Why WordPress Is Awesome (And How To Get Started With Designing And Optimizing A Completely Legit Website)

WordPress Blue

If you want to design a professional website or blog (especially one that is SEO-friendly), WordPress is an excellent choice.

WordPress is 100% free and powers over 24% of websites. There’s amazing selection of themes, hosting, plugins (for adding functionality), and WordPress itself is quite easy to learn. I’ve been designing and optimizing WordPress sites since 2011 and will show why WordPress is awesome, plus tips on getting started with domains, hosting, themes, and other resources.

I definitely recommend WordPress.org over WordPress.com since this gives you full control of your website and access to important plugins (plus other options). While it’s a bit more complicated to setup, you can always hire a freelancer WordPress developer for $40/hour.

The one thing I learned about WordPress, is that there are endless possibilities from both a website design and SEO perspective. There are tons of SEO-optimized WordPress themes to choose from which can be completely customized to your unique website design and SEO needs. I also understand there is a lot of information out there, and the learning curve can be pretty steep for someone who is new to working with WordPress, let alone new to SEO.

Here are some resources to help you get started…

  • 10-Step checklist for designing your WordPress site
  • Migrating your existing website to WordPress

 

1. WordPress Hosting
Getting domain and hosting is the first step to building a website. I recommend SiteGround’s GoGeek plan ($14.99/month) since it makes your website load fast AND you get priority support. If you’re on a tight budget, they have the StartUp ($6.99/month) and GrowBig plan (5.95/month). SiteGround has the best support out there, plus you get a free domain name.

2. WordPress Themes
These are the same thing as website templates, only most WordPress themes are super flexible and can be highly customized. There’s tons of WordPress themes out there, and some are better than others. I suggest starting with these top-notch theme stores:

3. WordPress Plugins
WordPress plugins are like apps for smartphones. They add functionality to your website that might not come built-in to your WordPress theme (this can be design, SEO, Google Analytics, social media buttons, etc). And like apps, there are thousands of WordPress plugins out there. But to make it easy, here are the plugins I recommend starting out with:

4. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Matt Cutts (head of spam at Google) says WordPress takes care of roughly 90% of the SEO mechanics – a technical part of SEO. There is quite a bit to SEO so anything you don’t have to worry about is a good thing. There are also tons of WordPress plugins, tools, and resources out there. Here are some WordPress SEO tutorials to help you get started…

5. Blogging
WordPress was originally built as a blogging platform, however over the years it evolved into a content management system used for building websites, blogs, and websites that have blogs. You can add pages and blog posts with ease, use categories/tags to organize articles, and customize them to look super nice. This article will help with both blogging and design…

6. Design
“Can WordPress do this?” It’s the most common question I hear and I’ve honestly never had to say no. Nearly all WordPress themes have built-in features like portfolios, social media, contact forms, sliders and other features. If a theme doesn’t have it, a plugin probably does.
7. Functionality
From adding content to embedding YouTube videos, all the way to selling products through e-Commerce and integrating a newsletter, WordPress can handle pretty much anything.
8. Less Coding
Once your website is setup in WordPress, you’ll be editing your site in the WordPress dashboard. The dashboard makes it easy to add and edit content without knowing code. However, learning HTML and CSS will be very helpful. You can learn this at W3 Schools:

9. Community And Support
Free WordPress help is easy to come by. WordPress forums can tell you exactly how to fix most issues. Many WordPress themes also come with their own support forum, and because WordPress is widely-used there are thousands of video tutorials on Youtube.
10. Paid Help Is Around The Corner
Finding a WordPress designer is easy (I used to be one and still take on some design projects). Check out WordPress designers on Upwork – you can filter your freelancers by reviews, pricing, etc. This is how I used to develop websites that were beyond my skill level.

11. WordPress Is Free
Every website has domain and hosting fees, but WordPress itself is absolutely free. So are the majority of WordPress plugins. You can even find a lot of free WordPress themes, however I would stick with a premium theme since the theme developer is getting paid – so they’ll make sure the theme is legit. The main cost of creating a website is your time.
12. Getting Start Is Easy
Start by going to SiteGround to get your domain and hosting. Then choose a WordPress theme that fits your design needs (check out StudioPress, Zigzagpress, Web Savvy Marketing). You may want to consult with a WordPress expert when choosing your theme, but those theme stores I listed are a good place to start. Then install WordPress and your theme on your SiteGround account, then you’re ready to login to your site and start creating.

 

I know there is a learning curve to using WordPress. While I don’t do any free consultations, I’m always happy to answer whatever questions you have in the comments section! Just drop me a line and I’ll get back to you usually in a day or two. Good luck with your website!

Cheers,

Tom Signature

 

 

How I Optimized My Slow WordPress Site For 100% GTmetrix Scores — 28 Tips For Speeding Up WordPress Sites (2020 Guide)

Have a slow WordPress site?

A slow WordPress website is usually caused by your infrastructure (hosting, page builder, theme, plugins). But it can also be from unoptimized images, fonts, and third party scripts. That’s why you should use tools like GTmetrix to pinpoint the exact reason your site is slow.

This post you’re reading has over 70 images, 480 comments (while showing Gravatars), uses third party fonts from Font Awesome, Elementor page builder, and Google Analytics. Yet, it can still load in about 1.3s with a 2.56MB page size, 89 requests, and 100% + 97% GTmetrix scores.

I’ll show you how to take your GTmetrix + PageSpeed Insights report and make WordPress-specific optimizations that improve grades/load times. I’ve already written popular guides on WP Rocket, slow plugins to avoid, and a list of 24+ speed plugins. This combines everything.

When in doubt, look at the WordPress optimization guide to see the most important factors. The most common fixes for a slow WordPress site are usually related to your infrastructure (theme, hosting, page builder, cache plugin, CDN, and plugins you’re using). While optimizing images and third party scripts can definitely speed up WordPress, most factors are site-wide.

For this, I recommend Cloudways or Kinsta (hosting), Astra or Oxygen Builder (theme + page builder), and WP Rocket (main optimization plugin). You will avoid 90% of speed issues and they’re all rated highly in Facebook polls. Comment with your GTmetrix report if you need help.

Slow-WordPress

GTmetrix (load times) should be your primary metric while PageSpeed Insights doesn’t even measure load times. Getting 100% in every single tool is not realistic unless you have a bare bones, static HTML site. Don’t obsess over scores – obsess over your actual load times instead.

2020-GTmetrix-Report

 

1. Use Faster WordPress Hosting

Hosting recommendations are usually garbage.

Join the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group to get unbiased feedback. Most members (myself too) swear by Cloudways WordPress Hosting. Specifically DigitalOcean / Vultr High Frequency.

Yes, it’s a little more expensive at $10-$13/month, but we’re talking about speed here – not being cheap. With Cloudways, you have a choice of using DigitalOcean, Vultr High Frequency, Google Cloud, AWS, or Linode. These are worlds faster than shared hosting and can handle resource-intensive tasks much better (Elementor, Beaver, Divi, WooCommerce, AdSense, etc).

Cloudways makes it easy to test them out and see the difference in your load times: they do free migrations, monthly pricing, a Migrator plugin, and a promo code to save money: OMM25

Here’s what happened when I moved:

SiteGround vs Cloudways

GTmetrix tests are always different, but even posts with a huge page 2.70MB page size and 96 requests can often load in under 2s. I’ll also take a 148ms time to first byte any day of the week.

OMM-TTFB

The evidence is there:

Cloudways Response TimesCloudways-Migration-Result
Cloudways Google PageSpeed
WP Engine To Cloudways
DigitalOcean Pingdom Report
Hosting-Recommendation
Moving-From-WPX
SiteGround-Alternatives
Preferred-Web-Hosting
UntitledWPEngine-To-Cloudways
Godaddy DigitalOcean Migration
Cloudways Pingdom Load Times
Cloudways Pingdom Report
Elementor-Hosting
Web-Hosting-France
SiteGround-Alternative
VPS-Cloud-Hosting

 
This was a simple Pingdom test to measure load times of 16 WordPress hosts. I signed up for popular hosting companies then installed the same Astra Starter Site on each of them while measuring load times in Pingdom for 1 week at 30 minute check intervals. Some domains are still live (cwdoserver.com is hosted on a $10/month Cloudways DO plan and stgrndserver.com is hosted on SiteGround GrowBig). I cancelled most of them because it was getting expensive. Even when browsing through their pages or running your own tests, you can see the difference.

WordPress-Hosting-2020-Pingdom-Test

Hosting Companies You Should Avoid

  • SiteGround – they have gone completely downhill in recent years.
  • Bluehost – slow servers, owned by EIG, bad support, rated poorly in FB Groups.
  • HostGator – also owned by EIG with slow servers, bad support, CPU limit issues.
  • GoDaddy – top malware hosting network worldwide, rated poorly in FB groups.
  • Hostinger – they write fake reviews and vote for themselves in Facebook polls.
  • WP Engine – also not what it used to be, expensive and not even fast anymore.
  • *A2 Hosting – if you can’t afford Cloudways, A2 is still fast and uses LiteSpeed.

I use Cloudways because:

  • Even posts with a 2.70MB page size can load in under 2s
  • DigitalOcean and Vultr HF are miles faster than shared hosting.
  • It’s $10-$13/month (no yearly contracts or high renewal prices).
  • Varnish, Redis, and memcached are all built-in for higher performance.
  • You get to pick from DigitalOcean, Vultr HF, Linode, AWS, Google Cloud.
  • 4.8/5 star TrustPilot rating and highly recommended in Facebook Groups.
  • They have 25+ data centers between all their cloud hosting providers.
  • No CPU issues like on SiteGround, Bluehost, and other shared hosting.
  • SSL, staging, and backups are all very easy in the Cloudways dashboard.
  • Support used to be average, but is now really good as reflected on TrustPilot.
  • They offer a free migration but their Migrator plugin will also do the trick.
  • Adding a server, migrating your site, and the dashboard is actually very easy.
  • Mustasaam (their community manager) gave me peace of mind when moving.
  • Only complaint is they need to add LiteSpeed servers to their list of providers.

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for Cloudways using my affiliate link, I would seriously appreciate it. I don’t recommend bad hosting like many other affiliates. I also donate quite a bit to charity ($6,000 to GoFundMe so far) and your support would really help. I try to base my reviews not only from my experience, but real evidence from the overwhelming feedback in numerous Facebook Groups. It would mean a lot.

Just do your research and look at this Facebook thread.

 

2. Rethink Your Theme + Page Builder

Most people are using Astra Themes.

The only problem with Astra is that most of their themes use page builders. Even Elementor adds a lot of scripts that can mildly slow down your WordPress site (you can check these in Asset CleanUp or Perfmatters). That was my biggest complaint when I had my site redesigned in Astra (I even went themeless). My StudioPress theme was slightly faster with 0 extra scripts.

It really depends on what you want; if you like Astra + Elementor for designing your site and don’t mind a slight decrease in speed, that’s what I would recommend. If you’re a speed freak like me and only want the fastest stuff, I wish I would have stuck with StudioPress and Genesis.

studiopress-themes

Here were my extra CSS and JavaScript files added by Elementor:

Elementor-Scripts

I recommend either Astra or Oxygen Builder.

Astra-Themes-Facebook-Poll

 

3. Configure A Solid Cache Plugin

As far as GTmetrix scores go, your cache plugin has the biggest impact.

WP Rocket is the most popular cache plugin (it’s also what I use) mainly because it comes with more speed optimization features than any other cache plugin. This not only results in better GTmetrix scores, but also means you don’t have to install a bunch of extra plugins on your site.

Get 10% off WP Rocket by signing up for their email list on their coupons page. Then check my recommended WP Rocket settings for optimal GTmetrix scores/load times.

With most other cache plugins, you would need to install about 7 extra plugins to get these features when WP Rocket has them all built-in. Otherwise you will need to research which features your cache plugin comes with, then install these plugins if it doesn’t support them.

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

What About SG Optimizer? If you’re on SiteGround, use their SG Optimizer plugin (instead of WP Rocket) with these SG Optimizer settings. It’s free and comparable to WP Rocket (you will still need heartbeat control and database cleanup). This plugin is only for SiteGround’s hosting.

WP Engine + GoDaddy – these hosts have their own built-in caching system and blacklist you from using cache plugins. In this case, use Autoptimize to optimize HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

I also have configuration tutorials for WP Fastest Cache, W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and Swift Performance, but I definitely recommend WP Rocket as your one and only caching plugin.

 

4. Upgrade To PHP 7.4

Login to your hosting account (or use the Display PHP Version plugin) to see which PHP version you’re currently running. WordPress stats show most users are running outdated PHP versions when PHP 7.4 is available on many hosting accounts. Upgrading is as simple as finding the PHP Version Manager (or similar) in your hosting account, then upgrading the latest version of PHP.

PHP-7.4

Some hosts are quick to release new versions (SiteGround, Cloudways, Kinsta), while others don’t make an effort to stay current in technology. Another reason to avoid EIG and GoDaddy.

*Check your website for visible errors since non-maintained plugins may not be compatible. If you do see errors, you can always revert back to an earlier PHP version.

 

5. Enable Varnish + Memcached

Many cloud hosting providers support Varnish + Memcached. Login to your hosting account and activate them. If you’re using Varnish, be sure to enable the Varnish addon in WP Rocket.

Hosting-Application-Services

 

6. Use A CDN

Most people use Cloudflare or RocketCDN (from WP Rocket).

RocketCDN uses StackPath’s data centers and offers it at a lower price than if you buy directly from StackPath. Both are great CDNs, but there are a few major differences between the two.

