Have you ever visited a website only to have it buffer for what seems like forever? You wait and wait and then finally give up and leave the site. Epic fail for that website. Site speed is key for websites, especially blogs. You want to keep site visitors on your blog as long as possible. Site speed affects your SEO (search engine optimization), bounce rate, and overall user experience.
If you have a blog and have never checked your site speed before, you should check it. But before you do… WARNING: The results may be shocking (and depressing). You might want to hide under a rock after you see them and give up on blogging altogether. I’m not going to lie. The thought crossed my mind when I saw my own site speed results. 🤦♀️
Yikes! I was mortified! But was my site speed really that bad? And was it even that big of a deal? I let it go for a while. After all, I thought I was doing everything right. I have a great hosting plan with an awesome WordPress theme. I had also optimized all the images for my site and was using a caching plugin.
What more could I do? Plus, there’s so much to worry about and take care of when you’re a blogger. You’ve gotta prioritize. And unfortunately, site speed was at the bottom of the to-do list.
But it kept nagging at me. After doing some research about the importance of site speed and reading positive reviews about WP Rocket, I decided it was time to make a change.
When you start out blogging though, every little expense can seem astronomical. It’s hard to justify spending money when you’re not making much (if any). After an internal struggle with spending even more money on my blog, I realized I needed to invest in my blog if I want to be a serious blogger.
So I gave in and purchased the premium WP Rocket caching plugin. Even though it’s just a small investment, I wondered if it was going to be a waste of money. And I was nervous as I installed the plugin. Was it really going to make that big of a difference?
After giving WP Rocket a go, I just have to say… BEST. DECISION. EVER!
I know what you’re thinking. Really? YES, really! Check out the before and after screenshots of my site speed results after installing WP Rocket and making a few tweaks. I’m a sucker for before and after pics. They’re a fabulous way to compare and display dramatic results. And these results are definitely dramatic!
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How to Drastically Improve Your WordPress Site Speed
If you’re ready to drastically improve your site speed, you’ve come to the right place, my friend!
I was able to take my PageSpeed Score from an “F” to an “A” and my Fully Loaded Time from 7.8 seconds (eek! 😱) to 1.8 seconds (a full 6 seconds faster… WHOAH! 😁).
But before I get into the nitty-gritty of my site speed optimization steps, let’s quickly talk about site speed tests and my results.
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Site Speed Tests
If you haven’t tested your site speed yet, go ahead and bite the bullet. It’s good to have a starting point to be able to measure your results.
I was completely crushed by my ”before” results. But it makes the “after” results that much more rewarding!
There are many websites you can use to test your site speed. Here are the ones I used:
Before & After Site Speed Optimization
Now that we’ve discussed the site speed tests, let’s dive more into my results for each one before and after I optimized my site speed.
Google PageSpeed Insights BEFORE
Google PageSpeed Insights AFTER
Ummm… YIKES! 7.8 seconds is so embarrassing! I’m ashamed to share these results. But we all gotta start somewhere, right?
I spent about half a day optimizing the settings and working on my site speed optimization suggestions. Both my well-spent money and time investments paid off!
If you’re wondering what I did to get such dramatic and awesome results for my site speed, I’ve got you! Stay with me.
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SiteGround Web Hosting for Site Speed
First, let’s start with web hosting. This is the base for site speed optimization. Your web hosting provider and plan play a vital role in the speed of your website.
I spent a ridiculous amount of time researching and comparing web hosting providers. It came down to SiteGround and BlueHost. BlueHost kept coming up as a recommendation by a ton of other bloggers.
But when I did my own research and delved into the details, I realized that BlueHost isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Turns out, it’s recommended by a lot of bloggers because of its high-paying affiliate program.
On the other hand, I read nothing but positive feedback about SiteGround. One thing I looked at for web hosting providers were their customer reviews, and SiteGround has amazing reviews praising their customer service.
It also came down to the numbers. Not only are their shared hosting plans super affordable, but the numbers really speak for themselves with their impressive uptime and website loading speed.
Check out this comparison of SiteGround and BlueHost from WebsiteToolTester.com (see the comment on Speed):
I ended up going with SiteGround (thank goodness!) and opted for the shared hosting GrowBig plan. It’s a step up from the base level StartUp Plan and offers extra features that I found important, such as:
• Dynamic caching (caching is crucial for site speed!) which works with SiteGround’s SG Optimizer WordPress plugin (more on that below)
• On-demand site backups (love this feature!)
• Free professional site transfer since I wanted to move from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress.org.
The dynamic caching feature with SiteGround’s GrowBig and higher plans is key for site speed and the steps I used to drastically increase my site speed.
I highly recommend starting with at least the GrowBig plan. Their GrowBig hosting plan starts at just $5.95/month. And it’s well worth the minimal investment for self-hosting your own WordPress blog.
