The best way to manage Google Maps for fast mobile websites.

Something we see bogging down homepages is the faddish inclusion of a huge Google Maps dynamic graphic. Often the trendy map isn’t needed on the homepage – or it isn’t needed anywhere! It’s gratuitous interactive bloat.

We understand needing a good map and directions. Especially if you’re a brick-and-mortar store – or have offices where you meet clientèle. Or you run a restaurant. Then people need to find you. We get it. So what can you do to keep your pages lightweight – and still have an interactive map?

First, let’s examine how heavy are Google Maps? They use an API (script) to call offsite web assets from Google’s servers. You can’t host these bits and pieces locally. That means the assets for maps aren’t cached. There are delays when servers talk to each other.

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ften, Google Maps add at least 500k page weight. That’s our observation. But others have seen worse speed damage than this. More on this in a minute. Depending upon how you install Google Maps, the page weight loads on every page and post of your site. Even if only using a map on one solitary page. Global loading of a plugin or script is site drag. Most site owners don’t even know site drag is a potential liability.

To load the typical Google Map, it takes about 70 requests which is 2 megabytes extra page weight. Or up to 2-seconds load time. On slower connections and especially mobile ones it’s even more. – Offsite resource

Why does a map take so long and is so heavy? The majority of site owners use the easiest plugin installation – an iframe method. It gets the job done. It begins *building* the dynamic map from remote components during page load. It doesn’t take into account if the visitor is looking at the map – or interacting with it.

Instead of loading dynamic map data chunks, it’s better to load one single, static image. That’s about 50k file size. That takes a fraction of the time. The user clicks the static map. The interactive version then loads in a new browser window or on a new page. Simple offloading trick.

We prefer to open the actual Google hosted map page in a new window and not embedding the map into a local page. This completely offloads all heavy assets to Google’s servers and hosting.

How do you get a static map image? There are two simple ways we like. First go to Google Maps and use their tools to build the map the way you want and then do a screen capture.

Another way is to use an online free tool.

Go to Static Map Maker and use the form on the left to change the map. Leave the API field empty. We selected the retina option to produce a larger map. You can adjust the width and height to fit your site’s needs. Google imposes a maximum static map size of 640 x 640 pixels. But using the retina setting, you can get a 1280 pixel square PNG image. You’ll want the default roadmap type. Play with “address and zoom” to get the map you need. The preview on the right refreshes as you make changes.

Google Static Map Maker free online tool – click or tap above. The resultant file weighs only 39k after image optimization. The destination Google Maps page weighs 1M and loads in about 6 seconds. Let Google keep that load with 122 requests on their site – not yours.

This PagePipe speed tip is the fastest way to manage Google Maps for mobile websites.

Somebody changed something at Google. Now your map and driving directions are broken again.

We recommend future proofing you map page from Google changes.

Insert a screen-capture, static JPEG image and make it an image link to open a new tab with Google Maps. Keep maps heavy load off your site. Keep it on Google site instead.

There are two resulting benefits: your site is always fresh and current – and your site loads faster.

This is the best way to handle Google Maps especially for mobile devices. And it always works.

So deactivated your Google Map plugin. It’s no longer needed.

Analyze your most popular pages first for speed.

We hate waste. We’re unconventional thinkers and love creative problem solving. We take a different path to page speed improvements. Our odd ways make us smile.

We avoided CMS (WordPress) as long as we could. We handcoded using HTML, CSS, JavaScript snippets, with sprinklings of PHP. Why? Speed! We don’t consider ourselves coders. We’re not fascinated with it. Instead, we seek shortcut solutions. We’re natural advocates for WordPress plugins for non-coders.

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s late adopters of WordPress, we balked and complained about WordPress slowness. But we accepted the challenge. We’ve proven it’s possible. But not without sacrifice of unproductive and expressive aesthetic features. There’s usually some *precious* but non-productive gadget or plugin destroying speed. It must be placed on the sacrificial altar to Mercury, the Roman God of Speed.

Our goal is to save the Internet from WordPress speed abuse.

Expressive aesthetic design in web-speak is often called “feature rich.” Feature rich and speed require a fine balancing act. Speed is a kindness to your users.

Yet more than speed, we’re concerned how UX affects profitability. Speed is the first barrier to good UX. Classic design aesthetic makes it so nothing distracts from the focus: the products or content. But too much classic aesthetic can be boring.

The Internet average page load time is 8 seconds. Way too slow. A site’s better than average when it meets the expectation of 2 seconds or better. Subsecond page loads are best for mobile. But that’s extreme performance optimization. We go into the red zone whenever we can.

This pullquote is an expressive design element.

Expressive design elements are intended to attract attention. But, they slow down site speed and make for a poorer user experience (UX). Specifically, anything that “moves” is expressive aesthetic. But it’s not limited to animation. If you get too much expressive aesthetic, you end up with visual noise and confusion.

What’s most important? When the user wonders what they should click next, you’ve failed. The hope is making sales – not noise. So these are the offenders: chat box features, sliders, disappearing Main Menus (make it persistent-on-scroll instead), popup surveys, animated product rollovers. And of course, poor hierarchy on the page (bad emphasis).

From our experimentation with human memory and boredom, users only tolerate 12 choices on a page. Then they feel overwhelmed and overloaded by cognitive burden. The more choices, the harder a buying decision.

Animation is more negative than positive for UX. It distracts most. The assumption is because humans are hardwired to snap visually to anything that moves out of fear, this instinct can be harnessed to direct attention.

Have you ever tried reading a page with a fly crawling on it? Annoying isn’t it.

Popups and sliders are intrusive. Flies! Even repulsive to user attention. They annoy. Users feel they’re manipulated by faddish, slow-loading gimmicks. We don’t care how effective the popup or slider plugin authors – and affiliates claim. Their opinion doesn’t count. It’s biased. No source credibility.

Free PDF download: 7 expert testimonials that sliders suck.

What-slider-is-the-fastest-loading?

When-to-use-a-responsive-slider-and-speed-tips.

Carousels and sliders address two mythical universal design problems:

1. “How do I fit more content into such little space?”

2. “Our committee can’t decide what content is the most important.”

These are seductive temptations for sliders caused by above-the-fold design delusion and myth. It demonstrates how design-by-committee sucks. Dilution of attention is the result.

What’s above-the-fold on mobile devices?

Get rid of sliders as a design crutch. This forces better content and design decisions. It lightens the page weight. What’s the most important content? How can you meaningfully and simply present one, single, most-important motivating idea?

You can’t emphasize everything. Emphasizing everything equals empathizing nothing – a marketing adage (E2=E0). If you attempt emphasizing more than one idea, you create cognitive and visual noise. Confusion, delay, or abandonment results.

The screen real estate is better used by a static image. Or even better – NO IMAGE AT ALL. State with non-moving text: who you are, what you do, and why it’s important to your audience. That’s your positioning statement or elevator pitch. Advertise it everywhere on your site.

Of course, these concepts really only matter if your home page gets traffic. If not much, then none of these tricks and strategy are significant.

So what are your 5 most trafficked pages? The ones that get 80 percent of traffic. Let’s look at those. Is the home page one of them? If not, then we don’t need to worry about it.

Get rid of:

  • Sliders.
  • Popup plugins.
  • Chat boxes.
  • Facebook.
  • Unprofitable products. (Reduce the site clutter).

Do Pareto efficiency analysis. Dump the duds. Unless these items listed above have quantifiable benefit and actually produce profits (not sales or traffic but real profits). Justify keeping them.

Facebook is often your worst non-productive site drag. 762k of assets loading for what purpose? Quantify how much Facebook *helps* your site profitability (not traffic numbers – quality not quantity). Then decide. Facebook usually takes traffic away from your site. Focus on profit – not artificial expectations.

There are other esoteric performance tweaks we do on our site. Like selective plugin activation – and dumping emojis, webfonts, and Font Awesome. Optimizing WooCommerce. But we’ve listed some low-hanging fruit above.

We make speed improvements for a $500 project fee. But read PagePipe and you can make the changes yourself (DIY). Save money.

Half of SiteGround’s speed recommendations are nonsense.

We mean no offense to Hristo Pandjarov.

He’s the author of SiteGround’s free ebook. “SPEED MATTERS: 21 Expert Tips to an Ultra-Fast WordPress Site.” Hristo’s an expert on WordPress speed optimization. He has a video online from a 2016 WordCamp. But we have found a few ideas in his ebook that don’t measure up to our experience and testing. Naturally. But most of his speed suggestions are safe and sane.

SiteGround’s download page requires email signup >

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he ebook introduction, says: “Generally, if your website takes more than a second to load – it’s slow and needs optimizing.”

The average page load time is 9.82 seconds. And the average page weight is about 3M. Plainly, the bulk of websites flunk SiteGround and Hristo Pandjarov’s standard of goodness.

“Reducing page weight is practically guaranteed to improve the user experience across the board but will disproportionately enhance the experience for less capable devices.” – MobiForge.com

Google is the dictator of all things web. They have an edict that 500 milliseconds to 2 seconds is good enough. But Google doesn’t always follow their own recommended best practices. Weaklings!

Three other self-proclaimed-expert opinions about this speed-threshold topic (we agree with most of it):

SiteGround implies that somewhere there exists a mandated 1-second barrier. Is their hosting service the only method to break 1 second? Speed authorities think otherwise.

Why are they advocating an idealistic or sometimes impossible 1-second goal?

A well-optimized site and SiteGround’s servers on good days can achieve this. We’ve used SiteGround with clients. But it’s possible to do 1-second loads on cruddy hosting too, if you abide by certain principles.

PagePipe: SiteGround’s feeble explanation of bad TTFB for hosted WordPress sites. >

Good mobile user experience needs the fastest page loads.

One second is instantaneous gratification for users – and has been for decades. But 2-second loads are a more realistic optimization and performance target. And those are desktop hardwired speeds.

What is realistic on wireless mobile? We suggest the performance budget is 3 seconds. That is also the user expectation – for today anyway.

From this web study, 4 seconds is average mobile speed.

You can waste a lot of resources attempting unreachable maximization (100 percent). Optimization, or 80 percent return, is more affordable and realistic. Avoid waste from gold-plating or over-engineering your website.

Note: PagePipe’s Home load time is under a second (most of the time) – sometimes 1.2 seconds. We use cheap GoDaddy “evil” because our goal is good speed results even under bad conditions. We practice what we preach. Just like Google. Ha!

[dropcap]1 [/dropcap]Identify and Prioritize Issues. SiteGround lists GT Metrix and Pingdom online tests for speed benchmarking. Easy. Knowing what the test means takes some educating and reading. Learning curve stuff. Our preferred test is WebPagetest.org that’s geared for professional optimizers.

SiteGround gives a good piece of advice about speed testing:

“Even though most of the benchmarking tools will give you a ‘grade,’ don’t go too far chasing it.”

And this supportive quote below is from WP Rockets FAQ page about ratings:

“Performance ratings are mainly indicators of good practice. Ratings tools check that the optimizations have been made. These ratings do not indicate, however, the actual speed of a site, they are only indicators. Good ratings do not guarantee a fast site and vice versa. The actual page load time is the most important metric to look at.”

We’d add to that our puny opinion: “WordPress – by it’s very nature – cannot pass many speed tests. At least, not without major expenditure and effort. In the end, those improvements will not necessarily make the site faster. And speed (human perceived load time) is the only thing that counts – not scores.”

[dropcap]2[/dropcap] Reduce the number of Posts Shown on the Index Page. This is only a problem when the blog-listing page is the Home page. Then it may show too many featured images – if they are used. Installing a lazy-load plugin fixes this. We recommend Rocket Lazy Load plugin.

SiteGround recommends an infinite scrolling plugin or changing WordPress for “show at most” values. Those are good ideas. But, infinite scrolling can activate jQuery and add page weight, too. So test before and after installing any infinite-scroll plugin.

SiteGround also recommends pagination of long pages into sections using the <!–nextpage–> tag. An easier method of insertion is using Page-Break plugin. It adds a control panel button.

[dropcap]3 [/dropcap]They recommend getting rid of sliders and using just one image. We agree. We’ve written about slider extravagance before:

PagePipe: What slider is the fastest loading? >

SiteGround recommends two other slider plugins we’ve tested before. We weren’t that impressed with the load times. Our extreme speed philosophy is no sliders on the Home page. Period!

[dropcap]4[/dropcap] SiteGround recommends using appropriate image sizes. Again, we agree. They don’t have a plugin solution recommendation but our safeguard utility is using Imsanity plugin. We also use this plugin to solve the next problem they talk about:

 

[dropcap]5[/dropcap] Optimize image size without damaging quality. This is referring to visually-lossless image optimization. We set Imsanity plugin at a quality of 70. We have a free PDF download about image optimization best practices >

And we have several articles about using image optimizer plugins and alternative web tools:

PagePipe: Quality-82 image-compression change for WordPress >
PagePipe: How the ShortPixel plugin eliminates needless junk >
PagePipe: Top-dog, image-optimizer web utilities >
PagePipe: WP Smush plugin doesn’t really help with speed >

SiteGround recommends using EWWW image Optimizer plugin. We don’t recommend it because it can cost money. We’re pro-free stuff. And there are plenty of other free alternatives and strategies. EWWW isn’t the best image optimizer as supposed and reported by many. It’s just one of a multitude of options.

Nothing will ever beat just optimizing images by-hand. Use an image processing program (like GIMP or Photoshop). Do that before uploading images to the WordPress media library.

Our most unpopular but best speed recommendation: Don’t use images whenever possible. That’s right. None. Just design with text and unicode symbols.

If you must use large images, don’t make them JPEG photos. Use PNG illustrations instead with limited color palettes. This produces the smallest, fastest file sizes and reinforces your branding.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-to-optimize-images-for-mobile-speed-with-imsanity-plugin/

[dropcap]6[/dropcap] Reduce the usage of external fonts. We agree with this suggestion but we go even further. There are various plugins that can “exorcise” this font fluff. Our recommendation is Disable Emojis and Remove Google Fonts or Disable Google Fonts plugins. We’ve used all these plugins.

Or choose a theme that doesn’t use any webfonts – just websafe ones. Yes! Those themes do exist. We’ve written about those, too;

PagePipe: Speed report: 35 theme candidates >
PagePipe: 15 free themes are prime candidates for testing aesthetics and customization >

To get rid of Font Awesome, you’ll need to use Asset Queue Manager plugin. This plugin can “break” your site with some themes so proceed with caution. But we love this plugin and use it a lot to strip down bloated themes.

PagePipe: Websafe fonts are still the hottest >

[dropcap]7[/dropcap] Manage the volume of comments on your site. This isn’t the first we’ve read about comments slowing down sites. But we haven’t seen any real data to prove it (yet). We know a few reasons why comments in theory cause slowness from database issues. SiteGround makes two plugin recommendations for comment management. But we’re more hardcore about achieving goals and streamlining sites. We say, “Get rid of comments completely.” Read about our radical ideas on comment management:

PagePipe: Should you use Akismet anti-spam plugin?

[dropcap]8[/dropcap] Enable Gzip compression for your pages. SiteGround recommends editing your .htaccess file but don’t say how to do that. So SiteGround must not have Gzip enabled like on some hosts. This .htaccess file edit is not an easy thing for newbies. We think it’s a pain. It’s easier to change the .htaccess file on your server with Far Future Expiry Header plugin. Read more about Gzip:

PagePipe: Update on Gzip Compression >

[dropcap]9[/dropcap] Enable caching. OK. Unlike the rest of the world, we don’t think caching helps much on a well-optimized website. We just never see speed benefits. SiteGround makes two plugin suggestions. WP Rocket, a paid plugin, and WP Super Cache, a freebie. We’ve experimented with both of them and like we said: “We aren’t sure they help much.” Yeah. They’re band-aids for sloppy-built websites. But don’t help quality sites.

THEME AND PLUGIN OPTIMIZATION

The recommendations in this section are kind of silly or else just common sense. Someone must have been trying to fluff up the report with filler. SiteGround then goes on to tell us many things we’ve already covered:

10 Select a reputable theme from a solid provider. We only use free WordPress themes from their repository. That is our choice and self-imposed limitation. It speeds up our decision making and creative process. We don’t have time for shopping. We don’t spend money on complicated “premium” themes. Not us.

11 Avoid bloated themes. Their explanation of what is a bloated theme is good. Avoid sliders.

12 Always use a child theme when creating your website. This is common sense for safety sake. It prevents future updates from overwriting your customization. But what does a child theme have to do with speed? Nothing. Child themes load another CSS file. So this recommendation doesn’t make sense.

13 Optimize for mobile devices. Really? You need to tell people this? And they recommend the plugin WP Touch (non-native mobile conversion). This isn’t good. Even when they afterwards say, “Having a native mobile version is always preferable.” Even that isn’t a good idea. What’s preferable is using a responsive WordPress theme. A mobile version is  a second version of your website that sniffs to detect a small screen device and then redirects to the mobile version. Not the same as responsive which just serves one site – no duplication.

14 When using icons, use an icon font. We despise icon fonts. They are heavy and slow-loading – the bane of speed. We disable icons whenever possible.

15 Don’t overlap functionality with plugins. A good suggestion but isn’t this just common sense again. Don’t duplicate stuff. Simplify.

16 Always keep your plugins up-to-date. This is just good housekeeping. Staying updated and current helps speed? We haven’t seen any evidence yet. SiteGround claims it’ll give your site a huge performance boost. Serious? Got some experiential proof of that? Or is it just theory? Or exaggeration?

17 Cleanup your plugin options from your database. We do this as best practice. Again, it’s seems like just common-sense good housekeeping to us. We’ve never seen any speed boost yet from cleanup – even with big fat databases. There are several plugins to do this. We don’t make a recommendation. We’ve tried them all and it gives a nice feeling that you checked the databases and verified. But no speed improvements whatsoever measurable.

SERVER & HOSTING OPTIMIZATIONS

Now we’re into the promotional selling materials of the brochure. In other words, SiteGround specific features they hope to motivate us to buy.

18 Take advantage of server level caching.

This is pure specsmanship and boasting about SiteGround’s capabilities.

19 Use a CDN. We’re not sold on CDN’s. They don’t help much for a  well-optimized site. Just like caching. If you need a CDN, it is indicative you didn’t build your site as well as you thought. Another speed band-aid. The author said in his video to test CDNs since they can slow down your site. Good advice. That’s our experience with free CloudFlare. Slowed by server 500 and 501 errors. Longer TTFB (time to first byte). Badness.

20 Use SSL and utilize HTTP/2. This is a nice way to upsell and make money for SiteGround. These aren’t necessary  for speed. SiteGround was kind enough to mention a free alternative. Secure third-party transactions like with PayPal means this stuff isn’t needed.

So what’s missing?

We think social links are a big culprit for site drag. That isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Ebook. Most site owners don’t realize social media gives little benefit. But they feel like an outcast if they don’t have it. Yes. There’s stigma to conform to the herd. Don’t give into this peer pressure. Social buttons and likes slow down pages.

Remember what your mother taught you about peer pressure and popularity. They can be bad news.

If you have to use social media, use static image buttons or CSS buttons links instead. The fastest loading social-sharing button is none. Do value analysis. What kind of return are you getting on your social media? Is it a time waste generating that social content?

Hristo advises on another blog against going overboard with Social Media widgets or plugins. He just forgot to include it here. Social widgets and plugins ping their respective servers, delaying page loads. Particularly, Hristo says not to use IFRAME. He recommends using one plugin that covers all the social networks. (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest etc). Don’t use a separate plugin for each network. Again, we think social media is as useful as a cast-iron paddle in a chicken-wire canoe.

We disagree with this ebook, web hosting isn’t key to great performance.

We’ve seen sites on great hosts (including SiteGround) with lousy speed tests. It’s more essential to use speed strategy for balancing aesthetics and speed.

They said nothing about failing some basic Pingdom tests and the simple plugin solutions:

WP Remove Query Strings From Static Resources 3.6k
Removes query strings from static resources like CSS and JavaScript files. This plugin claims it will improve scores in Google PageSpeed, YSlow, Pingdom and GTmetrix. Just install and forget everything, as no configuration needed. Note: WP Rocket claims removing query strings doesn’t improve speed, just scores. We suspect they’re right.

Speed Booster Pack 82k
Speed Booster Pack allows you to improve your page loading speed. You’ll get a higher score on testing services. (GTmetrix, Google PageSpeed, YSlow, Pingdom, or Webpagetest). We’ve tested this plugin. We found it’s minification features succeed where other minification plugins caused conflicts or white screens. It’s not for everyone but worth noting here.

Conclusion

The SPEED MATTERS ebook is better than most with good speed suggestions. But plainly selling services. At least it doesn’t perpetuate the myth that speed improves search engine optimization (SEO). That’s always a disturbing lie told by many site optimizers.

Ideas we agree on:

  • We agree performance test “scores” are meaningless ratings. Only speed measurements in milliseconds count. Or even better user perception of fast speed.
  • We agree sliders suck. But we say get rid of them on homepages.
  • We agree on image optimization. We even define how good is good enough in a downloadable PDF.
  • We agree on Gzip. We tell how to activate Gzip using a plugin without editing the .htaccess file by-hand.
  • Social links are baggage. Even though the author left that off. We know he agrees from other blog posts he’s written.

Ideas we disagree on:

  • We don’t think a good host is the key to site performance. We think speed strategy is the answer.
  • They recommend a 1-second performance budget. We recommend 2-second loads for desktop and 3 seconds for mobile as best practice. Even though PagePipe is a 1-second site! Other experts agree. Even Google says 2 seconds is good enough.
  • They recommend EWWW image optimizer plugin. We say that’s poo. We recommend free Imsanity plugin instead. It’s configurable with a maximum width, height and quality settings. And authored by the same guy.
  • We recommend using no images – or substituting PNG illustrations for heavier JPEG photographs.
  • They recommend using Google Fonts sparingly. We say get rid of them completely by substituting websafe fonts for speed. We also say eliminate Font Awesome icon font when possible – and always get rid of emojis. We recommend various plugins to do these eliminations. These are drastic but necessary measures.
  • They say manage (reduce) comments on your site. We say get rid of them completely with a plugin.
  • They say use a caching plugin and CDN. We say these are unnecessary band-aids if you build a quality speed site using strategy.
  • We think recommendations 10 through 17 are common-sense housekeeping or plain silly.
  • We think items 19 and 20 are less-credible selling promotions.

So half the report – the first 9 items – are worth reading. We think they aren’t aggressive enough to achieve their one-second page goal.

Is choosing the right theme for Elementor important?

There are several themes proven to work great with Elementor. But it’s not the theme’s fault if your site is slow. Is there a best theme?

The three best themes for Elementor users.

GeneratePress

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]ost of the people we know use GeneratePress with Elementor because it’s built for speed. Here are some key speed features:

  • jQuery not enqueued.
    jQuery is a heavy Javascript workaround or shortcut (or crutch). WordPress programmers use it all the time.
  • Font Awesome unused (or includes a lighter substitute or subset).
    We hate heavy Font Awesome workaround for the artistically crippled. Read more
  • Google fonts disabled. Uses a system-default font stack instead.
    We always disable Google Fonts for mobile speed.
  • Includes a top-of-page button – without activating jQuery.
  • REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/wordpress-dream-theme-for-mobile-speed-generatepress-2-0/

Astra

[dropcap]N[/dropcap]o WordPress theme has gotten more Elementor-related hype than Astra. Judging by the comments on Elementor groups, you’d think  Astra is the leading theme. But when we’ve seen surveys counting actual users, Astra comes in below GeneratePress. Astra contains speed potential. But a novice overloads this theme like any other. It’s lightweight (less than 50K on the frontend). We tested that spec and it’s true. Astra has the potential for *unparalleled* speed as the authors claim.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/extreme-astra-maximum-mobile-benefits-from-free-theme-features/

Regardless of the theme, every website needs help to reach the greatest speed. Find out the basics of what you need to know: Start here.

Hello

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Hello theme is from the same team that created Elementor. You might think that means it would be best for working with Elementor, but you would be wrong. The Hello theme has been around for years. It didn’t get much traction until recently when they released the theme to the free WordPress repository. Lots of people jumped on it right away. But many of these people realized that Hello was not the answer for them. Why? Hello is so barren of features that it’s unusable for anyone who isn’t proficient in CSS. Another sticking point is the fact that Hello requires Elementor Pro ($49 annual rent). It won’t work with just the free version of Elementor.

Regardless of the theme, every website needs help to reach the most speed potential. Find out the basics of what you need to know: Start here.

Which is best?

Unless you’re good with CSS, Hello is a non-starter. Hello fails to take part in the race. The others are both great themes, are fast, and have good support from their developers. And they work great with the free and the Pro version of Elementor. They also have premium features available at reasonable prices.

But premium will double the theme page weight – and slow down your site. They forget to tell you that.

For example, Elementor boasts they replace 17 plugins with Elementor widgets. They claim this saves you money and improves speed. But the 17 plugins they claim to replace, we would never add these features to any website. They cause slowdowns or poor UX:

  • Maintenance Mode/Coming Soon
  • Popup Builders
  • Motion Effects
  • Forms
  • Media Carousel
  • Countdowns
  • Email Marketing Services
  • Image Gallery
  • Pricing Tables
  • Testimonial Carousels
  • Google Maps
  • Social Icons
  • Header & Footer
  • Facebook Embed
  • Tabs
  • Accordion
  • Slides

As a  final insult, Elementor says 20 plugins is the largest number of plugins you should have on any website. That is hokum. We often have 50 to 70 plugins and our pages load in under 1 second on cheap hosting. The average number of plugins on WordPress sites is 25.

What about speed?

What will ruin the speed for your site is not the theme – unless it’s a slow one like Divi. It’s all the junk you add to it. It’s designer apathy that ruins speed.

Keeping themes fast requires site owner self-discipline.

Surprise! We don’t recommend Elementor.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-elementor-page-builder-affects-mobile-page-speed/

We’re sharing speed numbers from a recent test. We built a fast Elementor page using our origin optimization recommendations. Then we built the same page without Elementor – and threw in an extra-large featured header image.

What should you use instead? A responsive grid column plugin. But only if you need columns.

Mobile users only need one-column pages!

What theme did we use for this Elementor test?

Automattic introduced the Twenty-seventeen default free theme way back in the fall of 2016. It loads in about 25 milliseconds. But only after stripping the theme and WordPress core of unnecessary features.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-we-cheated-the-speed-tests-using-twenty-seventeen-theme/

That’s right. It’s not even on the popular speed theme list above. Do we use this theme? Yes. Why? Because it won’t retire. It’ll be maintained for 10 years. That’s based on the historical performance of past default WordPress themes. Longevity. It won’t disappear soon. And it’s free. No pro or premium version to pay rent every year!

What do the pages look like for comparison?

ABOVE: With Elementor. Click to enlarge.

And below without Elementor:

After without Elementor

Do we remove or recommend removing Elementor? That may sound  like a piffle. But when TTFB on a slow server (like BlueHost) is 1.7 seconds, you only have 300 milliseconds left to load everything. That’s achievable but it’s a speed miracle. Gaining extra overhead to pad your web performance budget is a relief.

So the new version 2.9.7 of Elementor is 1M lighter than the rollback version (2.8.5) when decompressed. Elementor trimmed down the newest files. This is unusual. The newer version removes 1MB of Javascript. Both versions still claim 30 widgets.

Both test pages loaded in 1 second (+/- 30 ms) using WPT.org.

On Pingdom:

page weight 314k, 549ms, 18 requests without Elementor

page weight 715k, 1.57s, 19 requests with Elementor

1 second load time difference with this test! The two test sources reveal different results. Which do we trust in the end? Neither. We trust our browser timer most.

Why? Voodoo.

Timer results: 1.2 seconds with Elementor page builder and 930 milliseconds without Elmentor. Both pages with unprimed cache. 270 millisecond is the difference on Firefox browser desktop.

1.71 seconds  (with Elementor) vs 850 milliseconds (without Elementor) on Google Chrome browser. That’s 860 milliseconds faster. Go figure.

But no matter which speed test you use, it’s intuitive Elementor is slower. Elementor makes significantly more requests and adds more scripts and styles to pages than using a simple column grid plugin with a fast theme.

Below: 3-minute demo video.
“How to use the free Lightweight Grid Columns Plugin” developed by GeneratePress.

So does using Elementor slow down desktop pages significantly? No.

But the difference in page weight will slow down mobile. There is no noticeable difference in load time on desktop. It only matters to mobile users with limited remote bandwidth and/or metered data. How bad is that?

For some sites, that’s 70 to 80 percent of visitor traffic.

NOTE: The test pages are both optimized and enhanced for speed with the same performance plugins. Both are on the same site, host and theme.

While internet mobile speeds dropped by 7 seconds this last year. The average load time is still 15 seconds. Horrible mobile connection times.

This link below gives solid information about the state-of-the-moment for what is normal and bad mobile speed:

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/data-measurement/mobile-page-speed-new-industry-benchmarks/

Don’t think for a minute Google is always right – but their sample size is reported. They recommend less than 500k pages for mobile. We agree.

Avoiding page builders for mobile speed.

Sedated Servers

People love to argue about which hosting is the best in the world. All hosts are pretty lame at some time. They’re for-profit companies run by fallible humans.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e apologize in advance for speaking ill of a host you may care a lot about. Can you tolerate trash-talk about your special-preferred hosting company? If not, you’re gonna be resentful. It’s a loyalty and pride issue for some team-type people. Hosting is a commodity product. We don’t get emotional about web hosts. But at the same time, we ‘hate” slow web pages. That sounds pretty emotional.

 

Servers at a hosting facility.

SLOW web hosting SUCKS

Let’s be upfront about our topic. We’re discussing common ordinary cheap shared commodity hosting. Not expensive specialty hosting like VPNs. And huge cloud-based services charging by the minute – or by byte volume.

A frequent question we’re asked is,

“What host do you recommend for speed?”

Uh.

People are often surprised at our response, “We don’t recommend hosting.” Of course, you need a web host to build a website. But we don’t recommend hosts? Why? They’re cyclical from mediocre to bad to worse. That’s been the history.

If site owners asked, “What host should I avoid?”

Many diseased hosts — they’d sell their grandmother for $100.

It’s much easier to answer. We could give a long list. There are so many hosting problems people don’t know about. But there are easy ways to find out how good-is-good-enough.

A speed evaluation we do is measuring Time To First Byte (TTFB). There are three ways to determine TTFB. Two are using online tests and another is by uploading an HTML file into your media library.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/find-out-what-your-server-ttfb-really-is/

We’ve talked on PagePipe about why TTFB is important. But we’ll review it here.

Consider TTFB the server overhead. It’s a delay in milliseconds. It’s how long it takes for the server to respond to a request for web assets. Then the browser can begin to construct your WordPress page in the device viewport. A good TTFB is 100 to 300 milliseconds. Ordinary is around 500 milliseconds, and poor is 750 milliseconds. Dismal is 1 second. And anything after 1.5 seconds is horrific.

How bad does TTFB delay get?

Worst case we’ve seen TTFB as long as minutes. This slowdown is often caused by plugins hammering on the server database. Or a plugin and theme conflict confusing the server. So it isn’t always the server’s fault. Plugins with heavy zip downloads are the most notorious for causing TTFB delays. They’re complicated plugins with lots of code – and lots of repeated calls to the server. That is bad for speed.

Hosts with impeccable service and wonderful uptime become bandits about their speed benefits. They brag about the quality of their magnificent servers. Boasting about superior SSD (solid-state drives) instead of mechanical spinner magnetic drives. As if these specifications matter for site owners. We’ve never seen the type of drive technology make any difference. Yes. SSD drives are faster. But in the end with all the other hosting variables, it isn’t significant. It’s not a measurable difference. The gain gets lost in the noise.

Who benefits most from SSD drives is the host company. SSD drives are quiet, smaller, cooler, and reduce energy consumption. They are good at reducing the server-facility overhead in floor-space and energy bills. But that has nothing to do with actual speed – or website load time. That is specsmanship hosts boast about. But the boasting never proves anything. Like bragging that your car can go zero to 60 in 3 seconds – but you use it for shopping at Walmart or driving in school zones. A waste of machine.

Because a host claims its servers are fast doesn’t mean you get fast. They exaggerate and omit details. They show perfect samples.

There are simple tests to find out if they’re deceptive. Here’s how:

Get the URL of the hosting company homepage. Plug that into ByteCheck.com. You will never get a faster TTFB on their servers than they present on their homepage. That is simple. Compare them. Take 6 consecutive tests in a row. Are you surprised to find your favorite host gets 200-millisecond TTFB — but only once per hour? The rest of the time it’s fluctuating around 1.7-seconds TTFB. That is terrible. What host would be that bad? Er. SiteGround. Yeah. They suck for speed and there are reasons. Popular hosts don’t guarantee good speed. Neither do expense hosts Like WP Engine, $100 per month: $1,150 per year. Ouch.

So what about places like BlueHost ($71.40 annual rent)? We wanted to prove a point once. Even on super-cheap hosting like BlueHost we could load an eCommerce store in under 2 seconds. What kind of TTFB did our store get on BlueHost? Typically there was a 1.7 second delay.

That meant we had to load our store pages in 300 milliseconds. We made it work but we had no room for error. Those tight tolerances made us uncomfortable. The load time would push out beyond 2 seconds to 2.2 to 2.5 seconds. We wanted to maintain our reputation as speed freaks. So we moved the store to Rochen later ($227.40 annual rent fee). We proved our point, but we didn’t want to stay there any longer than necessary.

So is BlueHost so bad? it all depends upon what your goals are. To run a simple blog, it’s fine. All hosts are bad and good at different times. What we like is hosts with rock-stable servers. We prefer a predictable 500-millisecond TTFB at GoDaddy. Rather than a fluctuating TTFB at SiteGround ($300 annual rent). When we work with speed clients, do we move them off SiteGround? Always. Do the clients whine about that? Yes. They do. They think SiteGround gives them good service. When we call their service desk, we get a correct answer half the time. The IRS 800 helpline gives wrong tax advice answers half the time, too. Is that good enough? Heck, no.

But what we despise most is hosting companies with speed claims that are flat out lies. They give no proof. They start throwing around technobabble jargon. It’s a smokescreen that they out spec the competition.

We do not appreciate these tactics. We aren’t ignorant.

When you find a good host, will they stay good forever? Not for long. For example, we used to love Pressidium managed WordPress hosting ($1,798.8 annual rent). But they had some policy changes and now TTFB speed – that used to be spectacular – isn’t so good. And they locked us away from writing code to the server htaccess file with plugins.

The htaccess file is important if you do selective activation of plugins. A cool speed trick. That ruins speed Karma for us. Most managed hosting tries to keep the client as far away from server access as possible. Why? They say “security issues.” We know the real reason. Services costs rise as they get more clientele and they can’t keep up with the ensuing chaos. So they start locking people out to reduce the service calls.

What about Kinsta ($2,400 annual rent)? Aren’t they good? Their mantra is “Built for Speed.” Yeah, except they give out bad advice for speed. They don’t speak of cheaper alternatives. They perpetuate myths to their advantage making their specsmanship appear dandy. Propaganda machines. We criticize their claims and advice more than we do their actual performance. We feel it’s deceptive and shallow.

We’ve written quite a bit about Kinsta policies and advice. So we won’t repeat the potential insinuations and insults here.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-kinsta-pretends-its-the-fastest-wordpress-experience/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/kinsta-speed-bias/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/the-illusory-superiority-of-kinsta-web-speed-propaganda/

We want a host with integrity. It’s often fine until a hosting company changes ownership – or gets popular. That’s right. Popularity ruins hosts. For example, HostGator, we were checking why a New York seller of woman’s perfume had such a slow site. We used a tool called YouGetSignal. That online tool told us it could only show the first 1,000 domains. Our client was sharing the server with at least 1,000 more domains. That was the problem. The server was crammed to the gills with over 2,000 domains. What is normal? Well under 100 domains – and more like a dozen.

REFERENCE: https://www.yougetsignal.com/tools/web-sites-on-web-server/

Mystified speed clients ask why their host server is so extraordinarily slow. We check with YouGetSignal, and bingo, there’s an adult porn site lurking unknown on their server. Kiss speed goodbye if that’s the case. You don’t need an advanced degree to use these online tools. It’s a simple copy-and-paste of your URL. The tool then identifies in RED the offending adult site. Sharing a server isn’t bad – if you have the right neighbors.

Generally, you get better speed by throwing money at the problem. Or renting more expensive servers. We see this on sites so corrupted we can’t update to a current version of WordPress. Instead of rebuilding the site and fixing it, the lazy owners buy more expensive hosting to solve it. The site is a hand-grenade with the pin pulled out. But they don’t want to fix it.

Craziness.

Where do site owners go to host a damaged site? Usually Kinsta. Got a lousy site. Go to Kinsta. It fixes speed with money. Shortsighted. That site is ticking like a time bomb.

30 seconds or even 1 minute load times, inevitably it’s a huge plugin fighting to get control of the server database. Usually a security plugin, a caching plugin, or metric-gathering plugin. These plugins usually weigh more than WordPress itself. But – hey – they are popular. Did anyone ever think to look at the size of the popular plugin? And wonder if that monstrosity is detrimental? Obviously not. It’s installed because everyone (The Herd) is installing it. It must be good. Right?

After pulling these fat plugins, the server miraculously calms down to a fast load time. What good is a lame plugin like that? Your bounce rate goes through the roof. These kinds of sites are the easiest tune-ups for us to fix and create the most dramatic results. We’re heroes. When you go from a 30-second load time to under 1 second, it impresses the client. They think you performed an exorcism when all you did was disconnect a power hog plugin.

WP ENGINE is not a preferred host for speed. Their server overhead (TTFB) is often about 800 milliseconds. A good TTFB (time to first byte) is 100 to 200 milliseconds. The average is 500 milliseconds. Poor is 750 milliseconds and bad is over 1 second. Hosts like SiteGround have erratic TTFB. It sometimes is 200 milliseconds – but most often is 1.7 seconds. So they claim the cherry-picked specification and ignore the real speed errors.

WP ENGINE’s homepage TTFB is 107 milliseconds tested with ByteCheck. Impressive. That would fool our usual rule of checking the host’s homepage as an indicator.

