Win Google PageSpeed: Score 99% with your WordPress blog in under 15 minutes

On Tuesday, I took the mobile version of my WordPress blog from a Google PageSpeed score of 65% (super slow) to an almost perfect 99% (super fast).

My 99% Google PageSpeed score after converting my WordPress blog to AMP and removing Google Fonts

The only thing that Google has left to suggest is that I upgrade my server. Awesome. What’s even more awesome, is that this leap in speed took me barely fifteen minutes and, by following this short guide, you can do it even faster.

    1. Why go faster?
    2. How to convert your slow WordPress site to superfast AMP
    3. How to remove pointless Google Fonts
    4. How to find unexpected speed gains within WordPress
    5. Finally: choose luxuries to treat your readers!

Before I dive in to show you exactly what I did to improve my blog speed, I want to quickly explain why I wanted to up my PageSpeed score.

Why go faster?

Quite simply: Google uses PageSpeed to decide where to rank your site on its search pages. Annoying, but totally fair enough: their business depends on giving users the best possible search results.

Most of that comes down to the quality of your content, but the user experience on your page is also important. How many times do you click away from a site because it takes forever to load? If your site is one of those, you will slink, slip and slump down the rankings.

I’ll keep an eye on my stats to see if I start to creep up Google’s search rankings now I’ve got world-beating site speed. But even if I don’t, all my readers (and me) benefit from a much, much improved experience.

Okay, so now on with the how-to.

How to convert your slow WordPress site to superfast AMP

  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: (Ridiculously easy)
  • Potential PageSpeed Boost: +15

AMP is an open-source HTML framework that makes webpages load faster. Much faster. Especially on mobile devices.

If you want to understand more about AMP, then I can recommend this very readable paper by Jun et al. (2019). But the tl;dr is that AMP should reduce the time it takes to display one of your pages by at least 60 percent.

Converting my site to AMP resulted in a huge boost (+15) to my Google PageSpeed mobile score. It made no difference to how my site looked to readers, only that the pages were loading almost instantly. Best of all, the conversion to AMP was incredibly simple.

  1. Download, install and activate the official AMP WordPress plugin.
  2. Run the plugin’s AMP Settings Wizard.
  3. Check your site looks great.
  4. Test your site’s Google PageSpeed again.
  5. Cry tears of joy.

NOTE: I initially went for the ‘Reader’ template mode, which generates both AMP and non-AMP pages for your site. This was because the AMP Settings Wizard told me that my theme (TwentyFifteen) was incompatible with AMP. This turned out to be untrue, so I switched the template mode to Standard. My site is now 100% AMP.

How to remove pointless Google Fonts

  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: (Ridiculously easy)
  • Potential PageSpeed Boost: +10

Most WordPress themes include a few Google Fonts by default. In theory, all this does is make your site look 0.5% prettier. In practice, because these fonts need to load before your site displays properly, your readers have to wait around for an extra second or so.

Annoyingly, there is no way to remove Google Fonts without getting very technical (trust me, I learned this the hard way). Luckily, clever people on the internet have created plugins to do the work for you. I used one called OMGF.

  1. Download, install and activate the OMGF plugin.
  2. Open the OMGF plugin settings.
  3. Click on the Detection Settings tab.
  4. Switch Google Fonts Processing to Remove Only.
  5. At the bottom of the page, click Save Changes.
  6. Check your site looks great.
  7. Test your site’s Google PageSpeed again.
  8. Cry tears of joy.

How to find unexpected speed gains within WordPress

  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: (A tiny bit harder)
  • Potential PageSpeed Boost: +5

Hopefully by now your WordPress site is enjoying some pretty sensational speeds. I found another few Google PageSpeed points by sniffing around the ‘Opportunities’ section of my PageSpeed results.

Depending on your site, this might require a little ingenuity and detective work on your part. But here are two very easy things that anyone can do to speed up their site:

  1. Turn off Gravatars in your comments section by going to your WordPress Discussion Settings. Scroll down to the bottom and untick the box that says Show Avatars.
  2. Deactivate any plugins that you don’t use or could do without. I deactivated Easy Custom Auto Excerpt (no idea what I was using that for), Print My Blog (excellent, but not currently required), Simple Yearly Archive (cool, but unnecessary) and Worth The Read (very cool, but also unnecessary).

Whenever you make changes to your site, check back with Google PageSpeed to make sure things are going in the right direction. It’s worth saying, however, that your ‘initial server response time’ can vary so take that into account when tracking changes to your PageSpeed score.

Finally: choose luxuries to treat your readers

Once your site scores over 90% on Google PageSpeed, you can shift your focus away from speed to other features that might improve the reader experience.

For example, re-activating the Worth The Read plugin, which gives readers a useful heads up on how long an article takes to read, knocks my PageSpeed score down from 97% to 95%.

I’m not great at maths and I know that 95% isn’t quite as much as 97%, but it’s still pretty darned high. Hopefully by now you too have got the wiggle room to include a few luxuries for your readers.

You’ll find one of my luxuries right below this sentence – a signup form for my awesome weekly newsletter!

Published by

David

David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.