Cloudflare vs. RocketCDN

  • Cloudflare is free, RocketCDN is $6.99/month
  • Cloudflare cannot serve images from their CDN, StackPath can
  • Cloudflare has 200+ data centers, StackPath has 45 data centers
  • Cloudlare’s data centers are likely not as high-performance as StackPath
  • Cloudflare has a dashboard you can login to and tweak, RocketCDN does not
  • Cloudflare’s dashboard has extra features like page rules, Rocket Loader, Railgun
  • Cloudflare requires changing nameservers (some hosts also have an option to activate Cloudflare directly from your account), StackPath’s set up is automatic with WP Rocket

Cloudflare-Bandwidth-Savings

Ensure Cloudflare Compatibility With WP Rocket – WP Rocket and most other cache plugins ask for your Cloudflare Zone ID, Global API Key, and your Cloudflare account email. Add them.

WP-Rocket-Cloudflare-Add-On

Configuring The Cloudflare Dashboard – if you’re using Cloudflare, login to your dashboard. There are a few things in here that aren’t available if you set up Cloudflare through your host.

Page Rule 1: Cache Everything And Force HTTPS – cache your website aggressively.

http://*yourwebsite.com/*

Always-Use-HTTPS-Page-Rule

Page Rule 2: Secure The WordPress Admin And Bypass Cache – sets security level of the admin to high and bypasses Cloudflare’s cache in the admin, since you don’t want CDNs (or apps + performance features like Rocket Loader) running inside the admin.

yourwebsite.com/wp-admin*

WordPress-Admin-Page-Rule

Page Rule 3: Decrease Bandwidth Of WP Uploads – since the content in your WP Uploads folder does not change frequently, increasing Edge Cache TTL to a month can save on bandwidth, since the WP Uploads folder cache won’t be refreshed as often.

yourwebsite.com/wp-content/uploads*

WP-Uploads-Page-Rule

Setting Up RocketCDN Or StackPath – the easiest way to set up RocketCDN is with WP Rocket. If not using WP Rocket, you will need to sign up for a StackPath account through their website then follow instructions for creating a CDN site. They will assign you a CDN URL which most cache plugins (including Autoptimize) have a field for. Or use the CDN Enabler plugin.

Make Sure Your CDN Is Working – every CDN should show 100% in GTmetrix YSlow except Cloudflare’s CDN. To make GTmetrix detects Cloudflare, you’ll need to sign up for a GTmetrix account → User settings → “add your hostname to YSlow CDN Hostnames.” You can also use Cloudflare’s Claire Chrome Extension to see if it’s working. GTmetrix always detects StackPath.

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

 

7. Avoid 65+ Slow Plugins

You can find your slowest plugins in the GTmetrix Waterfall tab or Query Monitor.

Slow WordPress Plugin

Most slow WordPress plugins include social sharing, statistic (analytics), sliders, portfolios, page builders, calendars, chat, contact forms, related post, sitemap, Wordfence, WPML, WooCommerce, and any plugin that runs ongoing scans or processes. These can be identified using Query Monitor or GTmetrix Waterfall.

  1. AddThis
  2. AdSense Click Fraud Monitoring
  3. All-In-One Event Calendar
  4. Backup Buddy
  5. Beaver Builder
  6. Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps
  7. Broken Link Checker
  8. Constant Contact for WordPress
  9. Contact Form 7
  10. Contextual Related Posts
  11. Digi Auto Links
  12. Disqus Comment System
  13. Divi Builder
  14. Elementor
  15. View Full List Of 65 Slow Plugins

Lightweight Plugin Alternatives

 

8. Optimize Third Party Scripts

Third party scripts are anything that create requests from external websites.

These include Google Fonts, Analytics, Maps, AdSense, Tag Manager, embedded videos, social media widgets, Facebook Pixel, Gravatars, or even like buttons from your social sharing plugin. Some can be optimized to have no impact on GTmetrix while AdSense/Tag Manager are harder.

The next sections (7-16) show you how to optimize specific third party scripts that may be giving you errors in your GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights reports.

Step 1: Learn Which Third Party Scripts Are Slowing Down Your Site
Look at reduce DNS lookups in GTmetrix YSlow or third party usage in PageSpeed Insights.

External-Scripts

Common third party domains taken from Github:


//maps.googleapis.com
//maps.gstatic.com
//fonts.googleapis.com
//fonts.gstatic.com
//use.fontawesome.com
//ajax.googleapis.com
//apis.google.com
//google-analytics.com
//www.google-analytics.com
//ssl.google-analytics.com
//www.googletagmanager.com
//www.googletagservices.com
//googleads.g.doubleclick.net
//adservice.google.com
//pagead2.googlesyndication.com
//tpc.googlesyndication.com
//youtube.com
//i.ytimg.com
//player.vimeo.com
//api.pinterest.com
//assets.pinterest.com
//connect.facebook.net
//platform.twitter.com
//syndication.twitter.com
//platform.instagram.com
//referrer.disqus.com
//c.disquscdn.com
//cdnjs.cloudflare.com
//cdn.ampproject.org
//pixel.wp.com
//disqus.com
//s.gravatar.com
//0.gravatar.com
//2.gravatar.com
//1.gravatar.com
//sitename.disqus.com
//s7.addthis.com
//platform.linkedin.com
//w.sharethis.com
//s0.wp.com
//s1.wp.com
//s2.wp.com
//stats.wp.com
//ajax.microsoft.com
//ajax.aspnetcdn.com
//s3.amazonaws.com
//code.jquery.com
//stackpath.bootstrapcdn.com
//github.githubassets.com
//ad.doubleclick.net
//stats.g.doubleclick.net
//cm.g.doubleclick.net
//stats.buysellads.com
//s3.buysellads.com

Step 2: Add Domains To Prefetching
Take the external scripts from your GTmetrix report and add them to WP Rocket (Preload → Prefetch DNS Requests). Prefetching and other browser resource hints makes them load faster. If you don’t have WP Rocket, you can do this with Perfmatters or Pre* Party Resources Hints.

Prefetch-DNS-Requests

Step 3: Use Flying Scripts To Delay Loading Them
The Flying Scripts plugin delays loading JavaScript until the timeout period you set in the plugin. It’s the only plugin that let me show Gravatars without them impacting my GTmetrix report, but this can also be done with other third party scripts. Just enter the keyword of the script into the plugin (eg. discuz) and set a timeout period. I also recommend checking out Gijo’s speed plugins.

Flying-Scripts

Don’t forget to see the next few sections which will help you better optimize external scripts.

 

9. Google Fonts

Here are 4 steps for optimizing Google Fonts and Font Awesome.

Optimize Fonts With WP Rocket Or SG Optimizer – both WP Rocket and SG Optimizer have an option to optimize Google Fonts. This combines your fonts to create fewer HTTP requests.

Optimize-Google-Fonts

Host Google Fonts Locally – use the OMGF plugin to host fonts locally. The plugin will automatically download your fonts, create a stylesheet for them, then include it in the header.

Preload Fonts – grab the URLs of your font files in the GTmetrix Waterfall report and add them to WP Rocket’s “preload fonts” option, or in OMGF. This helps browsers download fonts faster.

Preload-Fonts

Be Minimal With Fonts + Weights – be minimal with the number of fonts and weights.

 

10. Google Analytics

Hosting Google Analytics locally will fix the leverage browser caching issue for Google Analytics in GTmetrix. For this, I use the Flying Analytics plugin since WP Rocket’s Google Tracking add-on still showed errors. Insert your Google Analytics Tracking ID (the UA code) into the plugin, then use the “Minimal Analytics Inlined” method which only adds a measly 1.4KB.

Flying-Analytics

Plugins to host Analytics locally: WP Rocket, Perfmatters, Flying Analytics, CAOS.

 

11. Google AdSense

Google Adsense is one of the most difficult scripts to optimize and you shouldn’t expect a good GTmetrix report with it. You can try enabling Cloudflare’s Rocket Loader which defers loading of JavaScript until after rendering, but affiliate links are way faster and usually more profitable.

 

12. Google Tag Manager

GTM should usually only be used for large, unoptimized sites.

If you absolutely need it, use a good Google Tag Manager plugin and be minimal with tags, but that’s about all you can do. I don’t use GTM on my website (my load times are more important).

Google Tag Manager Speed

 

13. Comments + Gravatars

I use 3 plugins for comments which you’ll see zero errors for in GTmetrix.

  • wpDiscuz: commenting plugin.
  • Flying Scripts: delays loading of Gravatars.
  • WP User Avatar: use a custom, optimized photo as the default avatar.

Step 1: Configure wpDiscuz to load faster.

Comment thread displaying → initiate AJAX loading after page and lazy load comment.

Disqus-Comment-Thread-Displaying

General → disable “use WordPress native AJAX functions” and enable combine/minify JS/CSS.

Disqus-General-Settings

Styles and colors → disable “load font awesome CSS lib.”

Disqus-Load-Font-Awesome-CSS-Lib

Step 2: Delay Gravatar loading with the Flying Scripts plugin.

Speed-Up-Comments

Step 3: Upload a custom, optimized photo using WP User Avatar.

WP-User-Avatar

Retest your GTmetrix report and your comments should load much faster with no errors.

 

14. Facebook Pixel

Use the Pixel Caffeine plugin and host Facebook Pixel locally in WP Rocket.

Facebook-Pixel-Browser-Caching

 

15. Use A Fast Social Sharing Plugin

WP Rocket did a test on the fastest social sharing plugins.

The Grow by Mediavine plugin (Social Pug) was rated the #1 fastest social sharing plugin. It’s also what I use and saw no difference in my GTmetrix report. You can see a preview near my comments section; the buttons look nice, can be loaded before and after the content, and has options for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, email, print. You can also do a floating bar.

 

16. Optimize Images + Videos

There are several ways to optimize images. The first 3 items are in GTmetrix, the last 2 are from PageSpeed Insights. Speed testing tools only show you unoptimized images for the single page you test (keep that in mind when fixing serve scaled image or specify image dimension errors).

  • Serve scaled images – resize large images to be smaller.
  • Specify image dimensions – add a width/height to the image’s HTML.
  • Lossless compress – use an image optimization plugin to compress images.
  • Lazy load images + videos – delays load of images/videos until they’re visibly seen.
  • Serve images using next-gen formats – use WebP/SVG format instead of JPEG/PNG.

image-optimization

Serve Scaled Images – resize large images to be smaller. GTmetrix tells you the correct dimensions. Just click the image in GTmetrix, resize it to the new dimensions, and replace it. Never use the ‘drag to resize’ feature in the visual editor since this only resizes the displayed image (not the actual image). It’s best to resize to the correct dimensions before uploading it.

Serve-Scaled-Images-GTmetrix

Create a cheat sheet so you can use the correct dimensions before uploading images:

  • Slider images: 1903(w) x 400(h)
  • Carousel images: 115(h)
  • Widget images: 414(w)
  • Full width blog post images: 680(w)
  • Featured images: 250(w) x 250(h)

Specify Image Dimensions – means you need to add a width + height in the image’s HTML or CSS. This usually only happens for hand-coded HTML and plugins that don’t take care of this for you. Get the image dimensions from GTmetrix, locate the image, then add the width and height.

Specify-Image-Dimensions-WordPress

Optimize Images – losslessly compress images (also known as “optimize images” in GTmetrix). The best way to compress images is when you’re editing them (eg. in Photoshop or GIMP) since you will likely see a loss in quality with image optimization plugins, even if you select “lossless compression” in the settings. Otherwise, ShortPixel or Imagify are decent options. These plugins can also be resource-intensive and slow down your WordPress website temporarily.

Lazy Load Images + Videos – in your WP Rocket Media settings, enable lazy loading of images, videos, and replace the YouTube iframe with a preview image. These will make images and embedded videos load significantly faster, as they’re often the heaviest element on a page. If you’re not using WP Rocket, try A3 Lazy Load (for images) and WP YouTube Lyte (for videos).

WP-Rocket-Lazy-Load

Serve Images In Next-Gen Formats – most image optimization plugins have an option to convert images to WebP format, or the WebP Converter For Media plugin has great ratings.

Serve-Images-In-Next-Gen-Formats

 

17. Reduce Server Response Times

I want to clarify a few things about server response times.

Most hosting providers let you monitor CPU and RAM (memory usage). If you notice these are very close to exceeding your limits, this will put stress on your server. The whole goal is to make your server “relaxed” by giving it enough server resources to accommodate your site’s resource consumption (from high CPU plugins, traffic, WooCommerce, etc). If you notice you’re almost hitting your limits or exceeding them and getting 503 errors, it means your server is stressed.

Cloud-Memory-Increase

That’s why it’s so important to look at how many server resources come with your hosting plan. Any host that says “unlimited bandwidth” is lying (just check their terms and conditions page and they will mention their CPU limits). Especially if you anticipate high resource consumption, make sure your hosting plan includes enough resources to properly accommodate your site.

SiteGround-Server-Resources-Comparison

 

18. Clean Your Database

Use WP Rocket or WP Optimize to clean your database.

Ongoing cleanups keep your database optimized and removes transients, spam + trash comments, and potentially hundreds of post revisions which WordPress stores automatically every time you update content. Unless you need post revisions to restore backups of old content, you should be able to delete everything. I recommend scheduling weekly cleanups.

WP-Rocket-Database-Settings

Delete Old Plugin Tables – one thing I like about WP-Optimize is the option to delete database tables left behind by old plugins that aren’t installed anymore (these are often pre-configured settings). If you don’t plan on using these plugins again, delete the tables that say “not installed.”