But 6 consecutive test of a client site on WP ENGINE shows:

ByteCheck 831 milliseconds, 927 milliseconds, 878 milliseconds, 924 milliseconds, 866 milliseconds, 846 milliseconds.

WP Engine is using a sweet server for their homepage hosting – but not yours. You aren’t sharing your server with anyone. It should be fast.

Their speed secret: they are using Fastly CDN and Cloudflare CDNs on their page but not yours. Fastly services charge based on traffic and bandwidth usage. And Cloudflare is $200 per month estimated.

In other words, they throw money at their homepage speed but not yours. A deception.

WordPress.org Official Recommended Web Hosting
GLOWING ENDORSEMENTS

There are hundreds of thousands of web hosts on the internet. WordPress recommends only three hosts: Bluehost, DreamHost, and SiteGround. Those companies “donate” a part of your hosting fee back to WordPress. That’s called an affiliate link anywhere else. Not a donation.

Listing is completely arbitrary but includes: “contributions” to WordPress.org – as their first criteria.

How much do those 3 companies pay WordPress?

They won’t tell you. But you can’t get listed unless you “contribute.” The WordPress endorsement is worth millions of dollars to these three companies. Uh? That’s more blackmail or hostage payments.

The recommended webhosting page on WordPress.org is incredibly lucrative. Based on conversations I’ve had with employees of hosts listed, it can generate millions of dollars in revenue.”

https://wptavern.com/the-wordpress-org-recommended-hosting-page-is-revamped-features-flywheel-for-the-first-time

Are they good services?

Why are the top-recommended hosts in a Google search the worst hosts in the eyes of real users? Why can’t you trust WordPress hosting recommendations?

Most hosting recommendations are unreliable for a simple reason: money. Like many other things, money corrupts hosting conversations. Recommending bad hosting leads to large amounts of money for the recommender. How does that happen? It’s the reality of the affiliate marketing model that dominates the hosting space.”

citation: https://wpshout.com/why-most-recommended-wordpress-hosting-lists-suck/

Here are some facts about WordPress.org recommended hosts:

Bluehost

We’ve mentioned BlueHost to prove we could make a store work even on poor-quality hosting. The TTFB for our site was 1.7 seconds. We loaded pages in under 300 milliseconds. Then things got worse and we moved.

REFERENCE: https://sitecare.com/blog/why-wordpress-org-should-stop-endorsing-bluehost/

Bluehost received a wooden spoon award for being the bottom feeder in a review of web hosts. Winning a wooden spoon doesn’t sound like a very awesome prize for a high-tech company.

BlueHost is owned by Endurance International Group who owns the 20 largest web hosts. They have venture-capital ownership in Automattic, the mothership of WordPress. EIG is owned by Clearlake Capital Group L.P. a diversified investment firm.

DreamHost

We’ve never used DreamHost ($203.40 annual rent for one domain). We never were tempted. But here’s the scoop on their homepage: TTFB: 195 milliseconds. Hey! That’s pretty good. Load time: 5.541 seconds. Hey! That’s pretty bad with such a good TTFB.

So why are they so slow? Maybe it’s because they’re sharing their server. That would be walking the talk. Nope? They share their server with no one. So why so slow?

Here’s why: remote third-party services located on distant servers.

Amazon CloudFront
fonts.googleapis.com : Google
widget.trustpilot.com : Amazon CloudFront
www.google-analytics.com : Google
connect.facebook.net : Facebook
googleads.g.doubleclick.net : Google

HotJar, a user experience metric service, adds 500 milliseconds.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/hotjar-adds-500-milliseconds-to-mobile-speed/

YouTube video: DreamHost isn’t lazy loading the video – a simple speed trick. This adds 500 milliseconds. Are they speed experts? Uh. No.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/lazy-load-youtube-video-for-mobile-speed/

Drift is a $500 per month chat feature. Chat adds 1 second to load time. Do they really need chat on their homepage? Other places, sure. But why add that slow down to the homepage?

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/dumping-livechat-for-speed/

Font Awesome

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/should-i-disable-font-awesome-and-google-fonts-for-improved-speed/

You get the idea. These guys need to do their speed homework.

SiteGround

We’ve already mentioned SiteGround as having fluctuating TTFB. Every client we work with moves if they are on this host. Do we make them move? No. They choose to after they see the speed reports. Do we tell them where to host? No. They choose. We don’t care where they go as long as they move away from this host. Then we can achieve our speed goals. The clients always say, “But everyone says they are fast.” Who is everyone?

Everyone” is bloggers with affiliate links to SiteGround. Of course [forehead smack].

But … But … what about all the impartial reviews on internet blogs?

Check those referral links again in the “impartial” reviews. They’re affiliate links.

When an affiliate recommends a product to you and you buy it, the affiliate gets a payment. Someone paid for an opinion isn’t a great judge of truth.

$50 for 1 to 5 referrals per month, $75 for 6 to 10, $100 for 11 to 10, and $125 for 21+ sales. (This is the affiliate structure of SiteGround, one of our least favorite hosts.)

So, most WordPress hosting advice is dishonest. How do you find honest, real information?

You can’t. You have to test.

Do some of the simple tests we recommend in this ebook. Check their homepage and gimmicks by running a speed test on WebPageTest.org. Check their TTFB on ByteCheck.com. See who shares their server with them YouGetSignal.com. Look them up on Wikipedia and see who owns the host company.

Can we trust PagePipe?

We won’t answer that. Do testing for yourself. Do not trust any reviews or testimonials. Even ours.

Ask yourself, “How good is good enough?” Don’t waste money.

Here’s a full and clear disclaimer: There’s one affiliate link in our hosting report. It’s not on this page – or in our blog. We recommend a host and we collect an affiliate payment if you buy from them. Not if you click the link. Only if you decide to buy.

Who is that host?

GreenGeeks

You go there and buy and we get a kickback. The link is in our 1.5MB downloadable PDF. Do we deserve it? Or will you punish us for being blatant and honest? They don’t charge you. You pay the same price either way. It’s your way of saying “thank you” and giving us some applause. Do we need applause? Absolutely.

If you abhor GreenGeeks, feel free to write and tell us why. Email us.

After all these years of restraint, why endorse a hosting company now?

Ironically: The reason is integrity.

GreenGeeks doesn’t brag so much about speed. They could.

We moved from GoDaddy to them last year. We still use GoDaddy servers for testing and have an account with them. We moved because readers were asking if we’d like to have our SSL fixed. You know that little shield in the corner of your browser address field that promises you’re “secure.” They thought we missed that. They didn’t realize it was a deliberate choice for speed. SSL is used to slow sites by 500 milliseconds. But hosts have found ways to speed that extra burden up.

For example:

PagePipe blog now has a Time To First Byte of 167 milliseconds using ByteCheck test. GoDaddy was typically 500-milliseconds TTFB or worse. Our blog loaded in under two seconds. But GoDaddy charged $70 per year per domain for SSL/HTTPS certification. Other hosts as GreenGeeks offer that for free.

Our load time on PagePipe’s homepage is demonstrated in this test:

https://webpagetest.org/result/210204_DiKV_8e08087b1b542aa023269840fb288a2e/

PagePipe homepage on GreenGeeks. TTFB: 231 milliseconds, load time: 1.116 seconds.

How much does it cost for shared hosting on GreekGeeks versus GoDaddy?

We chose the Pro plan at $4.95 per month for the first year and $15.95 per month after that. Their features include:

Unlimited Websites

Unlimited Web Space
Unmetered Data Transfer
Free SSL Certificate
Free Domain Name for 1st Year
Free Nightly Backup
Free CDN
Unlimited E-mail Accounts
WordPress Installer/Updates
Unlimited Databases
2x Performance
LSCache Included
300% Green Energy Match
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee

LSCache is LiteSpeed server caching. 

LiteSpeed helps performance. We’ve written a snarky article about our experience here:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/the-downside-of-litespeed-cache-plugin/

The downside is disabling your eCommerce WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads cart. There are special settings to disallow those pages. But we lost sales messing with the setting figuring things out. We got over it. Today, we are fans of LiteSpeed.

So how much is GoDaddy hosting?

For unlimited websites (Deluxe plan), it’s $4.99 per month the first year, and $8.99 after.

So after pricing settles in the second year, the annual difference is GoDaddy $107.88 US dollars. And GreenGeeks, $191.40.

But if we added the cheapest SSL fee +$69.99 per year, GoDaddy would be $177.87. And if we were registering a new domain that would add $17.99. Or $195.86.

The difference: $5.54 less for GreenGeeks. Does price tip the scale in GreenGeeks favor? Not really. It’s sixes. About the same cost.

So what does tip the scale to GreenGeeks favor:

GoDaddy doesn’t offer LiteSpeed server caching. That makes a big difference in performance for even our origin optimized websites. These speed sites don’t benefit from caching plugins because they’re so dang fast loading. LiteSpeed Web Server (LSWS) is a high-performance Apache drop-in replacement. GoDaddy uses Apache servers. Is this another useless non-reality-based engineering specmanship? No. LiteSpeed makes a real difference. A web page that loads in 2-seconds now load in subseconds with LiteSpeed.

Big deal who cares? Faster than fast? So what?

Mobile users care. Some site owners get 80-percent mobile traffic, it’s a big deal.

LiteSpeed incorporates selectable speed features we desire. We add free discreet plugins to strip WordPress non-features and make things faster. You don’t need those extra plugins. It’s unnecessary. The functions now reside on the LiteSpeed server. Much faster and efficient.

Adding LiteSpeed plugin is required. It causes 53 milliseconds of global site drag. But the loss is worth it – because it accelerates everything else.

But there’s another reason to use GreenGeeks. We admire their idealistic integrity. Even if it’s only a marketing differentiation ploy, we like it.

GREEN ENERGY HOSTING SERVICE

    • GreenGeeks started in 2008. They committed to being the most Eco-friendly green web hosting company in the World.
    • GreenGeeks is recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency since 2009 as a Green Power Partner.
    • GreenGeeks work with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) in Portland, Oregon. “BEF” is a Green-e Partner.
    • GreenGeeks tell BEF how many servers, personnel, etc. they have. They calculate the yearly energy consumption and carbon footprint. BEF purchases 3 times what GreenGeeks consumes. They put that energy back into the grid.
    • They match the energy they consume as well as payback for 2 other companies their size. This is their commitment to the environment since the beginning.
    • GreenGeeks has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

They walk the talk.

We admire their idealistic values. We are idealists, too. We call it honest responsibility.

Endorsing GreenGeeks is mutually beneficial for our credibility.

People binge-read our entire blog. We are the “consumer report” of speed.

GreenGeeks is our only affiliate link. We don’t publishing that link here in our blog. It’s not on our website. You have to download our report, “SLOW web hosting SUCKS” to get it.

We’ve written about GreenGeeks competitors. But those bandits get zero links – only GreenGeeks get a link. It would be normal on an affiliate link farm to have links to even the hosting losers. Desperation to snag extra income. We’re not sending you there.

We move our clientele over to your GreenGeek servers as long as the TTFB stays fast. Our reputation as speed experts depends upon us recommending good solutions.

GreenGeeks is “the best shared-hosting deal.” GreenGeeks is our only hosting recommendation. We’re finished dating hosts. We want a long-term relationship with these guys. We’re engaged and hope to marry.

That’s our story. Thanks for listening.

All-in-One-SEO Pack is tortuous slow-loading nonsense.

The LTI SEO plugin is the lightest SEO (search engine optimization) plugin built. It’s installed and still works on various client sites. Why? It’s old but not broken.

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]lients insist on SEO gyrations. It’s a placebo effect known as “SEO tweaking.” A futile and silly habit for neurotic, obsessive-compulsive dullards. It’s an addictive tranquilizer for the vigilant nervous. Then they sleep at night thinking all will be well in Googleland.

SEO tweaking is self-defeating behavior. It’s insanity. Go ahead! Kowtow to what Google publishes as metric truth. See if it makes any measurable difference. It won’t.

Hundreds of third-world promises: “Get easy number one Google page ranking.” These promises flood my email inbox. Isn’t source credibility a clue of the valueless remedy called SEO?

LTI SEO plugin is not installed on PagePipe. Why? Because relevant desired content is the only thing to quickly alter SEO. The slow way is focusing on speed or rewriting post titles. Yes. We do those things. Those alter user experience. UX has future value. But no guarantees.

Relevant content is the hope. Not SEO plugins! Not gaming the system. There’s no system to game. No game to systematize. Vaporous provable claims or fanboy testimonials are weak. But no measurable proof, research, or data of real ranking improvement.

MYTH: I’ve installed Yoast, so I’m all set

Sometimes, this statement makes me want to spit out my coffee and laugh; other times, it makes me sad that new bloggers can be so gullible and clueless.

Why?

Because this is an utterly ridiculous statement.

First, some newer bloggers mistakenly think that Yoast “gives them SEO.” And, of course, it doesn’t. In fact, there is no plugin that “gives you SEO.” There is no such thing. Rather the blog posts you write and the activities you do for a post will get you organic traffic. There is no silver bullet and no easy way around this.

Rather, Yoast attempts to measure your SEO. It uses some basic formulas that “check off” some of the boxes. Notice how I say “attempts.” This is because it’s very formulaic. And, also, it’s not very accurate nor predictive. In fact, often it gives you bad advice because it will direct you to do things that will lead to keyword stuffing (which is very bad for SEO) as well as poor writing, and that is bad for user experience. And, if it’s a bad user experience, it’s bad for SEO.

Many people mistakenly think that if they get a green light that their post is SEO optimized and will rank well. This simply isn’t true. Far from it. It’s all based on the keyword phrase that you enter. It does not tell you if that’s a highly searched term nor your chances of ranking for it. And, it’s simply garbage in/garbage out.

–Debbie Gartner

Millions are wasting and squandering resources on SEO.

We don’t defend any lightweight SEO plugin. Nor defend any SEO plugin – period. They’re an utter waste of human resources. Can you feel our oozing contempt for those selling SEO? And especially anyone claiming speed makes an immediate difference in SEO. Absurd.

LTI is the only SEO plugin installed at customer’s dictatorial insistence. Never volunteer installing SEO baggage. You could substitute 14 other site features with discrete plugins consuming comparable speed.

The “very popular All-in-One-SEO Pack plugin”? Tortuous slow-loading nonsense. We’ve tested it’s speed – 174 milliseconds added on every page and post of your site. But speed isn’t the point. It’s a waste of content writing time!

Content is the user experience.

Why you shouldn’t waste your time – and speed – writing SEO *rich* snippets.

We’re keeping this simple. Here are the real comparison of two Google listings of our blog post about PHP 7 and how it affects WordPress speed. Notice the difference in the snippet language.

First, we enter the posts exact title in the Google search field:

It’s the number one position naturally – because it’s an exact match. But notice the WordPress permalink underneath the link doesn’t match the post title. It gives more information scent for the user about the problem we’re addressing.

Your page tile and permalink don’t need to match. It’s better if they don’t. Publish more clues and cues for potential users and improve click-thru.

Information scent refers to the strength of relevant messaging throughout the customer journey as well as visual and textual cues that provide website visitors with hints on what information a site contains. – source

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he snippet is selected by Google. It’s based on user search intent. Artificial intelligence drives the choice of snippet using an algorithm called RankBrain. It was introduced on OCTOBER 26TH, 2015. Long ago!

You should care about RankBrain because it’s an ever-increasing ranking factor.

RankBrain is part of Google’s core algorithm using unsupervised machine learning. Machines teach themselves from data inputs. RankBrain determines the most relevant results to your search engine queries. RankBrain’s used globally by Google. It sees relationships automatically. It makes educated guesses.

The guessed answer to a query improves as the computer learns what people are really looking for in searches. It builds a relational database of intent.

Search intent, also known as keyword intent, is the ultimate goal of the person using a search engine. Since people look for, process, and use search results differently based on their ultimate goal, understanding and optimizing for search intent is important for Google.

By leveraging keyword intent, advertisers not only increase site traffic, but also attract more qualified prospects. This creates more sales and generates more leads. It helps Google sell more ads!

Google uses RankBrain to select and construct featured snippet results from your page content – not from your handwritten rich snippet database. That’s right. Shock! Your snippet efforts are a waste of time. Stop writing them. Uninstall your slow-loading SEO plugin.

MYTH: I’ve installed Yoast, so I’m all set

Sometimes, this statement makes me want to spit out my coffee and laugh; other times, it makes me sad that new bloggers can be so gullible and clueless.

Why?

Because this is an utterly ridiculous statement.

First, some newer bloggers mistakenly think that Yoast “gives them SEO.” And, of course, it doesn’t. In fact, there is no plugin that “gives you SEO.” There is no such thing. Rather the blog posts you write and the activities you do for a post will get you organic traffic. There is no silver bullet and no easy way around this.

Rather, Yoast attempts to measure your SEO. It uses some basic formulas that “check off” some of the boxes. Notice how I say “attempts.” This is because it’s very formulaic. And, also, it’s not very accurate nor predictive. In fact, often it gives you bad advice because it will direct you to do things that will lead to keyword stuffing (which is very bad for SEO) as well as poor writing, and that is bad for user experience. And, if it’s a bad user experience, it’s bad for SEO.

Many people mistakenly think that if they get a green light that their post is SEO optimized and will rank well. This simply isn’t true. Far from it. It’s all based on the keyword phrase that you enter. It does not tell you if that’s a highly searched term nor your chances of ranking for it. And, it’s simply garbage in/garbage out.

–Debbie Gartner

Snippets are history!

RankBrain does a better job of matching user queries with your web pages. This means you are no longer dependent on having all the keywords from the user query on your page content – or rich snippet.

So here’s the same page but with a new search phrase:

In this case, using the search phrase “PHP7 broken,” our same-post snippet is now pulled from a completely different part of our page. The results are better matched for keyword intent. Even if the keywords weren’t in the search phrase. Google guesses intent.

Notice the publication date is “7 days ago.” Fresh as a daisy! Read about how to keep content evergreen here.

Stop trying to defeat Google from doing a better job writing snippets. It’s their choice whether to use yours or not. Google has no obligation of compliance with your wishes or SEO manipulations. Google owns the web. They undo your wasteful snippet work in a blink.

Don’t try and save your snippets. They’re junk. Don’t install a different SEO plugin in some kind of salvage operation. They’re slow and obsolete.

PagePipe’s latest mobile speed strategy – and free plugin discoveries.

[dropcap]1[/dropcap]

If you enjoy our caustic speed articles, you’ll love our pithy bi-monthly newsletter. Discover what matters most for mobile WordPress page speed. Fast load times require more than just installing a caching plugin – or CDN.

We’ll share with you our latest speed experiments and discoveries. Stay up-to-date with what matters for mobile WordPress page speed.

[dropcap]2[/dropcap]

LEARN HOW TO MAKE MOBILE WOO FASTER
9 WooCommerce Speed Tips

1. Remove global SSL bloat.


2. Disable AJAX cart fragments.


3. Defeat minimum password strength.


4. Disable Auto-Embed script.


5. Avoid these cache problems.


6. Effective trust signaling.


7. Improve your call to action.


8. Relevant custom product photography.


9. Selective deactivation.

WooCommerce is a slow, lumbering beast. Discover 9 ways you can speed it up today.

Learn more and get your free WooComa download.

[dropcap]3[/dropcap]

Our controversial free report challenges a commonly-held web belief. That’s the falsehood you need an SEO plugin (like Yoast) to succeed online. Discover why SEO plugins won’t save your business and what you can do instead.
And speed up your site!

Learn more and get your free Search.Me download.

[dropcap]4[/dropcap]

PagePipe discusses fallacies and fantasies about low-cost shared hosting. Choosing a web host. Perils and pitfalls to avoid for speed.

[dropcap]5[/dropcap]

PagePipe tells how to setup LiteSpeed Cache plugin.

Click to download free 16-page PDF ebook. No signup required.

Speed technology downloads.
With no-nonsense.

PagePipe

Hotjar adds 497 milliseconds to mobile speed.

Just did a quick test. HotJar adds 500 milliseconds to your page load time – globally. THAT move blows 25 percent of the entire performance budget. You want to reconsider activating that plugin and API?

HotJar – an all-in-one analytics and feedback platform – provides heatmaps, visitor recordings, conversion funnels, form analytics, and more.

We find Hotjar often on commercial websites. Especially websites with speed problems.

What Alfredo Gutierrez of FunctionLabs says about the benefit of Hotjar:

Why user recording?

Hotjar allows us to literally see what people see, rather than guessing at what happens between pages.

Google Analytics shows the number of people who clickthrough or purchase, but Hotjar shows us friction.

It shows where someone scrolls to and between, what they see, and what happens when they do something.

This saved us numerous times. Here are two I recall:

– Android users would click on a button, which led them to bounce instead of go through to the next page. We didn’t test thoroughly enough, and turns out the email code would kick them out of the browser app entirely, and there was a bug where the back button wouldn’t work. iPhones would just pop up their Mail app, allow for the email to be sent, and immediately send the user back to the browser. We were about to stop Android traffic altogether because it didn’t seem like it was converting, but it was actually just an Android bug. So, we excluded Android from this particular funnel split test, and it converted again.

– We tested a new long-form sales letter. GA / Mixpanel showed low conversions on two of four variations. Policing that data with FullStory showed us that although the conversions were lower on the two, the users were much more engaged with certain page sections. We could’ve nixed the two variations and committed to a different hypothesis, but instead we took the section that saw a lot of interaction, and mixed it into the original variation. That resulted in a 27% bump in conversion.

Why does a small site / business need so much data recording?

My philosophy on this is that the smaller budget you got, the more data you need.

With our previous big business, we had so many media buys and so many transactions coming through, that we could ignore issues and still make a profit.

The smaller businesses have a much slimmer margin of error.

They’re also gun shy, and more demanding of information, even though traffic is about 3x more expensive now than it was 5 years ago. They want information after $1k adspend. They want to know which variation wins after 40 conversions.

They want to squeeze ‘insight’ from insignificant information.

So, user recording gives us a *direction* to go down, if we want to test something. Instead of a hunch, we can test something backed by something.

And when we do have a lot of information, it’s also a great policer of our assumptions.

Thanks, Alf, for sharing your knowledge about Hotjar benefits.


What others have to say about Hotjar and speed:

The one script Hotjar has you add to your site adds a tremendous 479k to the size of the fully loaded website. To put that into perspective, my site was only 1mb before adding the code. This means that hotjar is almost the same size as HALF OF MY WEBSITE!

Despite the asynchronous loading, you can feel that the website is sluggish when Hotjar is enabled.

So you have to ask yourself: “Do I value the data hotjar is providing over a faster website for my users?”

My website typically loads between 1.5 – 2.5 seconds without Hotjar, and up to 4 seconds with Hotjar – Andrew Curtin

“HotJar significantly reduced the loading speed of our website. This became a serious problem and we eventually had to remove it all together.” Patrick Eng, Marketing Technologist

“Snippet. Sounds small. Lightweight. Not a big deal, right? Well, wrong. One script alone adds just a tiny bit of extra to your load time, but scripts can really take a toll once they are combined.”

A lot of third party JavaScript means slow load times. The effects are cumulative. Be (very) conservative about embedding third party JavaScript – Janos Pasztor

“So for example, the Google Analytics Javascript is used by nearly two thirds of web sites within our sample; is 15KB in size; and takes 0.25 seconds to download on average, with 8.6% of the samples taking longer than 1 second. ” – Ari Weil

“Just like any JavaScript such as Google Analytics or tracking pixels… [Hotjar] is going to add load time to your website. There is no way of getting around that. Every script you add to your site, whether async or not, adds to your overall page weight.” –Brian Jackson

“Unfortunately neither you nor WP Rocket (nor any other caching plugin) can control the speed or performance of resources which are located on external servers (like Google, Hotjar or Facebook servers).” –Alice Orru

You insist you must have HotJar information? Fine. But after testing for 3 months, deactivate it. Test again in another six months if you must. Don’t just leave it sitting burning up speed. Give your site users a break.

Imitate Elementor with Gutenberg block editor – and be faster.

Can Gutenberg imitate Elementor?

We build some client websites with the Elementor page builder plugin. It’s fast enough with judicious use on fast host servers.

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]lementor plugin file weighs 5.7 megabytes compressed. And 21.5 megabytes decompressed in version 3.1.0. For comparison, WordPress core weighs 15.8 megabytes compressed (and 16.5 megabytes decompressed).

Elementor is now almost 5 megabytes heavier code when decompressed than the WordPress CMS platform it runs on. Ironic. And it’s still growing.

Elementor version 0.1.0 – when it was first introduced – was 1.2 megabytes compressed file size. That decompressed to 3.4 megabytes. It is now 6X larger than when it began in 2016. That growth of package size indicates complexity and code bloat. It’s lost simplicity attempting to become all things to all people.

Elementor bugs and increasing bloat pressured us to check our reliance. Are we being foolish? The vulnerability caused us to give the Gutenberg block editor another try. Would it be faster loading?

We selected four relatively lightweight block plugins to increase the Gutenberg block editor’s basic functionality. This is so we could imitate Elementor’s basic desirable features. Gutenberg is not a full page builder – yet. But it obvious that’s WordPress’s ultimate goal.

Gutenberg, at present, needs extra plugins to add Elementor-like features.

The page layout features we most desire are:

Columns and Nested Columns
Building columns with the Classic Editor is a pain. Creating columns – and columns within columns – makes designing and building smooth.

Negative Margins
Sometimes, we need things to be closer together. Negative margins make this possible.

Set Responsive Margins and Paddings
Layouts don’t always look right on small screens. The ability to set specific margins and padding based on screen size (without) CSS code is helpful.

Show or Hide Element Based on Screen Size
Sometimes you want to hide an element if it doesn’t look right on a particular screen size.

Ability to create columns on mobile screen sizes
Because sometimes we want a column on a mobile screen.

We tested these plugins for usability and speed. What features do they offer, are they easy to use, and how much does each slow down the test website?

This isn’t an exhaustive point-by-point comparison. We needed a quick real-world solution for a client’s speed website. So our tests are quick and dirty. We built a sample mock-up page with each candidate block plugin. What follows are our findings:

Test Limitations – Here’s the basic setup for the client website:

Host
KnownHost shared hosting chosen by the client.

Theme
WordPress Twenty Twenty default theme (our choice).

Plugins
34 active plugins – plus 8 inactive plugins used for maintenance events. The average number of plugins on a WordPress site is 25. It’s quality – not quantity – that makes a difference for speed. We chose only free plugins from the WordPress directory.

BEFORE: GT Metrix speed test results for test site. 1.1 second load time baseline.

The site’s baseline speed, before adding block plugins, is lean and fast. We optimized the images. There are no speed-enhancing plugins.

Four Free Plugin Candidates

Genesis Blocks Review

AFTER: GT Metrix speed test results for test site. Still a 1.1 second load time after adding Genesis Blocks plugin.

Speed Test Results
The speed stayed the same – 1.1 second load time. Genesis Blocks added 16kb and 3 requests to the page. No complaints there for speed.

Genesis Block has limited pre-built sections or layouts. This is not a big deal for us. It does offer containers, an important feature for building nested columns. But you can’t specify negative margins, which was a deal-breaker.

No negative margins meant there was no future for us and this Genesis Blocks plugin.

We don’t recommend Genesis Blocks.


CoBlocks Review

AFTER: GT Metrix speed test results for test site. Now a 1.2 second load time after adding CoBlocks plugin. We can live with a 100 millisecond gain at this speed.

Speed Test Results
CoBlocks added 100 milliseconds, 21 kilobytes, and 2 requests to the page. No complaints there for speed.

  • CoBlocks has a pretty good feature set considering it’s the lightest weight of the 4 plugins.
  • It’s not as intuitive to set up containers as Generate Blocks or Stackable plugins.
  • The individual blocks are not as good as Stackable plugin.
  • It does have a pricing table block, which is nice, but not enough to make this our choice.

We don’t recommend CoBlocks plugin.


Generate Blocks Review

AFTER: GT Metrix speed test results for test site. Now a 1.2 second load time after adding Generate Block plugin. We can live with a 100 millisecond gain at this speed.

Speed Test Results
Generate Blocks added 100 milliseconds, 25 kilobytes, and 2 requests to the page. No complaints there.

  • This is the minimalist choice. It only includes basic elements such as container, grid, heading, and button.
  • No pre-built sections. (Not a big deal for us).
  • Can set exact width of the container. Important.
  • Can set exact width of grid columns. Important.
  • Can use specific margins and padding for desktop, tablet, and mobile screen sizes.

Some options with the “Container” block feature.

  • Spacing options include minimum height, margins, and padding.
  • Can set negative margins. Very nice.
  • Can change typography based on tablet or mobile.
  • Can build columns on a mobile device. Very nice.
  • Can’t hide elements based on screen size. (This would be nice).

Spacing options within the “Container” block.

Generate Blocks gets a lot right. Don’t let the few numbers of 4 blocks deter you. You can get a lot done with these. And the settings contained within each block are well-rounded and comprehensive.

We use Generate Blocks to build client sites, and we recommend it.


Stackable Review

Speed Test Results
Stackable added 27kb and 2 requests to the page. No complaints there.

AFTER: GT Metrix speed test results for test site. A 1.1 second load time after adding Stackable plugin. Same speed as the baseline.

  • Has everything that Generate Blocks offers and more.
  • Lots of advanced settings. Most like a page-builder experience.
  • Padding, margins, min and max widths, etc.

A look at the settings in the “Header” block of Stackable plugin.

  • Responsive options including hiding elements based on screen size. Very nice.
  • Can’t build columns on mobile screens. (Generate Blocks can).
  • Has global color and typography settings. (Very nice).

Decent pre-built design library. 83 in the free version.

We use Stackable blocks to build client sites, and we recommend it.


Which plugin did we use for this speed site project?

These plugins are all fast. So it came down to which had the features we needed and which we enjoyed using. Generate Blocks and Stackable fit the bill.

Stackable was a contender. But Generate Blocks had one indispensable feature: creating columns on mobile screen sizes.

Can Gutenburg replace Elementor page builder?

Yes. And no.

Gutenberg has come a long way since its introduction in June 2017. Here are thoughts based on a few general categories:

Elementor is easier to use. Creating complex layouts with Gutenberg still feels clunky, though it’s manageable. Most, unfortunately, what you see on the back end of a Gutenberg page does not match the front end. So there is a lot of fiddling to get the page to look right.

Out of the box, Elementor has more features than Gutenberg. But Gutenberg add-ons are plentiful. You can match the feature-set.

Elementor Pro is a page builder. It’s hard to compare it to Gutenberg. However, themes such as Astra are offering visual header and footer editors that help Gutenburg compete with Elementor Pro.

Speed is where Gutenberg shines. It’s faster than Elementor free version and much faster than Elementor Pro.

What about bugs and future-proofing your site? It’s important to think about your website 3 to 5 years in the future. Elementor gets fatter and buggier with time. Will it continue in that direction?

Gutenberg is still buggy but improving. It’s part of WordPress core. It isn’t going away anytime soon.

What are the benefits of using Gutenberg today – even though it’s still in development?

We’ve used the classic editor for a long time. We’ve been resistant to adopting Gutenberg. We don’t change because someone says it’s the future. Or because it’s mandated by WordPress default. Or that it’s trendy. We disable Gutenberg on sites often.

Are we Luddites? We don’t like learning curves and troubleshooting. Does that mean being a late adopter is bad? No. It reduces risk. Entrepreneurs believe in risk reduction. They don’t like big risks – even though that is the business myth. They also want to get a decent return on investment of website expenditures. They don’t have enough resources to mess around.  Learning a new operating system is wasteful. They’d rather stick with something they’ve already mastered.

WordPress has abandoned the classic editor in new themes and updates of old themes. It’s not easy editing blog posts anymore. The editor control bar now scrolls off the screen. It’s a pain to add a link or italicize.

Is this a deliberate crippling of the classic editor – or a casualty of oversight by WordPress? We don’t know. But the annoying flaw gives us an impetus to change. As we’ve experimented, we’ve discovered a more pleasant writing and editing experience. They improved the user experience. At first, Gutenberg was horrible. After 4 years, it’s improved. It’s usable and even better in many respects. Gutenberg continues to improve.


About The Author

Matt Stern is a web designer and sometimes writer based in Southern Oregon. He designs and builds landing pages and websites that convert visitors into subscribers and customers.

Learn more at SternDesign.co


 

Adding Columns and Moving Blocks in Gutenberg Editor

2:32 minutes – Matt Stern

 

Adjusting Blocks Widths in Gutenberg Editor

3:56 minutes – Matt Stern

 

Why is the Gutenberg block editor better for speed?

Pagebuilders add bloat.

Front-end performance impacts visitor user experience (UX). Site performance is affected by CSS styles, JavaScript files, and more. WordPress core, the theme and plugins affect load time, too.

The downside is pagebuilders create more bloat and unnecessary code in site pages. Pagebuilders add more weight to the website.

It’s a trade off: ease of use versus slower page speed and low-quality page markup.

Why is the Gutenberg block editor better for speed?

With the block editor, CSS styles are only loaded for blocks used on a page. This selective activation reduces the amount of CSS needed. This increases performance efficiency.

In Gutenberg releases prior to 10.1, styles for blocks were enqueued in a single file causing extra page load. Today, only what’s necessary is loaded when content is viewed.

Most blocks have fairly small stylesheets. These are inlined. Including everything in a single request further improves performance. This is considered good practice for speed.

Inlining CSS code helps users and service providers because it lowers the number of HTTP Requests. The website then loads faster than using an external CSS file.

Most blocks have fairly small stylesheets. These are inlined. Including everything in a single request further improves performance. This is considered good practice for speed.

Inlining CSS code helps users and service providers because it lowers the number of HTTP Requests. The website then loads faster than using an external CSS file.

When speed won’t make any difference in your mobile SEO.

One of the biggest decisions is deciding what to not sell, who not to sell to, and what not to promise. Telling people who you’re not is just as important as telling them who you are.

[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou must have something of value to sell. This is called the value offer for other people. This is about some pain or anxiety visitors are trying to resolve. This is their motivation.

Creative positioning strategy is a short cut to buyer’s motivation.

An offer includes terms, warranty, delivery, price, incentives and more.

People won’t be instantly convinced you’re a credible source. Web visitors are suspicious of every website.

In Google-speak, motivation is “intent” or “relevance.” Search engines attempt to rank the content of your site for intent, relevance or credibility.

Relevance is often determined by how many people searching for a key phrase go to your site (click-thru).

So. Why aren’t you getting traffic? First, look at your first-page Google listing competitors. They’re big companies with tons of articles, authority and credibility. You have to outperform them.

Does your site appear on the first 20 pages of Google for your preferred search term. Or after ten pages do you still have nothing? Focus on what matters most to people (relevant topic).

If 33 percent of your blog traffic is funneling through an unrelated topic page, these people have no intention of buying services or products.  We recommend monetizing the page with a relevant paid download – or spin it off as a separate website – or else get rid of it.

Why get rid of a page creating 10,000 visitors a month? Because they aren’t qualified leads. It’s causing noise or dilution. Content pollution.

MYTH: I’ve installed Yoast, so I’m all set

Sometimes, this statement makes me want to spit out my coffee and laugh; other times, it makes me sad that new bloggers can be so gullible and clueless.

Why?

Because this is an utterly ridiculous statement.

First, some newer bloggers mistakenly think that Yoast “gives them SEO.” And, of course, it doesn’t. In fact, there is no plugin that “gives you SEO.” There is no such thing. Rather the blog posts you write and the activities you do for a post will get you organic traffic. There is no silver bullet and no easy way around this.

Rather, Yoast attempts to measure your SEO. It uses some basic formulas that “check off” some of the boxes. Notice how I say “attempts.” This is because it’s very formulaic. And, also, it’s not very accurate nor predictive. In fact, often it gives you bad advice because it will direct you to do things that will lead to keyword stuffing (which is very bad for SEO) as well as poor writing, and that is bad for user experience. And, if it’s a bad user experience, it’s bad for SEO.

Many people mistakenly think that if they get a green light that their post is SEO optimized and will rank well. This simply isn’t true. Far from it. It’s all based on the keyword phrase that you enter. It does not tell you if that’s a highly searched term nor your chances of ranking for it. And, it’s simply garbage in/garbage out.

–Debbie Gartner

What’s a qualified lead?

A qualified lead (visitor) has money (budget), authority to buy, is ready to buy (timing), has the problem you can solve (need).

If a site bounce rate is 80 percent, those are people who don’t care and leave immediately. While we’ve seen worse, that isn’t goodness. Only 20 percent of people visiting stay and read something. The most they’ll read is a partial article. 80 percent leave instantly.

Maintaining an email list may not improve business profits. Selling an Amazon book may not increase business profits. They do increase “credibility” but they don’t increase profits.

Credibility consists of three components: trustworthiness, expertise, and enthusiasm. Credibility influences people or persuades them you can deliver what you promise. Remember they’re suspicious of all websites, not just yours.

Content is the user experience. What helps convince visitors you’re credible is how much content you’ve written related to solving their problem. That’s an “authority” goal of 50 articles. But if the articles don’t help them and are just fluffy, they won’t be convinced. “Fluffy” is referred to as thin content by Google. When you give away valuable information, visitors (and Google) are more prone to trust you more. The trust less if you charge for every little thing.

We dump 30 percent of PagePipe’s technical content each year. Typically the 30 to 40 least popular articles. Why? We revisit our core pages, homepage, etc. and improve how well they target our specific audience. We don’t want to dilute our best content with thin content. That makes it hard for people to decide what to read.

Our goal is selling:

  1. DIY ebooks.
  2. speed services.
  3. rebuild websites.

Our break even is incredibly low. We don’t use any paid plugins or themes and we host on a cheap, shared server ($70 to  $95 per year) with no paid services like CDN. We don’t advertise or monetize.

If you have no enthusiasm for your site topic, people will know. They will be unconvinced you’ll improve their life.

Will you produce valuable content for your audience? That’s more important than speed.

Ignore Google’s whimsical 200 SEO signals – including speed!

You’ll weep when you read Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List. Because it’s so sad? No. Because it’s so overwhelming. It an encyclopedic explanation of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The article makes SEO sound so complex and mysterious – and confusing. It implies little nitpick details make a big difference. It’s anxiety producing.