If you want to start your own self-hosted blog, SiteGround is the way to go. If you already have your own self-hosted site but you’re with a sub-par hosting company, it’s time to switch to SiteGround.
To recap, get a web hosting plan with SiteGround. That leads us to the steps for site speed optimization because the first step requires a SiteGround GrowBig plan or higher.
You may also like: How to Easily Start a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 5 Steps
Steps for Site Speed Optimization
Before I tell you my site speed optimization steps, let me preface this by saying I’m not an expert. You may get different results or need different settings based on your hosting provider, WordPress theme, other plugins, etc.
But these are the programs and steps I used to get my incredible results with. Hopefully, they help you achieve the same, if not better, site speed improvement that I was able to get.
STEP 1: SG Optimizer Settings
One of the many perks of hosting your site with SiteGround’s GrowBig plan or higher is being able to use their SG Optimizer plugin for dynamic caching. It won’t work with any other hosting provider.
So if you’re not using SiteGround as your host, you won’t be able to use the SG Optimizer plugin. And you’ll need SiteGround’s GrowBig plan or higher to get dynamic caching and be able to use the SG Optimizer plugin.
The SG Optimizer plugin links WordPress with SiteGround’s performance services for your site, such as SiteGround’s SuperCacher for Dynamic Caching and Memcached. Here are the SG Optimizer settings I’m using:
1. SUPERCACHER Settings
• Dynamic Caching – Checked
• Automatic Cache Purge – Checked
• Browser-Specific Caching – Checked (you may or may not want to use this one)
• Excluding URLs – left Blank
• Test URLs for Cache Status – left Blank
• Memcached – Checked
2. ENVIRONMENT OPTIMIZATION Settings
• Enable HTTPS – left Unchecked as I already have it enabled in my SiteGround settings
• Set your PHP version – selected Managed PHP so I don’t have to worry about it
3. FRONTEND OPTIMIZATION Settings
• Minify the HTML Output – Checked
• Defer Render-blocking JS – Checked
• Minify CSS Files – Checked
• Combine CSS Files – Checked
• Optimize Loading of Google Fonts – Checked
• Remove Query Strings From Static Resources – Checked
• Disable Emojis – Unchecked (I have it enabled in WP Rocket – more on WP Rocket settings below)
4. MEDIA OPTIMIZATION Settings
• New Images Optimization – Unchecked (I use the WP Optimize plugin for my image optimization)
• Generate WebP Copies of New Images – Unchecked
UPDATE: I originally had “Generate WebP Copies of New Images” enabled but ended up having to disable it. Some of the blog post images weren’t showing up when viewed on a mobile device. Luckily, my hosting provider SiteGround figured out that the issue was due to this setting to Generate WebP Copies of New Images stating that it had to do with the way WebP images are served by CloudFlare which is not supported under all popular browsers. They sent this article for details about the issue.
• Lazy Load Media – Unchecked (I have it enabled in WP Rocket – more on WP Rocket settings below)
The plugin also has a handy Performance Test powered by Google PageSpeed built in to easily check your site speed performance.
STEP 2: WP Rocket Settings
Generally, you only want to use one caching plugin. But, the SG Optimizer plugin happens to work hand-in-hand with the WP Rocket plugin. In fact, they complement one another. You can read more about that here.
I was already using the SG Optimizer plugin. But as soon as I installed and activated the WP Rocket plugin (before changing any settings), there was an immediate increase in site loading speed! I was instantly SOLD on WP Rocket!
Click HERE for my full review of the WP Rocket plugin.
Here are my site speed results before WP Rocket and right after I installed and activated the plugin before updating any of the settings:
GTmetrix (look at the Fully Loaded Time)
BEFORE WP Rocket
AFTER WP Rocket
Google PageSpeed Insights (look at the Score and Speed Index)
BEFORE WP Rocket
AFTER WP Rocket
Pingdom (look at the Load Time)
BEFORE WP Rocket
AFTER WP Rocket
I knew that if I got those results without even touching the settings, WP Rocket was going to be a total game-changer! And it only got better from there!
Plus, setup is super easy. I was already using the SG Optimizer plugin. And when I installed and activated the WP Rocket plugin, this message showed up in my WordPress Admin area:
How awesome is that? I didn’t even have to do anything for those settings since they synced between WP Rocket and SG Optimizer. As for the other settings, I’ll tell you what I did. But first, you’ll need to do the following:
1. Purchase WP Rocket and download the WP Rocket Plugin
2. Upload and Install the WP Rocket Plugin in WordPress
3. Activate the WP Rocket Plugin in WordPress
Now that you have WP Rocket installed and activated in WordPress, here are the settings I used for WP Rocket (I’m going to start at the top and work my way down):
1. DASHBOARD Settings
• Rocket Tester – OFF
• Rocket Analysis – OFF
2. CACHE Settings
• Mobile Caching – Checked “Enable caching for mobile devices” and “Separate cache files for mobile devices.”
