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WordPress Page Loading Speeds and Google Search - Try to Avoid Plugins

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wordpress page loading speeds and google search - try to avoid plugins

Having been an information systems architect and large corporate website developer for many years, one of the things I have been ever cognizant of is the necessity of getting a web page to render quickly. With this in mind, I had always gone the route of custom website development because you can design such streamlined webpages that you can be assured that they render very quickly to an end user. I had never delved into the world of WordPress until recent times but had always wanted to check it out architecturally - I am just built that way - a true geek. 

Building a blog site recently gave me this opportunity. After constructing a draft blog site using WordPress, I took the time to add it to my "Google Webmaster Toolbox" portfolio to see how Google perceived these pages from a loading speed perspective as opposed to my previously built custom websites and I was startled to see the results. First off, the Google search engine likes to see pages load in around 250 milliseconds or better. These custom sites built previously had no issues with this speed requirement. My primary one loaded on average at 175 milliseconds per page and the second at 186 milliseconds per page respectively. 

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Then I looked at the recently created WordPress blog site and it came in at a whopping 1,950 millisecond average load speed per page. This would be a totally unacceptable page load speed in Google's eyes and this site would obviously be penalized in their search engine rankings as a result. Not to mention, people would often just give up waiting for the page to render and would go elsewhere instead, costing the site owner a potential sale. A real shame after doing the marketing work to bring them to your site in the first place. 

This got me thinking about why this problem was occurring as I definitely want to improve on these averages with the WordPress site recently constructed so I went to an online tool that one can use to test your webpage load speeds and get some detailed analysis as to what is causing the slowness on the site's pages. This tool by the way is provided by a company called Pingdom Tools who can be found on the Internet. 

After researching my page load issues using the tool, I realized that my approximate 8-10 second load speeds were being caused by excessive imbedded JavaScript callouts to 3rd party plugins while my page was trying to load and thus, the loading of this external code into my page while the page itself was trying to load; was bringing my page load performance to its knees. 

This led me to the Google Developers site to look for solutions to these problems and it actually did not surprise me to learn that the primary culprit causing the slowness of my page loading was that my pages were using a lot of "WordPress" plugins. In fact, just having fun with WordPress plugins, I had used them for everything and had as a result, activated about 26 of them on my site to provide all the features I wanted to have on my blog site pages - and several of these were activated to work with a WordPress "Theme" that I had purchased from a 3rd party vendor. The Google Developer site went on to say and I will directly quote a couple excerpts from their site here: 

"Avoid Plugins: Plugins help the browser process special types of web content, such as Flash, Silverlight, and Java. Most mobile devices do not support plugins, and plugins are a leading cause of hangs, crashes, and security incidents in browsers that provide support. Due to these concerns, many desktop browsers restrict plugins." They go on to say that "Most content that once required plugins can now be created using native web technologies, including content requiring first-class support for audio and video, advanced graphics, and presentation effects, network connections, local storage and file access." Using these web platform features will help ensure that your rich content can be accessed on all devices." 

So the bottom line for some WordPress site owners who are wondering why they may be seeing high one page bounce rates for customers coming to their sites, is that it is directly being caused by slow page load speeds on their sites which are probably being caused by using a lot of JavaScript callouts on a webpage load which is the primary method of invoking the 3rd party plugins being used. To see your own loading truths, go somewhere to a computer that has never been to your site and try to load it from there or use the tool I mentioned above to get a more accurate loading assessment. You will also get an inkling of the problem if you are seeing high bounce rates when you are viewing your site using the Google Analytics toolset. 

My concern as I finish off this article by the way, is that I know there are many people out there starting their own at home online businesses who have very little in depth website development knowledge as they start out. The sad truth is that they hope to use these sites they create to make extra money from home yet would more than likely be oblivious to the negative impacts on their site performance caused by the use of plugins. They don't know that they should be minimizing or eliminating the use of these plugins wherever possible in the interests of having a better performing website which is necessary for Google to rank the site high enough to send traffic there.

Their strategy should be to minimize or completely eliminate these plugins on their sites over time as they learn more about how to design and build websites. Also, if they are expecting to be able to get sustained organic traffic from Google and to have their pages render properly on most mainstream browsers (such as Chrome, Firefox and whatever browsers Microsoft is supporting currently, as well as on mobile devices; they will ultimately have to learn how to directly code parts of their websites using website development tools to start using native and advanced web technologies to build in the higher end features that they want to utilize. 

My closing recommendations with this article: Start to look at all your plugins and widgets used on your WordPress website(s) to see which ones you can do without and deactivate and get rid of them if you can. Some may be doing nothing for you at all and are just negatively impacting your load speeds by being activated on your site. Then see which other ones are easily replaceable by some simple coding you can implement; such as using hyperlinked URL code to get to a 3rd party site rather than using that 3rd party's provided plugin or widget on your site. This will give you a start on improving your page load speeds, improving your site bounce statistics, and thereby increasing your site access numbers and sales conversions. 

There will be more you need to do with your site coding structures to improve loading speeds to get fully righteous with the Google search engine, but this at least can be a starting point for improving your site's performance.

By Dan Grijzenhout - December 20, 2016

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