But still, we recommend reading the whole thing anyway. Some people may then try gaming all silly 200 SEO factors. Don’t go there!

Will these “tricks” help more than writing good content?

Absolutely not.

SEO fiddling is a waste of time.

Be calm. Good page ranking is within your reach if you:

  1. Write about topics people want to read.

  2. Write content in an interesting way that keeps visitors reading more.

  3. You make text readable. What’s readable? Readability is the appearance or perception text may be easy to consume. That mean placing subhead and captions for skim readers. Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs. Then they will spend more time after skimming content cues and clues.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he article doesn’t reveal the hierarchy of ranking factors. What matters most is the summary list at the very end. Many will never make it there. It requires a lot of boring scrolling to arrive at the real pithy basics.

The author presents a shortlist at the end. These are the real fundamentals of what counts. They’re the most important Google ranking factors (or signals) according to the SEO article. But they aren’t explained in plain English. So we’ll attempt translating some more.

Here’s his list with our commentary:

  • Referring domains
    This is other websites linking to yours. It’s them choosing to advertise your site’s valuable content for free. Again, relevant content is good writing about interesting things. So get rid of your dud articles and uninteresting posts. Don’t make site-noise diluting “user attention.” That’s simple positioning strategy 101. Referring domains is the biggest influence on SEO. If you game inbound links with a link farm or purchased backlinks – there’s bad news. When Google gets wise to your ploy, they’ll punish you. Even blacklist your site. That sharp retaliation indicates the significance of this “ranking factor.” No mercy.

     


  • Organic click-through-rate
    Organic means Google non-paid listing. CTR is the percentage of *impressions* resulting in a “listing click” for a website. What’s an impression? That’s the number of times your listing (page title) gets viewed on the search engine page. You can view a page of 10 listings. If your your page title is chosen – bingo – that’s a “click.” If you own most of the 10 first-page listings, that’s called page dominance. When a searching reader suspects finding relevant content on your site, that’s information scent. What affects visitor suspicion or cues most? 1) The page title. 2) The “snippet” constructed by Google RankBrain, and 3) your publication date (freshness) if indicated. Publication dates are changed in WordPress for freshening up evergreen content. The snippet refers to a description extracted from page content.

     


  • Domain authority
    The only thing controllable here is the longevity of your domain name. That’s right – the date when you registered your name. You can buy an old domain name that’s in use and re-purpose it. Gaming the system. But then it’s back to writing good relevant content as the main influence of authority. Serve up user-valued information.

     


  • Mobile usability
    Mobile-first ranking is only two things: responsive screens and fast speed. And avoiding certain stupid web practices anyway. Like interstitial ads. Google AMP and Mobile Applications aren’t mentioned as good tricks. Praise the Lord!

     


  • Dwell time
    This is also called engagement. It’s time spent reading or consuming your wonderful page content. What helps with engagement? Good writing and interesting images. And suggesting relevant articles to keep people on your site reading more once there.

     


  • Total number of backlinks
    You can’t game or cheat backlinks without penalty. See the first item “Domain authority.”

     


  • Content quality
    Isn’t this about writing quality? Learned skills. Writing stuff people want to read.

     


  • On-page SEO
    A page title is a solid suggestion. This is an interesting and attention-getting headline. But it also needs to contain your keywords (positioning statement). Example: Yoast SEO plugin affects mobile WordPress speed. Then change it into a question: How does Yoast SEO affect mobile WordPress speed? or 10 ways Yoast SEO ruins mobile WordPress speed. Use good headline writing styles developed during the direct-mail years of graphic design.

     


ESOTERIC ON-PAGE-SEO DETAILS FOR THE TERMINALLY BORED

  1. Outbound links are a relevancy signal.
    PagePipe uses outbound links (resources) for credibility enhancement. Readers appreciate offsite links. How do we know? Feedback! They tell us in emails. And they see it as courageous. Because we might be sending them away from our site for good. Risk taking or confidence our content is good enough. But most often, they return to our tab.
  2. Internal links are good (of course you reference your other written material – duh. Common sense).
  3. Speed affects repeat visits – is that a surprise?
  4. Use synonyms for keywords – another “shocking” suggestion.
  5. Use ALT and title tags with keywords on image file names.
  6. Longer content ranks higher. Increase average dwell time by writing long, engaging content that keeps people reading. If you love your site topic or focus this shouldn’t be a burden. If you don’t have a fascination about your chosen field, you’d better quit now.

MYTH: I’ve installed Yoast, so I’m all set

Sometimes, this statement makes me want to spit out my coffee and laugh; other times, it makes me sad that new bloggers can be so gullible and clueless.

Why?

Because this is an utterly ridiculous statement.

First, some newer bloggers mistakenly think that Yoast “gives them SEO.” And, of course, it doesn’t. In fact, there is no plugin that “gives you SEO.” There is no such thing. Rather the blog posts you write and the activities you do for a post will get you organic traffic. There is no silver bullet and no easy way around this.

Rather, Yoast attempts to measure your SEO. It uses some basic formulas that “check off” some of the boxes. Notice how I say “attempts.” This is because it’s very formulaic. And, also, it’s not very accurate nor predictive. In fact, often it gives you bad advice because it will direct you to do things that will lead to keyword stuffing (which is very bad for SEO) as well as poor writing, and that is bad for user experience. And, if it’s a bad user experience, it’s bad for SEO.

Many people mistakenly think that if they get a green light that their post is SEO optimized and will rank well. This simply isn’t true. Far from it. It’s all based on the keyword phrase that you enter. It does not tell you if that’s a highly searched term nor your chances of ranking for it. And, it’s simply garbage in/garbage out.

–Debbie Gartner

Isn’t “on-page SEO” obvious best practices and common sense for writing?

Here’s the bottom line:

WRITE CONTENT PEOPLE WANT TO READ

That includes readability – not mentioned anywhere in the article or list. Make words look fun, easy, or interesting to read is a goal affecting SEO. Or at least, get out of the way of reading the words like fast speed or responsive sites remove barriers.

On websites, transparent features mean being invisible or undetectable. Speed is transparent when it’s fast. No one notices a fast page. But everyone hates a slow one. The best speed is instant page changes when clicked. Good speed is a transparent feature differentiating a site from competitors.

It’s our opinion, social sharing doesn’t affect page rank directly. But in general, it takes traffic away from your site – and when there the seduced visitor never returns. Social rarely brings quality visitors. Social 1) slows down your pages, 2) causes link clutter, 3) and takes people away. Is that helpful?

We ask clients if they quantify how much profit is because of social media. They can never answer that question. Why? Because it’s immeasurable. They’re following the web herd. All paid themes come with social links built-in. So that feature must be good. Right? Themes sometimes have heavy sliders, too. Uh.  Not good. Theme authors include every feature trying to please everyone.

In another article, the author recommends using “2018” “best” “guide” and “review” in titles. Make the title an “H1” tag. WordPress already does this.

Your SEO mission: learn writing skills.

Content IS the user experience.


Please remember relevant content is number one for SEO. Speed affects User Experience (UX). Good UX then influences metrics like dwell time, bounce rate, and click through. Google interprets those as user intent.

User intent is a major factor in search engine optimization and conversion optimization.

Speed affects page ranking less than 1 percent. But everyone hates a slow page. That’s not being hospitable or polite.

Speed is about kindness!

Common-sense tip number one: Good Titles.

Writing good titles for your WordPress posts should be obvious. But we’re always stunned at how many sites don’t use this simple tactic to improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and click through.

Page title is important. People choose to click your listing on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) instead of nine other competitive page titles. A title arouses human curiosity. If it doesn’t, it’s a loser. The WordPress permalink is written for machines (search). It doesn’t need to match. Title is an important controllable indicator of relevant content in the search listings. This affects findability, too.

People read your article based on it’s title.

A good title reads like a headline. A plugin we used for a year is a good teacher for writing better titles. Title Experiments is a free plugin available in the WordPress plugin repository. The plugin allows you to test multiple title variations for any post or page.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
WP Title Experiments Free

Load Time: 70 milliseconds

Title Experiments relies on the old classic WordPress editor. It won’t be updated to support Gutenberg block editor added in WP 5.x. This is the author’s excuse to ditch the paid plugin. It’s plain he’s disappointed by the lack of plugin income. No enthusiasm to go on.

Our workaround is simple. Use the Classic Editor Plugin with the Classic Editor Addon. So even if your core version is 5.0+ and your running PHP 7.x, things still work.

Title Experiments is a helpful plugin. We learned a lot about what titles work and what doesn’t for user engagement. But the heavy plugin was a top contributors to site drag. So we removed it after our education on writing better headlines (page titles).

Title Experiments relies heavily on the old editor of WordPress and will not be updated to support Gutenberg (WPv5.0+).

This is an author’s excuse to ditch the plugin.

Every year we review the last 4 months of traffic and see what is performing and trending. We’ve found our worst performing posts always have a lame headline (title). Renaming the post is the best thing to try first. We also dump dead posts or consolidate posts. This has proven effective for three years now.

For example, a mere label such as Ferritin and Hypothyroidism could be rewritten for human interest.

“What are your optimal ferritin levels if you have hypothyroidism?”

That makes people curious and they click. Questions are always good. And including the word “you” is beneficial. Answer the readers question, “What’s in it for me?”

Purging your site is wise and focuses your content. That’s good positioning strategy. It affects perception of your site credibility.

How to find out what you should be writing about?

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ntuition is needed for what future content to add. Not just metric history evaluation. The best article to write probably isn’t even on your radar yet. Our best post ideas come from reader’s emails who have questions. When we’re done writing long answers, we convert the email into a post – or add to an existing post.

Analyzing your inquiries isn’t something Google Analytics can do. Except for one helpful thing:

If you go to Google Analytics > Behavior > Site content > View full report (down in the right hand corner), you’re shown the top 10 of xxx pages. In our case 378 pages, we then change the “show rows” to 400. You then can see all posts and pages by popularity. You will see some entries with the following format:

/?s=Beaver+builder

This line above originated from our WordPress search box. A human couldn’t find something they needed on our site. Important info. They wanted to know more about Beaver Builder page builder plugin.

We don’t have a Beaver Builder article. Do we need one? Maybe.

Going to the top of the GA page, there is an Export function on the right. We download the entire set for whatever period we choose and import that into a spreadsheet.

Then we categorize and sort the “searches.” The results reveal what people were looking for. We then test by doing a Google Search on the terms with the name “PagePipe.” That reveals what kind of placement the search phrase gets in the rankings.

This influences what we write about based on reader’s questions we’re not answering. So far this is helpful. How else can you learn what you don’t know?

From our recent analysis, we generated the following preliminary titles for future posts:

  • Why don’t we write about good hosts? Why only the bad ones?
  • How does cookie consent compliance affect speed?
  • Measuring HTTPS/SSL drag with ByteCheck
  • Why we don’t review paid themes
  • Why we don’t recommend CDN
  • How to use Cache Enabler plugin for speed.
  • Is Imsanity plugin good for speed?
  • How to use Autoptimize plugin for speed.
  • Magnetic versus SSD hosting for speed
  • What is site-origin optimization?
  • Speeding up Astra theme
  • Speeding up WooCommerce sites
  • Why use twenty-seventeen theme instead of twenty-nineteen?

We then work on these article ideas one-by-one.

OTHER OFFSITE LINKS ABOUT WRITING GOOD TITLES
We Analyzed 912 Million Blog Posts. Here’s What We Learned About Content Marketing


One of the biggest decisions is deciding what to not sell, who not to sell to, and what not to promise. Telling people who you’re not is just as important as telling them who you are.

[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou must have something of value to sell. This is called the value offer for other people. This is about some pain or anxiety visitors are trying to resolve. This is their motivation.

Creative positioning strategy is a short cut to buyer’s motivation.

An offer includes terms, warranty, delivery, price, incentives and more.

People won’t be instantly convinced you’re a credible source. Web visitors are suspicious of every website.

In Google-speak, motivation is “intent” or “relevance.” Search engines attempt to rank the content of your site for intent, relevance or credibility.

Relevance is often determined by how many people searching for a key phrase go to your site (click-thru).

So. Why aren’t you getting traffic? First, look at your first-page Google listing competitors. They’re big companies with tons of articles, authority and credibility. You have to outperform them.

Does your site appear on the first 20 pages of Google for your preferred search term. Or after ten pages do you still have nothing? Focus on what matters most to people (relevant topic).

If 33 percent of your blog traffic is funneling through an unrelated topic page, these people have no intention of buying services or products. We recommend monetizing the page with a relevant paid download – or spin it off as a separate website – or else get rid of it.

Why get rid of a page creating 10,000 visitors a month? Because they aren’t qualified leads. It’s causing noise or dilution. Content pollution.

What’s a qualified lead?

A qualified lead (visitor) has money (budget), authority to buy, is ready to buy (timing), has the problem you can solve (need).

If a site bounce rate is 80 percent, those are people who don’t care and leave immediately. While we’ve seen worse, that isn’t goodness. Only 20 percent of people visiting stay and read something. The most they’ll read is a partial article. 80 percent leave instantly.

Maintaining an email list may not improve business profits. Selling an Amazon book may not increase business profits. They do increase “credibility” but they don’t increase profits.

Credibility consists of three components: trustworthiness, expertise, and enthusiasm. Credibility influences people or persuades them you can deliver what you promise. Remember they’re suspicious of all websites, not just yours.

Content is the user experience. What helps convince visitors you’re credible is how much content you’ve written related to solving their problem. That’s an “authority” goal of 50 articles. But if the articles don’t help them and are just fluffy, they won’t be convinced. “Fluffy” is referred to as thin content by Google. When you give away valuable information, visitors (and Google) are more prone to trust you more. The trust less if you charge for every little thing.

We dump 30 percent of PagePipe’s technical content each year. Typically the 30 to 40 least popular articles. Why? We revisit our core pages, homepage, etc. and improve how well they target our specific audience. We don’t want to dilute our best content with thin content. That makes it hard for people to decide what to read.

Our goal is selling:

  1. DIY ebooks.
  2. speed services.
  3. rebuild websites.

Our break even is incredibly low. We don’t use any paid plugins or themes and we host on a cheap, shared server ($70 to $95 per year) with no paid services like CDN. We don’t advertise or monetize.

If you have no enthusiasm for your site topic, people will know. They will be unconvinced you’ll improve their life.

Will you produce valuable content for your audience? That’s more important than speed.

Unawares you broke your lovely site activating PHP 7.x.

PHP 7 is twice as fast as PHP 5.x and requires one fraction of the server memory.

Comparison of PHP version speeds.

Does activating PHP 7 from version 5.6 make a difference in speed test scores? There is no measurable load-time difference in milliseconds. None. Why no improvement?

Some claim to add PHP 7 instead of a version 5.6 speeds up page loads by 300 milliseconds on a cache-less site. We don’t see that improvement evaluating with normal online tests like Pingdom.com or WebPagetest.org.

On a well-optimized site, there is no speed change evident. But the same can be said about caching plugins, minification plugins, and CDNs. With proper origin optimization, there’s little benefit from inadequate speed fix-it attempts. Band-aids.

Our PagePipe blog is a well-optimized site. So why would we even want to risk a change? We write about plugin technology and speed. We stay current to “walk the talk.” We also have an insatiable curiosity. So we did it.

A 3,760-word article at WP Elevation is about the pain of producing websites. The article expresses everything we hate about website creation. The thought of building “explosive live hand grenades” stresses us. Just reading the article was stressful. Why?

Because it’s true. The nit-picky horrors described are exactly what occurs during web projects. Client or website owner expectations are high. Their technical knowledge is often low.

A new monster arose on the WordPress horizon.

The fragile nature of WordPress and PHP v7.x.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hy does adding PHP 7.x break your site? Our choice to transition our GoDaddy-host-server to PHP 7 rattled our nerves. And we’re initiated in this stuff. Our experience is a good example of what goes wrong. Upgrading PHP version 5.6 to version 7.x is a simple C-panel setting – but not without potential consequences.

PHP 7 released long ago on December, 3rd, 2015. GoDaddy didn’t add this server option for a year and a half. Why? Because they knew the changes might break hundreds of thousands of WordPress websites. They left it up to users to perform the update. And they delayed the service call costs for as long as possible. The GoDaddy default version was set to 5.4. Making users choose their poison was smart. Users then are responsible for breakage. Or dialing back the PHP version themselves – or tracking down fixes. GoDaddy is blameless – sort of.

Above: Pie chart – Percentages of WordPress sites using different PHP versions.

Risk breaking my site? Why even care about PHP version 7.x?

PHP is the code of WordPress, a server-side programming language. It first appeared in 1995. All themes and plugins use PHP, too. Upgrading your site to run on PHP 7 instead of PHP 5.6, you’ll improve the performance of WordPress core by 2x. That’s right. Twice as fast is the typical gain in core speed. We anxiously waited and watched for this no-extra-cost, speed opportunity. Free speed. Most vendors upgraded long ago. So we felt snubbed. But we didn’t change hosts. We like bragging about good speed achieved under the worst conditions!

So how faster does WordPress core load? We should see a 100- to 300-millisecond improvement. But we never see betterment in testing. Updating PHP is a theoretical improvement – not an actual improvement.

PHP running twice as fast doesn’t mean your website loads twice as fast. We’ve never seen significant, measurable differences switching back and forth between PHP 5.6 and PHP 7.3 on various hosts. For us, it’s a theoretical improvement in speed. We think it’s good – but if you don’t change versions – no problem for us. It might be a problem for you at a future date.

PHP 7.x isn’t going to break WordPress – it may cause some of your plugins to malfunction. Perhaps your theme. But the result is the same, your site appears broken. You can test all your plugins using a free plugin. Naturally! We tested with:

★★★★★
PHP Compatibility Checker
Active installs: 30,000+
Compressed download: 1M

With this plugin above, you can check your site for PHP 7 compatibility.

★★★★★
Display PHP Version
Active installs: 40,000+
Compressed download: 11k

Display PHP Version plugin displays the current PHP version in the “At a Glance” admin dashboard widget. We like it.

So what broke after the change from 5.6 to 7.x?

  1. Broken Link Checker – compatible – warning 1 – This plugin broke the site when viewed on an Apple iPad. Meaningless code was all over the screen. We disabled the plugin. This is plugin causing site drag anyway. Only use it during maintenance. Leave it disabled. On some host, they ban Broken Link Checker. Why? Because it overloads the server slowing down other sharing domains.
  2. Simple Content Adder – We got a red flag for the file revisions.php. But we couldn’t find it breaking anything. We left it as-is.
  3. SS Downloads – red flag – This favorite old plugin broke the site with PHP error screen. The plugin failed because it triggered a fatal error. The plugin is for email capture before PDF downloads. We had to dump the plugin. Presently, all our free downloads use MailChimp signup. We do product downloads with Easy Digital Downloads plugin on our store site.
  4. Title Experiments Free – compatible but 7 warnings. We wrote plugin author, Jason Funk, and he updated the plugin to version 8.9 for PHP 7.1 compatibility. No more warnings. Thanks, Jason. [Jason later removed this plugin from the directory.] It caused global loading – site drag.
  5. WordPress Popular Posts – compatible – 24 warnings. The plugin stopped gathering data for page visits. This is the primary reason we use this plugin. It’s very popular with 300,000+ active installs (v3.3.4) The new version 4.0.0 is now PHP 7.x compatible. It has slow Font Awesome onboard but it’s not enqueued. We’re thankful. We like the new GUI control panel for the plugin. The original plugin was a 125k zip file. The new one is 759k. Most extra weight is font overhead for the control panel. It doesn’t affect your site’s front end. This newest version is now available on the WordPress directory. We don’t use this plugin any more because of site drag.

How fast was PagePipe home page after the switch to PHP 7.x?
699 milliseconds unprimed cache and 440 primed. Superfast even on GoDaddy mechanical, shared server with no CDN.

So a quick comparison of primed cache:
PHP 7.2: Pingdom NY PagePipe home page – primed cache: 559ms.
PHP 5.6: Pingdom NY PagePipe home page – primed cache: 567ms.

8 milliseconds gain with TTFB fluctuations. Maybe? Insignificant gain on an optimized page. We’d be better off economizing in other areas.

Why no big gains? Because we have super optimized the homepage. There’s a point of diminishing returns. Only fat bloated slow websites benefit from the PHP version switch.

PHP gains are overrated and exaggerated. A bloated site gets the most improvement. So PHP is a cheap test of site bloat. Big speed improvements from PHP indicates a big potential from the investment in site origin optimization.

“None of my speed tests provided clear evidence that my site now loads faster on PHP 7 compared to PHP 5.6.” – OFFSITE REFERENCE: https://wpsmackdown.com/switching-to-php-7/

Don’t be fooled. Learn how to identify the fastest themes.

We evaluated 35 theme candidates. All are available as free downloads from the WordPress theme repository. They came to our attention via email newsletters. Some are new and others are older but still popular. The alphabetical list is at the bottom of this page.

Here we report some theme trends that affect website speed and how to evaluate what is important.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]emember, our goal is a two-second, home-page load time using WordPress. The lighter the theme overhead the more headroom we have in our performance budget for adding things like images, forms, and other features.

There are certain cues and clues that help us evaluate a theme for speed potential (fast page load) – without installing it first. The download package size is number one on our list. Any theme download that is under 1M (zipped) usually is a sure bet for speed. But larger than that compressed file size doesn’t always mean a speed failure. You have to dig deeper by downloading the package and examining the contents. The 1M package size is a quick-and-dirty selection method.

A compressed theme package may contain many resources – or sometimes non-features. When we say non-features, we refer to fluffy bloat intended to deceptively entice website owners. Theme authors include these things to make the theme appear “feature rich.” But most features have a speed price.

Modern WordPress Speed Traps

When evaluating themes for speed, you need to consider the following:

  • Google Fonts (or worse the heavier Typekit) will slow down a website. It’s now rare to see a theme using fast-loading system fonts. Die-hards argue that most Google Fonts are now present in all browser cache. There is no way to prove this with present online testing tools. We estimate a 100 millisecond slow down uing Google Fonts instead of websafe fonts.
  • Fontawesome icon font – or an equivalent such as genericons or glyphicons. Icons are a popular inclusion. The downside is they load universally on all WordPress pages and posts whether the icons are used or not. How much this slows down a site depends on variables. We feel icon fonts are justified if you leverage them in your page design. But usually, it’s better to dequeue the font in the WordPress functions.php file and simply use icon PNG image files. If you remove the font files from your server using FTP or C-panel, you will end up slowing down the site even worse with 404 errors. Fontawesome can slow down a site by 500 milliseconds or more – 1 second delay isn’t uncommon. But how bad it really is depends. More typically, you’ll see delays of 100 to 200 milliseconds. There may be some improvement by using Better Font Awesome plugin and loading from their external CDN. We’ve played with this in tests and it has some potential for time-saving parallel loading.
  • Sliders are common additions now. When they are built into a theme, they may universally slow down all pages – even when they are only used on the Home page. How bad this delay is depends upon the slider. But for example, Nivoslider slows down all site pages by minimum of 200 milliseconds – even when no slider is present. The most popular in the 35-theme evaluation was Nivoslider (5 instances). Other sliders included: bxslider, OwlCarousel, Flexslider, Sldr, lightslider, and few custom ones. 19 of the 35 themes used sliders – that’s 54 percent. Over half. Sometimes, a better strategy is adding a standalone slider plugin and then selectively activating the plugin only on pages where it’s needed. The best plugin to do this is Plugin Logic.
  • Every theme includes a screenshot that serves as an icon in the WordPress theme control panel. These are rarely optimized images. In this evaluation, they vary from 100k to 2.5M Jpeg file sizes. The typical size is about 600k. This extra theme package weight doesn’t slow down the theme. But it’s an indicator of the theme author’s attention to speed details. A bloated screenshsot is simply benign, but wasteful, overkill.
  • It’s common for many themes to include sample or demo images. Like screenshots, these are rarely optimized images. 16 of our themes included header or slider images for easy setup. But they are extra baggage in the package. Worst case we had one theme with over 5M of Jpegs. But more typically, they were around 200k to 500k. These images are not intended to be used. They will be slow loading.
  • Theme packages may include language translations. These can add from 100k to 600k. But only 6 of our samples had these files. They don’t slow down a site. They just increase the package size.

The final proof is installing the themes and doing benchmarks. But, as noted above, there are things that can streamline our selection process before installation.

Fatness and popularity: Site owners prefer bloat.

The pressure to inflate theme package sizes is almost irresistible for theme authors. This is evidenced by the popularity of two examples: Zerif-lite (2.7M zip) 100,000 installs and Hueman (2.1M zip) 80,000 installs. And the incredible, 7M-download Enigma theme with 30,000 installs. Most themes are lucky if they get 10,000 installs. The fatter the more popular.

So if a theme is popular with the most installs, you can bet it’s a slow loading theme.

There’s a great article we recommend over at WP Rocket about choosing fast themes >

[table]
,MB,expanded,installs,fontawesome,header image
,,,,,
accelerate.1.2.5,0.79,1.5,20000,0.959,1100px
accesspress-basic.3.0.3,1.2,2.2,3000,0.891,
activello.1.0.2,2.1,3.5,10000,1.1,
amazing-blog.1.0.7,1.3,1.9,600,0.838,1140px
awaken.2.0.5,1.5,2.4,10000,0.815,
awesome.1.2.1,3.2,3.7,900,0.835,1280 fullscreen
bizgrowth.1.6,2,2.6,1000,0.835,fullscreen
blogim.1.2.6,0.947,1.7,700,0.718,
canape.1.0.2,0.922,1.1,1000,0.166,fullscreen
coral-light.1.0.4,1.2,1.8,200,0.718,980px
dellow.1.0.6.4,1.1,1.8,700,0.672,parallax 1920x1080px
enigma.2.4.2,7,9.1,30000,0.147,
faceblog.1.0.5,1.2,1.6,50,0.838,composite blocks
flatter.1.1.6,2.5,3.5,2000,0.718,
futura.1.5,0.484,1.6,500,,parallax 1920x1080px
grow.1.0.9,3.2,7,2000,0.838,
hemingway.1.56,0.936,1.1,30000,,parallax
hueman.3.1.6,2.1,5.2,80000,1.6,
kotha.1.4,1.3,2.2,2000,1,
make.1.7.4,2.2,4.2,20000,,
nisarg.1.2.6,5.3,6,10000,0.891,fullscreen
perfetta.1.3.0,0.857,1.3,1000,0.718,
pingraphy.1.3.0,0.957,1.5,2000,0.719,
quidus.2.134,1.3,2.6,1000,0.199,parallax
rams.1.15,0.37,0.457,2000,,
responsive-brix.2.2.5,1.1,2.2,2000,0.838,
revive.1.0.0.1,1.2,2.8,2000,0.899,
simona.1.0.4,1.6,2.4,1000,1,1600 × 800 pixels
sixteen.1.5.4,1.4,1.9,9000,,parallax
splendor.1.0.3,3.6,3.7,300,0.194,
tora.1.07,1.3,2,1000,0.459,parallax
tracks.1.50,1.3,2.3,10000,0.899,
travel-eye.1.5,1.2,2.1,1000,0.959,
ultrabootstrap.1.0.8,1.9,2.8,300,1.1,
zerif-lite.1.8.4.4,2.7,4,100000,0.606,
[/table]


LOOKING FOR A NEW THEME FOR 2021?

 

thumbnail of THEME-ME-10-v1.compressed
THEME.ME: What is the fastest free theme? There are 5,100 free themes in the WordPress theme directory. Of those, only 1,602 are responsive. All the rest are fixed-width junk. How did we sort the remaining 1,602 free responsive themes to find the fastest loading?

 

Twenty-seventeen Default Theme Tips Read our torture-test results of this popular free theme. Don’t get locked in for recurring *annual renewal* theme memberships. Save your money. The Twenty-seventeen Torture-tested Themes ebook contains honest and common-sense reporting and tips about mobile WordPress speed!

Stressing out over outrageous humbug speed scores.

Can you fix 377 poor URLs – and get me some good green speed scores?

The majority of my blog visitors are on desktop browsers. Out of 700+ web pages – 377 are rated poor on speed tests. They all have vital problems related to site speed with *in the red* ratings.

My host won’t allow CDN.

For both mobile and desktop, I want fast load times – and high test scores (95+  in Google PageSpeed Insights).

I also want to serve WebP images and keep the existing theme and site builder.

Relax!

We don’t check speed with scores – or “greenness” – or big fat A’s. Our PagePipe speed strategy is unconventional and nonconformist.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/online-speed-test-scores-are-especially-useless-for-mobile-speed-improvement/

The biggest reason to ignore speed scores is they don’t improve SEO or ranking. That’s governed by readable and desirable content. Are we preaching to the choir?

All Green test scores. Scores with straight A scores. These bogus vanity metrics do not represent a good load time for your site speed. This client homepage loads in over 6 seconds on desktop – with perfect green scores. The goal is under 2 seconds!

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter relevant and quality content, what improves long-term SEO is user experience (UX). That is how a person feels when they use your website. Speed is a component in UX. So is readable content. Speed’s a hurdle or barrier. Some will never see your beautiful, clean site aesthetics – or read your riveting content. That’s a worst-case scenario. Visitors sense danger in their cynical and suspicious mind. Your slow page is a subliminal indicator of poor quality and apathy.

They assume your site is about to rob them – or steal their identity. Credibility is what overcomes those fears. Credibility is trustworthiness, expertise, and enthusiasm. But they won’t sit waiting. They need to feel it in an instant.

Speed then becomes a critical marketing differentiation. It’s how you feel when you walk into the lobby of a motel. Were you greeted at the entrance? Or did you wait while ringing a chime at the motel desk?

That’s *hospitality* and Hospitality Management is a career discipline. Speed is hospitality. You care enough to be present immediately. Instant attention.

So how bad is your speed? Is it above average? The internet norm is an 8-second page load. Ridiculous. What’s the longest people wait before 100-percent bailout? 10 seconds.

People are impatient. They won’t wait. Their expectation is 2 seconds on desktop and mobile. They begin bailing out at that point and all disappear by 10 seconds. That’s for the initial page they land on. After that, they’ll tolerate 3 seconds if they think they’ll find what they seek. That’s information scent. Speed is a strong precursory cue delivering *the right scent* — like with a motorized fan. No waiting for the yummy scent to waft through the internet.

Information scent REFERENCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_foraging#Information_scent

So if scores don’t matter, what does?

The next erroneous assumption is “requests” are the best indicator of performance improvement. That metric isn’t valid either. A site with a ton of requests can load fast.

All that matters is milliseconds of load time first. And second, for mobile-users: page weight.

Do tests claim you have vital speed problems for mobile? Are you certain they are real problems that make a difference in profitability? Remember, scores are meaningless to us. Milliseconds load time is the metric. But even more than that is profit.

So let’s answer those speed questions:

[dropcap]1[/dropcap]You can’t use CDN. That’s great. Not using CDN is a blessing in disguise.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/cloudflare-doesnt-guarantee-consistent-load-times/

[dropcap]2[/dropcap]You want to use webP format? Why? WebP format only improves image page weights by 10 percent. Because of parallel image loading in browsers, this gain is insignificant. It’s not worth it. It doesn’t even translate into a 1 percent gain in speed (milliseconds).

[dropcap]3[/dropcap]Not changing your theme or removing your page builder is whimsical. It’s like saying, “Don’t do serious speed tuning – instead give me a speed miracle.” But you’re right, we charge for miracles. $600.

[dropcap]4[/dropcap]What should you do instead? For better speed, get rid of the following popular heavy plugins or find substitutions:

Contact Form 7
https://pagepipe-ebooks.com/mail-me-speed-knockoff-inspired-by-contact-form-7-plugin/

Social Warfare
Is social media earning you money?

Alternative plugin:
https://wordpress.org/plugins/lightweight-social-icons/

All In One SEO Pack
REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/autodescription-seo-plugin-and-mobile-speed/

Shortpixel Image Optimiser
FREE PDF in this article page: https://pagepipe.com/the-fastest-alternatives-to-heavy-jpeg-images-for-page-speed/

Alternative Plugin Recommendation: https://wordpress.org/plugins/imsanity/

Now check the following for even more speed:

Substitute web fonts with a mobile system stack.
REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/zero-latency-fonts-for-mobile-speed-system-ui-font/

Load Google Analytics ID faster.
REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-does-google-analytics-affect-mobile-page-speed/

Remove Emojis.
REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-to-eliminate-deadweight-emojis-in-wordpress/

Do you have a globally-loading Ajax library?
REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/ajax-slows-down-wordpress-popular-posts-plugin/

Future-proof site strategy requires fast and free default themes.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Changing a site for mere redecoration is absurd. Aesthetic design alterations rarely make a difference in profitability. Graphic complication is often whimsical, not strategic.

Change can cause problems. Before now, it was foolish to update themes to newer versions without a child theme for protection.

[dropcap]U[/dropcap]sing a child theme was a prerequisite to preserving custom CSS coding. When we recently upgraded a clients theme to “redecorate,” the updated theme disabled the old One-click Child plugin completely. That’s not normal. We lost the customization CSS.

There’s more to this site conversion story:

Redecorating and speed improvements made no measurable improvements in web metrics. Those were measured by Google Analytics over a two-year period. That’s right. Bounce rate, dwell time, and traffic count didn’t change for the better. The site under test has 70 to 80 percent mobile traffic. These mobile-first changes made no difference over the short term or long term. The speed dropped below 2 seconds (goodness) from the old speed of 4 seconds (badness). The site was also enhanced to appeal to an all female audience. While this made the site feel much more credible, it didn’t change the traffic quality.

Why did speed and aesthetic changes fail to help this site? Simple. Content wasn’t valued enough by a larger audience. The pie didn’t get bigger or better. The content is written in a mix of formal and scientific writing. It’s boring medical jargon.

You can’t bore people and expect them to stay just because your site is fast and beautiful.

In the past, a child theme (plugin) was the best way to protect custom code during upgrades or updates. But that is no longer true.

Note: Using a child theme adds one request slowing down all pages.

Simple CSS plugin doesn’t add any requests. It’s a faster method.

Custom code is now placed in the Customizer. You’d do this in the “Additional CSS” section. But it is vulnerable, too. It’s better to use a plugin called “Simple CSS.” It appears right there in the Customizer ready to receive your custom code. And protects it during updates, upgrades, or theme changes.

We have an assortment of fast themes from the WordPress directory. We collect themes for evaluation. But those freebies don’t always meet the criteria of longevity and easy updates.

Using stock WordPress default themes for better speed.

Annual default themes are well designed. Annual generic default themes are usually conservative. No cutting-edge experimentation. Our recommendation is using a lightweight default theme. If your site has 70- to 80-percent mobile traffic, small screen users are a priority. Mobile-first ranking is number one for SEO. There are only six WordPress default themes working well as responsive designs and fast loading:

Often people think free themes are low quality. It’s quite the contrary. … Free WordPress themes are actually held to a higher quality standard. All themes in the official WordPress theme directory go through a strict theme review process.

There are some very talented folks in the theme review team who examine and test these themes before they are included into the directory. – source

Swapping generic themes is a torture test. It’s unrealistic to expect themes to be interchangeable. Swapping to another theme is often the same as “nuking” a site by upgrading. Then restoring (reinstalling) the original theme choice and assessing the damage. That demonstrates how resilient a potential theme upgrade is. It may be destructive testing.

You can create a staging area on your server using WP Staging plugin. But you can’t “push back” to the live area without buying the pro version. We do the tests using the free version. Then duplicate the changes on the live site after we verify in staging. It’s not that painful and safer than working live with unknowns.

How long are stock WordPress themes supported?

WordPress core supplies the last three-years default themes with the latest core version. That means they’re fresh. They’re updated for most-recent WordPress version compatibility. That means these are getting special support treatment and attention. Top of the pile.

Is their speed excellent?

Yes. We’ve had good results. Strip themes of Google Fonts, Emojis, other WordPress baggage, etc. Do those modifications with plugins not affected by updates.

Are they designed and supported by WordPress.org?

Yes. They’re prime. They’re portfolio pieces for the chosen theme designers. Based on history, we expect active theme support for at least 7 years. And there’s no marketing upselling to pro versions. They’re updated with each new core release.

What if your web developer croaks? Who’s their successor? Will they know what to do? Do you have to scrap everything?

If you fire your web developer today, you’re left with a difficult task of reverse engineering their work. You don’t deserve that vulnerability. It’s great job security for the developer – but not a good practice for you.

The last web contractor is always the fall guy. New developers will definitely change the theme for easiest possible upgrades – for them – not you, the site owner. They charge you to do that. They’d swear at us for our past choices – and say derogatory insults about our skills or mindset.

Most web designers and developers have an odd need to complicate sites. They add whizzy features like animation, sliders, parallax background images, etc. This makes it look like they worked harder. They love gadgetry. But these are the things that bloat a site.

Feature gaps are the things the theme of your dreams is missing.

The feature gap can be closed completely with the use of plugins. … The selection of the right plugins can make all the difference in turning a site that is almost what you want into one that meets or exceeds the needs of your business and your audience. – source

Free WordPress themes tend to be compatible with a lot more plugins than premium themes. This is because all the free WordPress themes in the official repository all have to meet certain standards to be approved. – source

Simplicity is our goal.

If we had a crystal ball, we’d predict theme difficulties or fragility. You can step into a trap. “Who is the guilty party?” That answer to future brokenness varies. Is it the developer’s judgment? The theme creator? The plugins selected? Or WordPress making big changes? WordPress is a dynamic landscape full of potential risks.

The goal is preserving the look and speed while hardening the site for future changes. Then you’re improving website “shelf-life.” Return on investment!

We document site specifications and upgrading procedure as a deliverable PDF. This is a style guide or brand manual. The goal is making it as easy as possible for another web technician to pick up the reigns and keep going. We charge $900 for style guides. That’s because once we hand it over, we’re out of the picture. No more income. Obsolete. The site owner can approach any developer and hand them our blueprint.

Speed websites are not canned or off-the-shelf. It requires a brain. You’re smart enough to figure it out. But how much of your life would you burn up? For us, we’re motivated and curious to learn new things. We enjoy theme experiments to increase our knowledge of future successful projects.

Theme changes have unknowable risks. All projects do. We fail many times in testing before there’s a success. You have to check the grief factor.

