Case Study: WordPress Website Speed Optimisation

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Once digital marketing campaigns are implemented, one of the aspects that website owners continuously improve is their website’s design. But aside from that, there is one more thing that website owners should really focus on and that is their website’s page speed. But how important is website speed optimisation really?

Just put it like this: no matter how high your website ranks or how attractive the design is, if your website takes too long to load, website visitors will lose interest. It doesn’t take long for website visitors to lose their interest if they’re browsing on slow-loading website pages.

Page speed is the measurement of how fast your website’s content loads. So, if you want to get the full potential out of your website, page speed should be among the aspects that you should be working on. It will benefit your website to further increase its rankings and make it profitable.
 

Why is it important to improve your website’s page speed?

  • Improving your website’s page speed will be beneficial for your website’s rankings on SERPs. One of the factors used by Google’s algorithm in ranking websites is the website’s speed. When your website has slow page speed, search engines can only crawl a lesser number of pages with a given crawl budget. And, since it only crawled lesser number pages on your website, it will negatively affect the way your website is indexed.
  • If the contents of your website loads slow, your website’s bounce rate will increase. A bounce rate refers to the percentage of website visitors who click the ‘Back’ button or close the window after they visited a page of the website. A person will quickly become uninterested to continue browsing on your website if it takes more time for the contents to load. They’ll either click the ‘Back’ button and go to your competitor’s websites or close the window. They’ll think that it’s just a waste of time to wait for a website that takes time to load when there are other websites that can load much faster. Google regularly keeps track of a website’s traffic and if Google has measured that the majority of traffic is leaving within 5 seconds, a website will no longer be in the first page of SERPs. The first page of SERPs lists plenty of websites but being on the first page doesn’t guarantee that a website is of good quality if the majority of its visitors will leave within 5 seconds from viewing just a page of the website. It’s probably safe to say that such websites are not really good.
  • A faster page speed will increase your website’s rate of traffic conversions. If every person visiting your website hasto wait for your website’s content to load, you’re not just losing website visitors but you are also losing potential clients. It will benefit your business if your website will load fast. Your website visitors will surely be delighted and interested in scrolling through other pages of the website. Strange Loop has done a study about it, and they have found out that a second delay in loading a website’s content could cost a company 7% of its sales. And businesses in the online shopping industry can be affected by it as most people will no longer complete the purchase if the website takes a lot of time to load.
  • Happy website visitors. Having happy website visitors will increase the chance of having happy clients. If you like people to look through your website and purchase your products or talk to you about the services you offer, you need to make an effort in improving your website’s page speed. If a person has to wait for all the contents of the website to load, that person will not hesitate to visit another website. Having a faster page speed will make user experience better and there are plenty of plugin options out there to help increase user experience . It’s really essential, particularly if you want your website visitors, especially first timers, to have a good impression as first impressions last. So, if your website visitors will need to wait for your website’s content to load, particularly on their very first visit, they will have negative impressions off your website. The next time that they search for something on Google and your website appears on the list, they will just ignore it and will not visit it again because they already have that impression that visiting your website is just a waste of their precious time.

 

Case Study: Website of Digital Search Group UK

In this case study, we are going to work on the website of Digital Search Group (DSG) UK. Digital Search Group is known for providing one of the leading SEO services in London. Since the website will be visited by prospective clients to check the services that the company has to offer, the website has to be optimised to make it faster and to improve user satisfaction of their website visitors.
 

Tools used to monitor Page Speed

Before you start to optimise a website, you need to check the status of the website because this will help you to assess the amount of work that needs to be done to solve the issues of your website.

For this case study, we’ll check the status of Digital Search Group’s UK website.

There are two tools that you can use for checking the status of your website particularly its page speed. These tools are Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom.

  • Google PageSpeed Insights

MOBILE RESULTS –For DSG UK, its mobile speed result is only 72 points.

page speed

DESKTOP RESULTS – The desktop result for DSG UK´s website is 82 points.

pagespeed desktop

Just by looking at these results, we already know that the website really needs some improvements especially on its page speed.

  • Pingdom

Pingdom is a tool that helps you monitor the uptime and downtime of your website, which is helpful in tracking changes in its performance.

For the DSG UK website, it has received a performance grade of 92 out of 100, 152 requests, 3.37 seconds of load time for its 1.3MB page size.

pingdom website speed test

The results seem to be good enough but you can still work on it to make it much faster.
 

Ways to Improve Page Speed of a WordPress Website

There are 9 major ways to improve the page speed of your WordPress website. DSG UK is hosted in WordPress so we will be using it as an example.

1. Create a backup of your website.
Since you need to apply major changes to your website, it is very important to create a backup of the website. To create a backup in the most convenient way, you can install the ‘Backup’ plugin which is a free backup and restoration tool.

backup

By creating a backup of your website, you can easily restore its previous version if ever you’ve made a mistake or any drastic changes that ruined your website. Restoring the previous version of your website is better than creating a new website from scratch.2.

