Does Page Load Speed Matter?

As I’m sure most of you are aware, page load speed is a major ranking factor in Google. If your site is slow, Google doesn’t list it as high in the rankings. This combined with the fact your users are more likely to click off your site if it takes more than a couple of few to load.

How do you improve page load speed? Good question and one I hope to answer in this post. I’ll give you some tips on what helps your page load speed, as well as the wordpress caching plugins, along with their settings I use for the acoda demo sites.

Does a WordPress Theme Affect Load Speed?

In short, yes. One of the key factors in building the new You theme was to ensure that it loaded only the relevant files and optimized the CSS that was being used. The result, a huge improvement in load speed, even without using a CDN or any form of caching.

Below, I compared the top themes with You theme, even with the You theme having much more content on the page 5.09MB, it was still able to achieve much faster load times and scores.

You Theme vs Popular Themes Load Speed

page-load-gtmetrix-compare

Optimize Your Images

One of the biggest factors in making your site slow, is images. The more images you have, the longer the page will take to load. However, even if you have a few images, you need to ensure they’re optimized correctly.

A fantastic plugin I found that helps with this is Compress JPEG & PNG images. It’s free to use, you just need to sign-up and receive an API key, that will allow you to compress 500 images per month. I recommend ( if possible ) to try compressing your images on a test site first, just so you can see how it will look. I’ve used this plugin on the You Theme demo site.

The next step would be to use a CDN ( Content Delivery Network ). I’m yet to experiment with this for the Theme demos. However, I will in the near future and report back to you.

Caching Plugins

Caching plugins play a huge part in reducing your page load speed. I’ve experimented with many plugins and the following combination of plugins seem to work the best for me, they’re simple to setup and show instant results. They’re both running on the You Theme demo.

WP Super Cache + Autoptimize Combined

These two plugins seem to make a perfect combination and can increase your page load speed by upto 100%. They’re both free too. I’ll go through each of settings I use on the demo sites. You can download both plugins here – WP Super Cache & Autoptimize.

WP Super Cache Settings

The Super cache settings are straightforward, I’ve only made a couple of adjustments. Take a look at the screenshot below to help you configure it on your site.

wp-super-cache-settings

Autoptimize Settings

There are few more setting for Autoptimize, but it’s still very straightforward, just copy the settings I have below and that’s it. If you’re not using the You theme, you may have to adjust the settings slightly – mainly in the JS areas.

autoptimize-settings

Additional Things That Can Help

Whilst the above will achieve great results, there are still a few things you can do to help improve the page load score.

Query Strings Remover Plugin

This plugin will also help with your load speed by removing any query strings. I fully recommend you test your site fully after installing this plugin to ensure all functionality remains intact. No settings are required, just install and activate. You can download the plugin here.

.htaccess Settings

I’ll start with a warning for this one, you can do a lot of damage editing your .htacces file, so please be careful. I’ve found this configuration works really well and if you have access to your .htaccess file, it’s worth trying.

Note: make a backup of your existing file before editing it and add the following below your current configuration.

<IfModule mod_php5.c>
php_value post_max_size 5M
php_value upload_max_filesize 5M
php_value memory_limit 128M
php_value max_execution_time 300
php_value max_input_time 300
php_value session.gc_maxlifetime 1200
</IfModule>

<IfModule mod_deflate.c>
 # Compress HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Text, XML and fonts
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/font-woff2
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/vnd.ms-fontobject
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-opentype
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-otf
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-truetype
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-ttf
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/opentype
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/otf
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/ttf
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/svg+xml
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/x-icon
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/javascript
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml

 AddType application/font-woff2 .woff2

 # Remove browser bugs (only needed for really old browsers)
 BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4 gzip-only-text/html
 BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4\.0[678] no-gzip
 BrowserMatch \bMSIE !no-gzip !gzip-only-text/html
 Header append Vary User-Agent
</IfModule>

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/png "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType text/css "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/html "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/pdf "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access 1 year"
ExpiresDefault "access 1 month"
</IfModule>

Testing Your Results

That about wraps up this little guide. Before making the above changes, record your current load speeds and the results after applying the above.

Use http://gtmetrix.comhttps://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ and https://tools.pingdom.com/ to test your page load speed. Ensure you load the page at least once after making the changes, before using these sites, I’d love to see what results you achieve.

Plugin List

All the links to above plugins you require, are below:

Compress JPEG & PNG images
WP Super Cache
Autoptimize
Query String Remover