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How to Get a High Score on Google PageSpeed Insights

In this how-to guide, we’ll talk about why page speed is important, what Google PageSpeed Insights is, and some ways that you can make your WordPress site faster and get a higher score on Google PageSpeed Insights.

Why is Website Speed So Important?

We talk about page load speed a bit more in depth in our How to Speed up Your WordPress Website post, so we’ll just cover the basics here. You only have 5 seconds to engage a customer before they leave your site and that 46% of users will not return to a poorly performing website. Just a one second increase in page load times leads to a 7% loss in conversions, 11% fewer page views and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction. All of this means that if your WordPress site is loading slowly, your conversion rates will go down and you will ultimately lose customers. You want your site to load quickly so that people will stay to read your content and will in turn, be more confident about your products and services which will hopefully convert them into loyal customers.

What is Google PageSpeed Insights and Why Should I Use it?

Google PageSpeed Insights is a tool used to measure the performance of both a page for mobile devices and desktop devices. You simply input your URL and it will analyze the server configuration, the HTML structure of a page, and its use of external resources such as images, JavaScript, and CSS. After your page has been analyzed it will tell you which things you should fix, how to fix them, and which aspects are already good to go. It will give you a score between 0-100, the higher, the better. A score of 85 or above indicates that your site is performing well. You should use Google PageSpeed Insights if you’ve never tested your WordPress site for page speed performance. It will give you a really good look into how your site is performing and how you can improve on it. Google PageSpeed Insights is a really great starting point for increasing your page speed and it’s free to use. Both Pingdom and GTMetrix are other tools that you can use to test your WordPress site’s load speed. They both work the same as Google PageSpeed Insights, but they can give you other useful information about your page speed and how to improve upon it.

Steps to a High Score on Google PageSpeed Insights

Here we’ll talk about some common ways that you can get a high score on Google PageSpeed Insights. Keep in mind that all WordPress websites are different which means your analysis results will be different so the ways that you can increase your website’s speed may vary from everyone else’s.

Get a Benchmark:

The first step is to start by finding out where your site stands currently. Like we mentioned earlier, this is a very easy thing to do. Go to Google PageSpeed Insights and enter your WordPress site’s URL and then click “Analyze”. You can also do this test on Pingdom and GTMetrix to get a more well-rounded benchmark of your page speed.

Hosting Environment:

Many times, changing your hosting environment to a better, faster host is a good way to boost your page loading speed. Although shared hosting can be the cheapest option, it is usually going to be the worst and slowest option. If you can get on a VPS hosting plan or a host that only has WordPress sites on it, that will help a lot. We recommend using WP Engine since it is a hosting service only for WordPress so everything about it has been optimized for WordPress websites. The ideal server response time is to be under 200ms.

Enable Caching:

The next step is to make sure that you enable caching and that you have a good caching plugin. Caching your content can really help to increase your site’s loading speed. W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular caching plugins and it is free to download. W3 Total cache offers browser, page, object, database, minify and content delivery network (CDN) caching support. Minifying your code, using gzip compression, and setting your headers to expire can drastically improve your site’s speed.

Image Optimization:

If you have a ton of images on your site, this next part may take a bit more time, but if you optimize your images, you can help to improve your page load time. The free plugin called WP Smush can help you bulk compress your images without losing quality. This will reduce the size of your high resolution images and this should increase your website’s speed. You can also use lazy loading images, which means that images further down the page will load after the ones on the top of the page and as you scroll down the page. There are many different plugins that you can use if you’d like to implement lazy loading images on your site.

Clean Homepage:

You will also want to keep your homepage as clean as possible. Make sure that you limit widgets to only the ones you absolutely need and remove any plugins that are unnecessary or inactive. If you put up blog posts on your homepage, also remember to only publish small excerpts and keep the posts per page to under 5. Having a clean homepage will not only help with speed, but will also help with organization, readability, and will keep your customers on your page.

Theme Choice:

Choosing a fast and lightweight theme is also another way to increase your loading speed. There are many different themes to choose from and we compiled a list of our top 10 themes for speed here. When choosing a theme to help with speed, you want to make sure that the code has been optimized for speed, that it is responsive and mobile friendly, and that it’s not loaded down with unnecessary features. Make sure that you also consider the needs of your site when choosing a theme. By choosing a lightweight theme, you will be decreasing the amount of requests that your site makes to the server which in turn, will make your site load quicker. We talk about requests a bit more in depth in our How to Speed Up Your WordPress Website article.

Query Strings:

You can also remove unnecessary query strings through a plugin called Remove Query Strings From Static Resources. This plugin removes any query strings from CSS and Javascript files and promises to improve your speed scores. You can also remove query strings with code but it is a more complicated process. If you’re not code savvy, the Remove Query Strings From Static Resources plugin is easy to use, doesn’t require any code editing, and you can quickly activate and deactivate it when you’re not using it.

Minify and Compress Code:

While we’re on the topic of code. It is also a good idea to minify and compress your code. The W3 Total Cache plugin that we talk about earlier and other plugins like Minit can help you do this. They both will help minify and combine your CSS files and Javascript files.

Gzipping:

You will also want to enable compression by Gzipping your site which can be done a few different ways. Gzip compression can make your site faster by making your file sizes smaller. Again, W3 Total Cache has settings to help you with this by going to Performance > Browser Cache > General. Another option for enabling Gzip compression is by editing your .htaccess file. You can use this snippet of code to do that.

# compress text, html, javascript, css, xml:AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript
AddType x-font/otf .otf
AddType x-font/ttf .ttf
AddType x-font/eot .eot
AddType x-font/woff .woff
AddType image/x-icon .ico
AddType image/png .png

There are also other plugins you can use for GZip compression, but if you use WP Engine as your host, be aware that they do not allow the use of the WordPress Gzip Compression plugin.

Clean Database:

The next step you’ll want to take is to clean up your database. This is especially important if you’ve been testing out various plugins and deleting them and have unnecessary database entries. Again, there are quite a few plugins out there that can help you with this process. WP Optimizer and WP-DB Manager are both good plugin options for cleaning up your database. WP Optimizer is a bit easier to use but both have the option to run automatically and they’ll clean up and optimize your WordPress database so that it’s squeaky clean. Having a clean database will make your site run better and faster.

Content Delivery Network (CDN):

That last thing we recommend doing is, and this is for those of you who are really serious about speeding up your site, is to use a CDN (content delivery network). Something to keep in mind about using a CDN is that when you use it, it does add Javascript to your site. This won’t slow down your site, but your Google PageSpeed Insights score may go down. This is because Google PageSpeed Insights only analyzes your front end information, not your backend. Using a CDN could help speed up the backend of your website. If you’re not entirely convinced to use a CDN and you’re not sure if you want to fork over money every month for it, places like Cloudflare have a free service option.

 

Again, like we stated earlier, everyone’s Google PageSpeed Insights analyses will be different from everyone else’s. These are some of the more common ways that you can get a high score on Google PageSpeed Insights. Increasing your WordPress website’s speed is crucial to conversion rates and will make it more likely that your customers will stay on your site to read your content. We hope that this how-to guide has helped you make your Google PageSpeed Insights score higher and your site faster!

If you need help with speeding up your site or other support for WordPress, we have instructors that are ready to help you. Call 512-593-1621 to schedule a consultation today.