The short answer is, yes, you should worry about website speed. Who cares, you might ask? People and Google. But if you want the long answer with some tips to go along with it, keep on reading.
In general, people are used to pretty fast websites. So if your WordPress site takes more than a few seconds to load, they’re probably going to leave your site for another, unless they have some reason to be on your site, specifically. And if people start leaving because your site is slow, it impacts your bounce rate and other metrics you care about.
Google (and other search engines) also care about the speed of your site. It’s been several years since Google started using load time as a factor in search results. You might be able to play some tricks that fool people into thinking your site loads quickly, but you can’t typically fool Google.
So what should you do to optimize your WordPress site for speed? Here are a couple of tips.
Choose your host wisely.
There are good hosting companies and bad (or slow) hosting companies out there. In general, if your monthly hosting bill is less than the cost of a fast food meal, you probably need a better website host. And if your annual bill is less than a fast food meal, it’s definitely time for a better host.
Shared hosting, while financially an attractive option for many people, tends to be slower than a dedicated host or virtual server. That’s not to say everyone should run out and pay for a dedicated host, but do some research online about hosting reputation and speed before you choose a host.
How do you know whether a host is good or bad? There are lots of discussion groups on various websites that talk about hosting providers. Read through some reviews and look for both great reviews and bad reviews. As always with online reviews, don’t believe everything about either type of review, but use it to make an informed decision.
Pick a lightweight theme.
If you’re concerned about speed, pick a lightweight WordPress theme. If a theme has tons of functionality built in, it’s going to slow down your site. Now, if you really need all of that functionality, then stick with your more robust theme. But if you only need a fraction of it, pick a lightweight theme instead. A couple good options are Genesis and Divi. You have to balance the theme and its impact on speed with the usability of your site.
Watch out for huge images.
Image files can quickly slow your site down, especially if you’re repeatedly using images that are much larger than necessary. Be smart about your image size and what you upload to your site. If you need an image that’s 100 pixels square, don’t upload one that’s 2,000 pixels wide, and then resize it on your site. Resize it first, and then upload it to your site.
You should also watch out for plugins that use large images. Some are unavoidable, but others can be worked around to reduce image size.
With these tips, you can reduce the load time of your WordPress site, which makes Google and your site visitors happy.