We work mainly in WordPress for our clients, and we have seen a swift and direct connection between improving mobile load speed and placement on Google and increased traffic. Search Engines clearly favor fast loading sites and these sites have the added bonus of improving user experience.
Most SEO experts agree that a key component in search engine ranking factors is a fast loading mobile website. The solutions that we use to speed up mobile load time (after checking and making sure that the server environment does not require an upgrade) are as follows:
Use a lightweight WordPress theme and framework
WordPress themes that contain animation, social icons and widgets can be appealing to many users. We use a custom theme for our development. A child theme is used to customize the site for any design format. This allows us to have full control over the build and has helped us adjust quickly to changing Google algorithms.
Too many elements will definitely cause your mobile load time to slow down. We generally create custom themes that use a Bootstrap framework, which provides a great way to speed up WordPress.
Minify JS and CSS files
Minifying JS and CSS files is accomplished by reducing the number of CSS and JS calls and the size of those files. This can dramatically improve the mobile load speed of your website. The most popular plug in for this is Autoptimize. This plug in helps optimize CSS, JS and even HTML of your WordPress site. We also use a paid plug in called WP-Rocket which will not only minify CSS and Java Script files, but also help with caching.
Reduce image sizes
Images are the major contributors to size increment of a given webpage. The trick is to reduce the size of the images without compromising on the quality. We generally manually optimize the images using Photoshop, but this process will be time consuming for some. We have also used an online compressor called Compressor.io. Currently, again we use WP-Rocket as a one stop shop to handle some of the heavy lifting in compressing photos.
Using any of the above mentioned methods or plugins on your WordPress site will reduce image sizes while maintaining image quality, thus improving the speed of your website without sacrificing user experience.
Use WordPress caching mechanisms
WordPress caching plugins like W3 Total Cache and WP-Rocket have been there for a long time, making the complex tasks of adding caching rules to your website elements easier. We also use NGINX in proxy mode to load the static files from cache. It reduces server load.
Deactivate or uninstall plugins
Retaining unused plugins on your WordPress website will slow down your site load time. It is better to get rid of the plugins that you don’t use, along with any old posts, spam comments or other old data that is no longer relevant to user experience or the operation of the website. We have found that Lazy Loading images, applying GZip compression and Browser Cache settings carry more weight than the plugins and pingbacks. Those are important best practices, but Google is currently downgrading the speed score pretty heavily when you don’t have Lazy Loading and compression/caching set.
WP-Rocket also does Lazy Loading. That’s one of the reasons we went with it, it’s gives us a 3-for-1 deal (lazy loading, caching, minify).
Improving Mobile load time will help to create a positive user experience on your website. We have done this for numerous clients, and virtually every one of them has also enjoyed better rankings in the search engines. Some favorite tools for checking your mobile load time are:
- Think With Google Mobile Speed Test
- GTMetrix Pagespeed and GTMetrix YSlow
Google has also come out with their new Measure tool (https://web.dev/measure) for scoring performance, accessibility, best practices and SEO. The other speed tests that Google provides have started using the measure engine to calculate the scores on their other tools.
Eric Van Cleave is CEO and Digital Director of Zenergy Works. A Santa Rosa, California based SEO and Digital Marketing Firm. In this blog post, as in life, he has relied heavily upon the advice and experience of Alex Macondray, CTO of Zenergy Works, and Karina Flores, the Lead SEO Technician of Zenergy Works.