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Speed Up WordPress – don’t let your website fail the Google website speed test


Why does page load speed matter?

User experience

Instant gratification is not longer acceptable – people can’t wait that long these days, and that includes waiting for your website to load. If your site take more that a few seconds – and by this I mean 2 – 3 seconds, 4 at the very most, they will be hitting the ‘back’ button and heading straight over to the competition. Oops, you just lost a potential customer.

Not only that, but as over 50{f5b33d95f7f254b1589baa1fdbba1c06f1c4679eb1514e4c27da6e662326cefe} of web browsing is from mobile phones (see my post on How we use our phones for web browsing) then the page loads times could increase significantly if the user is out and about – i.e. not on WiFi. In which case, your site will have no chance of loading before the visitor is frustrated and move along to the next site.

AdWords Quality Score

Google rates your landing pages on the speed they take to load. The faster they load, the higher quality score you will receive (as well as the benefits of higher conversion rates). The higher your quality score, the lower your advertising costs will be. Therefore your ads will reach more people for the same spend, because quality scores are important and drive CPC.

Organic?SEO Ranking

Page speed is also taken very seriously in the Google ranking algorithm, and it’s set to be even more essential with the shift towards favouring mobile friendly search. It’s a deciding factor in how Google decides where to place you site in search engine results, and could even mean the difference between the top of page two and the bottom of page one, which is the equivalent of from here to the nearest star – as the SEO community jokes, “Where’s the best place to hide a dead body? Page 2 of Google.”

So you get the message – page speed is very, very important.

Take the Website Speed Test

If you are worried about your page load times, there are plenty of sources you can test your site, and the good news is that most of them are free and not only test your page speed but give loads of advice and resources on how to improve your scores. On most of them you just enter your URL and hit the button and wait for the results.

Google page speed insights is obviously a good choice – it’s a good insight into how the big G sees your site, and with advice straight from the horses mouth on how to speed up your site, you’d be daft not to head here first. Click here to visit the site.

There are other free resources as well – YSlow is a free browser extension from Yahoo – strange but it seems to give slightly skewed results on Chrome… get it at

GTmetrix incorporates Yslow results and other page speed factors are given, and this would be my number 2 choice after the Google site. Go to

Speeding up WordPress

As there are nearly 75 million wordpress sites on the net I’m going to make this post about how to speed up your wordpress site, although some of the actions can be used on any website, and even if there aren’t any plugins available for your site some of the tips are still relevant.

Gzip Compression

By adding gzip compression to your server you cut down on the time it takes the server to send the browser your pages (more information is available on this excellent post by Better Explained -?? It’s a simple process to set up Gzip on your server. You will need access via FTP or C-panel to your website’s files so you can either amend or create a file called .htaccess, which you can find in the root folder of your website – if it’s not there then you will need to create it using any text editor, and just copy and paste the following text:

# compress text, html, javascript, css, xml:
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript

# Or, compress certain file types by extension:
<files *.html>
SetOutputFilter DEFLATE

Test your installation here and hopefully you will have taken the first steps towards speeding up your site.

Optimise your WordPress images

Pictures may paint a thousand words, but they also knock hell out of your wordpress page load time. The concept is simple here – use smaller images = faster site.

Optimise images off site first of all – I use either Photoshop or Illustrator to ‘save for web’, making images for posts around 500 – 800 px wide, which is a nice size. You can also use a plugin like (available here:? which will compress images as you upload them or will do a sitewide compression if your site has been around a while. Either way, having smaller images on your pages will do wonders for your load time.

Use Expires headers

By implementing Expires headers you can speed up the loading times of returning visitors. This function allows visitors to store files like CSS in their browser, so on their return visit the browser doesn’t have to load a whole bunch of files, so the pages load super fast. GTMetrix and YSlow recommend using expires headers, and thankfully for WordPress users there is a plugin called Autoptimize that will do this for you – get it here:?

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 13.11.00?Speed up your WordPress Blog Feed

Most WordPress sites have a blog feed. A simple way to reduce load times is to put your feed pages on a diet:

  • Remove images from the preview in the blog feed
  • show less posts per page, maybe only 5 as opposed to the traditional 10
  • Optimise the images if you want to keep them with something like Hammy, which gives different viewports a suitable sized image to speed them up.

Use a Cache Plugin

speed-up-wordpress-total-cacheCaching is a science all on it’s own, and to keep things simple for this post I’ll simply explain that for the most part a Caching plugin will store dynamically created HTML files and store them on the server, delivering them to browsers when requests are made. This cuts down on a whole load of time as the server doesn’t have to execute a load of PHP Code or database queries.

WP Super Cache ( or WP Total Chache ( are easy to set up. Super Cache is the easiest, you can just press the ‘Enable’ button and it will get to work, but more benefit can be made from fine tuning them. To prevent this post being longer than the Bible, click here to learn more about setting up Total Chache.

Before making changes make sure you back up your site – recently whilst installing Total Cache on a client’s site the site suddenly lost al it’s CSS (and my bowels lost their contents) because I minified the CSS.

You can now retest your wordpress site for speed and bask in the glow of all those green “ok” result indicators – cool eh?

Hopefully now your site should be blisteringly fast. When I’ve been through the steps outlined here I’ve experienced load times increasing by 25{f5b33d95f7f254b1589baa1fdbba1c06f1c4679eb1514e4c27da6e662326cefe}, certainly enough to go from red to green in the Google?website speed test. ?There are other things you can do to speed up WordPress, but they are far more drastic like:

  • Move to a faster host
  • Remove plugins (you can find the trouble makers by installing the P3 Profiler plugin -?
  • Use a faster theme – many people recommend Genesis, personally I like Ultimatum but there you go.

Obviously these are major moves, but if you you want to speed up WordPress to the max, then you might want to consider these as viable options.