With thousands of bloggers and digital business owners in our community, we see lots of the same site speed mistakes that come up. The good news is, they’re easy to fix even if you’re not techy!
Currently reading: The Most Common Site Speed Mistakes Bloggers Make Click To Tweet
If you’re interested in learning more about site speed, you may also find the following posts useful:
- The Blogger’s Guide To Page Speed Optimization
- What Bloggers Need To Know About Google Core Web Vitals
- Why You Should Ignore Google PageSpeed Insights
- How To Optimize Your Images For The Web
As page speed is an ever-popular topic in blogging communities, we’ve covered all the common myths and mistakes to leave behind. In no particular order, here they are…
Mistake #1 – Not digging into what your site needs
One of the most common mistakes we see is people applying blanket advice from articles and social media posts.
A lot of advice on social media, in Facebook groups and in blog posts, is very generic or may have worked for someone else’s site but may not be right for yours. Every site and situation is different, even if the site looks similar or has the same host. Although there are some blanket concepts that apply to every site, you don’t want to just do a bunch of things unless you know they’re what you need to do. This is because there are so many factors involved that something that could make someone else’s site faster could actually make your site slower.
Always identify your own site’s speed strengths and weaknesses by running a speed test and looking at the results before you change anything.
You need to identify the specific speed issues for your site before you can apply the right solutions, and to do this you need to run proper tests and understand the results. In the same way that you wouldn’t try to fix a papercut with eyedrops, you need to figure out what’s wrong before you know what the right solution is.
Speed Takeaway: What you need to do to improve your site speed is specific to your site.
Mistake #2 – Aiming for the fastest possible site
This sounds like a contradiction since having a fast site is a good thing, and wanting to have a fast site is probably the reason you’re reading this post. But, your goal should never be to have the fastest site possible.
To do that, you would have all plain text pages. You’d have to give up most of what you and your visitors love about your site. Your site speed needs to be balanced with your goals and your visitors’ expectations.
Sure, a recipe site with no images would load fast, but no one is going to stick around for your recipes if they have no images. Having said that, no one is going to stick around for your twenty 10MB images to load either. It’s about finding the middle ground – balance in all things.
Speed Takeaway: Be realistic in your expectations, and don’t sacrifice experience for speed.
Mistake #3 – Relying on magic plugins
Think of plugins as little automated tech assistants that will help enhance the speed optimization work you’ve already put in, rather than being the only thing you need to help your site speed. Similarly to how an SEO plugin only provides a framework for you and you need to put the work in, a speed plugin needs your help too.
A plugin can only do so much; for example if you’re uploading huge images in the first place, they can chip a bit off the size but not get them as small as they could be (see How To Optimize Your Images For The Web for more on image optimization). Caching can speed up page loading, but if your pages are 10MB in size, they’ll be slow even if you have the best caching in the world because those are big pages to load. You can improve your site speed more by making good decisions for your site, and fixing things like image sizes and quantities, than you can by installing plugins.
There are free and paid plugins you can install to improve your PageSpeed Insights scores; these generally just improve your scores but not your actual site speed. Unless your ad network insists on them, they aren’t needed.
You’ll need to speed test your site to know what you need, tweak settings, do groundwork, and understand enough about it to make good decisions.
Speed Takeaway: The right plugins can help, but they won’t do all the work for you.
Mistake #4 – Buying things you don’t need
We always recommend that as a blogger, you learn about site speed yourself before you hire someone to look at it for you. This is for a few reasons:
- You need to understand how to make the best decisions for your site instead of inadvertently undoing or counteracting the optimization work you’ve paid someone else to do.
- You can identify great people to hire and know what questions to ask them, for example about what tools they use or how they will go about creating a unique approach for your site (rather than blanket-applying a stack of plugins and generic fixes they do for all sites).
- You know for yourself if they’ve done a good job or they’re fobbing you off with a lot of lingo and automated reports.
- You can feel confident in the terms they’re throwing around and what those mean for your site and your own workflow and decisions.
