DIY Site Speed Optimization

We all know that our blogs should be fast and load under 2 seconds to make Google happy and help our search rankings, but most bloggers put it on the back burner because A) they can’t afford to hire a Pro or B) they don’t how to do it themself.

Join me as I show you how to do-it-yourself and speed up your blog for less than $100!

YOU can get these results too!

DIY Site Speed Optimization results for Mile Marker Memories

Reduced Load Times by 4 seconds!
Improved Speed Test Scores

Case Study: Travel Blogger

DIY Site Speed Optimization results for Davy and Tracy: From 27 to 99!

Reduced Load Times by 11s!
Improved Mobile Score by +72

Case Study: Herbal Blogger

DIY Site Speed Optimization results for Mindy Jones Blog: From 13 to 94!

Reduced Load Times by 5 seconds!
Improved Mobile Score by +81

Case Study: Christian Mom Blogger

Why does Speed matter?

Faster websites make more money, rank better, and improve the overall user experience.

Research from Google shows us that Humans have short attention spans and are impatient. Our culture of ‘Fast Food’ and wanting ‘Instant’ results for everything supports this. What this means for your website is that Speed Matters! No matter what, faster is better and less is more.

Google's Page speed research.
1s to 3s the probability of bounce increases 32%
1s to 5s the probability of bounce increased 90%
Google’s Page Speed research

How Did They Do it? 8 Steps to a Fast & Secure Website

1. Web Hosting – Is it time to Switch?

While there are other WordPress Site-Speed Optimization steps you can implement to make your site load faster, your site’s hosting is always going to be a primary factor in how quickly your site loads (especially if you’ve already optimized the other stuff).

Your webhosting speed determines how fast it can process code, and how many visitors it can handle. Compare your website to a car. To make a car go faster, you either get a stronger engine and/or lighten the weight. For websites, the web-server is the “engine” and the code is the “weight”.

The goal is to improve our web-server “engine” while decreasing code “weight”.

Changing your web hosting is one of the easiest ways to improve speed. Those of you on cheap $5/month shared web hosting will benefit the most from moving to a more robust hosting service. The difference will be night and day without any site changes. 

Fastest WordPress Host

$ This is an affiliate link

How do I know if my Hosting is SLOW or FAST?

Test your website with GTmetrix Speed Tester and look for the Time to First Byte (TTFB) metric. You’ll find it under the ‘Performance’ tab, at the bottom of the page in the ‘Browser Timings’ section. Results will show in Milliseconds. If yours is 500ms or more, than you have SLOW Hosting and can definitely benefit from an Upgrade to a faster host. The winner of the Fastest WordPress Hosting Test for 2021, in a head-to-head speed test, was NameHero.

If you choose to upgrade to NameHero Hosting, choose the Plus Cloud plan or Turbo Cloud if you’re running an ecommerce store from your blog. Turbo Cloud’s SSL certificate is PCI compliant which is necessary for securely processing Credit Card transactions. NameHero offers free website migrations. As you can see below, my TTFB for this blog is well under 200ms, I host with NameHero.

DIY Site Speed Optimization

2. Theme – Is it holding you back?

Most sites can blame up to 50% of their slow speed on the theme alone. Slow themes load way too much junk, offering every fancy effect for every user, trying to be the swiss army knife of themes. Imagine carrying the Home Depot tool aisle with you on every job you do as a renovator, versus loading only the tools you use in your bag. In theme terms, we call that a ‘Bloated Theme’.

Ideally, you’d have a theme that focuses on the design and nothing else. It loads CSS styles ASAP so content can quickly be visible in the browser. No extra junk assets loaded on every page of your website for non-essential features that you’ll never use anyway.

And you really don’t want a theme handling heavy functions better left to plugins. Sure, these themes with endless “extra features” seem like a convenient 1-stop shop…until you realize they don’t do as good a job as specialized plugins AND cause conflicts with other plugins while slowing your site down.

Fastest DIY Theme

$ This is an affiliate link

How do I know if my Theme is SLOW or FAST?

