By Josh Greene

Site speed and performance are ranking factors for search engines.  A quick-to-load website gives you a double-edged competitive advantage: your site will appear higher on search results pages, and will generate more positive user experience.  This in turn leads to a smaller bounce rate, which also equates to higher rankings.  The bottom line is that speed matters.

It’s that bottom line that The Mather Group (TMG) set out to implement for a local D.C. publishing firm.  We took a look at the firm’s website, ran diagnostics, and found a few issues keeping the site from optimizing its speed.  Then we developed a plan of attack.

Optimization Plan

The site was built using WordPress, and had multiple plugins and widgets.  Not all of these features benefitted the site.  TMG’s analysis led to us disabling the following plugins:

  • Share Buttons by AddThis
  • WP Force SSL
  • WP-Optimize

We also disabled the site’s Facebook widget, replacing it with a static image.  This reduced the site’s external requests by +100.  The more external requests a site makes, the slower the site will be as its forced to spend time pulling information from a separate location before that information can be loaded and displayed.  We analyzed additional external requests made by the site, but decided their use and need supported their continued status quo existence.

We then installed and configured the plugins Perfmatters and WP Rocket.  These two performance plugins are well-rated by WordPress users.  Perfmatters lets users reduce HTTP requests and web page size, and enable/disable scripts on a per page/post basis.  WP Rocket is a caching plugin, and integrates features such as lazy loading of images (loads only the images visible on the screen), and the reduction of CSS and JavaScript files.

Summary of Improvements

After optimizing and tweaking the site, The Mather Group ran another diagnostic test.  The results for the firm’s websites were:

  • Pagespeed score increased from 37 to 74
  • Yslow score increased from 55 to 77
  • The page size changed from 5,006 KB to 731KB
  • The number of external requests changed from 221 to 84
  • The loading time changed from 5.8s to 2.9s

These site speed improvements helped contribute to the following advancements over the next week:

  • 700 additional organic search clicks
  • 2,300 impressions in 7 days
  • And the average ranking for the site increased by 0.5%

Directly and indirectly site speed and performance have a lasting impact on user experience.  Speed improvements can be a daunting task to undertake if you are unfamiliar with the technical jargon, and don’t know if you have the time to analyze a lot of data, and then understand what to do with the analysis.  The Mather Group, a Capitol Communicator sponsor, is happy to talk to you today, to make site speed a positive ranking factor in your arsenal.

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