With the advent of Mobile-First indexing, Google announced it has has solidified what most SEO's have already known about page speed:
It is one of the most important factors in ranking.
Google utilizes a multitude of algorithms to determine the ranking; site speed is just one of dozens. To ensure their algorithms produce positive results in searches, they hire thousands of testers that follow a rigorous process to ensure quality.
If the website is loading slowly, a site owner cannot expect to rank highly. On the flip side, a website with under-optimized On-Page SEO & UI will not rank, even if it is dusting the competitors.
Most site owners should follow the old philosophy:
A jack of all trades but master of none.
As a website progresses and becomes more profitable, an owner should be able to lean on developers and specialists to fine-tune the website. Nevertheless, know the topics in enough detail to manage operations appropriately.
Managers researching how to improve their website's speed are accustomed to being swamped with technical terminology & paid solutions, at SEOninja.Expert, we decided to simplify the process to speed up the average WordPress website by using three simple methods.
But first remember this, our objective is not for site-masters to master the art of 'Technical SEO'.
By following these three methods, we increased one of our blog's speed performance from 8 to 92!
Reduce WordPress apps, take out duplicates.
WordPress, just like a computer or phone, has a large community of app developers that provide mostly free solutions to websites. If a site owner is not careful, they may find their site bloated with apps that provide redundant functions.
Consider removing the apps that offer the same solution but 'slightly' repackaged.
For instance, 'Yoast SEO' also has a redirect function, so there's no need for an additional app. Most themes and WordPress offer content management. An additional 'block builder' will bloat your website and decrease site speed. We also like to follow a standard of having no more than 15 but preferably less than 10 WordPress plugins on our websites. Our 'less than 15' policy forces us to consider the speed and focus on the website's purpose.
What do we mean by purpose?
A start-up or website should focus on selling the brand. Addons like forums, pop-ups, redirects & extra widgets are seductive distractions. However, they will more than likely reduce the site's functionality. Focus on centering the audience on blog posts that educate and sell the product to the customer.
Most web hosting platforms offer much of the functionality that WordPress apps offer. Look into what hosting services can offer instead of additional apps. We use SiteGround to host our blogs. They offer URL redirection, CDN integration, SG Optimizer, back-ups, security monitoring & caching solutions.
The only two apps a site owner ever needs for speed:
The Amp Project is an open-source initiative driven by lead developers & Google to help make the web Mobile-First. Accelerated Mobile Pages essentially strip down desktop centered objects and aim to provide more speed for mobile users. Additionally, the Amp Project's goal is to provide more compatibility to the vast array of mobile operating systems and hardware.
Google heavily focuses its search engine on mobile-first websites because most users access pages by mobile. Using this app will automate AMPifying a site & give a list of errors that need to be solved to stay AMP qualified and improve speed.
This plugin is compatible with all core themes, debugs errors, removed unused CSS & opts for server-side rendering. Rendering on the server helps improve the LCP (Last Contentful Paint) metric, which is incredibly stubborn to make improvements without development expertise.
Test it all with PageSpeed Insights.
Google offers an inhouse solution for scoring & improving efficiency. More importantly, it shows managers what code may block users from a fast & UI friendly experience.
At the core, PageSpeed insights provide a score evaluating how fast the page loads and how many blockades it has.
It is not all smooth sailing.
A developer is needed to fix AMP errors. For most AMP validation errors, most will need development assistance. If a site does not have any in-house staff to fix the website, many developers specialize in this solution.
SEOexpert.Ninja uses Upwork to find developers that can fine-tune our website. However, developers operate on Fiverr that can get that job done for as little as 5 dollars.
For the tech-savvy, check out this fantastic SEMrush piece that breaks down validation errors.
Apart from AMP validation, invest site resources into solving some of the other PageSpeed abnormalities that will block it from faster speed. An Upwork front end developer should not cost more than 50 USD for such a task. Many of those 'essential' WordPress apps will need to be slightly tweaked, theme JS & CSS code may need to be adjusted or blocked by crawlers.
Don't become obsessed.
Make an active effort and follow best practices. Between Google SpeedTest & Lighthouse, aim for scoring +80% consistently. After the 80% threshold, a site does not need to be concerned with rankings being affected or a high bounce rate due to site speed.
A key tip to take away from this is: keep it light, on apps, themes, CSS, JS and optimize.
Think of Amazon.com, a website that looks crowded and outdated. Amazon focuses almost entirely on content upfront & aesthetics come after. A fast website with a simple layout can dominate the competition.
Focus effort on on-site and off-site SEO practices. Make compelling content for readers and reap the rewards. Be sure to stay tuned for more advice and deeper dives!
Written By Mansa Brice
Learn, Do, Hone.