Last week I set myself a challenge to improve my website speed using the same techniques I teach my consulting clients.
I was tired of scoring “poor” across the board on Google Search Console.
I knew that slow load times were hurting my SEO rankings.
It wasn’t just site speed either. Google Pagespeed Insights was throwing up all kinds of technical issues that were slowing things down for my visitors.
I had to get it sorted. Google are getting a lot more serious about website owners improving their “core web vitals“, the elements of Pagespeed.
I didn’t want to start losing rankings due to site speed, so I got started.
Here’s what I was able to achieve after a few hours of trial and error…
My website is currently scoring 100/100 on mobile and desktop.
I can’t remember what I was scoring beforehand, but I think it was somewhere in the 40s on mobile and 70s on desktop.
Are you wondering how your can get your website performance up to Google’s current standards?
In this article I’ll outline the handful of changes I made to my site as well as the specific tools and settings I used to get my score from the 40s up to a perfect 100.
1. Install Autoptimize cache plugin.
Autoptimize is a free WordPress plugin that compresses your website files, making them smaller and faster for your visitors.
I’ve tried several competing plugins and this one has achieved the best results for my website.
Here are my current settings if you’d like to copy my setup for your website.
2. Install Shortpixel image compression plugin.
While Autoptimize takes care of your site’s code, you need another plugin to deal with your images.
Most architects have images on their site that are far larger than they need to be, both in resolution and quality. This is a huge drag on your Pagespeed results and your visitor experience, especially for visitors with slower connections.
Luckily there are plugins out there that can resize and optimize your images automatically so that you don’ have to do it one by one.
Install Shortpixel Adaptive Images, a WordPress plugin that will replace the images with properly sized identical twins. They also optimise them to reduce their file size even further.
The only setting I changed on this plugin was the fade-in effect. I found that fade-in animation quite distracting, but the images looked great once I turned this off.
Shortpixel isn’t free, they charge you for credits to process your images. Even so, their packages are very affordable. I purchased a 10,000 image credit pack for $9.99 and it was more than enough for my site.
3. Disable Google fonts.
My WordPress theme was using a handful of custom Google fonts that were slowing down my site’s load time. Each time someone loaded the page their browser had to fetch the font from Google.
But more important thn speed alone, I was finding that as my site loaded, the generic fonts appeared first before being replaced by the Google fonts. This was causing some visual glitches and jerkiness as my site loaded, which not only looks like crap but was hurting my Pagespeed score.
You might find that when you enable caching on your website, you start seeing the same jerky font issue. You’ll also notice your “cumulative layout shift” metric in Pagespeed is doing badly as items on the page jostle about while the page loads.
In either case, you can do what I did to fix the issue (if you can live with generic fonts) and just disable Google fonts altogether.
Here are the settings I used in Autoptimize to disable Google fonts.
Does every website need to turn off Google fonts? Absolutely not. Use your own judgment to work out whether it’ll impact the overall look and feel of your site if you turn them off.
You’re a design business after all. It’s possible that the fonts on your website have been carefully chosen to show off that designer aesthetic. If that’s the case, then leave them be.
In my case, my site theme used very generic looking fonts to begin with, and to my untrained eye the generic alternatives look almost identical, so I just went for it.
4. Remove unnecessary plugins.
Despite paying attention to plugins and scripts that could slow down my site, over the recent months I had installed a number of unnecessary plugins on my site.
I had a live chat widget, a plugin that showed the most recent blog posts, a search bar, social share links and comment sections that nobody used.
I even had a “random article” button that shuffled my blog posts when you pressed it.
So much junk.
I decided to strip my blog right back down to the bare essentials by disabling and deleting all non-essential plugins.
The end result was better visitor metrics, a cleaner aesthetic, and the final boost I needed to get that 100 Pagespeed score I was aiming for.
5. Get rid of Google Analytics.
Along with disabling unnecessary plugins, you’ll also want to remove any non-essential scripts that run in the background of your site that you no longer need.
Each of these adds a little bit of drag to your site and affects your Pagespeed.
The first script I’d start with is Google Analytics. It’s much too hefty for the needs of most architecture firms, so you should place it with a faster, leaner and more privacy focused alternative.
I recently wrote a post on the tool I use, Plausible, and discussed the new wave of privacy-focused analytics tools that are out there.
After analytics, you should also look for any pixels or conversion tracking scripts you no longer need.
For example, I ran Google Ads for my site at one point in the past. Google had me install a tracking script across my site to measure the success of my ads. Since I no longer run Google Ads, I don’t want their script to load every time a visitor hits one of my pages, so I got rid of it.
Along with Google Ads I also had scripts for Facebook, my own email newsletter software, a tool for creating heatmaps of visitor behaviour, and a bunch of other junk.
What does your website have running in the background? Just double check what external scripts you’ve installed on your site and decide whether you still need them or not. If not, delete the baggage and enjoy the immediate improvement in your site’s performance.
Architecture firms sell highly visual services and we rely on portfolios of high resolution images to attract potential clients.
That’s great, but when we don’t pay proper attention to how those images and the rest of our site are optimised, our websites can slow to a crawl.
That makes them really frustrating to visit, which can often turn away visitors who don’t feel like waiting for our pages to load.
Google knows this about website users; we expect speed. That’s why it’s such an important SEO ranking factor for Google. They want people to visit your website and have it load almost instantly.
This article has covered the most effective ways to do that without rebuilding your site from scratch.
With a few plugins, a spring clean and a bit of O.C.D. you’ll be able to dramatically improve your architecture firm’s website speed.