A few months ago, I was scratching my head to get over my 3.5k monthly visitor threshold.
After some investigation, I found out that Google Analytics also had a section dedicated to website speed (whoops).
What I saw horrified me. It took on average 7 SECONDS to load the website.
I dedicated the next 4 months to learning all that I could about speed.
Now that the blog finally reached good core web vitals (according to Google), I’ll share with you what I’ve learned to get there.
Just for the sake of bragging, I also reached 100, but it only happened a few times.
1. Choose the Right Hosting Company
Speed starts with your hosting company and the plan you choose.
A hosting company provides you a server to host your website.
I’ve tested a few of them, such as Bluehost, OVH, and Hostinger.
I didn’t have good experiences with Bluehost (expensive for what it is) nor OVH (super slow + super complicated + no customer service).
I am fairly happy with Hostinger, but mind that there are a bunch of other companies (WP Engine, Siteground, LiquidWeb, Ionos, etc).
In general, it’s advised to avoid any company belonging to EIG (Endurance International Group).
They own hosting companies like Hostgator or Bluehost, and have the reputation to cram as many websites on one server as possible to decrease costs, which ultimately decreases speed.
So make sure to choose the right hosting company from the beginning.
The next step is to choose a plan.
Shared hosting is cheaper, but it means that you’ll share the server with other people — hence, it won’t be as fast as if you rented one yourself.
Renting a whole server for yourself is much more expensive and isn’t recommended if your web traffic is still small (less than 25k per month).
As your audience grows, you will be able to upgrade.
2. Choose the Right CMS
A CMS is a Content Management System.
The right CMS depends on what you want to do with your website.
Since Medium is a blogging platform, and since I only have experience with blogs, that’s what we’ll talk about.
If you don’t know how to code in HTML and CSS directly, then you can use a no-code open-source CMS like WordPress.
I chose WordPress, and so did the owners of 37% of all websites on the Internet.
What about other options?
Wix, Squarespace, or any other drag-and-drop builders are not a good idea.
They will make your website slow, you’ll have little control over your website, and few customization possibilities.
And it’s also super expensive.
If your site is on one of those builders, I recommend you start them again from the ground up with WordPress. It will be much better in the long term.
The only exception is Webflow. I’ve heard some good stuff about them, but problems such as lack of control (if Webflow kicks you out because someone is campaigning against you, you lose everything) and price ($20/month, wtf) aren’t super attractive to me.
So let’s go with WordPress.
3. Minimize the Number Of Plugins
A plugin is a piece of code that comes to plug itself onto your theme (the structure of your website) so that you can add functionality to your website.
The more plugins you add, the more lines of code there are, the slower your website is.
I use a few plugins, but many of them are not needed when I am not using them. As a result, I deactivate them to make the website faster.
Beware that some plugins are not compatible with one another, so it’s always good to test (especially with speed plugins).
Some plugins will also weigh more on your website than others.
Make sure that all of the plugins you use are absolutely necessary, and that they’re the best ones out there (competent devs, regular updates, etc).
Choosing a theme with a lot of options embedded (Astra, Ocean, Divi, etc) is another way to decrease the number of plugins for later.
The fewer plugins you have, the better.
4. Get a High-Quality Speed Plugin
Getting a high-quality speed plugin can change everything.
But first, what do these plugins do?
A variety of things.
- They cache your website: that means they store data in a place that is fast and easy to access. It’s very important to have. You need a caching plugin.
- They clean up the database: old drafts, all lines of codes from former plugins, and unnecessary data weight in your database and slow down your website. Speed plugins clean all that up so your database works faster.
You have several of these plugins on WordPress.
I’ve tried Autoptimize, Lightspeed, WP Fastest Cache, and Hummingbird.
Lightspeed suited me best, but that may be because it fitted Elementor, a plugin I’ve always used (not the best idea, it slows your website considerably. Try to stay within the limits of your theme if you can).
Hummingbird entered in conflicts with a few of my plugins while Autoptimize and WP Fastest Cache just weren’t as good.
While Lightspeed helped, my website barely scored 80 (on the good days).
If I hoped to rank higher, I knew I had to invest a bit of money.
So I bought WP Rocket. I went from 74 to 92 just after installing the plugin.
After some experiments with tweeting the settings, I reached 98.
Few investments have been revealed as fruitful as this one.
If you’re at the beginning of your journey, a free speed plugin like Lightspeed will be fine.
But if you hope to one day reach first place on Google, then you’ll likely need to upgrade.
5. No JPEG
I thought JPEG was the lightest picture format, but it’s not.
A decade ago, Google came up with webP, a format specially made for pictures on the web.
It shrank my pics’ weight by five or six times.
In order to automate the conversion of JPEG into webP, I am using a free simple plugin called “WebP Converter for Media”.
It makes each pic much lighter to load, hence much faster!
6. Break Your Page into Several Pages or Use Infinite Scroll
As I was harassing Pagespeed, I noticed it kept on telling me to “avoid an excessive DOM size”.
To keep it simple, DOM size (usually) means that your page is too long.
You can solve this in two ways.
First option, add page breaks. It’s native in WordPress so you don’t need a plugin. By breaking your page, you decrease their weight.
Second option, implement infinite scroll. Such a plugin will only load the page of your website that the visitor sees.
As a result, it helps load less of the page, hence load faster. The plugin will load more of the page as your visitor scrolls down.
7. No Ads, No Annoying Popups, No Videos
When I reached 2k visitors/month, I thought about implementing ads, then decided against it.
- It’s annoying
- The ratio annoyance/money earned isn’t worth it
- You’re not earning much anyway
- It slows down the website
The same thing can be said for welcome mats (“Welcome to my website dear visitor, now SIGN UP FOR MY NEWSLETTER YOU MONEY-MAKING MACHINE”), popups (“Enter your email and get my free pdf on how to make chocolate cakes”), or slide-in (“Hey, got 2 minutes to take this survey”?)
Finally, it’s recommended not to put video in the hero section. Even if it looks good, it may drastically slow your website.
8. Get a CDN
That was the last thing I have implemented.
A CDN is a Content Delivery Network.
To give you an analogy, it’s like if Uber Eat sent a delivery guy to your door with your food before you ordered. So as soon as you do, the bell would ring.
Basically, a CDN distributes your website around the world so it is closer to your visitors and loads faster.
The most famous one is Cloudflare, which you can use for free if you have only one website.
A CDN helped the mobile version of my website be much faster. Furthermore, some CDNs also assist your speed plugin in minimizing the code of your website.
Web speed is an integral part of SEO.
Not only does speed give your visitors a better experience, but it helps you rank higher on Google.
A few points up or down would catapult my ranking place at the very front, or send my website to the bottom of the Internet.
While speed is important, it’s not everything.
If you want to rank first on Google, you’ll also have to learn about content creation, keyword research, backlink building, and more.
It’s a first step though, and in my opinion, the hardest to achieve.
You are now equipped to help your site load much faster.
For more articles, head to auresnotes.com.
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