Google recently announced page experience would be one of the factors in algorithm that will affect search-ranking positions. The new term Core Web Vitals you see in Google Search Console are becoming important factors that would define the future of the web. This forces all webmasters to ensure the site loading speed is as demanded by Google in order to get good ranking in search results. If you are using WordPress to host your site then it is actually easy to get 100/100 score in Google PageSpeed Insights tool.
This is a case study with our own experience. Hence, we mention the plugins / themes / hosting company names explicitly. Importantly, it is not always necessary to look at the PageSpeed score if you have clear visibility of what you are doing. For example, you can use paid ads or social marketing to promote your site that has poor page speed score. Therefore, the context of this article is applicable for bloggers looking to get higher speed score thus increasing the chance of higher search engine ranking and better user experience.
Google PageSpeed Insights
There are few tools; you can use to monitor the speed of WordPress website. Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom, GTmetrix and WebPage Test are some of the most used tools in the list. Since, Google search results decide the traffic of many websites, it is good to use PageSpeed Insights tool as a reference.
You can go to the PageSpeed tool and input any page URL to get the speed score. There are many factors influencing the score that you can read from the official Google developer’s site. Below is the summary of factors weighing on the score you see.
|First Contentful Paint||15%|
|Largest Contentful Paint||25%|
|Time to Interactive||15%|
|Total Blocking Time||25%|
|Cumulative Layout Shift||5%|
After analyzing the webpage, Google will provide a score based on 100 points scale. Below are the three ranges to indicate the speed position of the analyzed page.
- 0-49 : Poor
- 50-79: Needs Improvement
- 80-100: Good
Therefore, 100/100 score in Google PageSpeed indicates your site loads super-fast, obviously Google and users will love fast loading websites. You can check out the Lighthouse scoring calculator to check various parameters required for improving speed dynamically.
Remember, other than the above-mentioned factors, Google will also suggest opportunities like remove unused scripts or remove unused CSS. However, these are recommendations and will NOT affect your score even you work hard to make them pass the audit. We make this point explicitly since many bloggers think removing jQuery will help to get higher score.
Our Website Score and Size
Before explaining how to get 100/100, we want to show you the score of our home page. As you can see, we get 100 for both mobile and desktop.
Remember, we are talking about this live website having almost 2000 blog posts and using around 20 plugins. If we can get full score, it is highly possible for sites with less number of posts and plugins.
5 Factors to Get 100/100 Score in Google PageSpeed
Below are the top 5 factors we will discuss in details that we consider are important for getting 100/100 score in Google PageSpeed.
- Get Good Hosting Company
- No Advertisement Codes
- Use Lightweight Theme
- Remove Heavy Plugins
- Use Caching Plugin
Few other factors like DB cleanup and CDN can also help depending upon your situation. We will cover those aspects as well.
#1. Good Hosting
We started this website on Weebly and moved to WordPress with Bluehost. Later we moved the site to SiteGround GoGeek plan and then to SiteGround Cloud VPS in 2016 May. From that time there was no turning back or spending time on hosting related issues.
Recently SiteGround moved their infrastructure to use Google Cloud platform. This helps a lot to have solid first response time from the server. We are not even using Cloudflare or any other CDN to get 100/100 score in Google PageSpeed. It is about the good hosting you use for your site. Therefore, make sure to purchase a premium hosting plan like SiteGround Cloud VPS or similar. This will help to save plenty of your time and focus on other aspects of running a website.
#2. No Advertisement Codes
Almost 90% of the bloggers start blogging for making money online. The first choice for them is to apply for Google AdSense and the second choice is to try affiliate marketing. Since affiliate marketing needs a trustworthy site, Google AdSense is an ideal option for new bloggers.
We use Google AdSense and that is our primary source of income for running this website. We have explained the problems with AdSense and page speed in our article – AdSense Vs Page Speed an Irony. The page we have tested in PageSpeed is the home page of this site. The reason we get 100/100 score is that we do not use AdSense code on the home page. However, there is an auto ads available on the entire site. When we checked the page after checking the PageSpeed score, we found there was one ad showing at the bottom the page. The page loads faster with a single ad appearing at the bottom.
Let us show you the result of some random page having 5 AdSense ads on this site. As you can see, the score is in 55/90 range. This is a drop of 45/10% on mobile and desktop.
If your choice is to use AdSense or any similar advertising programs then forget about the page speed. Google PageSpeed will show you many issues due to loading third-party scripts on your site. Unfortunately, you will not be able to resolve those issues without removing advertisement script code.
#3. Use Lightweight Theme
We were using Highend theme for 4 years. This is a very good theme with bundled features. Unfortunately, we did not use 90% of the functionalities like maps, FAQ, testimonials, etc. However, the theme loads CSS and JS resources needed for all these features regardless of whether you use on the page or not. This is meaningless like owning a big palace but still living in a small hut outside the palace.
Unfortunately, it was not easy to switch a theme due to the tight integration of the Highend theme all over the site. For example, Highend theme has an option to integrate Google Analytics using theme options. So, we have spent lot of time to find a replacement theme which is minimal in nature but offers base features without plugins.