WP-Optimize-Tables

 

19. Remove Bloat

Perfmatters (by Kinsta) is the ultimate bloat removal plugin.

The features page includes descriptions of what each item does, but it removes unnecessary WordPress features which you probably don’t need. It even has options for optimizing your Google Analytics tracking code, WooCommerce, prefetch + preconnect, and heartbeat control. Remember to selectively disable plugins in the Perfmatters script manager or Asset CleanUp!

perfmatters-features

Limit Post Revisions – use Perfmatters or add the code to your wp-config file.

define('WP_POST_REVISIONS', 5);

Increase Autosave Interval – use Perfmatters or add the code to your wp-config.php file.

define('AUTOSAVE_INTERVAL', 60);

Disable Trackbacks + Pingbacks – use Perfmatters or disable in Settings → Discussion.

Disable-Trackbacks-Pingbacks

Disable Unused Addons + Modules – if you’re using a plugin containing a bunch of addons or modules (Elementor, Ultimate/Premium Addons, JetPack), delete the ones you’re not using.

Disable-Addons

Delete Unused Plugins + Themes – any plugins/themes you’re not using should be deleted.

Delete Unused WordPress Themes

 

20. Disable Plugin Usage Tracking

Any time you have an option to disable usage tracking, do it. Sorry plugin developers.

I also don’t recommend Yoast’s speed indexing (the comments have horrible reviews).

Yoast-Speed-Indexing

 

21. Disable Plugins On Specific Pages + Posts

The Perfmatters script manager (premium) and Asset CleanUp (free) both let you disable plugins/scripts from running on specific pages/posts. Some plugins load across your entire site (even on content they’re not being used on), so it’s best to disable them when that’s the case.

Examples:

  • Disable slider plugin on pages that don’t use sliders
  • Disable rich snippets plugin on pages that don’t use rich snippets
  • Disable contact form plugin on pages that don’t have a contact form
  • Disable affiliate link management plugin on pages that don’t use aff links
  • Disable social sharing plugin on all pages (since it’s usually for blog posts)

perfmatters-script-manager

Perfmatters and Asset CleanUp (the premium version) have a Regex option that allows you disable plugins/scripts based on specific URL patterns and categories. For example, you may want to only enable your schema plugin on posts containing the word “review” in the URL.

 

22. Minimize Redirects

If you have URL redirect errors in GTmetrix, it usually means you changed the WWW or HTTP(S) version of your website but didn’t change all your links and images to reflect the new version. In this case, try using the Better Search & Replace plugin to fix these errors in bulk.

minimize redirects

Third party scripts and poorly coded plugins can also cause redirect errors in GTmetrix. The solution completely depends on which plugins and third party scripts you’re using on the site.

 

23. Don’t Enable Yoast Indexables

Yoast 14.0 came out with indexables which they claim “can provide a speed boost of 5-10%.”

However, if you look at the comments, it’s clear they have not thoroughly tested this (many complaints about CPU spikes, crashed websites, errors, etc). None of the feedback looks positive, so I would at least hold off of clicking that button until they do more thorough testing.

Yoast-Speed-Indexing

 

24. Utilize Plugins By Gijo Varghese

Gijo Varghese has create quite a few plugins for speeding up WordPress.

These plugins help you host Google Analytics locally, optimize images and serve them from a CDN, preload pages, delay loading scripts by creating a timeout, and ensure text remains visible while loading fonts. All have great ratings. Check out his WP Speed Matters Facebook Group.

Gijo-Varghese-plugins

 

25. Increase Memory Limit To 256MB

WooCommerce and WPML require a 256MB memory limit, but you should really be using 256MB no matter which type of WordPress site you’re running. Some hosts have an option to increase it in their dashboard, otherwise edit your wp-config.php file and add the code below.

Cloudways-Memory-Limit

define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M');

 

26. Make WooCommerce Load Faster

WooCommerce sites run extra scripts, styles, cart fragments, and they usually require more plugins. That’s why when choosing a hosting plan, you should usually buy one tier up of what you actually need to accomodate for the extra resources often required for WooCommerce.

WooCommerce Cart Fragments

Optimize WooCommerce Scripts, Styles, Cart Fragments
To optimize these, use Perfmatters or there are quite a few solutions on Github and WooCommerce. Disabling scripts will disable WooCommerce scripts and styles everywhere except on product, cart, and checkout pages. There’s also an option to disable cart fragments.

perfmatters woocommerce optimization

Clear WooCommerce Transients
If you feel like your WooCommerce website is getting sluggish, go to WooCommerce Status settings → delete all transients. Transients temporarily store cached data in your database.

Delete WooCommerce Transients

 

27. Block Bad Bots From Using Resources

You would never know if spam bots are hitting your site unless you checked your Wordfence live traffic report. By blocking them, you will save resources and put less stress on your server.

Step 1: Install Wordfence (you’ll want to uninstall it when you’re done).

Step 2: View your live traffic report (under Wordfence’s Tools settings) which shows you all bots hitting your website in real-time. Googlebot is obviously OK, but when I did this, I saw compute.amazonaws.com making a ridiculous amount of requests every couple seconds. I Googled it and sure enough, this was a bot known for sucking up bandwidth. View your report for a minute or two and see if bots with sketchy names are constantly hitting your site. If you have doubts, Google their hostnames and see if other people are having issues with that bot.

Live-Traffic-Report-Wordfence

Step 3: Block the bots. You have a few options: Wordfence blocking (however the plugin itself consumes resources), Cloudflare firewall rules (comes with 5 free rules which means you can block 5 bots), or the Blackhole For Bad Bots. I have a tutorial for blocking bad bots using all 3 methods. It depends on how many you want to block; if it’s only a few, I’d use Firewall Rules.

Login to your Cloudflare Dashboard and go to Firewall → Firewall Rules → Create A Firewall Rule. Copy the bad bot’s hostnames (from Wordfence) and add it here in the “Value” field. Since you can create 5 rules, you would repeat this step for your 5 worst bad bots from Wordfence.

  • Field = Hostname
  • Operator = Contains
  • Value = hostname of the bad bot you found in Wordfence

Cloudflare Firewall Rule To Block Bad Bots

Step 4: Go to your Blocking log in Cloudflare and watch your spam bots get blocked.

Cloudflare-Firewall-Events

 

28. Identify Bottlenecks In Speed Testing Tools

GTmetrix – my tool of choice since you can find exactly which images, plugins, fonts, and external scripts take longest to load (plus it shows your time to first byte and redirect errors).

2020-GTmetrix-Report

Pingdom – the most accurate tool for measuring your load times according to WP Rocket which is the primary metric you should be measuring (not grades), but there is a correlation.

Google PageSpeed Insights – good for measuring server response times but also has other recommendations like using next-gen format for images (eg. WebP), lazy loading, avoid third party scripts, preconnect, minification, caching recommendations, and serving scaled images.

Query Monitor – great for finding slow plugins, scripts, styles, and other elements slowing down your site. Make sure to delete it when you’re done since the plugin itself can be slow.

Get Help Fixing Your GTmetrix Report

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 What are the most important speed factors?

Your infrastructure (hosting, theme, plugins, page builder, CDNs) have the biggest impact on load times.

🚀 Which cache plugin should you use?

WP Rocket is usually rated the top cache plugin in Facebook polls since it has built-in features most cache plugins don't. These extra optimizations should yield better scores and load times in GTmetrix. The top free cache plugins are usually WP Fastest Cache, W3 Total Cache, and Swift Performance.

🚀 Which WordPress hosting should you use?

The best hosting is highly debatable, but Cloudways, SiteGround, and Kinsta generally the top 3 hosts based on 30+ Facebook polls.

🚀 Which speed testing tool should you use?

GTmetrix has the most robust recommendations especially for finding slow plugins, images, external scripts, and measuring TFFB. Pingdom doesn't have as many recommendations, and Google PageSpeed Insights doesn't measure load times.

🚀 How do you optimize images?

You can optimize images using a plugin like ShortPixel or Smush to compress images and strip EXIF data. Make sure you're resizing images to the correct dimensions, and ideally serve them from a CDN. Lazy loading images and videos will also make the page faster.

🚀 Should you use AMP?

Generally, you should avoid AMP (accelerated mobile pages) since the design changes can lower conversions. Kinsta's conversions dropped 59% after adding AMP and they decided to remove them.

🚀 How do you optimize plugins?

Find high CPU plugins using Query Monitor which usually include portfolios, statistics, sliders, and plugins that run ongoing processes. Next, replace them with lightweight plugins that consume minimal resources. Delete all plugins you're not using, and disable unnecessary plugin settings that consume resources. Finally, selectively disable plugins from loading on certain content using a plugin like Asset Manager or Perfmatters.

🚀 How do you optimize external scripts?

It's best to avoid external scripts all together, such as Google AdSense, Facebook widgets, and plugins that create external requests. Some plugins such as Disques let you load it conditionally. If the page contains JavaScript, try the Async JavaScript plugin. Finally, prefetch all external URLs that are loading on the page.

Really hope this helped! Drop your new GTmetrix scores + load times in the comments :-)

Cheers,
Tom

25 WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins For Speeding Up Your Website In 2020 (Same Ones I Used To Get 100% GTmetrix Scores)

Need a solid list of WordPress speed optimization plugins?

These are the same speed plugins I used to get 100% GTmetrix page speed scores and <2s load times on most of my posts. They’re a collection of plugins I use myself and popular ones in Facebook Groups. I do WordPress speed optimization for a living – I geek hard on the plugins!

This is not a typical list of cache plugins: I dive into advanced plugins like selectively plugin disabling, browser resource hints for external scripts, hosting things locally, and bloat removal.

ps. If you join the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group they have a list of 60+ recommended WordPress Speed Up Tools and useful links. But I did try to include the important ones here :)

WordPress-Speed-Plugins

1s-2020-GTmetrix-Report

 

1. WP Rocket

WP Rocket was rated the #1 cache plugin in most Facebook polls.

That’s because it comes with more features than any other cache plugin. This means better GTmetrix results and less plugins needed on your site. Otherwise, with other cache plugins, you would need to research which features it doesn’t include, then install these extra plugins if it doesn’t support them. If you’re like me, you want to use 1 plugin (WP Rocket) for everything.

  • Lazy load images/videos (built-in to WP Rocket, or use WP YouTube Lyte)
  • Host Google Analytics locally (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS For Analytics)
  • Optimize Google Fonts (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS For Fonts, or SHGF)
  • Integration with Cloudflare + other CDNs (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CDN Enabler)

Get 10% off WP Rocket by signing up for their email list on their coupons page. Then check my recommended WP Rocket settings for optimal GTmetrix scores/load times.

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

WP-Rocket-Features

 

2. SG Optimizer

SG Optimizer only works if you’re on SiteGround’s hosting which I don’t recommend since SiteGround was very slow in my speed tests and have gone completely downhill in recent years.

Since SiteGround’s big update to SG Optimizer, it’s now comparable to WP Rocket. It also uses server-side caching and binaries which is faster and more efficient than the file-based caching by other cache plugins (including WP Rocket). If you’re on SiteGround, I would definitely use it.

SG-Optimizer-Plugin

See my recommended SG Optimizer settings to learn how to configure SG Optimizer.

SG Optimizer Features

  • Caching (static, dynamic, memcached)
  • Minify & combine HTML, CSS, JS
  • Gzip compression
  • Database Cleanup
  • Heartbeat Control
  • Prefetch External Domains
  • PHP version selection
  • Optimize Google Fonts
  • Defer render-blocking JS
  • Compress new + existing images
  • Lazy load images, videos, iframes, Gravatars, thumbnails, widgets, mobile

Features SG Optimizer Lacks – CDN URL, bloat removal, hosting fonts + analytics locally.

 

3. Perfmatters

Perfmatters (by Kinsta) is the ultimate bloat removal plugin.

A few notable features include decreasing the autosave interval, limiting post revisions, disabling heartbeat and pingbacks, prefetching + preconnecting fonts and third party scripts, and optimizing WooCommerce scripts, styles, and cart fragments. It basically takes care of the last 10% of WordPress speed optimization with features WP Rocket/SG Optimizer don’t have.

perfmatters features

Perfmatters includes a script manager for selectively disabling scripts/plugins on specific content (same thing as Asset CleanUp). Some plugins load across your entire site even when they’re not being used. By selectively disabling plugins, you will reduce page sizes and make them load faster. There’s also a Regex option to better control where plugins are being loaded.

Examples:

  • Disable slider plugin on pages not using sliders
  • Disable rich snippets plugin on pages not using rich snippets
  • Disable contact form plugin on pages not using contact forms
  • Disable affiliate link management plugin on pages not using aff links
  • Disable social sharing plugin on all pages (since it’s usually for blog posts)

perfmatters-script-manager

 

4. Asset CleanUp

Same thing as the Perfmatters script manager (lets you selectively disable scripts/plugins) only Asset CleanUp doesn’t have bloat removal options, but it is free. Plugin Organizer and Plugin Load Filter are similar, but AssetCleanUp has great reviews and is what most people are using.

Asset CleanUp Check All

 

5. TinyPNG

Compresses images to get 100% for the “optimize images” item in GTmetrix.

I have tried Imagify, ShortPixel, and other image optimization plugins but they all resulted in a loss in quality even when the “lossless” option was selected. Slowly but surely, I am redoing these images in TinyPNG. I see barely any quality loss which I can’t say for the other plugins.

