In 2018, Google decided to make site speed an organic search ranking factor. Other search engines also factor in speed to determine rankings. What does that mean for SEO? In short, speed matters. So, if you’re looking for quick and easy ways to speed things up, keep reading to learn how to speed up your WordPress site.
Turn on gzip compression
Turning on gzip compression increases file transfer speeds and can be an easy win that improves your website performance. To enable this functionality, you’ll need to make some changes to your .htaccess file. If your web host has an online knowledge base, there’s a good chance they have some content about how to enable gzip compression. If they don’t have a knowledge base, and you’re not sure how to get to the .htaccess file to enable gzip compression, reach out to your hosting support. They should be able to help you with the setup.
Minify, minify, minify!
Minifying code is about removing the fluff. Developers call this minification. Minification cuts large spaces, line breaks, and comments from your pages’ source code. It can be helpful for overall site speed.
How do you minify your source code? There are plenty of high-quality WordPress plugins that’ll set up and maintain minification for you. Always make sure you use a plugin from the official WordPress plugins website. Using a plugin that’s “off the grid” could slow down your website performance or worse, compromise website security.
Keep WordPress and plugins up-to-date
On the topic of plugins: Always update WordPress and active plugins. Running outdated versions could bog down your site, so you’ll want to make sure you’re keeping things up-to-date.
You may have heard some in the WordPress community say it’s helpful to hold off on updates because new versions might have bugs that need to be worked out. Sometimes, new versions of WordPress or new versions of a plugin might have bugs. That is true. In my experience, however, problems are quickly discovered and fixed internally. With all of that said, I still think keeping both WordPress core and all active plugins updated is key to delivering a fast website-visitor experience.
Be smart with plugins
We’re still talking about plugins? We are but stay with me. Plugins are one of the best things about using WordPress. Whether you’re using a free or premium version, plugins bring new functionality to a website quickly—usually with both quality and scale.
Using some plugins can help improve website performance, but if you’re too many, it could start to negatively impact your website. If your list of active plugins is quite lengthy, and you’ve noticed your website isn’t performing well, it may be time for an inventory of what’s needed or not needed.
I mentioned this above, but I cannot stress it enough: Always make sure you use a plugin from the official WordPress plugins website. Your site performance and security depend on it.
Push pause on those unneeded tags
I love Google Tag Manager. It’s one of the tools I recommend implementing immediately when working with new clients who don’t have it set up yet. It allows you to be so versatile with digital marketing and makes setup tasks easy. Sometimes, it can make optimization easy.
I’ve run several pay-per-click campaigns (for Expander Digital) on a lot of different platforms: Twitter, Google Ads, Facebook, etc. Many of those platforms ask you to set up a pixel on your website so you can track the performance of a campaign. Google Tag Manager makes that incredibly easy. However, with so many tracking tags on your website, it can affect performance.
Last year I partnered with a colleague to optimize our website and improve its performance. Through that process, we discovered that pixels were causing increased load time. I had active pixels on our website from platforms where I didn’t have an active campaign. With Google Tag Manager, I was able to pause those tags, and stop those pixels from loading on our website. This resulted in an increase in website performance!
If you’re not using Google Tag Manager, but have pixels or tracking tags on your website, either in your code or through a plugin, consider turning off ones not in use. You may experience a lift in speed.
Go after the low-hanging fruit and get some quick wins for your website. Implementing some of these best practices can help speed up your WordPress website and improve your SEO. If you want to go a step further, check out our timeless tips on WordPress SEO.