Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

Looking to speed up your mobile WordPress site?

This tutorial covers mobile caching, mobile-adaptive images, and AMP (accelerated mobile pages). Most optimizations made on your desktop site carry over to your mobile site. That’s why doing things like upgrading PHP versions and reducing server response times also help.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

How To Speed Up WordPress On Mobile in 2020

  1. PageSpeed Checker JasaSEO.be
  2. Enable Mobile Caching
  3. Use Adaptive Images
  4. Enable Cloudflare Mirage
  5. Use Responsive Themes And Plugins
  6. Fix Mobile Redirects
  7. Reduce Server Response Time
  8. Don’t Use AMP
  9. Desktop Optimizations Carry Over To Mobile
  10. Run PHP 7.3+
  11. Setup A CDN
  12. Optimize Images
  13. Optimize Plugins
  14. Optimize External Scripts
  15. Preconnect And Prefetch
  16. Use A Better Cache Plugin
  17. Clean Your Database
  18. Disable pingbacks and trackbacks

The homepage of a website is usually used as a benchmark to test the load time. In order to check the speed of a website, the following three tools are used extensively across the web:

  1. GTmetrix
  2. PageSpeed Checker
  3. Pagespeed Insights Check
  4. Tools.Pingdom.com
  5. PageSpeed Insights (this doesn’t really report the page loading time, but does highlight the elements that you can tweak to speed up WordPress)

Okay, it’s about time to start talking some business! Here are the 11 ways to speed up WordPress:

How To Test Your WordPress Site’s Mobile Speed
I recommend GTmetrix’s mobile test or Pagespeed checker since it gives you completely new PageSpeed recommendations specifically for mobile site speed, it measures load times, and you can expand each item to see exactly which elements need to be optimized on your mobile site.

1. GTmetrix Mobile Test
With a free GTmetrix account, you can test your site on Android. The PageSpeed tab is unique to mobile while YSlow is the same as desktop. The PageSpeed tab shows serve scaled image errors if you’re not using adaptive images, as well as redirect errors and your mobile load time.

2. Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights has a “mobile” tab which tells you mobile-specific optimizations. However, you shouldn’t use PageSpeed Insights anyway since there’s an emphasis on scores (and not load times) which it doesn’t even measure, so use GTmetrix or another tool instead.

3. Think With Google
Think With Google isn’t great either. Just like PageSpeed Insights, the recommendations are somewhat broad (with GTmetrix you can actually expand recommendations to see which plugins, scripts, and images are slowing down your site). Think With Google doesn’t do that.

Future read:

Mobile SEO Guide: Introduction & Optimization in 2020

How to Speed up WordPress: Boost Speed & Performance

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

1. Enable Mobile Caching

Most cache plugins like WP Rocket and WP Fastest Cache have an option for mobile caching.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

If your cache plugin doesn’t come with mobile caching, find out if it at least supports it. If not, consider using a cache plugin that does. Some also have an option to create separate cache files for mobile devices which makes sure mobile-specific elements are cached (mainly helpful if you’re using a mobile plugin like WP Touch, WP Mobile Detect, or JetPack’s mobile theme).

Preloading Mobile Cache Instead Of Desktop
Cache plugins have a choice of preloading desktop or mobile cache, but not both. If most of your visitors are viewing your site from mobile and you have many mobile-specific design elements you want loaded faster, you can choose to preload mobile cache instead of desktop. You can enable mobile preloading with WP Rocket’s helper plugin. For other cache plugins, Google to see if they an option to enable mobile preloading instead of standard preloading.

JasaSEO.be teams says:

“The plugin will “preload mobile cache files instead of standard cache files. It’s not currently possible to preload both.”

2. Use Adaptive Images

If serve scaled images is not 100% when you test your site on GTmetrix’s mobile test, using adaptive images should fix these errors.

Adaptive images detects your visitor’s screen size and automatically creates, caches, and delivers device appropriate re-scaled versions of your web page’s embedded HTML images.”

