As your website grows ,one of the important factors you will need to consider is the speed of your website.
When visitors visit your website ,and if it takes longer than usual to load , it is natural for them to get distracted and move on to some other site while waiting .This would ultimately result in loss of traffic, readers and followers. It is said for every extra two seconds a website takes to load, 47% of visitors are lost. So that means you end up losing almost half your valuable traffic. This is even more important for Woo commerce sites to remain profitable.
Google ranks websites in order of the website speed among other factors , and this is another important reason to have a good optimized speed for your website.
To check your website speed :
How to check how you rate currently ? Here are some useful links that lets you know your website’s current performance and grades in terms of speed and optimization. All you do is visit these links and enter your website name and it will list the details in a report.
How to improve website speed optimization ?
Now that we know how we rank and want to improve the performance there are many ways to go about doing it .
1. Good Hosting Provider
First and foremost ,you need to have a good hosting provider to load your website faster and for better optimization. My recommendation is SiteGround . I use their shared hosting provider .For better performance, their cloud hosting provider is recommended. Even better , is their dedicated server for huge websites.The only disadvantage of the shared server space is you have to share the server space with other websites and they may not be well optimized. Even then, in my experience SiteGround's shared server has worked pretty well so far for me.
There are many free and paid plugins available that are useful and claim to increase and optimize the website speed. However without a good hosting provider, the plugins cannot do much .So having a good hosting provider is a must and the first step.
2. Useful Caching Plugins :
As you may already know, caching improves performance and website speed. Caching serves static files instead of dynamically rendered content. In simple words, caching helps your website skip retrieval of data from the server each time a visitor visits your page . Whenever a visitor visits your page , it is not required to retrieve the data from the server , process and generate the page. A caching plugin makes a copy of the page the first time it is loaded .It then serves the cached version on the next visit and even to the next visitor. It reduces the load on your hosting servers and thus makes your website load and run faster.
Some caching plugins that are popular and help with overall speed optimization and adding caching rules to your website are listed below.
- WP- Rocket - Wp-Rocket is considered an overall better plugin, but the only downside is they have a paid-only version .It is good to invest but for a small website and beginners, free plugins serve similar needs and maybe a better option.
- W3 Total cache - W3 Total cache is one of the best and popular plugins which has the free and pro version. It has been downloaded over a million times .This plugin helps your web server do less work and so can serve your content faster. The only down side is the technicalities in setting and configuring but is doable. It has many different menu items in the General Settings tab alone and many more others which may seem overwhelming. However it is really worth the effort.
- WP Super Cache- There is also the WP Super cache which has great reviews.
- Hosting Providers built-in cache plugins - Eg. Siteground (SG super Cacher).
There are many more such caching plugins and you can do your research and see what best suits your needs and your website .After reading many reviews, I decided to go with W3 Total cache.
How to install and configure W3 Total cache :
Before installing any plugin, always ensure you have a backup to restore in case of any issues. These steps are for a very basic configuration after the plugin is installed and activated.It is important to Click on "Save Settings and Purge caches" button at every step. Verify your website is not broken at every step in an incognito window so that you can revert back your settings . I did not encounter any issues during my installation and configuration.
Navigate to the Performance and General settings tab from the left hand menu and select these options as below
For the page cache details:
For Minify details :
3. Useful Image Compression Plugins :
Images if not compressed take up a lot of size and space and are huge bottle necks for a website's loading time.There are many plugins that can reduce image size without compromising quality. You can use the plugins listed below to reduce image size .They will drastically improve website speed. There are paid and free versions which can be used. I used the free version of the Smush Image Compression and optimization. My website has lot of images , I chose the free version which smushes 50 images at a time .It also has an option to automatically smush for new uploads, retain EXIF data and an option to retain the size of your choice. It is a straightforward plugin to configure. Once you set it up, you will see a tremendous improvement in the website speed.The other plugins listed below also works similarly and one can chose according to their preference.
- Smush Image Compression and Optimization
- EWWW Image Optimizer
4. Advanced methods
There are other advanced methods to improve website speed and optimization like using CDN (Content Delivery Networks) . It works by keeping a copy of your website in different data centers around the world .Since your website is being visited by folks from all around the world, it serves the webpage to a visitor from the nearest server location and thus optimizes the website . Cloudflare and MaxCDN are popular CDN that people use. The Minify option used in the W3 Total cache plugin should be disabled if one is using that plugin along with CDN as CDN has its own minify option.
If you are interested this link may be useful. https://bloggingwizard.com/w3-total-cache-cloudflare/
Using the plugins listed above and some basic configurations ,I was able to improve my site from a grade F to a C .There are many other advanced features like CDN, varnish caching which I have not explored yet and will look into it in the future so the scores can be further improved .I hope this post helps benefit others who are looking for similar information.
Disclaimer : *Please note this post contains affiliate links , I recommend the products here only because I find them useful.The opinions in this post are all my own and based on my blogging experiences * .