How many times have you seen one or more of the below glorious guides?

  • Climb to first page search rankings by improving the load time by 1 second
  • Decrease load times by 2 ms and increase traffic by 2000%
  • Decrease load time and increase organic traffic [link]
  • Offer speed at the altar of Google God and see all your wishes come true

Most of these articles are targeted at WordPress, the boon and bane of today’s Internet.

WordPress allows millions to have their own good looking blog with cheap resources. With WordPress, you focus on your story and not on how to manage the content.

WordPress is great. I love the fact that it makes it that easy to start a site, and (almost) never worry about the core maintenance. I am ever grateful to see so many voices being published through WordPress.

However, the right tool and platform can be abused as well.

The popularity of WordPress also means proliferation of support infrastructure, that may not always be ideal.

  1. Cheap infrastructure that does not provide sufficient resources for your website to breathe easy
  2. Plugins and themes that are not tested under load
  3. Inadequate or incorrect setup
  4. Beginner errors despite everything else being as savvy as they get

Typically, the tone of such “improve performance and gain nirvana” articles focus on –

  1. Deactivate plugins
  2. Optimise images
  3. Use cache (use plugins, Litespeed etc.)
  4. Use CDN (start with CloudFlare)
  5. Did nothing work? Get another hosting (with an affiliate link thrown in)

Do all that, and the site speed may increase dramatically, incrementally, or not at all, depending on a host of factors.

But, the important thing that started it all may not materialise – your SEO score may stay put at the same level despite the speed increase 🙂

So.. what gives?

Stop looking through the wrong lens

Increase speed of the site by all means, but do it for your readers.

None like a site that takes forever to load. All of us want fast loading sites that present stuff in a jiffy. The catch, however, is that the “stuff” matters quite a bit.

Speed of the site is only one consideration in the long list of things that you could do to improve the user experience.

  • Provide valuable information for the reader
  • Present the information in an easily-digestible format. Bring presentations, video, audio to the party where required (In other words: don’t follow this blog)
  • Make the site look aesthetically pleasing (aesthetics depends on your topic and audience)
  • Load the site fast

What about Google?

Well, Google takes care of itself.

Once you have all the relevant factors and check-boxes checked, Google will take you seriously.

However, since the above statement is highly subjective, Google provides some tools. Google Lighthouse in Chrome browser is a good way to find out just how good your site is.

Lighthouse tells you a quantified score instead of subjectively telling you about the speed. Higher the score, better the user experience.

Since Google cares about good Internet and a great user experience, Google is pleased to rate your site higher in a complex algorithm that also considers speed in the overall usefulness score.

I get all that, but how indeed can I improve WordPress speed?

Sigh.. here are some generic guidelines that I follow.

Deactivate plugins

I think that I need that I absolutely need plugins to fight rogue visitors, create stickers in the comments, enable forum like discussions on any topic, create at least 3 popups to encourage users to subscribe to my glorious newsletter, secure the files on my websites to fight direct linking, and so on.

The fact is – I don’t need them.

I often get back to my websites combing through plugins and filtering out plugins that do not get updates or with reported vulnerabilities. I also check for over-engineered features that I may never need.

I don’t quite have a specific set of plugins to give out as a strict recommendation. I typically tend to use Yoast plugin in all sites, and anything beyond that may become optional from time to time.

Revisit Theme

I have been guilty of choosing a theme based on looks alone (and likely will do that again in a particularly weak moment).

WordPress themes can be badly coded pretty easily, and happily contribute towards slow page loads.

Choose a theme that is easy on the eye, sure, but let them also be respected in the wider world.

While I have used kitchen-sink themes like Sahifa, and recommended a number of affiliate site themes before, I don’t quite stand by them like the free theme – Hueman.

If you are looking at better customisation options and better feature set out of the box –

Images, Fonts, etc.

Compress images for faster page loads. I use ShareX to take screenshots, and optimise images using IrfanView.

Also evaluate if you could live without web fonts.

Caching

Use servers that support LiteSpeed for better caching that does not need your intervention.

If that is not possible, consider W3 Total Cache plugin.

CDN

Use CloudFlare if you are a beginner. If you are advanced, you would have stopped reading by now.

Hosting servers

Yep.. I tell the same thing as thousand other souls. Do test your host and read through others’s tests.

You may not want managed WordPress hosting, or hosting that scales to thousands of users at the very beginning, but consider a decent enough host.

While I use cheaper hosts or VPS nowadays, I have no qualms recommending three shared hosting providers who maintain higher standards.

Try to choose a host that is nearby your target audience, but don’t get too obsessive about that.

I know all this, give me more..

These are the best of times, and worst of times. WordPress can be frustrating for some.

Static WordPress

Have you considered generating static sites and loading the content super fast? Plugins like Simply Static make it really easy to host static WP sites.

Is WordPress right solution for you?

If you have many, many visitors and are not impressed by what WordPress can offer, consider static site generators and a world-class host!

Finis

Hmm.. I think I said all there was to say. I started from a frustration of click baits that try to sell performance improvement as a big SEO booster, and ended preaching some of my own medicine.

Think, and follow a path you are comfortable with – life is exciting with a blog 🙂