How to Improve the Page Speed of Your Site?
The first step is to detect if the pages of your site are actually loading slow.
As we progress into the new age of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) we are seeing some rankings factors that are becoming much more critical than ever.
As Google gets more content, they need new ways to distinguish the quality of a website, in particular when the content is in parity.
One of the things that are starting to act as a “difference maker” when it comes to rankings, believe it or not, is your theme choice.
But how so?
There are many aspects of choosing a theme, a few key ones that I am going to be explaining and that you should be taking into consideration when selecting a Wordpress theme.
How To Detect Page Speed Issues?
The first step in improving the page speed of your site is to detect if the pages of your site are really loading slow?
But how do you detect the slower pages? Simply from your Google Search Console.
I used to ignore this new tab on the left navigation called “Core Web Vitals” until recently.
Not sure why Google gave it such a difficult to remember term but it’s basically a screen that shows all your pages that are loading slow.
The screenshots above and below are from my own site.
As you can see 52 pages from my site are loading slower on the mobile devices.
I’m considering moving to a faster hosting platform and take some other measures.
Once you click the “Open Report” link, it takes you to the screen that shows the real issues.
As you can see from the screenshot above, Google clearly has a problem if your site pages are taking more than 4 seconds to load.
Slow Web Hosting
Sometimes websites load slowly because of the server.
You see, a server is like an engine, it sits dormant until someone clicks on your site, and then like a car with a key placed in the ignition, it begins to load up.
How this works is that your browser notifies your server asking it to send the data for your website over, so that the site can load. If there is an issue with the server, this will take longer than normal.
The cause of slow servers usually lays with the web host.
You could be having a slow site because you are hosted on a free web hosting.
You are on a low-quality hosting service with poor support or your site needs a higher spec hosting account with more resources like a VPS.
Speed is becoming everything these days online.
The reality is, Google has lots of choices when it comes to serving content to its users.
When someone does a search, say for example, “best way to lose 10lbs in 10 days”, it is going to produce results that they feel is the best content that helps their audience.
There is a good deal of metrics that determine this, and based on Google Core’s recent guidelines, you are going need to create original, unique, and helpful content.
But when Google has the content of equal quality, how does it decide on the winner?
It is starting to resort to user experience, and speed is one of these key factors.
If your website is fast, it leads to a much better user experience.
If my website and another website both have great content, yet their website is slower, my rankings will almost certainly be higher within the search results.
There are themes however that have a lot of bloat within them, and at that point, PageSpeed scores become the “themes’ issue and completely out of your control.
If you are operating on such a theme you can expect your rankings to start to get hit with each and every Google Core update.
The theme itself is can actually be slow, which slows down your website and subsequently your rankings.
So my recommendation after installed or creating any website is that you do a PageSpeed test on your website.
You ideally want to be in the 90s for both your Mobile and Desktop scores.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m supposed to work on making my site load faster on mobile devices.
The PageSpeed Insights also lists down everything that leads your site to load slower.
These are the areas where you have the scope for improvement.
The Mobile Readiness of The Theme
In the design world, this is also known as a theme being “responsive”.
Most themes within Wordpress are responsive by default, which means they take into consideration different types of devices, environments, and screen sizes that displaying your website to visitors.
By default, any current Wordpress theme will be responsive.
When you build your website, there are several tests that you can do to make sure a theme is responsive.
The first and most obvious test is checking your website on your mobile device.
See how it looks, how it functions, and how it loads.
If you are happy with how your theme performs for you, on your device, then it has passed the first test.
The secondary test is one using Google’s free tools.
If you want to test the mobile design of your website, Google has a tool that allows you to do this through its Mobile-Friendly Test platform.
I recommend you check it out and see the results of your mobile score.
If there are issues with your theme and/or performance on mobile, Google will offer you some insights as to what the issues are.
Here is a test that I did on my realdealaffiliate.com website.
Google Mobile Friend Test
As you can see this page is mobile-friendly, and the mobile-friendly test in Google is going to be the key indicator.
But again, it is important that you check this out for yourself as well and make sure when you visit your website on your own mobile device, that the experience is a good one.
Navigation and Design
The design of your theme is becoming ever so important in terms of your rankings.
Your design comes down to your overall user experience and if you are providing people with “poor” user experience, then Google is going to punish you with lower rankings.
Typically, the way menus work and the overall structure in terms of columns and width are good out of the box with themes, but there is one factor that can serve as a determent to user experience.
That is “access to content”.
If people to scroll to find your content, then this is not a good thing.
Many themes have huge header images, or many allow for huge header images on their website and this will actually detract from the usability of a website.
If you cannot see the content within a page or post within the first fold of the page, in other words, the first viewable screen, then you want to choose a different theme.
Here is an example of a theme that does a good job, and one that does a poor job of “access to content”.
Header Image Too Big
As you can see, the visitor to this page would have to scroll to get to any meaningful content.
This is a design flaw.
As the person in creative control of your website, you want to have minimal vertical height taken from your header.
Avoid the use of big images in your header, ideally, you will have a logo or your web site title in your header and focus on beautifying your website through the “content” itself.
Most themes allow for header customization within the Appearance => Themes => Customize section of a website.
Bloated Theme Code
Themes often times come with additional plugins that are complementary to the theme themselves and unlock more functionality within that given theme.
One thing that you need to be careful about is bloat within these plugins that may cause your website speed to slow.
A test that you should do after installing any theme recommended plugin (or add-on), is to test your PageSpeed Insights score to make sure this plugin hasn’t slowed down the speed/performance of your website.
This is the case with a lot of plugins, so just be careful with those.
These are the main things I recommend you consider when choosing a theme and when you assess the quality of your theme.
There are many factors to SEO and content is of course one of the key factors, but as time goes on we are seeing Google and other search engines put more emphasis on your website speed and design.
It is becoming more important than ever to have a high-quality theme and of course a speedy hosting platform.