TinyPNG-Plugin

 

6. WP-Optimize

A big difference between WP-Optimize and WP Rocket’s database cleanup feature, is that WP-Optimize lets you delete old plugin tables.

Both plugins let you delete trash (trashed posts, spam posts, post revisions, transients) and optimize your database tables. But WP-Optimize lets you view your individual database tables and delete tables left behind by old (not installed) plugins. If you don’t plan on using these plugins again, you can delete their tables since they often leave behind pre-configured settings.

WP-Optimize-Tables

WP Rocket does the same thing, only it doesn’t let you delete old plugin tables:

WP-Rocket-Database-Settings

 

7. WP YouTube Lyte

Lazy loads videos by inserting responsive “Lite YouTube Embeds” which only calls the “fat” YouTube player when the play button is clicked. Videos take the longest time to load by far. Just to give you an idea, my W3 Total Cache tutorial only has 2 videos, but when I lazy load them that post’s load time went from 5s to 1.5s. It has the same function as light video embeds.

If using WP Rocket, you can simply lazy load videos and replace iframes with a preview image.

WP-Rocket-Lazy-Load

 

8. Heartbeat Control

The WordPress heartbeat API consumes resources by sending you real-time plugin notifications, when other users are editing a post, and so on. 99% of people should disable it.

Heartbeat-Control

WP Rocket and Perfmatters also let you disable it, or add this code to your functions.php file.

add_action( 'init', 'stop_heartbeat', 1 );
function stop_heartbeat() {
wp_deregister_script('heartbeat');
}

 

9. Pre* Party Resource Hints

Supports browser resources hints which can make fonts and scripts load faster.

WP Rocket already supports prefetch and preconnect, otherwise you can use Pre* Party Resource Hints. Third party scripts can be found in the “reduce DNS lookups” section of your GTmetrix report or shown as “reduce the impact of third party code” in PageSpeed Insights.

These can be Gravatars, Google Analytics, Maps, Tag Manager, AdSense, embedded videos, or any third party request generated on your website. You’ll want to prefetch these (Luke created a nice list of common domains to prefetch). And if you’re using Google Fonts or Font Awesome, grab your font URLs from the GTmetrix Waterfall tab and add them to the preconnect section.

Third-Party-Usage

 

10. OMGF | Host Google Fonts Locally

OMGF can fix Google Font related errors by downloading all your Google Fonts (using the Google Fonts Helper API) and generating a stylesheet for them. You will need to configure the settings to serve fonts from your CDN and select the folders to save font files to. While some plugins like WP Rocket and SG Optimizer already optimize fonts, OMGF can often yield better load times especially when images are served from a CDN. Self-Hosted Google Fonts is similar.

Google-Fonts-GTmetrix

What it looks like:

OMGF-Settings

Tip: if using external fonts, be minimal with the number of fonts (and font weights) you choose. If for some reason this plugin doesn’t fix errors, I have a guide for hosting Google Fonts locally.

 

11. Flying Analytics

Flying Analytics fixes the leverage browser caching issue in GTmetrix by hosting Google Analytics locally. Install it, enter your Tracking-ID, set the JavaScript method, and it will do the rest. Sometimes WP Rocket and Perfmatters don’t fix it, but I found Flying Analytics does.

Flying Analytics

Leverage Browser Caching GTmetrix

 

12. wpDiscuz

Why is wpDiscuz in my list of WordPress speed plugins?

Because with wpDiscuz, I get an awesome comment plugin on my blog with virtually no expense to my GTmetrix report. This is usually not the case with other commenting plugins. Go to your wpDiscuz settings and use the tweaks below which should make the plugin load faster.

Recommended settings to speed up wpDiscuz:

Comment Thread Displaying → initiate AJAX loading after page and lazy load comment.

Disqus-Comment-Thread-Displaying

General → disable “use WordPress native AJAX functions” and enable combine/minify JS/CSS.

Disqus-General-Settings

Styles And Colors → disable “load font awesome CSS lib.”

Disqus-Load-Font-Awesome-CSS-Lib

 

13. Flying Scripts

Flying_Scripts_by_WP_Speed_Matters

This plugin helps you optimize third party scripts found in GTmetrix (reduce DNS lookups) and PageSpeed Insights (minimize third party scripts).

It delays loading of JavaScript until the timeout period you set in the plugin. For example, you can delay loading your comments plugin and Gravatars for 3 seconds which can significantly speed up initial load times. In fact, Flying Scripts is the only plugin that let me show Gravatars without them affecting GTmetrix. It is definitely one of my favorite WordPress speed plugins.

Flying-Scripts

 

14. WP User Avatar

The blank default Gravatar can still create errors in GTmetrix.

If you don’t want it to, install the WP User Avatar plugin which hosts the default Gravatar locally. Upload your own optimized Gravatar image (ideally a 50×50 pixel compressed image).

WP-User-Avata

 

15. CDN Enabler

CDN Enabler helps you set up a CDN (content delivery network). This does not work with Cloudflare which requires changing nameservers, while CDN enabler is specifically for StackPath, KeyCDN, and other CDNs that provide a CDN URL. First, sign up for a CDN (I use StackPath) then enter your CDN URL into the CDN Enabler plugin. See instructions below:

Step 1: Sign up for a CDN (I use StackPath who has 34 data centers) and create a CDN site.

Step 2: Grab Your CDN URL:

StackPath-CDN-URL

Step 3: Enter your CDN URL into CDN Enabler, then configure the settings:

CDN-Enabler-Plugin-Settings

 

16. Breeze By Cloudways

Breeze is only if you’re using Cloudways who was the fastest WordPress host in multiple tests.

Breeze has a long way to go if they want to catch up to SG Optimizer or WP Rocket. I would personally use WP Rocket instead as it lacks many features (probably why it doesn’t have the best ratings). While I highly recommend Cloudways hosting, I can’t recommend Breeze yet.

Breeze-Cache-Plugin

While Cloudways Breeze plugin isn’t great, their hosting is.

 

17. Autoptimize

Optimizes HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You don’t need Autoptimize unless you’re hosted on GoDaddy, WP Engine, or any host who blacklists cache plugins, since WP Rocket and most cache plugins optimize the code for you. But while GoDaddy and WP Engine’s built-in caching might be fine, it doesn’t optimize HTML/CSS/JS. That’s where Autoptimize comes into play.

Autoptimize

 

18. WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache is usually rated one of the top free cache plugins and is easy to configure. However, it lacks quite a few features and if you want them, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version, in which case you’ll be better off with WP Rocket. I have a configuration tutorial on the WP Fastest Cache settings as well as W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.

WP-Fastest-Cache-Settings

 

19. ToolKit For Elementor

ToolKit does a little bit of everything (minification, combination, font optimization, lazy load, bloat removal, gzip, browser caching, expires headers), but it doesn’t do everything. You’ll be better off using WP Rocket combined with Perfmatters. One thing I like about ToolKit is the option to disable unused widgets in Elementor, WordPress, and in the WordPress dashboard.

ToolKit-for-Elementor

 

20. AMP For WP

I was using AMP, but I ultimately disabled it and now I don’t. But if you want to add AMP (accelerated mobile pages) to WordPress, this is one of the most highly rated AMP plugins since it has lots of customization options. One of the frustrating parts about AMP is that it strips some of your design elements, so you want to make sure the mobile pages still look nice.

Warning: AMP can sometimes decrease mobile conversions. Read Kinsta’s study on how their conversions dropped 59% when using AMP. I ultimately decided against it.

AMP-Pages

This plugin has tons of settings for customizing mobile pages:

Accelerated-Mobile-Pages-Plugin-Settings

 

21. Query Monitor

Find your slow loading plugins, queries, scripts, and other elements that take longest to load. Make sure you delete it when you’re done, since Query Monitor can cause high CPU in itself.

Query Monitor Slow Plugins

You can also use GTmetrix Waterfall to find your slowest plugins:

Slow WordPress Plugin

 

22. Display PHP Version

Display PHP Version simply shows which PHP version you’re running. Faster PHP versions = faster load times, so be sure to login to your hosting account and use the latest PHP version.

Display-PHP

 

23. GTMetrix For WordPress

The GTmetrix WordPress plugin monitors your load times and PageSpeed + YSlow scores, then sends you a report directly in your WordPress dashboard, or through scheduled email reports.

GTmetrix-WordPress-Dashboard-Widget

GTmetrix-Scheduled-WordPress-Reports

GTmetrix-Scheduled-Reports

 

24. WP Hosting Performance Check

Shows overall performance of hosting and whether your technology (PHP, MySQL, WordPress versions) is running slow, in which case it should be updated. It also shows your slowest pages.

Hosting-PHP-Server-Response

Browser-Load-Speed

Web-Server-Response-Time

Or simply check your server response time in PageSpeed Insights.

Reduce Server Response Time Under 200ms

 

25. Better Search Replace

If you see minimize redirects in your GTmetrix report, this usually means you changed the WWW or HTTPS version of your site, but didn’t change your links to reflect the new version.

Minimize-Redirects

Instead of fixing all your links manually, use the Better Search And Replace plugin to update them in bulk. It can also be helpful for fixing broken links, or even bulk updating links/images which appear on multiple pages/posts. Better Search Replace can be an enormous time saver.

Better Search Replace – WWW Versions

 

Other Notable Tools / Resources

Hosting recommendations are usually garbage.

Join the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group to get unbiased feedback. Most members (myself too) swear by Cloudways WordPress Hosting. Specifically DigitalOcean / Vultr High Frequency.

Yes, it’s a little more expensive at $10-$13/month, but we’re talking about speed here – not being cheap. With Cloudways, you have a choice of using DigitalOcean, Vultr High Frequency, Google Cloud, AWS, or Linode. These are worlds faster than shared hosting and can handle resource-intensive tasks much better (Elementor, Beaver, Divi, WooCommerce, AdSense, etc).

Cloudways makes it easy to test them out and see the difference in your load times: they do free migrations, monthly pricing, a Migrator plugin, and a promo code to save money: OMM25

Here’s what happened when I moved:

SiteGround vs Cloudways

GTmetrix tests are always different, but even posts with a huge page 2.70MB page size and 96 requests can often load in under 2s. I’ll also take a 148ms time to first byte any day of the week. That post has 70+ images, 480 comments (showing Gravatars), Font Awesome, and Elementor.

OMM-TTFB

The evidence is there:

Cloudways Response TimesCloudways-Migration-Result
Cloudways Google PageSpeed
WP Engine To Cloudways
DigitalOcean Pingdom Report
Hosting-Recommendation
Moving-From-WPX
SiteGround-Alternatives
Preferred-Web-Hosting
UntitledWPEngine-To-Cloudways
Godaddy DigitalOcean Migration
Cloudways Pingdom Load Times
Cloudways Pingdom Report
Elementor-Hosting
Web-Hosting-France
SiteGround-Alternative
VPS-Cloud-Hosting

 

I use Cloudways because:

  • Even posts with a 2.70MB page size can load in under 2s
  • DigitalOcean and Vultr HF are miles faster than shared hosting.
  • It’s $10-$13/month (no yearly contracts or high renewal prices).
  • Varnish, Redis, and memcached are all built-in for higher performance.
  • You get to pick from DigitalOcean, Vultr HF, Linode, AWS, Google Cloud.
  • 4.8/5 star TrustPilot rating and highly recommended in Facebook Groups.
  • They have 25+ data centers between all their cloud hosting providers.
  • No CPU issues like on SiteGround, Bluehost, and other shared hosting.
  • SSL, staging, and backups are all very easy in the Cloudways dashboard.
  • Support used to be average, but is now really good as reflected on TrustPilot.
  • They offer a free migration but their Migrator plugin will also do the trick.
  • Adding a server, migrating your site, and the dashboard is actually very easy.
  • Mustasaam (their community manager) gave me peace of mind when moving.
  • Only complaint is they need to add LiteSpeed servers to their list of providers.

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for Cloudways using my affiliate link, I would seriously appreciate it. I don’t recommend bad hosting like many other affiliates. I also donate quite a bit to charity ($6,000 to GoFundMe so far) and your support would really help. I try to base my reviews not only from my experience, but real evidence from the overwhelming feedback in numerous Facebook Groups. It would mean a lot.

Just do your research and look at this Facebook thread.

Cloudflare – free CDN and speed/security service which mirrors your site (and offloads resources) on over 200+ data centers. Integrates with most cache plugins with options to use aggressive minification, Railgun, and hotlinking. All my cache plugin tutorials include Cloudflare setup instructions and don’t forget to set up page rules for your WordPress site.

StackPath – paid CDN which adds 30+ additional data centers around the world (more data centers = faster content delivery), reducing the distance between your website/visitors – a recommendation in the WordPress optimization guide. $10/month with a free 30-day trial.

Pingdom – most accurate tool for measuring load times according to WP Rocket, though GTmetrix has better recommendations for actually optimizing your site, in my humble opinion.

GTmetrix – good for identifying images that need to be optimized using the 3 methods: serving scaled images (resizing them), specifying images dimensions in the HTML/CSS, and optimizing images (lossless compression). GTmetrix recently switched to a fully loaded time metric which shows a longer load time than previously. Their waterfall tab measures individual slow loading elements, and if your time to first byte is long that indicates your hosting is slow.

Google PageSpeed Insights – most recommendations can be ignored but it’s good for measuring server response time which Google recommends <200ms or your hosting is slow.

