Ultimate Guide to Page Speed Optimisation for WordPress

In this guide:


Aside from having an effective SEO campaign, another thing that you might focus on when working on a site is having an appealing web design. But, one of the things that most site owners overlook is page speed. What’s the point of having a high ranking site and an appealing design if your site takes too much time to load? Your site’s visitors are sure to lose their interest when browsing your site because of it.

When you talk about page speed, it is simply the measurement of how fast your site’s content loads. So, when you talk about page optimisation, your page speed is also one of the things that you should be working on. It is one of the factors that can contribute to having a higher ranking and a profitable site.

What Makes Page Speed Important to Your Site?

  • Page speed helps increase your site’s ranking on SERPs. Google has indicated that one of the signals being utilised by its algorithm in ranking pages is the site speed. Slow page speed means that search engines can only crawl fewer pages with the given crawl budget. and given that there are only a few pages on your site that were crawled, it could have a negative effect on how your site is indexed.
  • Slow page speed will decrease your site’s bounce rate. Bounce rate pertains to the percentage of visitors to your site who click the back button or close the window after having only visited one page. When a person clicks on a link going to your site and it takes a few more seconds for your page to load, they will lose interest in continuing to browse your site. They will just click the “Back” button and look through your competitors’ sites rather than wasting time on your site that takes time to load. Google tracks the traffic of the site and if Google measures that most of the traffic of the site leaves within 5 seconds then it won’t keep that site on the first page of SERPs anymore. There may be a lot of sites on the first page of SERPs but it’s not a guarantee that they are all good if most of their visitors leave within 5 seconds of viewing one page. It would be safe to say that these sites are not that good.
  • Faster page speed increases conversion rate. When your site visitors deal with your slow-loading pages, you are sure to slowly lose potential clients as well. It is really beneficial for your business to have a site that loads fast. It will make your visitors happy and keep their interest to browse on the other pages of your site. In a study done by Strange Loop, they have found that having just a second delay of loading your site’s content can cost your business 7 percent of its sales. For those who are in the online shopping industry, most people will not complete their purchase when a site takes time to load.
  • Happy visitors. Having happy visitors could potentially turn into happy clients. If you want more people to browse your site and purchase your product or contact you regarding your services, you should put effort into making your site load faster. If visitors will have to deal with a site that seems to take forever to load, they will not hesitate to go to another site. Faster page speed will improve user experience. This is important especially for first time visitors as we all know that first impressions last. So, if first time site visitors have to wait for your site’s content to load, their impression is not going to be positive. The next time your site appears on the search Results, there is a possibility that they might not click on it again as they already have the impression that the site takes too much time to load.

Case Study: Digital Search Group’s UK Website

For this discussion, we will be working on Digital Search Group’s UK‘s site.

Tools for Monitoring Page Speed

Before optimising a site, you have to check the status of the site as this will help you in evaluating how much work should be done to it.

In this case, we will see the status of Digital Search Group’s site.

Google PageSpeed Insights

This tool is part of the Google Webmaster Tools. You can access it by logging in to your Google Webmaster Tools account and choosing the website that you want to work on.

Mobile Results: In accordance to Google’s standards, having 85 points or more is a good indication that your site is working well. The site’s mobile speed is just 72 points out of 100.

Mobile results

Desktop Results: The site’s Desktop Results is 82 points out of 100. The site needs a few improvements.

Desktop results


Pingdom monitors the uptime and downtime of websites helping you in keeping track of its performance.

Steps to Optimise Page Speed for WordPress Sites

There are nine main steps that can help in improving the page speed of WordPress sites.

1. Backup your site

Before doing major changes to your site, making a backup of it is really important. You can backup your site easily by installing the ‘Backup’ plugin. Backup is a free backup and restoration tool that you can take advantage of.

-	Backup your site

It is important to create a backup of your site because it helps you easily restore the previous version should you make mistakes or any drastic changes that could ruin your site. Restoring it to its previous version is probably better than doing it all over again from scratch.

2. Create a good site foundation

When you talk about a site’s foundation, you are dealing with the web hosting provider as well as the theme of your WordPress site.

