WordPress Website Optimization for Better SEO Ranking: Tips and Tricks
WordPress has become incredibly popular since its inception in 2033. Currently, more than 43% of all websites use this Content Management System (CMS). Its popularity is due to the ease of developing a website with numerous functionalities without requiring extensive technical knowledge or high costs. However, despite the ease of launching a website, WordPress also comes with a few significant drawbacks that can make ranking well on Google quite challenging.
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The 2 Major Drawbacks of WordPress
While convenience is essential, ranking is equally valuable. Therefore, many businesses opt for a simple HTML website. Though it may be somewhat more expensive and require technical knowledge, having a website that attracts organic visitors is essential. Here are the two main drawbacks of WordPress and potential solutions.
WordPress websites can sometimes load much slower than simple HTML websites, particularly when using numerous plugins and poorly constructed themes. This slow loading speed can have a significantly negative impact on Google’s ranking, as Google favors fast and responsive websites.
When building a WordPress website, various plugins are often added to provide additional functionality, such as contact forms, social media integration, caching, and more. However, these plugins automatically add extra code to the website, potentially slowing down the loading time. Additionally, some plugins may not be well-programmed, further negatively affecting the site’s loading speed.
Moreover, using complex and poorly developed themes can also greatly impact the loading time of a WordPress website. Themes add formatting and styling to the site, but if they are too heavy (with too much unnecessary code) or poorly optimized, it can slow down the loading speed.
Tips to Improve the Speed of a WordPress Site:
To enhance the loading speed of a WordPress website, several measures can be taken:
a) Use of Caching Plugins:
Caching helps store static versions of pages, reducing loading time for returning visitors.
Caching is a technique used to reduce the loading time of a website by storing static versions of pages. When a website is visited, web pages are usually dynamically generated from the database, and the server is queried each time a visitor requests a page. This process requires the server to process various scripts and data before showing the page to the visitor.
Caching plugins can bypass these dynamic processes by storing a static copy of the page after it is generated for the first time. This static version is then displayed to subsequent visitors who request the same page, without requiring the server to re-run all the scripts or load data again. This results in much faster loading times for returning visitors.
Caching plugins act as temporary storage for the static version of the page. When a visitor requests a page, the plugin first checks if a static copy of that page is already stored. If so, the static version is immediately shown to the visitor. If there is no static version available or if the stored version has expired, the plugin will dynamically generate the page as usual and store a new static copy for future use.
There are different types of caching that a caching plugin can apply:
- Page Caching: Stores the entire HTML page, including all content, images, and formatting. This is especially useful for static pages that do not change frequently.
- Object Caching: Focuses on storing individual objects or database queries to reduce repeated database calls.
- Browser Caching: Stores resource files such as images, stylesheets, and scripts in the visitor’s web browser cache. This ensures that these files do not need to be downloaded from the server again with each new page view.
Using caching plugins is a highly effective way to reduce the loading time of a WordPress website and improve overall performance, especially for websites with high traffic or lots of dynamic content.
b) Compress Images:
Large image files can slow down loading times, so it’s essential to compress images without compromising on quality.
Compressing images is a technique used to reduce the file size of images without compromising the visible quality of the image.
Large image files can significantly contribute to longer loading times for a website as they take more time to download from the server to the visitor’s browser. Reducing the file size of images is therefore essential to shorten the website’s loading time.
There are two ways to achieve image compression: lossless compression and lossy compression.
- Lossless Compression: In lossless compression, the image file size is reduced without any loss of quality. This means that the visual information of the image remains fully preserved. Compressing and decompressing the image will result in exactly the same quality but with a smaller file size. This method is particularly suitable for images with lots of text or graphic details where preserving visual quality is crucial.
- Lossy Compression: In lossy compression, the image file size is also reduced, but this comes with some loss of quality. The compression algorithms remove certain details and information that are not immediately perceptible to the human eye. Due to this loss of visual information, the file size can be significantly reduced. Lossy compression is ideal for images with many gradients or photographs, where minor quality losses are often not noticeable to most visitors.
WordPress websites can use various tools and plugins to compress images during the upload to the media library. These tools automatically apply the appropriate compression method based on the type of image (e.g., PNG, JPG) and the desired quality.
However, it is crucial to find a balance between reducing file size and maintaining an acceptable visual quality to ensure that images load efficiently without compromising the user experience.
c) Minimize the Number and Size of Installed Plugins:
Removing unnecessary plugins and opting for lightweight alternatives whenever possible can improve website performance.
When a visitor requests a WordPress page, the server must send the associated code and files of the website to the visitor’s browser. If many plugins are installed, this means that extra code must be processed and loaded before the page is displayed. Each plugin adds its functionality, but this extra code can increase the total page size.
Furthermore, some plugins may be inefficiently programmed, meaning they may use unnecessary server resources or make additional external requests to other websites or servers. This can further slow down the loading time, as the server needs more time to execute the plugin’s functionality before displaying the page to the visitor.
Another aspect that can affect website performance is the interaction between different plugins. Plugins are created by different developers, and sometimes they may not work well together or cause conflicts. These conflicts can lead to errors or delays in loading the page.
To optimize loading time and improve website performance, it is essential to use only the plugins that are genuinely necessary and ensure they are well-optimized. Developers should also regularly update their plugin code to address any performance issues and improve security.