Step 1: Test your site on GTmetrix (Android) to see serve scaled image errors on mobile.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

Step 2: Find the recommended image width in GTmetrix.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

Step 3: Install an adaptive images plugin from ShortPixel or Adaptive Images.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

Step 3: In your plugin settings, set the background maximum width to the dimensions provided by GTmetrix (in the serve scaled images section). Save changes. There are a few other settings for WebP support, lazy loading images, smart cropping, and removing EXIF data.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

Step 4: Retest your site in GTmetrix (Android) and serve scaled images should be 100%.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

3. Enable Cloudflare Mirage

JasaSEO.be team says:

Mirage was designed to make the loading of images faster in two primary ways: 1) deliver smaller images for devices with smaller screens; and 2) “lazy load” images only when they appeared in the viewport. Both of these optimizations were designed primarily to accelerate web performance on mobile devices.

This is a pro feature of Cloudflare, but you shouldn’t need it since there are free lazy loading and adaptive image plugins out there which do the same thing. Mirage is an alternative though.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

4. Use Responsive Themes And Plugins

Responsive themes and plugins naturally adapt to mobile devices.

Why is this important? Because just like adaptive images, other elements on your website will be resized automatically to fit mobile screens, making them load faster than a desktop version.

We recommend you read this: Best AdSense Optimized WordPress Themes for 2020 High CTR

Or you can download free premium themes from us:

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Example Responsive Themes:

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

5. Fix Mobile Redirects

If you see “minimize redirect” errors in GTmetrix, it’s probably from one of these:

  • You changed to HTTPS or WWW and didn’t update links
  • You setup Page Rules in Cloudflare with forwarding URLs
  • Badly coded or incorrectly configured plugins are redirecting website traffic
  • Cloudflare SSL options are incompatible with your server configuration

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

If using Cloudflare, you can use their mobile redirect option which they say “automatically redirects mobile device visitors to a mobile-optimized subdomain. The redirect is done at the edge of Cloudflare’s network, improving load time by eliminating a roundtrip to the origin server – this is especially valuable on mobile networks, which serves content slower than wifi.”

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

Setup Redirects At Server Level
If you have a mobile subdomain (or any redirect for that matter), it’s best to setup it up at a server level so it’s doesn’t ever hit WordPress. Server-level redirects are faster than plugins.

6. Reduce Server Response Time

Your server (hosting) is the #1 factor in the WordPress optimization guide.

Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights to check your server response time which should be <200ms like Google recommends. We recommend GoDaddy and HostGator.

7. Don’t Use AMP

AMP (accelerated mobile pages) are a Google project that make mobile pages load faster while giving you an AMP stamp in mobile search results.

But, AMP also completely changes your mobile design.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

Kinsta’s conversions dropped 58% when adding AMP, and they have since reverted back to their normal mobile pages. I have also decided against AMP since the design doesn’t look great. There are AMP plugins to help with design, but it’s still pretty limited and you may be disappointed with the result. And if you decided to add AMP then remove it, it’s extra work as you’ll need to setup redirects and take other measures to revert back to normal mobile pages.

You’re sacrificing design and conversions for speed. Is AMP worth it? I don’t use it.

If You Decide To Use AMP, Use The AMP For WP Plugin
If you’re going to add AMP, you should probably use the AMP for WP plugin. It has the most customization options out of any AMP plugin I’ve seen (even the AMP plugin supported by Google and Automattic).

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

Cloudflare AMP Real URL

Cloudflare says AMP Real URLs “means a page can be stored in an AMP cache and served quickly from it while showing the original site URL in the browser’s nav bar.”

You can find this in Cloudflare’s speed settings:

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

8. Desktop Optimizations Carry Over To Mobile

Most desktop speed optimizations will carry over to your mobile website.

I’m talking about:

  • Adding a CDN
  • Optimizing images
  • Optimizing plugins
  • Cleaning your database
  • Upgrading PHP versions
  • Upgrading your server/hosting
  • Configuring a good cache plugin
  • Optimizing external scripts (eg. Google Fonts)

If your mobile and desktop need work in GTmetrix, I wouldn’t worry so much about your mobile site at first. Enable mobile caching (in your cache plugin)

If you search “mobile speed” in the WordPress plugin library, hardly anything comes up to optimize WordPress sites specifically for mobile devices. Start with desktop optimizations!

