Everyone knows that a website needs to be optimised to rank better, but where do you start?
There’s little point in having a stunning website if no one ever sees it, and website optimisation (site speed) is one of the (many) ways that you can help your website rank higher in search results.
If you have a WordPress site, there are many different aspects of it that you can optimise, but they might not all be quick and easy fixes.
1. Optimise your WordPress theme
If your website is using a premium or off-the-shelf theme, make sure that it is running the most recent version, this is likely to be the most optimised version of the theme and should help optimise your site.
If your theme is really complex, and you are using it for a small site, or simply using only a few of its functions, you may be loading more files than you need all the time – turning off functions or moving to a more streamlined theme can significantly improve your site. You may even wish to consider a bespoke WordPress theme design to improve things even further.
2. Check your WordPress plugins
If you’ve 100s of plugins installed on your site, it’s going to slow it down. Deactivate any plugins you are not using and then remove any deactivated plugins.
3. Optimise your WordPress database
There are plugins that can optimise your WordPress database by cleaning it and removing anything that is not required. WP Rocket is a good example of one of these plugins and you should use it regularly to keep your database lean and fast.
4. Benchmark your hosting
GT Metrix, Google Page Speed and other apps can check your site for free. They will give you a breakdown of potential issues on your site.
The ones to look for here are slow page loading speeds and slow server response times.
If you are getting flags here there is a good chance that your hosting is not right for your site.
This does not mean your hosting is bad, it probably means your site is either too big or uses too many resources for your site.
5. Streamline your media library
Huge amounts of images and media stored on your server can slow it down further.
Remove any images from your media library that you are not using and make sure you upload optimised images or use an image optimisation plugin to crunch the images down in size and delete the original uploads.
Unlimited storage on a server is a myth, the more you upload, the slower it will get unless you make sure your hosting matches your site’s requirements.
You can also consider a CDN, which stands for Content Delivery Network. This can serve-up images for your site from different locations, but it does not remove images from your media library.
You also want to make sure your site is serving up optimised images on the front end too.
6. Watch your font usage
If your site uses lots of different fonts, this too can slow it down. Try to use system fonts for your website (Helvetica, Arial etc) or if this is not possible, use Google Fonts (et al) sparingly.
Every font is a resource that needs to be loaded, so too many can slow your site down further.
7. Use a caching plugin
As mentioned above, WP Rocket is an excellent caching plugin. It can combine your CSS and JS files into single files, remove your unsued CSS or inline your above-the-fold CSS, but again, this is something that needs to be done carefully as it can break scripts and render your site useless if not used correctly.
8. Remove unused CSS
This is a little bit of a developer-only option, but on top of using a caching plugin, you can also manually go through your CSS to remove anything that is not needed.
If your site has lots of custom CSS added, it may be legacy so it could be removed.
This tip should be approached with great caution as you can change how your site looks.
9. Move your DNS
Services like Cloudflare can speed up your site simply by moving your DNS to them. This works by using their DNS servers together with their own cache, and other clever stuff to serve up static copies of your pages so they load a lot faster.
DNS changes should not be entered into lightly, so if you don’t have experience in managing DNS, get in touch.
10. Check your PHP version on the server
If you are running old versions of PHP (lower than version 7) then this will slow your site down.
Newer versions of PHP run quicker and speed up your site, but your theme may have problems on newer versions of PHP if it contains legacy code; a PHP update can take your site offline, so again, proceed with extreme caution here.
If you really want to technically optimise your website, an additional tip is to get a monthly WordPress maintenance plan in place to improve your website and keep it there with regular updates and optimisation work.
If in doubt, speak to the experts.
It’s possible to spend hours trying to optimise your site if you don’t have experience in doing so.
There is also the risk that you can may some small changes and break everything, so if you want to get everything optimised, it’s best to work with a team that has experience.
Before you attempt any changes on your website, make sure you have a one-click restorable backup on hand if the worst happens.
Dave is Toast’s Managing Director and also heads up the digital team. He’s been a designer, illustrator and WordPress designer/developer for over 25 years and has worked on various projects across many industry sectors. Dave’s primary area of focus nowadays is website planning, design and UX, SEO and website optimisation, which makes a real positive difference to businesses bottom lines.