Speed matters. Especially when it comes to your website.
Even if your site isn’t a top e-commerce destination, if it’s something you actually want people to interact with you had better make it as fast as you can.
Need proof? KissMetrics has put together some great statistics on just how important page speed is.
For example, did you know that 40% of users will abandon a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load? Or that a 1 second delay in page load can result in a 7% drop in conversion rate?
Google also takes into account page speed when indexing your site. Basically if your site is slow, it’s going to rank worse in search results. I don’t think any of us want to rank low.
So to help alleviate these issues I’ve recently been optimizing my site (the one you’re reading right now), and while it still isn’t as fast as I’d like it to be it’s considerably better than it was.
This site is running on WordPress, so in particular I needed to optimize things specifically to speed up WordPress.
Use These 3 Free Plugins to Speed Up WordPress
A great free tool from Dippak C. Gajjar, it takes care of three important optimizations with one free plugin. Just install it to your WordPress site, activated and turn on GZip Compression, Browser Caching and clears extraneous query strings from static content.
The most important of these two are GZip Compression and Browser Caching. They’re both strongly recommended by Google, and neither is very easy to set up on your own unless you are comfortable editing your .htaccess file or server settings. Here it’s as simple as install and activate.
Just how Autoptimize actually works is kind of tricky, but we don’t really want to know how the sausage is made. What we do want to do is make it so that every time a page loads, it sends down the smallest amount of data as possible (smaller size = faster load). This is where Autoptimize does its magic.
Note there is also an option to route your optimized content through your CDN if you’re using one. Don’t worry about this if you don’t know what that means. If you don’t know, you’re probably not using one. But it’s nice to know the option is there.
When WordPress loads any post, it does so by dynamically building out the page through a combination of template files and data that’s stored in your WordPress installation’s database. This means that whenever someone comes to the site the server has to do work to create the page on the fly. Think of it this way, your pages don’t actually exist – but instead are built every time someone clicks through to one.
While there are some benefits to this, for the most part unless your posts are changing constantly this actually isn’t the best way to store and serve your content. WP Super Cache builds out static versions of your posts, which are refreshed occasionally to make sure they don’t go out of date.
Long story short, WP Super Cache builds out the pages ahead of time so they don’t have to be built every time the page loads. It can particularly be impactful on slower servers or sites with heavy traffic load.
Getting it working is as simple as installing, activating and making sure the Caching On is selected.
WP Super Cache does have a lot of other advanced functionality as well for those who would like to have a bit more control over the settings, including the option to set your cache timeout. But again, just installing the plugin and activating the Caching will make a noticeable difference.
(Tip: If you are continually updating your WordPress site and not seeing changes go into effect immediately, try turning off Super Cache for a bit so the most recent changes load automatically.)
Of course there are other issues that can affect the page speed load time of your WordPress site such as the complexity of your theme, an overuse of plugins, oversized images and just plain old slow hosting services (I’m considering switching mine). But these three free WordPress plugins will give you a meaningful boost. Installing all three brought my own site up almost 20 points in the Google PageSpeed Insights tool.
Have any other plugins or tweaks you recommend?