How to Optimize Your WordPress Website for Speed
WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) in the world today, powering more than 27% of the web. With almost 600 million monthly active users, this is a perfect platform for anyone looking to create a blog or website.
While we want to keep our WordPress-created websites as efficient as possible, the demands of our audience increase every day. According to Google, as of April 2020, approximately 42.77% of overall search traffic is from mobile devices.
The majority of this mobile traffic is coming from countries like China, where mobile networks and data plans are frequently blocked, limiting the efficiency of our websites. If your WordPress website is inefficiently designed and hosted on an unoptimized server, search performance will be greatly hindered. We’ll cover the aspects of design and hosting that impact search performance, providing tips on how to make your WordPress site work harder.
Let’s get started.
We’ll begin with the basics — design is key and can make or break your WordPress website. Ensuring that your site looks as good as new and stays consistent across all devices is the key to ensuring search performance. There are seven aspects of design that impact how your site will perform on search engines:
- Mobile-first approach
- Desktop scrolling vs. Mobile pinch-to-zoom
- Text Content
- HTML headings
We’ll discuss each aspect in detail, including examples of efficient and ineffective designs.
Designing a mobile-first approach for your WordPress website means starting with the smallest devices (such as mobile phones) and ensuring that your site works well on every device. Designing for mobile-first also means:
- Creating short content for mobile devices
- Minimizing the use of images
- Prioritizing video content (SVGs)
- Optimizing your site for mobile speed
- Ensuring cross-browser compatibility
- Creating a mobile-friendly experience
The first two items on this list are among the most important, as your site’s content will be displayed on small mobile devices first. Creating short content for mobile devices can be challenging, as you don’t want to sacrifice the functionality of your site in order to fit the content properly. One way to improve your mobile friendliness is to create a separate mobile website, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.
Desktop scrolling vs. Mobile pinch-to-zoom
Desktop scrolling is the traditional approach to web design, where the entire page is scrollable and the user can navigate through the content by clicking on various elements, such as headlines or introductory slideshows. While desktop scrolling is effective and allows for much flexibility when it comes to content building, this approach doesn’t translate well to mobile devices.
On the other hand, mobile pinch-to-zoom is the best approach for creating a flexible and optimized website on mobile devices. With mobile pinch-to-zoom, the contents of your web page stay fixed in place while the user zooms in and out for a better view. This approach maintains the integrity of the page and allows visitors to easily navigate your content.
If your site is designed according to the desktop scrolling approach, but is accessed on mobile, things will feel cramped. You’ll lose the flexibility that mobile pinch-to-zoom offers, leading to suboptimal performance on mobile devices. A hybrid approach — combining desktop scrolling with mobile pinch-to-zoom — can resolve this issue, providing you with the best of both worlds: the flexibility of desktop scrolling and the speed and usability of mobile pinch-to-zoom.
Another important aspect of design that impacts search engine performance is text content. Make sure that your text is easy to read and doesn’t strain the eyes. Also, ensure that your text is accessible from every device, even if the display size changes. Finally, use a logical text hierarchy — build on the meaning of the previous text with subsequent blocks of text.
For example, if you are writing a blog post on fashion trends for women, you’ll want to include a list of the top five trending styles for 2021. But to do this, you’ll need to first discuss what fashion trends for 2021 are. This text will make more sense if you follow it up with an explanation of why these fashion trends are popular in 2021.
Similarly, if you are writing about the latest movies, you’ll want to include a brief summary of each film, but you’ll also want to discuss the major themes and plot points.
Images are probably the second most important aspect of design after text content. The quality and number of images on your site will impact the overall performance. Ideally, you’ll want to have one image per topic (and it should be a large one).
However, too many images can hurt your search engine performance. A high-quality photograph conveys more information than a thousand words, so make sure that your images are informative and helpful.
There are various techniques that you can use to optimize the performance of your images, such as image resizing, eliminating image heavy sections of your site, and creating image galleries.
You can also use ‘Backing Images’ — these are smaller versions of your main image that appear at the bottom of a blog post. Backing images help to improve the overall performance of your site by presenting more relevant information to site visitors than just text content.
Colors are another important aspect of design that can affect your site’s performance on search engines. Make sure that your colors are easy on the eyes and don’t strain the user’s attention away from the content. Using color theory, create different shades and combinations to give your site an artistic feel. For instance, if you are writing about fashion trends, you might want to use a fashion-related color like red, orange, or yellow as these colors are highly complementary and improve the readability of text content.
However, using these colors excessively can affect the user’s experience — you want to use them only when needed and in proper balance with other colors on your site. Testing different colors on your site is crucial to ensuring that everything looks good and that the user does not experience any visual strain as a result of the color choices you’ve made.
Fonts are yet another important aspect of design that can affect your site’s performance on search engines. Use a variety of fonts to create a visual interest, especially if you are using a sans serif font — this can improve the overall legibility of your site’s content.
If there is a specific type of font that you feel will set your content apart from the rest, use it — the user will appreciate the visual appeal and it will improve the overall legibility of your site.
HTML headings are metadata that describe the content of your web page. When a visitor lands on your site, the first thing that they’ll see is the HTML heading for the page. Designing your headings with the right keywords in mind will make them much more informative to search engines.
For example, let’s say that you are writing a blog post on the most stylish women in movies in 2020 — you’ll want to include key words like ‘movies,’ ‘stylish,’ and ‘women’s wear’ in your heading to provide search engines with valuable information regarding your topic.
Include your main heading in your HTML
and use subheadings for secondary topics — for example, a subheading for ‘2020’s most stylish women’ might be ‘top five trends’ or ‘fashion style trends this year.’
Optimizing your site for mobile speed
Now that you’ve got a better understanding of the basics of design and how they impact your site’s performance on search engines, it’s time to dive into the key aspects of WordPress that can be optimized for speed.
The first step in optimizing your site is to host it on a fast-loading server. You should host your site on a cloud server in order to maintain optimum speed, but even if you aren’t using the cloud, you can still achieve fast speeds by using some of the tips below.