2. Create a good foundation for your website.
In order to have a good foundation for your website, you have to consider your web hosting provider and the theme for your WordPress website.

For the web hosting provider, you need to ensure that you choose a provider that’s reliable. There are plenty of web hosting plans from various web hosting providers that you can choose from. Choose the plan which you think will fit with what you need and what you prefer.

seo 1

A shared hosting provider can be a good option. A shared hosting plan costs from $3 to $9 a month. This plan is really cheaper compared to other plans available. Still, you should know that there will be hundreds of websites that will be sharing the same server as you do; resources will be shared with other websites too.

Another option is a virtual private server. Virtual private servers are virtual machines with internet hosting service. Virtual private servers allocate a certain amount of CPU and RAM for every website it has. These servers usually cost from $15 to $60 a month. Its price depends on the CPU speed and the RAM capacity.

If you prefer to have a private hosting, you can get a dedicated server. Every website will have a server of its own. This means that the entire server will be yours and resources don’t have to be shared anymore. Such a web hosting plan costs from $100 to $500 a month.

If you are already satisfied with your web hosting provider, the next thing you need to do is to select an ideal WordPress theme for your website. For better page speed, it is recommended to avoid themes that contain plenty of images because these images consume bandwidth and will take some time to load.

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Once you’ve applied changes on the theme, test it for any coding errors. Use the previously mentioned tools, Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom, to know the load speed of the new theme. With the new theme applied, its Pingdom load speed result has to be 2 seconds or below. In Google PageSpeed Insights, it should have a score of 85 points or higher.

3. Optimise the images in your website.
High resolution images can affect your page speed because usually, these images take time to load completely.

Install WP Smush plugin in order to optimise your website’s images with ease. The plugin is a great tool for reducing image files which? can benefit in improving your website’s performance and in boosting SEO.

wp smush

When you upload any image, you need to be certain that you select the correct file type for the image. If an image is rich with colours with no transparency, save it as a .JPEG file. Save it as a .GIF file if the image has flat colours. For flat coloured images with transparency, a PNG8 file type should be used. For images with transparency that are rich coloured, save it as a PNG24 file.

digital search

Website owners usually use JPEG and PNG file types for the images on their website. If your image includes people and things, you can save it as .JPEG file. If you want to have clear images, like charts and screenshots, save it as a PNG file.

Again, if you will place high resolution images on your website, these can consume bandwidth. If uploading high resolution images cannot be avoided then you can just lazy load the images. This process helps save bandwidth and will make your website load faster at the same time. In order for you to do lazy load images, install the plugin BJ Lazy Load.

bj lazy load

To further improve your website’s page load speed, try to lessen the number of slider or banner images in your website. Remember that when someone visits your website, they will not wait to see all of the images you’ve placed on the slider as most website visitors will just check your products or services.

In the image below, you will see that the slider of the DSG UK website has been decreased into just 3 images.

dsg

A tip to maintain quality images: look for large resolution images and reduce its image size if possible. By doing so, you can have a higher quality image compared to having a small resolution image and enlarging its size. Bear in mind that if you over-enlarge images, it will appear pixelated and that will not be appealing to your website visitors.

You can also reduce the image’s file size by using CSS image sprites. Image sprites are a collection of images which have been combined into a single image or file. This is commonly done for smaller-sized images. These combined images have been aligned properly so they won’t overlap one another.

If you use multiple images in your website, you can really benefit from using image sprites. By using image sprites, only one image will be loaded for multiple parts of your website. And, you can choose which part of the image to show by using CSS code.

4. Minify the code files of your website.
In order to minify the code files of your WordPress website, you can combine and compress several files into one. Check your website’s HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files. If your website has about 10 JavaScript files, combine them into a single file. If your CSS files have multiple lines then compress a few lines into just one line.

css

As shown in the example, its normal CSS file is about 16KB in size. After minifying the file, it is already 6.6KB in size. And, the minified CSS file still functions the same as the normal CSS file. It’s similar to asking a few things but receiving more than what you’re asking for.

One thing to remember is that before minifying your website’s files, check if it’s compatible. Before making any changes to your code, it is recommended to check that you won’t ruin the code of your website as it will be the cause for your website to malfunction. You should also ensure that the workflow of your code is still understandable, just in case you’re going to do more changes in the future.

5. Leverage browser caching for your website.
Browser caching is a method where you save several website files into a website visitor’s browser. It may take some time before your entire website loads during their first visit but when they revisit your website, everything will load faster because of browser caching.

With browser caching, the browser will download lesser number of files so the website will only make fewer requests to the server. Thus, your website’s pages will load faster.

