Ultimate Guide to Site Speed Optimization

Site Speed

Site speed is a part of On site optimization that can be really easily overlooked when you’re a busy internet marketer. You’ve got an overflowing email inbox, social media stuffs to take care of, and your next blog entry. Who has time for site speed? Well just so you know, site speed has increased my pageviews dramatically. (Not to mention it’s a ranking factor.) It’s a powerful, rewarding thing to optimize. In this series, I’ll take you through the best, easiest ways to optimize your site speed.

Note: This post is an introduction to our series on site speed. This is in no way meant to end our series on Breaking Down Content Marketing. In fact, it is meant to back it up.

Here’s the thing: I got utterly surprised when I saw my site speed shoot up to 30+ seconds and the ‘Waiting‘ for server response time (according to Gtmetrix) is more than 14 seconds. I was shocked and taken aback. My natural instinct: Find out more about site speed. This is basically a guide to teaching you everything I found out and how I improved my site speed to have a site that consistently loads at 3-5 seconds even with so many scripts running on each of my pages.

12.11 seconds on serverBy the way, if your eyes are sharp enough, I was using Cloudflare during this time. It was their servers that were responding crazily slow. I got fed up. I needed to take things into my own hands. I turned off my cloudflare and unsubscribed my domain from their services.

And so started my painful toil for how to improve SEO Hacker’s site speed. By the way, did you notice that my site speed improved? Please do let me know if you did through the comments section below.

A Little Background

Just so you know, SEO Hacker blog runs on a lot of scripts – mostly java script. Here are some of the visible scripts that I’m running:

Scripts of SEO Hacker

Scripts eat a lot of loading time and eats some processing speed. There are solutions in handling scripts to minimize their effect on your site speed.

Check with the Hosting

Of course, like any logical webmaster, if it’s the server’s response time that is crazily bogging down your site, you go to the server’s support. I contacted my webhost about this phenomenon. To their defense, they did investigate this and tried everything they could to lower it down – to no avail. Hence, the bigger question mark in my head. If the hosting’s support team themselves couldn’t put it down, what could be causing this?

I thought that upgrading to a dedicated server would instantly solve my problems. I was wrong.

I researched about processing speed and about reasons to upgrade to a dedicated server. I found out one very important thing: Your server processing speed accounts only for 10-20% of your entire site speed factor. All other factors are up to your front-end scripts and everything that an end-user downloads in his browser.

That slashed off upgrading to a dedicated server from my list.

Most Important Thing About Site Speed

If there is something that I’ve learned through all this, it’s that the most important thing in optimizing your site speed, it’s this: Consistency.

You can optimize your site speed all you want, you can upgrade to the best servers, employ the fastest CDNs, but if your site speed is not consistent, all these are just money down the drain. The problem with site speed is that most of the time, it becomes inconsistent because of all the additional scripts you’re going to add, because your CDN runs to a problem or experiences downtime. Because you installed a plugin that is in conflict with your caching plugin. And the list goes on and on.

An inconsistent user experience is frustrating. Optimizing your site speed should mean consistency for your users.

I rummaged around what I could improve with SEO Hacker. According to Gtmetrix, here are the list of things we need to watch out for with regards to site speed:

  • Specify Image Dimensions
  • Optimize Images
  • Remove Query Strings from Static Resources
  • Avoid Bad Requests
  • Defer Parsing of JavaScript
  • Avoid a Character set in Meta Tag
  • Optimize the Order of Styles and Scripts
  • Serve Scaled Images
  • Specify a Character set Early
  • Leverage Browser Caching
  • Minify CSS
  • Specify a Cache Validator
  • Specify a Vary: Accept-Encoding Header
  • Minify Javascript
  • Enable gzip Compression
  • Minify HTML
  • Avoid Landing page Redirects
  • Enable Keep-Alive
  • Inline Small CSS
  • Inline small Javascript
  • Minimize Redirects
  • Minimize Request Size
  • Put CSS in the Document Head
  • Serve Resources from a consistent URL
  • Avoid CSS @import
  • Combine Images using CSS Sprites
  • Prefer Asynchronous Resources

From YSlow

  • Add Expires Headers
  • Make Fewer HTTP Requests
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  • Reduce DNS Lookups
  • Compress Components with Gzip
  • Use Cookie-free Domains
  • Minify Javascript and CSS
  • Configure Entity Tags (ETags)
  • Avoid Empty src or href
  • Avoid URL Redirects
  • Make AJAX Cacheable
  • Put CSS at the top
  • Remove duplicate Javascript and CSS
  • Put JavaScript at Bottom
  • Avoid AlphaImageLoader Filter
  • Avoid HTTP 404 (Not Found) Error
  • Reduce the Number of DOM Elements
  • Do not Scale Images in HTML
  • Use GET for AJAX Requests
  • Avoid CSS Expressions
  • Reduce Cookie Size
  • Make Favicon Small and Cacheable
  • Make JavaScript and CSS External

I’m not gonna lie to you, I still don’t know what most of these mean and what they are for. But for what I know, I’ve improved – and it has reflected to a very improved site load speed for SEO Hacker. Here’s my current ‘Waiting‘ server response time.

Down to 253 ms

And here’s my latest Pingdom site speed. It’s pretty consistent for the past few days that I’ve been testing it out.

