Fighting Google Panda, we made our site faster and worked to increase site speed. Site speed and page load times are now important components of the Google ranking algorithm after core web vitals was introduced, which can affect the search engine rankings of your site. Since our site was affected by Google Panda, we have been striving to make our site faster for a better user experience. At one time, our site was slower than 94% of all sites on the web!
Increase Site Speed
So here is what we did and you can also try to improve page load times. Before starting out, test the page speed of your homepage and different article pages, so later you can see the difference.
1. Use Caching plugin
This is the single most important plugin to reduce server load and increase site speed, as it caches your pages as HTML files and speeds page delivery to browser, minimizing WordPress PHP calls. We have been using W3Total Cache for a long time (You can also use Fastest Cache and many others), but ever since we switched to A2 turbo hosting, we have had access to Litespeed servers and now we use the LiteSpeed cache plugin for this.
2. Use CDN
3. Reduce sidebar / Footer clutter
Earlier there were several sidebar widgets, images, etc which loaded every time and slowed the pages, they are now reduced basic minimal links and in the sidebar. If you look around your site theme, you will find many irrelevant widgets loading every time, and they add to a lot of site load time and maybe consume a lot of server resources. Remove them for a cleaner website design. We in addition added a responsive web design to make our site compatible with many mobile devices.
4. Remove Related Widgets
We have been using the amazing YARPP related posts plugin to deliver the related links you see at the bottom of all posts. In addition, we sometime back we also used the amazing Outbrain widget and Adsense matched content to generate related posts thumbnails. Both have their own load times, and we decided to remove Outbrain and continue with YARRP, which still uses a load of server processing power (as tested by P3 – Plugin Performance Profiler), and I am looking for a faster alternative (any suggestions?). We earlier used Google related links which was better with much less load time, but it was shut down by Google.
5. Reduce Social Buttons
Then we decided to keep only a few popular sharing buttons like Facebook, Twitter, and Google plus one (which might impact search results someday!). Each of these has large scripts to load. If you decide to reduce the buttons you can try AddThis, but with interactive buttons, it too will load all these scripts contributing to load times. Also if you decide to add them before and after the post, it will lead to more sharing, but also slower speed.
6. Avoid Extra Comment Systems
Comment systems load huge scripts, a large number of files and add to load time. There are some amazing comment systems out there like Disqus, IntenseDebate, LiveFyre and Facebook Comments.
WordPress’s own comments system is the lightest to load and the rest all will slow site speed. But then we continue to use Facebook comments, though it significantly adds to our page loading times, as posted comments are often posted to Facebook user walls and bring extra traffic.
Now we have no comments because it just adds to the server load, and comment spam is just another way to get free backlinks now. (though you can try to lazy load comments).
7. Disable Gravatars
We used to host Gravatars with comments earlier. They look nice and encourage more comments undoubtedly, but then those 100 comments on your popular page will also load 100 gravatar! So disabling Gravatars will speed up site comments loading. With delayed image loading, this helps to keep these images now if you want.
8. Load less Comments
We don’t allow 100 comments to be loaded on any page. If you see only 5 comments load on our pages, and the rest are paginated if users want to read more comments. We also disabled threading as it loaded more scripts for response to replies. This does lead to reduced comments but makes the site faster.
Use WordPress comment options (Settings>Discussion) to reduce comments on pages as per your need. Though Akismet does a great job at stopping spam comments, we also turned off comments on older posts, to minimize spam attempts.
Again a better idea will be to lazy load comments.
Always load CSS in the HEAD and minimize CSS too, and of course, CDN is better. There are many plugins that can also do this.
10 Reduce Images and their sizes
We always try to keep our image sizes low, save in lesser colors and at times it does reduce image quality but leads to faster loading images. It is also important to load as few images as possible per page. You can also change images compression in WordPress and get lower quality, but fast loading images.
Better still to offload them to a CDN. Many recommend plugins like Smush-it, Shortpixel etc which will compress images on your server. You can even try CSS Sprites to combine images. Also always remember to specify image dimensions.
11. Leverage browser caching
A simple htaccess trick will make modern web browsers cache static resources and deliver them faster. Try Browser caching and you will immediately appreciate the overall difference for repeat visitors.
12. Embed Less Videos
We observed that in posts where we embedded many Youtube videos, the site load times were highest. In case that is your most popular post too, then most visitors get the slowest page speed. So reduce the number of embedded videos and see the site speed increase.
If you do decide to keep them then lazy load iframes. This setting is available in many caching plugins like LiteSpeed cache and WP rocket.
13. GZip Compression On
Modern browsers accept compressed versions of web pages and allow faster page delivery to the user. A simple php.ini tweak made our server deliver gzip compressed pages. WP-Supercache has an easy option to check and enable gzip. Many Caching plugins will do this for you as well.
13. Optimize CSS
Loading CSS faster is very important. Critical CSS use has become important if you have a huge CSS file and multiple CSS files. Compress CSS, Combine CSS and load async or defer the main CSS file while loading critical CSS first is a good policy. You can use micro CSS frameworks to reduce your file sizes and reduce CSS classes.
14 Remove Google Fonts
Use web safe fonts where possible. Google fonts can delay the loading of your site content and cause sudden changes in your site appearance as these fonts load. Use best practices to make Google fonts faster, if you still want to load them.
We had implemented many of these earlier, but after getting hit by Google Panda, we worked to reduce page load time further and it has made a difference. See we made our site twice as faster in February!
We hope you follow some of these tips and make your site faster. Share with your friends and post your tips in the comments.