Pronaya (My WordPress Speed Optimizer) – you can hire my WordPress speed optimizer on freelancer.com who I’ve been working with for 5 years and we’ve optimized multiple sites to load 500% faster. His name is Pronaya, he’s $40/hour and has a perfect 5/5 star review with 19 reviews (just sign up for a Freelancer account and search for user BDKAMOL). If you think I’m good at speed optimization, Pronaya is way better. I’ve also been working with Usama (his username is I333) who is quite cheaper but is also amazing with 4.9/5 stars and 375+ reviews.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 What are the 5 most important speed plugins?

WP Rocket, SG Optimizer, OMGF, Perfmatters, and Autoptimize are 5 top speed optimization plugins.

🚀 What is the best cache plugin?

WP Rocket was rated the #1 cache plugin in numerous Facebook polls because it has more speed features than other cache plugins including database cleanup, heartbeat control, lazy load, and optimizing Google Analytics. WP Fastest Cache is usually rated the top free cache plugin, and SG Optimizer is good if you're on SiteGround.

🚀 What's the best image optimization plugin?

ShortPixel, TinyPNG, Imagify, and Smush are 4 popular image optimization plugins.

🚀 Which plugin is best for optimizing fonts?

OMGF, Perfmatters, WP Rocket, and Autoptimize all have font optimization options. WP Rocket and Perfmatters let you preconnect them which makes them load even faster.

🚀 Should I add AMP?

We chose not to use AMP after reading Kinsta's article about how their conversions dropped by roughly 50% due to AMP.

My WordPress Speed Optimization Tutorial – has 400+ comments with people saying things like “My page speed score on gtmetrix went from 69 to 93” and “this might be one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever read.” Tons of people have used it to improve Pingdom/GTmetrix scores.

I hope you find these WordPress speed optimization plugins useful! If you have questions leave me a comment. Or if you simply need to fix your slow WordPress site, see my tutorial above. It has over 400 comments and has helped many people reduce their load time to <1s.

Cheers,
Tom

How To Add Rich Snippets To WordPress (The Easy Way): Increase CTRs And Stand Out In Google With Reviews, Recipes, FAQs & More

rich-snippets

Rich Snippets add “extra information” to snippets and make you stand out in search results.

You can do this with reviews, recipes, videos, events, user reviews, and other supported data. The easiest way to add rich snippets to WordPress is by installing a rich snippets plugin, using it to markup pages/posts (basically just filling out fields), then testing those URLs in Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. This will increase your clickthrough rates (CTR) and SEO traffic.

If you’re looking to add FAQ rich snippets to WordPress, I have a tutorial on that.

What is the best WordPress rich snippets plugin? I use WP Review Pro (they also have a free version) which is the plugin I will feature in this tutorial. I used to use All In One Schema, but’s way too minimal. I also used WP Rich Snippets but the developer abandoned that plugin. WP Review is maintained by MyThemeShop, looks fantastic, loads fast, and is highly customizable.

 

1. Choose A Rich Snippets Plugin

Option 1WP Review (I Use The Pro Version) – the plugin I use myself and recommend. Other rich snippet plugins are either too minimal (All In One Schema lacks customization options) or they’re unreliable (WP Rich Snippets hasn’t been updated for 2 years and isn’t compatible for PHP 7). I love WP Review and the pro version comes with 16 pre-styled designs, plus support.

Why I Use WP Review

  • Looks awesome (here’s a page I use it on)
  • The plugin is maintained! Unlike many others.
  • Supports reviews, recipes, and most data types.
  • Multiple ratings systems (stars, points, percentage).
  • No compatibly issues with other plugins or new PHP versions.
  • Lightweight (loads fast) and doesn’t affect my GTmetrix report.
  • Supports user reviews + unlimited domain usage with pro version.
  • Pro version comes with 16 pre-styled designs which look amazing.

Supported data types:

  • Article
  • Book
  • Game
  • Movie
  • Music
  • Painting
  • Place
  • Product
  • Recipe
  • Restaurant
  • Software Application
  • Store
  • TvSeries
  • Website

 
How it looks…

Rich Snippets Markup

Option 2All In One Schema Rich Snippets – free plugin that “does the job” but has minimal settings and customization options (by little I mean there are only 6 settings to customize how your rich snippets look). This doesn’t cut if for me. Here’s a full review of All In One Schema.org or see these screenshots on the WordPress plugin page.

Why I Don’t Use All In One Schema

  • Looks boring
  • Doesn’t support user reviews
  • Limited customization options (literally only has 6 settings for customization)
  • Only 1 type of rating (stars) with 1 point intervals (you can’t something a 4.5)

 

Supported data types:

  • Reviews
  • Events
  • People
  • Products
  • Recipes
  • Software Application
  • Videos
  • Articles

How it looks…

All In One Schema Rich Snippets Markup

Option 3WP Rich Snippets – I wanted to love this rich snippets plugin. I even used it for 2 years when it wasn’t updated once. But there came a point where I needed to upgrade from PHP 5.6 to PHP 7, and WP Rich Snippets wasn’t compatible (it broke my site). The developer lists “plugin updates” and “plugin support” on his website, but there is none. I would love to dive into cool features of WP Rich Snippets, but it would be a waste of time. Stay away from it.

Why I Don’t Use WP Rich Snippets

  • No support
  • No plugin updates (for 2 years!)
  • Not compatible with PHP 7 or higher
  • Doesn’t support event rich snippets type
  • Most add-ons need to be purchased separately
  • Each add-ons is an additional plugin that runs on your site

Supported data types:

  • Articles
  • Recipes
  • Reviews
  • Products
  • Organizations
  • Restaurants
  • Software Application

How it looks…

wp-rich-snippets-content-markup

 

2. Configure Your Plugin Settings

This will obviously be different depending on which rich snippets plugin you choose.

These are the settings for WP Review:

WP Review Settings

Styling
Below are the main settings where you can choose between their 16 pre-styled designs (for WP Review Pro) as well as colors, review box width, and whether you want Google Fonts.

WP Review Styling Settings

Defaults
Choose the review type (star, point, percent, circle, thumbs up), whether you want the markup before or after the content, and what type of review you’re writing. You can use shortcodes to display markup somewhere in the middle of your content, if you don’t want it before or after.

Default Rich Snippet Type

Embed
Choose if you want to allow users to embed your reviews on their website.

WP Review Global Embed Settings

WP Review Popup Settings

WP Review Notification Bar Content

WP Review Notifications Bar

WP Review Role Manager

 

3. Markup Your Content

Edit any page/post you want to add rich snippets to (it must be a review or other data type). Scroll down until you see the “review” sections. Here’s what they look like for WP Review.

Rich Snippets Content Settings

Review – review type, item, and author fields are mandatory for Google to show schema.

Review Item – tell people what specific features you like and don’t like about the item, giving each one a score. You can customize the colors of the stars here (and their background color).

Review Links – add your affiliate link and the text you want to use as the link. The plugin will automatically set the link as nofollow so search engines don’t crawl it (which is what you want).

Review Description – your review description can include both text, links, images, and videos.

User Review – choose whether you want visitors to be able to leave a review about the item.

Here’s the end result:

Rich Snippets Markup

 

4. Test In Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool

Run the post’s URL through Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to make sure your rich snippets are working. Just look for the green “all good” text and if you see errors, expand the box to see items that need to be fixed. Your rich snippets won’t appear immediately in Google’s search results (it can take a few days to update) but this tool will tell you if something’s wrong.

Google Structured Data Testing Tool

Common Solutions

  1. Add the data Google tells you to in their Structured Data Testing Tool
  2. Make sure the data is representative of the content on the page
  3. Try adding markup to a few more pages which is suggested by Google
  4. Upgrade to the latest version of WordPress, MySQL, and PHP (contact your host)
  5. Visit this Google forum which lists common problems and other FAQs
  6. Visit the structured data section of your Google Search Console
  7. Visit Google’s structured data policies and webmaster guidelines
  8. If you still have problems, it might be because you have a low domain authority

Once Google recrawls your site, your rich snippet should appear…

rich-snippets-in-search-results

 

If You Decide All In One Schema (Free And Easy, But Minimal)

Install and activate the plugin…

All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets Installation
In the settings, the configuration tab can be left as-is unless you want to change the text…

All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets Configuration Settings

The customization tab has basic styling options…

all-in-one-schema-rich-snippets-customization-settings

Edit a page or post you want to add rich snippets to. Scroll down and select a rich snippet…

Rich Snippet Types

Based on the rich snippet you choose, you will be asked to fill out certain fields…

Configure Rich Snippet

Publish the page and test the URL in Google’s Structured Data Tool (step 4). You will need to wait for Google to crawl your website (usually 1-4 days) for these to appear in search results.

all-in-one-schema-rich-snippets-review

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ What is the best rich snippets plugin?

WP Review, Schema, and the WP Schema plugins all go a great job. It really depends on what data types you want to markup content for; then make a decision based on that. Avoid the WP Rich Snippets plugin which was abandoned by the developer of this plugin.

✅ How did I get these emojis in FAQs?

I use the Structured Content plugin and added emojis to the questions. You can do this with nearly any post and any emoji.

✅ What types of posts can be marked up?

Reviews, recipes, FAQs, and events are some of more popular data types. Check Google's Structured Data Types for a full list.

✅ How do you test rich snippets?

Use Google's Structured Data Testing Tool to check for errors. Google Search Console will also tell you about your rich snippets (they have a specific section for FAQs and reviews).

✅ How do I get in Google's featured snippets?

There are 3 types of featured snippets: paragraphs, lists, tables (paragraphs are the most common). First, find a question keyword where the top results don't do a good job of answering the question. Next, make sure you answer the question in a clear, concise way in your content. Adding an HTML table of contents and breaking subheadings into logical sections also helps. Finally, make each item in your HTML table of contents actionable.

 

Questions, Errors, Success?

If you’re still having trouble with errors, you can drop me a line below but I recommend you contact the plugin developer since they are suppose to provide support for their customers – WP Rich Snippets DOES provide support for the 1st year no matter which plan you chose.

I really hope you found this helpful! Adding rich snippets to WordPress is incredibly beneficial and can give you a huge advantage with your SEO. So if you’re stuck, please don’t quit and either reach out to me or contact the WP Rich Snippets support team for help.

See Also:
How I Optimized My WordPress Site To Load In .2s (100% GTmetrix/Pingdom Scores)

Cheers,
Tom

The Ideal W3 Total Cache Settings With Cloudflare And StackPath CDN Instructions — Last Updated 2020 With Latest Version 0.14.2

Not sure if you have the best W3 Total Cache settings?

I generally don’t recommend W3 Total Cache since it doesn’t support database cleanup, heartbeat control, optimizing Google Fonts video optimization, or NGINX + memcached (only available with the premium version). While W3 Total Cache is free, WP Rocket is better since it has these built-in. That’s why it yields faster load times and is rated the #1 cache plugin in most Facebook polls. But if you insist on free, use this tutorial to set up your W3 Total Cache settings.

This tutorial shows you how to set up the performance tabs then add Cloudflare’s free CDN or StackPath‘s premium CDN. Many W3 Total Cache settings are preset (shown in the “Install” tab), but not all of them. For hosting, I recommend DigitalOcean on Cloudways especially over SiteGround, EIG, and GoDaddy (TLDR: Cloudways + WP Rocket is a much faster configuration). They’re what I use; see my GTmetrix report or click through my posts to see how fast they load.

W3-Total-Cache-Settings

 

W3 Total Cache Dashboard

 

Download my recommended W3 Total Cache settings here (you’ll need a Dropbox account). Upload the file under Performance → General Settings → Import / Export Settings. Check your site to make sure everything is OK. You will still need to configure a CDN, activate extensions, and add your sitemap URL (under Page Cache). This file was last updated on March, 18, 2019.

 

1. General Settings

Important notes about the W3 Total Cache general settings:

  • Cache method: use disk enhanced for shared hosting, memcached for cloud hosting.
  • Database cache: leave disabled, it overloads the server especially on shared hosting.
  • Object cache: leave disabled, it will usually slow down the website and the dashboard.
  • CDN: enable if you plan on using StackPath’s CDN (though you can just use Cloudflare).
  • Lazy loading: delays loading of images and fixes the lazy load item in PageSpeed Insights.
  • Fragment cache: only available with W3 Total Cache Pro and usually for dynamic sites.
  • Google PageSpeed Widget: I recommend the GTmetrix plugin for monitoring instead.

W3 Total Cache General Settings 1

 

2. Page Cache

Important notes about the W3 Total Cache page cache settings:

  • Don’t cache pages: you don’t want to cache pages for logged in users or user roles.
  • Rest API: the rest API can be disabled if you’re not using (check your website for errors).
  • Compatibility mode: enable, this is recommended in the Install tab by the developer.

W3 Total Cache Page Cache Settings

 

3. Minify Settings

The plugin developer says the recommended settings for minify, database, and object cache are preset. You can find these recommendations in the Install tab. The main things to tweak are the browser cache settings and set up a content delivery network like Cloudflare or StackPath.

minify settings

 

4. Database Cache

  • Leave as is (recommended by the developer).

 

5. Object Cache

  • Leave as is (recommended by the developer).

 

6. Browser Cache

Important notes about the W3 Total Cache browser cache settings:

  • Enable first 6 settings: enable these individually and test the results in GTmetrix.
  • Brotli compression: if using Cloudflare’s CDN, enable this in the Cloudflare dashboard.

W3 Total Cache Browser Cache Settings 1

Leave everything else including ‘expires header lifetime’ which the developer says is preset.

 

7. User Agent Groups

User Agent Groups are used to specify whether a mobile theme is used (if you have a mobile responsive website and are not using a plugin to create a mobile site, there is no need for this).