SEO Hacker Pingdom

Here are some of the things that I improved with my website that I’m aware of:

  • Optimize Images
  • Avoid Bad Requests
  • Defer Parsing of JavaScript
  • Optimize the Order of Styles and Scripts
  • Leverage Browser Caching
  • Minify CSS
  • Minify Javascript
  • Enable gzip Compression
  • Minify HTML
  • Inline Small CSS
  • Inline small Javascript
  • Put CSS in the Document Head
  • Prefer Asynchronous Resources
  • Add Expires Headers
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  • Use Cookie-free Domains
  • Reduce DNS Lookups
  • Compress Components with Gzip
  • Configure Entity Tags (ETags)

Here are the things I intend to do next:

  • Combine Images using CSS Sprites

I will be discussing with you in step-by-step what I did exactly, why I did it and what the results are as I did so – in the next entries of this series. Here’s the list:

  1. Must-Have Site Speed Plugin for WordPress
  2. Optimizing Site Speed: Asynchronous and Deferred Javascript
  3. How to Implement Self-Hosted CDN for Site Speed
  4. How you can Speed up your Site’s Load Speed by 40%

Faster websites for everyone!

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  • Hi Sean,

    I had the same experience with CloudFlare. As soon as I started using it, i noticed my site being slower, whcih is weird since CF is supposed to help your site become faster.

    One of the simplest things that also has a huge effect on site speed is related to images, not specifying sizes, not optimizing images etc. I mean, its really easy to fix these things, but it can really improve your load time.

    • Hi Satrap,

      Yeah CF is not really reliable. Consistency should be key to a faster website. It can’t be super fast today and super slow tomorrow. That will irritate visitors.

      I’ll be going to post more about what I did to drastically make my site speed faster. Look forward to it.

  • Rajesh Jhamb

    Hello Sean
    I am facing problem of site speed. It is taking too much time to open.
    But after reading your article, I will definitely implement these things on my blog.
    Thank you very much.
    Keep sharing like this.

    • Hi Rajesh,
      Haven’t really talked about the ‘how-to’ of this. I’ll do that in my next post. Wait for it :)

      • I am desperately waiting for that. Provide us as soon as possible.
        Thank you in advance :)

  • Nice I’ve noticed it too, it only takes 5 seconds to load, I’m using my phone now, it’s fast even though my connection is slow, I think my connection is 1-10kbps ^_^

    • Hi Philip,

      Sounds good. Glad that it loads faster now. I lost quite a number of traffic when my site was bogging down.

      Thanks for telling me your experience man.

  • This is the best article on site speed. One of my site speed was really low after applying your tips i noticed the steady increase Thanks howdy for sharing such a gerat post to newbie bloggers like me :)

  • Thanks Sean for your Article,I am following you regularly,please update the step-by-step process.


  • morgan

    Great and Informative article. Thank you!

  • Jason Miles

    Great article, helped me improve my site’s speed

    Keep up the good stuff..

  • Ian

    Optimizing for site sit speed is one of those things I need to focus more on. Just reminds me when I see an article like this.

    • arshila

      Thanks sean for the great article.. It’s really helped me to increase my site speed.

  • Nathan Brook

    Great Post! You gave quality information and resources.Lot of website taking more time to load the website content. This article will help many people in this regard.

  • I am searching for information of how to increase site’s speed. my search ultimately ends here. really very helpful article.

  • This is the best article on site speed. One of my site speed was really low after applying your tips i noticed the steady increase.

    Thanks for sharing a gerat post to newbie bloggers like me.

    Hello from Brazil

  • White

    Great article! Managed to improve my site speed from a 74 to an 82 according to Pingdom with just a few minor tweaks, many of them “image related” <—–**very important**

  • chitra

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I am waiting for your new post on the ways to speed the site..

  • Vishnu

    thanks,it will help me to increase my site speed.Your site is awesome.always inspiring me.

  • Thanks for the informative post . i have been struggling from my website’s slow loading speed . i tried w3 total cache . but i think the problem is with my post . i will consider your tips on my website .


  • deepu

    Great post,
    Really juicy info about site speed optimization.

  • Kumar Ashutosh

    As for my blog, YSlow analysis suggest to add expire headers. Though i have implemented it, still it does not shows any change in the ranking. Seems it would take some time for them to realize that its there. Hoping for the improvement of my grade in the site speed test.

  • Kumar Ashutosh

    The major problem causing a low traffic is the site speed. No one likes waiting.. Thanks for sharing. Configured the cache plugin few days before. Accessing them from the irect place was making it delay by few seconds. Tried adding expire headers and gzip compression, and they do seem to work…

  • Ngimo

    Nice, Informative post on site speed optimization.

    • h3sean

      Glad you like it mate.

  • Emmanuel Iluzada

    I still don’t understand why yspeed still tells me that I am not using “expires headers” when I have already edited this on my .htacess file. Thanks for the relevant post, though. I just love how you explain SEO so lightly and easy to digest.

    • h3sean

      Don’t worry about it. It also says that I’m not using CDN when in fact I am :) it’s a measuring tool but it’s not 100% accurate.

  • Thanks 4 the tutorial-speeded up my site to 92/100! Great