Always check with your web host if you need a particular paid speed plugin or service before you buy, because a lot of the time good hosts will have an equivalent (or better) included as standard, or the plugin or service may cause a conflict or other unintended behavior.
If you’re hosted with us, it’s a red flag if your speed expert wants you to install a caching plugin or ask for deeper level access as it’s a clear indicator they either don’t know how to check or haven’t checked what’s in place and optimized already. Be wary of people recommending their affiliate links for paid plugins, services, or hosting companies; if you’re already paying them to optimize your site, they should be able to identify and implement improvements without any extra costs to you.
Speed Takeaway: Learning the basics of site speed for yourself is a must.
Mistake #5 – Focusing on colors, grades, and scores out of 100 in speed tests
If someone asks you what time it is, you don’t answer “Red” or “78/100,” because that has no meaning. The same is true for site speed; we measure it as we would any other time, in seconds and milliseconds.
Many people only look at PageSpeed Insights, and increasing your PageSpeed Insights score rarely means your site is any faster. Read more about why we don’t recommend PageSpeed Insights for bloggers looking to improve their site speed.
For this reason, we always advise only using seconds and milliseconds to assess your site speed metrics.
Speed Takeaway: Focus on numbers in seconds and milliseconds (not colors, grades, or scores out of 100).
Mistake #6 – Not installing with intent
If you’re installing plugins for your site and you’re not sure why or what they do, check or ask the person who has recommended them to you. Always be sceptical about installing new plugins, especially for speed.
This is because many won’t be necessary, or have speed optimization elements that you already have covered by another plugin. In this situation, you should take a look at what the plugins are actually doing, and turn off the aspects that overlap between plugins or see if you can ditch some completely.
If you’re using a specialist WordPress host like us, you can contact the support team and ask them to review your speed plugins to see where the overlaps are or what you’re using that you don’t need. Overloading on speed plugins can very easily cause your site to be slower.
If you don’t know what’s causing your pages to be slow, the first step is to do a speed test and see what’s going on behind the scenes; don’t randomly install a bunch of plugins because someone on Facebook has recommended them to you, and definitely don’t introduce more than one form of caching.
Don’t forget to configure plugins and review all their settings too – just installing and activating plugins isn’t enough!
Speed Takeaway: Research speed plugins in detail before installing, and be confident in why you need them – don’t just rely on recommendation or the plugin’s sales page.
Mistake #7 – Not pre-optimizing images
If you’re guilty of uploading images straight from your phone or saving the highest resolution photos, PDFs, and videos from your design software, cutting that habit and changing your workflow will make a huge difference.
The majority of the time, you’ll be uploading super huge files that image optimization plugins (such as Shortpixel or Smush) won’t be able to reduce very much. Many people end up with images that are 400KB or more, when they could be 100KB or less. This means pages end up 4x the size for no reason.
For full details on how to resize and pre-optimize your images before uploading, check out our post How To Optimize Your Images For The Web
Speed Takeaway: Always resize and pre-optimize images before uploading them to WordPress; image compression plugins won’t do all the work you need.
Mistake #8 – Using PNGs when you don’t need to
PNGs, or .png files, are an image type designed for high quality web images, which means images saved as .png tend to be a lot larger than their .jpg counterparts. Some software defaults to wanting to save your images as .png…don’t let it! Other file types, including JPG and WebP, will result in much smaller file sizes and no visible difference in quality.
The only time you need to save your images as .png is when you have some kind of transparency in the image, for example a transparent background. Other file types will save with a white background, so you do need a .png in those cases (just try to keep the dimensions small and use a compression tool like Save For Web in Photoshop or TinyPNG to reduce the file size before you upload your image.
Speed Takeaway: Only use .png for transparent images to keep your file sizes down.
Mistake #9 – Focusing on just Google PageSpeed Insights and/or Core Web Vitals
No speed tool is perfect, so you’ll want to compare the results of different types of tools. We recommend WebPageTest.org because it has a lot more comprehensive ways to test your site and really digs deep into results, but you may want to team it with our Speed Boost course (free for Lyrical Host customers, very reasonably priced for non-customers) to get the most out of it if you’re not techy.
