With Google making page speed a part of their ranking factor for mobile searches and the sobering reality that 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, the page load speed of your blog is critical to getting more traffic and boosting revenue.
In this guide, I’m going to show you step by step what I did to make my blog load in 1 second.
The new industry standard for page speed used to be around 3 seconds. But now, Google’s John Mueller suggested on Twitter that the benchmark could have been raised to 2 seconds.
[This post may contain some affiliate links. See the full disclosure here]
Though there are some reasons why your website might be slow, the good news is that it can always be fixed.
It is important to stay ahead of your competitors, especially in the area of page speed, because it is one thing you have control over. You can actually increase your page speed to load around 1 second if you just put in 20 minutes of your time.
According to Pingdom, the average website speed is around 3.2 seconds. That’s the page speed of the majority of your competitors out there.
You can download all the actionable tips contained in this article on a pdf by getting this guide below.
If you want Google to favor your website by ranking your blog higher than your competitors, the difference could just lie in how fast your site loads. Apart from higher rankings in Google search, do you want to know why you should beat your competitors by gaining that extra 1-second increase in page load time? It’s because:
Not only that, according to Neil Patel:
47% of internet users actually expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
And also, 53% of people abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. (Source).
Once the web page takes longer than that to load, they hit the back button. You lose visitors and revenue every time that happens. You lose sales every time your blog readers and visitors grumble about your blog taking forever to load.
But you’ll usually see an increase in conversions and sales when you take time to gain at least a 1-second increase in page speed.
There’s a correlation between page load time and bounce rate. Pingdom found out that if your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load, your bounce rate multiplied, that is, the rate at which people left your site multiplied.
Here’s my Pingdom website speed test after I carried out all the optimizations I’m going to share with you right now.
The load time for my site was actually 1.17 seconds. If you follow the steps below, you can replicate results similar to this on your own site.
So let’s get started.
Steps To Increase Page Load Speed
Implement all the steps outlined here. If you run into any problems, let me know in the comment section.
Get A Web Hosting Optimized For Speed
Your web hosting is the first major determinant of how fast your site will load. If you punish your single shared hosting plan by cramming three or more sites in it, it can slow down your page speed and make your shared hosting damsel shed virtual tears.
For the best results, I recommend one hosting plan per website. The ideal hosting company that’ll achieve our goals of increasing our page speed should probably have a good caching and seamlessly integrate with an A-list Content Delivery Network (CDN).
The hosting company that fits the bill perfectly is SiteGround. Not only is it built to optimize site speed, but it also comes with its own powerful caching, SG Optimizer.
Plus, it integrates with a free account of Cloudflare CDN, one of the best CDN providers around.
There will be no need to install a separate caching plugin, as installing too many plugins in itself slows down your website.
In fact, hosting with SiteGround is like using one stone to kill three giant birds. You can see the reason I prefer SiteGround here.
By choosing to host your site on SiteGround, you would have solved three major issues that constitute a huge drawback to your page speed – the issue of a quality web host specially adapted for site speed, the issue of a powerful caching, and the issue of hosting your site’s files on a top-rated CDN server.
Your web hosting is the foundation on which we’ll carry out every optimization. Working on your site speed with a low-quality web host is not going to do much for you.
That’s why I recommend SiteGround. Their support is stellar, it’s actually overstaffed so they can reply to any issues you might have in seconds.
Plus, they can migrate you for free.
Use A Caching Plugin
If you don’t use SiteGround, use WP Rocket, WP Fastest Cache or W3 Total Cache as your caching plugin. WP Rocket is a better caching plugin, but it’s not free. It is sold for $39. However, if you want a free caching plugin with the best quality possible, then install WP Fastest Cache.
If you use SiteGround, login to your cPanel and go to SuperCacher, now called SG Optimizer, under Site Improvement Tools.
Go to each tab of static cache, dynamic cache, Memcache and turn them on.