MIGRATION IRREGULARITIES
We do important tweaking of site speed using the Plugin Logic plugin. It’s a secret weapon allowing us to activate or deactivate plugins using page or post URLs. The URLs are static instead of dynamic. Also known as Absolute versus Relative links. This means if the site moves to staging areas or is migrated, the URLs listed will not change to the new domain URLs. Plugin Logic settings are then pointing to the wrong addresses. Page and posts may appear broken because other plugin functions are not activated.

It makes WordPress look bad when a theme change causes big disruption.

You need a future-proof theme strategy. It needs to support long-term and be fast loading. Claims that a paid or free theme is fast loading doesn’t mean it’s true. We’ve done tests and written about this terrible marketing deception. It’s false advertising. Authors use exaggeration of better speed as a marketing differentiator.

We have investigated thousands of paid and free themes. They both share the same vulnerabilities. We wish paid (premium) themes would have better support and performance. Paid-themes are usually more complicated and have longer learning curves. There are no guarantees you’ll get what you hope or what’s in the demo. Theming companies and authors sellout or go bankrupt overnight. They are under no obligation to support a theme. They can stop at any time.

We don’t like this vaporous aspect of the WordPress world. It’s inherent in open-source volunteer communities. It plagues plugins, too. Even some of the biggest and most popular plugins can go sour.

Technical volatility is a motivating factor to not sell WordPress web services.

So what is the safest and fastest theme strategy? We examined a new website to see if we could speed it up. We asked, “What theme is this? We’ve never seen it before.” He replied, “It’s stock WordPress’ Twenty-sixteen – customized.”

We were stunned.

We never realized you could build on top of one of those generic themes and still have it look great. It requires stripping the theme and then building up features with well-selected plugins. He was using our “speed strategy.”

WordPress is proud of long-term support for their annual themes. It’s a matter of professionalism for them. That works to our advantage. WordPress is not going away. Neither are those annual, pre-packaged themes. From our tests, those featured-and-endorsed themes are fastest.

Don’t throw money at a premium theme. Give Twenty-thirteen through Twenty-nineteen themes preferential consideration as long-term theme solutions. We recommend that direction.

Any theme, paid or free, can be abandoned or even banned. That’s the risk of the WordPress world.

For example, WordPress suspended Zerif Lite, a theme with 300,000 installs for 5 months. Why? Because they didn’t keep widget content active after upgrades. That non-compliance cost that author (ThemeIsle) $35,000 per month in revenue. Today they only have 100,000 installs. Ouch. Big hit.

So we place our bet based upon reading the signs of theme credibility and longevity.

Accelerate theme uses a widgetized front page for homepage customization. It’s a common theme-developer workaround. In times past, its only flaw was when making upgrades. All widgets “retired” to the Inactive Widgets section. They then were installed again one-by-one (drag and drop) to the right locations. It was a confusing puzzle.

Accelerate theme is not the Lone Ranger. All themes dependent on “widgetized” front pages potentially have this same not-so-well-known bugaboo. It’s not advertised – that’s for certain. To fix the errant Zerif Lite theme, the author’s add a stopgap plugin to maintain widgetized page content.

https://wptavern.com/zerif-lite-suspended-from-wordpress-theme-directory-300k-users-left-without-updates

https://wptavern.com/zerif-lite-returns-to-wordpress-org-after-5-month-suspension-and-63-decline-in-revenue

Be wise in your theme selection. Look at free WordPress authored themes first.

The average price for a premium theme is $57.54. – source


Premium WordPress themes have a higher potential for theme bloat. Which is the natural trade-off that occurs with more features and functionality. – source

Why we never evaluate mobile speed with Think-With-Google test results.

Google updated their Think-With-Google testmysite tool. We thought we’d check it out and see if it gave us any valid speed information.

Previously 3 seconds was Good – now it’s Poor!

We’ve run a bunch of test on TestMySite tool – including Google.com URL itself. https://Google.com/ produced a 1.1 second load time. Guess they’re just “average,” too, like us. What a relief!

Pagepipe-ebooks.com – our store – got an “average” rating also at 2 seconds.

Is this test lame or what?

Source: Google’s published speed groupings are:

Fast
Under 1 second

Average
1 second to 2.5 seconds

Slow
2.5 seconds and up

So what’s a 10-second site? Extra slow? Man, that’s worse than extra slow. And how about a horrible 25-second page load?  XXS (extra-extra slow)? This test is an embarrassment – a misleading sham.

Their speed test said our page loaded in 2 seconds flat. The contradictory report said, “2.5 seconds.” Which is it then? Make up your mind!

How much money did Google spend creating this wonderful web gadget?

Face it. Very few sites are under 1 second. Even Google couldn’t do it on their model homepage. Perhaps only 1 or 2 percent of the web can make a less-than-1-second claim. This bogus test crushes the spirits of ordinary site owners. Do common WordPress sites have unlimited resources to throw at speed performance? Hardly. And if you are “1 second exactly” are you “fast” or “average”? They say both in their groupings. Confusing weirdness.

Wake up! Speed does NOT affect SEO directly. It affects user experience. UX indirectly affects metrics indicating user intent.

User intent is a major factor in search engine optimization and conversion optimization.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he speed test most professionals prefer is webpagetest.org for testing speed – and TTFB. That service is also owned by Google – but doesn’t wear their branding. It’s open source and free. Pingdom is valuable, too. Other tests we steer clear of for a variety of reasons. All tests give different results.

Tests like Google PageSpeed Insights are bogus, too. Making their suggested changes may change your score. They definitely won’t change your speed. And, never improves SEO page ranking. Wasted time and energy.

All Google’s suggestions for “improving” our PagePipe store ruins our site’s ecommerce features completely. It’s faster! Big deal. It’s broken. No sales – but dang it’s fast. Don’t trust the recommendations of any speed score.

Speed scores are irrelevant. Only load time in milliseconds and page weight in kilobytes or megabytes are what count for mobile. But isn’t perceived speed good enough on mobile? Nope. The weight loading behind the scenes consumes mobile data allowances. Feature bloat costs mobile users money.

What are the real averages not the ideal averages? We don’t live in a Utopian world using WordPress. How bad is bad?

So how good is good-enough speed?

MachMatrics has answers based on 2018 Internet data:

What is the average load time?
8.66 seconds.

What’s recommended?
Under 3 seconds.


What’s the average webpage size?
1.88 megabytes (M)

What’s recommended?
Under 500 kilobytes (k)


What’s the average number of resources?
115.6 requests

What’s recommended?
Under 50.


What’s the average server delay? (TTFB – time to first byte)
2.11 seconds

What’s recommended?
Under 1.3 seconds


“A one-second delay in webpage time equals a 7% reduction in conversions, 11% fewer page views and 16% reduction in customer satisfaction.”

“We found a clear correlation between a faster time to first byte (TTFB) and a higher search engine rank. While it could not be outright proven that decreasing TTFB directly caused an increasing search rank, there was enough of a correlation to at least warrant some further discussion of the topic.” – source

Those are NOT our recommendations for mobile devices. Ours are:

Load time
2 seconds or less


Webpage size
Under 1 megabyte


Requests
Under 25


Time to first byte (TTFB)
Over 1 second is terrible.
Less than 1 second is marginal.
500-millisecond TTFB is good.
100 to 200 milliseconds is great.


Speed is the unofficial gatekeeper to your content. – source

What were the Google-test official recommendations for PagePipe store?

  1. Serve images in next-gen formats
    JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP are idealistic image formats. The difference they make is insignificant. And some browsers can’t even render the files.
  2. Avoid an excessive DOM size
    A joke? Beyond the skills of most web designers.
  3. Eliminate render-blocking resources
    See reference
  4. Properly resize images
    See reference
  5. Minify JavaScript
    See reference
  6. Defer unused CSS
    See reference

Ridiculous!

None of these 6 recommendations make a difference in UX, SEO, or actual speed improvements. Instead, they often break the pages.


ThinkwithGoogle says, “PagePipe is average.” We call BS. Only 1 percent of the Internet websites load in less than 1 second. That would not include Google’s homepage.

Who owns WebPagetest.org? Uh? Google! Complete load time for Google.com: 3.637 seconds. That’s a major flunk. And they tried to make us feel bad about ourselves. Shame on them. Average? Bah!

http://webpagetest.org/result/190501_12_8ac7a96513e6e476f3155a3de6323b1e/


[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ow this seems really bad doesn’t it. 2.4 seconds? Perhaps hypocritical. But we advocate Kinsta’s Bryan Jackson and his proposed hierarchy of user speed tolerance. It’s good speed strategy. Entry pages (our blog) need to be under 2 seconds. This is where first impression counts most. It’s why we didn’t use HTTPS/SSL on the blog. We need the 500 millisecond boost in speed.

Viewers hate slow pages.

When people are curious enough to enter our store, they’re more tolerant and wait the extra half second for SSL – but over on another host. They are engaged now. Brian says 3 seconds is the upper limit of speed tolerance. It depends upon the user’s perceived value of the expected content.


Fixing Think-with-Google’s speed suggestions are practically impossible on a WordPress site. If you pay to have these esoteric changes done, you’ve just wasted good money.

Do yourself a favor and don’t evaluate your site speed with this lame Think-with-Google test. Use WebPagetest.org or Pingdom.com instead. Be kind to yourself and your wallet.

Faster themes dump Google Fonts.

We *wish* browsers cached special web fonts. This would make fonts transparent and immeasurable in tests. One hopes jQuery is already in the cache, too. There are plugin workarounds for this. But they still aren’t as fast as no special font usage.

But the better conservative assumption is these assets aren’t ready. Webfonts never enhance performance. At best, they’re benign.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hy aren’t Google Fonts there in the cache? They are. But Google forces a 24-hour cache refresh of fonts – and reloads. Why? Duh? To gather data on usage. Is that spying? Maybe. The font files don’t change every 24 hours. Ridiculous.

We strip fonts unless a site is achieving under target speed goals. Then they’re not deleterious. But on principle, we disable them. Site users are oblivious to the font differences. Nondiscrimination.

A telling recent trend is new themes vying for mobile speed. Themes like GeneratePress, and the Twenty-wenty-one default. Out of the box, they load a mobile font stack defined in the style.css file. They don’t use Google Fonts. Fonts have a stigma for mobile. They consume unnecessary bandwidth and data limits.

Does it make prettier sites? No. Pretty on mobile is a moot point. Single-column, 350-pixel wide images or resized images are what’s served up. All that matters is legibility and readability. Color choices create mood.

How much “mood or emotion” can you muster in a small 5.5-inch screen space? Be honest. Small blocks of color whizzing by with the flick of a thumb. That’s a mobile user experience? More like roulette.

Onscreen fonts once again are back to the stone ages. Even though there are a few more mobile system fonts choices to add.

Stripped-down “speed themes” often don’t enable jQuery by default either. If you resist the temptation to install a slider, top-of-page button, or some other jQuery intensive plugin, you avoid the extra load. Themes removed jQuery before but were seen as esoteric or fanatic – and not well received. Now it’s a mainstream trend. The Herd wants faster font loads. They think speed might save their site. Speed never compensates for poor content.

Discarding font baggage and jQuery are nuances for speed. They make for fast themes. But you can destroy that in an instant with a few popular plugins. Then the gain is minuscule by comparison. Dwarfed by thoughtless plugin abuse.

Websites are pretty generic on desktop and mobile. They’re mere containers serving content on little screens. And that is what matters most: relevant content. Fussing about choosing Google Fonts is wasteful.

Today’s cutting-edge developers desire mobile speed more. Theme authors retrofitted changes in the “font” loading. The demand was high enough and offered the chance to sweeten the deal.

Google Font usage is now seen as unfriendly to speed and UX.

You don’t have to install a plugin to remove Google Fonts on these modern speed themes. The theme loads are transparent: meaning less than 50-millisecond load times. But if you buy the premium version, they’re no longer the fastest kid on the block. They don’t tell you that fact. They then are more average than special.

Just say, “No!” to Google Fonts.

TOP100 plugins are slowest and most bloated.

If you search the phrase “Essential WordPress Plugins,” you’ll get about 7.4 million results. They all tend to regurgitate suggestions for the same old plugins. Copycat content. No wonder the identical plugins keep getting more installs. Even when better alternatives exist.

Toxic WordPress

Includes important tips for mobile speed without coding.

GET IT!

83 pp, 362k, 8.5 x 11 inches, PDF download.

Sorting and testing all the new plugins is too much work. So people don’t test. They assume. The assumption is “popularity” is good. For plugins, that is usually decided by looking at the number of active installs. Active installs is not a sign of quality or performance. It’s a standard of herd mentality.

Herd mentality, or mob mentality, describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors. Examples of the herd mentality include nationalism, stock market trends, superstition, and home décor. —Wikipedia

To Engineer is Human by Henry Petroski is a book about engineering failures – mainly of buildings and bridge structures and airplanes during the 1980s and before. The main takeaway from the book is still applicable – and maybe even more so today: When technology or ideas are changing rapidly, there is never the opportunity to build a history or library of experience. This increases errors. Experience is what prevents accidents and disasters.

New upgraded versions of WordPress come out multiple times each year. And new plugins are being introduced at a breakneck pace. In 2013, 15,000+ plugins were in the WordPress plugin repository. In 2014, there were 29,000+ plugins in the repository. By 2015, the number was 35,000+. By Sep. 2016, over 46,000+ free plugins in the repository. And today, over 55,000 plugins. It’s difficult to stay on top of that rapid rate of change. It’s staggering.

To make a fast decision, it’s plainly easier to select from the most popular plugins – and consider that good enough. There are over 55,000 free plugins in the repository. And this doesn’t count any of the plugins available on GitHub where authors refused to go through the WordPress red-tape of acceptance.

You can choose any plugin from the TOP100 and from our experience it will be the slowest and most bloated plugin in its class. For example: #1 Akismet: 52M installs, #2 Contact Form 7: 42M installs, #3 Yoast SEO: 33M installs, #5 Jetpack: 28M installs. These are all heavy plugins and either directly or indirectly affect load time. We see these plugins installed on most slow sites.

Plugin popularity is rarely an indicator of good value. People assume they must be good. At one time, they were either the-only-game-in-town or repaired or compensated for WordPress deficiencies that later became solved with new WordPress versions. So even though the need for “repair” was gone or obsolete, the herd kept installing out of habit and myth. It became de-facto standard best practice.

Many recommended “essential” plugins have negative speed repercussions.

Our rule of thumb is: the more popular a plugin is (active installs), the higher the probability it’s a slow loading plugin. Why? We don’t know exactly why this correlates. But it holds up in our speed testing.

It’s the quality –not quantity– of plugins that slows down a site. Speed testing free plugins and themes is our specialty. Millions of herd-mentality WordPress plugins slow down the Internet, waste web resources, – and use up your precious time.

PagePipe.com (our blog) has 53 active plugins. It loads in under a half second in the USA and about 1.2 seconds for Europe (Pingdom.com). It can vary. That is using the cheapest, shared, old-magnetic GoDaddy hosting located in Arizona. No CDN. It will go even faster when GoDaddy updates to PHP 7.1 – but they’re running on outdated version 5.4. We share our server with 24 other domains. Why? We want to prove a point: You can use “speed strategy” rather than throwing money at load-time problems.

Our Mantra is avoid popular plugins. High number active installs means they’re the slowest.

We don’t know why “popular = bloated.” We speculate the plugin authors are content and apathetic to speed and quality. Popular plugins existed first and use old unoptimized coding techniques (obsolescence). They tend to get heavier with revisions instead of lighter (kludges).

The authors of old plugins don’t have competitive motivation to be lean for speed. This isn’t true for newer, less-installed, lighter plugins. Speed (load time) is now a desired feature we’re seeing more because of mobile devices. But fresh, fast plugins are not easy to find. There are 55,000+ plugins in the free directory. Wow! An ocean.

What is more characteristic of “goodness” is retention rate. That’s calculated by taking the active installs and dividing by the number of downloads for all time. A plugin with a retention of 20 percent is pretty good. If it’s 5 percent or less, it’s a danger sign. They were tried – and dumped.

Slow plugin’s download file size is a clue. Bigger files load slower. There are some exceptions – but they are few.

In our new Toxic WordPress, we present typical time-wasting herd plugins suggested on thousands of WordPress blogs. And we give you speed alternatives.

83 pp, 362k, 8.5 x 11 inches, PDF download.

GET IT!

Testimonial

… having read your book and browsed your site I had installed pretty much every plugin that you warn against using! I’ve spent I don’t know how much money buying plugins … I’ve reassessed the plugin functionality I actually need and struck a line through most that I had installed; the rest I think I can replicate with the lighter versions you’ve educated me about. … I am hugely grateful for the help and advice on your site and in your book: it’s great to know that good things are possible with WordPress on shared hosting!

—Jonathan Westwood, United Kingdom

WPmudev uses deliberate speed bait to sell theme memberships.

Be forewarned, the blog post we review here is deliberate bait to sell wpmudev theme memberships. It’s the flawed article: 15 Great Mobile First WordPress Themes to Boost Your Site Performance by  Rachel McCollin.

We found one potential winner in the bunch.

The first theme presented is one of wpmudev’s themes called “Upfront.” But you must be a paid member to download it. We don’t use paid themes. So it’s instantly off our evaluation list. All other themes on the reviewed blog page are free and available from the free WordPress Theme Directory.

We’re searching for web-speed treasure.
The article claims to focus only on theme’s with excellent site performance. As you will see, many of the WordPress themes recommended don’t match our selection methods or guidelines.

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]age load time (speed) is especially critical for small-screen mobile websites. That’s because mobile must connect using slower, wireless bandwidths. Today, mobile websites are built using responsive WordPress themes. Responsive means the page content resizes to fit any screen – whether it be on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop. Old websites just for desktop viewing were built with fixed-width pages. That method no longer is in vogue.

We’ve found theme download file size is a big indicator of speed potential. A theme download file below 1M is most apt to create web pages loading in under 2 seconds. This delay is the longest site viewers are willing to wait without feeling frustrated, impatient, or bored. Load time affects the user experience (UX).

Let’s make a quick check of the suggested theme list.
How many match our speed criteria of being under a 1M zip file download? Remember that’s our quick, rule-of-thumb for selections. Fast WordPress sites load in under 2 seconds on cheap, shared hosting.

SUMMARY

Of the 15 recommended themes, only 7 might be fast. Only one speed theme is of particular interest – and we find it a great discovery. Who knows? Perhaps, the treasure we seek.

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t 356k download, the Graphy theme has by far the greatest potential for a fast-loading WordPress theme. As an extra bonus, Graphy has nice, readable typography. Custom, non-browser-default fonts usually are not a speed asset. Only further testing will tell. The text font stack is: Lora, Georgia, serif. And the header font stack is: Bitter, Georgia, serif. Bitter is a slab serif font. These must be called from Google’s cloud font library. Font calls create delays.

We find that Graphy including Lora and Bitter fonts adds about 700 milliseconds to the load time. That is almost one-third of our performance budget. If we add images, it may be necessary to switch off the fonts with Remove Google Fonts References plugin.

The download file decompresses to 581.1k. This is quite small. We find that 161.4k of the file is a screengrab. This will not affect load time. Neither will the 142.3k of languages translation files. But we do see one speed offender we don’t like: Genericons.

We consider theme use of Genericons dead weight.
Genericons is 174.2k of the theme file size. How much drag is added depends upon how Genericons are used. Some themes activate Genericons HTTP requests (calls) even when the icon font isn’t even on any page. So further testing will reveal the cost of the theme author’s choice.

We do notice that Graphy uses an image icon instead of a Genericon for it’s ubiquitous, top-right search field – a magnifying glass icon. This is a good sign. It means it doesn’t call the heavier Genericon equivalent. Genericons may not be activated at all if not used by the site owner.

Sadly, Genericons in Graphy theme add about 35k to 45k page weight. No icons are shown on the page. That means we could deactivate it without any repercussions.

Graphy includes some nice customization features.
Graphy theme has an optional widgeted sidebar and 4 footer widgets. If the sidebar widget isn’t used the theme is single-column, full-width.

The footer width (columns) is automatically adjusted depending on how many footer widgets are used. If you do not use any, none will be displayed.

The theme has a few other extras not usually included in stripped-down, fast themes. You can upload an image logo. This logo can replace the site title and you can add border radius for spacing. You can also specify the link color and a second hover color.

Additionally, you can choose to display summary text – or alternatively, full text for posts. You can also hide or show the author or category. These selections are made with check boxes.

You can add a single custom header image.

Only one custom menu is available. That limit is only a minor negative.

Don’t trust WPmudev theme recommendations for speed.

Which shared-server speed is worse? GoDaddy or Bluehost?

“Worst Web Hosting Companies” yields 16 million Google search results. Ironically, review sites not only tell you who they think are the worst – but then advertise acclaimed best hosting with affiliate links.

Those affiliate links pay kickbacks up to $100 – if a sale is made. Sweet! Let’s all put affiliate links on our sites – and get rich.

Maybe not.

Affiliate links often use link cloaking. Read more about that ploy (and speed) here. We think link cloaking is deceptive. It masks or hides where users are taken when selecting links.

There are no affiliate links on PagePipe. Hallelujah!

Be aware, any blog post recommending hosting – and free critiques – almost always makes affiliate money. So they’re biased or manipulative.

So what?

Despite the low credibility of review sites, we’re confident the negative reports of bad, lame hosts is mostly true. There’s commonality in the results. The worst-ranked hosts vary in list placement – but it’s usually the same hosts. Two are widely despised and claimed to be THE worst: GoDaddy and Bluehost.

It doesn’t matter about technical reality. Being perceived as the worst  by many is sufficient judgement. [Note – We don’t think they’re that bad.]

Because we do NOT follow the herd, we deliberately selected GoDaddy for PagePipe’s hosting. Our goal is proving  origin-optimization efficiency. You can achieve fast speeds even on the worst cheap, shared hosting. Use discipline and care in your site design. We teach you how on PagePipe.

Economy hosts take in the unwashed masses. They appeal to some of the worst-case, non-technical users – the ones with no money and no training. And so these cheap hosts get bad reviews. That hasn’t slowed down their growth one iota.

We abhor their marketing ploys and lies to maximize profits. But this article isn’t about up-selling, bait-and-switch, or duping uneducated victims. We write about speed – not recommendations for hosting companies.

GoDaddy Inc. is a web-hosting company headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. GoDaddy has around 8.5 million customers. Their annual net income is around 2 BILLION dollars. They clear 6-percent profit on those sales ($140 million approximately). They’re the biggest web host.

Bluehost is a web-hosting company owned by Endurance International Group. It’s one of the 20 largest web hosts. Bluehost hosts 1,248,507 websites on economy, shared servers. The company operates its servers in Provo, Utah, USA.

Why are we mentioning Bluehost since PagePipe was hosted on GoDaddy?

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]ayPal changed how it interacts with Easy Digital Downloads ecommerce plugin. This forced us to use HTTPS/SSL certification on our site store. Not for Google ranking – rather for the requirements of successful PayPal transactions. PayPal changed it’s rules in July 2018. I took us a while to figure out why automated ebook deliveries were failing. We got our money but customers didn’t get their ebooks for awhile. SSL compliance fixed the failures.

We have a 2-second performance budget. Adding SSL ruined our page load times. We use a speed trick of “offloading” the store using a separate GoDaddy domain on the same server. That domain name was secure-pagepipe-store.com. (Yeah. That domain tidbit is important later in our horror story.)

Originally, we tried GoDaddy’s expensive SSL certificate.

Next, we got a GoDaddy SSL refund and switched to Let’s Encrypt’s free SSL certificate.

This hassle wasn’t fun. But we were determined to figure things out. And we did it – eventually. Because of our curiosity, we ended up reloading and rebuilding our site several times. Why would we inflict so much pain on ourselves when SSL is free at other hosts?

We’re determined to stick with GoDaddy. The pain.

It’s notorious. GoDaddy cheap, shared hosting proves our point. You can get fast speeds even under the worst conditions. But not if you injudiciously throw SSL on your site. You must use speed strategy – or spend money.

Bad news. SSL overhead can’t be cached. We choose not spending money – and using creativity for speed instead. In this case, it meant dividing the site.

You may wonder if site-splitting is self-defeating behavior. In this case, it’s not. The assumption is you lose caching speed benefits when you switch users to the sister store site. One secure and one unsecure (insecure?) site. But BONUS, we can’t use caching with Easy Digital Download ecommerce pages anyway. Caching and minification mess up the EDD plugin functions.

PagePipe has very few store pages compared to many sites. Most people enter our site from organic search via the blog posts. They then wander the site reading other content – and ultimately visiting the store. The store is rarely the landing pages.

This division into two sites meant we successfully maintained minification and caching plug complications on the biggest site. And it’s at our front door (our blog) where speed expectation is highest. By the time someone enters the store, they’re curiosity is often high enough to endure a longer wait. In this new case, no waiting was required.

We stupidly wondered, “What would happen if we let our SSL certificate expire?”

We decided, “Let the 90-day period run out.”

Bad choice.

It was a nightmare. The needed GoDaddy server changes in the Cpanel SSL settings were obscure at best. The store was down during prime time: a Friday night and Saturday morning because of our repeated fumbling.

We got our “Welcome to Bluehost” email at 4:33 pm Pacific time Friday. They immediately started email spamming us to buy more web stuff.

At 4:51 pm Friday, Bluehost billing department deactivated our account. Suspended forever.

Why? They didn’t like the word “Secure” in the domain name. It was too “spammy.” They said we had to provide approved proof of government identification to restore the site.

Hmm? GoDaddy never cared about our domain name of “secure-pagepipe-store.com.” Why did Bluehost care? Different standards – we guess.

Undeterred, we setup a new Bluehost account for another $59 with the domain name “PagePipe-ebooks.com” We’re getting good at this now – no spam judgement call – and got the store working again in short order. Wonderfully, we never touched the blog with all this buffoonery.

We migrated the store one more time. It’s working now and with free SSL. Whew.

And now we don’t have to worry about 90-day expiration or renewals any more.

Bluehost over charged us about 72 dollars on secure-store-pagepipe.com during registration. We’re working to get the money back plus the $59 hosting fee. We’ll see if we just ate $136 dollars learning from an unfortunate web experiment (mistake?). The cost of our education! We deselected all those silly Bluehost registration options and still got billed for them anyway. You know, those ridiculous opt-out features including:

Codeguard Basic – $35.88 annually.
SiteLock Security – $23.88 annually.
Domain Privacy Protection -$11.88 (secure-store-pagepipe.com) annually.
Tax – $4.66
PagePipe was billed: $135.70 total. Bluehost notified us the next Wednesday by email the hosting plan was cancelled and a refund issued. But to allow 7 to 10 days for processing.

So why in the world are we leaving our store on Bluehost? To prove we can take a ruthless beating. And still produce a fast site on cruddy hosting even after being treated like garbage.

Why did we use Bluehost when we could have bought a 1-year certificate from GoDaddy for $70 dollars? Well. It’s the value of speed. We’d die for good speed. It’s all about speed achievement in unconventional ways. We want to learn why things work the way they do – and then find a better alternative.


WP Engine is frequently recommended on blogs as the “Best Premium Shared Hosting for Advanced Bloggers.” Of course, blog authors sharing *trade secrets* get an affiliate-link kickback or commission. They make money touting others hosting services. No source credibility.

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]any error thinking WP Engine must be better or even the best. It costs a lot. It’s recommended so often. They must be good because they have a good reputation, right?

That “feel-good” hosting is $420 per year. Yet, it’s the exact same terrible-speed quality you’d get elsewhere on cheap, shared hosting. For $5 (or less) month-to-month rent – only $60 annually – you’ll get the same perfectly-lousy server delay. That’s $360 dollars decreased difference every single year. Over 5 years, it’s $1,800 profit in your pocket. With the exact same speed results.

An unexceptionable, shared host may get the same poor TTFB (time-to-first-byte) of 1.5 to 1.7 seconds. That’s 1500 to 1700 milliseconds off our target 2000-millisecond performance budget. That leaves only 300 to 500 milliseconds. Short time to load WordPress core, the theme, all plugins, and third-party scripts and APIs – and images. Is it possible? Only if you use speed strategy.

You can’t be sloppy or apathetic.

So what hosting provider do we recommend? None! Why? Because hosting services cycle from better to worse with the host’s business whims. Without a crystal ball, we can’t predict odd behavior. One day a host provides mediocre to excellent speed. Six months later – with a simple ownership change – crammed overburdened servers slowdown. Your server turns into a dragging slug. Their hosting business suffers losses caused by poor services. They finally invest in better capacity. Speed then improves. Until the word is out, they’re doing better. Then the cycle repeats.

In one test, for a New York client, BlueHost crammed more than 2,000 domains on a single server.

That BlueHost squeeze strategy isn’t typical. Still, test for the number of shared domains using your URL at YouGetSignal. Test server TTFB at ByteCheck or BitCatcha. Warning: All bitcatcha.com’s recommendations are affiliate links. They promote hosts giving back the most. It’s all about money.

Blogs recommending WP Engine don’t examine the speed performance ramification. Let us tell you why WP Engine is bad news:

WP Engine’s hosting services have bad TTFB (time to first byte or server overhead). It costs $35 per month (or more). Do they specify TTFB in their sales pitches or online materials? No. Of course not. No one would use them if they knew the truth. So most hosts avoid publishing this important speed information. Is WP Engine the only one burying TTFB specifications? No. Is it a criminal cover-up plot? We hope not. It’s most likely a convenient sin of omission.

Every host avoids the server overhead delay topic. Why? Because TTFB wanders and is often unpredictable. Or they may make excuses and declare with authority, “3-second TTFBs are normal.” iMotion Hosting makes that absurd statement. They’ve got to be kidding! But we’ve measured iMotion unstable server delays producing double that slow time.

Hosts don’t want you holding their feet to the fire. They don’t want that responsibility. Making server-overhead promises causes disappointing buyer’s remorse.

TTFB ignorance is bliss. Until you discover during real load-time testing how much it affects speed. Go ahead. Complain to the errant host. They’ll usually recommend (upsell) more expensive servers. They may suggest trying speed first-aid like CDNs and caching services.

The real cost-effective solution is building a fast site instead. Hosts won’t recommend this speed solution. They make less money if you build a fast strategic site.

One of WP Engines claims to fame is they’re *managed* WordPress hosting. What’s managed hosting and why is it bad for mobile speed?

Managed WordPress hosting is an “attendant” service. The host takes care of (manages) all technical aspects of running WordPress. This includes security, speed, WordPress updates, daily backups, website uptime, and scalability. All that costs money. Normally, people use automated plugins for these features. The less WordPress knowledge you have, the easier the motivation to buy these fantastic services.

So what? What’s the big deal? Sounds like they’re being nice and helpful. If they live up to their fantastic speed claims, there’s no quibble. But they don’t.

What they do is lock you out, the “advanced-blog” owner, of Cpanel access and lock each file so it can’t be rewritten. Who cares about that? They do. They don’t want anyone mucking about on their server.

You don’t buy more features. You buy less flexibility – and then pay more. It’s brilliant.

But flexibility is how you increase speed! The irony. WP Engine won’t let us help you speed up your WP Engine site.

One big strategy for speed is selective plugin activation. That only happens when speed plugins (or even hand coding) alter the server .htaccess file. That can’t happen with “managed” locked files. Unlocking and altering .htaccess may mean going through an FTP client. Just very messy, inconvenient and a royal pain in the butt. The chances of breaking something are not reduced but increased with “managed” hosting.

.htaccess is a configuration file for use on web servers running Apache. The .htaccess file is detected and executed first. It give the server rules of special exceptions. Even WordPress manipulates how Apache serves files via .htaccess – especially handling pretty permalinks.

.htaccess is used for speed functions. Such as:

  • Far-futures expiration.
  • Enabling Gzip.
  • Hot-link image protection.
  • Enabling keepalive.
  • Removing query strings.
  • Leveraging browser caching.
  • … and other speed tasks.

So we ask, if you’re an *advanced blogger*, why the heck are you using WP Engine who assumes users are idiots? We’re insulted.

WP Engine ruins mobile-first speed strategy.

WP Engine is frequently recommended on blogs as the “Best Premium Shared Hosting for Advanced Bloggers.” Of course, blog authors sharing *trade secrets* get an affiliate-link kickback or commission. They make money touting others hosting services. No source credibility.

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]any error thinking WP Engine must be better or even the best. It costs a lot. It’s recommended so often. They must be good because they have a good reputation, right?

That “feel-good” hosting is $420 per year. Yet, it’s the exact same terrible-speed quality you’d get elsewhere on cheap, shared hosting. For $5 (or less) month-to-month rent – only $60 annually – you’ll get the same perfectly-lousy server delay. That’s $360 dollars decreased difference every single year. Over 5 years, it’s $1,800 profit in your pocket. With the exact same speed results.

An unexceptionable, shared host may get the same poor TTFB (time-to-first-byte) of 1.5 to 1.7 seconds. That’s 1500 to 1700 milliseconds off our target 2000-millisecond performance budget. That leaves only 300 to 500 milliseconds. Short time to load WordPress core, the theme, all plugins, and third-party scripts and APIs – and images. Is it possible? Only if you use speed strategy.

You can’t be sloppy or apathetic.

So what hosting provider do we recommend? None! Why? Because hosting services cycle from better to worse with the host’s business whims. Without a crystal ball, we can’t predict odd behavior. One day a host provides mediocre to excellent speed. Six months later – with a simple ownership change – crammed overburdened servers slowdown. Your server turns into a dragging slug. Their hosting business suffers losses caused by poor services. They finally invest in better capacity. Speed then improves. Until the word is out, they’re doing better. Then the cycle repeats.

In one test, for a New York client, BlueHost crammed more than 2,000 domains on a single server.

That BlueHost squeeze strategy isn’t typical. Still, test for the number of shared domains using your URL at YouGetSignal. Test server TTFB at ByteCheck or BitCatcha. Warning: All bitcatcha.com’s recommendations are affiliate links. They promote hosts giving back the most. It’s all about money.

Blogs recommending WP Engine don’t examine the speed performance ramification. Let us tell you why WP Engine is bad news:

WP Engine’s hosting services have bad TTFB (time to first byte or server overhead). It costs $35 per month (or more). Do they specify TTFB in their sales pitches or online materials? No. Of course not. No one would use them if they knew the truth. So most hosts avoid publishing this important speed information. Is WP Engine the only one burying TTFB specifications? No. Is it a criminal cover-up plot? We hope not. It’s most likely a convenient sin of omission.

Every host avoids the server overhead delay topic. Why? Because TTFB  wanders and is often unpredictable. Or they may make excuses and declare with authority, “3-second TTFBs are normal.” iMotion Hosting makes that absurd statement. They’ve got to be kidding! But we’ve measured iMotion unstable server delays producing double that slow time.

Hosts don’t want you holding their feet to the fire. They don’t want that responsibility. Making server-overhead promises causes disappointing buyer’s remorse.

TTFB ignorance is bliss. Until you discover during real load-time testing how much it affects speed. Go ahead. Complain to the errant host. They’ll usually recommend (upsell) more expensive servers. They may suggest trying speed first-aid like CDNs and caching services.

The real cost-effective solution is building a fast site instead. Hosts won’t recommend this speed solution. They make less money if you build a fast strategic site.

One of WP Engines claims to fame is they’re *managed* WordPress hosting. What’s managed hosting and why is it bad for mobile speed?

Managed WordPress hosting is an “attendant” service. The host takes care of (manages) all technical aspects of running WordPress. This includes security, speed, WordPress updates, daily backups, website uptime, and scalability. All that costs money. Normally, people use automated plugins for these features. The less WordPress knowledge you have, the easier the motivation to buy these fantastic services.

So what? What’s the big deal? Sounds like they’re being nice and helpful. If they live up to their fantastic speed claims, there’s no quibble. But they don’t.

What they do is lock you out, the “advanced-blog” owner, of Cpanel access and lock each file so it can’t be rewritten. Who cares about that? They do. They don’t want anyone mucking about on their server.

You don’t buy more features. You buy less flexibility – and then pay more. It’s brilliant.

But flexibility is how you increase speed! The irony. WP Engine won’t let us help you speed up your WP Engine site.

One big strategy for speed is selective plugin activation. That only happens when speed plugins (or even hand coding) alter the server .htaccess file. That can’t happen with “managed” locked files. Unlocking and altering .htaccess may mean going through an FTP client. Just very messy, inconvenient and a royal pain in the butt. The chances of breaking something are not reduced but increased with “managed” hosting.

.htaccess is a configuration file for use on web servers running Apache. The .htaccess file is detected and executed first. It give the server rules of special exceptions. Even WordPress manipulates how Apache serves files via .htaccess – especially handling pretty permalinks.

.htaccess is used for speed functions. Such as:

  • Far-futures expiration.
  • Enabling Gzip.
  • Hot-link image protection.
  • Enabling keepalive.
  • Removing query strings.
  • Leveraging browser caching.
  • … and other speed tasks.

So we ask, if you’re an *advanced blogger*, why the heck are you using WP Engine who assumes users are idiots? We’re insulted.

GreenGeeks hosting migration yields impressive speed results.

Stefan Ivanovski reports performance improvement – and boasts 100 Google Compliance scores. Even though he knows scores are vanity metrics.

Stephan’s speed tuning experience.

I had great service with my host before, BigScoots. I was on their managed WP starter plan ($34.95 a month). It was very expensive, but customer service went above and beyond. I have no complaints about their service. It was too much for my budget.

On Webtools Pingdom, Washington DC servers, I was loading my front page (https://www.lifestyledemocracy.com/) in about 800ms. Before BigScoots, I was on SiteGround and the Time to First Byte (TTFB) was off the charts. Nothing reasonable was helping.

Once I moved to GreenGreeks*, I started loading the front page in about 400 to 600ms on the DC Server. I was able to shave off 200 to 400 ms.

Also, the Google Page scores improved a bit after moving to GreenGeeks. Before they were around 90 for mobile and now they are 99 — sometimes 100. I am on the GreenGeeks Pro Shared plan. I’m quite pleased with the speed and results.

So far, I pay less but get more.

I built my website following your tips outlined in your PagePipe ebooks. I took some turns on my own to simplify the website building experience. Like getting the GeneratePress Premium theme.

