any extra programs.
Tools for minimizing/optimizing CSS:
CSS Minifier: A free online tool for compressing CSS files that remove unnecessary characters like whitespace and line breaks while also renaming identifiers to be shorter & using only the minimum required number of characters.
CSS Compressor: Another program that works through the command line in order to minimize your CSS files by doing things like removing redundant code & shortening variable names.
Enable GZip Comp
Enable GZip compression on your site’s server to make your files smaller & speed up transfer time. Just like any other HTML document, there are compression algorithms that allow for the webpage to be transferred as a compressed file.
By implementing this type of compression on your WordPress website or blog; you will utilize less bandwidth and therefore save yourself money! Page load times will be reduced and visitors will have a better experience browsing your website.
Since most people don’t know how to change configurations within their hosting service (or don’t want to), it’s best that we use plugins that we can easily install on our WordPress dashboard in order to enable Gzip Compression on all pages of our websites automatically. Here are some plugins that allow you to easily do just that.
Plugins for GZip Compression:
Autoptimize: A free plugin that’s available on WordPress.org. It works by optimizing your website to speed up page load times, which is great for making sure your site uses caching & other scripts in order to load pages quickly.
It also has the added benefit of reducing server load so you can save some money! However, this can become frustrating since it will often conflict with other plugins if they’re not coded properly…but it still serves as a good option for those who want to try it out.
WebP Express Plugin: This is a Google plugin that allows you to easily add WebP image support through your WordPress Dash or upload existing images and convert them to WebP from the Dashboard. However, this plugin may not work with other plugins or themes that add additional styles or scripts.
GZIP Compression: This is a WordPress plugin that will add GZip compression when you upload your images in order to reduce the file size & load time of them. Of course, this won’t work when visitors right-click on and save images directly from your website, but it’s still a good tool for making sure images are at least hosted using the proper GZip settings so they can be displayed properly.
Redirects can be time-consuming and they also cause a bit of lag in your page speed because it takes a while for the redirect to load, so it’s recommended to use 301 where possible instead of 302 which is temporary.
Tools for eliminating redirects:
Redirection: Used for permanent & temporary redirects from the dashboard without having to manually add code.
W3 Total Cache: This plugin also has an option for removing unnecessary redirects from your site you’ll want to keep in mind that a lot of these plugins make extra changes or integrate with other programs, so always double-check what will happen before hitting the install button. However, this is where W3 Total Cache comes in handy because it notifies you about all mergeable settings that can be configured within the plugin itself. This way you don’t run into errors later on after making all these other changes to your site.
Reduce Cookie Size
Cookies are a normal function of most websites nowadays, but they’re also one of the reasons it takes a while for a website to load initially because this additional data has to be loaded from the server before being sent over to your browser.
Make sure that any 3rd party services you’re using aren’t storing too much information in cookies.
For example, if you’re using JetPack then try disabling some of the services it has within WordPress & see which ones are taking up the most space because it could be something small like Gravatar or another service you use, so it’s always best to double-check large installations of plugins & themes before making changes to your site.
Tools for reducing cookie size:
Cookie Monster: A plugin made specifically for managing cookies on different WordPress sites from the dashboard without having to manually add code.
Reduce Server Response Time
Server response time is one of the main factors used when determining page speed mainly because this affects how fast all other files will load on your site after receiving an initial response from the server itself. So keeping an eye on this number is important for overall speed optimizations & should remain under 200 ms in most cases.
Tools for reducing server response time:
WP Super Cache: This plugin is great for caching entire pages on your WordPress site because it saves a cached version of the page in order to load it much faster when someone visits the same page again. The only thing you need to remember is that this requires PHP, so if you have an older computer or hosting that doesn’t support this then make sure you disable WP Super Cache.
Cache Enabler: A free plugin that allows caching of different parts of a website without having to manually add code which can be quite useful in some cases depending on what kind of website you’re using it on. General guidelines for keeping track of all these numbers include keeping server response time under 200ms, keep the total page size under 1MB & use cache plugins in order to keep unnecessary data from loading on your site.
But exactly how does page speed affect SEO?
There are a lot of factors that Google & other search engines use as far as page rank is concerned, but this particular aspect is one place where you can help improve your site so it ranks better in the SERPs.
Google’s goal is to provide a quality experience for all its users & having a fast site is one way to help achieve this goal.
So as long as you’re using good content on your website, keeping it lightweight as well as taking the time to optimize page speed will typically result in more traffic from Google which means better rankings for your site.
WordPress Database Cleaning
Every time you write a new post or make any changes to the database then it becomes fragmented over time.
Eventually, this slows down your site because it takes longer for WordPress to load all these bits & pieces of information on every page load whenever someone visits your site.
But all this can be improved with good quality plugins that are specifically designed for optimizing databases so they don’t get bloated over time which will result in faster loading times on your website.
Tools for cleaning your WordPress Database:
WP-Optimize: A plugin made for taking care of some of the most common tasks related to keeping WordPress databases optimized such as removing post revisions, spam comments, transient options & automatically checking database tables for fragmentation.
WP-DBManager: A plugin that provides a visual overview of the various aspects related to your WordPress database which includes details on checking table sizes, displaying data within specific tables, analyzing index fragmentation as well as running maintenance tasks like optimizing or repairing databases.
There are other ways you can optimize database performance such as using alternative caching methods like Memcached or Redis which both provide caching services that reduce the load times on your WordPress site by taking care of things like frequently used data.
Redis is more powerful than the older Memcache method since it’s specifically designed for multiple server setups while Memcached was mostly made for desktop computers with single
Tools for Testing Page Speed
GTMetrix: A free tool made specifically for checking page speed as well as determining what needs to be optimized in order to improve the site’s overall load time. This plugin also has a premium option that provides even more features so it may be worth looking into if you have some extra money to spend on optimizing your website.
YSlow: Another great tool for testing page speed, but it also goes beyond just providing base numbers & offers advice on how to improve these speeds based on Yahoo’s own guidelines.
This is one of the best ways around getting quick tips because instead of reading through an article or watching a video that explains how everything works, you can simply utilize tools built by experts who know exactly what they’re doing because they’ve been involved with page speed for years.
Page Speed Online: A tool from Google itself, so everything you’d need to know about page speed can be found here & it’s something any website owner should look into using because it provides a wealth of information on how to improve your site based on both basic advice as well as advice built around the specific plugins & themes being used on a particular site.
Google Site Kit: A service that allows you to optimize your site for search engines & improve page speed. This is only available in select countries so check to see if it’s available before signing up.
Google PageSpeed Insights: A similar tool from Google, but this one can’t be used on sites owned by others so it may not be worth using depending on what kind of website you have.
Lori Ballen is a real estate agent in Las Vegas. She’s a digital marketing specialist, speaker, and marketing coach and loves to share her “Ballen Method” to generate website traffic and leads online. Lori’s specialties are SEO content writing (ranking on the search engines), social media strategies, and affiliate marketing. Need a website? Contact Lori’s brothers Jeff and Paul Helvin at Ballen Brands.