When it comes to having a web hosting provider for your site, make sure that you choose one that’s reliable. You can take advantage of the different web hosting plans from different providers. Choose a plan that will fit with your needs and preferences.

Choose a plan that will fit with your needs and preferences

Make sure you keep an eye on this Uptime report (as well as hosting stats) to stay away from hosting providers with huge downtime:

Downtime report sitegeek

You can go with a shared hosting provider. Shared hosting usually costs between 3 to 9 USD per month. So, it’s actually cheaper than other hosting plans. But, remember that there are hundreds of sites that will be sharing that server so resources will also be shared.

Virtual private servers are also available. They are like virtual machines that come with an internet hosting service. In a virtual private server, there is an allocated amount of CPU and RAM for every site. It could cost 15 to 60 USD per month. The price is based on the speed of its CPU and the capacity of its RAM.

Another option is to take advantage of a dedicated server. Each site will be assigned to each server. and, the best thing about this is that the entire server will be yours so there’ll be no sharing of resources. This web hosting can cost between 100 and 500 USD each month.

Use Pingdom or Monitority to get instantly updated as soon as your site is down

Site down

Use Cyfe (that supports Pingdom) to archive my downtime reports and analyze them over time. Cyfe Pingdom widgets includes and archives the following metrics to measure your website performance:

  • Status Overview
  • Status Check
  • Performance Overview
  • Uptime
  • Downtime
  • Response Time
  • Alert Log
  • Outage Log
  • Test Result Log
  • + You can create multiple widgets for multiple domains to monitor the performance of multiple sites on one dashboard:


When you’re already confident with the web hosting provider you’ve chosen, choose a good WordPress theme for your site. It is best if you will refrain from using WordPress themes that are heavy on images as it can consume bandwidth and would take time to load.

refrain from using WordPress themes that are heavy on images as it can consume bandwidth and would take time to load.

Do not forget to test them for coding errors. Use the tools (Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom) check the load speed of the newly applied theme. The load speed should at least be 2 seconds and below. For Google PageSpeed Insights, make sure that the site, using the new theme, receives a score of 85 points or higher.

Page Speed tool will show you which elements of your page actually slow your site down.

Page Speed tool

3. Optimise your site’s images

Most of the time, high resolution images take time to load, affecting your page speed.

To optimise your site’s images, you can install the WP Smush plugin which works great in reducing image files to boost SEO which in return can significantly improve your site’s performance.

WP Smush plugin

When uploading images, make sure that you choose the correct image file type. When the image is rich in colours and has no transparency, use JPEGs for it. GIFs fit images with flat colours. If you’ll add flat coloured images with transparency, save that as PNG8 files. When your image has transparency and is rich with colours, use PNG24 as its format.

PNG24 as its format

Most of the time, site owners make use of JPEGs and PNGs as file types for their images. For images of people and things, save it as JPEGs. and, for images you prefer to be seen clearly like charts and screenshots, save these images as PNGs.

If you are going to add high resolution images to your site, you should be aware that it could consume bandwidth. By lazy loading such images, it will not just save bandwidth but will also make your site load faster. To do that, you can install the BJ Lazy Load plugin.

BJ Lazy Load plugin.

Aside than lazy loading your site’s images, you can also lessen the number of banner/slider images in your site. Besides, not all people will be able to see all the images in the slideshow. They will focus more on the products or services that you are offering. As you can see in the illustration below, the slider of the site has been reduced into 3 images only.

use PNG24 as its format

If you want to have quality images, you can look for large resolution images and reduce it into a smaller size, if possible. This will create a better quality for images rather than using a small resolution image and over-enlarging it. Doing that will just make the images appear pixelated and will not look good especially in the eyes of your site visitors.

To further reduce the file size of the images, you can take advantage of CSS image sprites. Image sprites are basically a collection of images that are combined into a single image. Usually, these are done for smaller images. In combining these images, it doesn’t mean that it will look like a single overlapping image, but rather will be aligned in a way that they won’t overlap.

Image sprites are helpful as your site doesn’t need to load multiple images in one time. With image sprites, you only have to load a single image for multiple parts of your site. and, with the use of CSS, you can specify which part of the image you want to show.

