WordPress optimisation

Something I get asked to do a lot is to optimise existing WordPress websites to improve Google’s Page Speed Score and other test results.

This is a long read, but there is a good reason why. WordPress optimisation is a crucial part of any website project or SEO campaign. If you’d rather chat about this, call me on 07879 420 506, if I don’t pick up, email me here and we’ll book a call.

Why should you improve your WordPress websites’ score in the various free online tests?

  • Because your competitors will be
  • You’ll end up with a better website
  • There will be fewer things hindering your placement in the search
  • Ultimately you will win more business from your site (when your SEO is also up to scratch)

The search engine results are an ever-changing list of sites that rank for keywords, so if you want to make sure your site has the best possibility of ranking, you need to make sure your site doesn’t let you down from a technical perspective.

What you need to do (or have done) to optimise your WordPress website.

From a technical perspective, your site needs to be fast and well-built.

From a content perspective, you need to ensure that all your content is written correctly in the first place and optimised (more than just using Yoast.

Below is a breakdown of how I go about optimising WordPress websites.

Get started with WordPress optimisation

Technical optimisation, and why you start with this first.

You can write the best content in the world, but if your site is poorly built, you’ll simply be making things harder for yourself.

In my opinion:

  • Google (et al) wants to put the best content in front of its customers (yes, they are customers)
  • It also wants to avoid sending its customers to a website that is slow and technically poor
  • Google does not really give much consideration to what your site looks like – so don’t think a killer design is going to get you any higher in the rankings
  • It wants your site to be accessible, quick and error-free
  • Google likes HTTPS, so if you won’t stretch to an SSL certificate, don’t bother doing anything else
  • It likes lean and clean code

The list could go on, but the point here is simply that if your site is not technically proficient, your rankings are going to suffer.

This is why you start with technical optimisation.

If you’ve got three hours to cut down a tree, you spend the first two sharpening your axe.

How I optimise WordPress websites for my clients.

This is not the whole process as every WordPress site I work on to optimise is different, but it will give you some idea of the amount of work and time involved.

Get started now

Stage one:

What do you want out of this?

I need to understand what it is you want from the optimisation of your site.

This might sound obvious, but if you tell me you want to see a 200% increase in sales, we’ll be having a different conversation.

Website optimisation of your WordPress site is about making sure it’s ready for SEO, it’s not a magic bullet that will bring you more leads overnight.

Managing expectations

WordPress optimisation should be baked into your WordPress install from day one.

Most of my clients come to me with websites they’ve had built (or built themselves) and once it’s gone live, they realise the site is not optimised at all.

Whilst retro-fitting WordPress optimisation is possible, there’s only so much that can be done after the site has been built.

If the main issue with your site is your theme, you may need a new theme.

That can be a significant issue for a lot of businesses, as they’ve already paid someone to build them a site on a theme that’s very hard to optimise.

The point here is that I am not a magician, I can only work with what I am given. A poorly built site does not become my responsibility as part of the optimisation process.

If there is bad news to deliver, I’ll deliver it before I take your money or start the project, so you won’t be throwing good money after bad… (might sound a little harsh, but I have a policy of being very upfront about these things).

Ideally, what do we want here?

Most of the time, it’s getting your site scores in the various tests north of 90% (or green rather than red or amber).

If I can achieve that for your site, you then know that there is nothing technical that will impede any SEO or content work you are planning to embark upon.

Get in touch to get started

Stage two:

Check your site for issues.

I use a range of free and paid tools for this.

  • GT Metrix
  • Google’s Page Speed Insights
  • Pingdom
  • Search Console (if I have access)
  • Chrome’s Lighthouse tool
  • My eyes – a simple look over your site

Why so many? Well, each tool always reports slightly different results, so the more optimisation test results you get, the better picture you have overall.

How long does this take?

This process typically takes 1-2 hours to complete and send you the reports.

Add an extra 1-2 hours to this time if you want a loosely detailed explanation of everything.

If you would like a full report and breakdown, it’s at least 8 hours of work.

Can we skip this stage?

Absolutely not. It’s crucial and although it takes time, it’s worth it.

Can you do it yourself?