9. Run PHP 7.3+

This is super easy and can make your site 2-3x faster.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

First, login to your hosting account and go to the PHP Version manager, then make sure you’re running the latest PHP version supported by your host. Some hosting companies are quicker to release newer PHP versions than others, but you should ideally be running PHP 7.3 or higher. You can also use the Display PHP Version plugin see which version you’re currently on.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

Sometimes, incompatible plugins can cause errors when upgrading PHP versions. This means they aren’t maintained well and you should consider deleting or replacing those plugins. As always, take a backup before upgrading, but you can always revert to an earlier PHP version.

10. Setup A CDN

There’s absolutely no reason not to use Cloudflare’s free CDN.

They have 190+ data centers around the world. By using these data centers to host heavy files on your website, you’re reducing the geographic distance between your server and visitors (a recommendation in the WordPress optimization guide). You’re also offloading bandwidth consumption to Cloudflare, which can save CPU consumption and money on your hosting bill.

To setup Cloudflare, sign up for a free account, grab the 2 nameservers from Cloudflare, then change nameservers in your domain registrar. This will take about 24 hours for propagation.

11. Optimize Images

Images can be optimized in 3 ways according to GTmetrix:

  • Serve scaled images: resizing large images to be smaller
  • Optimize images (lossless compression): try ShortPixel, Imagify, or Smush
  • Specify image dimensions: adding a width + height in the image’s HTML or CSS

GTmetrix only shows errors for a single page. That’s why it’s best to optimize images that appear on multiple pages first (logo, sidebar and footer images), then work you way through your most important pages. It’s also best to start with scaling images since that requires cropping/resizing images and reuploading them. GTmetrix will tell you the correct dimensions for unscaled images and for those that have no specified width + height in the HTML or CSS.

Create An Image Dimensions Cheat Sheet
I recommend creating an “image dimension cheat sheet” for the dimensions of your sliders, full width blog images, featured images, etc. That way, you can crop + resize them to the correct dimensions before uploading them, and you shouldn’t have serve scaled image errors again.

12. Optimize Plugins

Too many plugins or any high CPU plugins (especially those using external scripts) can slow down your site, even on mobile. I’m very picky about which plugins I use and test my GTmetrix report after installing a new plugin. Always use the fastest, most lightweight, reliable plugins.

Asset CleanUp is great for speeding up plugins. It lets you see which plugins, scripts, and styles are loading on certain pages, then selectively disable them on content where they don’t need to be loaded. If you’re not doing this already, I would 100% recommend using Asset CleanUp.

  • Avoid high CPU plugins: avoid this list of slow plugins. Common slow plugins include social sharing plugins, portfolios, slider, statistics, backups, and others.
  • Replace high CPU plugins with faster plugins: some research will be required, but replace any of your high CPU plugins with faster, more lightweight plugins.
  • Delete plugins you don’t need: can you replace plugins with code (eg. insert GA tracking code directly, use Facebook widgets instead of plugins, or create a table of contents in HTML + CSS? Any plugins you can replace with code, do it.
  • Don’t use JetPack for a couple modules: first, disable all modules you’re not currently using in the debug settings. Next, do you really need JetPack if you’re only using it for a couple things? It’s infamous for slowing down sites. You’re betting off finding a non-bloated plugin that only does the same functionality.
  • Find your slowest plugins: use the GTmetrix Waterfall tab or Query Monitor (the queries by components tab) to see your slowest plugins. If a plugin shows multiple times in your PageSpeed + YSlow report, that may also be an indictor.
Recommended:
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13. Optimize External Scripts

External scripts are anything that pull requests from outside websites.

The most common external scripts are Google Fonts, Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, AdSense, Maps, social sharing plugins, embedded videos, Gravatars, and even Facebook Pixel

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

Some third party scripts are easy to optimize:

  • Google Fonts can be combined and hosted locally using w3 total cache, Autoptimize, or even Asset CleanUp. Be minimal with fonts + weights!
  • Google Analytics can be optimized using WP Rocket or CAOS Analytics.
  • Embedded videos can be lazy loaded and the iframe replaced with a preview image using WP Rocket, WP YouTube Lyte, or use light YouTube embeds.
  • Add browser cache to Facebook Pixel can be done using WP Rocket’s add-on.
  • Social sharing plugins need to update ‘like counts’ (at least many of them do). This simply requires finding lightweight social sharing plugins and testing.
  • Unused JetPack modules should be disabled (find these in debug settings).