W3 Total Cache User Agent Groups

 

8. Referrer Groups

Referrer Groups are used to serve a unique cached version for users who come to your site through specific traffic sources (eg. Google or Bing). Most websites should leave this disabled.

W3 Total Cache Referrer Groups

 

Same concept as referrer groups, only it uses cookies instead to create a unique cached version for users who come to your site through specific cookies. Most sites should leave this disabled.

W3 Total Cache Cookie Groups

 

10. CDN

This section is specifically for StackPath’s CDN which they also have a tutorial for.

Cloudflare is set up differently and it has it’s own section. While most people only recommend using 1 CDN (usually Cloudflare since it’s free), I personally use both Cloudflare and StackPath. Both offload a ton of resources to their data centers and save bandwidth (screenshots below).

StackPath-Bandwidth-Savings

Step 1: Go to the W3 Total Cache General Settings and enable StackPath.

W3 Total Cache Enable CDN

Step 2: Sign up for StackPath, select API management from the dropdown menu (top right), then select Generate Credentials. Create a name (eg. W3TC) then StackPath will give you a Client ID and Client Secret. Copy/paste these into StackPath under CDN Settings → Authorize.

StackPath Credentials

Authorize

StackPath Credentials In W3TC

Step 3: In the W3 Total Cache CDN settings, use these:

W3 Total Cache CDN Settings 1

Step 4: In StackPath go to CDN → Cache Settings, then click Purge Everything:

StackPath-Purge-Cache

Step 5: Run your site in GTmetrix and “content delivery network” should be green in YSlow.

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

CDN pointers from the plugin developer (found in Install tab) – if you do not use the Media Library, import your images etc into the default locations. Use the Media Library Import Tool on the “CDN” tab to do this. If you do not have a CDN provider, you can still improve your site’s performance using the “Self-hosted” method. On your own server, create a subdomain and matching DNS Zone record; e.g. static.domain.com and configure FTP options on the “Content Delivery Network” tab. Be sure to FTP upload the appropriate files, using the upload buttons.

 

11. Fragment Cache

Fragment cache is mainly used in dynamic sites. Instead of caching an entire page, individual sections (usually the heavy areas) are cached. You will need to upgrade to W3 Total Cache Pro to use fragment cache. They have recommendations on that page I linked to which makes the plugin aware if you’re grouping transients. However, you may need some coding experience.

W3 Total Cache Fragment Cache

 

12. User Experience

W3 Total Cache comes with basic lazy load settings which fixes the lazy load item in PageSpeed Insights. This delays loading of images until you scroll down and see them. It doesn’t optimize videos, so if you embed YouTube videos on your site, you will need an additional plugin for that.

W3 Total Cache Lazy Loading

 

13. Extensions

Active any extensions you’re using. In my case it would be Cloudflare and Yoast.

W3 Total Cache Extensions

 

14. Cloudflare CDN

Cloudflare is free with over 200+ data centers.

If you’re using Cloudflare, there is usually no need to use StackPath. Unlike StackPath, setting up Cloudflare is different and requires changing nameservers. When you’re done, be sure to login to your Cloudflare dashboard and add Page Rules which can improve speed and security.

Cloudflare-Bandwidth-Savings

Step 1: Sign up for a free Cloudflare account, add your site, and run the scan prompted by Cloudflare. You will eventually come to a page where Cloudflare assigns you 2 nameservers.

Cloudflare-GoDaddy-Nameservers

Step 2: Login to your domain registrar, find the area to change nameservers, and paste them here. Once this is done, you can go back to Cloudflare and click “Done, check nameservers.”

SiteGround-DNS-Records

Step 3: In the W3 Total Cache Extensions tab, activate Cloudeflare and click Settings.

Cloudflare Extension

Configure the Cloudflare settings (note: the only thing I changed is enabling hotlink protection).

W3 Total Cache Cloudflare Settings

Step 4: Login to your Cloudflare dashboard and go to Page Rules. Add these 3 page rules:

Page Rule 1: Cache Everything And Force HTTPS – cache your website aggressively.

http://*yourwebsite.com/*

Always-Use-HTTPS-Page-Rule

Page Rule 2: Secure The WordPress Admin And Bypass Cache – sets security level of the admin to high and bypasses Cloudflare’s cache in the admin, since you don’t want CDNs (or apps + performance features like Rocket Loader) running inside the admin.

yourwebsite.com/wp-admin*

WordPress-Admin-Page-Rule

Page Rule 3: Decrease Bandwidth Of WP Uploads – since the content in your WP Uploads folder does not change frequently, increasing Edge Cache TTL to a month can save on bandwidth, since the WP Uploads folder cache won’t be refreshed as often.

yourwebsite.com/wp-content/uploads*

WP-Uploads-Page-Rule

Once you’re done configuring your CDN(s), purge all caches in W3 Total Cache. If you don’t see this, there may be an ’empty all caches’ option in the dashboard tab. It can take up to 24 hours for Cloudflare nameservers to propagate, but you will get a confirmation email once complete.

 

15. Cloudways (The Host I Use)

Hosting recommendations are usually garbage.

Join the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group to get unbiased feedback. Most members (myself too) swear by Cloudways WordPress Hosting. Specifically DigitalOcean / Vultr High Frequency.

Yes, it’s a little more expensive at $10-$13/month, but we’re talking about speed here – not being cheap. With Cloudways, you have a choice of using DigitalOcean, Vultr High Frequency, Google Cloud, AWS, or Linode. These are worlds faster than shared hosting and can handle resource-intensive tasks much better (Elementor, Beaver, Divi, WooCommerce, AdSense, etc).

Cloudways makes it easy to test them out and see the difference in your load times: they do free migrations, monthly pricing, a Migrator plugin, and a promo code to save money: OMM25

Here’s what happened when I moved:

SiteGround vs Cloudways

GTmetrix tests are always different, but even posts with a huge page 2.70MB page size and 96 requests can often load in under 2s. I’ll also take a 148ms time to first byte any day of the week. That post has 70+ images, 480 comments (showing Gravatars), Font Awesome, and Elementor.

OMM-TTFB

The evidence is there:

Cloudways Response TimesCloudways-Migration-Result
Cloudways Google PageSpeed
WP Engine To Cloudways
DigitalOcean Pingdom Report
Hosting-Recommendation
Moving-From-WPX
SiteGround-Alternatives
Preferred-Web-Hosting
UntitledWPEngine-To-Cloudways
Godaddy DigitalOcean Migration
Cloudways Pingdom Load Times
Cloudways Pingdom Report
Elementor-Hosting
Web-Hosting-France
SiteGround-Alternative
VPS-Cloud-Hosting

 
This was a simple Pingdom test to measure load times of 16 WordPress hosts. I signed up for popular hosting companies then installed the same Astra Starter Site on each of them while measuring load times in Pingdom for 1 week at 30 minute check intervals. Some domains are still live (cwdoserver.com is hosted on a $10/month Cloudways DO plan and stgrndserver.com is hosted on SiteGround GrowBig). I cancelled most of them because it was getting expensive. Even when browsing through their pages or running your own tests, you can see the difference.

WordPress-Hosting-2020-Pingdom-Test

Hosting Companies You Should Avoid

  • SiteGround – they have gone completely downhill in recent years.
  • Bluehost – slow servers, owned by EIG, bad support, rated poorly in FB Groups.
  • HostGator – also owned by EIG with slow servers, bad support, CPU limit issues.
  • GoDaddy – top malware hosting network worldwide, rated poorly in FB groups.
  • Hostinger – they write fake reviews and vote for themselves in Facebook polls.
  • WP Engine – also not what it used to be, expensive and not even fast anymore.
  • *A2 Hosting – if you can’t afford Cloudways, A2 is still fast and uses LiteSpeed.

I use Cloudways because:

  • Even posts with a 2.70MB page size can load in under 2s
  • DigitalOcean and Vultr HF are miles faster than shared hosting.
  • It’s $10-$13/month (no yearly contracts or high renewal prices).
  • Varnish, Redis, and memcached are all built-in for higher performance.
  • You get to pick from DigitalOcean, Vultr HF, Linode, AWS, Google Cloud.
  • 4.8/5 star TrustPilot rating and highly recommended in Facebook Groups.
  • They have 25+ data centers between all their cloud hosting providers.
  • No CPU issues like on SiteGround, Bluehost, and other shared hosting.
  • SSL, staging, and backups are all very easy in the Cloudways dashboard.
  • Support used to be average, but is now really good as reflected on TrustPilot.
  • They offer a free migration but their Migrator plugin will also do the trick.
  • Adding a server, migrating your site, and the dashboard is actually very easy.
  • Mustasaam (their community manager) gave me peace of mind when moving.
  • Only complaint is they need to add LiteSpeed servers to their list of providers.

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for Cloudways using my affiliate link, I would seriously appreciate it. I don’t recommend bad hosting like many other affiliates. I also donate quite a bit to charity ($6,000 to GoFundMe so far) and your support would really help. I try to base my reviews not only from my experience, but real evidence from the overwhelming feedback in numerous Facebook Groups. It would mean a lot.

Just do your research and look at this Facebook thread.

 

35+ WP Speed Tips (My Full Guide)

Watch My Video – it’s a 42 minute video, but I cover pretty much everything (timestamps in video description) and you should learn a ton of great information on WordPress site speed:

 

Hire My WordPress Speed Optimizer

Still need help with your GTmetrix report? I’ve been working with Pronaya since 2011 (he’s the one who helped me get a such nice scores + load times. You can hire him by creating a profile on freelancer.com and searching for username bdkamol (see his portfolio). He’s $40/hour from Bangladesh (so there is a time change) and his email him is bdkamol@gmail.com. He has a perfect 5 star review on his profile. Serious inquiries only, and please don’t expect 100% scores if you’re using slow hosting, plugins, and theme. Please follow my WordPress speed guide first.

Pronaya-Kumar-S-Reviews

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 Is W3 Total Cache the best cache plugin?

Most people prefer WP Rocket over W3 Total Cache since it comes with features not included with W3 Total Cache, and therefore yields better results in GTmetix. These features include database cleanup, hosting analytics locally, advanced lazy loading of images + videos, heartbeat control, and DNS prefetching. It's also easier to configure.

🚀 Should I use a CDN with W3 Total Cache?

Yes, Cloudflare's free CDN can make your site faster and more secure which you can set up by changing nameservers in your domain registrar, then configuring the Cloudflare settings in W3 Total Cache. Adding page rules in the Cloudflare dashboard is also recommended.

🚀 What happens if W3 Total Cache breaks my site?

The minification and combination settings in W3 Total Cache are usually the most common culprits of broken elements when using W3 Total Cache. Test each one of these carefully.

🚀 How do I clear cache once I'm done?

Go to the Performance settings, then click Purge Everything.

🚀 Do I need other speed plugins besides W3 Total Cache?

Yes, you should also install plugins for heartbeat control, database cleanup, image optimization, and either Asset CleanUp or Perfmatters to selectively disable plugins.

See Also: How I Got 100% GTmetrix Scores

That’s it! I know it can get a bit technical so if you have any questions just drop me a line in the comments. And if you enjoyed my tutorial, please give it a share. I would really appreciate that!

Cheers,
Tom

The 15 Most Important WordPress Plugins For SEO, Speed Optimization, Backups, Security And Website Optimization

WordPress Plugins

Obsessed with WordPress plugins like me?

Here’s a list of plugins for SEO, speed optimization, design, security, backups, and other plugins for optimizing your site. I use all these on my own WordPress site and they all have a 4+ star rating. I wrote tutorials on many of them including how to configure the Yoast settings, optimizing content with Yoast, and configuring W3 Total Cache to improve load times. Most tutorials have tons of comments as many people have found them helpful – I hope you do too.

All these plugins are lightweight as I’m also obsessed with WordPress speed optimization. I use nearly every plugin in this list and my site still loads in under 1 second in Pingdom. Still, if you don’t use plugins at certain times and only need them once in a while, it’s a good idea to delete it, then only reactivate it when needed. Here’s my list of important WordPress plugins:

  1. Yoast SEO
  2. W3 Total Cache
  3. All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets
  4. Imagify
  5. iThemes Security
  6. UpdraftPlus
  7. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
  8. Quick Page/Post Redirect
  9. Anti-Spam
  10. Widget Logic
  11. TinyMCE Advanced
  12. Google Analytics
  13. TablePress
  14. Broken Link Checker
  15. Heartbeat Control

 
While there are 15 plugins in this post, the top 10 are listed here:

top-10-wordpress-plugins-infographic

 

1. Yoast SEO

I know most of you already have Yoast, but you probably have not configured the proper settings, researched the best focus keywords, or optimized content to it’s full potential. Use my guides below to sharpen your skills and start ranking pages/posts higher in search engines.

Configure the Yoast Settings – fill out your business information, configure Google Search Console and other Webmaster Tools, set the ideally structure of your SEO titles, prevent duplicate content in your sitemap, fix broken pages (crawl errors), and tweak all your Yoast settings to be optimal for SEO. My Yoast settings tutorial has been used by 50,000+ people.

Yoast General Settings

Researching focus keywords – use Google Autocomplete and Moz Keyword Explorer (the two best keyword research tools in my opinion) to build a list of long-tail keywords and make sure you don’t miss out on ANY phrases. Google each keyword using the MozBar Google Chrome Extension to learn the competition of each keywords. Use that data to filter out competitive phrases, leaving you with high-opportunity keywords you should be able to get on page 1 for.

