With all of the focus on the importance of speed for SEO, I figured I should actually take a look at my own often neglected site and see how I stand from a speed perspective. The answer was not good. I did a gtmetrix.com speed test on one of my core service pages and got a C and a D in the two different scores they provide. Well, problems create an opportunity to learn and improve. GT Metrix does a nice job of explaining what is causing your speed issues. Now I have already installed AMP on my site, so from a mobile standpoint in Google, I’m somewhat taken care of, but I still wanted to address the core site speed in general.
Finding the Right Cache Plugin
With the help of Marie Roeling of MarieKra Communications, I looked into some free cache plugins that addressed my core issues. I figured I might as well start with something free, though it is helpful to pay your developer for their assistance. Some plugins are free and some cost money just to use. The ones that cost money can add even more assistance, but I find it helpful to look for a free alternative first. If you have a maintenance plan with your developer, which I would recommend, they can possibly do these things as part of the plan, but if not, it may be worth looking at if you score poorly on speed. Speed doesn’t only hurt you for SEO, but any visitor that comes to your site and has to wait for pages to load.
The advantage of WordPress sites is that often when things become important to address for user experience, SEO, or PPC purposes (most help all three), there are usually a number of plugins that pop up that you can install to address the issues. You just have to know how to do it, make sure you back up in case things get broken, and install it properly. This is why it is helpful to have a developer do it right as part of your plan. There are plugins for AMP, for reviews, for snippets, for image compression, for just about anything. I had to look at several different plugins when deciding how to address my speed issues. I settled on the WP Fastest Cache plugin because it was free and had good reviews. It seemed to address my core speed issues well and did not cost money like some of the others I found. This plugin may not necessarily work for every site, but it worked on mine.
I would say even if you aren’t tech savvy, look for the key things holding you back in the explanation portion, and then look for a plugin that addresses those specific issues. I found one of the very highly ranked pay plugins did not mention GZip compression in their description, which was one of my key issues, so I didn’t dig any deeper. It is possible that they do offer it, but it wasn’t at the forefront of their description. Try to find some that match what your issues are, and then get your developers advice on how to implement and if it may be difficult to add to your specific site.
The Results of the Speed Plugin
So after all that, just by adding the plugin to my site, my page score shot up from a C and a D in the scores to an A and a C. The “fully loaded” time dropped from 2.9 seconds to 2.1. That is a pretty giant improvement just from putting a plugin on the site. I would recommend looking at solutions like this and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) if you are having speed troubles. But make sure you know and trust your developer to do it right. This is a marked improvement within a day to a clear problem with my site. I can now look at ways to tweak the other issues and my developer explained there are things I can do with the images I load that will help things even more, but going from barely passing to a good score is a pretty nice improvement in a day, with very little work. It allows all of the other things you are doing with on page and link building to work even better when you outperform or at least match your competitors in site speed. With Google making a big Speed Update this summer, it is really important to look at your site speed and come up with a plan if you aren’t doing well.