• Left everything else Unchecked.
• Saved Changes.
3. FILE OPTIMIZATION Settings
• I checked everything and Saved Changes.
4. MEDIA Settings
• Checked everything except Enable WebP caching as I have it enabled with SG Optimizer.
• Saved Changes.
5. PRELOAD Settings
• Activate Preloading – Checked.
• Activate sitemap-based cache preloading – Checked.
• Yoast SEO XML sitemap – Checked (if you use the Yoast plugin for your sitemap, this should be checked).
• Prefetch DNS Requests
• Listed URLs to prefetch (You can use this tool to get a list of domains that could be prefetched on your site. Then just copy and paste the list here.)
• Saved Changes.
6. ADVANCED RULES Settings
• Left Blank (if you have advanced rules you want to use, you can add them here).
7. DATABASE Settings
• You can use the Database feature to manually cleanup posts, comments, and more.
• You can also enable Schedule Automatic Cleanup if you want. I chose not to as I would rather do it manually after doing a back up of my database to be on the safe side.
8. CDN Settings
• Left Blank as SiteGround’s hosting plans come with CDN and I already enabled Cloudfare CDN with SiteGround.
9. HEARTBEAT Settings
• Checked “Control Heartbeat” and left everything else Blank.
• Saved Changes.
10. ADD-ONS Settings
• Checked Google Analytics ON.
• Checked Cloudflare ON since I use Cloudflare through my hosting with SiteGround.
• If you use any of the other services, you might want to check them as well.
11. CLOUDFLARE Settings
• Since I’m using Cloudflare with my SiteGround hosting and activated the Cloudflare Add-on with WP Rocket, I needed to modify some of the Cloudflare Add-on Options. For details on using WP Rocket with Cloudflare, click here.
• In the Add-Ons Settings under Cloudflare, clicked on “Modify Options” to get to the Cloudflare Settings.
• Entered Cloudflare Credentials (Global API key, Account email, and Zone ID).
• Checked “Optimal Settings” ON.
• Saved Changes.
- Here are the Cloudflare settings I’m using with my SiteGround hosting in case you’re wondering:
12. IMAGE OPTIMIZATION Settings
• I didn’t use WP Rocket’s Image Optimization service Imagify as it’s an additional cost, and I’ve been using the free WP Optimize plugin for image optimization.
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STEP 3: Scale Images
After adjusting the settings for SG Optimizer and WP Rocket, my site speed got even better! But my PageSpeed Score with GTmetrix was still weighed down by large images. They needed to be scaled down to the appropriate size for the web page they’re on.
It told me the exact images that needed to be scaled down and the size they needed to be scaled down to. How helpful is that?! After making this final tweak recommend by GTmetrix and scaling down those images to the recommended size, here’s what happened:
• PageSpeed Score went from an E to an A
• YSlow Score went from a B to an A as well
• Fully Loaded Time went from 3.2 to just 1.8 seconds!
GTmetrix BEFORE Scaled Images
GTmetrix AFTER Scaled Images
The goal is to get to under 2 seconds for site load time. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! And A scores? Sweet! I thought maybe I’d get B’s and would have been satisfied with that. So I couldn’t be happier with A’s!
If you get the recommendation to serve scaled images, you can easily scale your image sizes down in WordPress. Here’s how to do it:
1. Go to your Media Library and click on the Image you need to scale down.
2. Click on Edit Image.
3. Under SCALE IMAGE on the top right side, enter the recommended size dimensions. Click on “Scale” and “Save.”
4. *You’ll then need to delete the current image from the page/post and re-upload the newly scaled image to that location on your site to update it (this is important!).
5. Be sure to save the updated image and “Update” the page/post in WordPress.
6. You may want to also clear your cache, which you can do with SG Optimizer and WP Rocket:
Clear Cache with SG Optimizer
Clear Cache with WP Rocket
Wrapping Up Site Speed Optimization
I am beyond THRILLED that I was able to get such drastic results! My site speed skyrocketed! And all it took was SiteGround web hosting, SG Optimizer, WP Rocket, updating some settings, and scaling down a few images.
I had been intimidated by site speed optimization at first and put it off for too long. Now that I realize how easy it was to improve my site speed, I wish I would have done it from the start. But better late than never!
WP Rocket is seriously one of the BEST investments I’ve made for my blog. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Combine it with SiteGround web hosting and the SG Optimizer plugin to get a site optimized for speed!
For a full list of all the blogging tools I use and recommend, get your free copy of my Ultimate Blogging Tools Checklist!
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