Google Autocomplete Keywords

moz-keyword-explorer-research

Content / Green Light Optimization – people obsessed with getting green lights in Yoast don’t fully understand the big picture of content optimization. Yoast only detects exact keyword matches so green lights are not always possible, plus there are TONS of ways to optimize content outside of Yoast (videos, rich snippets, adding a table of contents, and more). Use that tutorial to get ideas for optimizing YOUR content instead of obsessing over Yoast green lights.

Yoast Content Analysis SEO

Yoast Extensions

 

2. W3 Total Cache

The most popular tutorial on my site is my recommended W3 Total Cache settings which has helped multiple people reduce their page load time to under 1 second (read the comments). It includes a pre-configured zip file you can upload directly to your own W3 Total Cache plugin.

This is one of the best cache plugins out there and will improve your speed scores in tools like GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights. However just like Yoast, many people don’t configure the settings properly. Use my tutorial to configure the difference “performance” tabs on the left of your dashboard W3 Total Cache is installed. This plugin integrates with Cloudflare (free) and MaxCDN ($6.75/month with my 25% off MaxCDN coupon) which you can use the Cloudflare and MaxCDN section in my tutorial to further improve your load times. When you’re done configuring W3 Total Cache (and hopefully read my entire WordPress speed optimization guide), hopefully your GTmetrix scores will look something like this…

GTmetrix WordPress Speed Report

 

3. All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets

Adds rich snippets to your WordPress site which helps you stand out in search engines by adding “extra information” to snippets in the form of review stars, recipe information, events, and other supported data. You can do this using the All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets Plugin (free but very minimal and has many limitations) or the WP Rich Snippets Plugin (premium and has way more features). This improves click-through rates and traffic so if you haven’t done this yet, read my guides on those plugins which shows you how to add them.

rich-snippets-markup

 

4. Imagify

Losslessly compress images to load faster (in bulk). Imagify is free until you hit a monthly quota of 25MB per month or it’s $4.99/month for 1GB (which you can usually use one-time for all existing images during the first month, cancel, then just use the free account). This plugin is MUCH better than other completely free plugins since these can often break images, not actually compress them, or they can have bugs. With Imagify you just sign up, install the plugin, enter your API in the settings, go to your “media” section to bulk optimize all your images.

imagify-wordpress-image-optimization

 

5. iThemes Security

You probably heard iThemes, WordFence, and Sucuri are 3 of the top security plugins for WordPress. I like iThemes Security because you can run the 1 click security check and go down a simple checklist of vulnerabilities. Click the “fix it” button and each should be pretty easy.

ithemes-security-plugin

 

6. UpdraftPlus

UpdraftPlus lets you take backups manually or automatically. It has a 5 star review and is very easy to use and configure the settings. Don’t be the person who loses their website because you didn’t take a backup. UpdraftPlus could save you from losing hundreds of hours of work.

UpdraftPlus Backup

 

7. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)

Diagnose slow loading WordPress plugins hurting your site speed so you can delete them or find alternative, lightweight plugins. Too many plugins (or just 1 large plugin) can kill your site speed. I also like to run the P3 Plugin whenever I install a new plugin to see how it affects my load time. If you haven’t run P3 before and have a lot of slow plugins, you will need to research alternative plugins that are lightweight but provide the same functionality as the old plugin.

P3 Performence Profiler

 

8. Quick Page/Post Redirect

If you publish a page/post and change it’s URL (permalink), you need to setup a 301 redirect to direct the old URL to the new URL. Otherwise it will become a 404 page and you will lose any links that used to point to that page. You can either do this using Quick Page/Post Redirect (the free method which I will show you) or the premium version of Yoast which is $69/year.

To find these crawl errors on your website, you will first need to setup Google Search Console in the “Webmaster Tools” section in Yoast using the HTML verification option. Then go to Yoast’s “Search Console” and authenticate Yoast with Search Console. You should see all your crawl errors. If you just setup Search Console it will take a few days for the data to populate.

Yoast-Google-Search-Console

To setup a 301 redirect using Quick Page/Post Redirect, install the plugin then go to Quick Redirects –> Quick Redirects in your WordPress dashboard. Enter the old broken URL shown in Yoast, then the new URL of the (most relevant page on your site) you want it redirected to…

301 Redirect Example

 

9. Anti-Spam

I’ve tested numerous anti-spam plugins and this one is the easiest to setup since you just install it. More importantly, it works. Install it and watch your spam comments go away.

anti-spam-plugin

 

10. Widget Logic

Lets you control which widgets show up on different pages, posts, categories, and archived pages. This helps you show the most relevant content in your widgets depending on what type of content your reader is viewing. Once installed, you will see a “widget logic” section at the bottom of each widget where you will enter a conditional tag to control where it appears.

widget-logic

 

11. TinyMCE Advanced

Want more editing options in your visual editor? This nifty WordPress plugin adds additional features to your editor so you can further customize your content and make it look nice.

tinymce-advanced

 

12. Google Analytics

While it’s always best to insert your Google Analytics tracking code manually into your footer, you can use this plugin to verify Google Analytics on your WordPress site. Just copy your UA code from Google Analytics and paste it into the plugin under Settings –> Google Analytics. Wait a couple days for activation, then head over to your Google Analytics account to get data.

You can download these free custom Google Analytics dashboards to segment traffic from SEO, social media, mobile, referral traffic, and other helpful data on your visitors. While there is tons of data in Google Analytics the first thing you should do is look at your low performing pages (pages with low avg. time on page + high bounce rates) and improve content on those.

At Glance - Google Analytics dashboard

 

13. TablePress

Use this 5 star review plugin to create tables on your WordPress site. The CSS and styling can be completely customized to match the colors/branding of your WordPress site. This specific table show you why you shouldn’t remove stop words in Yoast because it can make your permalinks look weird. The plugin adds a “TablePress” option to your main dashboard tab on the left, you would create the table, then you will use a shortcode to add the table anywhere.

tablepress-wordpress-plugin

 

This plugin should ONLY be used every couple months to run a scan of your broken links. Otherwise it will use a ton of server resources and can cause your website to run slow (which is why this plugin is banned from hosts like Godaddy). However if you can run this plugin once every so often, fix your broken links immediately, then delete it, there shouldn’t be an issue. It is the best plugin for this and makes it very easy to fix broken links directly in it’s interface.

Once you installed the plugin it will immediately scan for broken links. Let it run and populate for a few minutes, then head over to Tools –> Broken Links to find a list of broken links on your site. Go through each one and you can choose to fix the link, unlink it, or dismiss it. Like I said you can fix all broken links in this dashboard without having to go through each page/post.

broken-link-checker-plugin

 

15. Heartbeat Control

Leaving the WordPress dashboard up for long periods of time can slow down your website and suck up server resources from your host (potentially causing CPU overages). Heartbeat control lets you to manage the frequency of the WordPress heartbeat API which prevents this. You can change the frequency to 15-60 seconds, or disable it completely. Once installed go to Settings –> Heartbeat Control and change override heartbeat frequency to 60 seconds.

WordPress Heartbeat Control

 

See Also:

Genesis Framework Plugins – if you’re using the Genesis Framework by StudioPress and are looking for Genesis plugins for customizing your site (outside of the non-Genesis ones I just listed) I created a separate list. It includes some StudioPress plugins but also a few others.

These are all important WordPress plugins and I’ve modified this list several times so it continues to serve as a solid resource. If you found it useful, please share it. I appreciate it :)

Cheers,
Tom

All In One Schema Rich Snippets Plugin Review / Tutorial: Minimal Plugin That Does The Job, But Has A Boring Design

All In One Schema Rich Snippets is a WordPress plugin used to markup pages/posts with rich snippets.

It has good reviews and will do the job for a lot of people. But other people (like me) are picky about how the markup affects the design of the page. Since every rich snippet plugin adds content to your page which is needed for Google to show your rich snippets, the main difference between rich snippet plugins is how the information is presented on the page.

This post you’re reading is marked up with WP Rich Snippets and in my opinion, looks awesome. It can include a video, photo, links, and plenty of other options. Whereas All In One Schema Rich Snippets is limited when it comes to options and design customization.

Here’s how your page will look after marking it up with All In One Schema Rich Snippets:

All In One Schema Rich Snippets Plugin Markup

Pros

  • Free
  • Easy to setup
  • Supports most rich snippet types

Cons

  • Lacks design and customization options
  • Limited information can be presented
  • Doesn’t support local business markup

Supported Data Types

Should You Consider Other Rich Snippet Plugins?
If you’re happy with the basic design of All In One Schema Rich Snippets, it is the best free rich snippets plugin and I will show you how to set it up. But if you’re looking for something more robust and have $69+ for a premium plugin, check out WP Rich Snippets and view this tutorial. WP Rich Snippets has more options and supports local business markup which helps Google show your business information correctly in Google Maps.

Now let’s get started…

 

1. Install All In One Schema Rich Snippets

All In One Schema Rich Snippets Installation

 

2. Configure The Settings

Once installed you will see the “Rich Snippets” options in the left menu of your WordPress dashboard. Go through the settings especially the configuration and customization tabs. The other tabs are helpful but I listed a more robust set of resources at the bottom of this article.

All In One Schema Rich Snippets Configuration Settings

Basic styling options…

All In One Schema Rich Snippets Customization Settings

 

3. Add Markup To Pages

Edit a page/post you want to add rich snippets to then scroll down until you see “configure rich snippet.” Select the type of rich snippet then plugin will request specific data. Fill out as many fields as possible since this will help Google understand your data and show it in their search results. Certain fields are often required for rich snippets to work, but you can use Google’s Structured Data Testing (step 4) to see if you’re missing fields or getting errors.

Rich Snippet Types

Configure Rich Snippet

 

4. Test Your Rich Snippets

Once you fill out all the fields you can, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to see if your rich snippets are working correctly (they won’t immediately appear in search results so use this tool instead). If you see red errors, click the box to expand and look at the items. Fixing them may be as easy as filling out a field you forgot about while marking up the page.

Google Structured Data Testing Tool

 

End Result

This is what a review rich snippet will look like once Google updates their search results which takes around 2-4 days. For other rich snippet types you will see different information; events will have hours and location information, products will have pricing information, etc. Once you get the hang of it, go ahead and start marking up other pages/posts that include reviews, events, products, videos, and other supported data types used in rich snippets.

Rich Snippets Google Search Results

Solutions To Common Problems

  1. Add data Google tells you to in their Structured Data Testing Tool
  2. Rich snippet data should be accurate and align with the content on the page
  3. Add markup to more pages instead of only having 1 page with markup
  4. Update WordPress core, theme, plugins, etc
  5. Review All In One Schema Rich Snippets’ support forum
  6. Visit this Google forum to see common problems and FAQs
  7. Visit the structured data section of your Google Search Console
  8. Comply with Google’s structured data policies and webmaster guidelines

If you’re still running into problems, leave me a comment or see All In One Schema Rich Snippets’ support forum. Otherwise I hope you found this review helpful and good luck driving more traffic to your WordPress site using this free, awesome rich snippets plugin!

Thanks for reading!

Tom Signature

Stop Using Automatic WordPress Internal Linking Plugins

SEO Internal Links

I get it… internal links are good for SEO.

They’re a natural way to build links to your website while providing helpful resources.

Which is exactly why you shouldn’t be using an automatic WordPress internal linking plugin… you don’t want your link strategy to be automated. While these plugins do create internal links, your links are suppose to be helpful, personalized resources and should ideally be inserted manually. Most of these plugins also cause your internal links to have repetitive anchor text for set keywords. Plus many of these plugins consume high CPU (makes your website slower) which is why companies like Godaddy blacklist most related post plugins.

What Are Internal Linking Plugins?
Whenever you use a specified keyword in your content, the internal linking plugin will automatically link to a set page or post. Other internal linking plugins will create a “related posts” section at the bottom of your articles which is meant to keep your readers reading.

Here’s why you shouldn’t use them…

 

They Can Hurt Your SEO

Repetitive Anchor Text – let’s say the plugin creates 10 internal links to the same page. That means all 10 links will have the same anchor text (the displayed text). Since Google’s Penguin update you do NOT want to do this. Your link’s anchor text should be unique, descriptive, and diverse. If the anchor text is all the same it could make your links look spammy and risks a Google penalty. Some plugins do allow variation, but most don’t.

Not Personalized – where you link to should be dependent on the context of a topic you’re writing about. You can link to an article every time you mention a certain keyword, but that fails to consider the context. I’ve written multiple articles on Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin… instead of linking the word “Yoast” to the same article every time, I have Yoast settings, Yoast focus keywords, and Yoast content optimization. They’re 3 separate articles and my “Yoast internal links” should reflect that if I want them to be relevant.

Slower Load Times – all WordPress plugins slow down your load times even if it’s only for a split second. The value of an internal linking plugin vs. your load time… it’s just not worth it.

 

Take The Extra 2 Minutes To Insert Links Manually

Internal Links in WordPressInternal linking plugins are a shortcut, and just like any shortcut you risk some consequences. Sure they save you a couple minutes on each page/post, but I know you’re not that lazy! Take the extra 2 minutes and insert them manually. It’s better for readers and you won’t risk a Google penalty.

 

Internal Linking Best Practices

  • Link when there are topics that need clarification
  • Write a custom link title (hover text)
  • Linking out is good too
  • Add a list of resources if you think it’s necessary
  • Open external links in new tabs to keep users on your site

That’s all I got! Leave me a comment below if you have any questions.

Tom Signature

10 Genesis Framework Plugins For Customizing Themes (Using Sliders, Social Buttons, Layouts, Newsletters, More)

Genesis Framework Plugins

Looking for the best WordPress Plugins to use with the Genesis Framework?

