A few weeks ago, I have posted an article bragging about getting a 400% improvement in my website page speed. Although it was true that I got a 400% improvement, I was wrong to say that it was the actual page speed that improved, when in fact it was only my performance grade in Google Pagespeed Insights that got the improvement. Well, don’t get me wrong, for me, improving your website performance grade from 17/100 to 89/100 (desktop) is still a significant achievement and a source of bragging rights, but don’t get too overly conscious (like me previously) about it as performance grades just partially tell you the real story. Some of you might disagree with me as there are those who focus too much in getting 100/100 in Google Pagespeed Insights, and they even provide tutorials on how to achieve it, and to tell you the truth, I was actually like them before until I realized that I was wrong, because if you really want to improve your website performance, you have to focus on the metric that really matters to google and your website visitors aside from content, and that is page load time (or page load speed or page speed…whatever!).
Romain from WP Rocket here.
Your website loads fast, don’t worry about any “performance grade”.
What tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, GT Metrix and others don’t tell you is that their so called “performance grade” does not say anything about actual speed. A “PageSpeed” grade (as in PageSpeed Insights) does not nearly equal real page speed (as in load times).
Those tools provide a set of generic tips that may, or may not apply to your specific website. A good “grade” can mean good performance; however, a lower grade does not necessarily mean bad performance. You can have a fast-loading website with a grade down in the “yellows” or “reds”!
I have actually posted the above reply from WP Rocket on my SiteGround Review but I really think it’s worth posting it here again, and that was actually the message that made me realized how wrong I am, and since then, I have only focused on the thing that matters as far as WordPress speed optimization is concerned, and that is the page load speed, and as a result, you can see below the screenshot of my latest Pingdom speed test result.
So you see in the latest result that my performance grade is only 88 and not 99 or 100 but that doesn’t really matter too much now because what’s more important is my load time, which is 542ms, and my load time is faster than 96% of the tested websites in Pingdom.
You may ask me now how I achieve such page speed? Well, I have broken it down into 3 actionable steps (plus additional 1 that is optional) that you can follow to achieve the same results that I got and here they are:
Actionable Tip #1: Get A Quality Web Hosting Service
Your web server plays a very important role in keeping your page speed in check because this is where you keep your whole website property and the processing power and performance of your web server determines how fast web data can be transferred from your website to your visitors, in this regard, you should make sure that you only get the one that is trusted and can provide you sufficient processing power to make your website load faster.
The best type of web server will always be a dedicated server but these can really cost you an arm and a leg and is only recommended for high traffic websites and those that require lots of processing power. This types of servers might not be worth to get if you’re just starting out, with minimal traffic, and just doing some light blogging which only requires minimum processing power. If you are just like me who is just starting out, a shared hosting or a cloud server could suffice, and in this aspect, quality does not really mean a higher price because you can get a quality yet affordable web servers like the ones below which I highly recommend. Anyway, these are just my personal recommendation because the web servers below are the ones that I have tried and gave me excellent results
- SiteGround – This is actually where I currently host WPisLIFE.com and I highly recommend their WordPress managed hosting server because of the server’s great performance and SiteGround’s fast customer support. I’m currently on their GoGeek plan and can partially attribute the fast page load speed of my website because of it. You can click here to read more about my comprehensive SiteGround Review where I tested all their shared hosting plans in terms of page load speed
- Cloudways – This is another quality yet affordable web hosting but unlike my current web server which is a shared hosting, Cloudways is a cloud server which is already more like a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or a semi-dedicated server. I was able to test their cheapest plan which is the 512mb plan at $7 per month, and even though it’s the cheapest, I was still able to achieve a sub 1 second page load speed when I tested it, and aside from that, their support is also great. You can check this link to learn more about my Cloudways Review including my exclusive $10 discount coupon code.
Actionable Tip #2: Optimize your Images
Another thing to take into consideration to improve your page load speed is to optimize your web images. Images with large file size take longer time to get rendered and significantly increase your page load speed, thus making your website load slower, and the only way to address it is to perform a Web Image Optimization. There are two ways to perform an image optimization, and this is thru manual or automatic.
By Manual, it means optimizing your images before you even upload it to your website by making sure the following are taken into consideration:
- The dimension of your image is optimized (larger image dimensions get resized to fit the viewing screen, make sure that image resizing is eliminated)
- The file size of your image is optimized (the lower the better but the trade-off is the image quality so choose wisely)
- Use of JPEG instead of PNG for image file format (comparing the same image with both PNG and JPEG file formats, the PNG files are larger compared to JPEG file format. The only issue is that you cannot have transparent background with a JPEG)
Automatic method requires the usage of some plugins. I personally use the automatic method, however, I also make sure that my image dimensions are already optimized before I upload it to my website, as well as opting to use the JPEG format instead of PNG. The plugins that I use to optimize the images on my website are the WP Smush It and the Photon from Jetpack. There are also other image optimizer plugin out there like Imagify.io but I haven’t really tested it so I can’t tell you how it performs, the only thing that I can tell you right now is that by using the plugins that I currently have on my website, my images get automatically optimized, and they really make my website load faster
Actionable Tip #3: Use a WordPress Cache Plugin
Caching is a method wherein a copy of a web document such as html pages and images are being temporarily stored to reduce bandwidth usage, lessen server load, and most importantly, improve page load speed. Before, I wasn’t really using any WordPress cache plugins and it was only when I got a 17/100 score in Google PageSpeed Insights that I realized that I need to use one. I am now using a paid cache plugin which is the WP Rocket but if you don’t want to spend money for a caching plugin, you can alternatively use W3 Total Cache, just be prepared to be overwhelmed when tweaking it’s performance settings
Those above are basically the main actionable steps that I have taken to achieve a page load speed of under 1 second. I do however optionally add another one that you can also consider to make your site a lot faster which is…
Actionable Tip (Optional): Minimize External Queries
You will be mainly affected by this if your website requires to grab data from an external source, examples of which are the website tracking application such as Google Analytics and Facebook pixel. I personally use Google Analytics and Facebook pixel on my website and they really cause a significant increase in my page load speed. Just check this screenshot below which is my page load speed when Google Analytics and Facebook pixel are both turned off
You can see that my performance grade dropped from 88 to 82, but I was able to get a ridiculously fast page load speed, and as you can see from the screenshot, my website was able to load in just under 300ms, which is around 48% faster compared to the load time when Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel are enabled. This test result actually confirmed two things for me, first is that external queries really slow down your website, and the other one is it validated Romain of WP Rocket’s email, because as you see, although my performance grade dropped, I was still able to get a page load speed that is 99% faster than the tested websites in Pingdom.
The only problem with this is that I will not be able to harness the power of Facebook pixel which I need to retarget audiences that have previously visited my pages, but if you can live without external trackers, then good for you, but for me, getting website data is also important in order to get a better understanding of my website traffic, and with this, I have no other choice but to sacrifice a bit of my potentially faster page load speed in exchange for website data, anyway, on a more positive note, My website still loads in under 1 second, so it is still good enough 🙂
Getting a page load speed of under 1 second is really not that hard to achieve. You just need to make sure that you have the right tools and the right information to get it done properly. You also don’t need to spend lots of money to achieve it as the only thing that cost me on my current setup is the server cost and WP Rocket, for which I think the benefits are much significant compared to the price that I paid for.
Did I miss something? Share your thoughts at the comment section below