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Gerard From Accelera Talks WordPress Site Speed

Here at MetaSlider, we’re obsessed with site speed. We work hard to make sure MetaSlider is the fastest slideshow plugin and we’re always optimizing our site.

This month, I’ve been talking with Gerard Blanco from Accelera who’s an expert on building fast WordPress sites. We ended up talking so much that I asked him to share his best recommendations with MetaSlider users.

Question #1: Hi Gerard. Can you introduce yourself and Accelera?


Hey there! I’m Gerard, born in Barcelona, and I’ve been around WordPress for a very long time. I’m pretty sure the first version I installed was v2 or v3, back when I was still in high school. And many years later, after working in different areas of WordPress, I co-founded Accelera. At first it was offered as part of the ShortPixel services, but then it took on a life of its own.

With Google’s focus on website loading speed in recent years, people were constantly checking their websites with page speed testers but not really understanding what they needed to do. Accelera fills this gap, we show our clients not only what’s happening, but exactly what they need to do to speed up their website, step by step, with a “Website Speed-Up Audit”. Or we optimize their website completely for them with the “Complete Speed Optimization” service. I particularly dislike it when a device, OS or app comes with more than I need. So when it comes to WordPress, making it as lean and light as possible, with the truly best resources and tools on the market, is always my and Accelera’s #1 goal.

Question #2: How much does speed impact a site’s search engine rankings?

The truth, in theory, is that content is king. Even if your website performs poorly on PageSpeed Insights or other speed tests, the search engines will notice and rank you higher if you have good authority and good, original content. However, this mostly happens with a few very large and well-known websites. The ordinary website owner needs to make as many improvements as possible to rank well in the search engines, and that includes taking care of the page loading speed.

I always like to refer to Google’s own documentation that says content is important, but “for many queries, there is lots of helpful content available. Having a great page experience can contribute to success in Search, in such cases.”

Question #3: Is there a number one cause of slow WordPress sites?

No, there is no number one cause, because every website is a different world, but there are a few causes that are usually responsible for slow loading times on WordPress.

One important reason is the hosting provider. I won’t name names here, but there are many cheap (and sometimes not so cheap) providers that invest heavily in marketing and affiliate sales and simply don’t care as much about performance and service. And since hosting is the engine of the website, even a simple blog can run slow on these servers.

Another common cause is plugins. At Accelera, we see two situations. The first is websites with too many plugins (my personal record is 122 plugins). The fewer plugins, the less code needs to be executed and the faster the page loads; people have gotten used to installing so many plugins for so many functions and features because it’s so easy. The second situation is bloated plugins. Unfortunately, often these are the most popular: custom interfaces, a million features, marketing needs, lots of code that needs to run, lots of Javascript and CSS that needs to load, etc.

A third reason is page builders. The most popular page builders we all know simply make the site slower. Larger DOM, more resources, divceptions, non-optimized add-ons… Redesigning the site with Gutenberg is something almost everyone should do; personally, I’m excited to see what comes of it.

At Accelera, we solve all these problems; we migrate the client’s website to the best hosting, we recommend which plugins should be replaced or removed, and rebuild the pages with Gutenberg if necessary or find alternative and lighter solutions for the website’s structure.

Question #4: What do you think of speed optimization plugins?

Optimization plugins are great tools, but they are not the definitive solution for slow WordPress websites, for two reasons.

First, there is always manual work to do. Plugins that present an “all-in-one” solution, suggesting that merely installing them will fix all your website speed issues are misleading, because while they can be effective, there are still many issues that can’t be fixed by an automated tool and will prevent the site from reaching its full potential. Some examples: Removing unused database tables, reducing CLS caused by how a theme structures a page, conditional loading of CSS/JS, preloading the correct LCP element, removing old data from database tables (huge postmeta tables are fun!), safely removing unused CSS without design issues, and much more.

The other reason is that optimization plugins are, as I said, tools. You need to know how to identify the problems, how to effectively use the plugins, determine which features need to be used, identify potentially counterproductive features under specific conditions, and ultimately select the most suitable plugin for the website at hand. Not all plugins perform equally across all websites, some deliver better and some may fall short.

Question #5: Are there ways that people can reliably test their site site’s performance?

To reliably measure the performance of a website, you need knowledge, time and good tools.

PageSpeed Insights has become the de facto tool to measure the performance of your website, although people usually only track the lab data, which is that big score from 1 to 100 that you get, and it’s generated in a controlled environment with predefined device and network settings. More important, however, is the field data collected from real users visiting the website. Field data isn’t a single number, but a distribution of numbers, because not everyone visits the website with the same device and network. That’s why a mediocre instant result in the lab data doesn’t mean that your website will rank poorly; the averaged results in the long run are more important.

To see the field data, which needs to be continuously measured to draw conclusions, you can also use PageSpeed Insights (section “Discover what your real users are experiencing”). Or you can use the CrUX API or the CrUX History API to get more detailed information. This is one of the ways we use at Accelera to properly test website performance.

WebPageTest is also good and in certain cases more accurate because you can set many test parameters: the number of tests you can run in a single pass, the connection speed, agent strings, test duration, etc. You can also make comparisons between tests. It’s a very powerful tool and I recommend watching Patrick Meenan’s (@PatrickMeenan) videos to really understand how you can measure your website speed with WebPageTest at an expert level.

I also recommend two WordPress plugins: One is the Code Profiler plugin, a very useful plugin that allows you to quickly see what performance issues or bottlenecks there are on your website. The second plugin is WPPerformanceTester, which allows you to test the raw performance of a server by running small load tests on it.

Question #6: What type of work needs to be done regularly on a website to keep it performing well?

This is an interesting one. There’s usually a misconception that you optimize your website once and that’s it. But in reality, over time, new plugins are installed, old plugins are removed, websites are redesigned, hosting providers are changed, etc. All this leads to the database growing with old and outdated data that needs to be removed and various new and different assets that need to be re-optimized. On the other hand, search engines update their algorithms more often than we would like, and sometimes one needs to adjust the optimization to keep your previous ranking.

Recently, for example, Google introduced the INP, which puts more emphasis on the JS and CPU usage of the website (usually the two correlate). In the past, you could get away with a poorly optimized theme or plugin, such as those purchased from large marketplaces that have almost no publishing filters and code revisions. But now the INP should penalize unoptimized code even more.

At Accelera, we are now introducing a new service called “Proactive Optimization”, which ensures that a website always remains optimized for a monthly subscription. This service is ideal for websites that are changing and growing and want to ensure that their optimized performance is maintained over the long term. We take care of the database, Core Web Vitals, re-optimization of plugins/themes and any other tasks that automated tools can’t do, and the client can have our inbox at their fingertips whenever they have questions about their website’s performance.

Accelera WP

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