We're back with another live Q&A session with WooRank's SEO team!

This month, we focused on Page Speed. You submitted lots of great questions in advance. We did our best to answer every pre-submitted and live question to help you speed up your site. Stay tuned for next month's webinar, and enjoy a recap of the live session below.

Note: This webinar originally aired on August 27th, 2020

Q: Any recommendations for WordPress plugins that help optimize page speed?

A: There's a bunch of plugins in the WordPress space to speed things up, but I think the most notable ones are WP Rocket and WP Cache. There's obviously lots of settings in both of them, a lot of overlap in what they do. They probably have their unique selling points of their own, but those are the two main ones I see being talked about all of the time.

Q: What is the best WordPress theme you ever worked with in terms of speed and SEO ?

A: This is one of those "it's complicated" questions. Simply put, the theme doesn't really matter. But, at the same time, if you use a theme that's bloated with HTML elements and objects, then of course your browser will struggle to render it. Performance will go down on your end, so not things that go over the network but literally within your browser. So, again, not something I can answer in a couple of minutes, but if you stick with the common themes built by WordPress experts or people selling those theme marketplaces, they've been vetted to be in such a marketplace and to be sold. I'd say that's a safer way to go, but it's a hard one to answer.

Just have a look at the source even if you're not a developer or have a technical background. If you right click in your browser, "View Page Source" - if you see a lot of complex patterns in there, it's probably not a good theme to go with. If it all looks a bit nice and clean then it probably is a good one.

Q: What are the top 5 thing to do to speed up a website?

A:

  1. Remove excess plugins (including deleting ones that are installed, but not activated)
  2. Optimize your image sizes both in the theme and content
  3. Use a speed / asset compression plugin (WP Rocket, WP Fastest Cache)
  4. Use a CDN like Cloudflare (which actually connects with the WP fastest cache plugin),
  5. Avoid inline styling and keep your CSS files slim and trim

Q: ​Is there a way to manually compress assets like SVG's, if i'm using a CMS, where I don't have access to change anything serverside?

A: It's a tough question to answer briefly. Obviously if you're not able to touch your HTML or the backend of your CMS, there's nothing to be done. But if you're writing content, like articles, and you're putting images in your content, there are a bunch of online and offline tools that take in and image and optimize it for the internet. For optimization, it doesn't matter if it's PNG of SVG, there are tools for both of them.

Any time you're posting images, it's extra work to optimize them but it's worth it.

Q: How to Eliminate render-blocking resources/unused CSS? Exact and best method manual or plugin?

A: First, check your site with Google PageSpeed Insights.

Then use WP Rocket (paid version). (Watch the webinar for the extended answer).

Q: ​Hi! How can I better to optimize page loading speed?

A: After using a system like a cache, CDN, you can also look at the content itself.

Are the images optimized or are they still 5MB in size?

Are there any unnecessary snippets of code from old plugins or lots of Commented out code.

Use Google Page Speed insights to get a really detailed view on what is happening with your page.

Also consider using Lighthouse on Chrome and see what is taking the longest time to load.

Often it can be social media plugins!

Q: My WordPress website is pretty slow, loading the full home page needs around 5-7s. Is it affecting the SEO ranking a lot? Is WordPress website loading time slow and bad for SEO?

A: Short answer - yes. Longer answer, it's the recurring theme of the way people think of SEO. Like, "I need to do good for the crawlers of Google and Bing." But in the end, it's all about how your users perceive your website. If it's slow for a user, then search engines will also take note of that and give you a hit if it's very slow.

5-7 seconds is indeed quite long, so that's definitely something you need to check out and fix. To put it simply, if a user has a bad time, search engines will see that too and rank your website lower.

There is lots of discussion in the SEO space among experts: "How important performance actually is." Some say it's just a minor thing that search engines take into account in their big bulky crazy algorithms; others say no, it's becoming more and more important.

Take all of that with a grain of salt, but you don't want your users to be waiting 5-7 seconds to see your page, regardless of what you do on the SEO side of things. Start with the user first.

Q: How do I compress assets?

A: Generally, by using a plugin for Wordpress. There are plugins for images (Smush), and plugins for CSS and code (minification) - and plugins that offer the whole range of compression.

Plugins however are a double edged sword. You need to plan which ones you will use, because the more you install the slower WP can get.

Selecting the right group of plugins that work for your site is critical and you should only install plugins that are necessary and add value to the site. Ignore plugins that are bloatware and only for cosmetics.

Q: What’s the best hosting in terms of speed for Latin American WordPress sites?

A: The best hosting will utilise some kind of CDN (content distribution network) which means that it will have server locations in many countries. You will want to pick one that offers a server location not only in your own country, but one that has locations in countries where your clients typically come from.

If you have an e-commerce website you might get traffic globally - whereas a local business will tend to only get local traffic.

So I would advise you to review hosting companies based on these factors.

Generally, South American businesses would use a data centre in Texas - this would generally give you great results. Try Flywheel, Bluehost or others - ask them for a demo and how you can test their speed from your location.