Anyways, I tested the website on Google PageSpeed Insights. I know it’s vanity, but I got better scores than Google.com. {big smile}

100 perfect score for mobile test – PageSpeed Insights by Google
100 perfect score for desktop test – PageSpeed Insights by Google

I guess you are to blame for this achievement!

Thank you, Steve!

You are a WordPress Rockstar. You teach practice. Others preach platitudes.

Stefan Ivanovski

Founder & CEO of Lifestyle Democracy

Master of City Planning, University of Pennsylvania, 2015
International Relations and Spanish, Bucknell University, 2012

*Recommended in our free technical guide: “Slow Web Hosting Sucks

Thanks for sharing your speed tuning experience, Stephan.

Eliminate SEO plugin waste.

There’s no WordPress dipstick to check SEO levels.

If you’ve seen a reduction in page rank, the estimated time for Google purge is 6 months after correction. Yoast SEO has a plugin-addition fix (extra plugin) to accelerate correction with Google. We doubt anyone needs it. But who know what the truth is since there is no “future history” to analyze?

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]an you switch to another plugin without disrupting SEO? No one can promise SEO performance. And if they do, they’re selling a wish. But switching SEO plugins is apparently less of a risk than past Yoast weirdness. So migration is possible to another SEO plugin.

Some ideas from those affected by the Yoast 2018 bug is Yoast enhanced page-rank was artificial fragility at best. It set users up for disappointment. Removing the Yoast “benefits” reduced the site ranking to it’s real position. There is no proof. But it’s like saying, “You can cheat but eventually all tricks will be ineffective or eliminated.” There is a plugin to help migrate the Yoast SEO database when changing to select alternative SEO plugins. The next most popular plugin after Yoast is All in One SEO Pack.

REFERENCE: https://roots.io/weve-migrated-from-yoast-seo/

We’ve documenting why not to use Yoast SEO plugin. No SEO plugin provides provable benefit. Have you ever seen benchmarks ranking improvement? We haven’t. How do you measure SEO reduction caused by competition or change in market needs? Impossible. It’s about consumer behavior.

Ensure your content is based on intent and what users want to find when they search. That’s the bottom line.

MYTH: I’ve installed Yoast, so I’m all set

Sometimes, this statement makes me want to spit out my coffee and laugh; other times, it makes me sad that new bloggers can be so gullible and clueless.

Why?

Because this is an utterly ridiculous statement.

First, some newer bloggers mistakenly think that Yoast “gives them SEO.” And, of course, it doesn’t. In fact, there is no plugin that “gives you SEO.” There is no such thing. Rather the blog posts you write and the activities you do for a post will get you organic traffic. There is no silver bullet and no easy way around this.

Rather, Yoast attempts to measure your SEO. It uses some basic formulas that “check off” some of the boxes. Notice how I say “attempts.” This is because it’s very formulaic. And, also, it’s not very accurate nor predictive. In fact, often it gives you bad advice because it will direct you to do things that will lead to keyword stuffing (which is very bad for SEO) as well as poor writing, and that is bad for user experience. And, if it’s a bad user experience, it’s bad for SEO.

Many people mistakenly think that if they get a green light that their post is SEO optimized and will rank well. This simply isn’t true. Far from it. It’s all based on the keyword phrase that you enter. It does not tell you if that’s a highly searched term nor your chances of ranking for it. And, it’s simply garbage in/garbage out.

–Debbie Gartner

SEO is now controlled by a machine learning algorithm called RankBrain. RankBrain is smarter at identifying patterns and penalizes unscrupulous actors attempting to game Google.

RankBrain is an algorithm learning artificial intelligence system (AI), used by Google since October 2015. It helps Google process search results and provide more relevant search results for users. RankBrain is the third most important factor in the ranking algorithm after links and content. RankBrain interprets the relationships between words. I suspect it has more importance to Google than we know.

RankBrain allowed Google to speed up the algorithmic testing for keyword categories. They now choose the best content for any particular keyword search. This means old methods of gaming rankings with false signals are less and less effective. The highest quality content from a human perspective is being ranked higher by Google.

Content frequency, recency and relevance were previously rewarded with good ranking. This isn’t the case anymore. Search engine users and search engines are now trying to find amazing content with great value.

Gaming with plugins has negative, detrimental value for future SEO.

Review: How fast is Bimber WordPress theme?

Aggregator websites collect and post syndicated material from around the Web, including news, specialized publishing, or the latest bargains and deals in Internet shopping.

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]ood aggregation helps readers find interesting news and information. It also gives linked sites added exposure. They are middle men, but they greatly benefit both sides.

Aggregator websites are all about monetization. Website monetization is the process of converting existing traffic being sent to a particular website into revenue. The most popular ways of monetizing a website are by implementing Pay per click (PPC) and Cost per impression (CPI/CPM) advertising.

A good explanation of aggregator strategy and purposes can be found at http://www.onlineeconomy.org/aggregators-the-way-to-win/

There are many WordPress themes that cater to the needs of this niche market. As near as we can tell, there is no free theme that can do all the necessary features. But there are paid themes and one in particular is of interest: Bimber by ThemeForest.

Bimber has great Mobile UX. Banner ad appears underneath a top feature, thumb-swipable, horizontal scroll. No scrolling jank from the ad shoving things around as it loads on the page. Very nice.

mobile-landscape-480x320px

It’s difficult to make an aggregator theme and site load quickly. Aggregators are image intensive and can have 100s of javascript HTTP requests. Because of syndications, ads, and other offsite or third-party assets, we’ve seen aggregator home pages with over 300 calls. Page weights are in the above-average, multi-megabyte range.

Aggregator websites have resource intensive hogs like Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, Google Analytics, YouTube, Vimeo, Google News, etc. There is nothing wrong with using plugins that may be resource intensive, but you need to balance the trade-off of the plugins’ functionality with the speed and optimization of your website. This requires value analysis. Especially for mobile users.

Value analysis includes the following: combination, simplification, elimination, standardization, and substitution. This is strategic performance optimization. A value analysis audit examines every requested component and it’s contribution to site goals. This requires setting self-imposed limitations. Aggregator sites are seductive for adding too many features in the hopes of perfecting revenue.

Perfection has too high of a price. Metrics need to be evaluated. Only 20 percent of assets provide for 80 percent of the profit-producing features.

Bimber theme is touted as a lightweight aggregator theme. Their marketing says they are a “viral & buzz theme.” Those are unmeasurable, unregulated advertising claims. How fast is “lightweight”? Viral and Buzz are jargon, weasel words. This diminishes their credibility.

Test results for Bimber speed reports vary depending upon the date of the test, the location, and the testing tool. Times ranged from best-case 1 second to worst-case 5 seconds. that is quite a spread. And page weights varied from 830k to 1.7M. Again, a big spread. So testing conditions with changing parameters render objective benchmarking a flop. It’s hard to say if our performance goal of a 2-second load time is achievable especially internationally.

The average Internet page weight today is around 2.3M. None of these test reports used a demo page of that size. It also appears that aggregator sites are above average in page weight with above 4M of files. This diminishes the prospect of good speed (under 2 seconds) for mobile users.

Bimber is frequently featured on articles dedicated to fast WordPress themes. Fast, of course, is relative.

http://wpdean.com/fastest-wordpress-themes/

The above article claims the following for Bimber load times:

GTMetrix Score:
PageSpeed 89%, Yslow 80%, loadtime: 3.64 seconds, requests: 47

Pingdom Score:
Load time: 981ms, Requests: 61, Page size: 830kB
(Note: Aggregator sites are never this light – under 1M. These are unreliable results. A fake page.)

Google Page Speed Insights:
Desktop: 89/100, Mobile: 85/100

Another recent 2016 test claims the Bimber theme loads within 1.5 seconds. (Pingdom score 84/100 to Amsterdam, Netherlands), Page size: 1.7MB, 83 requests.
(Note: This is a more realistic page weight test. But still too small for any real-world aggregator situation. And only 83 requests is also not a real-world number. HTTP request would be in the 100s of calls.)

“On the (Bimber) homepage, you have a 728×90 ad banner, exactly below the header which will attract your users. A 300×250 is placed within the content so that it would look more like a part of your site rather than an advertisement. This is the most profitable ad placement in this theme.”

Bimber demo framebuster code won’t allow testing on browser-based iPhone simulators. Or on Yslow. So we couldn’t get results there. Yslow tests would have revealed how much lazy loading of assets were really occurring (if any).

About those HTTP calls: there were only 47 to 83 requests on these tests. That doesn’t represent the hundreds of usual HTTP requests that occur on a normal aggregator website. This demo is a best-case scenario. Or a mock-up dummy.

Bimber’s advertising page claims the theme is optimized for Google PageSpeed. We couldn’t care less about this test claim. But we ran the demo page anyway for verification. We got the usual frustrating, boiler-plate, error messages this lame test usually produces for WordPress sites. The scores are meaningless if the page  loads in 5 seconds. Google doesn’t even use PageSpeed scores in it’s own ranking algorithm. Instead, Google uses Time To First Byte (TTFB). Bimber can get good time to first byte under the right conditions (322 milliseconds). That depends most on the hosting service.

Read our article: Why we don’t use Google PageSpeed Insights. >

Also offsite links:
Why you Shouldn’t Care About Google PageSpeed Insights

Why Trying to Get 95+ on Google PageSpeed Insights for Your WordPress Site Will Drive You Mad!

Our own Bimber PageSpeed Insights test results.

>Mobile 90/100, with the usual WordPress unachievable error message of:
“Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content”

Desktop 94/100, with the following absurd warnings:

  • Enable compression
  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content
  • Leverage browser caching

We know those things are being done as best as possible. This is a sales demo after all.

iPhone-Bimber
Bimber on iPhone.

What is of more benefit is testing with WebPagetest.org. Ironically, an open-source tool also sponsored by Google after a buyout.

Our Bimber demo page test with WebPagetest.org:
weight: 1.3M
First View (cleared cache): 3 seconds
Repeat view (primed cached): 2 seconds
Requests: 50

Fully loaded: 1.7M, 5 seconds cleared, 3 seconds primed.

This data shows the demo is “lazy-loading” about 400k of assets. But they are not using a lazy-load plugin. It may be part of the Google CDN feature or built-into the theme. We’re not sure. Most (half) images are stored in the media library.

The most important thing for SEO is Time To First Byte. Bimber TTFB is only 322 milliseconds (very fast) when hosted on a fast NGINX server (not Apache based).

But this speed number only influences less than 1 percent in the Google algorithm. Relevant content will always superseded speed for ranking. Speed is not a significant SEO factor. It’s a major UX factor.

The Bimber demo uses two free plugins from the WordPress plugin repository.

  1. Sitelinks Search Box
    Free plugin so people can reach your content more quickly from search results. If you use WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin version 1.6 or newer, you don’t need to use this plugin, as this feature has been included in the version 1.6 update.

After activating the plugin you only have to “Wait for Google Search algorithms to identify your site as a candidate for the new sitelinks search box”.

2. W3 Total Cache plugin
This is a popular plugin (over 1 million installs). Some people swear by it. But from our tests, we’ve never had improved speed results on a well-optimized site. The demo is successfully using WTO plugin for minification and content delivery network support. But other alternatives exist.

Note: W3T caching plugin wouldn’t be our recommendation. The most raved about caching plugin is WP Rocket. It’s a paid plugin we’ve never tested. And never will because all our tests of other available caching plugins reveal they only help improve speed if your site is grossly bloated. If the page is well optimized, there is no improvement whatsoever with caching plugins.

Elements that are significantly delaying or improving Bimber demo page load time:

  • At least, 1.5 to 2 second load time delay is for Facebook API JS libraries connections and calls. Out of 5 seconds total Facebook is a huge problem!
  • JS and CSS are minified and concatenated. This improves speed and is most likely being done with the W3T plugin.
  • The demo uses GStatic CDN (Google) to offload JS/images/CSS – and probably fonts. But mainly images. There are some blogger complaints that GStatic CDN does NOT improve performance and actually slows down page loading. It would require benchmark tests. We see CDNs as band-aids for sloppy web design.
  • About 1M of images on the Bimber demo page could have been compressed further by 379k (almost 40% reduction in file size — visually lossless). The speed gain would be less than a second – but worth it.
  • The demo page uses the Google viewport meta tag which means the content is optimized for mobile content. A viewport controls how a webpage is displayed on a mobile device. Without a viewport, mobile devices will render the page at a typical desktop screen width, scaled to fit the screen. Setting a viewport gives control over the page’s width and scaling on different devices.
  • The demo uses built-in Aggregation Functionality plus Pingbacks, RSS, Really Simple Discovery, and Window Live Writer Support. All of these things cause “drag” because they are offsite calls for assets or code.
  • We don’t know if the following are standard Bimber theme features or not: The demo also uses Open Graph Protocol (supported by Facebook). And Twitter Cards for linking content to Twitter. These cause drag.
  • Bimber uses “scrset” in their theme code for adapting images for high- and low-resolution displays. (Good for iPhones and iMacs).

Bimber Theme Conclusions:

Bimber theme has all the bells and whistles any aggregator business would love to have. It’s mobile UX is superior. It’s $49 price tag is cheap. To get load times below 5 seconds will take work. In the final speed analysis, every single HTTP request must be evaluated for contribution to site value.

How deep are the hidden WP-Speed-Guru secrets? Shallow.

The WP Speed Guru promise: Pay $69 and learn how to make your site lightning fast. Baloney.

So we decided to learn how deep these hidden secrets are. We suckered and paid. Here’s what you get in this vacuous series of videos:

[dropcap]1[/dropcap]Intro and Case Study
This is 3-minutes demonstrating WP Speed Guru’s homepage speed. That includes a screencast of GT Metrix download history. WP Speed Guru claims the speed improvements came from dropping from 60 to 15 requests. The emphasis throughout the videos is on reducing HTTP requests. This doesn’t always result in speed improvement as WP Speed Guru demonstrates later.

And WP Speed Guru considers scores important. Scores aren’t significant to us in speed testing. Only milliseconds of load time is important. We know the number of requests isn’t indicative or proportional to speed improvement. There are various reasons for this such as Time To First Byte (TTFB) and HTTPS/SSL handshaking. These are server overhead measurements. The only way to overcome a bad TTFB is to move to a different server or host. What is bad? Any TTFB over 750 milliseconds is bad. So what is a good TTFB? Anything under 300 milliseconds.

Speed results reported in these videos is using GTmetrix online testing. To get TTFB numbers in milliseconds, test with ByteCheck.com or WebPagetest.org.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/online-speed-test-scores-are-especially-useless-for-mobile-speed-improvement/

[dropcap]2[/dropcap]Free Testing Tools
This segment is 14 minutes long. GTmetrix online speed test show speed changes on a demonstration restaurant site. WP Speed Guru recommends a paid theme vendor. The site under test has wasteful features we’d never use on a speed site. These include a homepage slider and over-the-top animation. Other things are a YouTube video, accordion navigation, Google Maps, and a Blog section. WP Speed Guru homepage speed test is 2.6 seconds. 1.13-megabyte page weight, and 47 requests.

WP Speed Guru recommends 6 tests in a row. This is something we often recommend, too. WP Speed Guru talks about uncontrollable things like TTFB and Google Font load times. These fluctuate outside web developers or site owners’ control. That is often true. So no disagreement there. But have we gotten our $69 worth of valuable speed secrets? Not even close. This is all common knowledge shared on PagePipe and other blogs for free.

WP Speed Guru then demonstrates a speed test on Pingdom.com with the same test page. A two-year-old test is evident since Pingdom changed its interface long ago. WP Speed Guru also cherry-picks a location close to the server. This, of course, will improve the results. WP Speed Guru says grades determine if things will fall into place for speed. Everything WP Speed Guru suggests is score-based troubleshooting. WP Speed Guru disclaims scoring practices by saying, “This may not apply to your site. Some score suggestions need to be fixed and some won’t.” WP Speed Guru doesn’t tell us which suggestions matter.

WP Speed Guru then shows a Pingdom waterfall for the test page. WP Speed Guru checks for red 404 errors indicating broken links. This is so elementary and basic common sense. Broken links are bad for many reasons – speed delays being one of them. WP Speed Guru looks at requests from server or external servers in the waterfall. But again doesn’t make any suggestions on what to do about these except “Repair them.”

WP Speed Guru describes how a CDN works. A basic explanation is free on Wikipedia.

WP Speed Guru then runs WebPagetest.org. WP Speed Guru shows test server locations and browser selections. And fiddles around with selectors. After showing WebPagetest.org options, WP Speed Guru says, “Pingdom is most accurate. But the best test is checking with your browser.” Implying but not saying, “use a browser timer extension or addon.”

WP Speed Guru talks about deviation in results depending upon the test chosen. But never quantifies what to expect. At PagePipe, we use Pingdom for best-case load-time scenarios. And WebPagetest.org for worst-case scenarios. The test results in milliseconds rarely match. Pingdom isn’t a better test. Only a faster one. It’s less comprehensive.

Repeatable testing is always on WebPagetest.org. But you’re comparing relative change – and not absolute change after making improvements.

Is any of this secret? No. This is common knowledge.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/is-gtmetrix-a-good-enough-speed-test/

[dropcap]3[/dropcap]How to Set Expires Headers
The next section and 4 minutes is about How to Set Expires Headers
The goal stated is to remove the red “F” failure flag on WebPagetest.org caching and turn it green. WP Speed Guru’s method is not recommended by us. WP Speed Guru shows this method to make things seem complex or frightening. The solution is simple.

WP Speed Guru demonstrates rewriting HTaccess files via FTP or Cpanel. What? We use a simple no-coding plugin. WP Speed Guru examines server code changes and edits via Apache Cpanel. And edits the htaccess file for expires header with copy and paste. WP Speed Guru downloads to edit and then reuploads. Very clunky. But the big surprise is WP Speed Guru doesn’t tell the “magic code” that is added. This is the hardest way to fix this minor speed problem. A plugin solution is easier and requires few settings and causes no speed drag. We sense this step is hand-waving. Is it secret? No.

WP Speed Guru retests on GTmetrix. 2.4s, 1.13M, 47 requests. Scores change from red to green – but speed improves by only 200 milliseconds. This amount is not uncommon for TTFB fluctuation on a host server like SiteGround or WP Engine. This secret is insignificant. Does PagePipe add a plugin anyway? Yes. But only as a matter of principle. It doesn’t improve UX or SEO in the slightest. It’s a vanity speed metric.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-to-remove-query-strings-from-static-resources-with-a-wordpress-plugin/

[dropcap]4[/dropcap]Remove Query Strings
This section is 2-minutes long. It demonstrates installing a single discrete plugin with no settings. The plugin is “Remove Query Strings From Static Resources.”

The test results are the same. GTmetrix retests: 2.4s, 1.13M, 47

It improves the score but not the speed. We repeat: score improvements are meaningless.

Are this free plugin and others (that do the same thing) a hidden secret? No.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-to-remove-query-strings-from-static-resources-with-a-wordpress-plugin/

[dropcap]5[/dropcap]Free CDN with Cloudflare
This section is 21 minutes and is about how to set up Cloudflare CDN. Boo! We never use this third-party service. Ever. If it’s on a site, we remove it first. It’s a band-aid to mask real speed problems. WP Speed Guru even demonstrates later how CDN is unnecessary if you use caching plugins. Cloudflare is a complicated setup for a free account. This section is full of BS about the theoretical benefits of CDNs.

This section is a waste of 21 minutes on which you’ll never get a return.

You can duplicate minification and concatenation on Cloudflare with free no-setting plugins. WP Speed Guru tells us CDN can break page builder plugins. And needs special settings for selective deactivation of minification.

If you want Cloudflare CDN, all this information is available on their website. It’s not secret.

But PagePipe doesn’t recommend free CDNs. They produce 503 server-not-found errors. A broken page or site results. Not worth it.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/cloudflare-doesnt-guarantee-consistent-load-times/

[dropcap]6[/dropcap]Great Free Caching Plugins
This section is 10 minutes of detrimental garbage.

He installs Wordfence Security since it has caching. This slow multi-function plugin causes delays of 250 milliseconds globally to pages. Slower speed overhead. It can cause unnecessary server resource overages. A bad plugin choice.

With caching, the initial page load remains unchanged. But repeat visits with primed cache yields homepage results of 0.9s, 1.12M, 47 requests. What percentage of your traffic are first-time visitors? We bet it’s the majority. They don’t benefit during visits when the first impression is most critical.

Our note: Minification often breaks sites. So don’t use it unless needed – and usually, it’s not needed.

WP Speed Guru then installs WP Fastest Cache.
1.4s, 1.18M. 39 requests. Even though this is slower. The author thinks it’s a speed win by reducing the number of requests by 8. Ridiculous conclusion.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/mobile-speed-scores-and-wp-super-cache-and-w3-total-cache-plugins/

[dropcap]7[/dropcap]How To Optimize Images
A 6-minutes tutorial of how to optimize images manually in Photoshop. WP Speed Guru recommends not using extra plugins for image optimization. While we do hand optimization, it’s bad advice to not use image compression plugins.

Is any of this knowledge secret? No. Free tutorials are all over the web.

How to do image optimization is available elsewhere on the Internet. WP Speed Guru shows how compression didn’t hurt the image quality. This is common knowledge. Not secret.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-to-optimize-images-for-mobile-speed-with-imsanity-plugin/

[dropcap]8[/dropcap]Embedded Video
For 8 minutes, WP Speed Guru demos an “About” page with an embedded YouTube video.
Before test on GTmetrix: 2.9s, 945k, 31 requests
WP Speed Guru recommends using a lightbox plugin. Video then opens in the lightbox and plays. WP Speed Guru used an unidentified paid X-theme plugin.

New results: 1.3s, 507k, 24 requests
Achieve these same results with a free lazy load for video plugin. Secret? Nope.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/lazy-load-youtube-video-for-mobile-speed/

[dropcap]9[/dropcap]Google Maps
4-minute explanation of a map on a contact page.
This shows how a developer used a still image of a static map. The still-image link opens a new window with the Google Maps page. Again, this clever offloading trick isn’t a secret.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/google-maps-and-mobile-wordpress-speed/

Social Media
2-minute gloss over. WP Speed Guru recommends offloading social media to a gateway page. 10 requests are from 2 buttons. But how to do this isn’t explained.

REFERENCE: https://speedhospital.org/speedswitch/

WooCommerce
WP Speed Guru examines requests added by WooCommerce – even without features. This is global loading or site drag. WP Speed Guru uses FTP access to edit the child theme’s functions.php file. WP Speed Guru copies and pastes some code into the file. But doesn’t give us the code. Crazy. Get our free PDF instead to tune up WooCommerce.

WP Speed Guru saves 7 requests but the WooCommerce page speed is slower. Lame demonstration.

Make Fewer HTTP Requests
A 7-minute demonstration reducing 9 javascript as shown in the Yslow test on GTmetrix. This is nothing more than turning off and back on all optimizations in the WP Fastest Cache plugin. Here are the results:
ON: 2.4s, 1.17M, 33 requests
OFF: 4.0s, 1.18M, 41 requests

Big deal. WP Speed Guru showed caching reduces requests. But still doesn’t get the page under the 2-second performance goal.

These load-time failures are never addressed.

Was this a secret? Not ever.

WP Speed Guru then installs instead Autoptimize plugin and
glosses over settings.

Results are then: 2.9s, 1.04M, 23 requests. WP Speed Guru claims speed victory because the requests are fewer. But speed still isn’t under 2 seconds. Absurdity.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/plugins-autoptimize-eliminates-for-speed/

The Final Speed Test
A final 3-minutes demo of Pingdom using different server locations.
1s, 1.32M, 29 requests with unprimed cache.
809m, 1.2M, 29 requests after caching.
This demonstrates that speed is non-geographic influenced. It also shows how Pingdom always gives best-case results for cherry-picking speed. Really? Now he uses Pingdom to measure?

Inconclusive. These recommendations aren’t secret – all are available for free.

WP Speed Guru subtracts your $69 tutorial fee if you buy tuneup services. Services for the confused.

EXTRAS
Useful Performance Plugins – links given. They are only a few and of minor consequence.

Knowledge Base – a link to WP Speed Guru’s blog.

WP Speed Guru evaluates by the number of requests. This is wrong. It’s load time in milliseconds that matters. Save your $69.

Ezoic’s Leap into Speed or Sink into Marketing Hype?

Does Ezoic’s Leap System Improve Website Performance? Can it serve website content and display ads within a 2-to-3 second load time? Let’s find out!

Ezoic is an ad network. It serves pay-per-click (PPC) ads to websites. It’s a certified Google publishing partner. PPC is a way for website owners to monetize and earn extra money.

Your website needs a threshold number of page views before acceptance to ad networks. For example, AdThrive is reportedly a good ad network. But you need at least 100,000 page views per month before you are eligible to join their network.

Ezoic has shaken up the PPC industry by removing all caps to traffic. Now, any website can join the network.

Ezoic has gone one step further to attract website owners. They are introducing a new speed optimization system called Leap. This service is free for websites monetizing their site with Ezoic ads. Another bonus is Ezoic services offer free basic unmanaged web hosting.

What is Ezoic’s Leap?

Leap is a website speed optimization toolset. It identifies what may be causing poor site performance. And then delivers technology and information to improve it. Leap toolset replaces Ezoic’s older ‘Site Speed Accelerator’ paid service.

Ezoic’s Leap claims the elimination of many speed optimization plugins, technologies, and analytics. Ezoic’s marketing says you will save money because you won’t need to buy expensive plugins. That’s correct if you buy expensive plugins. We recommend you use only free plugins.

How Does Ezoic’s Leap Work?

To take advantage of Ezoic Leap, you need to integrate your website with Ezoic. You can do this through nameservers, Cloudflare, CNAME, or CDN.

Ezoic works as a proxy, serving much of the website content via a cache. Ezoic lazy loads essential elements for site rendering. And loads non-essential elements in the background.

There can be issues with some hosts. We hosted our test website on GreenGeeks and integrated it through Ezoic’s nameservers.

Unfortunately, this didn’t sit well with GreenGeeks. GreenGeeks’ security system (Imunify360) would not allow pages to load. The security system identified the Ezoic proxy as bot traffic causing origin errors.

The usual solution is to whitelist Ezoic’s IP Addresses with the host’s security system. Unfortunately, GreenGeeks couldn’t accommodate Ezoic’s many IP addresses. The eventual solution was to transfer the site from GreenGeeks to Ezoic’s free web hosting.

Ezoic works with Kinsta, Siteground, Hostinger, A2Hosting, Amazon Lightsail, and Cloudflare.

When integrating your site with Ezoic, you get access to the Leap toolset on the dashboard. shown below.

Google’s ‘Core Web Vitals’ is the focus. They don’t aren’t great for goodcoffeeplace.com our test website.

The dashboard’s right-hand side is a leaderboard. It displays some sites achieving Google’s core web vital parameters. Tabs at the dashboard top lead to other Leap system sections.

Leap scans your site. It then makes recommendations based on comparisons with database information for:

  • plugins
  • themes
  • other technologies (technologies meaning other software used by a website)

The database is from manual checks and data from all Ezoic’s publisher websites. Leap then flags technologies they consider lead to a slow website.

The recommendations for our test site in the next image.

The green shields show the recommendations implemented by Leap. Red and yellow symbols flag technologies Leap considers severe or significant speed impacts. Leap recommends alternatives.

Leap also warns things like:

“29% of domains using this technology perform significantly worse than the average site”

How significant is significantly worse? How good is good enough?

We asked Ezoic about these calculations. Ezoic’s program director replied to our query. These speed metrics are from thousands of websites using the Ezoic ad network.

Ezoic Leap lists 93 alternative technologies in its Technology Library. From A/B software to WordPress Recipe Plugins. Not all alternative technologies are tested with the Leap system.

Ezoic theme recommendations are pure rubbish.

Leap has 62 alternatives for themes

  • 17 recommended
  • 19 not recommended
  • 17 rated as severe
  • 3 rated as extreme
  • the rest untested

The 17 recommended themes include:

  • Foto
  • Twenty-twenty
  • Twenty-Twenty One
  • Acabado (by Income School)
  • Zakra

The 19 themes not recommended include:

  • GeneratePress
  • Kadence
  • Hello Elementor
  • Blocksy
  • Neve

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/wordpress-dream-theme-for-mobile-speed-generatepress-2-0/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/bimber-theme/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/podcaster-theme/

The 17 severe themes included:

  • Astra
  • Ocean WP
  • Oshine
  • Jannah
  • Academica

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/switch-from-divi-theme-to-astra-for-best-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/extreme-astra-maximum-mobile-benefits-from-free-theme-features/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/should-i-use-generatepress-or-astra-theme-with-elementor-for-mobile-speed/

Does the Astra theme conflict with the Leap system somehow? We asked Ezoic for clarification. A representative didn’t address the issue with Astra.

The 3 themes rated as extreme by Leap are:

  • Divi
  • Ultimatum
  • Digiqole

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/switch-from-divi-theme-to-astra-for-best-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/divi-theme-sucks-and-other-popular-paid-themes-are-slow-too/

Ezoic has a reciprocal relationship with Income School, the makers of Abacado theme. This a conflict of interest and taints Ezoic’s recommendations.

Ezoic’s representative denied any financial arrangement exists. The evidence that supports manipulation is https://incomeschool.com/ezoicsignup/ . Income School monetizes with Ezoic ads.

QUOTE

As an [Ezoic] affiliate, you will earn 3% of a publisher’s ‘Ezoic Earnings’ for the lifetime that they use the Ezoic system. You will be credited with a ‘conversion’ immediately when someone starts using Ezoic, and will be able to collect your commission every month indefinitely.

REFERENCE: https://affiliates.ezoic.com/

How can you optimize your site with Leap?

Optimize Ezoic by clicking on the ‘Optimization Settings’ tab. Turn on or off seven main settings:

  1. CSS. Optimizes the loading of stylesheets and fonts
  2. Minify. Optimizes code by eliminating unnecessary attributes that are unnecessary to file execution
  3. Images. Optimizes the loading, serving, and sizing of images.
  4. Script Execution. Optimizes the loading and execution of scripts and ads
  5. Static Asset Cache Policy. Caches the static assets across your pages
  6. Content. Optimizes the loading of iframes
  7. Pre-Connect. Speed up the delivery of assets requested from other domains

‘Advanced Settings’

For example, advanced settings for Minify include options to minify CSS, JS, or HTML.

Ezoic’s marketing claims website content and ads will then pass all Google core web vitals.

How does Ezoic Leap Measure Site Performance?

Leap uses the data provided by Google’s CrUX report as well as Google Lighthouse in its page speed reports. This is the data used for the Core Web Vitals assessment.

Google’s ‘Core Web Vitals’ are hand-waving. They use insubstantial language to impress or convince.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/web-panic-about-google-core-web-vitals-baloney/

What is the problem Ezoic Leap is trying to solve?

Advertisements (Ads) slow websites. Poor quality ads, too many ads, and oversized ads all cause a slow-loading website.

Too many bad ads and a slow-loading website lead to a poor user experience. It frustrates your readers.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) sets standards for all online ads. For example, the IAB sets the largest threshold of 300 kilobytes for a fixed, 300 x 250 pixels, online, display ad. Host-initiated requests should not exceed ten file requests during the initial file load.

Unfortunately, advertisers tend to ignore these standards.

Ezoic is trying to solve the problems with ads in at least four ways

  • Artificial intelligence to serve optimized ads
  • Ezoic Cloud CDN
  • Caching
  • Leap speed optimization toolset

Ezoic is a Cloudflare partner but they use Amazon Cloudfront as its CDN. Ezoic Cloud claims intelligent caching. They say it’s responsible for their “near-instant server response times.”

This sounds like baloney. CDN’s don’t save the day as speed band-aids.

Real-World Results of Ezoic’s Leap System.

We used the homepage of goodcoffeeplace.com to test Ezoic’s Leap system.

We turned on all the main optimization settings and most of the advanced settings. We used Webpagetest.org, Pingdom, and Fast or Slow for synthetic speed measurements. We also used the tried-and-true manual timer method. We tested load times with Chrome browser in Incognito mode.

Webpagetest location was Dulles, VA USA, using Chrome browser with a DSL connection at 1.5 Mbps/384 Kbps 50 ms RTT. With Pingdom, we set the test location to Washington D.C. When we used ‘Fast or Slow’ we used the default settings. That included tests from 18 locations around the world.

We cleared the Ezoic cache and tested the site with Leap enabled and disabled. A second run with the tools was also performed to test the effect of Ezoic’s cache with Leap enabled and disabled.

FCP = First Contentful Paint

LCP = Largest Contentful Paint

CLS = Cumulative Layout Shift

TBT = Total Blocking Time.

A test with Pingdom:

With the cache cleared, 10.5 second load time with Leap enabled (10.39 s with Leap disabled).

A second cached run using Pingdom

load time: 2.7 seconds with Leap enabled (2.37 seconds with Leap disabled).

A test using Fast or Slow:

With the cache cleared: average LCP 2.51 seconds with Leap enabled (4.86 s with Leap disabled).

The calculated average is from 18 locations around the world.

A second run using Fast or Slow:

With the cache operating: average LCP of 0.768 seconds with Leap enabled (1.50 seconds with Leap disabled).

Manual timing

Using a stopwatch and the Chrome Incognito mode on a Mac PowerBook.

With Ezoic’s cache cleared:

6 second load time with Leap enabled (15 second load time with Leap disabled).

A second run with Ezoic’s cache operating:

2 second load time with Leap enabled (3 second load time with Leap disabled).

Does Ezoic’s Leap System Deliver on its Promise?

Ezoic’s Leap promises to deliver content and ads while passing Google’s Web Core Vitals metrics. The promise is only achievable if configuring your website according to their recommendations.

Ezoic manages to serve your content and ads with a 2- to 3-second load time.

Ezoic’s cache seemed to have the greatest effect on site performance. The LCP (LCP for Webpagetest and Fast or Slow. Load time for manual timing) of the site improved about 3x to 4x, with Leap enabled, and the cache operating. The LCP of the site improved about 3 to 6x with Leap disabled, and the cache operating. In contrast, the LCP of the site improved 2x with Leap enabled on a cleared cache. And improved about 1.5 to 2x when the cache was operating.

Enabling Leap decreases site performance when the cache is operating. Some elements of Leap’s toolset need dynamic loading rather than cached.

User Experience

Speed affects user experience. And user experience (UX) reduces bounce rate, improves dwell time, and increases clickthrough.

Ezoic’s Leap system may help serve your content and ads within a 2 to 3 second load time.

You can join Ezoic for free. You don’t need to achieve pageview requirements. The free Leap speed optimization system works, and you get free web hosting.

If you do decide to try Ezoic then you will need to consider the following:

  • Choose a host that is compatible with Ezoic’s system or use Ezoic’s free web hosting.
  • Be prepared to remove plugins and make changes based on Ezoic’s recommendations.
  • You need to keep a vigil on your site for any changes that may affect Ezoic’s system

Google’s Core Web Vitals, with or without Ezoic’s Leap System, will not benefit ranking and SEO. Google admits Web Core Vitals is a tiebreaker when all other ranking signals are equal. More than 200 signals being equal is improbable. These considerations never outgun relevant content and backlinks from authoritative websites.

If you are running Ezoic, you will see speed improvement if:

  • You play by their rules
  • Use their tools, hosting, and CDN

When humans interact with machines, the expectation is a response in 1 second. The web relaxed that standard to 2-seconds for using heavy CMS systems like WordPress. Does Exoic achieve repeatable 2-second load times in sequential tests? Expect fluctuation to be wild.

The limit of human endurance for waiting for a machine response is 10 seconds. But most of the audience clicks away in 3 to 4 seconds unless the content has insistence value. The content’s perceived quality contains something people will wait to see.

We don’t appreciate the technospeak used in the Ezoic replies. It is pompous marketing hype. It masks flaws. A claim of technical prowess is suspicious technobabble. Overselling creates suspicion. Their offering works because of what they say in these specs. Their speed recommendations are fluffy. That makes credibility low.

Their weird claims against Astra theme show they have never used it. Nor do they understand its true potential for speed. A magician’s sleight-of-hand diversion distracts an audience. The true culprit of bad speed is slow ads served from remote servers.

QUOTE: “Ads are always the worst code on the Internet, and once you include them you can’t really be accountable for performance anymore.” —Matt Mullenweg: WordPress founder

A year from now, Web Core Vitals will be a mere historic look in the rear-view mirror. It is faddish. Fear sells.

The illusory superiority of Kinsta web speed hype.

Technobabble sounds like sophisticated language. But it’s incomprehensible techno-jargon. It conveys a false impression of meaningful scientific content. It’s deceptive, disingenuous, unfair, or nonsense. It’s a method of misleading with pure presumptuous rubbish. Meaningless technical language overwhelms and confuses the audience, masking the presenter’s dishonesty. It’s an indicator of propaganda.

Kinsta is a managed WordPress hosting provider founded in 2013. They say they’re obsessed with maximum speed performance. Hey! We’re obsessed with speed performance, too. We should be happy cousins. But we’re not. Why?

Because Kinsta expels technobabble. Spewing.

Technobabble bores us to distraction, frustration, and irritation. It smells funny.

Technobabble gives an impression the speaker knows things the audience doesn’t. Try decoding jargon. It’s then obvious it’s unclear, pretentious, and unacceptable. Even novice listeners detect careless technobabble as a sign of dishonesty and insincerity.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]echnobabble doesn’t describe reality. The presenter picks things out or makes them up, to suit his purpose. Deceived by web myth, an innocent person repeats misinformation without intent to deceive others. A false manipulation or misrepresentation is perpetuated. Speed myth erupts from the mouths of supposed experts. Often with hidden agendas of secret or ulterior motives.

Ivory-tower pseudosciences within an industry convey confusing, misleading, or nonsensical ideas using technobabble. Multi-syllabic scientific jargon gives false impressions. It implies bold laboratory research and hard facts. Technobabble takes a simple concept and describes it in an overworked scientific manner. This masks its inherent simplicity.

Intentional technobabble convinces audiences the science explained is true. Even though it may not be. Serious people will accept a meaningless idea wrapped in enough impenetrable language.

