6-Step Website Tune-up

Did you know that browsers read though your website pages top-down from the left ? (the same as you do) They read the underlying text file (which you can see by clicking to view the source in your browser) and follow the instructions to lay out the text and download the images.

Google also reads your site’s pages from top-to-bottom when it’s deciding what’s wrong with your website.

  • If your website isn’t loading fast and correctly, it won’t do so well in the search results, no matter how well structured the content is. Google want’s it’s searchers to find things fast.

There are a lot of things that can make a website user and search engine friendly, and it’s worth doing as many as possible.

But without some basic tune up, you’re handicapping you’re efforts.

  1. Keep image sizes small. Lots of images are bigger ( in kilobytes ) than they need to be; and they also contain data, like time and place for photos, alternative text and source data. This can make them big. Images can often be reduced in quality with little noticeable difference, which results in much smaller files, and they don’t need the additional data.
  2. Reduce the number of individual files to download and assemble.
  3. Correct downloading sequence, so the browser doesn’t have to wait around for a big thing to download before it can display anything
  4. And while you’re doing that, make sure that necessary things don’t end up right at the end so the page looks funny while it’s assembling itself.
  5. Compress text so there’s less to scan through.
  6. Cache things. A cache ( in the normal sense of the word ) is simply a holding place for things you need. On the internet it involves storing often needed images and text-files in the end-user’s browser so that they don’t have to be re-downloaded, or storing completed text-files on the server so they don’t have to be re-created ( if they involve assembling from a database ).

This is how I tune WordPress websites …

There are similarities and differences with each website, because each is a different combination of plugin extensions and themes and server configurations.

This just means that the process is both a technique and an art – you implement the standard things, but add one thing at a time and watch the results in case there’s a conflict that breaks the particular site or makes things worse

Step (1) Find Out About the Website

Generate a report from these 2 places …

  • Google Pagespeed Insights : https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
  • Pingdom website speed test : https://tools.pingdom.com

Do this BEFORE installing plugins and tuning the website, because it will save you wasting time on things that don’t need handling, So once you’ve got the reports, then it’s a matter of taking each point one-at-a-time and correcting it.

Test the website at Pagespeed after every step or two.

Each report will list suggested fixes. Google divides them into Should Fix ( red ) Consider Fixing ( yellow ) and also shows the Passed Rules in green.

Pingdom’s provides a grade for a list of items and also allows you to check the site from locations in different parts of the world. This is useful if most of your website visitors are based in one area. Websites load faster when the user is close to the server and you’ll notice a difference in speed if you re-run the report from different places.

Each website is different because of the variations in plugins and themes, Some themes do a better job rendering the website code, and many plugins alter the underlying page-markup.

So look at the suggested corrections first, before starting to make changes.

Step (2) Reduce Image Sizes and the Number to Download

The home page of a website is the page that generally gets viewed most and is crawled first by search engines. I nearly always remove sliders from the home page because they make the browser download so many big images.

If you can, access your website hosting control panel and backup your uploads folder before doing the next thing,

  • Install the WP Smush plugin and bulk smush the images in the media folder.

WP Smush won’t reduce file sizes for images that aren’t in the uploads folder / Media manager though. There are often images used in the Theme in a theme images folder, and also by plugins that are stored separately.

The fastest way to handle these other images is to use the ones provided by Google. When you run a check using PageSpeed Insights, they provide a package of images at the bottom that they have optimised for you to use. Download this, and upload them into the correct locations in your Theme and plugins.

Then re-check with Insights and handle any remaining images.

Step (3) Check Plugin Performance

Plugins can chew-up a lot of resources on the server and may slow down the website ( ones that work purely in the dashboard probably won’t ).

  • Install and run the P3 Plugin Performance Profiler and see what’s using up resources and how they all load. If some plugins are slowing down performance, then disable them and work out what can be used instead.

Step (4) Rearrange some code

  • If you have errors with render-blocking scripts or CSS at the top of the page ( which need to load before the content can display ) then install the Speed Booster Pack plugin available from tiguan.

Check all the general options and save changes. Then re-test with Pagespeed Insights for improvements. then open the bottom box “Still need more speed” and check  “Minify all CSS styles”, save changes and re-test.

Step (5) Cashe things

  • Install W3 Total Cache and enable the Page Cache and Browser Cache in the General Settings and keep the default “Disk: Enhanced”.

Go to the Page Cache details page and check the boxes for front page, feeds, 404 not-found pages and “Don’t cache pages for logged in users” ( save the settings ). Automatically prime the page cache, just below, and save.

Go to the Browser Cache details page. Check everything in each section ( and save ) except any options to …

  • Set WP Total Cache Header,
  • Prevent caching of objects after settings change
  • Do not process 404 errors for static objects with WordPress
  • Rewrite URL structure of objects
  • Apply HTTP Strict Transport Security policy

Re-test in Pagespeed insights regularly and roll-back any changes that make things worse, and leave in the things that improve performance.

Step (6) Look for Crawl errors

Run a report at SEO Chat and look for any missing pages you’re linking too and other errors. There’s a section on how to use the website crawler at the bottom of your results.

http://tools.seochat.com/tools/online-crawl-google-sitemap-generator/

Other types of website

The points I’ve just listed apply to any type of website and whether it’s a Joomla or Drupal site or any other type there are solutions to implement each point. For example, with a Joomla website …

  • Page-cashing is an option in the CMS settings itself ( no extension / plugin ) needed. Go to System > Global Configuration > System > Cashe Settings and set the Cashe to On – conservative cashing.
  • Page compressions can be turned on from System > Global Configuration > Server. Set Gzip Page Compression to Yes.
  • Install the JCH Optimize extension and activate it ( step by step and checking that the website is OK and checking with PageSpeed Insights for improvements ).

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