Other third party scripts aren’t so easy:

  • Google AdSense can be loaded asynchronously, lazy loaded, or you can try Cloudflare’s SG Railgun which helps speed up dynamic content. However, these may be difficult to implement and adsense can absolutely kill GTmetrix scores and load times. Read this article: Google Adsense Tutorial 2020: Make Money From Your Website
  • Google Tag Manager should only be used for large, unoptimized sites. Otherwise it usually does more harm than good when it comes to load times.

14. Preconnect And Prefetch

Preconnecting and prefetching make it easier to for browsers to anticipate third party requests (Google Fonts, Analytics, AdSense, embedded videos, and other outside websites).

Mozilla says:

“DNS requests are very small in terms of bandwidth, but latency can be quite high, especially on mobile networks. By speculatively prefetching DNS results, latency can be reduced at certain times, such as when a user clicks the link. In some cases, latency can be reduced by 1s.”

How To Prefetch DNS Requests
Pre* Party Resource Hints has the following features: DNS prefetch, prerender, preconnect, prefetch, and preload. These are helpful if you have third party scripts on your site (Google Fonts, Analytics, YouTube videos, Gravatars, etc). Copy this list of common external domains (or add your own) and add them to either Pre* Party or WP Rocket.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

15. Use A Better Cache Plugin

Not all cache plugins are equal.

W3 total cache is usually rated #1 in Facebook polls and yields the best desktop and mobile load times (and GTmetrix scores). That’s because w3 total cache comes with more features than other cache plugins. If you were to use another cache plugin that didn’t have these features, you would need to install about 6-7 extra plugins, while w3 total cache has all these features built-in.

The result?

Less plugins on your site, yet more speed optimization features and better results.

W3 total cache Features Not Included With Most Cache Plugins:

  • Database Cleanup: built-in to w3 total cache, or use WP-Optimize.
  • Lazy Loading: built-in to w3 total cache, or use WP YouTube Lyte.
  • Heartbeat Control: built-in to w3 total cache, or use Heartbeat Control.
  • Local Google Analytics: built-in to w3 total cache, or use CAOS Analytics.
  • Local Google Fonts: built-in to w3 total cache, or use either OMGF or SHGF.
  • Prefetch DNS Requests: built-in to w3 total cache, or use Pre* Party Resource Hints.
  • Facebook Pixel Browser Caching: built-in to w3 total cache (no other plugin does this).
  • CDNs: built-in to w3 total cache (both Cloudflare + multiple CDNs), or use CDN Enabler.

Future read:

How to Install and Setup W3 Total Cache

16. Clean Your Database

Frequently cleaning your database prevents it from getting bloated.

You can use WP-Optimize or WP Rocket to schedule weekly or biweekly database cleanups (but taking a backup is recommended). Typically, everything in the settings should be deleted except for unapproved comments. Database tables are often left by plugins you deleted, a post revision is created every time you edit a post, you should empty your trash folder, and so forth.

Speed Up WordPress: Mobile SEO Speed Optimization 2020

18. Disable pingbacks and trackbacks

Pingbacks and trackbacks are two core WordPress components that alert you whenever your blog or page receives a link. It might sound useful, but you also have things such as Google Webmaster Tools and other services to check the links of your website.

Keeping pingbacks and trackbacks on can also put an undesirable amount of strain on your server resources. This is so because whenever anyone tries to link up to your site, it generates requests from WordPress back and forth. This functionality is also widely abused when targeting a website with DDoS attacks.

You can turn it all off in WP-Admin → Settings → Discussion. Just deselect “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks).” This will help you speed up WordPress some more.

Conclusion

The biggest advantage of lowering your website’s loading time is that it will help tremendously in improving the experience of your visitors. The case remains the same whether they are using mobile devices or PCs. Furthermore, it will also improve your rankings in the SERPs. After all, reduced bandwidth usage of your hosting and faster site-loading speed on the client side will only benefit you both in the short as well as the long run.

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