So we sat through a 1-hour boring seminar on speed by Kinsta representative Brian Li. He spread many common speed untruths. We share the speed errors below. Keep reading:

Kinsta Speed Technobabble
by Brian Li

Here’s what Brian had to say about speed and Kinsta benefits in the free hour-long online seminar.

PHP version benefits are puny.

First Brian happily told us, “PHP 7 speeds up your site 3x.”

This is wrong. It speeds up the PHP code transfers. Your website also has a ton of other web assets that completely overwhelm this meager gain. Things like heavy images, offsite scripts, advertising, email automation, chat boxes, sliders, animation, videos, etc. These are where the speed problems lie. Not in speeding up PHP. That’s insignificant.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/php-version-7-ate-my-wordpress-website/

Database type? Does it matter? How much?

Brian told us “MariaDB is a faster alternative to MySQL database used by WordPress.” But didn’t tell us how much faster or how to get it. Only that if you buy Kinsta Hosting, you get it free. Well, it’s included in the price anyway. We suspect it’s not much help.

MariaDB shows an improved speed when compared to MySQL. MySQL exhibits a slower speed when compared to MariaDB. With the Memory storage engine of MariaDB, an INSERT statement can be completed 24% faster than in the standard MySQL. The memory storage engine of MySQL is slower compared to that MariaDB. – SOURCE

Speeding up the database by 25 percent is fine and dandy. But MariaDB doesn’t speed up your website by 25 percent. It’s the same gotcha as PHP gains. It doesn’t speed up the worst heavy assets like ads, third-party scripts, or image loading. Bragging about this is specsmanship.

Disk Drive Type and RAM are important? HDD vs SSD Brag

Bryan said, “SSD like Kinsta uses are better than magnetic drives.” Why? “Because read/write times are better and fetching is faster,” he says, “A fast server is better.”

This is true. But does it make a difference in real load time? Nope.

Specsmanship is the inappropriate use of specifications or measurement results to establish presumed superiority over competitors. Especially when no such superiority exists. We also call this vanity metrics.

Sorry. We’ve never seen server options make any difference in actual load time. Mechanical spinners give the same poor quality Time To First Byte as Solid State Drives. That’s right. In real-world comparisons, the gain is unnoticeable. Vaporous specsmanship.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/tweaking-twentysixteen-theme/

Brian Li then talks about Kinsta’s Fast RAM and caching benefits. And mentions that virtual machines are better. At Kinsta, you get this trendy stuff even on the  starter plan. Wow! PHP 7, Maria DB, SSD, RAM, Virtuals. Sounds great! Doesn’t it?

Brian says, “These alone give solid performance.” You mean to tell us a garbage site with heavy theme and plugins will be fast with these toys. Sorry. Paying attention to origin optimization trumps this technobabble stuff always.

An eCommerce store on a cheap shared host with 1.7-second TTFB – can still, load in a 2-second performance budget. That’s right 300 milliseconds is the tiny headroom remaining to build the page. How? Don’t load fat popular security plugins like iThemes Security or WordFence. Or plugins like Yoast SEO or Google AMP.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/free-discrete-plugins-replace-bloated-security-plugins/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/autodescription-seo-plugin-and-mobile-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/why-google-amp-is-not-the-ultimate-solution-for-mobile-wordpress-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/top100-plugins-are-the-slowest-and-most-bloated/

Cool Kinsta Page Caching

Brian’s claim: “With Page Caching your site can handle 10X more traffic. But it breaks eCommerce, forums, and any interactive site.” That’s not very reassuring. And it doesn’t help non-cacheable cache. Let see? That would be third-party scripts like Google Analytics, Google Fonts, and Google Captcha. And many more.

Bryan is convinced NGINX and FastCGI on Kinsta do the world’s best caching. He claims we’ll see TTFB improve from 230 milliseconds to 138 milliseconds. Sorry guys. But that is only 92 milliseconds. Thanks, we’d gladly take those savings. But we can save 300 milliseconds by dumping Google Fonts with a plugin for Pete’s sake. Brian then tells us, “Fast TTFB is important for page ranking.” Yeah. We sort of agree. But it only makes less than a 1-percent difference in SEO.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/fast-sites-dont-improve-google-page-rank/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/should-i-disable-font-awesome-and-google-fonts-for-improved-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/popular-plugins-slow-down-your-server-and-delay-ttfb/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/mobile-speed-scores-and-wp-super-cache-and-w3-total-cache-plugins/

Kinsta SSL and speed.

Bryan gets excited about a future *someday* when HTTP/2 is standard fare for hosts. But for today, it’s sort of geeky and beyond the reach of common site owners. Yeah. Sure. You can pay extra and have the future today. But is it essential to get speed? We don’t think so. He talks about HTTP/2 and HTTP/3 performance boosts. He recommends migration away from hosts that don’t provide it. Of course, his recommendation is his employer Kinsta. No bias here. Both require SSL certification. That forces you to be *secure.* He thinks that’s great for the web. We aren’t so impressed. You can learn more here:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/httpsssl-and-its-negative-impact-on-mobile-speed/

Reducing server requests.

Then Bryan dives into concatenation and minification as if they are necessary. But he warns: “You might break your site.” Surprise! He then recommends customizing to rid conflicts. But sadly, he neglects telling us how that’s done. He notes that minification plugins don’t help HTTP/2 because of multiplexing. So why is he talking it about it? He just recommended HTTP/2 on Kinsta. We suppose he’s showing alternatives to Kinsta. He then recommends using Autoptimize or WP-Rocket plugins as helpers.

Here’s our free article on minification and concatenation:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/concatenation-is-the-site-killer-not-minification/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/plugins-autoptimize-eliminates-for-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe-ebooks.com/duplicate-wp-rocket-plugin-features-without-a-49-annual-license-fee/

Optimizing images in the media library.

Now the hour-long seminar takes a turn into saving load time reducing the page weight of heavy images. He says, “Using right format. JPEG not PNG for photos.” This is a basic truth and big error for novice website builders. But he doesn’t tell how to retrofit a media library polluted with fat PNG photographs.

He recommends using ShortPixel or Imagify plugins. Those aren’t our preferences but they work. He says to serve webP-formatted images to supported browsers. We rarely see much benefit from this Google-endorsed trick. It will reduce image sizes by 10 percent. But that isn’t significant because images load in parallel. Cloudflare Pro converts to webP. WebP is not supported by Apple. A downside is webP uses more disk space with duplicates. We never use webP format.

If you’ve botched your media library uploading huge PNG photographs instead of JPEGs, it can make a big difference when it’s fixed. Otherwise, image optimization doesn’t give as big of a speed boost as it used to. Why? Browsers are smarter about handling images fast. A lazy load plugin may solve many problems for you instead.

UPDATE: WordPress now incorporates lazy load in core.

FREE DOWNLOAD: https://pagepipe.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/optimize-v9.pdf

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/the-fastest-alternatives-to-heavy-jpeg-images-for-page-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe-ebooks.com/crush-me-whats-wrong-with-wp-smush-image-optimization-plugin/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/big-wow-smush-now-has-lazy-loading-and-its-free/

Fonts and speed.

We’re a big advocate of using a system font stack instead of slow-loading Google Fonts or Adobe fonts. So is Bryan. So we agree on something. But Bryan doesn’t tell you how to do this magic.

Read our take on this best practice:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/should-i-disable-font-awesome-and-google-fonts-for-improved-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/zero-latency-fonts-for-mobile-speed-system-ui-font/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/icon-baggage/

Disable WP Native Cron

This is a geeky thing to do. It was faddish for awhile after WordPress added the Heartbeat API. Have we ever done it? Yes. Some hosts can’t handle the extra server load. Bryan recommends pinging wp-cron.php with better frequency. High traffic sites are most affected. And of course, the reason he mentions this puny feature is it’s a default on Kinsta.

The better and cheaper solution is learning about Heartbeat plugins.

Repair Render Blocking Assets

Why do professed speed experts recommend rewriting code to eliminate the page blockage rendered by scripts? Bryan recommends it. This is so esoteric, time-consuming, and costly. Few plugins help. Always it involves custom work. But the payback is so small compared to getting rid of popular multi-function plugins like Yoast SEO or AMP or iTheme Security.  We’ve written about Async or Defer flag for JS loading. But we’ve found this more often than not breaks your site. Bryan also mentions inlining critical “above the fold” CSS styles. These are costly make-work projects invented by programmers and coders. Don’t go there! Have we ever done it? Yes. But we were building experimental pages loading in under 300 milliseconds. That is unnecessary overkill.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/render-blocking-js-is-the-most-annoying-and-unresolvable-error-message/

CDN the wonder band-aid – promising after-speed-damage repair.

Nothing makes us more rabid than speed gurus recommending CDN as a solution. This a weak excuse for building a cruddy bloated website. Bryan recommends CDN of course. But at least he mentions CDN may not help. CDN can slow down page load time. Bryan warns: “Don’t just slap CDN on by default.” We agree.
If you have a database problem, CDN won’t help. We steer clear of CDN with origin optimization. That means not being sloppy.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/cloudflare-doesnt-guarantee-consistent-load-times/

Tuning PHP and MySQL.

Now Bryan goes out on a speculative limb. He recommends Query Monitor plugin to identify slow components. This is a complicated plugin for professionals. He then tells us if we don’t know what to do “hire a developer” for solving problems. Absurd focusing on the wrong target. These need coding solutions. Ineffectiveness.

Is Kinsta expensive hosting?

You decide. Their pricing per month is here. Have we ever used them for client speed repairs? Yes. The sites were so broken we couldn’t migrate or backup. They contained obsolete WordPress versions and stale plugins. Absolute nightmares. Updates weren’t possible without breaking the site.  Kinsta moved those sites. They were then faster loading – but still, time-bombs waiting to explode. The site didn’t *get pretty* just being moved to a different expensive host like Kinsta. Postponing the inevitable implosion.

You can get under 2-second load times on shared hosting. Pocket the money you’d spend elsewhere.

Kinsta is not the only speed solution. Build a better site from the ground up. Don’t add unnecessary junk.

Is GTMetrix a good-enough speed test?

I got 100/100 in GTMetrix. Is my site now good enough?

Scores represent principles that make little speed difference for most user experience.

What counts?

  • load time in milliseconds
  • page weight in kilobytes
  • the number of requests

Scores aren’t on the list of importance for evaluation. Even the number of requests isn’t super important because of browsers loading assets in parallel.

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]peed scores are artificial or superficial criteria based on the original concepts of the Yahoo Performance team. In particular, Steve Souders the mastermind behind Yslow Score. Google pirated Sounder away to their team where he invented PageSpeed Score. It wasn’t innovative but a clone of what he’d done before. Now more extreme. (Impossible?) He coined the title performance engineer and page speed. At Google, he established the same obsessive-compulsive criteria that evolved into PageSpeed Insights test. He also influenced other ideas like introducing speed into the Google ranking algorithm to persuade compliance.

Google hand-waving about speed is self-serving. It’s about them making advertising money. Making the web a better place is a noble cause to get site owner buy in. Ads slow down websites the most and are unmanageable. So Google has us focus on other distracting trivialities.

Google never let speed influence page rankings more than 1 percent. In fact, it’s closer to 0.5 percent. But no one knows for sure because Google doesn’t publish this proprietary secret information. The idea that a “standard” exists influences myths regarding web speed. And pushes site owners to waste time attempting to achieve a Utopian ideal. It’s inefficient.

All online speed tests (Pingdom, GTMetrix, WebPagetest.org and many others) are interpreting Google criteria for goodness. It’s extreme or invalid to the point even Google can’t pass their own insane tests. This ivory-tower speed snobbery is out of control. In other words, it’s excessive and impractical.

The good news: scores are NOT used in the Google ranking algorithm. Only one speed parameter counts and that is Time to First Byte. TTFB is host-server dependent and beyond the control of website owners. They can only cherry-pick a better host with lower server overhead and change hosts. A good test for TTFB is ByteCheck.com.

Our best-practice suggestion is to take 6 consecutive TTFB readings and average the results. Assume your worst TTFB in milliseconds is more common than the average reflects. How does that affect your 2-second performance budget? Take 2000 milliseconds and subtract the worst-case TTFB. That’s how much time is left to load your best pages. Hurts doesn’t it.

Speed doesn’t have the same valuation on all pages. You don’t have to be under 2 seconds all the time. What? Not all pages have equal importance to visitors? There is the primacy effect or halo effects influencing how a site is perceived. First impression counts. After the first page experience, people are more forgiving if speed was initially exceptional. Your 10 most popular posts or pages need to be the fastest possible. Less trafficked pages can be a little slower. If you’re using WooCommerce cut yourself some slack. Relax the performance goal to 3 seconds.

Speed does NOT affect ranking immediately. It affects SEO over time. Speed improves the user experience (UX). That’s measured by user intent. That’s derived from metrics like dwell time, bounce rate, and return visitors. Google search then knows visitors are finding what they search for on your site.

A few articles help explain Google’s speed oddity:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/ignore-googles-200-seo-signals-including-speed-learn-writing-skills-for-good-page-ranking/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/why-wpmu-dev-checkup-is-worthless-drivel-for-speed/

“I’m still not happy. My PageSpeed Insights score is low.”

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/online-speed-test-scores-are-especially-useless-for-mobile-speed-improvement/

“Think-with-Google ranked my site as just average … above 2 seconds.”

Please don’t use Think-with-Google test:

REFERENCE:  https://pagepipe.com/dont-evaluate-mobile-speed-with-think-with-google-test-results/

Even Google.com scored average with this Think-With-Google test. Only 1 percent of websites have speeds of less than 1 second. Focus on website content instead. If you’ve made it under 1 second: Time to stop. Remember less than 1 percent of the Internet achieves this perfection.

Try not to use CDN band-aids for speed. If you are using free Cloudflare, it’s not good. It’s especially a waste of money if you’re paying. You can achieve the same results with free origin optimization. Avoid annual or monthly paid edge optimization.

REFERENCE:  https://pagepipe.com/cloudflare-doesnt-guarantee-consistent-load-times/

On WebPagetest.org, my site’s TTFB scores a big red F. Does TTFB really matter?

Yes in a big way. You can’t get under 2 seconds load time if your TTFB is 1.5 to 2 seconds. TTFB is server speed overhead.

Mobile-first ranking is a different and undefined criterion. Its influence on your ranking is still a mysterious and long-term strategic plan by Google. Punitive shaming affects those not complying. Google experiments on the little guys first. They can’t afford to upset their biggest advertising client accounts with inferior rank changes. Google isn’t stupid – even when it appears they are.

Is Kinsta a reliable source of speed information?

“If you do decide to go for cheap WordPress hosting, you should expect your site to go down from time to time (since at $10 per month, you’re most likely sharing a server with hundreds of other users). Also, expect that most issues won’t be resolved all that quickly. It’s just how the numbers work out.” – Kinsta

This quote is from an article written by Tom Zsomborgi. Tom is the Chief Financial Officer at Kinsta, a WordPress hosting platform.

Update: Our store is now hosted on Rochen. $4.95 per month. We aren’t an affiliate. Why did we leave BlueHost? For a better repeatable TTFB of 600 milliseconds.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e agree with Kinsta mostly. Their article about cheap hosting exaggerates some things. Like on BlueHost supposedly PagePipe’s store is the only domain on the server. They didn’t promise us that. Does that give us phenomenal speed – no. The TTFB is 1.7 seconds sometimes. That means PagePipe loads pages in under 300 milliseconds. And those are Easy Digital Downloads store pages. Every page reloads with an Ajax request! Boo.

And cheap hosts go down rarely. What do you expect for so little money? Most brag up times of 99 percent. And it’s often true. Some of our GoDaddy issues are resolved amazingly fast. And we mean hard technical problems. But we have a low expectation. We also think GoDaddy is a smuck for charging for SSL and privacy. Robbers. But we don’t buy that stuff from them.

Update: GoDaddy now offers free privacy. It formerly was $12 per year per domain.

We tested a client’s site on BlueHost with the same conditions as our store. He gets 500-millisecond load times – with a TTFB of 100 milliseconds. His SSL loads in 100 milliseconds. How? He has no clue. And neither do we. An Act of God. He pays the same as us. Go figure.

We’re not an advocate of cheap hosting. Whenever we can, we get clients on the most expensive host they can afford. It makes our life so much easier for obtaining speed. But not everyone can do expensive. And high price doesn’t translate into good always. We help resourceful site owners, too.

We walk the talk to show others how cheap-by-choice works. Severe self-imposed limitations.

It’s weird how good hosts and bad hosts are all bad and good at some time or another for speed. There is little consistency (repeatability) in performance between domains on the same hosting – pricey or cheap.

Now we have to consider this “cheap-hosting” article was published by Kinsta. Oh, they’re a host! They sell competing services. Would there be any bias against cheap hosts (since they’re not cheap)?

Naturally.

Have we ever put clients on Kinsta to solve speed problems? Yes. Do they always solve speed problems? Nope. Sometimes they make them worse. Go figure. We’ve found this to be true for every host. Variances. Fluctuations. Unpredictability. Voodoo. But we’re not paying for repeatability. We’re not relying on them to do a good job. We expect them to do a lousy job. We build accordingly with origin optimization. No tight tolerances.

The article’s testimonial is by Joe Hanley. He now hosts his site (https://www.audiblegenius.com/) on Acquia Hosting – not Kinsta. The Acquia homepage opens in 8.83 seconds in our timed browser. Lots of clutter on screen. Wow! Can’t wait to sign up with them. Built for Drupal? What?!

We bet Joe moves his site a few more times. Four times just isn’t enough.

Doesn’t Kinsta specialize in WordPress – not Drupal? Odd testimonial choice. Oh, Joe’s a software developer. No wonder.

So yes, if you’re a novice web virgin, you’ll lose a lot of money on cheap hosting trying to make things better. All a waste.

Conclusion: All hosting sucks – at sometime, in some way.

SEO haters unite.

Recently on PagePipe, you talked about SEO plugins with your article about the Rank Math plugin. However, I remember you also wrote before about the Autodescription (The SEO Framework) plugin.

So now, you probably guessed what I, and certainly many other people, want to know: your best recommendation between those plugins!

In other words, if you had to choose and decide the one and only SEO plugin, what would be your absolute preferred choice between:

  • Autodescription,
  • or Rank Math,
  • or why not Slim SEO (which seems light too)?

Thanks for bringing our attention to the Slim SEO plugin. Here’s the list of its functions:

  1. META TAGS – Google completely ignores meta tags and has even published that as truth for decades. Google chooses snippets now with RankBrain AI. Not your customized snippet you slaved over. Robot Tags are no longer required by Google.
  2. XML SITEMAP – Already built into WordPress core as of August 2020.
  3. BREADCRUMBS – Breadcrumbs are for sites that are too big. They’re a visual indicator of bloat. There are themes with breadcrumbs built-in.
  4. SCHEMA – Also built into some themes like GeneratePress and Astra. But an unnecessary feature:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/schema-lameness/

  1. AUTO REDIRECTION – Use REDIRECTION plugin instead.

We never install SEO plugins on a website we repair or build. We remove them. We don’t replace them.

We’ll sound like stuck-up jerks with our answer. But you’ll have to understand SEO talk always inspires a rant from deep inside of us. It triggers some kind of contempt. Not for the idea of SEO. There was a time it made a difference. Those days are long gone. But guys who sell SEO say it makes a difference.

It makes no difference. The SEO claims are not provable. The Emperor has no clothes. There are only opinions with no data or proof of profit improvement. This we call “waste.” That’s right billions of dollars of waste. SEO wastes resources of time. money, and user experience (like speed). They sell false hope. SEO shysters robbed many of our clients for 10’s of thousands of dollars. For what? Services that made no difference in ranking or profit.

Our counsel is never install any SEO plugin. No matter if it loads in a millisecond. It is a millisecond wasted.

Improving website content is what improves traffic and ranking. If you don’t have content or products people need and want, no SEO plugin will save or even help your site.

Why do SEO plugins and SEO practices, in general, make no difference? We’ve written about it in this free PDF. Here’s a link:

https://mailchi.mp/39d77ffe0c40/searchme

This isn’t only about how bad the Yoast plugin is for speed. It’s about wasting your life chasing SEO voodoo.

You don’t feel better – but we do. That was therapeutic. Thanks.

Our counsel: Focus on relevant content – and good user experience.

WordPress Plugins: How herd-popularity propaganda wastes your time – and web speed.

If you search the phrase “Essential WordPress Plugins,” you’ll get about 1.8 million results. They all tend to regurgitate suggestions for the same old plugins. Copycat content. No wonder the identical plugins keep getting more installs. Even when better alternatives exist.

Sorting and testing all the new plugins is too much work. So people don’t test. They assume. The assumption is “popularity” is good. For plugins, that is usually decided by looking at the number of active installs. Active installs is not a sign of quality or performance. It’s a standard of herd mentality.

Herd mentality, or mob mentality, describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors. Examples of the herd mentality include nationalism, stock market trends, superstition, and home décor. —Wikipedia

To Engineer is Human by Henry Petroski is a book about engineering failures – mainly of buildings and bridge structures and airplanes during the 1980s and before. The main takeaway from the book is still applicable – and maybe even more so today: When technology or ideas are changing rapidly, there is never the opportunity to build a history or library of experience. This increases errors. Experience is what prevents accidents and disasters.

New upgraded versions of WordPress come out multiple times each year. And new plugins are being introduced at a breakneck pace. In 2013, 15,000+ plugins were in the WordPress plugin repository. In 2014, there were 29,000+ plugins in the repository. By 2015, the number was 35,000+. By Sep. 2016, over 46,000+ free plugins in the repository. And today in May 2017, over 55,000 plugins. It’s difficult to stay on top of that rapid rate of change. It’s staggering.

To make a fast decision, it’s plainly easier to select from the most popular plugins – and consider that good enough. There are over 55,000 free plugins in the repository. And this doesn’t count any of the plugins available on GitHub where authors refused to go through the WordPress red-tape of acceptance.

You can choose any plugin from the TOP100 and from our experience it will be the slowest and most bloated plugin in its class. For example: #1 Akismet, #2 Contact Form 7, #3 Yoast SEO, #5 Jetpack. These are all heavy plugins and either directly or indirectly affect load time. We see these plugins installed on most slow sites.

Plugin popularity is rarely an indicator of good value. People assume they must be good. At one time, they were either the-only-game-in-town or repaired or compensated for WordPress deficiencies that later became solved with new WordPress versions. So even though the need for “repair” was gone or obsolete, the herd kept installing out of habit and myth. It became de-facto standard best practice.

Many recommended “essential” plugins have negative speed repercussions.

Our rule of thumb is: the more popular a plugin is (active installs), the higher the probability it’s a slow loading plugin. Why? We don’t know exactly why this correlates. But it holds up in our speed testing.

It’s the quality –not quantity– of plugins that slows down a site. Speed testing free plugins and themes is our specialty. Millions of herd-mentality WordPress plugins slow down the Internet, waste web resources, – and use up your precious time.

PagePipe.com (our blog) has 53 active plugins. It loads in under a half second in the USA and about 1.2 seconds for Europe (Pingdom.com). It can vary. You can use “speed strategy” rather than throwing money at load-time problems.

Our Mantra is avoid popular plugins. High number active installs means they’re the slowest.

We don’t know why “popular = bloated.” We speculate the plugin authors are content and apathetic to speed and quality. Popular plugins existed first and use old unoptimized coding techniques (obsolescence). They tend to get heavier with revisions instead of lighter (kludges).

The authors of old plugins don’t have competitive motivation to be lean for speed. This isn’t true for newer, less-installed, lighter plugins. Speed (load time) is now a desired feature we’re seeing more because of mobile devices. But fresh, fast plugins are not easy to find. There are 55,000+ plugins in the free directory. Wow! An ocean.

What is more characteristic of “goodness” is retention rate. That’s calculated by taking the active installs and dividing by the number of downloads for all time. A plugin with a retention of 20 percent is pretty good. If it’s 5 percent or less, it’s a danger sign. They were tried – and dumped.

Slow plugin’s download file size is a clue. Bigger files load slower. There are some exceptions – but they are few.

We now present typical erroneous herd plugin suggested on thousands of WordPress blogs:

What’s included in PagePipe’s ComboPack deal?

PagePipe ComboPack includes:

issue #1 – Contact.Me – Contact Form 7 plugin alternatives. CONTACT.ME details


issue #2 – Fly.Me – Hummingbird plugin alternative. FLY.ME details


issue #3 – Search.Me – Yoast SEO plugin alternative. SEARCH.ME details


issue #4 – Police.Me – iThemes Security plugin alternatives. POLICE.ME details


issue #5 – Crush.Me – Image Compression and optimization suggestions. CRUSH.ME details


issue #6 – Block.Me – Akismet plugin alternatives.


issue #7 – Blast.Me – WP Rocket plugin alternative. BLAST.ME details


issue #8 – Sign.Me – OptinMonster plugin alternatives.


issue #9 – Greet.Me – HelloBar plugin substitutes


issue #10 – Theme.Me – Alternatives to premium themes. THEME.ME details


issue #11 – Select.Me – Gonzales speed plugin alternatives.


issue #12 – Obsolete. Removed.


issue #13 – Theme.2 – Torture-tested Twenty-seventeen theme for speed. THEME.2 details

And the “Toxic WordPress” 33-page ebook bonus.

When is a plugin too old to trust?

Today, PagePipe uses 70 plugins. About 30 of those not updated for over 1 year. Some for many years. We’re not embarrassed about that. It’s not a mistake.

Plugins listed in our ebooks are currently used on PagePipe. And also on client sites.

So the question is “Outdated? By what definition?”

Some think outdated plugins produce a warning like:

“This plugin hasn’t been tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.”

Being orphaned or abandoned doesn’t mean “bad or rotten.”

These lonely plugins still work. And often for over a decade without complaints. That isn’t brokenness.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/information-scent-deciphering-the-wordpress-plugin-repository/

“Does 8 months since an update concern us? Not in the least. There are plugins that are 8-years old in the directory that work fine. Those “best if used by” freshness dates are silly. They throw people off with their arbitrary “expiration-date” warnings.”

WordPress places warnings when a plugin isn’t tested with recent versions. Does that mean it won’t work any more with new versions of WordPress? Nope.

WordPress’ motive is their legal protection against liability and lawsuits. C.Y.A. If a plugin doesn’t work any more or presents security hazards, it’s removed fast. And some are. In particular, malicious plugins. They call those “take downs.” Plugin authors remove some because they didn’t get the market results they wanted. But generally plugins stay as long as there isn’t any noise about them. Retired or dead author’s plugins stay in the WordPress free directory.

No plugin is safe. Not paid (premium) plugins. Not obsolete plugins. And not recently updated plugins. A common plugin problem is automatic updates loading onto managed WordPress sites. Bugs in the new version mangle the site or causes conflicts.

It happens.

There’s no such thing as a risk-free plugin or theme. Even reckless WordPress messes up with their own Automattic-authored plugins.

Good-old “Plugin Logic” is our secret, speed-weapon plugin. It’s used on every site we touch. SELECT.ME issue #11 talks about it. It’s an amazing plugin.

Want to keep a specific plugin from updating? We recommend “Block Specific Plugin Updates” plugin. There are times this is handy.

https://wordpress.org/plugins/block-specific-plugin-updates/

A plugin we use to track plugin age is “More Plugin Info” plugin

https://wordpress.org/plugins/more-plugin-info/

There’s plugin churning in the 55,000+ plugin database. Don’t let silly warnings discourage you. They aren’t for your protection. They’re protecting WordPress.

Don’t fear old plugins.

How many plugins is too many?

PagePipe is hosted on cheap GoDaddy magnetic servers with no CDN. GoDaddy hosting is the second most hated provider in the world. The first is BlueHost. We’re out to prove even “bad” hosting can get fast page speed. (We host our store on Bluehost! Our blog on GoDaddy!) PagePipe.com is living proof these recommendations for speed actually work.

PagePipe now use 70 plugins on the blog (GoDaddy) and 24 plugins on the secure store (BlueHost). Even with this many plugins, load time is under 2 seconds on cheap, shared hosting. It’s not plugin quantity, it’s the quality that makes a difference. Web designers can’t be arbitrary in loading and activating plugins. The result is slow pages. And all our plugins are freebies from the plugin directory.

It’s a myth using many plugins slows down your website. Being sloppy in judging plugin quality or necessity is the culprit. That’s within a web designer’s control. It calls for wisdom and speed testing. The best plugins add no page weight at all – weightlessness! (In reality, about 1 millisecond – or less – per plugin to the initial page load.)

https://pagepipe.com/pagepipes-secret-sauce-for-loading-53-plugin-in-less-than-1-second-for-mobile-speed/

https://pagepipe.com/avoiding-futile-web-myths-about-site-speed/

https://pagepipe.com/testimonials/

https://pagepipe.com/site-tuning-for-mobile-first-speed/

Get PagePipe’s ComboPack now

Plugin popularity is a barometer of bloat.

To “Outperform” means being faster loading with a focus on mobile-inherent wireless remote delays. Considerations for things like packet loss and radio latency. Things we don’t worry about much for desktop users.

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]rom our tests so far, WordPress core adds two calls for “Gutenberg blocks” – even with Gutenberg deactivated with a plugin. Now we hate that waste and remove those two scripts. But if you compare the number of requests made by other page builders, that’s nothing. We’ve seen Elementor activate 70 requests. It depends upon activated “widgets.”

Does that make Elementor a dog? No. It’s the poster child of page builders. But that doesn’t make it good enough for extreme mobile speed. For users who don’t have a million visitors – and less than 60 to 70 percent mobile visitors per month – it doesn’t matter. Let them use Elementor. No pain.

For some site owners, bad speed creates cart abandonment and profit loss. Those guys have pain. They’re our audience. We sell info to developers who build sites for profit-oriented site owners — businesses. These guys are special.

Also, the fastest theme on the planet (for now) is Twenty-twenty-one. They didn’t include Google fonts (the trend for speed) but used a mobile font stack in style.css. That knocked a couple 100 milliseconds off the load time (200 to 300ms). Of course, you can get the same speed from Twenty-seventeen – if you disable Google fonts with a plugin.

Twenty-twenty-one theme loads in under 50 milliseconds. It’s biggest competitors for theme speed are GeneratePress and Astra. And a few other stripped down themes. But they’ll never have the longevity and protection that an Automattic-authored theme has. GeneratePress is one guy (Tom with an assistant). He croaks and the theme is gone.

From our tests so far, Gutenberg keeps getting faster with each iteration. So they’re making speed a top priority. Time will tell.

If they stop in-house arguing about features, Gutenberg will be out in late 2020. Then it’s a full-bore page builder. That’s what our intuition says. Meanwhile, new plugins add functionality to “blocks.” That makes them into stopgap page builders with single-purpose, drag-and-drop functions. That’s good for speed.

Elementor is a multi-purpose Swiss-army knife plugin. Too much stuff. That’s not good for speed. They keep adding more and more to this plugin. It’s more than doubled in package size since they started. That’s not a good sign either.

And last but not least, Elementor is a popular plugin with over 5 million installs. That is a barometer of bloat. Popularity and bloat go hand-in-hand toward slowness. Why? Inexplicable correlation. But our guess is prosperity produces code apathy.

Elementor is not bad. We’re building a “PagePipe” website for a guy in Denver right now. It uses Elementor. Are we worried? No. Because the client is on Pressidium ($25/mo for one site). They have a TTFB (time to first byte) with SSL handshaking of 700 milliseconds. Lots of headroom for speed.

A client in Arkansas also gets that same 700ms TTFB. That’s because we didn’t use SSL. And he’s on Godaddy ($8 per month two sites). Only $4/mo per site. Cheap.

The annual overhead differential is $300 versus $48. It only matters if you’re poor or care about reducing repeating rent costs. The client in Denver doesn’t care. But the guy in Arkansas does. He was paying $500 per year for hosting two websites on two different hosts. Now he pays $96.

You may think this insignificant. Especially for plump Americans. But 70 percent of PagePipe’s traffic is international. Some readers live on only a few dollars a day. In a third-world county, saving $100 per year for the same results is significant (food and shelter).

Origin optimization lowers your annual site overhead.

What’s more important than speed for SEO? Writing good post titles!

Please remember relevant content is number one for SEO. Speed affects User Experience (UX). Good UX then influences metrics like dwell time, bounce rate, and click through. Google interprets those as user intent.

User intent is a major factor in search engine optimization and conversion optimization.

Speed affects page ranking less than 1 percent. But everyone hates a slow page. That’s not being hospitable or polite.

Speed is about kindness!

Common-sense tip number one: Good Titles.

Writing good titles for your WordPress posts should be obvious. But we’re always stunned at how many sites don’t use this simple tactic to improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and click through.

Page title is important. People choose to click your listing on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) instead of nine other competitive page titles. A title arouses human curiosity. If it doesn’t, it’s a loser. The WordPress permalink is written for machines (search). It doesn’t need to match. Title is an important controllable indicator of relevant content in the search listings. This affects findability, too.

People read your article based on it’s title.

A good title reads like a headline. A plugin we used for a year is a good teacher for writing better titles. Title Experiments is a free plugin available in the WordPress plugin repository. The plugin allows you to test multiple title variations for any post or page.

★★★★★

WP Title Experiments Free

Load Time: unknown

Title Experiments relies on the old classic WordPress editor. It won’t be updated to support Gutenberg block editor added in WP 5.x. This is the author’s excuse to ditch the paid plugin. It’s plain he’s disappointed by the lack of plugin income. No enthusiasm to go on.

Our workaround is simple. Use the Classic Editor Plugin with the Classic Editor Addon. So even if your core version is 5.0+ and your running PHP 7.x, things still work.

Title Experiments is a helpful plugin. We learned a lot about what titles work and what doesn’t for user engagement. But the heavy plugin was a top contributors to site drag. So we removed it after our education on writing better headlines (page titles).

Title Experiments relies heavily on the old editor of WordPress and will not be updated to support Gutenberg (WPv5.0+).

This is an author’s excuse to ditch the plugin.

Every year we review the last 4 months of traffic and see what is performing and trending. We’ve found our worst performing posts always have a lame headline (title). Renaming the post is the best thing to try first. We also dump dead posts or consolidate posts. This has proven effective for three years now.

For example, a mere label such as Ferritin and Hypothyroidism could be rewritten for human interest.

“What are optimal ferritin levels for hypothyroidism?”

That makes people curious and they click. Questions are always good. And including the word “you” is beneficial. Answer the readers question, “What’s in it for me?”

Purging your site is wise and focuses your content. That’s good positioning strategy. It affects perception of your site credibility.

MYTH: I’ve installed Yoast, so I’m all set

Sometimes, this statement makes me want to spit out my coffee and laugh; other times, it makes me sad that new bloggers can be so gullible and clueless.

Why?

Because this is an utterly ridiculous statement.

First, some newer bloggers mistakenly think that Yoast “gives them SEO.” And, of course, it doesn’t. In fact, there is no plugin that “gives you SEO.” There is no such thing. Rather the blog posts you write and the activities you do for a post will get you organic traffic. There is no silver bullet and no easy way around this.

Rather, Yoast attempts to measure your SEO. It uses some basic formulas that “check off” some of the boxes. Notice how I say “attempts.” This is because it’s very formulaic. And, also, it’s not very accurate nor predictive. In fact, often it gives you bad advice because it will direct you to do things that will lead to keyword stuffing (which is very bad for SEO) as well as poor writing, and that is bad for user experience. And, if it’s a bad user experience, it’s bad for SEO.

Many people mistakenly think that if they get a green light that their post is SEO optimized and will rank well. This simply isn’t true. Far from it. It’s all based on the keyword phrase that you enter. It does not tell you if that’s a highly searched term nor your chances of ranking for it. And, it’s simply garbage in/garbage out.

–Debbie Gartner

How to find out what you should be writing about?

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ntuition is needed for what future content to add. Not just metric history evaluation. The best article to write probably isn’t even on your radar yet. Our best post ideas come from reader’s emails who have questions. When we’re done writing long answers, we convert the email into a post – or add to an existing post.

Analyzing your inquiries isn’t something Google Analytics can do. Except for one helpful thing:

If you go to Google Analytics > Behavior > Site content > View full report (down in the right hand corner), you’re shown the top 10 of xxx pages. In our case 378 pages, we then change the “show rows” to 400. You then can see all posts and pages by popularity. You will see some entries with the following format:

/?s=Beaver+builder

This line above originated from our WordPress search box. A human couldn’t find something they needed on our site. Important info. They wanted to know more about Beaver Builder page builder plugin.

We don’t have a Beaver Builder article. Do we need one? Maybe.

Going to the top of the GA page, there is an Export function on the right. We download the entire set for whatever period we choose and import that into a spreadsheet.

Then we categorize and sort the “searches.” The results reveal what people were looking for. We then test by doing a Google Search on the terms with the name “PagePipe.” That reveals what kind of placement the search phrase gets in the rankings.

This influences what we write about based on reader’s questions we’re not answering. So far this is helpful. How else can you learn what you don’t know?

From our recent analysis, we generated the following preliminary titles for future posts:

  • Why don’t we write about good hosts? Why only the bad ones?
  • How does cookie consent compliance affect speed?
  • Measuring HTTPS/SSL drag with ByteCheck
  • Why we don’t review paid themes
  • Why we don’t recommend CDN
  • How to use Cache Enabler plugin for speed.
  • Is Imsanity plugin good for speed?
  • How to use Autoptimize plugin for speed.
  • Magnetic versus SSD hosting for speed
  • What is site-origin optimization?
  • Speeding up Astra theme
  • Speeding up WooCommerce sites
  • Why use twenty-seventeen theme instead of twenty-nineteen?

We then work on these article ideas one-by-one.

OTHER OFFSITE LINKS ABOUT WRITING GOOD TITLES
We Analyzed 912 Million Blog Posts. Here’s What We Learned About Content Marketing

Speed alternatives using MailChimp for WordPress.

MailChimp for WordPress
We actually use MailChimp. It does cause site drag — unless you offload the signup page to their server instead of your own. Read about it here.

On the Internet, there exist widgets – or interface components. They allow connecting your site to specialty services. These are sometimes called third-party integrations or API (such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos, Google Fonts, Google Analytics, CDNs, etc.).

