Being in SEO for about 7 years, while the entire world was transitioning more & more to smartphones in the background, along with strides in 5G internet connections, I knew that if there were to be any future for any website, speed would be a tremendous factor!
When I started my blog, I knew that from the beginning, I wanted to build something that was fast, because as and when we progress towards the future, speed would become more and more critical. My requirements were as follows:
- Achieve a score of 90+ on PageSpeed Insights. Even more so, for mobile. This was also sort of a huge personal achievement for me since, in my SEO experience, I don’t recall any websites hitting 90+ number. Plug in your company’s URL, blog URL, product page URL, etc. Chances are, they aren’t hitting this! IF they are, really props to you, because I can tell they really care about organic search!
- Achieve this goal for FREE. I didn’t want to pay any money to do so. I mean, c’mon, I was just starting out!
- I wanted to use WordPress.
- I wanted to achieve this score while freely using images, embeds, videos, etc. in my blog posts!
- It should be noted that I do not run any ads at the moment. But still, even without those, I don’t recall any websites hitting this number.
So how am I able to achieve this? Let’s jump right in!
P.S. – Make sure your website is mobile friendly. Because if it isn’t, you’ve got another set of problems, that you’d need to tackle first!
Step 1: Selecting a Light WordPress Theme
Believe me, I tried so many WordPress themes that I either didn’t end up selecting them because of the speed, or design, or functionality. I almost had a full circle where I eventually ended up with WordPress’s default twenty twenty theme. This theme was always one of the fastest, but, didn’t have a sidebar, as most WP sites do. Honestly, I was fine without it. (In my head, I am thinking less code!). Plus, if I ever needed one in the future, it can be custom coded, which in my opinion, wouldn’t really affect the site speed.
Step 2: Using Minimum Number of Plugins
Plugins make our life easier. But it could also slow the website down tremendously. And in general, the more outside code you have, the more chances of you being hacked are, and your website ending up broken. I know we’ve made significant improvements in this area; but still!
As you can see, I am literally using plugins that I absolutely need. Yoast (for SEO), Hummingbird and Smush (for site speed), Cookie Notice, and WPForms (for compliance reasons), and redirection (which I already covered).
Step 3: Use a CDN With the Combination of Hummingbird and Smush
The first & foremost item you’d need to ensure is that you’re using a CDN. There are obviously a lot of great options out there, but if you’re like me, and want to do something for free, you can check out my post on how to set up Cloudflare CDN for your WordPress site.
Next, ensure you’re using the following –> Hummingbird & Smush. (The free version should suffice). Both of these plugins are made by the same developer, so that should highly assist in making sure everything is compatible.
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How Can Hummingbird Help?
Hummingbird is specifically designed to solve issues relating to PageSpeed Insights. So from the start, that’s good news! I’d highly recommend that you check them out, but I’ll cover the highlights of what exactly it can help with.
- Caching: Here, Hummingbird will give you the option to cache your pages, posts, browser caching, gravatar caching, as well changing RSS cache settings.
- Gzip Compression: Primarily used for compressing CSS files, scripts, and web pages in general, before the browser can render them. The benefit of compression here is that the transfers take much faster — due to a much smaller size.
- Asset Optimization: Here, you can individually choose to compress files for even faster load times. See screenshot below for reference:
How Can Smush Help?
Smush is probably known the most for its bulk smush feature, where you can compress multiple images at once. Outside of that, the features offered by Smush that I think will further help are:
- Directory Smush: Here, it gives you the ability to “Smush” images that are outside of the typical WordPress Uploads directory. Haven’t had the pleasure of trying it yet though!
- Lazy Load: Essentially, this will prevent any images from loading until the visitors scroll to that point. This technically doesn’t reduce the size, but because the browser doesn’t have to load images that are not in the “view” so to speak, it helps with faster rendering, thereby, site speed.
- Auto-Compression: When you upload new images, Smush will automatically start compressing those images.
Getting a pro version will give you access to additional capabilities for both Hummingbird, and Smush. A few highlights are:
- Extra Image compression capabilities. Even serving them in Next-Gen WebP format.
- For Full Smush details, go here.
- For Full details on Hummingbird, go here. One cool feature here is that they offer Cloudflare integration. This actually tempts me a little because it looks like that I could uninstall the actual Cloudflare plugin — thereby, reducing my total plugin count.