The loading time of a website is important for a positive user experience. Google measures this indirectly through the dwell time. If visitors often return from a website to the search results after just a few seconds, this signals a negative user experience. One of the most common reasons for a quick return is a slow WordPress website.
How does a website that is too slow affect Google rankings?
For a long time it was rumored that the TTF (time to first byte) was a decisive factor for the rankings of a website. Google denies thisNevertheless, there are clear correlations between dwell time and rankings. For example, there is a so-called "negative SEO" method that can very quickly deprive the victim's website of its rankings. Here, the attacker sends a horde of visitors to the victim's website with the order to leave the target page after just a few seconds via the browser's "back button" in the direction of Google. As a result, the affected subpage proven back to the lower ranks of Google within a few weeks.
Conversely, what does this mean for the optimization of WordPress?
From this example, it can be concluded that the time spent on a website is a definitive ranking factor. Numerous tests prove the positive effect of dwell time (and bounce rate) on Google rankings.
You should therefore ensure that your website loads as quickly as possible so that both your visitors and Google are satisfied. This short article explains the options available for this.
How do I measure the loading time of a website?
The pagespeed test from Google
Google provides a tool for this purpose. With the Page Speed Tool every subpage of your website can be analyzed. After each test, Google also spits out Advice on optimizing loading times according to the Core Web Vitals out. Some of this information is useful, but much of it is rather questionable. For example, Google doesn't care how much you compress the images on your website. Google always sees potential for improvement here. You often see advice such as "Compress image XY to save 110 bytes (47%).
However, anything that is not in the two-digit kilobyte range can be safely forgotten. Saving fewer bytes is not noticeable on websites and is not reflected in better pagespeed values.
Furthermore, the Google tool does not directly test the loading times or the perceived loading time of a website. It only tests the implementation of "best practices" for performance optimization.
Even extremely optimized websites with very fast loading times sometimes perform very poorly in Google's pagespeed test.
Better tests for loading times
There are definitely better tools than Google's "Pagespeed Tool" or Google's latest "Lighthouse Tool" to measure the many facets of performance optimization.
The provider Pingdom for example, provides a free tool on its website. This can be used to reliably measure the loading time of the website, the total size of the website and the number of requests. Pingdom also issues a "performance grade" which classifies the website on a scale of 0 to 100 points. For a quick overview, this is certainly a good tool that shows much more meaningful results than Google Pagespeed Insights.
GTmetrix is another provider with a free tool for performance analysis. Unfortunately, the test server is in Canada, which is why the test is not as meaningful in terms of loading time as that of Pingdom. Some of the pages take much longer to load completely. However, GTmetrix also provides its own PageSpeed Score and the official YSlow Score from.
The famous key figure "Time to first byte" can be reliably measured with the tool Webpage test can be determined. The tool also outputs the familiar waterfall charts. Although the tool is not as visually appealing as the others, it has an enormous range of functions (for a free tool). For example, dozens of different cities from all over the world can be selected as test servers. In addition, different end devices and even different browser versions can be used for testing.
How do I optimize the pagespeed of my website?
Optimize WordPress loading times: Server response time
Unfortunately, the response time of your web host can only be influenced to a limited extent. It depends on the server location and your booked server package/service package, as well as e.g. the database structure. If there are longer loading delays, you should consider changing your hosting provider.
Optimize WordPress loading times: Gzip compression
Gzip compression offers a good level of compression and ensures that the data is compressed on the server side before it is sent. This reduces the volume of data and thus shortens the loading process.
Not all German web hosts support Gzip compression. A simple Google search ala "Gzip + name of the web host" usually already answers the question of support. Gzip is activated in the .htaccess file on Apache servers and is then immediately available. You can check whether your website is already compressed with Gzip using the tool Gzip test check.
The more different files your website requires, the more server requests have to be processed to load the page. In conjunction with a poor server response time, this can lead to extremely long loading times.
If the average loading time is 500ms per request, this can already be noticeable with 10 to 15 requests.
Optimize WordPress loading times: Compress images
The loading time of your WordPress website is significantly determined by the size of the images used. Unfortunately, images can only be compressed to a certain extent without loss of quality. There are solutions that automatically compress all images in a WordPress installation, but these should be used with caution. You should always create a backup of the entire website before compressing the images. If a corresponding number of images are used, compressing the images can significantly speed up the loading times of your website.