We call them annoying – because they usually slow down page load time. Under ideal conditions, they can be fast. But because you call (HTTP request) to a remote server, that server’s engagement is unpredictable. There can be long, random delays. Then we’re at their mercy. We’ve seen 1- to 2-second delays for third-party add-ons. And in bad cases, more than 8 seconds. Ugh! These delays are essentially “waiting in line” for service. It’s peak traffic dependent.

In an ideal situation, what time delay might we expect for a third-party email service?

We’re all about speed. So we need to set a proper example. Yet, we also desire “free.” And MailChimp’s free email service sounds enticing. Is it fast enough for us? Yes. 36 millisecond load time with the right plugin. There are ways to do this without a plugin – but we found it particularly easy.

With MailChimp, you can send 12,000 emails a month to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers – free!

MailChimp provides an API key for access control using free, signup form plugins.

After setting up a free MailChimp account, adding a form to our site was a piece of cake. We used WP Subscribe, a lightweight opt-in form plugin for WordPress. The widget supports several email providers – currently MailChimp, AWeber and Feedburner. You can then customize the basic signup text used in the opt-in form. Just click the “Labels” option right inside the widget. To customize colors, you need to dig into CSS – and add code to the customizer or a child theme. We did that. An explanation of changing default colors is on the WP Subscribe plugin forum. Here’s a link to a CSS example.

WP Subscribe Features

  • Customizable text.
  • Add to multiple widget areas.
  • Supports MailChimp, AWeber and Feedburner.
  • Mobile responsive.
  • Free!

Here are two typical experiences from our experiments:

WP Subscribe plugin
MailChimp (without CSS minification)
40,000+ installs, 61k download
Using WP Subscribe plugin with MailChimp adds:
2 requests, 2.6k weight, and 88 milliseconds load time.
No improvement with minification (concatenation). This happens because of the way WP Subscribe plugin is coded.

Yikes Easy Forms for MailChimp plugin
50,000+ installs, 3.7M download
3 HTTP requests, 4.5k page weight, 93 milliseconds load time.
This plugin is coded so minification is a big benefit. Concatenating and minifying with Autoptimize plugin reduced load time to 36 milliseconds for all theme and plugin CSS files. Bonus!

A demonstration of potential speed differences.

iContact (a MailChimp competitor)
5 HTTP requests, 5.5k weight, and 783 milliseconds load time. MailChimp is 10 times faster than iContact.
There is no benefit from concatenation or minification with iContact. The form is created by embedding iContact supplied CSS in a theme text widget.

A note: Each request can load in parallel speeding up load times. It depends upon your server configuration and user’s browser.

16 Alternatives to MailChimp:

Get Response
1,000 list, $15/mo.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/getresponse-integration/
10,000+ installs, 1M download.

SparkPost
Send 100K emails/month for free.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/sparkpost/
8,000+ installs, 35k download.

Active Campaign
1,000 contacts, unlimited sending, $17/mo., 14-day trial.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/activecampaign-subscription-forms/
10,000+ installs, 396k download.

Aweber
30-day free trial, $19/mo. for up to 500 subscribers and unlimited emails.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/aweber-web-form-widget/
10,000+ installs, 35k download.

Emma
10,000 contacts, $89/mo., free trial account
https://wordpress.org/plugins/emma-emarketing-plugin/
1,000+ installs, 73k download

iContact
500 subscribers, $14/mo
https://wordpress.org/plugins/icontact-widget/
2,000+ installs, 166k download

Constant Contact
Free trial for your first 60 days. 500 list size, $20/mo
https://wordpress.org/plugins/constant-contact-forms/
100,000+ installs, 2.2M download

sendinblue
SendInBlue 9,000 free emails per month, unlimited contacts. There are daily sending limits and the SendInBlue logo is visible on all emails.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/mailin/
10,000+ installs, 2.7M download

madmimi
MadMimi – free plan for 100 subscribers.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/mad-mimi-wp/
100+ installs, 741k

activetrail
Target Hero – This free plan includes 1,000 contacts and unlimited emails. Target Hero requires SMS verification to activate an account. If you don’t text, you won’t be able to start an account.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/activetrail-free-email-signup-form/
100+ installs, 111k download

zender.sharptag
Send unlimited number of emails, no credit card needed.

mailerlite
1,000 subscribers, Unlimited emails / month, Free
https://wordpress.org/plugins/official-mailerlite-sign-up-forms/
8,000+ installs, 1.6M download

swipemail.io
Send up to 2,000 emails for free with our 30-day trial—no credit card required.

growmail.co.uk
send 500 Emails / month, free

mailigen.com/special/partnersprogram
forever free Mailigen plan starting with 3000 subscribers.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/mailigen-widget/
80+ installs, 435k download

freshmail
free, 2000 emails to 500 subscribers per month.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/freshmail-integration/
800+ installs, 184k download

benchmarkemail
Upload up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 14,000 emails per month for free.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/benchmark-email-lite/
2,000+ installs, 89.2k download

WP Buff’s $2,898 Speed & Security slick deal.

This is a heads up.

DISCLAIMER:
We have no vendetta, grudge, or beef with WP Buffs.
They seem like nice people.

But, WP Buffs baited us with email offers to sign up for two juicy PDF downloads. Curiosity got the best of us. Does our advice – about free plugins and themes – address the exact same problems?

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]oth WP-Buffs ebooks are 7-pages, color, and A4 size. Nice graphics. They tell you the same stuff we do. But they left something out: the good information solving the problems listed. Oh, we see now. We buy their stuff and it’s supposed to solve all our problems. How much? Read on:

The biggest difference is the price of their recommended solutions. In PagePipe articles – we focus on free ways to get speed and security. Let’s examine the two WP-Buffs colorful downloads below:

BOOK 1
  • “The 21-Step Checklist to Ensure a 99.9% Secure WordPress Website”

Example page

CONTENTS

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he promise: WP Buffs implies reading these PDFs makes your site 100% secure. They don’t mention it costs you $1,553 US dollars.

This is the checklist below. You add these features purchasing the three recommended paid plugins or paid services. WP Buffs then receives a sales commission or finders fee.

  • Daily Cloud Backups
  • Force Secure Passwords
  • Daily Malware Scan
  • SSL Certificate
  • Database Protection
  • Real-Time Monitoring
  • IP Blocking
  • Brute Force Protection
  • Install a Firewall
  • Custom Login URL
  • Daily Link Scan
  • Blocking Fake Google Crawlers
  • Comment Spam Filtering
  • Daily Plugin + Theme Scan
  • Authentication Keys + Salts
  • Daily Database Optimization
  • 2-Factor Authentication
  • File Permissions
  • DNS Change Alerts
  • Verify Trusted Sources
  • Manage Inactive Plugins

Note: These security features sound wonderful and amazing. They’re overkill. These practices are notorious for server overages and resource consumption. They slow down both TTFB (time to first byte) and page loads. Please, don’t do it! Save your hard-earned bucks.

WP Buffs publishes 3 affiliate links for you to click. WP Buffs earns a commission if people end up buying the advertised service or product. This sales tactic is also called revenue sharing. It’s a way to make a profit.

Their affiliate link solutions for security:

  1. iThemes Security Pro plugin.
    $588 per year annual rent.
  2. Malcare malware detection plugin
    $96 per year annual rent.
  3. WP Security Audit Log service
    $89 per year annual rent.

TOTAL recurring annual fees: $773 US

 

WP Buffs makes an offer to secure your personal website or a client site as an extra paid service. They ask you to set up an appointment call. The goal is to sell you a maintenance and service plan for $780-per-year annual rent.

SECURITY GRAND TOTAL: $1,553 US

You can get this for free doing it yourself.

FREE ALTERNATIVES

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/free-discrete-plugins-replace-bloated-security-plugins/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/is-there-any-lightweight-firewall-plugin-substitute-for-wordfence-security-plugin/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/httpsssl-and-its-negative-impact-on-mobile-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/the-best-lightweight-plugin-for-deactivating-xml-rpc-to-improve-wordpress-security/

$9.95 PagePipe ebook: https://pagepipe-ebooks.com/police-me-speed-knockoff-inspired-by-ithemes-security-plugin/

WP Buffs has affiliate links for managed WordPress hosting services on its website. We do not recommend any of the 6 they mention for speed. They’re expensive and you can get equal speeds for less elsewhere.


BOOK 2
  • “The 12-Step Checklist to Achieve Loading Times Under 1 Second”

Example page

CONTENTS

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he promise: WP Buffs implies reading their PDFs makes your site load in under 1 second. They don’t mention it costs you $1,345 US dollars.

This is the checklist below. Add all these features by purchasing the three recommended paid plugins or paid services. WP Buffs then receives a sales commission or finders fee.

  • Optimize Images
  • Minify Javascript and CSS
  • Render-Blocking Resources
  • Leverage Browser Caching
  • Enable Compression
  • Reduce Server Response Time
  • Remove Query Strings
  • Optimize Mobile Experience
  • Combine Requests
  • Lazy Loading Images
  • Inline Critical CSS
  • CDN Support

Their affiliate link solutions for speed:

  1. WP Rocket
    $49 per year annual rent.
  2. WP Smush Pro
    $588 per year annual rent.
  3. Astra
    $708 per year annual rent.

SPEED GRAND TOTAL: $1,345 US

You can get this for free doing it yourself.

FREE ALTERNATIVES

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/extreme-astra-maximum-mobile-benefits-from-free-theme-features/

$9.95 PagePipe ebook: https://pagepipe-ebooks.com/duplicate-wp-rocket-plugin-features-without-a-49-annual-license-fee/

$9.95 PagePipe ebook: https://pagepipe-ebooks.com/crush-me-whats-wrong-with-wp-smush-image-optimization-plugin/

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e wanted to know how they achieve these cool things. But alas, they don’t tell you how – only what you should buy. To get the things done, you must hire them – or click on an affiliate link in the PDF.

Our delight fizzled. This is mere bait. No answers at all. Not knowledge – a mere sales pitch.

Disappointment.

Their gold-standard metrics: PageSpeed scores. An absurdity we despise. It’s load time in milliseconds that count for us.

And some stuff they suggest is contradictory. Many ideas presented won’t make your site more secure or faster. At least, not without a fat price tag attached to it. Actionable recommendations are affiliate links to premium paid plugins or services. As speed engineers and web developers, we don’t appreciate this sales tactic.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/online-speed-test-scores-are-especially-useless-for-mobile-speed-improvement/

It’s a fluffy self-promotion piece. Marketing hype. We wanted technical solutions. Dang, it! We’re disappointed. Same old hype from other blogs. We wanted to learn something new or clever. Sadness engulfs our speed souls.

So if you want to find out how to achieve these marvels for free start by reading PagePipe. Visitors often binge read our entire site content. Are you obsessed with speed? Join us.

CONCLUSION: Keep your money in your pocket. Learn how to use duplicate plugins that achieve the same WP Buffs goals for free.

Improving “The7” theme for mobile speed.

Summary: The7 theme JavaScript is the main speed obstacle. Second, is the type of image files used to create the animation (PNGs). Third, the animation plugins (slider) is slowing down the site. These elements cannot be improved or changed.

It’s a miracle this theme loads in under 4 seconds (sometimes 3) with all of these obstacles stacked against.

The client wrote:

To make a long story short, the job was to improve the look of the website and improve the speed to 2 seconds or less.  When he started the site was loading close to 3 seconds and as you can see it got worse to about 4 seconds. I believe it was $680.00 through a “developer” in India.

The theme “The7” cost $59 $29. The visual composer (drag-and-drop) is built-in for maximum customization. It’s “feature-rich” – meaning the theme authors from the Ukraine included the kitchen sink to appeal to everyone. Multipurpose usually means slow. The7 has been sold 219,000 times. It’s popular. Popular means “slow.” That is because people are attracted to themes that look pretty and have bells and whistles. But learning how to use The7 is probably as complex as a new computer operating system.

Million dollars worth of The7 theme have been sold to happy(?) customers. In the Ukraine, that’s a lot of money.

One single javascript file for this theme feature is 403k minimized. A heavy load. There is about 1M of javascript total associated with the theme (before being gzip compressed). This cannot be improved.

This is typical: 50 percent code weight and 50 percent image weight.

The goal is to balance aesthetics (branding) and speed (load time). Anytime, you increase one you decrease the other. Push and pull. More decoration slows down a site. Less speeds it up.

There are two types of aesthetic design: classic and expressive.

“The7” site leans toward expressive because of the colors, animation, and image usage. Image usage includes PNG transparency and large background images (layering effects). If too much expressive aesthetic is used, then the page gets visually noisy – and heavy. It distracts from the content (text). The goal is to get people to read – or click a response button.

Classic aesthetic is static, clean, and usually stark white. Sometimes referred to as minimalist. But it has it’s roots in Greek and Bauhaus design theories with white space usage, invisible grids, and golden-aspect ratios.

If a page is too classic, it gets boring and repetitive. If it is too expressive, it turns into distracting noise. A balance has to be found again for wisdom. How “good is good enough” is subjective and biased by opinion and perception.

It’s amazing The7 theme loads in 4 seconds with all the expressive design elements. 4 seconds is a typical load time for a WordPress theme that doesn’t have many images on the page — and no animation. But the Internet average load time is about 8 seconds. Which has been proven practically intolerable for users. The saving grace is the pages aren’t completely blank for 8 seconds. If it is blank, the site will most definitely be abandoned.

At this point, to get better speed, you’d have to throw money at the theme problem – or redesign. You’d have to sacrifice some expressive aesthetics – especially the animation. All for a few seconds of speed.

I do like the look of the site so my goal would be to improve the speed as you suggest.  4 seconds is just too long.

The prospects of trimming 2 seconds aren’t good. The image assets are heavy and require JavaScript to be loaded. WordPress image compression was recently changed from 90 to 82. That is good enough.

There are other things that can’t be changed: Fontawesome is included. It loads even if it isn’t used. SliderRevolution plugin is loaded on every page – even if there isn’t a slider present. Dashicons are loaded for every page. Various Google fonts are loaded. While all of these things can be removed with code modifications, they are part of the design and the site wouldn’t look the same – it may even break.

I followed this guide exactly but it only made a tiny improvement:  http://www.onlinemediamasters.com/w3-total-cache-settings/

We’ve never had any success with W3 Total Cache plugin. So you aren’t the Lone Ranger. In general, if the site is already as optimized as it can get, caching just doesn’t make any difference. It doesn’t matter what caching plugin you use.

But recently Cloudflare and MaxCDN stopped working right so I disable both of them and they weren’t really working anyway.

Be sure to completely uninstall any plugins associated with those old CDNs.

Cloudflare CDN also failed in our speed testing. Same story as caching. Once a site is optimized, CDNs can’t help. Instead, they frequently slow down pages or cause “page not found” errors. It’s our opinion that CDN mainly helps with security and not speed. But if you have a grossly bloated website, CDN makes a difference. Or if you are selling to an international market (which you aren’t).

CDN and caching are band-aids for sloppy designers. Too lazy to optimize.

There isn’t anything we can add that would significantly improve the speed. We do believe W3 Total Cache is minifying your CSS and JS files. It’s also Gzip compressing all files. So you are getting some benefit from it. Those features could be added with other plugins – but there wouldn’t be a speed increase to remove the W3 Total Cache plugin.

Contact Form 7 is a heavy plugin. But changing it to something lighter won’t be significant. We’d leave it alone.

Conclusion: We suggest your website is good-enough to communicate for marketing purposes. Review the main goal of your site. Redesign should be postponed as long as possible.

LOOKING FOR A NEW THEME?

thumbnail of THEME-ME-10-v1.compressed
THEME.ME: What is the fastest free theme? There are 5,100 free themes in the WordPress theme directory. Of those, only 1,602 are responsive. All the rest are fixed-width junk. How did we sort the remaining 1,602 free responsive themes to find the fastest loading?


 

Defense strategy against Gutenberg breaking plugins and themes.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We couldn’t agree more. But we know, the WordPress world breaks on a recurring basis. That’s the price of an open-source community. Things become obsolete or incompatible.

Looking into our crystal ball we predict some near term WordPress trends and how they affect sites. Presently, here’s our status:

A common blog has 170 posts and 21 pages. And 32 active plugins (the WordPress average is 25).

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here was technical bumpiness (total panic!?) during past core updates. Many major themes formerly used homepage widgets for customization. Upon WordPress new customizer addition, widgets moved without prediction. These errant themes became non-complaint and had to change their code to match new WordPress standards.

The new standards make things more bulletproof. But actually nuked everyone using old standards forcing emergency compliance. We recovered from that heart attack. WordPress makes changes now by adding a Customizer for CSS code normally stored in a child theme. Child themes are considered obsolete – but there is no documentation saying this is so.

We recommend using Simple CSS plugin to safely add customized code to your CSS. It won’t be overwritten by theme or core updates.

Presently, custom CSS is stored in the Theme Customizer > Additional CSS. This is fragile if the theme is changed. The way around this is to transfer the code to a nice plugin called “Simple CSS.” It acts in the same way, but is protected from theme changes. It also doesn’t cause an extra call like a child theme plugin. It’s faster loading. But CSS code isn’t always compatible in every way when themes are changed.

We don’t use child themes on new sites any more.

On the horizon looms the Gutenberg WordPress changes. We’ll get nuked again. But there are workarounds as stopgaps to get us into safe territory and through the learning curves. Gutenberg has already proved and predicted not being compliant with over 8,000 plugins in the WordPress plugin directory. Is there a published list? No.

Are paid plugins better for Gutenberg compatibility? No. 15 percent of those are predicted by Gutenberg developers to fail.

In the past, WordPress maintained backwards compatibility with legacy themes and plugins. This will not be the case with version 5.0 forward.

Gutenberg introduces unknown and unforeseen problems. They claim presently they will force the interface over the top of the traditional editor. It’s a god-like power play.

Don’t fear. Plugins are already created to defeat Gutenberg when automatic update occurs. Postponing Gutenberg hassles is a strategy improving the return on investment for existing sites. We’re talking increasing shelf-life or longevity. We can make changes when we’re ready instead of having them shoved down our throats.

The life span of a typical website is 3 years.

One can’t know for certain but some of your favorite plugins may fail. Authors may chose to repair them or we may have to find substitutes. There are 55,000 plugins in the repository so we’re not worried about fixing it. We’re only worried about “breakage events.” We assume it won’t be plugins with active ongoing version updates. But we don’t know. No one knows. Just because a plugin is stale or abandoned by it’s author doesn’t indicate potential failure.

“Gutenberg has three planned stages. The first, aimed for inclusion in WordPress 5.0, focuses on the post editing experience and the implementation of blocks. This initial phase focuses on a content-first approach. …

These foundational elements will pave the way for stages two and three, planned for the next year, to go beyond the post into page templates and ultimately, full site customization.” – Source

The goal of Gutenberg is to become a site builder (full site customization) and replace all page builder plugins. Fortunately, we didn’t go down the path of page-builder-plugin temptation. But millions of sites will ultimately be affected. Why is WordPress doing this? Do they want to destroy page builder plugins? No. They want to destroy WIX, Weebly, SquareSpace, and any other CMS competitor. Matt Mullenweg said authors and users of page builder plugins are collateral damage.

So here are our strategic recommendations:

1. Install a preemptive-strike plugin against Gutenberg. This is a precautionary safety measure and stopgap. It will add a years time to adapt your site.

There are presently 3 to 4 plugins to do this, but the one we recommend is:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/disable-gutenberg/

Oddly, it includes Font Awesome. We don’t like that. But that’s life. Do a staging area test of the impact on your theme and site.

Another plugin alternative is:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/gutenbye/

2. Install the Simple CSS plugin and transfer the code in Additional CSS to it.

3. Twenty-nineteen theme deserves investigation for potential as a theme replacement for long term reliability and longevity. It is built for the Gutenberg editor. This theme is fast loading because the authors stripped it of features and external font requests.

The goal is future-proofing your site and improving the return on investment.

Now the bad news, we recommend a complete rebuild of your existing site. It can be planned for. We expect planning a switch in 2020 would be prudent. It’s gonna cost (again). Start budgeting now. Your site will then have a 3 to 6 year life (ROI) from that version. One never know exactly since the WordPress market is dynamic (chaotic).

Cloudflare hype for DNS 1.1.1.1 speed is pure B.S.

“CloudFlare has released a new privacy-focused DNS service that runs on IP 1.1.1.1. They supposedly rotate logs every 24 hours and don’t store anything long-term. Seems cool, but I wish it did security filtering as well.” Link

This 1.1.1.1 Link told us who the real benefactors are: 1.1.1.1 is a partnership between Cloudflare and APNIC. The speed project is at a research phase. Just like Google AMP has been for years. Both are ideas or concepts under test. 1.1.1.1 DNS services launched April 1, 2018.

APNIC is the Regional Internet Registry administering IP addresses for the Asia Pacific.

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]any think PagePipe is technocratic. That’s anyone who thinks technology will save the future world. That’s a bad assumption. Ironically, we’re safety-seeking, risk-adverse late adopters. Or even laggards – when it comes to technology changes. That’s because “new” often means “buggy” – or worse a ticking time bomb. But our attention is now on this method.

What’s the downside of Cloudflare’s claims of reducing site speed by 54 milliseconds? No one knows yet. We’re optimistic skeptics. But we usually wait and see how things work for Guinea-pig innovators. We find it odd that Cloudflare brags about saving 54 milliseconds while at the same time boasting about how they converted the biggest chunk of early adopters to SSL certification. Using SSL/HTTPS slows down every site by 400 to 500 milliseconds. Speed hypocrisy!

Some international service providers are blocking 1.1.1.1. Why? That’s yet to be revealed. 1.1.1.1 doesn’t work in many countries because it’s blocked. What? Why would it be deliberately blocked? And in some cases, it’s not blocked but slowed down. Again, why? Odd mysteries to solve. 1.1.1.1 is plainly not a panacea … yet. Or maybe ever.

Cloudflare CDN publishes deceptive time-to-first-byte (TTFB) speed specifications. Because Cloudflare uses marketing weasel words, our level of trust is low.

Cloudflare is getting free PR and press. Proof of concept really lies in user testing. That’s where they’re at today. Testing on users. We wouldn’t adopt this technology. Our intuition says there will be revealed a hidden downside – or that this service makes little to no difference.

Cloudflare has low source credibility. They  promote something for nothing often with a speed-gotcha embedded. From our experience and our clients, using Cloudlflare services increases site fragility.

Other elements have greater impact than Cloudflare 1.1.1.1 speed claims – like TTFB, SSL, heavy plugins, page builders, webfonts, email APIs, video, etc.

The 1.1.1.1 gain is the equivalent of disabling a related-posts widget plugin. Maybe.

So we’re watching and waiting. Benchmarking Cloudflare 1.1.1.1 services against Google’s 8.8.8.8 – and others like Quad9 and OpenDNS is the norm. Who is using those services? Geeks? Multi-billion dollar corporations? Certainly not non-programmers using shared hosting. None that we’ve ever seen anyway. We’re talking a difference of a millisecond per parallel-loaded request. Is this significant? Probably not.

1.1.1.1 is a distraction from speed fundamentals making a real performance difference.

If 1.1.1.1 makes a difference, it indicates the web page under test had too many calls (requests) in the first place. A bloated page always benefits most when optimized. How fast would the page be if built properly? Where do these DNS calls show up in speed testing? They don’t. They are smothered in the TTFB.

They aren’t giving us real benefits yet in language understandable to normal website owners. They’re using GeekSpeak.

For example, if a site has 24 calls. How much difference does using a special DNS make in real-world speed results? 24 milliseconds? We doubt it.

Why not eliminate 200 milliseconds by getting rid of a plugin like Social Warfare and stop linking to Facebook?

CONCLUSION
This 1.1.1.1 DNS trick is misguiding site owners from true solutions: discipline, Pareto-based measurement, and value analysis of website components.

REFERENCE LINKS:
https://pagepipe.com/cloudflare-doesnt-guarantee-consistent-load-times/

https://gizmodo.com/cloudbleed-is-a-problem-but-it-gets-worse-1792721147

https://gizmodo.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-cloudbleed-the-lates-1792710616

Speedy.site: Our most unfair review of their wonky optimization services.

Speedy.site is a site for speed services. Buyer beware.

Interesting offer. But a little mysterious to us. They have a money-back guarantee to get “greens” in Core Web Vitals. Or “If the changes we implement and recommend don’t achieve all Good Core Web Vitals receive a full refund!”

That smells fishy. Marketing weasel words. Trendy and faddish. Wait? What is this fine print?

Speedy.site PAYMENT TERMS

2. Client acknowledges that no refunds are available once work has commenced on the Project and additional requests for refunds will require Management review.


3. If the changes Speedy.Site both implements and recommends don’t result in Good Core Web Vitals on either Mobile or Desktop the client can request and be entitled to a full refund.


So which is it #2 (no refunds) or #3 (yes refunds)? If Core Web Vitals improve on desktop is that good enough? Dang lawyer lingo. We’re confused.

And this one:
CLIENT OBLIGATIONS
The Customer agrees Speedy.Site has the right to make changes to or update a Customer’s website. The Customer, as the website owner, agrees to and takes full responsibility for those changes being made.

LIMITATION OF LIABILITY:
Client hereby agrees that the responsibility to check the performance, accuracy and quality of any web pages optimized by Speedy.site rests solely with them.

So who is responsible? The client?

But wait: Client acknowledges said content and technology is protected by Canadian and international intellectual property laws. NOTE: Specifically the laws of the province of Ontario, Canada. Finally, a clue where these guys are located. But who the heck are they? So we guess they aren’t neighbors to Jon Dykstra since they’re 2,664 km away (1,655 miles).

So maybe their testimonials page will give us some clues about who they are. Oops. Guess not. The testimonials page isn’t working so hot. 521 error Web server is down. Hmm? We’ve seen that a lot with Cloudflare CDN. Annoying.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]heir phone country code is #8. That is ANGUILLA, a vulnerable island in the Caribbean Sea. A beach vacation spot for tourists and celebrities. It’s east of Puerto Rico. The island is most known for snorkeling with colorful tropical fish. Visitors are allowed to stay one month. Is this real – or just a virtual assistant service? We suspect it’s an offshore receptionist answering phone calls. Do those exist? Yes. A bunch. Why? Because Anguilla is an English-speaking country. You can get an Anguillian phone number activated within 30 minutes with a credit card.

Credibility isn’t going up, is it?

Speedy.site is not registered with WHOIS domain directory. That’s odd.

No whois information found. We are not the registrar of record for this domain name.

WHOIS was standardized in the early 1980s to look up domains, people, and other resources

Very odd. There’s a New York 2020-built website hosted on Unified Layer about SEO services. It has the same island phone number and even using the same theme as http://infotrum.com/ Uh. OK. Confess Speedy.site. Is this version number two? You’re confusing us with a secret identity. Who are you guys? Is this a rebranding?

Speedy.site’s promise sounds too good to be true. Remember what your mother said about amazing promises! It’s fishy, sort-of-like a bait-and-switch tactic. It’s exactly like what you dreamed of last night. Do we wonder? Is this virtuous promise as vague as a dream?

Are they doing real speed work? Or use some kind of trick? You may not see an improvement in site load time. No guarantee.

PagePipe puts in too much work to give a full refund for site tuning. We give a 50-percent refund. We’ve never had to do a refund. — Knock on wood. — But we imagine we will someday. By the time our performance report is done, we’ve earned it. We examine how healthy and future-proof a site is.

PAGEPIPE’S RANKING DISCLAIMER
“… you acknowledge that PagePipe.com neither owns nor governs the actions of any search engine. You also acknowledge that due to fluctuations in the relative competitiveness of some search terms, recurring changes in the search engine algorithms, and other competitive factors, it is impossible to guarantee number one rankings or consistent top ten rankings, or any other specific rankings for any particular search term.”

PagePipe sells improved user experience UX, not SEO hucksterism.

We don’t presume core web vitals is a measurement of user experience. Especially because Google said so. They change their web tune frequently. This may be a Trojan horse for Google to roll out something else secretly. Have we ever seen something like this happen? Oh, yeah. When WordPress had a quick update to add Emojis (slow), it was to conceal a major security flaw and bug fix. How do we know? The engineer’s testimonial is on YouTube in a seminar he taught. No one noticed. No public embarrassment.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-to-eliminate-deadweight-emojis-in-wordpress/

Speedy.site is expecting a panic stampede during the pending “crisis” from Google algorithm changes. They may not be online in 6 months. We’ve taken a conservative wait-and-see attitude. We’ve heard Google cry wolf too many times about how speed might affect rankings — only to never see them materialize. Here is our stance at present:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/web-panic-about-google-core-web-vitals-baloney/

NOTE: Andrew Nacin walks step by step through how a critical security vulnerability was discovered in WordPress core code and then patched using emoji as a Trojan horse in WordPress 4.2.

We never advocate speed alters SEO directly. Because it has a very small effect if any. Like a half-percent improvement in ranking.

Google’s claim: “We will introduce a new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page.” They presently have 200 signals. They are adding one to three more. How much difference do you think that little extra will make?

Google says, “sites generally should not expect drastic changes.”

We trust Google so much. We accept their press leaks as absolute truth.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/ignore-googles-200-seo-signals-including-speed-learn-writing-skills-for-good-page-ranking/

Speedy.site standard service is nothing to write home about. Minifying JS and CSS can also get them into trouble. We know from experience that minifying JavaScript breaks all Amazon affiliate links. Concatenation is a standard recommendation on most online speed tests.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/concatenation-is-the-site-killer-not-minification/

Their ‘custom’ service isn’t much better but they do offer to convert a page builder to Gutenberg which is on the right track. We are now teaching these “ZERObuilder” speed principles. It is a work in progress: https://blockclones.com/

I was surprised to see Jon Dykstra giving a testimonial for the service because I believe he is a fan of yours.

Jon likes our generosity.
His testimonial on their site is pretty weak. What is a decent job? Certainly not a 15 to 20 point improvement on a vaporous score. He probably won’t admit that the final score was 30 total. :)

“I tried Speedy.Site on one site. They did a decent job. My page speed score improved 15 to 20 points on Mobile.” — Jon’s testimonial.

Jon Dykstra lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He is a successful blogger.

If they were really good, Jon would have rolled their service out on all his sites. He didn’t do that as far as we know. He’s not that stupid.

Is a 15 to 20 point improvement on mobile good? Good compared to what? That isn’t a speed measurement. It’s an abstract ivory-tower score.

We suspect Jon Dykstra’s been going to remedial speed night school.

What surprised us is after Jon hired these guys, he picked our brains, bought all our books. He then went to WPJohnny.com, took his course, and picked his brains, too.

Then Jon published a “speed module” in his online course. We’re a little stunned by this behavior since Jon disdains ripoffs. Would we do something like that to reduce our learning curve? Probably. It’s smart. But we call it what it is: industrial espionage. No pretense.

We like Jon. He’s a smart guy.

Many sites working on the fear of a Google Core Web Vitals update. Even Jon Dykstra touted fear in a recent email newsletter promoting his new speed course. That is why we published this:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/speed-testing-scams/

A potential panic is about to occur. But Google is going to stall. They always do. Hedging their bets. Caution. They can’t afford to tick off their biggest advertising clients.

Speed.site offers a quotation for the following custom work:

1. Page builder to Gutenberg conversion
This is no easy task and could cost thousands of dollars. Learn how to do it for free here: https://BlockClones.com/

2. HTML, JS and CSS minification
You can do this with a free Autoptimize plugin.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/plugins-autoptimize-eliminates-for-speed/

3. Optimized for serving ads
What? We don’t believe it? Advertising originates from uncontrollable and non-cacheable third-party servers.

4. Advanced Image Compression
You can do this with free plugins also. https://pagepipe-ebooks.com/crush-me-whats-wrong-with-wp-smush-image-optimization-plugin/

5. Custom YouTube video optimization
Again various ways to do this but the best are free plugins.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/lazy-load-youtube-video-for-mobile-speed/

6. CDN Configuration Check & Fix
We don’t recommend CDNs — ever. We do site origin optimization.
Speedy.site hosts on Cloudflare. Bad sign.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/cloudflare-doesnt-guarantee-consistent-load-times/

7. Defer Javascript parsing
This is a ludicrous thing to chase. WordPress often uses JavaScript, Ajax, and other script libraries. Fiddling with these things breaks stuff.

8. One-month core web vital status monitoring
Really? Why? Big deal.

SMTP workaround for better speed.

A common WordPress problem: the host server won’t allow the site to send email via their normal default methods. Then we need to use SMTP. Sometimes a host like GoDaddy prohibits using an email from the site that is also the email used for GoDaddy account registration. Security overkill and a pain in the patootie. Then SMTP is the solution.

But a money problem is SMTP requires monthly SMTP service fees like SendInBlue or others. These services also slow down a site because of remote server requests and beacon pings (handshaking). They can cost $15 to $25 per month. Gak!

Sendinblue offers an SMTP relay service (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) on its forever free plan with a sending limit of 300 emails a day. But having experimented with this before, the setup is gross and tedious.

REFERENCE: https://www.sendinblue.com/free-smtp-server/

The problem we’ll solve is getting email responses from TheAnimalTest.com quiz. Right now, it’s ccing Matt. But fails to send to me using the Administration Email Address in WordPress (content@steveteare.com). He then has to forward the results to me. A hassle and a delay.

I’ve never been successful in changing the administrator email. Why? Web voodoo.

GreenGeeks, our host, recommends using a free Google Gmail account and a plugin solution: WP Gmail SMTP. It is already installed but not active.

The tutorial is here: https://www.greengeeks.com/tutorials/how-to-use-the-gmail-smtp-server-to-send-mail-from-wordpress/

And the plugin download and description here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/gmail-smtp/

zip file download size: Almost 1MB. So a heavy plugin.

The email we’ll be using is: theanimaltest5@gmail.com

The quiz plugin is Quiz And Survey Master.

https://wordpress.org/plugins/quiz-master-next/

We consider it a fat plugin (almost a 2MB download) but it’s an easy solution and the only database intensive plugin on the site.

We’ll need to login to the “Black Unicorn” Google account:

https://myaccount.google.com/

Let’s slay this dragon.

Google’s hypocritical policies affecting mobile speed.

Attempting to dictate the rules of speed quality, Google made the mobile Internet worse. How did they shoot their own foot?

Well, it didn’t happen overnight. Google shot over and over again. Destructive repetition. Foot target.

Google’s speed misadventure began in 2010. They announced speed as a factor in ranking websites. But Google was vague how much speed would affect SEO. Nor would they tell which aspects of speed made a difference. Everyone got excited. Lots of wild guessing. And soon, a web myth emerged. Never spoken by Google but assumed by the herd: “Speed is now critical to good SEO.” A blatant lie people use to sell speed services, addons, plugins, themes, and books. Panic in the air.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he truth is “page speed” never made much difference at all. Not for SEO anyway. It did for UX. It’s bad user experience to keep visitors waiting – especially on mobile devices. Google even said relevant content and UX were more important. But many website owners and bloggers ignored or missed those important words.

How much load time does www.google.com take? Using WebPagetest.org the result is: 2.196 seconds. The full-load time can vary from 1.270 to 2.204 seconds depending on test server location. That’s right seconds. What? That naked page only has a logo and a search field. Tell us more: 16 HTTP requests. 471k page weight. Time to First Byte is 593 milliseconds.

Improve Server Response Time: This rule triggers when PageSpeed Insights detects that your server response time is above 200 milliseconds. – Google.com

Google TTFB (Time to First Byte) is 593 milliseconds?! Surely that’s a mistake. Nope. Their TTFB alone is almost triple the 200-millisecond Google rule.

Google doesn’t even keep their own edict of 200-millisecond TTFB (server response time).  Their homepage TTFB ranges from 369 to 774 milliseconds depending upon where in North America the test server is located. So results fluctuate and vary.

Faster TTFB size is a benchmark of a well-configured server application.

TTFB is server overhead. An unfortunate delay caused by mechanical or physical parameters. It has nothing to do with page content or web code. TTFB is mostly hardware dependent. It’s usually beyond your control. TTFB is the duration after calling for server assets until the arrival in the browser. Good TTFB is under 200 milliseconds. Bad TTFB is one second and up. Terrible is above 4 seconds. Yes. Some servers are just that rotten.

So TTFB is something you buy. You pay for it. Your host owns it – not you. You can’t build or code it into your WordPress website. In other words, the poorer you are, the worse your TTFB. The richer … well, you get the idea. So much for web equality and democracy.

Yet, TTFB is the only parameter Google uses to check your site speed in their secret algorithm. And it improves your ranking less than 0.5 percent.

READ more PagePipe: Fast sites don’t improve Google page rank

But, Google has the fastest servers in the world. Correct? Wouldn’t their TTFB be the best and faster than 593 milliseconds? I mean, our cheap GoDaddy hosting gets better than that. Why the difference? It’s Google’s SSL Certificate.

Well, here’s another place Google shot themselves in the foot: Their HTTPS / SSL initiative in 2015. It wasn’t moving along like they wanted after a few years. So they again said, “SSL certification will not only affect security – it will now affect page ranking.” Everyone got excited again. People started adding this non-feature to their websites in droves. Did they all need it? No. Did it help SEO? No. Did it hurt speed? YES!

HTTPS / SSL server handshaking creates an initial stall in making Internet connections. There’s a slow delay before anything starts to render on your visitor’s browser screen. This delay is measured in the Time-to-First-Byte information (aka TTFB).

Are we done bashing on Google and their weird speed policies and practices? Not yet. We want to mention Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages).

In 2015, Google said articles served from its Internet network were four times faster. That’s right. But developers disagree. Engineering or “designing in” page optimization gives the same or even better results. That’s right. It appears Google has a hidden agenda not-so related to speed. That’s their mask.

READ more PagePipe:  Why Google AMP is not the ultimate solution for mobile WordPress speed.

Are we done raking Google over the coals. No. We need to talk about Google PageSpeed Insights.

We don’t recommend Google’s PageSpeed Insight tools for mobile website benchmarking. Or even for desktop. We avoid this tool.

PageSpeed Insights is the worst speed test on the web. Why? It’s usually impossible for WordPress to pass this test. WordPress almost always has jQuery enqueued. That causes goofy warnings. But Google doesn’t use PageSpeed test scores in it’s ranking algorithm. They use TTFB (time to first byte). It’s a frustrating waste of time.

