Unless you are new to SEO there should be a clear understanding that how fast your website loads is a contributing factor to rankings up or down. It can also affect customer engagement signals. Speed should be seen as a priority and part of any digital marketing strategy; I look into this aspect almost from day one.
So, what kind of strategies can you use to improve page load speed?
Start Right At The Beginning with Fast Hosting
Having hosting that is fit for purpose must be a starting point. Of course, there are many cheap and even free hosting out there, but some (not all), just have too many websites crammed onto the same shared hosting platform with not enough resources to handle them. So, it makes sense to investigate how well that server will perform for you, with your website requirements.
Relying on speed data produced on an advert to sell you a service should not be enough to temp you to use that hosting. Sometimes for instance, the hosting of the files is on one server and the database on another that could be in another country. The speed data on the advert may only relate to the faster of the two.
A strategy that I use, is a test website based on WordPress. This site only has 4 pages, designed with Elementor (more on this later), has several images and loads of rubbish content. I also use a spare domain.
Many hosting providers offer a free trial, so I sign up, upload this testing site, including the database and then test for speeds. I have an idea of what the speeds should be and I have deliberately made this site in a way that will not load fast or at least superfast.
If the site loads quick enough then this the server is a consideration, if not I leave it.
Allowing for the domain to go live this only takes around 1 hour of my time, but if done correctly will save much more time should I have chosen to develop a money site, before realising the server is not up to the job.
A Bespoke or HTLM Site Will Always Be Faster
There was a time when all websites were developed this way, but now with WordPress and others, we have moved to a database age, where plugins and readymade templates dominate online properties.
A well written coded website or even just HTML will always be faster that a platform designed to do many things for many people. If you have any doubt about this, look at the source code of a bespoke website, maybe a competitor then the source code of a WordPress developed site and he difference could be huge, especially when extra code from the designer plugin and template is added.
Of course, in a world where regular new content is important to SEO rankings, database driven content management will push a business away form static HTML and towards something like WordPress.
Avoid WordPress Design Plugins Such As Elementor (Maybe)
OK, there are some who maybe will get angry I have said this and will argue, if you add this cache plugin and remove this CSS you can get Elementor based sites to load fast. Maybe you can and this is all true! All I am saying that for the time saving design benefits you gain, I always lost more time trying to get the site to load as fast as I wanted. This is just my opinion, and you will find many who disagree with me.
Of course, it all depends on what base template you are starting with and how much advanced design stuff is being added. On saying this there are still bits and bobs I add using certain web design plugins, WP-Bakery and the like. But not the full site and I will do most input with Gutenberg.
Again, add to your strategy speed tests as different types of pages are added to the overall site during development. Do not wait until the end to find out you have a slow loading site.
Consider Using Oxygen For WordPress
This is a design plugin that has been created with speed in mind and many web design agencies exclusively use Oxygen as their main design tool. I used this tool for around 18 months, found it hard to get used to, but in the end didn’t really like the results. Then when Gutenberg was added to the later versions of WordPress, the advantage of using Oxygen fell away for my type of website.
I have found that some templates such as “Divi” using Gutenberg only to design, is just as fast as Oxygen. As I find it easier to use, I no longer use Oxygen at all. But this does not mean it will not be right for you, get involved in Oxygen forums and Facebook pages, it may still be the best solution for your web project.
My strategy is not set in stone, if something comes along that is easier to use and faster, I will consider changing.
Using CSS Minify and Cache Plugins
Once you have a WordPress site up and running, there are some plugins that can help speed up your website. They do this by presenting a cached version of the page in question, also by reducing the amount of CSS used by the browser.
There are many out there and it is best to try a few, many are free.
WP Total Cache
WP Super Cache
WP Fastest Cache
Do not take anyone’s word to which is the fastest for you. I have been told many times WP Rocket is the fastest, but it hasn’t always been. In fact, WP Fastest Cache, is the plugin I use the most, yet never ranked number one in any of the top 10 best plugin type reviews.
I find it a good strategy to test them all on each site. It only takes a few minutes to add and delete each plugin. Then do a speed test on each.
Using A CDN (Content Delivery Network)
This may seem a bit over the top, buying hosting then having the website delivered from a “Content Delivery Network” such as Cloudflare. For many it works very well, a CDN will deliver your content faster than many servers. I have only used the free version Cloudflare, but never really got much better speed scores than live with my server. If the site is designed with speed in mind and have the right hosting, I am not sure why a CDN would be needed.
Of course, a CDN such as Cloudflare can be a saviour if time and money has gone into a website, and it just will not load fast. A CDN in that situation could be the solution. Using a paid CDN service could also deliver even faster results.
Test Using Google Fonts On And Off
There may be other ways of presenting the font you want, investigate the options.
Google Analytics Code
There have so many times when the google analytics code has slowed down the page load time sufficiently enough to be concerned. Try with code and without, try using an includes file to se if it quicker. Also Facebook and social media follow me type buttons can slow a page down.
How To Test Your Website For Load Speed
The two biggest online websites to visit to test speeds are
The former is a Google service, so is the one I use, and it defaults to mobile load speeds more important in a Mobile first environment.
The later gives more detailed information on how to speed up your site, but defaults to desktop speeds in the free version.
A good strategy is to test your competitors also, to see where they stand on load speeds. If all your competition has relatively low speeds, then this could be an opportunity, or if they are fast, you know your site will be on the backfoot, until the speeds are matched.
Google has a Cloud API service suitable for developers, that can and will increase load speeds. But never used it as I don’t need it. But if you have a large project it is worth investigating.