How to Make a Super Fast WordPress Website With Minimal Effort

While I have been using Google Page Speed to benchmark website load times for years, the recent updates to the tool make it a must use resource for any website owner to understand how to make their website faster.

Here is how Google rates Jeffalytics for speed on both Mobile and Desktop devices:

Jeffalytics Page Speed Scorecard
Jeffalytics Page Speed Scorecard 11-14-2013

While these are not the highest ratings that I have ever seen, they are better than 90% of the websites I have analyzed using the Page Speed tool. I am happy with how well the site currently performs given that I have made exactly zero effort to make my site load fast and I can use the Page Speed report to improve my results even further.

How does the site load fast if you have not made any effort to make it faster? The answer is simple: I am using two best in class WordPress services to make my site optimized out of the box. The first is a theme framework called Genesis and the second is a managed WordPress host called WP Engine.

Genesis Framework is Mostly Responsible for My Fast Page Speed Ratings

My page speed scores are above average because I have chosen a WordPress theme that is based on the Genesis WordPress theme framework. The fine folks at StudioPress (makers of Genesis) work hard to make sure that their themes are optimized in several ways. This includes building responsive themes that render well on mobile devices, use of HTML 5 markup, have optimized CSS and any other features that help reduce page load time.

Unlike most WordPress themes, the Genesis Framework is always updating their base framework and adding new functionality behind the scenes. This helps ensure that your theme never becomes woefully out of date and also helps improve website performance.

How does a base Genesis Theme perform in Google Page Speed? Quite well if you ask me.

Here is a screenshot of a freshly installed Genesis theme with no customization. It rates 94 out of 100 for rendering on Desktop computers and a solid 80 out of 100 on Mobile devices.

Genesis Responsive Theme Score
Genesis Responsive Theme Page Speed Score Score

The only negatives that Page Speed sees with the base theme is the use of Jquery, some CSS tweaks and the use of Google Fonts. To me, Jquery and Google Fonts are important enough that I am willing to trade off a lower page speed rating in order to sacrifice some speed rating in order to use these technologies.

As for the speed of Jeffalytics being lower than a base theme, the reason why my site ranks lower has little to do with my theme choice. Instead, it loads more slowly because of the way I have customized my template, the plugins I am using and how long it takes to load the images I use on the site. In a future post I would like to show how I was able to improve page speed over the baseline numbers showcased above.

Visit the Genesis Website

Hosting with WP Engine Improves Overall Site Speed and Performance

The second reason why my site is fast is because I host with WP Engine, a managed WordPress host that focuses only on hosting WordPress sites. Their specialty is optimizing page load times, reliability and security. I came across this host after working with Rand Fishkin to fix his hacked WordPress blog back in 2011. After cleaning up the site theme to plug security holes, Rand switched over to WP Engine and was impressed by the quality of their service. I switched over to WP Engine as my primary host in 2012 and have hosted with them ever since.

As an end user of WordPress it’s easy to get lured in by the hundreds of thousands of plugins that are available to do pretty much whatever we would like them to do. However, we have no real understanding of the impact of these individual plugins on our site performance. Most of plugins are harmless, but there are a few resource hogs that make your site run slowly. There is almost no way for an end user on a shared hosting platform to diagnose which plugins are causing that problem.

One of the main reasons why I like WP Engine is that they are bold enough to actually prevent me from running plugins that slow my site down! Most hosting companies work from an inclusive perspective – once they give you your web space you can do whatever you want. WP Engine works from an exclusive perspective – there are certain things that you cannot do on their platform if they slow down your site and other sites they host. It is amazing how well this works to improve website load times.

WP Engine can easily diagnose these problems by looking at performance across plugins across their massive list of accounts. They also have built the capability to prevent these plugins from being installed on the sites they host, improving performance as a result.

In addition to limiting what plugins you can install, WP Engine also caches your pages in order to minimize the amount of resources that need to be loaded each time a page is rendered. By minimizing the reliance on database calls and employing caching methods, WP Engine is able to host the fastest WordPress sites on the web.

Add all of these things up and you have a super fast WordPress host and with the right theme in place, you can have a super fast website.

Visit the WP Engine Website

The Difference Between Page Speed and Website Speed

It’s important to note that the Page Speed tool is not measuring the time it takes to load your entire website, but rather rating the way that your site is coded and how well your images are optimized. There are other tools available to optimize the overall load time for your website. One of these services is the Pingdom Website Speed Test, which rated Jeffalytics as a 68/100. This is mostly due to the size of images on my site and plugins that I have installed and could be improved upon with some tweaks.

Jeffalytics Site Speed Test
Jeffalytics Site Speed Test

Using the same Pingdom speed test on a site hosted by WP Engine and using a Genesis theme, I get a much higher score of 86/100. With no effort and a combination of WP Engine and Genesis, I have a website that is faster than 90% of all sites on the web!

WP Engine Genesis Site Speed Score
WP Engine and Genesis Site Speed Score

Up Next: Optimizing Jeffalytics and Sharing That Process

If you have read this far, you can see that by using two WordPress specific services I have been able to create a super fast WordPress website. As I have built out Jeffalytics and added features, the site loads a little more slowly. Is it possible to increase my page speed score and reduce page load times for an established website? In a future post I will attempt to optimize both of these factors and share the results!

Disclosure: My motivation for this post is to show you how make your website faster, but you should note that I receive a small referral credit if you use my links to sign up for the Genesis Framework or WP Engine. You can sign up for these services directly as well. 

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