To help you with this process, you can install W3 Fastest Cache plugins.

wp fastest cache

6. Uninstall unused plugins and WordPress themes.
You may have installed plugins and WordPress themes you no longer use. These will still take space on your storage. You can deactivate those that you will no longer use and have them deleted.

In order for you to know if you have unused plugins or WordPress themes, proceed to your website’s admin dashboard. Click ‘Plugins’ and proceed to ‘Installed Plugins’. This contains the list of plugins you have installed in your WordPress website. If you’ve noticed that some of the plugins are no longer of use, they should be deactivated and deleted.

If you decide to replace some plugins with a better version, make sure to choose plugins that are updated frequently and have received positive ratings and reviews from users. You can check that information at the ‘Last Updated’ section of the plugin.

plugin

If your plugins are not as efficient as they used to be, it’s recommended to delete them and install newer versions of them. If you want to know the status of your plugins’ performance, install the plugin called P3 Performance Plugin. The plugin creates performance reports of your website through detailed graphs and charts of a plugin’s runtime.

p3seo5seo 6

For WordPress themes that you still keep, thinking that they’ll be of use in the future, it’s much better to just delete them. They will just use up storage space plus you can still get better themes than that.

Go to your WordPress admin dashboard, click ‘Appearance’ and proceed to ‘Themes’. Check for any unused themes. Delete them to free some space on your storage.

seo 7

7. Place your social media icons in the appropriate place.
If you place your social media icons in the right place of your website, it will be easier for users to share your content to their social media pages. People are taking advantage of social media to promote their businesses online. And, undoubtedly, if you want your content to be shared on social media pages and other platforms then you need to add social media icons to your website.

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8. Optimise the database of your website.
Optimising the database of your website doesn’t just take time but it also takes a lot of effort. To clean the database, several queries have to be done. To do that the convenient way, install the WordPress plugin called WP-Optimize.

Using the WP-Optimize plugin, manual queries to your database will no longer be done. In just a few clicks you can check your database and remove spam comments, post revisions and other unnecessary stuff that occupies your website’s storage space. The plugin also allows you to schedule database optimisation. It will run automatically ensuring that your database is regularly cleared of any unnecessary stuff.

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TAKE NOTE: Back up your database before optimising it. You may make unnecessary changes that can affect the functionality of your website. It’s recommended to keep a backup as you may regret that you’ve ruined your database.

9. Check for other items to optimise.
Check your server as it may contain unnecessary files. Go to your web host’s File Manager panel or to the FTP client. If there are files you no longer need, delete them.

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If, even after all the steps you’ve done, your WordPress website doesn’t load that fast, the reason of that might be the number of posts that appear on your home page. Try to lessen the number of posts because it will really consume a lot of bandwidth when loading all that content. So, there’s always a tendency for your page load speed to be slow.

An additional helpful tip would be to update your plugins and WordPress versions to the latest one. By updating it, you can apply the latest changes made on WordPress and on the plugins. Most updates made, come with additional features that can be very helpful to your WordPress website.

To update your WordPress version, go to the admin dashboard and click ‘Updates’. On that page, you will see if there is a newer version of WordPress. If there is, apply the updates. For your plugins, click ‘Plugins’. On this page, you will see a list of installed plugins. Apply updates to any plugins that need to be updated.

After all those changes have been applied, check all of the pages and functionalities of your website. You may find some errors that you’ve missed while you were optimising your website. Take note of these errors to ensure that you will be able to fix all issues found.
 

Results and Conclusion

Re-check the performance of your website using the tools as previously mentioned.

In this study, we will check if there are improvements to Digital Search Group UK’s website after we’ve optimised it.

PINGDOM RESULTS

seo 11

The new results show, the page size still remains at 1.3MB, but from 3.37 seconds of load time, the website can now load in just 1.43 seconds. The steps done on the website have really improved the website’s page load speed.

GOOGLE PAGESPEED INSIGHTS RESULTS

Desktop Results:

seo 13

Mobile Results:

seo 14

In the Desktop results, the website previously got 82 points out of 100. Now, it is already 88 points. For the Mobile results, the website was given 72 points out of 100. After it was optimised, its mobile result is now 78 points.

The latest results indicate that there is a lesser number of issues to be fixed when you compare it to the previous results. As the issues are continuously fixed, the page load speed of the website will gradually improve.

Visitors of your website will be satisfied and will have a good browsing experience if your website loads fast. If you have satisfied website visitors then there will be a high possibility for them to become satisfied clients.

Optimising your website regularly will help you maintain your place on top pages of SERPs. Not only will you increase brand awareness, you can also gain more income for your business.

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Joe Ryan

Joe Ryan is the founder and CEO of Digital Search Group, a U.K. online marketing agency that specializes in smart Internet marketing. He is a specialist in online marketing strategy and brand building. When he’s not considering the next best online marketing strategy with his team, he enjoys travel and spending time with his family.

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