READ more PagePipe: Google PageSpeed Hypocrisy

We’re almost done! We must discuss Google Fonts and their impact on mobile speed:

External font scripts like Google Fonts slow down your site.  We guarantee websafe fonts are faster. According to HTTP Archive, as of October 2016, web fonts (like Google Fonts) are just over 3 percent of an average page’s weight.

Disabling with Remove Google Fonts References plugin makes an average difference of only 53 milliseconds. But in the extreme, one theme had a 300 millisecond gain in speed. In some cases, there was no change in speed at all.

The difference in weight is anywhere from 60k to 300k. Again, it’s wasted mobile bandwidth.

Would we delete Google fonts and go with default browser fonts to save 300 milliseconds? You bet. When we’re working on getting under 2 seconds or even 1 second, that can make a big difference.

Again, there are times requesting Google Fonts will throw a 1-second delay. Why? We don’t know. Go ask Google. And, of course, the more fonts you call the slower things get. There’s a plugin that combines the Google font requests. Google WebFont Optimizer finds every Google Font request. It bulks them all together. Then your website only asks Google once for the fonts, instead of multiple times. Still, our preference is to delete Google Fonts completely.

OK. We’re finally done bashing on Google ruining speed. We may get blacklisted. It was worth it.

BONUS BASH – Google Analytics isn’t good for speed either. Read our article: How does Google Analytics affect mobile page speed?

Should I Use Generatepress or Astra theme with Elementor for mobile speed.

“I was thinking of using a theme like GeneratePress – or Astra. They seem to be the fastest but, now I’m unsure.”

Free Elementor is 61 milliseconds and adding paid Elementor Pro delays another 71 milliseconds. That slows down every page by 132 milliseconds.

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]eneratePress (22 milliseconds) and Astra (36 milliseconds) are plenty fast. But only when using the free versions. If you buy the GP Premium plugin you add an additional 70 milliseconds. Buying Astra Pro adds 50 milliseconds to the free version. The theme authors don’t tell you those speed details. But that’s still minor compared to the real problem.

Should I use GeneratePress or Astra theme with Elementor for mobile speed?

For comparison, WordPress core loads in 215 milliseconds. Five times slower than your speed theme.

A typical free, discrete, single-function, no-setting plugin loads in less than 0.5 to 2 millisecond.


25 percent of plugin speed overhead is often consumed by one plugin.


80 percent of total plugin load time is burned by your 5 heaviest plugins.


The average WordPress website has 25 plugins.


Of PagePipe’s 70 total plugins, 12 load in under 3 milliseconds each. And 29 of the 70 load in under 1 millisecond each.


There’s usually one big-fat plugin killing speed – like WooCommerce 262 milliseconds – or more. Or perhaps Yoast SEO Premium plugin loading in 240 milliseconds.

We repeat. These plugin speed problems are minor compared to the real problem:

Speed killers: Undisciplined, novice site owners.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hey’re the real problem. And some professional developers are apathetic about quality, too. You can do anything and everything dreamed of with a page builder. That should be good. Right? But start adding incremental features and soon the site is overweight and slow.  It’s not one slow thing – it’s everything. Egomania. Then site owners ask us, “Can you fix this Elementor speed problem?”

Sorry. It’s not Elementor’s fault. They didn’t make you put in all that web junk. They only tempted you.

WP Rocket is a $49 speed plugin with annual renewal (rent overhead). Most don’t realize WP Rocket caching plugin adds 109.1 milliseconds to global page loads. The irony.

Can you fix speed on a bloated Elementor site? The answer is probably “no.” Pagebuilder plugins can’t be selectively deactivated to reduce site heaviness. Not without white screening an entire site anyway. Discrete plugins can be selectively activated or deactivated on pages and posts. This is important for speed. It’s not the evil your page builder does, it’s the goodness that got left out. It’s a sin of omission.

In fairness, Elementor doesn’t activate their widgets on pages where you don’t use it. But that’s not the same as selective activation. If you must use Elementor, don’t use it on your most-popular landing pages. Use good judgement for speed.

Desperate site owners throw money at speed problems. Usually by adding CDN, caching, or more expensive hosting. Things get costly. The speed investment is worse instead of better. Discarding whimsical features prevents speed waste.

How do I build a fast website from the start, without using a full-time developer?

What is the right decision about builder plugins?

Our speed advice is design without a page builder whenever possible. Pagebuilder’s are slower, add more requests, and have a big learning-time commitment. But if you have no idea what you’re doing and are new to the game, go ahead – be a make-believe designer with a page builder. It’s OK.

Pagebuilders are not the speed panacea you seek.

Will your page builder site be slow? Most likely. The odds are high it’ll be slower than you ever dreamed. Why?

The answer: Because you own a rifle doesn’t make you a hunter. Just because you own a car doesn’t make you a racing champion. Owning a page builder doesn’t make you a skilled web designer.

[dropcap]U[/dropcap]sing a page builder doesn’t guarantee design quality. No surprise. There’s a page builder learning curve. You still need to learn good universal design principles – aka best practices. It’s disappointing when your site is of low quality. You need a speed strategy before you start. Say, “No!” to dull, faddish fluff that doesn’t matter and adds no real value.

How do you design a website to be fast from the start? Building for speed is called “origin optimization.” It happens even before the project begins. It’s not an emergency, after-the-fact, speed repair. It’s strategic.

Here’s what to do for WordPress origin optimization:

[dropcap]1[/dropcap]Get the best shared hosting you can afford. What’s best? Find a normal host allowing writing to the .htaccess file on your server. Special hosting – like WP Engine – won’t allow this. That ability is important for plugin speed tricks. Don’t choose SiteGround. Their wild TTFB fluctuates and is erratic. Their servers are worse than mediocre for TTFB.

[dropcap]2[/dropcap]Choose a host with stable TTFB (time to first byte) on your server. Excellent is 200 to 300 milliseconds. Ordinary is 500 milliseconds and poor is around 1 second or longer. One way to find out is by testing the hosting company’s home page TTFB using ByteCheck.com. That’s the best possible it will ever be. Do at least 6 tests. PagePipe.com gets about 500 millisecond TTFB on GoDaddy (blog) and 1.7 millisecond TTFB on BlueHost (store). We host at these services to prove our point. You can get good-enough speed on cheap shared hosting.

[dropcap]3[/dropcap]Do NOT install SSL certification  – unless you’re doing ecommerce. You don’t need SSL for simple email signups. SSL handshaking slows down your site globally by 500 milliseconds average. SSL does NOT improve your SEO. There’s no proof. But you can measure the heavy toll on speed.

[dropcap]4[/dropcap]Don’t put an email signup API (like MailChimp services) on every page.
Have a single page with signup and use image or text links to that page. Use selective activation and only turn on your email plugin for that one signup page. Isolate the site drag.

[dropcap]5[/dropcap]Use Twenty-seventeen default theme (48.4 milliseconds – after stripping Google Fonts). Live within its limitations. There are tons of articles online about how to customize Twenty-seventeen default theme. Why use it? Longevity. It’ll have an 8-year shelf-life. Don’t use Divi theme. It has a 1-second load time. Yes. That’s only the theme: Half your performance budget gone! Any theme is faster than Divi. Rather consider longevity a high value. Astra and GeneratePress are cool and fast. But they don’t have the potential longevity and risk-reduction of Automattic authorship.

NOTE: We’ve tested Twenty-nineteen theme for speed. While it is not as versatile as Twenty-seventeen, it loads in only 15 milliseconds. Dang fast.

[dropcap]6[/dropcap]
Do NOT use free Cloudflare. It slows down your site with delays and 501 errors.


Thanks for your time and feedback. You are definitely right about speed inconsistencies with free Cloudflare!” silvercoast-apartments.com, Portugal


[dropcap]7[/dropcap]
Buy our ebooks.
Serious. Enjoy our research. Get the bundle and also buy “Toxic WordPress“.

[dropcap]8[/dropcap]
When in doubt about some feature or frill, leave it out. What makes for a good website is content, not fancy things that move or animate. Like sliders, rotators, accordions, dropdowns, etc.

[dropcap]9[/dropcap]Optimize your images with free “Imsanity” plugin. Other optimizer-plugin promises are seductive – and cost money. Don’t use free Smush plugin. Don’t use PNG format for photos. Use JPEG images and compress quality using your judgemental eye – and not a robot machine for a brain.

Can you survive without social media links? Do you have to have comments? Are you using Avatars (Gravatars)? These extras slow down your site and add little value.

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]on’t use heavy, globally-loading plugins like Contact Form 7 plugin. Don’t use Yoast SEO plugin especially the paid version (or any SEO plugin). Don’t use a multi-function security plugin or any multi-function plugin. Stick with discrete plugins. Use more plugins – not less. Doubling the number of “good” discrete plugins will halve your load time. That’s right. 50 plugins are better than 25 if you choose the right plugins. Our ebooks are about this stuff. And the PagePipe blog is full of free plugin information. Buy both the “plugin alternative” bundle – and Toxic WordPress.

Paid Yoast SEO plugin is the speed equal to 250 discrete plugins. Bad site drag.

Accept that your learning journey requires frustration and failures. Nothing worth doing is easy. There’s a price. Pay your dues by investing in your brain power. “You” have future value.

BONUS TIP – If you use WooCommerce plugin, the best speed you’ll often achieve is 3- to 4-second load times. Reduce your expectations.


A conversation with Arisara Thitimoon about speed, Elementor, and Astra theme:

Arisara: Just purchased the bundle, I can’t wait to get into this!

Steve: Thanks for sharing your speed learning and web adventures. Also, thank you for caring about speed. It’s all about being kind to users and showing them you want to provide a good experience. They sense that when the site loads.

Arisara: First of all thank you so much. After days of researching why my site was !@#$%^*, I finally come across your article that helped me understand that a website built with bloated code is unfixable and is better off being built in a clean manner.

Steve: I wish more readers would realize this. I usually get requests to fix the impossible. Web miracles!

Arisara: What I do: I work on small projects $1000 to $2000 and so workflow speed plays a significant role in how much my hourly rate is effected. This is why I opt to use a page builder (Elementor Pro). I use this in conjunction with Astra Pro and the combinations is damn near perfect for my type of projects.

Steve: This is a good combination. We’ve used it before and we’ll use it again on some client sites. But not all sites need these methods. Some can be simpler.

Arisara: But I’m not satisfied with performance … I’m learning that a page builder needs to be used with respect and my goal is to master every little detail that allows to build a clean website that loads fast.

Steve: Value analysis is something we borrow from industrial manufacturing. It’s a discipline to improve profitability and efficiency. It consists of 5 things: combination, simplification, elimination, standardization, and substitution. It’s attention to details and creativity combined. Those use two different sides of the brain.

“Respect” is the keyword. If you use strategy, doing value analysis on features and functions, you’ll build a fast site. Assuming your host doesn’t have a TTFB of 2 seconds or more. But many shared hosts have TTFBs below 1 second. 200 to 500 milliseconds is ideal. You can find out by using ByteCheck.com and type in the URL of the host’s homepage. Their speed will never be better than that. And of course, avoiding SSL if you can.

REFERENCES:
https://pagepipe.com/httpsssl-and-its-negative-impact-on-mobile-speed/

Arisara: My speed goals is 2 – 3 seconds per page.

Steve: Good goals. This is the performance budget. Everything you add nibbles into that budget.

Arisara: My speed question: What is your advice to an Elementor user for building fast sites and avoiding bloated code and crazy amounts of HTTP requests?

Steve: I steer clear of page builders when I build solo. But my colleague, Matt Stern, uses this combination often. Elementor makes my speed job more challenging. If it’s a WooCommerce site then we’re fortunate to get under 3-second load times with Elementor.

Here’s a free plugin to help you create or restore the look of your multi-column homepage without Elementor:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/lightweight-grid-columns/

It is authored by Tom Usborne, the developer of GeneratePress. While it
is possible to handcode this “CSS3 grid,” the plugin simplifies
everything. No page builder needed or extra paid addons. Much faster
loading solution.

Keep reading below for more ideas.

Arisara: So far in my research, I’ve learned to use Astra features as a first priority (so create headers and footers in Astra, set up typography, etc)

Steve: Yes. You are on target. Here’s a quote from Matt Stern, my collaborator:

Here’s what I like about Elementor and Astra, having used them on different projects.


Elementor benefits:

• Allows you to customize the entire theme (not just specific pages), this means you can use a drag-and-drop interface to customize your header, footer, blog layouts and more.

• Allows you near complete control of woo-commerce pages. See custom woo product page here: https://naturespiritherbs.com/product/kelp-fronds/. Again, you may not need this feature yet, but it will be a game changer if you decide to update your product pages.

• Leaves behind “clean code,” which can be reused if necessary. Divi leaves behind shortcodes which only apply to Divi and can’t be used elsewhere.


Astra benefits:

• Designed to be both customizable and fast. The fast part is an important consideration that many themes (even popular ones) seem to forget. One way Astra does this is by making some of its features modular. For example, if you don’t need to customize a particular aspect of a site, say the typography or the blog layout, you can turn “off” the customization for that specific part of your site, keeping your site leaner. See more here: https://wpastra.com/features/#performance

• Good Woo-Commerce customization “out of the box.” While Elementor allows for more in depth customization that take longer to implement, Astra has a nice set of options that are quick and easy to customize. https://thetoolmerchants.com/ was customized primarily with Astra and only used Elementor for certain pages.”


Stern Design

Steve: It takes good planning and cautious testing to not enqueue jQuery with a feature or plugin. Astra says their theme loads in under 500 milliseconds. But our real-world research shows it loads in less than 50 milliseconds! It’s WordPress core that adds the extra load time – about 300 milliseconds.

Arisara: Use custom CSS in my customizer to set default styling in elementor (btns, section padding, etc) so I don’t have to restyle every single element

Steve: Good job.

Arisara: Ditch the gimmicky features Elementor offers.

Steve: Amen. Try to avoid installing the Pro version if you can. Not only does it increase annual overhead $$$, but it doubles the load time of the free version.

Arisara: Reduce unneeded functionality like carousels, etc.

Yep. Sliders suck for UX and everything else that moves. Use static images instead.

REFERENCES:
https://pagepipe.com/what-slider-is-the-fastest-loading/
https://pagepipe.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/sliders.pdf

Arisara: Disable fontawesome (got this from your article ).

Steve: REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/should-i-disable-font-awesome-and-google-fonts-for-improved-speed/

Arisara: Optimize all images. I do this using Shortpixels site (everything on lossy).

Steve: ShortPixel plugin is good. But it isn’t always the best alternative. It adds 30 milliseconds of site drag to every page – if you keep it active. Resizing and compressing in a standalone image processor offline is always best (Gimp or Photoshop, etc.). Machines don’t make good decisions. One size doesn’t “fit all” in the image compression department. It requires a human eye.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/polite-pdf-downloads/ << about ShortPixel

Our preferred stopgap to prevent uploading oversized images is Imsanity plugin. It’s only necessary if you don’t control the media library.

REFERENCE: https://wordpress.org/plugins/imsanity/

Arisara: Avoid bloated plugins

Steve: Absolutely. Meaning avoid “popular” plugins.

Arisara: Don’t put complicated things in footers.

Steve: Good. Like email signups (MailChimp, etc). Use a central signup page and link to it instead.

Arisara: Disable any theme options / plugin / widgets that are not active.

Steve: Right.

Arisara: Reduce animations.

Steve: Mentioned that. No moving elements.

Arisara: Avoid all performance plugins (leave them till last).

Steve: Yes. And some speed plugins help scores – not milliseconds. Like minification, caching, etc.

Arisara: Don’t use a CDN (at least not right away).

Steve: CDNs are indicators the site wasn’t built for origin optimization.

Arisara: I’m probably barely scratching the surface. But if you have any tips, I would HIGHLY appreciate your expert opinion!

I’m really getting passionate about creating high quality designs and I’m prepared to invest the necessary time it takes to learn how to do it. So excited to read your ebooks.

Steve: Be patient. There ‘s a learning curve and new vocabulary. But I feel confident you’re a talented person and will be building “good stuff” soon.


Is there a reason we don’t like Astra for longevity?

Astra is a fast theme with 1 millon+ active installations. That seems remarkable. And it is.

We know the theme (without WP core included) loads in under 50 milliseconds. Much faster than advertised. Bless them!

If you buy the pro version, it doubles the load time. If you buy their page builder (templates?), things get slower and slower.

How many people support this theme? 45 according to their about page. And they’ve been in business for many years. That all seems pretty good. But is it better than WordPress theme authorship for long-term updates? No one matches that. Especially for default themes. Astra is NOT bad – but they don’t have the strong future of WordPress / Automattic. WordPress has a market valuation of over 1 billion dollars.

We use Astra on client speed sites. But not on our own sites, we try and stick with customized default themes. Not everyone codes. We can write CSS and figure things out. So it’s OK for us – but not everyone.

We include Astra on our *list of goodness*. Along with GeneratePress – who is only one guy and an assistant. But Tom Usbourne only supports one theme and that’s it. We also recommend Tiny Hestia and Twenty-seventeen default theme with Google Fonts stripped. They’re all about the same speed as Astra.

If Tom gets run over by a bus, GeneratePress is dead, too.

If all of San Francisco, USA (Automattic’s headquarters) fell into the ocean, miraculously the WordPress torch (core) will be picked up by others around the globe and carried onward. That’s a harsh incident we hope never happens. But it demonstrates how bulletproof WordPress is today and tomorrow.

We don’t hesitate to use Astra on a client site. But rarely our own. Hmm? What does that say about out opinion?

Popular plugins slow down your server – and delay TTFB.

A site is in serious trouble. Seventeen of 33 plugins have package sizes above 100k compressed (gzip). The site’s pages slowly load in 29 to 47 seconds. All pages are dragging beyond belief.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]ime To First Byte (TTFB) is a measurement of server delay. We call it server speed overhead. We subtract it from our performance budget. The budget is 2 seconds. Sadly, the TTFB for this site varies from 2 to 6 seconds. Do we have to change hosts?

Is this site bad?

Rotten! Horrific! One of the worst we’ve repaired. The client is on GoDaddy hosting. We use GoDaddy hosting. It’s never that bad. We ask GoDaddy to check the server. They say it’s fine and dandy. There are no other domains on the server. They claim junk code in the server htaccess file is slowing everything down. We check using:

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
HTaccess Editor

What we should see 10 lines of code in the HTaccess file contents. That’s the standard WordPress code (below).

Instead, we see 23,376 extra lines of code.

Where is this garbage coming from?

We clean out HTaccess. Then iThemes Security plugin puts all that junk right back instantly.

iThemes Security plugin is writing to the HTaccess file as if it were a wastebasket. Incredible confusion. Is it the plugins fault? Unlikely. It’s a slow and fat plugin but it isn’t that ugly. We guess an “operator error.”

Someone made settings for this plugin on overload. Why? Paranoia from being hacked and fear of getting hacked again with malware. A knee jerk overreaction into the red zone. Amazing security! We’ve written about this nasty speed-hog plugin before:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/free-discrete-plugins-replace-bloated-security-plugins/

We run some tests ascertaining what other plugins slow things down on this errant site. But first let’s look at each plugin’s download size.

[table]
Plugin Name,zip file k,percent
,,
BackupBuddy,6900,31.80%
iThemes Security Pro,3300,15.21%
WP Rocket,2400,11.06%
WP-Optimize,2100,9.68%
All In One SEO Pack,1500,6.91%
Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps,1500,6.91%
AMP,723,3.33%
Really Simple SSL,529,2.44%
Popups – WordPress Popup,438,2.02%
Sucuri Security,377,1.74%
Lazy Load by WP Rocket,341,1.57%
Polls CP,236,1.09%
Swift Mailer,230,1.06%
Custom Permalinks,193,0.89%
Contact Form 7,183,0.84%
WPFront Notification Bar,178,0.82%
iThemes Sync,157,0.72%
Post Expirator,97,0.45%
Akismet Anti-Spam,74,0.34%
Display Widgets,46,0.21%
Collapse-O-Matic,33,0.15%
Velvet Blues Update URLs,28,0.13%
Simple 301 Redirects – Bulk Uploader,26,0.12%
Optimus,24,0.11%
Classic Editor,19,0.09%
Contact Form CFDB7,15,0.07%
ETH Redirect to Latest Post,11,0.05%
Simple Banner,10,0.05%
Insert Headers and Footers,9,0.04%
Honeypot for Contact Form 7,8,0.04%
Simple 301 Redirects,5,0.02%
No Category Base (WPML),4,0.02%
Postman SMTP,2,0.01%
,,
Total zip package file size,21696,
[/table]

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ow much do popular plugins damage your site speed? We can guess by looking at their download zip folder size. Notice most of these below are huge megabyte zip file sizes.

There is a direct correlation between plugin popularity and slowness. The more popular the slower it is. They’re the bigger resource hogs on the server. They destroy good TTFB.

POPULAR-PLUGIN SIZES

[table]

NAME, active installations,zip file wt
Contact Form 7,5+ million,181k
Yoast SEO,5+ million,3.1 MB
Akismet,5+ million,72.7 KB
WooCommerce,5+ million,7.2 MB
Jetpack,5+ million,7.6 MB
Elementor,4+ million,4.8 MB
Wordfence Security,3+ million,4.5 MB
Contact Form by WPForms,3+ million,4.3 MB
MonsterInsights Google Analytics Dashboard,2+ million,2.3 MB
UpdraftPlus,2+ million,6.6 MB
All in One SEO Pack,2+ million,1.2 MB

[/table]

What are the load times of the plugins used on this site under test:

[table]

,ms,,
Theme Enfold Child,770.70,,
WP core,549.30,,
,,,
AMP,406.10,43.21%,43.21%
WP Rocket,124.00,13.19%,56.41%
iThemes Security Pro,98.50,10.48%,53.69%
All In One Seo Pack,81.60,8.68%,62.37%
Contact Form 7,79.90,8.50%,70.88%
BackupBuddy,31.80,3.38%,74.26%
Sucuri Scanner,26.40,2.81%,77.07%
Postman SMTP,26.30,2.80%,79.87%
WP-Optimize,24.80,2.64%,82.51%
Custom Permalinks,24.60,2.62%,85.12%
Bwp Google Xml Sitemaps,19.50,2.07%,87.20%
Mailin,17.50,1.86%,89.06%
Popups WordPress Popup,17.50,1.86%,90.92%
Lazy Load by WP Rocket,15.70,1.67%,92.59%
Really Simple Ssl,15.20,1.62%,94.21%
Ithemes Sync,11.30,1.20%,95.41%
Simple Banner,8.70,0.93%,96.34%
WPFront Notification Bar,8.60,0.92%,97.25%
Akismet Anti-Spam,6.70,0.71%,97.97%
Polls CP,6.20,0.66%,98.63%
Post Expirator,6.10,0.65%,99.28%
Optimus,4.40,0.47%,99.74%
Velvet Blues Update URLs,3.60,0.38%,100.13%
Contact Form Cfdb7,3.40,0.36%,100.49%
Classic Editor,2.00,0.21%,100.70%
Insert Headers And Footers,1.90,0.20%,100.90%
Eth Redirect To Latest Post,1.70,0.18%,101.09%
Display Widgets,1.40,0.15%,101.23%
Simple 301 Redirects,1.30,0.14%,101.37%
Swift Mailer,0.90,0.10%,101.47%
Simple 301 Redirects Addon Bulk Uploader,0.70,0.07%,101.54%
No Category Base (WPML),0.40,0.04%,101.59%
Contact Form 7 Honeypot,0.30,0.03%,101.62%
,,,
plugins,939.80,,
,,,
grand total theoretical site drag,2259.80,,

[/table]

Notice that Enfold theme load time is nasty: 770 milliseconds. We’ve only seen one theme worse. Divi’s one second load time!

You can test TTFB with WebPagetest.org or ByteCheck.com

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]any popular plugins often do calculations and file data on the server. These delays don’t show up in a speed test waterfall. Find out how fat plugins affect your site by checking server resource usage in server Cpanel. But one sure indicator is time to first byte gets unacceptable. A good TTFB is around 200 to 300 milliseconds. Average TTFB is 500 milliseconds. And bad news is anything over a second. This site is 6 seconds!

So what’s the alternative?

Use fast-loading discrete plugins instead. These are free single-purpose plugins that usually have no settings. They load in around 1 millisecond and the zip folder size is definitely under 100k – more like 10k. You only install the features you need. One plugin per feature. You don’t throw in the kitchen sink with over-engineering and gold plating.

But isn’t using many plugins worse than using one plugin? No. You could load 250 one-millisecond discrete plugins instead of Yoast SEO plugin. Think about it. You don’t need but a few lightweight plugins to duplicate the fat plugins features.

For example, the AMP plugin mentioned above doesn’t help mobile speed. Instead it slows down the page by 400 milliseconds because it’s so complicated. We suspect it also loads down the server. We don’t need to replace or substitute this plugin, we need to remove it. That’s right. Get rid of that Google-Dog plugin. It’s not helping anything.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/why-google-amp-is-not-the-ultimate-solution-for-mobile-wordpress-speed/

We get busy removing the bad plugins and replacing them with discrete plugins. We trash the following plugins:

  • AMP
  • WP Rocket
  • Sucuri Scanner
  • Akismet
  • Lazy Load by WP Rocket
  • Optimus

What happens to speed?

Global page loads drop from 38.7 seconds average to 5.7 seconds.

We next pull the iThemes Security plugin and replace it with 4 discrete plugins.

Speed gets even better:

3.5 seconds average. 10 times faster page loads.

Can we make the pages load in under 2 seconds? Yes. But we need to remove the SEO plugin – and replace the theme and page builder. That costs too much time, energy, and money for this client. So we postpone these recommendations until a future rebuild.

We now understand how popular plugins slowdown TTFB (server overhead). Hurrah! You won’t need to move from your hosting provider after all.

Some managed hosts blacklist plugins to prevent the installation of vulnerable and disruptive plugins. Disruptive means server resource hogs. These include WordPress Popular Posts, Broken Link Checker, and Google Sitemap Generator.

You may ask, “How do we reduce server activity during backup when the media library is super big?”

Good question because that can slow down TTFB, also.

We use three free plugins to reduce a server’s burden during backups:

[dropcap]1[/dropcap]UpDraftPlus
We set site automatic backups to happen every week. We know if we lost one weeks worth of activity it wouldn’t damage us too much. Sad? Yes. But not ruined. That one-week interval reduces the amount of time the plugin is hitting on the server. (6.6M zip folder download).

UpDraftPlus takes into account server throttling and potential shutdowns. It doesn’t cause overruns of server resources. It sends packages in segments and waits for the server to recognize it’s not under attack or overload. Then it sends the next backup package (zip folders).

Set the weekly start time to a day when you know you have the least site traffic. On smaller sites, with few changes, we update monthly. Do you really need daily updates?

We retain two backup copies on remote cloud services (free Dropbox). But quarterly, we download a backup to our computer desktop for archiving. Don’t save backups to the same server you host on except for disposable copies. Be safe.

[dropcap]2[/dropcap]Exclude Image Thumbnails From UpdraftPlus Backups
This small 1.6k plugin excludes WordPress generated image thumbnails from Updraft backups, saving space. The original, full-sized image is included in backups. If a restoration from backup is needed, a thumbnails plugin is used to regenerate thumbnails using the original, full-size images. The plugin works for all image formats. It includes both native and custom image sizes added by themes and plugins.

There are 4 WordPress default image sizes normally created by core: original, large, medium, and thumbnail. Every time an image is uploaded these are placed on the server. Server space is not an issue. Resource consumption during backup and restore is a potential problem. We’ve seen themes (like Enfold) automatically create up to 18 different thumbnail sizes whether they’re used on pages or not. This bloats the media library backup.

[dropcap]3[/dropcap]Regenerate Thumbnails
Regenerate the thumbnails for your image uploads. Useful when changing their sizes or your theme. Regenerate all thumbnail sizes for one or more images uploaded to your Media Library. We keep it disabled and use it only when needed. (79.2k zip download).

Free speed plugins duplicate Swift Performance Lite plugin – or Pegasaas.com paid services.

“I’m trying to make my website as fast as possible. I want to learn the best method and technical know how. I already watched WPfaster.org video on udemy. But they use W3 Total Cache plugin. So many technical settings – and difficult.” – Adzalan Yanggang

Surprise! We’ve watched their video, too. We don’t agree with their shady speed philosophy. It cost too much. READ WPFaster review

They recommend W3 Total Cache plugin. It’s not a good choice. Complicated.

We recommend Cache Enabler plugin (20k download file size). And three simple checkbox settings.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat about Swift Performance Plugin? It has so many cool features. It’s a multi-function speed plugin. It’s compressed download file weighs a massive 2.8M zipped  – and 7.4M decompressed.

Very heavy plugins usually consume database and RAM resources on the server host. With these specs, we’re not interested in Swift Performance plugin. We prefer using single-function discrete plugins weighing about 4k and loading in under 1 millisecond. With discrete plugins, we do selective plugin activation on a page and post basis. This form of conditional logic significantly improves fine tuning a site.

RESOURCE https://pagepipe.com/selective-plugin-deactivation/

The main valued functions of Swift Performance plugin:

  • Page Cache
  • Cache Preloading
  • Gzip Compression < This is activated by default on host servers.
  • Browser Caching
  • Remove Query Strings
  • Lazyload
  • Minify CSS
  • Minify JS
  • Combine JS/CSS
  • Async Execute Combined JS
  • Defer JS
  • Database Optimizer
  • DNS Prefetch
  • Plugin Organizer
  • Appcache
  • AJAX Cache
  • Proxy 3rd Party JS
  • Inline Small Images
  • Google Analytics Bypass
  • Heartbeat Control

You can add these features with single-purpose plugins with zero settings (no Wizard needed). Some are only used during maintenance and could be deactivated. But many don’t make a difference in speed at all. Just scores.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/online-speed-test-scores-are-especially-useless-for-mobile-speed-improvement/

The Swift Performance plugin backend has animated advertising! Ugh!

Swift Performance Lite adds 131 milliseconds of site drag to every page and post of a website. Equally, we can install 131 discrete plugin instead. That’s the equivalent of adding the database-intensive Yoast SEO plugin (free version). Paid Yoast is even worse – 240 milliseconds. For the 20 features listed above, it should be a mere 20 milliseconds maximum: 15 percent of Swift Performance sitedrag.

Swift Performance Lite adds 6.2 milliseconds per feature whether it’s used or not.

And last – but not least – Swift Performance Lite plugin nuked the front end of the test site. All we had were gibberish characters. Our guess is this damage was caused by either concatenation in the minification process – or some caching weirdness – or a plugin conflict. Anyway. Not a fun plugin to deal with. We uninstalled it.

So how about using the monthly paid Pegasaas.com speed service? They charge $9 per month.

You can do all this for free – with plugins.

PagePipe’s homepage normal load time is 1.8 seconds according to the Pegasaas test. With their service tweaks, it’s 1.6 seconds. There’s easily that much drift for shared-server TTFB (time to first byte). The Pegasaas service essentially makes no difference – or a theoretical 200-millisecond potential improvement. You can get that gain by simply disabling Google fonts with a setting-less discrete plugin.

On a well-optimized page, minification rarely improves speed – only scores change. And test score are meaningless. Caching and minification are speed band-aids compared to website origin optimization.

‘I got a 100% score on Pingdom, GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed.”

Big deal.

Scores don’t alter SEO page rank or indicate good speed. Concentrate on milliseconds of load time as a better benchmark. Test scores are esoteric tweaks that make no significant speed difference.

Even Apple can’t get Google mobile tests right.

ABOVE:
PageSpeed Insights mobile test results for Apple.

Apple: 44 / 100

And Google expects you to get a perfect 100 / 100? Seriously?
Isn’t Apple the richest company in the world?

You didn’t ask. But let us tell you why we care so much about speed. You might think we’re curious about technology and love creativity. Those are true. But the biggest reason is fast-loading web pages are a kindness.

You’re treating your audience as you’d like to be treated. Your site feels like a good place, a pleasant home. That’s what speed can do. People appreciate your caring. Speed is good user experience.

Our snarky opinionated binge-worthy content isn’t like any other technical website on the internet.

We do custom site-tuning for WordPress performance optimization. Especially for mobile audiences.

Even Google can’t get mobile Google PageSpeed Insights right:

Google: 71 / 100

Don’t they own the internet?
Isn’t this invention their own speed test?
Imposters.

Even Google can’t get Google mobile tests right.

Geez Louise!

Instead of band-aid approaches, we drill down to the root cause of your slow site. We improve site origin optimization. You then avoid increased website annual overhead cost caused by popular and paid plugins and theme rental fees. Also, it reduces hosting costs with cheaper shared servers and no CDN or server cache fees.

The performance goal is two-second page load times or better. Our approach to solving mobile performance problems is unconventional and creative. We always use free resources whenever possible. We provide speed alternatives for International site-owners and developers who use low-cost, shared hosting without CDN.

We analyze site components and find improvement opportunities.
Then, after your approval, we make the changes for you.

Mobile Google PageSpeed Insights for little ol’ PagePipe:

PagePipe: 96 / 100!

Better than Google and Apple?
Nah. Better test that yourself.

Get Site Tuning Services Today

What you’ll learn from PagePipe:

  • Speed metrics – such as a ‘score’ – don’t mean “Shinola.” Rubbish.
  • Plugins may not be all bad – and not all plugins slow your site.
  • The number of plugins doesn’t matter. The quality (good code and small size) of the plugin matters.
  • There are free software and plugins that do a better job than more expensive premium products and services.
  • An SEO plugin is not needed. Ever.
  • Google lies.
  • Software makers lie. Or omit the truth.
  • Affiliate marketing models cause untrustworthy publisher bias.
  • Website speed is about being polite to your visitors.
  • and more – of course.

Do You Trust Speed Tests?

All Green speed ratings. Perfect straight A scores. But … over 6 second load time? Say what?

Bogus vanity metrics do not represent a good load time for your site speed. This client homepage loads in over 6 seconds on desktop – with perfect green scores. The goal is under 2 seconds!

VISIT BEST OF PAGEPIPE ARTICLES

Jon Dykstra

“One of the best websites about site speed I’ve ever read is Pagepipe.com by Steve Teare. If you’re looking for a way to DIY site speed, read his site. It’s an absolute gem (and Steve is a great guy and writer).”
Jon Dykstra, https://fatstacksblog.com/

OFFSITE LINK: https://crystallize.com/blog/this-is-how-much-site-speed-affects-google-seo-ranking-with-data

Speed miracles to improve your site’s mobile health.

Our suggestions for radical site surgery:

[dropcap]1[/dropcap]Use a theme that’s fast loading. And we don’t mean “mediocre” fast. We mean faster than greased lightening. Built and tested for speed. Don’t believe theme author’s speed bluster. Test it – or don’t buy it. If you must use a page builder, we recommend Elementor (with caution) – or wait (forever?) and see what Gutenberg offers.

We prefer a free theme because they’re not loaded with features. Paid themes are usually gold-plated and over-engineered with non-features. Free speed theme recommendations include: GeneratePress, Basic theme, Astra, GeneratePress, and Twenty-seventeen default theme. Many don’t activate code baggage like jQuery or Font Awesome. You can strip them of anything lacking substance.

WARNING: The pro (premium paid) versions of the above speed themes double theme page weight. This is not super significant. But we find it annoying. They brag about the free version’s speed then don’t publish the additional drag added by the premium version. That’s an advertising sin of omission. So if you’re really into extreme speed (1-second or less load time on a shared host), use the free theme without the premium extras. That takes creativity.

Creativity is the inverse of dollars. C=1/$

Do you think these insignificant improvements? Think again. Speed theme authors are deliberate in removing non-features for mobile speed benefits. It’s unconventional and bold. If pages weigh 5 megabytes to 3 megabytes – or even 2 megabytes, they’re doomed to fail for mobile user experience. The goal is superb quality pages weighing 100k to 500k.

[dropcap]2[/dropcap]
Add features using discrete plugins.
Not multipurpose plugins like Jetpack or Yoast SEO. This means also living within the theme limitations. Keep It Simple, Stupid. The KISS principle.

[dropcap]3[/dropcap]Install proven fast-loading plugins. Avoid popular plugins like Yoast SEO and Contact Form 7 and many others. This includes WP Rocket, which functions great, but adds drag. Yep. 32-milliseconds of site drag to every page. Yes – believe it – a caching plugin slowing things down while speeding things up – oddity. We build WP Rocket’s features with free discrete plugins. It takes at least 4 plugin – but adds only 4 milliseconds to load time instead.

Discrete plugins allow activating features where most needed – instead of globally.

The Facebook *like box* is another common slow down as it has been known to easily add 40+ HTTP requests (as seen below). On a clients site we saw that it added 700 KB to the overall page weight, which is not good! – Source

[dropcap]4[/dropcap]
Find ways to either not use Facebook or using it in a limited way. Reduce the load as much as possible. Is Facebook making you money? Be honest. Or do you dream it might?

[dropcap]5[/dropcap]Abandon the grandeur of Google fonts. If they’re in the theme you choose, disable them with a plugin. Even though they only add 100 to 300 milliseconds. On a fast mobile site that’s a 30-percent loss. Google Fonts are stinky bad for mobile.

[dropcap]6[/dropcap]Don’t use HTTPS/SSL certification. Don’t give into Google’s social pressure. SSL adds 400 to 500 milliseconds to your TTFB (time-to-first-byte) server overhead. Wasteful. Don’t be weak. Go ahead test Google’s home page speed. It used to be under 100 milliseconds. With self-imposed SSL edicts, Google speed sucks now. They can’t even match their own PageSpeed Insights recommendation of a TTFB below 200 milliseconds. Ouch. Embarrassing.

There are more non-surgical extras for speed we place into the fine-tuning, tweaking basket.

Do you suppose examining your site that images are the biggest problem? They’re not. It’s rarely the case any more. The two biggest factors are usually theme-related and Facebook. Even worse than much-hated, third-party ads – but barely. PS- We optimize your image library for speed.

We don’t hate Facebook because we’re demure introverts and antisocial. We despise Facebook for what they did to speed innocents. Dirtbag destroyers of velocity. Apathetic.

Thanks for trusting us to help improve your site’s mobile health.

Let’s go – faster.