4. Minifying your site’s code files

Minifying your site’s code involves combining and compressing it into a lesser number of files. Check the HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files of your WordPress sites. For example, your site might have ten JavaScript files, which can be combined into a single file. And your CSS files may have multiple lines, which can be compressed into a single line.

 Minifying your site's code files

In the example, its normal CSS file is 16KB in size; after it was minified, it has been reduced to 6.6 KB only and it functions the same as the previous CSS file. It’s like asking for fewer things and receiving more from what you’ve asked.

Take note: Before you decide to minify such files, make sure to check if it’s compatible. It’s important to make sure that it won’t ruin your codes and make your site malfunction. Other than that, be certain that you can still understand the workflow of your code in case you will be making changes to it in the future.

5. Leverage browser caching of your WordPress site

Browser caching means saving some of your site’s files into the site visitor’s browser. If they visit your site for the first time, it may take time to load but when they revisit the site, it will load faster.

When you leverage browser caching, the amount of files that the browser will be downloading becomes lesser so fewer requests will be made to the server. In return, this will increase page load speed. You can install the W3 Fastest Cache Plugin for this step.

Leverage browser caching of your WordPress site

6. Delete plugins and WP themes that are not used

Keeping unused plugins and WP themes will just take up too much space. It is best to deactivate and delete unused plugins that you’ve been keeping for a long time.

To check that, go to the admin dashboard of your site. Go to ‘Plugins’ and click on ‘Installed Plugins’. Check the plugins that you’ve installed on your WordPress site. If these plugins are of no use, deactivate and delete them.

If you’re going to install new plugins, make sure that you will be choosing those that are frequently updated and were given positive ratings and reviews. Check the ‘Last Updated’ section to see if the plugin has been updated recently.

-	Delete plugins and WP themes that are not used

If some plugins are slow, it is best to delete them and replace them with faster versions. To easily check your plugins’ performance, you can install the P3 Performance Profiler Plugin. The P3 Performance Profiler plugin can create a performance report of your site like a detailed graph and a chart on the plugin runtime.

The P3 Performance Profiler

With regards to the WP themes, if you are still keeping those that are not in use, it is best to delete them. In the admin dashboard of your WordPress site, go to ‘Appearance’ and click ‘Themes’. You may have a number of themes that are still installed. Check it and delete them to free up some space.

‘Appearance’ and click ‘Themes’

7. Use appropriate social media buttons

Placing your social media buttons in the right place makes it easier for users to share content from your site.

Social media has been very important when it comes to digital marketing. and, there’s no doubt that one of the best ways to have content shared in social media and other online platforms is by adding social buttons on your site.

 Use appropriate social media buttons

8. Optimise your site’s database

Optimising your site’s database takes time as you still have to do queries in order to clean it up. If you want to do that easily, you can install the WP-Optimize plugin.

With the plugin, you can optimise the database without the need for manual queries. It will remove spam comments, post revisions, and other unimportant stuff that takes too much space in the database. You can also schedule it so it will automatically run, making it easier to optimise your database on a regular basis.

Optimise your site's database

And, always bear in mind to back up your database before you start with the optimisation process. It’s best to keep a backup than regret it afterward by the time your database is already ruined.

9. Perform other necessary optimisations

You can check your server and remove any unnecessary files. You can go to the File Manager of your web host or to the FTP client and see if there are any unnecessary files that can be deleted.

You can check your server and remove any unnecessary files

If you checked your site and it still loads slow, maybe it’s because of the number of posts appearing in the home page. It is best to decrease the number of posts as loading all of that content can just consume bandwidth taking more time before all the content appears.

Updating your plugins and WordPress into the latest version will also be helpful. Updating it means you are applying the latest improvements to the site and plugins. There are some updates which will add more features on your site.

When you sign in to your WordPress admin dashboard, you can check the ‘Updates’ section so that you will know if you already have the updated version of WordPress for your site. For the plugins, go to the ‘Plugins’ section where you will see a list of plugins installed in your site. From there, you can check if there are some plugins that needs to be updated.

