Website Speed Optimization: The New Beginner’s Guide (2020)

by Nikita Shevchenko

Let me be honest with you.

If your website is not fast enough, you’re gonna have some big problems with visitors and search engines.

In fact, website speed optimization is one of the most vital steps in Website SEO.

Today I am gonna share with you the top website speed-enhancing methods that have instant results!

The best part is that you will be able to implement them right after you finish reading this guide.

Let’s make your website lightning fast!



Website Speed Optimization Basics

You probably ask yourself a question:

Will this guide help me speed up my site?

Here is the result I was able to achieve by implementing the steps outlined below:

GTMETRIX TEST BEFORE AND AFTER WEBSITE SPEED OPTIMIZATION website speed optimization

The best part is that It took me less than a couple of hours to execute the main steps!

So if you want to make your site lightning fast, let’s get to work!

So Why Exactly is the Website Speed Optimization Important?

To answer this question briefly, let me tell you what results the speed can bring.

If your website is fast you will get:

  • Higher rankings
  • Happy visitors
  • More traffic
  • More subscribers
  • More revenue

It is also a core factor in the entire Technical SEO.

This list of benefits is already enough to start taking your website performance more seriously.

Not convinced yet?

Here is the last point I want to tell you about:

According to WP Engine infographic featuring Google, Amazon, and some other BIG players, a 1 second delay in page load can result in 7% loss in conversions, 11% fewer page views, and 16% decrease in customer satisfaction.

You are probably wondering:

“How much money can I lose if my website is slow?”

Well, If your site makes 100000$ each day, this year you could lose 2.5 million $ in sales!

Now I hope I’ve got your attention!

Let’s not waste time and check your website’s speed score.

How to Evaluate Your Website’s Speed?

Use GTmetrix

It’s a wonderful tool that provides you with tons of helpful information.

Your goal is to get A grade in both the PageSpeed score and YSlow score.

It is also preferable to get your page loaded in under 2 seconds.

Alternatives: Pingdom, Google PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest

What Can Slow Down Your WordPress Website?

GTmetrix’s YSlow score shows you what adjustments you should make to improve the page’s loading speed.

Yet, it might be quite a challenge for a beginner webmaster to understand all the professional terms.

Below I’ve listed the most popular reasons for poor website performance:

1. Web Hosting

This factor is one of THE MOST influential ones!

The less reputable your web hosting provider is, the more it’s likely that your website speed will suffer.

Huge web hosting companies implement the most advanced technologies in order to provide customers with the best experience possible.

I recommend you go with SiteGround, they provide the highest quality service for a coffee cup price!

In fact, they can speed up your website up until 500%!

Action Step: Sign Up to SiteGround

siteground webhosting main page website speed optimization

Website Launching Guide will help you with this process!

2. WordPress Theme

A fast-loading theme is a must-have element for website speed optimization.

Unfortunately, many WordPress themes are stuffed with numerous useless design features that cause longer website response.

On top of that, some of them are not well-coded, this fact leads to website performance troubles.

The good news is there are some themes that were designed with Speed&SEO in mind.

They deliver a great experience to the webmaster and visitors.

My personal choice is GeneratePress. (A theme called Arctic)

generatepress themes website speed optimization

It is the fastest WP theme I had a chance to use. 5-star rating from more than 1000 customers speaks for itself. The code has been independently reviewed by leaders in the WordPress community and uses the latest and most stable coding standards.

This theme also loads extra fast on mobile devices which is a crucial element for Mobile SEO.

It will help you maintain WordPress Website Security.

Action Step: Choose the Right WP Theme.

3. Page Size

The text of the article itself is not the point of concern here.

Huge Images and Videos are the main enemies!

Action Step: Use Tips From this Guide’s Multimedia Optimization Section Below

4. The Plugins Quality&Quantity

Though you may want to personalize your site using as many WP plugins as possible, you should have a thorough plugin selection process.

Don’t use too many of them. Choose only those which are necessary, well-coded, and have positive feedback.

Action Step: Get Rid Of Useless Plugins

5. External Scripts

They are ads, font loaders, social sharing buttons and so on. The more your website independent the better.

Action Step: Make Sure You Don’t Stuff Many Ads Here and There

How to Tune Up Your WP Site for Better Performance? (No Plugins Required)

1. Regularly Update Your WP Site And Plugins

wordpress updates page website speed optimization

This is your responsibility as a blog owner to make sure everything on your site is relevant and up-to-date.

New WP and Plugins versions come up with some nice new features and fixes.

Those fixes make your website performing even better, strengthening its weak security areas at the same time.

2. Adjust Your Homepage Settings

If your homepage is not a landing page, but a blog itself, then:

Use Excerpts on Homepage

blog post website speed optimization

WordPress may load the full content of your articles by default. This makes the page load much slower.