Q: How can we optimize a WordPress to load in less than 4 seconds without damaging the (front) style of the website?

A: This is a difficult ask for Wordpress generally because of the amount of bloat in the code, however, as with a lot of the advice given already, using a plugin like WP Fastest Cache and connecting that to a CDN like Cloudflare, is going to do wonders for your loading time.

It also comes down to design and the sizes of images. You might consider a plugin that optimized the image size like Smush.

Websites can be FAST or EASY to use. CMS like Wordpress make it easy to use but the downside is the speed hit.

The fastest site would be a plain HTML coded site but that is of course harder to make and update for non-technical users.

Q: What’s the best technique or plugin for lazy load in WordPress, without affecting the user experience or the site structure?

A: So, lazy loading is an optimization technique that loads visible content first, while delaying the content below the “fold” of the screen. This can include images, videos and scripts.

The simplest way to do this would be via a suitable plugin.

As always, check the Wordpress plugins page and ensure that you select one that has a high rating with lots of feedback, and it says “compatible” with your current version of Wordpress.

Do some testing once installed and you should be good to go. It’s a good habit to install one plugin at a time and test thoroughly! Also - always make backups if you can.

Q: I had paid for Fiverr people improve my page speed, it will show the page speed is up there on the 90+ (Google Page Speed Insight), but after a week, the speed would come back down!

A: Without looking at your website specifically to determine what happened, I would strongly advise to avoid any cheap offer at fixing SEO aspects such as speed, rankings, keywords, etc.

SEO needs to be implemented by someone with experience and done carefully.

While Fiverr can be great for other services (I have heard some people say logos are decent) I would caution that you get what you pay for in terms of SEO. Avoid cheap SEO deals like the plague.

Q: Speed question - we use BigCommerce on WordPress. What's a XHR file? Ours is really big at 17.8 MB.

A: XHR stands for XMLHttpRequest and it's asynchronous. So even if it's in a big file, I wouldn't worry too much about this. It's usually used where you have your website, and it's rendered and your user can see your website, but then things need to be loaded dynamically on the page.

The simplest example would be a chat application on the website. The whole site has loaded, but once you start chatting and people start chatting to you, things come in dynamically without reloading the webpage. That's the space we're in with XHR requests. It's asynchronous loading of data into your browser and then your browser dynamically changing things to your website once it gets that data in. A large XHR won't be blocking so wouldn't be a problem per se, but as we said earlier with image sizes, do take into account a mobile phone on a slow connection also needs to load these things. Huge requests do take time, so keep your user in mind if that is important to you.

Q: On latest Google Chrome when performing a Page Speed test on Lighthouse why is it recommended to use video instead of animated .gifs for a faster Page Speed load?

A: With a .gif, it's an image format of sorts. It can be quite large quite quickly and your browser has to load it as a whole before it can start rendering your page. So, I've talked a lot about how browsers have to render HTML and everything in it before your page can be displayed to your users. So, a .gif might be blocking. If it's a big one that it takes your browser a long time to load your page. For a user, (and remember: users first!) it might not be a good experience for them.

Whereas videos, and I assume you're looking at using certain hosting platforms like Vimeo or Youtube, that's asynchronous. It just has to load a very simple, little thing on your website to be able to play a video, but then the video will stream in as the HTML page gets rendered. Your users will already see things going on on your website and the video can still be quite large. That's the good thing, video platforms already optimize on that behavior. They buffer a bunch of stuff, so that they don't have to load the entire video to start showing it, they can just load the first few seconds to start showing something.

From a UX point of view, videos are a better choice.

Q: How to speed up my website and also add keywords and heading tags and links to rank higher on Google and Bing?

A: I would recommend you sign up for a WooRank trial - and I don’t say this just to plug the service but you sound like you need a little SEO help in all the important areas.

WooRank can guide you through these sections and help you monitor your keywords at the same time as fixing your site.

Q: How do I find out what is causing my site to slow down?

A: I think what Adam earlier pointed to is in Google Chrome, you have Lighthouse reports. There's how-to's online on how to bring it up, on one of the menus Chrome has. Just like a WooRank review that goes beyond just one webpage and look at your entire website, Lighthouse will look specifically on the page you're on and look at a bunch of parameters, especially on performance and tell you what's good and not good. It will also give you a score, just like WooRank does.

Now, it can become quite technical quite quickly. That's a good starting point to see what the low-hanging fruit is versus the more complex things to change. Small but important sidenote, the score they give back to you is kind of a lab score. I might run a Lighthouse report and so will Adam and so will Courtney, all for the same webpage, and we will all get different scores. So don't attach yourself too much to the absolute number. Maybe if my score right now is 30, I make some changes, run it again and now it's 35, ok I made some improvements. But it definitely doesn't make sense to compare your score to your competitor's score here.

Q: Do you think it’s possible that every element in a website loads 100% when typing in the URL?

A: Not yet! Not even AMP websites.

A website can only begin it’s session once you tell your browser the URL you want to load.

Maybe there are some browser plugins that fake this by pre-fetching common website caches and predict which site you are about to go to - but this is not the same thing.