Fortunately, very few themes met our criteria. To be precise, we chose GeneratePress and Astra themes and later decided to purchase GeneratePress. After six months of migration work, we changed the theme in June 2020 and the PageSpeed score increased at least 30% (with AdSense ads).
There were five previous years lost by choosing wrong theme that we did not need. Make sure not to make the same mistake and purchase a premium and minimalist theme that satisfies your need. GeneratePress theme offers hooks using elements, sections, typography and other basic features that we need. For any other purposes, better to use plugins so that we don’t need to waste another five years later for changing this theme.
#4. Remove Heavy Plugins
Similar to theme, there are heavy plugins that will pull the page speed downwards. Earlier, we were using WPBakery Page Builder, WooCommerce and WP Review plugins on this site. Now, we have moved all those plugins together with Highend theme to a subdirectory. This caused heavy traffic loss for us along with Google algorithm updates in May 2020. However, we have to move on further with ~30% increase in speed.
If you are using or planning to find a page builder or similar plugins, stop and think twice.
- We converted the WPBakery Page Builder layout and use default Gutenberg to build our home page. Even GeneratePress offers Elementor layouts and their own mini page builder, however you can for sure make decent layouts with full width jumbotron and hero headers using Gutenberg Group block.
- Avoid bloating plugins like WP Review – it still uses font awesome 4.7 for the price of $97 (3 sites license). This is absolute ridiculous by loading 4.7 version on each single page when version 6 is in launch. Remember, we are talking about 2000 pages out of which only 70 pages use review template from the plugin. This is a kind of trade off you should think before installing any plugin on your site.
- WooCommerce is another plugin that will kill your site by adding admin AJAX calls for the cart. Again, 50 products against 2000 posts is not a good way to keep them together both from traffic as well as revenue perspective.
These are hard ways of learning, took years for us to understand. Hope you can get the point and use only required plugins on your site.
#5. Use Caching Plugin
We use WP Rocket for more than a year. The best part of the plugin is it generates critical CSS for each post type on your site. Along with caching and preloading, critical CSS will boost your site speed to top. Note, we were also using WP Rocket on Highend theme with WooCommerce and other heavy weight plugins as explained above. However, the result was 30/60 in Google PageSpeed.
So, the finding is – caching plugin does the best with the best coded theme/plugins. Otherwise, you will have wrong combination without much increase in the speed. Note, SiteGround offers default server caching with SG Optimizer plugin. However, this does not work for us even with simple GeneratePress theme. As we want to keep the caching independent of hosting, WP Rocket or similar plugin was the best option for us. Below are the caching and other features you will get with WP Rocket:
- Browser caching, GZIP compression, remove query string and optimize Google fonts.
- Disable embeds, emoji and control heartbeat API.
- Critical CSS generation for each post type with preloading of URLs based on your XML Sitemap.
- Host jQuery Migrate, Google Analytics and Facebook Pixels to improve the speed.
- Combine and minify CSS and JS.
- Cleanup database redundant entries like transients, revisions and autosaves.
- Lazy loading images, videos and frames.
- Separate cache for mobile and desktop, if you needed.
You can also purchase CDN and use image optimization plugin for additional cost (we do not use these features).
Well, all over the internet you will find a word “CDN” when talking about WordPress site speed. SiteGround also offers free CDN integration with Cloudflare. Unless, you have targeted audience in internet blocked countries like China, we do not think CDN can actually increase the speed drastically. For a site like ours, it will help to serve static files like large images faster. However, SiteGround introduced Site Tools (replacing cPanel) that will automatically generate WebP images using their SG Optimizer plugin. We are still not using this feature, you can use any WebP plugin to serve lightweight images to supported browsers, instead of PNG/JPEG format.
Another factor is cleaning up your database and site. As mentioned, WP Rocket offers DB cleanup option that you can schedule periodically. However, that is not the cleanup we talk here.
- Do you know WooCommerce plugin will add 25+ tables in your database? As we explained here, default WordPress installation will only have 12 tables for a single site. We spent lots of time in migrating orders, products and WooCommerce files. We also need to delete WooCommerce thumbnails to clean up the storage space. Learn more on how to completely delete WooCommerce from your site.
- WP Review Pro plugin will add ~25 custom fields to each single post you create. All these will bloat postmeta table. It will also generate 2 additional thumbnails for each image you upload.
- WP Bakery and many other plugins will have CSS, JS and other resources on a separate directory in uploads folder. These scripts will slow down your site by loading on all pages.
- Highend theme will generate ~10 thumbnails (this will vary depending on image size and options) for each image you upload.
Now that simply changing the theme to GeneratePress and migrate heavy plugins to subdirectory will no way help to clean up the current mess. If you are changing theme or deleting plugins, make sure to delete all the traces they leave in wp_postmeta and wp_options tables. This will help to increase the page loading speed by reducing database query execution time.
We have purposely written this article in a way, what NOT to do to get 100/100 score in Google PageSpeed Insights tool. This is for those bloggers who are in middle of the blogging trying to improve the speed. However, if you are a new blogger, it should give you a clear idea of the impact of choosing options like AdSense and heavy themes with page builders. As one popular proverb says, “Simplicity is an ultimate sophistication”, choosing what you need will help you to get high score as well as save plenty of time.