Once you’re done applying such changes, make sure to double check the entire website. Make sure that you will be checking all the pages and test its functionalities. If you have found errors, take note of it so that you won’t miss anything by the time you’ll be fixing it.

Results and conclusion

After the site has been optimised, you can check its performance using the tools.

For our sample, we will be checking the performance of Digital Search Group’s UK site after we’ve optimised it.



As you can see, with a page size of 1.3 MB, the load time of the site is now 1.43 seconds. This means that the changes implemented on the site have greatly contributed to improving its page load speed.


Desktop Results:

Desktop results

Mobile Results:

Mobile Results

As you can see, there isn’t much to be changed now compared to before. As you continues fixing these aspects, the site’s page load speed will also continue to improve.

The steps as discussed in the case study are the steps that you can do in order to optimise your site’s page load speed. Making sure that pages of your site will load faster will surely improve your site’s SEO performance.

A site that takes time to load will only give visitors a bad impression and lead them to visiting another site instead. A site that loads fast gives visitors a good experience leaving them feeling satisfied. And when you have satisfied visitors, there’s a high chance for them to convert into satisfied clients.

Keep your place on the first page of SERPs by optimising your site regularly and not only will you increase your brand’s awareness, you will also gain more profits for your company.

Are You Overlooking This Important SEO Factor?

No matter how brilliant an SEO you are, trying to SEO a poorly built website after the fact is a challenge. Wouldn’t it make more sense to make sure the web developer you use understands SEO? The most important SEO factor is to design a site correctly in the first place.

The advent of mobile has made it obvious that many sites are badly designed. Many site owners will have to have their sites redesigned to make them mobile friendly. When choosing a web developer, find one that knows both mobile and SEO.

Strong Demand for SEO Savvy Web Developers

According to this new Freelance Guide, web developers are among the best paid of all freelancers. That is not surprising given Google’s push to rank only mobile friendly sites. Anyone interested in freelancing or hiring a freelancer should check out that guide because it contains thorough advice.

Web developers who understand SEO, responsive design, and are wise enough not to want to custom code everything are worth their weight in gold and all too rare.

Developers who think of themselves as coders often build really awful blogs. Instead of using a quality, professional theme and plugins that already exist, they insist on their own coding – even when they have no eye for design. Avoid these developers or risk truly bad results.

Most ecommerce sites and almost all blogs are best built on existing platforms. Professional themes handle more than just appearance. They are built by teams who know SEO and handle the internal linking and navigation far better than a custom coded site (unless the coder is truly brilliant).

How to Evaluate Web Developers

Professional web designers should have an online portfolio of sites they have built. For example, look at the portfolio page for this major Sydney responsive web design company.

Click through to any of the sites they’ve built and view them on your portable devices. Or use a mobile test site to see how they appear on various size monitors.

Be sure to check multiple sites. Examine the navigation and the design. Do searches in Google and see if the site comes up for the company name and tagline.

Look at the descriptions. View source on the main pages of the site and look at the meta tags. Copy and paste the pages into an html validation service to check for errors.

If the sites in a company’s portfolio are not mobile response or SEO friendly, look for another company.

Web Developers Are Not Necessarily Web Designers

Many business owners do not realize the difference between a web designer and a web developer. A developer installs the framework and plugins. Developers may edit CSS and html. They set up email addresses, security, and how to backup the database.

Developers create excellent sites based on existing themes. Some of them can choose color schemes. They should all be able to adjust the width of the columns and the overall site. They know how to use WordPress and configure it properly.

Blog developers are not necessarily experienced at building ecommerce sites. Some are; some are not. Make sure you hire a developer with experience creating the type of site you want.

Most web developers are not web designers. A designer can create custom imagery. They are graphic artists. If you see a site with rounded corners or a unique header, those are created by web designers. Go to TeamThesis.com to see an example.

How to Find an SEO Savvy Web Developer

The preferred method of finding talent of any kind is to ask people you know if they can recommend anyone. Request an email or Skype introduction and ask for examples of their work and any contracts they use.

