February 9, 2017 Kevin

Speeding up your website for SEO

In a previous post I wrote about the need to ensure that your website is mobile responsive (or mobile first) in 2017. At the time I was only looking at how your site looked and how easily it was navigable.

Today I want to talk about speed and how it plays a part in search engine optimisation.

With the increasing use of mobiles comes a demand for faster load times. “where’s the nearest petrol station?”, “what time does Asda close?” Quick questions need quick answers.

But even if your site is not dedicated to delivering a local result to someone on the move you will benefit from having it load faster. In fact, for many websites, faster page load and a security certificate will be the must-haves for 2017.

This website took an eternity to load so I decided to do something about it. This post is just a very quick top-level overview of what I did to fix it up.

how to check if your site is mobile friendly

I mean, it’s not the slowest, but it’s not great.

So here’s what I did to turn those numbers green:

Have a change of themery

My theme seemed to be the biggest culprit. It offered a page builder and some other snazzy options but it had a loootttttt of CSS and js baggage that came with it. So I ditched it.

Choosing a new theme was easy: Twentyseventeen.  I want my site to be widely supported and constantly up-to-date. Using a core theme ensures that I don’t have to wait for an independent developer to integrate the latest advances (if they do at all).

The only difference is the installation of a plugin that gives greater control of the typography as I wanted to use Merriweather and Montserrat; our brand fonts.

Clear out your plugins

Plugins are great, but it’s all too easy to find your plugin library overrun with them. Every plugin brings another batch of CSS and js.

If you thought you wanted to start selling products then didn’t follow through – delete woocommerce. It adds a bucket load of CSS and we’re trying to strip out every byte.

Jetpack? Don’t delete it entirely but whizz through and turn off any functions you’re not using.

Optimise your images

The temptation is to add a massive image and then let the browser resize it to fit the use. But that’s often costly as the file size is still huge.

The best thing to do is to upload your images in the relevant size in the first place. But you’ve probably already got a bunch of images on your site.

To fix mine up I installed the WPMU DEV plugin. This does cost about £50 a month so it’s a big investment (for small companies like ours) but it does the job. And it offers a whole host of other add ons and extensions too. I’ll probably run through it in more detail in a future post.

But for now you need to install WPSMush and use it to compress your images. The lossless savings (file reduction without loss of quality) is impressive.

Minify your CSS and js

Now – if you’re not comfortable with CSS and js. If you’re just using WordPress as an end-user. Don’t try this at home. It can bugger your site.

Minifying CSS essentially means removing blank characters (each character in a text file is a byte, even a blank space).

To get the biggest savings, CSS is minified and combined so your site only calls one CSS file rather than many.

But, you can also move CSS to the foot of your page, so it loads after the content. Google likes this. But often your visitors won’t, as your site will look like crap until the page has finished loading.

I’m not even going to bother with a step-by-step guide. Frankly, if you don’t do this sort of thing often, you’re on a hiding to nothing!

What did it do to my site?

Well, after I took all of these actions things got a whole lot better. A lot better.

my site loader much faster after making the changes

I know I’ve made it sound super-easy. Bish, bash, bosh – site speed in the 90s. Yay!

It’s not. Obviously if you need to do certain things with your site you’ll need to spend time testing different themes. But it is worth it. This will matter more and more when it comes to rankings and if you don’t do anything now you’ll be playing catch up later.

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