With some analysis and a touch of maintenance, you can easily make sure your WordPress site performance is properly optimized. It might seem like a pointless endeavor, but imagine this:
Sitting around the dinner table on a Friday, tired and hungry, you find yourself with a craving for take-out sushi. Pulling your brand new iPhone 6 out of your pocket, you open up Safari and Google “sushi delivery near me”.
Google quickly returns six potential results and like 30% of the population, you click on the first one listed. And you wait. The website’s header loads and then the site hangs. Nothing. As you’re about to click back to the SERPs the website finally presents you with a mouth-watering picture of Tuna Maki and a link that says “Click To View Menu” – which you do.
Again, nothing – three seconds go by. “Forget this,” you say aloud to yourself, “I’ll try the next restaurant.”
The problem described above plagues many WordPress websites. The cost is missed leads, sales, customers, and revenue.
Imagine losing website visitors over a 3-second delay! Wouldn’t you want to know if this was happening to your website?
Two Reasons To Optimize Your Website Performance
As far back as 2010 Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, announced that the search engine would be incorporating site speed in their official ranking algorithm.
Exactly how much relevance Google has assigned to site speed is unknown, but it’s fair to suspect that it’s significantly important. It’s common for websites to display intermittent signs of slow page load. If it happens to your site, don’t panic. What should be of concern though, are consistently slow load times, since this is more likely to raise a red flag for Google.
Improve Your User Experience
Closely aligned with Google’s motivations is the fact that a slow website presents a poor user experience. Consumer attention spans are at an all-time low. If there is any discernible lag in your page load speed, you can expect that your visitor’s patience will quickly wear thin.
Unhappy visitors will result in lost traffic. And the cost of that lost traffic you ask? In a 2012 Fast Company article, two of the internet biggest companies provided some mind-blowing statistics:
- Amazon calculated that a page slowdown of only one second could cost them $1.6 billion in sales each year
- Google calculated that by decreasing their search results speed by 0.04 seconds, they would lose 8 million searches per day.
If you’re looking for more recent data, straight from the horse’s mouth, Google recently polled 570 independent users, asking for their number one dislike when surfing the web on a mobile device. Almost half (46%) of the respondents named waiting for pages to load as their number one complaint.
Image Source: Official Google Webmaster Blog
Tools To Measure WordPress Site Performance
We’ve built a pretty strong case for the importance of page load speed. But how do you properly measure the performance of your website? Let’s take a look at five potential tools that you can try, with one word of advice: It’s always a good idea to test using multiple tools before reaching a conclusion.
Google Developers PageSpeed Insights
PageSpeed Insights is a quick and efficient tool for analyzing your website’s performance on both desktop and mobile devices. Using a simple scoring system, Google makes recommendations based upon their analysis.
Although PageSpeed Insights does not provide the same detailed analysis as the services listed below, it provides easy to follow recommendations for each potential optimization. You can also rest assured that Google is basing your scores on a large cross-section of data and that they are focused on the items they consider most important.
An open-source project since 2008 and fully supported by Google, the online version of webpagetest.org is maintained by the Web Performance Optimization Foundation, a non-profit for web performance.
This tool provides a thorough analysis of your websites performance in just a few minutes. It’s very convenient when trying to pinpoint the cause of a slow site. If you’re working with a client who thinks the site you developed is slow, it can be easy to verify whether the lack of speed is caused by your development skills, a slow server or the DNS lookup.
Pingdom offers both a free and a paid service. Even the details from their free service are tremendously helpful when it comes to identifying problem areas. Some of the key data they provide includes:
- Breakdown of requests stages by page (DNS, SSL, Connect, Send, Wait and Receive)
- A grade in % for 12 different metrics
- Page analysis that measures time spent on different tasks
Pingdom’s paid service provides all the above data plus:
- Up-time monitoring and notification
- Real-time monitoring of site performance based upon real visitors
- Detailed analysis of any problems
- Mobile monitoring apps
P3 Plugin Performance Profiler
Plugin Performance Profiler is a nifty little plugin that made it into this list for the simple fact that WordPress.org lists evaluating your installed plugins as the first and easiest way to optimize your site performance – especially if you’re running more than a handful.
Plugins have the potential to cause a serious drain on server resources. If you’re noticing a slow website, one of the first things you should do is review your plugins. Disable them all and enable them one by one, while looking for a performance change.
If you decide to try this plugin, make sure you read through the FAQ and support, especially if you know already that your website is a resource hog.
The importance of a fast website cannot be overstated as it affects both your user’s experience and your position in search engines. It is a good idea to schedule a performance test on a regular basis, just like you perform maintenance and updates on your WordPress core and plugin files.
All of the free and paid tools we’ve covered today are quick, easy to use and provide great diagnostic insight – there’s really no excuse to be running a slow WordPress website!
Have you ever had a problem with your website speed? Share some details in the comments below about the cause of the problem and how you fixed it?