Go to the Admin Tab – Settings – Reading and click on Summary.

reading settings article summary option website speed optimization


You can also limit the number of articles displayed on one page. I prefer it to be around 3-5.

reading settings limit number of posts on homepage website speed optimization

3. Get Rid Of Useless Sidebar Widgets

WordPress comes up with lots of types of widgets that you can place on your sidebar.

Make sure you use only the most necessary ones, as others can slow down your website.

You can do a widget optimization by heading to Admin Panel – Appearance – Widgets.

4. Break Comments Into Pages

The fact that your articles receive lots of comments is already an achievement!

However, too many comments on one page can lead to slower loading which is a big NO for website speed optimization.

You may fix it by simply adjusting comment settings:

Go to Admin Tab – Settings – Discussion and break the comments into pages:

discussion settings break comments into pages check website speed optimization

Now as you get the notion of where to start, I want to share with you the best techniques that will help you fight some of the worst speed enemies – Images and Videos!

Simple Techniques For Optimizing Multimedia

A multimedia is necessary for your website. It keeps people engaged and search engines happy.

The bad news is that images and videos can bring a lot of additional weight to your pages!

How to minimize images weight?

5. Choose The Right Format

If you are not running a professional photo gallery website, I recommend using two image formats:

  • JPEG
  • PNG

JPEG is better for images that have a lot of different colors.

PNG will be great for simpler images.

6. Use The Right Image Size

The image size configuration should start even before you upload it on your website.

Identify the minimum required size for your image and don’t go beyond it.

There is no point to upload a 1500X800 image if it will be displayed as 600X350. (Unless you want it to be crispy sharp.)

7. Use Special Plugins To Reduce Image Size

You can do it without sacrificing image quality.

Here are the plugins I suggest you try:

  • EWWW Image Optimizer
  • WP Smush

Pro Tip: Although the plugins might be a good solution, nothing beats Adobe Photoshop in terms of working with images. If the budget allows you and you are serious about your business, consider using this awesome tool.

Photoshop has a nice feature, called “Save for Web

photoshop save for the web feature website speed optimization

Choose the right format and size, then click “Save”.

Easy!

Alternatives: GIMP, TinyPNG and JPEG Mini.

Also, check out this helpful Image SEO Tutorial.

8. How To Upload Videos Without Sacrificing Speed?

If you consider making your blog post more appealing you may consider using videos.

There are two popular ways how you can do it:

  1. Upload it directly on your website (and regret about it forever).
  2. Host the video on popular sites like YouTube or Vimeo.

The first way should not even be considered! Not only may it cost you speed, but it may also cost you some additional fees for your hosting company service.

So let’s look at the second solution.

You upload your video on YouTube and click on a Share button below it:

youtube video share button website speed optimization

Then use an Embed option:

youtube video share embed option website speed optimization

Copy the code:

youtube video copy embed code website speed optimization

And embed it into your post:

youtube video embed in wordpress post website speed optimization

Note: When embedding YouTube video to the WordPress post, do not forget to paste the code into the Text section

WordPress Speed Increasing Plugins

By implementing the strategies from Section #1 and Section #2 you build a solid foundation for your WP website speed optimization.

Now it’s time to set higher goals!

Plugins may be an awesome solution if used properly.

Let me show you a mini-list of my all-time favorite website speed optimization plugins:

Note: The plugins you are about to check are VERY helpful for website speed optimization. All of them are well-known and coded by reliable experts. Though the problems are highly improbable, I strongly recommend you to do a website backup before using any new plugins on your site.

9. W3 Total Cache(Cache Plugin)

W3 Total Cache download 1 website speed optimization

I simply love it!

It is really powerful and helps me increase my website’s speed dramatically.

Basic settings are just fine, so you don’t really need to do extra work.

However, If you want to use it’s all potential, it is gonna be a little bit tough for you to adjust the advanced settings for the plugin, so this detailed guide may come in handy.

It also works great with Content Delivery Network(CDN).

Give it a shot.

Note: SiteGround’s GrowBig and GoGeek options come up with an in-house cache plugin that works fantastically.

10. WP – Sweep (Database Cleaner)

WP Sweep plugin download 1 website speed optimization

If you are running your blog for a while, chances are that you’ve collected lots of useless garbage in the website’s database.

You should regularly run the cleaner to get rid of trash files that slow down your site.

It’s very easy to use.

First, go to Admin panel – Tools – Sweep

The plugin will analyze your site for the clutter. You can clean each of the items individually or simply go down the page and click on “Sweep All

Alternatives: WP-Optimize

11. Autoptimize (Optimizing Plugin)

Autoptimize plugin download website speed optimization

Though not personally tested, this plugin has lots of positive feedback from website owners.

What can it do?

  • File Aggregation
  • File Minification
  • Caching
  • Deferring Scripts to the Footer
  • Integrate with CDN

The plugin works fine with some more advanced caching plugins: Comet Cache, HyperCache and WP Super Cache.

