Is your site slow? Did you know that page loading time is an important ranking factor used by Google? Usually, Google likes to keep their ranking algorithm secret, but lately, there has been more and more research covering the speed factor. Site speed affects everything from SEO to your conversion rate and even the user experience. If you’re considering going with a cheap shared hosting provider you might want to reconsider that.
You’re Wrong, Google Never Said That!
Actually, they did…in 2010. Google first announced in 2010 that they would start using site speed in web search ranking. Google was very clear about it, speed up your site or else you’ll receive a lower rank by Google’s algorithm. Furthermore, in January of 2018 Google said that speed would be a factor in mobile search ranking.
Why Does Google Care About Speed?
The reason Google has been pushing for site owners to increase the speed of their sites is that Google understands the importance of load time in user experience. As a user, you don’t want to waste time waiting for a site to load. Therefore, Google is pushing for a faster load time.
A study by Forester Consulting concluded that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. While 40% of people will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. No one likes slow loading and Google understands that.
We recently saw the number of mobile searches surpass desktop searches. Mobile devices often use 3G connections that are already slow, having a slow site is a recipe for mobile users to abandon it. Google wants your site to load fast so that people on mobile have a speedy experience.
How Can I Test the Speed of My Site?
There are many tools out there you can use to test your site. Google has developed some of their own tools for testing, but you can always use others.
Google PageSpeed Insights
The PageSpeed Insights tool will test your site and provide you with a score based on how it performs. The tool doesn’t only test the speed of your site but it also scores it based on the performance. Do you have your images optimized? Are you using caching? The tool tells you how you can optimize your site.
You can run a PageSpeed test here. Aim to get above 80 on PageSpeed. Additionally, if you can get 90 or above your site will be ahead of most others.
Lighthouse Audit has been the new tool Google has recommended for testing site performance. The audit runs a bunch of tests on your site for performance and SEO.
This tool can be accessed right from the Chrome browser. Just go to Developer Tools and click the Audits tab.
Another great tool is WebPagetest which shows you a collection of metrics for your site. There are multiple options to choose from when running a WebPagetest. This tool will show you a waterfall of all the resources loading on your site.
With WebPagetest it’s easy to see what’s slowing down your site. You can see the time it takes to load all resources and which ones take the longest.
GTmetrix actually runs multiple tests in one. It includes a PageSpeed test, YSlow, and Waterfall for free. You can also compare your site to others with this tool and even download the results as a PDF.
GTmetrix will tell you how you can optimize your site and if there’s a resource that can be optimized, it will let you download the optimized version. It also prioritizes the optimizations for you.
Finally, the last tool on our list is Pingdom. Pingdom does a full page speed test. Similar to the other tools, Pingdom will show you a performance score, how fast your site loads, and where it can be optimized.
Pingdom is easy to use and has a great user interface. You can choose from 4 locations to run your test. Test results can be conveniently downloaded or shared.
Why is Speed Important for WordPress Sites?
Speed is a big concern with WordPress sites. WordPress is different from normal static HTML sites in the sense that it uses PHP and is meant to serve dynamic content. Dynamic content with WordPress is typically pulled from a database or an external source. All of this takes time, which is why it’s important to optimize your site.
There are other factors that play into the speed of a WordPress site: theme, widgets, plugins. A poorly coded or bloated theme can already slow down your site by a couple seconds. People also tend to run plugins which they don’t really need. WordPress doesn’t have a coding standard for every developer to follow, and it’s not always possible to predict if a plugin was designed to be optimized for WordPress. Having too many plugins or widgets can hurt the speed of your site. For this reason, always make sure to deactivate plugins you aren’t using and keep everything updated to the latest version.
What Will Happen if My Site Isn’t Fast?
If your site isn’t fast sock goblins will come to steal your socks. We’re kidding, of course. As long as your site loads under 3 seconds which achievable with a quality theme and good hosting you should be fine. Google will only penalize really slow sites and how much they will penalize them isn’t even obvious.
What we do know is that if there are 2 identical sites and one is a second faster than the other, Google will choose to rank the faster site first.
However, if your site gets a lot of visitors or does ecommerce then a slow site may hurt you. As we said earlier, a slow site leads to a lower quality user experience. If you do ecommerce then you should really care about making sure your site loads fast. Amazon found that a page load increase of 1 second could cost them $1.6 billion in sales each year. Every second counts in today’s consumer economy.
A slow site can affect how quickly Google indexes your content. If you’re a blogger and putting out new content each day then you want it to be indexed right away. Google indexes links by crawling sites. If a site is slower then it will take Google’s crawler longer to index those pages. To have your content indexed by Google as quick as possible then having a fast site will certainly help.
On the bright side, it’s really simple to optimize the speed of your site.
How to Speed Up A WordPress Site
The first thing to do is use the tools we listed earlier to test your site and see where you’re lacking. Some of the time it will be a simple tweak to get your site running at faster speeds. Here’s how you can improve the speed of your WordPress site:
Most speed issues can be prevented by choosing the right web host. If you’re on a slow host, then there’s not much you can do about speed. Look for a hosting company that doesn’t sell shared hosting or is a reseller host. Shared hosting has a reputation of overselling (putting too many people on one server) their services which degrades performance. Managed hosting will offer faster performance but be priced higher. Your web host can also offer additional speed enhancements such as server-side caching and compression.
Caching is certainly a major performance booster for WordPress sites. With caching, instead of having to query the backend for each site visit, the web server pulls a saved version to serve to the visitor. Caching can shave off seconds from all WordPress sites. You can always install a cache plugin for WordPress which will handle caching for you.
A typical web page is around 3mb in size, with compression you can get that down to KBs. As a result, compressed web pages takes less bandwidth and time to load. Unfortunately, compression is not something you can set up from WordPress. Compression is a feature that should be activated by your host. That’s why it’s important to choose the right web host.
If you’re a blogger, run an ecommerce store, or care about your SEO, then you should spend time improving the speed of your site. Improving the speed of your site can bring many positive effects to you and your users.
With Wurpe we make it really simple to have a quick site. Installed WordPress sites on our hosting already come optimized. And when we do a site transfer we always make sure to optimize for speed. We offer complimentary cache, compression, and image optimization as well as a load of other optimizations. If you’re curious in knowing how much faster we can make your site contact us today for a free trial.