20 SEO Experts Share Their WordPress Speed Optimisation Tips
Optimising WordPress Websites for speed and loading performance is a Big Deal in 2021.
Why? In May last year, Google announced their next major algorithm update, known as the Page Experience Update. The update will include new page experience signals which will become a part of their ranking systems, now scheduled to roll-out from mid June 2021. We thought now would be a great time to offer some WordPress Speed Optimisation Tips from fellow SEO Experts.
Google are very conscious of how user friendly websites are, and obviously want to offer their users the best experience possible when using their search engine.
A significant part of a great user experience is how fast a web page loads. Nobody likes to wait for 4,5,6 seconds or longer for a web page to fully load. Research by Google found that bounce rate increases up to 90% for a website loading in 5 seconds, compared to a website loading in 1 second.
Therefore, speed matters!
Why send users to a site with a poor user experience, when Google can prioritise another website with an excellent user experience! This is where the new page experience signals come in…
Page Experience Signals
“Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value.”
The page experience signals include Google’s Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics which measure the real world loading performance of a web page.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Google’s Core Web Vitals are made up of three metrics; Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift.
Needless to say, the new metrics aren’t self-explanatory!
Here’s a quick summary of what the metrics measure:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures the loading performance of a web page. LCP is the time taken for the web page to render the largest image or text block visible, from when the page begins to load.
First Input Delay (FID): Measures the interactivity of a web page. FID is the time taken from when a user first interacts with a web page, ie. clicks a button, until the browser can begin processing a response to the request.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures the visual stability of a web page. CLS measures the total layout shift of page elements throughout the lifespan of a page.
Cumulative Layout Shift is arguably the most difficult to explain. The image above shows the shift of a text block as a page loads. Usually caused by the delayed loading of another element or advert, shifting the position of the text you are reading, or the button you were about to click!
These metrics add to existing web vital metrics, which are already in use; mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.
Causes of Slow WordPress Sites
The popularity of WordPress comes from its infinite customisability and user friendliness for creating websites. It’s a robust and generally secure platform with endless possibilities.
The thousands of themes and plugins allow millions of combinations, to create the perfect website. However, not all themes or plugins are built with speed in mind, or can have compatibility issues with certain plugins; which can cause any number of page performance related issues.
The content of a web page also plays a huge part in affecting page speed performance. For example, a homepage filled with high quality images or videos, would take significantly longer to load than a homepage with a handful of illustrations and text blocks.
Aside from WordPress itself, hosting is an important factor. It doesn’t matter how efficient and well-coded a WordPress theme is; if the hosting is poor, the entire website will be affected. Hosting is a big factor to consider for WordPress websites.
WordPress Speed Optimisation Tips from 20 SEO Experts
We invited 20 fellow SEO Experts to share their thoughts and WordPress speed optimisation tips with you.
An SEO Agency today may cover all aspects of optimisation, or have a specialised area when it comes to improving a WordPress website’s speed and loading performance.
Adam Gingery is the Chief Operating and Paid Advertising Officer at Majux, and offers the following advice:
“First off, get the NitroPack.io plugin for WordPress. It’s better than other caching options (even WP Rocket), and it will instantly give you a Core Web Vitals boost.
Secondly, it’s time to upgrade your hosting if you haven’t already done that. Linode requires a more technical setup, but it also instantly increases page speed for our clients. A CDN, like CloudFlare, is another non-negotiable if you are in a competitive niche.
If you are using Divi on your WordPress site, I recommend using a plugin called PerfMatters to identify CSS that doesn’t need to load on every page of your site. You can disable the CSS in PerfMatters’ script manager – this matters because Divi tends to load a good bit of CSS that you don’t need across your entire site.”
Echoing Adam’s comments on the Perfmatters plugin; we find this to be extremely effective in applying those extra performance tweaks along with the popular WP Rocket caching plugin.
Elliot Olson, founder of Studio Anansi, focuses on some of the major culprits including, plugins, themes, images and videos; with her WordPress speed optimisation tips:
“If your website is loading slowly, start by looking at the WordPress admin console. How many plugins and themes do you really need? WordPress sites oftentimes easily accumulate plugins — maybe you installed a plugin to test a new feature, but now you don’t need it anymore! And are there extra themes? WordPress will often include annual default themes, but there’s no need to keep these on your site if they’re not in use. Removing unused plugins and extra themes will improve your website speed.
Next, look at your images and videos. Large media files can easily slow website loading times. Plus, your online visitors may have slow internet connections. Forcing visitors to wait for images or videos means a higher bounce rate and lower SEO rankings. Improve your load time by reducing file sizes. Use tools like tinypng.com <http://tinypng.com> and plugins like Enable Media Replace.
Finally, do an audit of any remaining slow-loading pages. Can you remove extra page elements, or change them to less resource-heavy options? For example, replacing sliders with static images can dramatically improve page load speed — making your users and Google happier, ultimately boosting your SEO!”
Some great points! In particular, the advice to replace sliders which are a common cause of slow WordPress page loading.