If you don’t find anyone directly, do some searches and look at sites. Find some you like that are ranking for keywords in their industry. Look in the footer for their developer’s name or the name of any theme they are using. (Not all sites provide either one.)

View source and search for the word WordPress. If it is an ecommerce site, look for an indication of what ecommerce platform is being used. Call the business and ask them directly. Most won’t mind telling you who built their site.

Remember that the developer may have only SEOed the main pages. If blog posts or product pages do not have SEO information on them, blame the site manager – not the developer. If the main pages are not SEOed, look for a different developer. The most important SEO factor is to design a site correctly in the first place.

How to Aggregate All Your Data into SEO Dashboards

Have you ever missed a client mention or let an SEO project fall through the cracks? We all have, but there are now solutions that make getting organized and staying on top of our complex work lives easier.

While we all know how to set up alerts, receiving them in emails doesn’t make it easy to organize them and share them with clients. Did you know you can pull them all into an All-in-one Cyfe dashboard and track your keyword rankings and backlinks in the same place?

Between that how-to post and the comprehensive instructions Kristi Hines wrote up in this Search Engine Watch managing your SEO clients with Cyfe post, it is possible to monitor everything, pull it into a dashboard, and even export it into good-looking reports for clients.

Monitor Client Brand Mentions

Kristi wrote that Google no longer allows us to monitor brand mentions using RSS. But she provided a process to do it using Cyfe:
  • Use Google blog search
  • Search for brand mentions minus the brand site URL. For example, brand name -brand.com
  • Scroll to the bottom of the search and copy the search result RSS link
  • Use the Cyfe RSS widget to create a latest blog post mentions dashboard

View All Client Gmail Addresses in Cyfe

Do your clients have multiple email addresses (such as info, sales, support, etc.) that you need to monitor? Set up a Cyfe gmail dashboard to review and preview them all in one place.

Running a big promotion? Use Cyfe to count the number of emails coming into an email address set up just for that promotion.

Client SEO Dashboards

Create a dashboard for every client and pull up to 60 metrics from Google Analytics showing traffic sources, audience, conversions, content, ecommerce and events.

Add a Google Webmaster widget and never miss an important notification again. See crawl errors, unread messages, top internal/external keywords and sitemap URLs.

Moz widgets can import a snapshot of domain authority, page authority, MozRank, external links and backlinks, external links for each client website.

Important keyword phrases and URLs can be added as widgets to monitor client SERPs.

Find the Alexa widget and add it, too.

The number of prebuilt widgets available continually grows. If what you want doesn’t already exist (and if it is a major solution it probably does), build a custom widget.

Import Backlinks

Export backlinks from your favorite backlink monitor program and import them into Cyfe.

Export One-Off or Regular Reports

Never manually create reports for clients again. Use Cyfe to export any dashboard as a CSV, PDF, JPG or PNG. Set up a regular schedule to automatically email reports, or send them individually at any time manually. Keep your clients, boss or yourself continually up-to-date.

Expand to Social Media Management

Once you’ve automated all your SEO work, why not expand into managing your client’s social media accounts, too. Cyfe makes it easy to stay on top of them.

They provide widgets for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn YouTube, Google+ Search, Pinterest, Instagram, Bit.ly, Klout, AddThis and much more.

Stay on Top of SEO News

Create RSS feeds right in Cyfe to aggregate all your favorite SEO blogs in one place. Here are some SEO blogs to add to your list:
  • SEOChat
  • Search Engine Watch (SEW)
  • Search Engine Land (SEL)
  • Search Engine Roundtable (SER)
  • Threadwatch.org

Competitor Dashboards

Once you optimize your client dashboards and have them just the way you want them, start adding dashboards for competitors, too. Track their stats, SERPs, and create graphs to compare them to your clients.

Zapier Widgets

Cyfe added 400+ more widgets when they integrated with Zapier. First check to see if there is a pre-built widget. If there isn’t, and you’re not sure how to build your own, it can be easier to “make a zap” than to create one custom.

We all have too much data to keep on top of so why not aggregate it in one place? While it may take some time to get it all pulling correctly, you will be glad when you’re done.