How to propely test and optimize your WordPress website

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Majority of WordPress website owners do a bit of backend performance work on their websites and do some SEO. Most people struggle with poorly developed themes which lower the performance score, and unnecessarily big content which slows down the load times. If you are a website owner and are not ranking well for your keywords, you can find some good recommendations in this post. Logically, troubleshooting any issues starts with running an initial audit of the situation. Here’s how to test and optimize your wordpress website.

1. Test your site properly
There’s a handful of popular website testing tools on the internet, but be careful with what you’re using because some aren’t that reliable. My personal recommendation is Pingdom, just because it has a lot of locations to test from, a beautiful waterfall view and reliable tests. In my own experience, I stay away from Google PageSpeed because it’s not that accurate, and GTMetrix which is using fairly older technologies and data centers than Pingdom. I’ve been working in the field of technical SEO and performance optimization for a few years now and Pingdom offers the best insight in what actually goes on behind the scenes of your website.

2. Know your code, resources and content
When running your website on top of WordPress CMS, it’s necessary to have control over your themes (make sure it’s a theme with no negative technical feedback), plugins (make sure you never clutter your website with a lot of plugins) and content (huge images, videos, sliders and so on). Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of websites with slow load times caused only by huge images or video sliders. When you think about it, people put 20mb video backgrounds on their website and ask themselves why it’s slow, but if they’d be downloding that video from a website, they’d be okay with waiting for a few seconds. Once you understand this, you will be careful about the content you put to your website.

3. Always have backups and don’t be scared to dive into the code
The upside of hosting my websites with Cloudways, is that I can easily track and make my backups on all applications. I back up my websites automatically every 4 hours which makes it safe for any case of data loss. In this guide, we will use JS and CSS compression, which might break your site. Reverting these settings is easy if you’re using Autoptimize or WP Rocket’s combining.

4. Look at your load time waterfall graph
This neat graphical representation on Pingdom saves you a lot of time. Often times, this can show you the exact file or piece of content that’s slowing down your website. It’s not unusual that people have huge images or videos loading straight from the local server which majorly slows the website down.

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Pingdom’s waterfall load time view

5. Be smart and use Cloudflare, even with a free plan
Cloudflare is one of my favorite additions to the website. This CDN offers a very strong security system and a powerful minification addon which often times helps me with compressing HTML. Cloudflare also offers automatic cache management, country filtering, page rules and more. If you don’t have Cloudflare, go register and switch over, you won’t regret it.

6. Optimize your content
As a final step, run your website through this set of tasks and you’re good to go. So for this process, these are the essential things you need to implement:
– Compress images with Smush, Shortpixel or EWW. I prefer Shortpixel.
– Compress JS and CSS with Autoptimize or WP Rocket
– Optimize your database tables, remove expired transients, revisions etc with WP Optimize or WP Rocket
– Add Page cache and Browser cache with W3 Total Cache or WP Rocket
– Install Lazy Load by WP Rocket and lazy load your images

That’s it! Simple, right? If you have a good server and performed these steps, you definitely have a website loading under two seconds. Hope you learned something from this article and managed to test and speed up your website. Cheers!

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Ned Mehic

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