12 DIY Tips to Improve Your WP Site’s Speed, SEO, and Usability
Bad news week – Your WordPress site is not perfect.
Good news week – You can fix it yourself.
You are not alone; it’s just something you need to work on. If you use the audit tools here on big sites like Moz.com andHuffingtonPost.com, you will find even they are less than perfect.
Know the Size of Your Problems
The first step is to work out the size of the speed, SEO and usability problems you have. Free tools go a long way here.
Use Pingdom, a free tool, to measure your site’s speed.
Pingdom gives you a score and all the data you need. You can expand each performance insight and learn how to fix the problem.
Run Pingdom on your site to see the extent of your speed problems, fix the issues it throws up and run it again. Run Pingdom before and after installing any plugin, because many plugins will increase your page loading time.
Start by learning and educating yourself with the best WordPress SEO practices. Setting up a good SEO infrastructure will save you a lot of time spent later on optimizing and revising your mistakes.
Screaming Frog will analyze a site up to 500 pages for free.
Even if you need Screaming Frog’s premium service, it is a very reasonable annual fee. You should run your site through Screaming Frog once a month, because errors creep in, especially if more than one person has upload permissions.
Testing usability is harder than finding SEO and speed issues, yet it is probably more important.
There are no free tools.
Ask five subjects from your target group to test your website. Ideally, the tests should happen while you stand behind them, or use screen-sharing software so that you can observe their actions
Heat maps tell you where users are focusing on your web pages. If they are not focusing where you want them to focus, then you need a page redesign. There are free Heatmap plugins for WordPress such as Heatmap for WP, and some themes include a heat map option
A/B testing will help you to make incremental improvements in usability. There are paid A/B testing services, but start with a free WP plugin such as Nelio A/B Testing
How accessible are your pages to disabled users? Companies are being sued for failing to provide equal access to disabled users. ADA compliance is set to become increasingly important over the next two years.
SortSite from PowerMapper is one solution to consider. For a one-off fee of $150, you can find any accessibility problems with your web pages.
You can test the first ten pages of any site with a free trial. The screenshot above is of the New York Times site and shows 90% of pages tested have issues.
Fixing Your Site’s Speed
People are impatient, and nobody is going to wait while your site loads.
Use a caching plugin. W3 Total Cache is extremely popular. Both are easy to set up and are well-supported.
Use the Smush Image Compression and Optimization plugin to reduce your images’ size, so they download faster.
Remove as many third party applications as you can. Ad services such as Googles AdSense, social media plugins and social sharing tools like Sumo Me all slow down your site. Weigh up whether each service is worth the pain it causes to your site loading speed.
Install the excellent (and free) All-in-One SEO Pack plugin for WordPress.
Improving Your Site’s Usability
Usability is crucial to your SEO because if visitors click away in frustration, Google detects that and marks your site down in its algorithm.
Use a premium form plugin such as WPForms. You need your visitors to talk to you, so prioritize your contact form.
A drag and drop form builder like WP Forms lets you design forms that stand out because they are different. Drag and drop functionality ensures this plugin is easy enough for anyone to use.
Use a larger font and good contrast. Most sites use fonts smaller than W3C recommendations – Arial Trebuchet and Georgia should be at least 10 points. Good contrast also ensures readers find what they want quickly, so they are more likely to visit multiple pages on your website.
Tl; DR Version
WordPress is the best platform to build your site with, but a basic WordPress installation will not have proper SEO settings and will be slow because of all the calls to your databases. Ranking well in Google depends on improving your site’s speed, SEO, and usability rating.
Luckily, you can extend WordPress functionality simply by installing a few great plugins. This WPMayor article talks about other plugins you should look at.