Then head over to your WordPress admin dashboard. Click on SG Optimizer among your menu and turn on the Dynamic cache and Automatic Cache Purge.
Scroll down and turn on Memcache also. That’s it, you’ve just configured SiteGround SuperCacher.
Leverage Browser Caching By Using Expired Headers
We leverage browser caching by adding expired headers. These expired headers speed up your site for visitors who have previously visited your site as they reduce the need for users to download the same files from your web server twice.
The codes to leverage browser cache will be added to your .htaccess file.
Use A CDN
If your web hosting server is hosted in the US, for example, it will load slower for users trying to access your website from Australia, India or any country far away from the location of your server.
Though your site may load pretty quick for US users, it’s not going to load as fast for users in other countries that are far away from the location of your web host server.
Using a CDN takes care of this. A CDN works by hosting your website files across a large network of servers around the world. When a user from Australia visits your site, they will download files from the server closest to them in Australia.
A CDN reduces the load on your web hosting server and increases the speed at which a user accesses your website. Apart from Cloudflare CDN, there is MaxCDN and a host of others too. Cloudflare is my favorite.
If your page load speed is between 1-3 seconds, I don’t recommend you use Cloudflare free account, use a paid plan instead for faster speed. I found out that Cloudflare free account works for those whose page load speed is 5 seconds and above.
If you’re not a SiteGround user, head over to Cloudflare and sign up for a free account.
If you’re a SiteGround user, go to your cPanel and click on Cloudflare under Site Improvement Tools.
Click on Activate Free. Then under Manage Your Account, click on Manage.
Go to the settings tab.
Check your email and you’ll receive Cloudflare instructions to reset the password for your Cloudflare account. As part of Cloudflare’s policy, your website might be inaccessible for 24 hours. Don’t fret, you can access your baby after the 24-hour period is up.
That’s it. You’ve set up Cloudflare CDN on your site.
Use A Theme Optimized For Page Speed
There’s no need to design a theme with unnecessary bells and whistle if it’s going to slow the page load speed of the site down to 13 seconds. No need to ruin all the good work we’ve done so far.
Our themes must be built with lightweight codes and adapted for speed.
I put together a list of themes optimized for page speed, as well as for SEO.
Database Clean Up
It’s very easy for your WordPress database to get clogged up with saved drafts, deleted posts in trash, queries, deactivated plugins, and other things.
WP-Optimize is a reliable plugin that routinely deletes all those things cluttering your database, speeding up time for the browser to collect and return files from the database.
Delete All Plugins Not In Use
All plugins not in use should be deactivated and deleted. Too many plugins slow down your website. Just in case you have too many plugins that you can’t do without, install Plugin Organizer. It helps to turn on only the plugins that are in use at a particular time.
Then click on the “Extra” tab.
Now, we’ll configure our Google fonts settings.
I found out that to avoid the scripts of my theme breaking, I had to choose between the option of “Leave as is” and “combine and preload in head (fonts load late, but are not render-blocking).”
Any other option will mean that the stylish font of my theme will revert to a basic HTML style.
So, I ticked each box and checked it in Pingdom and GTMetrix to see which option made my website load faster. I’ll encourage you to do the same.
Scroll down and click the Save button, and you’re done.
Compress Your Images
Images should be optimized too as they increase page load time. If you use WordPress, install WP Smush.it to compress images without losing the visual quality.
It works in the background every time you upload an image, and you can also run it on all the images uploaded to your media files.
Remove Query Strings From Static Resources
If in your Pingdom speed test you come across the above error, no need to panic. It’s super easy to solve this. You can use a plugin for this, but I consider it overkill.
Using minimal plugins is of importance when increasing page speed. Let me guide you on where to place the code to remove that error. It’s super easy to do.
Enter your email address to receive the easy step-by-step guide to remove query strings from static resources and also leverage browser caching using expired headers in less than 2 minutes.