Here are 10 Genesis plugins taken from StudioPressWordPress directory and other sources. I use many of these on my own Genesis-powered WordPress site, others I have downloaded, tested, and inspected thoroughly. All plugins are free (except #8) and have at least a 4.2/5 star rating. Some things you don’t need plugins for though, like columns and some shortcodes  – just keep that in mind since too many plugins can effect your site speed.

Here’s the list…

 

1. Genesis eNews Extended

This combines a newsletter and an HTML section (where I chose to add an author pic/bio + top articles). You can see it on my right sidebar and I also use it at the end of each post.

I wish I knew about this years ago since it took the headache out of collecting emails and while it’s not much, I got a few 100 subscribers just from the newsletter section (listing top articles helped reduce my bounce rate too). It’s easy to integrate with MailChimp (what I use), Constant Contact, Aweber, and most email services. Here’s a tutorial by Carrie Dils.

Genesis eNews Extended

 

2. Genesis Simple Edits

Makes it easier to edit your footer, copyright area, and entry meta. FYI “entry meta” is the space above and below your blog post content. I install this on every Genesis site.

Genesis Simple Edits

 

3. Genesis Responsive Slider

Not all Genesis themes comes with a built-in slider. If it doesn’t, you can always install the Genesis Responsive Slider plugin which lets you add sliders throughout your website. Here’s what it looks like – you can see a live version on the Executive Pro Theme by StudioPress.

Genesis Responsive Slider

 

4. Genesis Simple Share

Adds social sharing buttons to posts, pages, and other content. Has Pinterest and Stumble Upon buttons, plus basic options like changing the icon size, appearance, where to display them, etc. It’s a lightweight plugin so it shouldn’t effect your page load time much, if at all.

Genesis Simple Share Plugin

 

5. Genesis Simple Sidebars

This is good for controlling (personalizing) what widgets visitors see depending on the page, post, category, or tag they’re viewing. So if people are reading a post from my “WordPress Speed” category I may want to show them related articles about site speed. There are other plugins that do the same thing like Widget Logic which I prefer, but this one is specifically for Genesis. Either way you will use conditional tags to control where each widget appears.

Genesis Simple Sidebars Plugin

 

6. Genesis Connect For WooCommerce

If you want to add WooCommerce functionality to a non-WooCommerce Genesis theme, this plugin will do that. It replaces WooCommerce’s built-in shop templates with its own Genesis-ready versions, specifically the single-product.php, archive-product.php and taxonomy.php templates needed to display the single product page, main shop, and product category and product tag archive pages. This is one of the more popular Genesis plugins.

Genesis Connect For WooCommerce

 

7. Genesis Mobile & Sticky Menu

If you purchased a non-responsive Genesis theme, you may want to customize it to be mobile-friendly. I’ve done lots of research and there is no plugin that does this correctly.

While you can use the Genesis Mobile & Sticky Menu plugin to add a hamburger style mobile menu (plus other features), it’s best to pony up and purchase a Genesis theme that is mobile responsive. That is what I did, and that is what you should do if your theme is not responsive.

Genesis Mobile & Sticky Menu

 

8. Genesis Design Palette Pro

Want to customize your Genesis site without code? This plugins helps you customize your header, navigation, background, content/sidebar/footer, and typography without any code. Has options for colors, sizes, weights, margins, padding and alignment. Pricing is $49-199.

Genesis Design Palette

 

9. Photo Gallery / Portfolio

Unfortunately there is no plugin for the Genesis Framework that adds a portfolio to your site, but there are plenty of free and premium portfolio plugins for this. Numbers 5-15 in that list are premium plugins and are worth spending an extra $15 to make it look nice.

WordPress Portfolio

 

10. Genesis Layout Extras

Genesis Layout Extras gives you 9 layouts instead of the standard number your theme comes with. Use these on your homepage, pages, blog posts, archived pages and other content.

Genesis Layout Extras

 

Related Articles

I hope you found my article helpful! If you did please give it a share. And if you have any questions about the Genesis plugins in my list, drop me a line in the comments section.

Cheers,

Tom Signature

21 Ways To Create Better Content In WordPress

21 Ways To Create Better Content In WordPress

We’re always being told to create “good” content but besides being a skilled writer, what else can we do? Well I’ll tell you. We need to spruce it up! We need to focus on aesthetics, user-friendliness, optimization, and leveraging all those tools/plugins we have available.

You probably know that from an SEO perspective, good content naturally ranks high and is the best strategy for getting links, social shares, and all those nice SEO signals. I use every strategy in this list and it has helped me tremendously (with SEO, since that’s what I do).

I hope it can help you too.

 

1. Use A Table Of Contents

Use a table of contents to organize key topics (often your subheadings). This can also help you outline your articles. It only takes a few minutes and will make your readers happy.

 

How to do it…
Table Of Contents HTML should look like this…
<ul class=”listSquare”>
<li><a href=”/your-permalink-here/#item-one”>Item One</a></li>
<li><a href=”/your-permalink-here/#item-two”>Item Two</a></li>
<li><a href=”/your-permalink-here/#item-three”>Item Three</a></li>
</ul>

Each subheading’s HTML should look like this…
<h3 id=”item-one”>Item One</h3>
<h3 id=”item-two”>Item Two</h3>
<h3 id=”item-three”>Item Three</h3>

You can also use a jump to table of contents link…
<li><a href=”/your-permalink-here/#table-of-contents</li>

 

2. Columns

Column 1

Column 2

How to do it…

 

3. Tables

tablepress-plugin

I created this table using the TablePress Plugin which has over 1,500 downloads and a solid 5 star review. You can also customize the CSS to your branding.

 

4. Buttons!

CONTACT US SIGN UP DOWNLOAD OUR FREE EBOOK SEE OUR PORTFOLIO

How to do it…

 

5. Shortcodes

shortcodes

Shortcodes allow you to easily add video, audio, image galleries, and other content with a simple line of code. Here’s a shortcode example for an embedded YouTube video…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaNH5?Vpg-A]

Some WordPress themes come with built-in shortcodes that are pre-styled to match your theme. There’s also plugins like Shortcodes Ultimate if your theme doesn’t come with them.

 

6. Embedded Social Status

Share what other people have to say by embedding their social media statuses in your content. Notify them once it’s published and maybe they’ll share it with their audience.

Twitter Statuses

 

How to do it…
Use Advanced Twitter Search to find a tweet, then click More –> Embed Tweet. Copy the code and paste it in your content’s HTML. The example above uses 2 tweets into 2 columns.

Embedded Tweet

Facebook Statuses

Embed Facebook Post

Google+ Statuses

Google+ Embedded Post

 

7. Embedded Videos

Option 1: Copy the Youtube link and paste it to your content (WordPress will do the rest).

Option 2: Go to the YouTube video you want to embed, then copy and paste the embed code into your HTML. This method allows you to specify the video’s width and height:

Embed a YouTube Video

Option 3: Open a video when you click a link using the WP Video Lightbox Plugin.

Hide Youtube Video Title

<iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ymdkFIHsTBA?showinfo=0" width="680" height="380" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe>

Hide Youtube Video Controls

<iframe width="680" height="380" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ymdkFIHsTBA?showinfo=0&controls=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

8. Working The Dimensions

680 Pixel Width Rectangle

Knowing your content dimensions (in pixels) helps you create graphics or find images that fit within those dimensions. I’m specifically referring to your content body and sidebar width. Since my content body is 680 width (pixels), I know that if I’m using 2 columns, each graphic should be around 340 width. I also know my sidebar widgets are 295 width.

 

9. Better Graphics

Start by redesigning graphics that appear in the most places (sitewide graphics): logo, footer images, sidebar images. Then move to individual pieces of content (content design graphics).

Sitewide Graphics

Content Design Graphics

 

10. After Entry Widgets

After Entry WordPress

These are the widgets people see after the end of your articles (located between the content body and comments section). They usually have a call to action. For me I’ve included a newsletter box and my author profile. “Related articles” is also a popular one.

In most WordPress themes you can find these under (Appearance –> Widgets –> After Entry). Decide what widgets you want to show here. But there should be something.

 

11. Image Styling

Image Styling WordPress

Style your images by adding borders, margins, padding, captions or other customizations. There’s 4 different places to edit images, all of which have different styling options…

  • Media section
  • Clicking on an image and finding the “edit” option
  • Finding the insert/edit image icon in your visual editor
  • The CSS editor

 

12. Font Styling

Are you getting any ideas yet?

 

13. Killer Headlines

It all starts with writing a great headline. The “perfect” headline includes:

  • A number
  • An adjective
  • Your keyword

Here is a tutorial by Neil Patel that explains the formula for a perfect headline. He says 8/10 people will read your headline, but only 2/10 will read the rest of your post. Choose wisely.

 

14. Snippets

SEO Titles + Meta Descriptions

Search Engine Snippets

Your SEO title and meta descriptions are the forefront of your SEO – they’re the first thing people see in search results and on social networks. Writing descriptive, compelling snippets will increase your clickthrough rate and drive more visitors to your content.

Rich Snippets

Rich Snippets

Rich snippets enhance your search engine snippets with additional information about your content. It’s one of the best ways to stand out in search results and get more clicks.

Popular forms of rich snippets…

  • Videos
  • Reviews
  • Recipes
  • Events
  • Audio

How to do it…

 

15. Social Optimization

Each social network formats your content differently, so you’ll want it optimized to format properly across the main social networks (your thumbnail image is the correct size and your titles and descriptions are tailored for each social network if you choose). The Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin does a fantastic job with this and I will assume you’re using it.

Step 1: Go to the “Users” section in WordPress and make sure each person fills out their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ fields.

Step 2: Configure the Social Tab in Yoast:

Yoast Social Tab

Facebook OpenGraph

Yoast Facebook Opengraph

Twitter Cards (Remember To Validate Your Twitter Cards)

Yoast Twitter Cards

Google+ Meta Data

Yoast Google+ Meta Data

Pinterest (Located In Yoast’s “Dashboard” Settings)

Yoast Pinterest

You will need to verify your site with Pinterest and enter the code in this field.

Step 3: Optimize Content For Social Sharing

Once you’ve configured Yoast’s social settings, edit the page or post you want to optimize for social. Scroll down to the Yoast section and hit the “Social” tab…

Yoast Social Media Optimization

Yoast gives you the option to display custom titles, descriptions, and properly formatted images for these main social networks. If you leave these blank then your SEO title, meta description, and your main content image (or featured image) will be used. It’s a good idea to at least upload an image for Facebook / Twitter / Google+ so the image formats properly when shared across these main social networks. Here are the correct dimensions…

  • Facebook Image: 1200 x 630px
  • Twitter Image: 1024 x 512px
  • Google+ Image: 800 x 1200px

 

16. Show Yourself

Tom Dupuis

That’s me!

You’ll see a cropped version in my right sidebar where I introduce myself. That’s where I would add your bio since people can immediately see you.

Add sidebar widget for single author…

First create your bio in HTML. You can create it in the Visual Editor which is easier. When you’re done, go to the Text Editor and copy your bio’s HTML. Now go to (Appearance –> Widgets) then add a “Text” widget to your blog sidebar. Paste the HTML and save.

Add sidebar widgets for multiple authors…

  • Make sure each person has their own user profile
  • Install the widget logic plugin so each person’s bio only shows on their posts
  • If there’s 5 people, add 5 text widgets to your blog sidebar
  • Paste each person’s bio HTML in their widget
  • Locate the Widget Logic field at the bottom of each person’s widget
  • Add this code, only replace my name with theirs: is_author( ‘tom-dupuis’ )
  • Or use other conditional tags to control where each widget appears

Widget Logic Field

If you use the Genesis Framework and have a newsletter like me, you can use the Genesis eNews Extended Plugin to create a widget with both your introduction and newsletter.

 

17. Signatures

You’ll see my signature at the bottom of each article I write. Adds a personal touch.

Tom Signature

How to do it…

  • Get a blank piece of computer paper
  • Write your signature
  • Take a close picture of it
  • Crop your signature
  • Add it to the end of your articles

 

18. Load Times

Page Load Times

The easiest way to improve load times is through sitewide optimizations that affect your entire website (getting faster hosting, lightweight themes, cache plugins…). I cover all this in my WordPress speed guide. You can also improve load times for individual pages by using less videos, large photos, and code. Run the URL through GTmetrix for recommendations.

 

19. TinyMCE Advanced

TinyMCE Advanced

Ever feel like you don’t have enough options in your visual editor? Install the TinyMCE Advanced Plugin to style your content with more advanced options.

 

20. TinyMCE Spellcheck

TinyMCE-Spellcheck

Before publishing an article, try running the TinyMCE Spellcheck Plugin. Select what type of errors it scans for in the “Users” section or add words to ignore…

TinyMCE-Spellcheck Options

 

21. Testing

Before you promote your content, it’s a good idea to do some testing…

Mobile Responsiveness – even if your WordPress theme is responsive, some content doesn’t always format correctly. Pull up it up on your phone/tablet to double check.

Table Of Contents (Step 1) – if you’ve setup a table of contents, always test each link.

Rich Snippets (step 14) – if your content includes rich snippets, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to make sure it’s working.

Social Responsiveness (step 15) – to test whether the main social networks will format your content properly, share the link to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Load Times (step 18) – once it’s published, run the URL through GTmetrix to get recommendations on improving the content’s load time.

Well I hope this was helpful! I know it’s a lot so if you have any questions at all, drop me a line in the comments section. And if you found my article helpful, please share. I appreciate it!

Cheers,

Tom Signature