Optimize pagespeed with asynchronous scripts
Optimize pagespeed through better WordPress hosting
One of the greatest leverage for the loading time optimization of your WordPress website is your hosting provider. Most websites run on so-called shared hosting packages. This means that you share the server with other websites. Depending on the provider and package, this can be between 30 and 100 other websites. As a result, the server reacts much more slowly, depending on the workload, and can often fail/be unavailable.
We have had very good experience with the Shared hosting from All-Inkl. made. All-Inkl is very popular in the SEO scene, as the affordable shared hosting packages are still the fastest in this price segment. Corporate websites with several hundred hits per day should ideally be hosted on a managed hosting or dedicated server. This guarantees maximum availability with very high performance.
In the area WordPress Hosting The two providers Raidboxes and WPX Hosting are extremely attractive and really fast.
Optimize WordPress loading times with HTTP/2 and HTTPS
You can read in many places that HTTPS or TLS encryption would improve the loading times of a website. However, this is not correct. HTTPS, i.e. the encryption of HTTP requests alone, does not improve loading times. On the contrary, the necessary "SSL handshake" even results in a slightly slower loading time, as it takes a little longer to establish the connection.
However, the new HTTP/2 standard works with HTTPS connections and therefore goes hand in hand with SSL/TLS encryption. To put it correctly, HTTP/2 can ensure an optimized/faster page load of a WordPress website. In practice, the effects of HTTP/2 are actually enormous. This is due to the fact that with HTTP/2, the server no longer has to request each individual resource separately, but can deliver the resources simultaneously.
HTTP/2 should therefore be standard for WordPress hosting.
Optimize loading times of slow WooCommerce stores
WooCommerce stores usually have extensive databases. WooCommerce also requires a relatively large amount of RAM to enable really fast loading times. Anyone running a serious business model with WooCommerce should therefore not rely on cheap shared hosting. The recommendation for the PHP memory limit is, for example, 512 megabytes - a value that is not even possible with many shared hosting providers. Even if you increase this manually via PHP.ini or in the wp-config.php file, the value cannot be raised above the set limit of the hosting package.
If a WooCommerce page loads slowly, this inevitably leads to a loss of sales, as users bounce instead of making a purchase. Depending on the sales potential, a Managed server with monthly costs of 300 euros or a Managed WordPress WooCommerce system for 50 to 300 euros per month is entirely justified. If the average loading time is reduced by just 30%, this usually has a noticeable effect on sales.
Main factors for slow loading times with WooCommerce systems
The more users access a store at the same time, the greater the load on the server. The magic word no. 1 is "caching". However, the shopping cart or the checkout page, for example, cannot be cached, as this would cause a mess with the orders and a data protection fiasco. Caching makes it possible to significantly speed up conventional calls to the information pages, blog posts and also the listing of products.
If a WooCommerce store attracts several thousand visitors a day, this is also sufficient. The more requests the server has to process simultaneously, the more CPU cores it needs to have available. This is the number one bottleneck with shared hosting, as 50 or 100 users sometimes have to share a server. In addition, the working memory is also quickly exhausted.
Optimize pagespeed in WordPress
WordPress websites are often overloaded with plugins and stylesheets. This is why they tend to take a long time to load. There is no general way to optimize the loading time or pagespeed of a WordPress site. Every WordPress theme or plugin can have its own weak points. However, there are some options, such as the WP Rocket plugin or other free caching plugins, which offer all-in-one solutions to optimize the loading times of a WordPress website.
Plugins such as WP Rocket also offer special setting options for the mobile display of a website. This has positive effects, especially for users who cannot establish a high-speed connection with their cell phone or are working from a WLAN. Caching ensures, for example, that central data such as stylesheets only need to be loaded once and then do not need to be requested again when viewing subpages.
In addition, most WordPress websites consist of huge frameworks that are always loaded, regardless of whether they are used or not. This should be taken into account in WordPress theme programming, or by the WordPress Agency should be considered in advance. Individual modules can usually be easily outsourced if they are not needed. This not only improves page speed but also makes working with WordPress more convenient.
We would be happy to analyze your WordPress website and optimize the pagespeed of your WordPress installation.