12. Smush Image Compression And Optimization (Image Speed Plugin)

Smush Image Compression and Optimization plugin download website speed optimization

Either you use any other image tools, you may consider trying this plugin.

If there is something left to do with the image size, it will deal with it.

Again, Siteground’s cache plugin can handle this process as well

13. Lazy Load For Videos(Video Speed Plugin)

Lazy Load for Videos plugin download website speed optimization

You should consider using this useful plugin if doing website speed optimization for the blogs with embedded videos.

The plugin enhances page load times by replacing embedded Youtube and Vimeo videos with a clickable preview image.

The video will start loading only when the user clicks on the preview image.

Super helpful!

These were the plugins that will help you get Usain Bolt envy.

Now the next part of this guide will be a culmination for your website speed optimization.

It will bring even more benefits to the overall performance.

Enjoy!

Bonus Section: Website Speed Optimization Powerful Techniques

Congratulations!

You’ve come to the last section of this website speed optimization definitive guide.

Following the previous steps will guarantee you a significant difference in your website performance.

This section will help you reduce some extra milliseconds (or even seconds!) in your page loading time.

Check out the bonus website speed optimization steps:

14. Connect Your Website to CDN

CDN or Content Delivery Network stands for a geographically distributed network of proxy servers.

Using plain English, CDN will help you store a copy of your website in their datacenter, which is based closer to the website visitor.

Huge CDN companies have their centers based all around the world!

cdn working principle website speed optimization

What CDN company should you use?

There are two leaders in the industry: Cloudflare and StackPath.

I prefer to use Cloudflare on some of my websites.

It has a nice FREE plan and SSL that goes along with it.

It also easily connects with W3 Total Cache, which I have mentioned earlier.

15. Use Fast Sharing Plugin And Email Opt-In

These plugins usually bring additional seconds to the webpage load speed.

In order to minimize their impact on the performance, I suggest you using the fastest of them!

There are numerous reviews online on which plugin is fastest.

I use the Sassy Social Share plugin here.

Alternatives: Monarch, Sumo Share

What about an email Opt-In form?

Unfortunately, the beautiful design does not guarantee you amazing speed.

Many Opt-In plugins can brag about the style, but not the performance.

Thrive Leads provides a huge variety of customizable Email Opt-In forms + A LOT of other cool features like Pop-Ups and A/B testing technology.

These guys are obsessed with speed so you will never have to worry about slow loading.

16. Turn Off Link Notification

If you don’t count every single link that points to your site, there’s no need to get notifications every time when someone links to you.

Though this WordPress feature does not significantly affect the speed, it still takes some server resources.

– Go to AdminTab – Settings – Discussion.

– Find the line that says “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new articles”- uncheck it.

Allow link notifications from other blogs pingbacks and trackbacks on new articles website speed optimization

17. Turn Off Gravatars In Comments

Remember when I covered the step about splitting the comment into pages?

Well, there is one more nice trick you can do to ensure your site’s fast speed:

Deal with the Gravatar images!

The more comments you get the more gravatars your site will have to display (not good).

How to turn off Gravatars in the comment section?

– Go to AdminTab – Settings – Discussion.

– Look for the“Avatars” section and uncheck the “Show Avatar” box.

wordpress discussion show avatart uncheck website speed optimization

18. Implement AMP

AMP technology allows your website load REALLY fast via mobile phones.

While there are certain pros and cons of using this technology you can try it and decide for yourself.

It is also one of the main Mobile ranking factors.

You can easily integrate AMP with Cloudflare.

19. Store Fonts Locally

This will allow serving all the fonts on your website locally. Faster speed and reduced amount of DNS lookups guaranteed.

For performing this task you can use LocalFont service.

And that is it!

Website speed optimization is done!

Even if you leverage half of the steps I mentioned above, you will be amazed at what results you can achieve.


Which tip had the biggest impact on your website speed?

Leave your thoughts and questions in the comment section below.

Also, add me on LinkedIn and follow me on Quora, I share some useful stuff there 😉

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2 thoughts on “Website Speed Optimization: The New Beginner’s Guide (2020)”

  1. Great job man! As a guy who is obsessed with website speed, I can’t emphasize more on how it is important to your blog. All the things you outlined are on point. By the way, I like the theme you use on your website. Never heard about it, seems like it is really fast. Think I should give it a try:)
    P.S. In the bonus section you mentioned that turning off gravatar images in WordPress settings may give your website an edge. Why do you not use it on this blog?

    Reply
    • Hi Roger! Thanks for your kind words. Really appreciate it. That is right, website speed is something you should be focused when working with your blog. Regarding gravatars, it is very helpful for speed, yet it comes with a price of decreased UX(not many people like the generic gravatar logo instead of their headshot). So I have personally decided to make this small speed sacrifice in order to keep people who leave comments satisfied. Look forward to seeing you soon on my blog. Cheers!

      Reply

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