Here’s how to make your website faster

A guide for writers, not tech wizards

A fast website can make or break your Google rankings.

Why is that important?

Because getting ranked on Google means you can spend more time writing and less time promoting on social media. You can put your traffic on autopilot.

Surely that’s every writer’s dream?

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Photo by Djurdjica Boskovic on Unsplash

Why it’s crucial that your website is fast

It’s hard to get ranked on Google. Writers have been trying to leverage the internet since it began, so there’s a lot of competition out there.

Having a slow website won’t earn you any favours with search engines. You’ll be rushed right to the bottom of the pile if you’re even ranked at all.

But having a fast website automatically gives you a second chance.

You’ll be ranked higher than those slow websites that may have more authority than you AND you might earn clicks over that super authoritative site that’s above you on the SERP but wasn’t fast enough for the user.

How to check your page speed

It’s tempting to just paste your URL into Pagespeed insights and that can be a great starting point. But it’s not the only (or the best) tool available. I recommend that you also check your page speed on Pingdom, and most importantly, GT Metrix.

A word on Pagespeed Insights — be sure to check your speed on mobile. Before implementing these changes my site was 75 on desktop but 40 on mobile, and since 75% of my traffic comes from mobile devices, my desktop score was basically a vanity metric.

I’m pretty sure the reason I love GT Metrix is that it gives me a letter grade, which really speaks to the perpetual student in me. It also tells you exactly what’s slowing you down gives you specific advice on how to improve it, and it’s definitely the most comprehensive test.

A lot of the advice I don’t really understand, but no matter, I managed to improve my site from a D to an A without any technical expertise, so if I can do it, so can you.

There are four main things that affect your page speed:

Your web hosting

Ever heard of a company called EIG? No, neither had I. Basically they’re a company that own group of hosting companies and host them over a few servers. Because there are so many sites on one server, they don’t run very quickly.

Check this list to see if your hosting company is on there. If it is, I recommend you switch, if not immediately then when it’s time to renew.

I’m with Siteground — not because of the speed (though it’s a great bonus), but because if I have an issue they sort it out for me, rather than telling me what to do. As a tech dunce, I value that highly.

Your website’s theme

I have a whole post on why you don’t need a premium theme here, but if I can offer you one piece of advice it’s this: switch to GeneratePress.

GeneratePress is free (there’s a pro option that I don’t use) and it’s very light weight. It has all the customisation options writers need with no bulk.

I see a lot of people recommending the Divi theme, but it’s super bulky and slow since it’s a page builder, not a theme per se. A web design whiz could probably make a fast-loading DIVI theme, but it’s not easy.

The plugins you use

Plugins are a godsend to those of us who just want to write, not mess about with code.

The problem is that the most useful plugins are the ones that slow us down. Jetpack, I’m talking about you.

It took me a long time to break up with Jetpack. I loved it easily verify Pinterest, use the Wordpress app, and especially for the stats. They’re not very advanced, but that’s why I liked them — they told me how many pageviews I had, where they came from and allowed for easy day-to-day comparison.

In the end, I had to delete it. Jetpack slowed down my site too much, considering I only had it for convenience. Google Analytics also has an app, albeit one that’s more difficult to read. The analytics are far more comprehensive, but that makes them more difficult to negotiate. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Speaking of Google Analytics, I also had to remove Monster Insights, which REALLY slowed my site down, considering I only had it because I didn't want to edit my theme. In the end, I got the Insert Headers and Footers plugin and put the code there.

By the way, editing your theme isn’t great practice, mainly because you don’t want to break your site, but also (and more importantly for me since I have my site backed up) it means that every time your theme is updated you have to put all the code you added back in.

If you’re more organised than I am you’ll have a note in Google Keep of all the code, but I didn’t.

Either way, I’d take the plugin option over theme editing, for the sake of safety and convenience.

How to tell which plugins are slowing down your site

It’s as easy as turning off all your plugins and testing your speed, then turning them all on one by one and seeing which ones are slowing you down that you can get rid of.

Plugins can improve your site speed

I use a combination of SG Optimiser and Autoptimise for caching and optimising code and images. I also use WP optimise to clear my databases of old revisions and deleted posts.

If you want to know exactly how to configure your plugins, there’s a great Youtube video from Stupid Simple Wordpress.

Random code snippets may be slowing your site

I promised myself I’d build my traffic before monetising my site with anything other than Amazon affiliate links. But then Amazon did the dirty and slashed commission rates (during a Pandemic — further proof that Bezos has no soul) so I deleted my affiliate links.

My site speed improved automatically. Great.

Then I got approved for Skimlinks, which is great because, for the cost of 25% of your commission, you get access to hundreds of affiliate programmes. Perfect, no?

No.

A couple of lines of code slowed my site down almost to a halt. Since my plan was always to build my traffic to 30,000 pageviews per month before properly monetising, I had to remove it. As impatient as I am, I needed to stick to my plan.

I also removed the eBay affiliate code, because it also slowed my site down. It’s just not worth potentially losing out on traffic for a couple of extra quid a month.

Final thoughts

I know it can be a ballache when you just want to write, but I promise that a fast site will make you more likely to get traffic from search engines. If you can crack Google, then you can start to make money from your writing, and isn’t that the goal?

I blogged for years without making any money, and it wasn’t because of the quality of my writing, it was because the people who wanted to read it didn’t know it existed.

One day it clicked. I didn't want to be a ‘blogger’. I didn’t want go on Facebook live, or spend all day on Pinterest or Twitter.

I wanted to write. Pretty much exclusively.

So, I taught myself to write articles that could rank on Google and be found by people who were actually looking for them.

A website I started last July now has over 10K monthly viewers, all from search engines. I write articles that people want to read, and people read them.

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in learning, I have a website teaching my methods. It’s new, so there are only a couple of articles so far, but by the end of April there’ll be a lot more.

Check out Stone Cold Content if you’re interested

There’s no email sign up, no course, no ebook. There are two affiliate links — for hosting and GeneratePress — but this isn’t a sale pitch. I just know how frustrating it is to tread water for years and not get anywhere ESPECIALLY if you can’t afford Tailwind (I don’t use it), keyword research tools (I don’t use any paid ones), and courses (I don’t want to make one).

I really hope I can help you. If there’s anything in particular that you need help with, leave me a response.

Writer, blogger. Rabbit parent to one. Plant parent to many. Occasional runner, jigsaw puzzle enthusiast.

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