Minimizing the number and size of installed plugins is a crucial step in improving the performance of a WordPress website. Removing unnecessary plugins and choosing lightweight alternatives can shorten the website’s loading time and enhance overall responsiveness and user experience.
A WordPress administrator can easily achieve this by following these steps:
- Plugin Audit: Start with a thorough audit of all installed plugins on the website. Go to the WordPress dashboard and navigate to “Plugins” > “Installed Plugins.” Review the list of activated plugins and identify which ones are essential for the website’s functionality and which ones may be unnecessary.
- Evaluate Functionality: For each installed plugin, assess the functionality it provides and determine if that functionality is still needed for the website. Sometimes, plugins are installed for specific tasks or purposes but may no longer be in use. It is advisable to remove unused or outdated plugins.
- Avoid Overlapping: Check for any overlapping functionality between different plugins. Sometimes, multiple plugins offer similar features, and in that case, it may be beneficial to remove the least essential plugin to avoid conflicts and unnecessary burdens on the website.
- Look for Lightweight Alternatives: If a plugin is essential but there is a lightweight alternative available, consider switching to that plugin. Lightweight plugins usually have less code and are better optimized for performance, resulting in less impact on the website’s loading time.
- Update and Maintain: Ensure that all installed plugins are up-to-date and actively maintained by their developers. Older and unsupported plugins can cause vulnerabilities and performance issues.
- Perform Performance Tests: After removing unnecessary plugins and installing lightweight alternatives, run performance tests to assess how the website is performing. Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix to measure website loading times and performance. If the tests show that the website is still slow, further optimization steps can be considered.
d) Choose an Optimized Theme:
Select a theme that is well-optimized for speed and responsiveness.
To check if a WordPress theme is optimized for speed and responsiveness, follow these steps:
- View Demo Website: Most theme developers offer a demo website of their theme. Visit the demo website and test the speed and responsiveness by loading pages and viewing the website on different devices, such as desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
- Run Performance Tests: Use online performance testing tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix to measure the speed of the demo website. These tools provide insights into loading times and website performance. A well-optimized theme should achieve high scores on these tests.
- Check Mobile Friendliness: Ensure that the theme works well on mobile devices. Test the demo website on various smartphones and tablets to see if the content scales correctly and if the user experience is smooth.
- Check Reviews and Ratings: Look for reviews and ratings of the theme on the developer’s website and other WordPress theme marketplaces. Feedback from other users can help you evaluate the theme’s performance and reliability.
- Support and Updates: Verify if the theme is regularly updated and supported by the developer. Regular updates ensure that the theme remains compatible with the latest versions of WordPress and address any security vulnerabilities.
- Compatibility with Plugins: Check if the theme is compatible with commonly used plugins you might want to use. A well-optimized theme should seamlessly work with common plugins without conflicts.
- Documentation and Support: Confirm whether the theme has comprehensive documentation to help with configuration and customization. Additionally, there should be good customer support available for the theme to resolve any questions or issues.
e) Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN):
A CDN can distribute static content to servers worldwide, reducing loading time for visitors. However, if you only target local traffic and your site is hosted on a local server, there may be limited speed benefits.
Setting up a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for your WordPress website can be easily done by following these steps:
Step 1: Choose a CDN Provider:
Step 2: Create an Account and Configure Your Website:
Create an account on the website of the chosen CDN provider and follow the instructions to add your website to the CDN network.
Step 3: Install and Activate a CDN Plugin:
Go to your WordPress website’s dashboard and search for a CDN plugin in the WordPress Plugin Directory. Popular CDN plugins include “CDN Enabler” and “WP Super Cache.” Install and activate the desired plugin.
Step 4: Configure the CDN Plugin:
After activating the plugin, go to the plugin’s settings and enter the information you received from your CDN provider. Typically, you will need to provide a CDN URL or subdomain given by your CDN provider.
Step 5: Test Your Website and Check Settings:
After configuring the CDN plugin, load your website to verify that everything is working correctly. Examine the page source to ensure that static content, such as images and other files, are now loaded from the CDN.
Step 6: Clear Cache (If Necessary):
If you have used caching plugins or set up caching on your server before, clear the cache to ensure that the new settings are properly applied.
Step 7: Test Speed:
Conduct speed tests using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix to check if the CDN has actually improved your website’s loading time. A well-configured CDN distributes static content from your website, such as images and other files, across servers worldwide.
When visitors access your website, this content is loaded from the server closest to their location, reducing loading time and enhancing the user experience.
WordPress websites are more susceptible to technical errors, especially when not well-maintained. These errors can affect Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and, consequently, Google’s ranking.
- Duplicate Content:
WordPress uses a database to display content, which can lead to duplicate content issues if the website is not properly configured. Google values unique and original content, and duplicate content can lead to lower rankings.
- Excessive Complexity:
While WordPress offers many customization options, improper use can increase the complexity of the website. This can affect user-friendliness and SEO.
- Security Issues:
As a popular platform, WordPress is vulnerable to hackers and security issues. Poor security can impact ranking and user trust in the website.
In conclusion, optimizing a WordPress website for better SEO ranking requires addressing speed issues, compressing images, minimizing unnecessary plugins, using an optimized theme, and leveraging a Content Delivery Network (CDN). Additionally, addressing technical errors and ensuring proper website maintenance is crucial for a successful SEO strategy.