As an SEO professional, sometimes I need to speed up WordPress websites. I am not a speed freak but if a site takes over 3 seconds to load on mobile I then look in to performance modifications within reason.
How fast do you need to be?
In general, 3 seconds is the cutoff time.
There are plenty of studies out there which show that if a site takes too long to load, people abandon the site. This varies from niche to niche and if the answer is readily available from another site. Of course, I like sites to be as fast as possible, but many of the sites I work with are a little image heavy and if I get close to two seconds I am happy.
Site speed is a quality factor.
I look at site speed as a quality factor type of SEO factor. Your site isn’t going to rank better and better the fasted it goes but if it is very slow it can impact rankings. A snappy site provides a good user experience and that’s what users want, so that’s also what search engines want for their users.
WordPress before and after a CDN
How much extra speed does a CDN provide?
I was recently researching CDNs (content delivery networks) for WordPress. I just wanted to host the “assets” of a site on a CDN. That’s the main images, CSS, JS and other stuff. Simply put, I wanted to speed the site up and only wanted to spend an hour or two on this task. The site in question just needed a little boost. One question I searched for but could not find an answer to was “exactly how much faster is this site going to go with a CDN?”.
Before and after site speeds with StackPath CDN.
MaxCDN is everyone’s go-to CDN for WordPress. There are many great options out there, all with their own pros and cons. But if you have a general blog or a small business and you want a quick and cheap CDN, StackPath is hard to beat. For $20 you get their CDN for (5) WordPress websites. Anyways, on to the screenshots…
Before configuring the CDN this site (with a 2.6MB home page) was taking 5.2 seconds to load for Pingdom. I personally like to keep my sites at 1MB or less but they had a designer build this, so it is huge and I’m left trying to make it perform. Anyways, here’s a screenshot:
After configuring the CDN (just for WordPress “assets”, not the entire site), the load time was slashed to 2.2 seconds! Check it out:
So we went from 5.28 seconds to 2.2 seconds.
Site Speed Performance Scores are Stupid.
Performance grades drive me nuts.
Now tell me this. How is that a site which takes 5.28 seconds to load gets an “A” but the same site loading in less than half that time gets a “C” grade?!
I mean, I know how. It’s because some of the files are now loading from StackPath and Pingdom is deducting points from my “score” since files are being loaded from a separate URL.
This is where you have to use your brain instead of an automated tool. Yes, 2.2 seconds is faster than 5.28 seconds.
The tool is very useful as it is telling me about things which could indeed make the site faster. But shouldn’t the score be based on how fast data is loading? Like, shouldn’t 2MB loading in 2 seconds get a better score than 2MB loading in 5 seconds?
Testing your site speed.
Ok, a quick word about testing site speed. Here are the tools the pros use:
- Your phone. Disconnect from your Wireless router and once on 4G visit your website on your phone using a clean incognito window. Does your website load slow, or does it load fast? This is my favorite test.
- Google. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
- Pingdom. Pingdom is mandatory. https://www.pingdom.com/
- GTMetrix. GTMetrix is mandatory, too. https://gtmetrix.com/
The last 3 tools all offer good insight for bottlenecks in your site’s speed, just be careful of their recommendations, and use your noggin.
A CDN can greatly improve your site speed, and if your page is under 1MB you can definitely get that load speed down under 1 second with the help of a CDN.
If you’re using a CDN, please feel free to share your site speed scores with us below along with a link to your site so we can see how fast it is.
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