Find the demo website for your Theme and run it through GTmetrix Speed Tester.
Look at 3 areas for evaluating the theme for speed, performance, code-quality, and whether or not you should buy it:

  1. the overall ‘GTmetrix Grade’
  2. ‘Web Vitals’ scores
  3. the ‘Performance Metrics’ section under the Performance tab

You’re looking for all Green results in all of the sections mentioned above. The numbers aren’t important, as each demo will be on different hosting, different CDNs, etc. Since we know that the Theme creator is going to optimize the heck out of their demos, because they want it to test as fast as possible, we know it’s safe to say what we see in our test will be a good representation of what we can expect for our own website using that theme. Stay away from themes that test poorly, lots of Red / Yellow colors and a Poor overall grade means it’s not coded properly and is bloated in size.

Astra Recipe Blog Demo – Blazing Fast!

Built with Astra Pro and their free Ultimate Add-ons for Gutenberg blocks plugin

Astra Pro Theme GTmetrix Results: Notice the ALL Dark Green values.

So which theme should you choose? The winner of the Fastest WordPress Themes Test for 2021, in a head-to-head speed test is GeneratePress and Astra. They were super close in speed, with Astra being more DIY-friendly for the non-techie & non-coder blogger.

If you upgrade to Astra Theme then purchase the Pro Add-on too. The Pro version extends the customization level of the theme, giving you additional blog layouts, site layouts, menu options, Woocommerce customizations, custom page headers, custom layouts and so much more!

3. Caching – Optimization Workhorse #1

A lot of Bloggers have heard they need to “use a caching plugin”, and may even be using one without really understanding why or what it’s doing for your website.

Caching is the ability to deliver a webpage with a super-fast response time, without having to do all the time-consuming processing, every time the page loads.

It’s like asking what’s 3,549,752 divided by 23,234? Anyone…

The first visitor to a particular page on your site is “asking the question” and your server provides the answer. The next time a visitor goes to the same page, ie. “asks the same question”, your server can provide the answer, i.e the web page, much faster.

All of the heavy-lifting that WordPress typically does to display the webpage is done the very first time a page is visited. Once that process has happened the first time, your caching plugin takes a “snapshot” and then, when the next person comes to your site, it whips out the snapshot super-fast.

Caching Superhero!

$ This is an affiliate link

Why choose WP Rocket?

WP Rocket is a premium diy-friendly caching plugin, it’s hands-down the easiest to use and configure for the non-techie. Supports WebP, Lazy-Loading, CDNs, Script Minification and more strategies to achieve FAST site speeds. It can handle small to large blogs, bloggers that run ads, video blogs, membership sites, Woocommerce stores, it can handle them all with ease. Integrates with Cloudflare to purge it’s cache when pages and posts are updated too.

View my WP Rocket Settings Guide >>

4. CDN – Optimization Workhorse #2

The number one reason for using a CDN is to improve your user’s experience in terms of speed, and as we know – speed matters!

A website may be hosted in a particular region, but if the majority of its users are coming from an entirely different region – e.g., if your site is hosted in North America but your visitors are coming from US and UK, then you need a Global CDN. Ensuring a consistent experience for all your users is important.

CDN is short for content delivery network. These are a network of servers located around the globe. They are designed to host and deliver copies of your WordPress site’s static (and sometimes dynamic) content such as images, CSS, JavaScript, and video streams.

Why choose Cloudflare?

Cloudflare adds another layer of security to your domain to protect against hackers while delivering your static site files like HTML, Javascript, CSS, Images super fast to your visitors. Cloudflare’s CDN network stores a copy of your files on their servers that are geographically closer to web visitors, which means they are delivered more quickly than before. Cloudflare works in unison with WP Rocket. Your blog can benefit from Cloudflare whether you’re a local or International blogger. I recommend Cloudflare’s FREE plan for every blogger that cares about Site speed and Security.

View my Cloudflare Settings Guide >>

CDN & Security

5. Image Compression – Optimization Workhorse #3

Large images slow down your web pages which can cause the visitor to abandon your page, lowering your conversions, and revenue. Optimizing images is the process of decreasing their file size, by using an image editing software, or a desktop application, or a WordPress plugin, which in turn speeds up the load time of the page.

On average, images make up 21% of a pages size or total weight, the second highest behind video. Images make up more of your webpage than Javascript, CSS, HTML and Fonts combined. So when it comes to optimizing your website, images are the first place to start!

