Last Updated on April 24, 2020
If you’ve been following along in this series, congratulations, you’ve made it to the end! If you’re just joining us, and want to get caught up, we’ve talked about why page speed matters and common page speed problems.
In the first post, I suggested that Time to First Byte (TTFB) and First Contentful Paint (FCP) are two important metrics that matter. In the second post, I talked about how to test for those metrics using different tools. In this final post, we’re going to dive into a few ways to actually improve those metrics.
Where your website is hosting can make a big difference in the page speed. Most people go with the cheapest option for hosting, which is typically a shared hosting option which means your website shares resources like CPU, disk space and RAM with other sites on the server. This is usually fine if your website isn’t getting much traffic, but can make a difference in the long run.
If your website is using WordPress, I strongly recommend using a host that offers managed WordPress hosting. This means that the hosting provider takes care of all of the technical aspects of running a WordPress site like security, updates, backups, and speed. Usually managed WordPress hosting will include the SSL certificate and a CDN (Content Delivery Network).
A few months ago I switched a website I was working on from a basic shared hosting provider to Kinsta, which offers managed WordPress hosting. The site isn’t very large but, as it’s a photography website, is very image-heavy.
PageSpeed Insights score prior to hosting switch
PageSpeed Insights lab data prior to hosting switch
After switching the site to Kinsta and making some additional optimizations like image compression, we saw improvements in Time to Interactive and FCP.
Another managed WordPress provider I recommend is WPEngine. If you’re looking for a new host for a WordPress site or a site on another CMS, I highly recommend BlueHost or WPX Hosting. The most important thing is to make sure that the hosting provider that you choose does not prevent you from using certain plugins that you want to use to improve page speed.
Improving the caching of a site can be a quick win for page speed improvements. In short, every webpage on your site has elements like a header image and a menu that take time to get sent to the user. Caching tells the server to store some of these resource-heavy elements so that it doesn’t have to recreate them for each user.
If your website is using WordPress, there are a lot of plugins that can help you make sure your website is getting cached. WP Rocket is one of the best plugins out there. The premium version is well worth it. If you’re looking for a free option, W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache also do a great job. For non-WordPress websites like Joomla and Magento, there are also plugin options for those platforms.
Everyone wants high-quality images on their website but images can cost you when it comes to page speed. Some tips for optimizing your images for page speed:
- Avoid GIFs – as tempting as they are, they can have a big negative impact on page speed.
- Use JPEG files over PNG for the optimal balance of file size and image quality.
- Use Lazy Loading to load images as they are requested.
This client focused their efforts on image optimization and compression, which resulted in cutting their page load time in half and as an added benefit, they gained a lot of new SERP features as well.
Similar to optimizing caching, there is no shortage of WordPress plugins or plugins for other CMS platforms to optimize and compress images. For WordPress, I have had great luck with WP Smush and ShortPixel.
Final Page Speed Tips
It’s important to consider your website CMS when it comes to page speed. This series focused heavily on WordPress, as it’s the platform I recommend to clients and is widely used among small business websites. Platforms like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace are also very popular for their ease of use, but the ability to optimize for technical elements like page speed can be limited.
With the majority of traffic coming from mobile devices for most sites and Google’s use of the mobile-first index, it’s recommended to optimize your website with mobile-first in mind. Spend some time with your website on different mobile devices so you can have first-hand experience with what should be improved.
Lastly, there are some really great resources out there if you want to continue to dive into page speed for your website or those you work on. Patrick Stox recently wrote an in-depth guide to advanced page speed on the Ahrefs blog if you really want to take the plunge. Kinsta also does a great job of diving deeper into some of the metrics I covered in this series, with a focus on WordPress optimization.