Sure, go get the results and send them to me. But I still charge for my time to look over them (1-2 hours).

Issues with your site? Let’s take a look

Stage three:

Looking over your install, theme and plugins.

This is what it says on the tin – a manual look over your WordPress install and everything under the hood.

What I am looking for here:
  • Your WordPress version
  • The plugins you have installed (how many, are they up-to-date etc)
  • Your theme (is it bespoke, free, premium and a child theme etc)
  • The site health section of your install (in tools)
How long does this take?

I allow at least 1 hour for this.

I don’t make any changes or updates to your site, I just have a good look over it.

If access to your site’s admin requires a non-disclosure agreement, I have one I can send over.

Can we skip this stage?

Absolutely not. It’s crucial and although it takes time, it’s worth it.

Can you do it yourself?


Get Dave to do it

Stage four:

Getting started with the basics.

This stage varies a lot, depending on what I have discovered so far.

Generally, what I do for starters is to look at the easy-win optimisation options for any website.

These will include:
  • Caching plugins – do you have a cache plugin? I recommend WP Rocket (not free*) or Autoptimize (free)
  • Are your images compressed? I recommend Smush Pro for this (not free*)
  • Are you loading lots of fonts? If so, can we reduce these?
  • Are you using lots of plugins? Can we reduce or consolidate?
  • Is your server up to the task? One of the #1 issues with sites is slow server response times
  • Does your site load third-party scripts?
  • Do you use HubSpot, Salesforce or similar?

* When I work on sites for clients, I install my own versions of premium plugins like WP Rocket at no additional cost as I invest in these tools as part of what I do.

Easy-win optimisations are things that do not require any unpicking of your theme or processes.

For example, if you have a plugin installed that you absolutely must use, but it slows the site down, this would require some development work to fix, and that would be extra.

How long does this take?

I typically allow 3-4 hours for this stage.

During this stage, I will improve what I can and report back on other optimisation options that may require more work, or are more significant in execution (removing custom fonts or plugins etc)

Can we skip this stage?


Can you do it yourself?

No, which is probably why you are reading this.

Get in touch with Dave

Stage five:

More in-depth WordPress optimisation.

When we get to this point, we are into making more significant changes to your site in order to optimise it further.

So I have done what I can with your site, but we are still not seeing scores north of 90% in the various tests for your site.

Now we need to make some more significant decisions about how to best proceed.

If your theme is just not up to the job, we may need to rebuild the site.

Those plugins that you must have on the site are slowing it down? We need to rethink that process.

How long does this take?

There is no real way of estimating this stage until we get here, but the point is that I will have kept your spending as low as possible to this point, so if you want to invest more to improve your site, it’s entirely up to you.

Can we skip this stage?

You can do so if you want, but your site will be left poorly optimised.

Can you do it yourself?

There’s an answer to everything somewhere on Google – it really depends on how much of your own time you wish to invest.

Get help from Dave

Where next?

Here’s how I see it.

I’ve built and optimised 100s of sites over 20 years, small clients, corporate clients and international sites for multinationals.

The best piece of advice I can give about WordPress optimisation is as follows:

If you are serious about your business, invest the money in making sure your site is as good as it can be.

Improving your website is not a cost, it is an investment, and just like other business investments, if you go cheap, you get what you paid for.

Consider the following (excuse the following rant):

  • How much do you pay for your business broadband? £75 per month?
  • How much do you pay for your phones and landlines? £100 per month?
  • Your mobile phone costs you at least £50 per month
  • Business insurance, that you will hopefully never need to use costs you several hundred per month
  • So a typical business probably spends around £300 – £400 per month on communication and other must-have products or services.

You should be investing at least this each and every month in your website, as it’s a 24/7/365 marketing machine that will literally deliver you new business leads daily if you do it right.

I’ve run a successful design agency for over 20 years that sees continual year-on-year growth and it’s all down to the number of leads that are generated daily by the various websites we manage for the company.

Getting these sites to rank and perform well, building them in the first place and keeping them updated accounts for 1000s of hours work. I know all about the commitment and slog required to do this.

If you are serious about improving your website, you’ll be serious about investing in it.

Get in touch if you are serious about making your site better.