It’s more important than scripts and fonts. And ironically, a good image optimization workflow is one of the easiest things to implement, yet most bloggers completely overlook it.

Why choose ShortPixel?

ShortPixel Image Optimization is a free/premium image compression plugin. It gives you 100 free images a month, or there are one-time add-on image packs. ShortPixel offers the best compression rate in our head-to-head tests. ShortPixel supports next-gen image format WebP, Lazy-Loading, and CDNs for FAST delivery of your images. ShortPixel integrates with Cloudflare to purge it’s cache when your images are updated. This is a must-use for blogger’s with niches that depend on large high-quality images for sharing on Pinterest, Instagram and across the web.

View my ShortPixel Settings Guide >>

Blazing Fast Images

6. Spam Management – Security Must-Have

Antispam Bee blocks spam comments and trackbacks effectively, without captchas and without sending personal information to third-party services. It is free of charge, ad-free and 100% GDPR compliant. Say Goodbye to comment spam on your site. Time to replace the slow and bloated Akismet which doesn’t even stop spam all that well either. Take back control of your site from spammers.

View my Antispam Bee Settings Guide >>

7. Login – Keep Hackers Out

Login LockDown FREE plugin records the IP address (internet’s version of an address) of every failed login attempt to your website. If more than a certain number of attempts occur within a short period of time from the same IP range, then their login ability is disabled for a specific amount of time. This helps to prevent brute-force password attacks by bad bots and hackers. They’ll move on to their next victim instead of having to wait 1hr to try again to access your website. Easy to configure and highly effective.

View my Login LockDown Settings Guide >>

8. Backups – Protection from ‘What-ifs’

UpdraftPlus is a free/premium feature-rich WordPress backup plugin. Combine this with offsite secure Amazon S3 Storage, Google Drive or even Dropbox for automated backups and you’ll be protected against Hacking, Server crashes, Dodgy WordPress updates or simple user error. The paid version let’s you migrate your website from one Host/Server to another, effortlessly. Creating an automatic backup plan for your website that includes backups prior to major theme/plugin/WordPress updates, as well as regularly scheduled daily or weekly backups just plain makes good sense for all Bloggers.

View my UpdraftPlus Settings Guide >> (Coming Soon!)

Congratulations on your Faster Site!

Completing all 8 steps will make a huge impact on both your loading speed and your site’s security.

Have an amazing speed transformation to share? Let me know! So I can celebrate with You!

Extra Credit Work for the Speed Obsessed:

9. Plugins

Take a long-hard-look at the plugins you have installed. Purge those with redundant functionality, seldom used features, or those you were going to use but never got around to it. You’re operating a lean mean fighting machine of a website now, less is more in terms of plugins.

Check all your plugins against the ‘Sluggins List’ of SLOW WordPress Plugins to Avoid and their Fast Alternatives.

If your plugin is a sluggin, then replace it with the recommended alternative and delete the sluggin afterwards. Speed improvement from replacing sluggins can vary widely, but they all add up! Ex. Replacing Contact Form 7 with Fluent Forms makes a big difference!

10. Resize Pics

You’ve already got ShortPixel installed and optimizing your images, great, let’s take it a step further and start to optimize your existing images you’ve uploaded till now.

This takes a long time to do, but can definitely make a profound difference in your page loading times. Start with your top traffic posts/pages.

Follow our Image Optimization Guide >>

Or check out the Canva Image Optimization Guide >>

11. Page Builders / Gutenberg

If you’re using a Page Builder such as Elementor, Beaver Builder, or Thrive Architect to name a few, then your pages/posts are bloated and wayyyyy larger than they need to be. No joke, I’m talking 5-10x the size they should be along with loading a ton of Javascript on every page. The faster alternative is to use Gutenberg blocks for all page/post design on your site.

There are Block libraries that extend the basic functionality of Gutenberg to the point it rivals the bloated page builders.

GenerateBlocks PRO – from the makers of GeneratePress is like the Gutenberg version of a page builder, but better because it’s lightweight in code and delivers high-speed performance. It’s theme agnostic, so you can use it with any WordPress theme. This is the FASTEST Gutenberg blocks library made.

Conversion from page builders to Gutenberg can be a labor-intensive and frustrating process, but can definitely make a profound difference in your page loading times. Start with your top traffic posts/pages and on from there.