There’s so much more to site speed than just PageSpeed Insights results and Core Web Vitals metrics, and your visitors will thank you for looking beyond them as to what other factors influence your page speed. This will also help you future-proof your site should Google decide to add more factors and metrics into their tools in the future.
Speed Takeaway: Aim to have a well-rounded view of your site’s speed and your user experience, rather than just limiting yourself to Google’s tools or measuring all your site speed and user experience success by those tools and metrics alone.
Mistake #10 – Involving too many cooks
Too many cooks definitely spoil the broth when it comes to site speed. It’s much better to get your information from one source or person, because otherwise you’ll hear conflicting things. Follow one strategy through fully rather than dipping in and out of different advice. Talk with your web host to learn more about what they already do for site speed and what resources they recommend you follow, as results may vary depending on how optimized their platform is from the start and how “managed” your hosting is.
Site speed is one of those areas where different people swear by different things, but your host should be your first port of call as they are best positioned to know the inner workings of the environment your website is hosted in. Some people sell speed services and blanket-apply their same process and tasks regardless of the site or host, which will give varying results.
The last thing you want to do is be caught between different people or companies both saying different things and not knowing which way to turn. Or even worse, giving multiple people access to your site and have one undoing the other’s changes or having them implement conflicting things without realizing what another person is doing. Another reason to take the time to learn more about site speed yourself so you can hire for what you know is needed and manage accordingly!
Speed Takeaway: Stick to one source for site speed help, ideally asking your host what they recommend and what’s needed first.
Mistake #11 – Letting site speed become a reason or distraction
A lot of people fall into the “If only…” trap.
“If only my website were faster, I would rank better in search engines.”
“If only my website were faster, I’d earn more money.”
People often look to site speed to fix or replace other things they need to do. It’s extremely, extremely unlikely that site speed is stopping you from getting the results you want, even if your site is just average speed or even leaning more toward slow.
This is because people and search engines are more interested in if you have good content that fulfills their needs (whether it’s education-based, entertainment-based, problem-solving based, or buying-based). Both search engines and visitors will look for recommendations; to search engines, that’s links to your site from other good authority sites, for people it’s usually social media/word of mouth recommendations primarily, or links from other sites in some cases.
The vast majority of the time, especially if your site is already a decent speed, your time is better spent on things that are directly related to your goals rather than speed optimization. For example, gaining some great backlinks or updating some old content or creating something fresh or doing keyword research or developing products/services or collaborating will move the needle a lot for further and give you a much better return for your time.
A faster site won’t fix all your problems and help you achieve all your goals without you doing all the other work needed, and in many cases you need to increase your effort and output as you go along to consistently increase your results. If you don’t have an endless amount of time to work on your site, you want to prioritize things you can see working and making a difference.
Speed Takeaway: Position speed as one small factor in your overall strategy/task list, don’t let it take over or be your biggest priority.
Mistake #12 – Not using conscious choice
In our case, we could have faster pages if we removed our currency switcher, and our live chat, and our notification bars. But we’re willing to take the speed hit from those because they’re fundamental features of our website that both us and visitors find very useful. There’s no point us having a super fast site but losing a lot of sales because people can’t live chat with us, or see what the pricing is for their currency.
Be cautious you’re not letting speed overshadow everything else you’re thinking about and wanting to happen. Focus on your end goals first. If your recipe site is fast but there are no images of the finished results, then people probably aren’t going to make your recipes or come back to your site.
Speed Takeaway: Speed isn’t everything. Think about what’s right for your goals and website, and aim for a balance.
Mistake #13 – Forgetting to optimize one or two images
One common mistake we see is people forgetting to optimize just one or two images on their page, or not realizing they’re super large images. This can be because they’ve forgotten to pre-optimize (as per Mistakes #7 and #3 above), they’ve left image optimization completely in the hands of a plugin, or they’re uploading one image a different way to normal (for example always uploading huge Pinterest pin images straight after saving them from Canva, but remembering to optimize their large photos).
Speed Takeaway: Even one big image can blow your whole page size out unneccessarily. A waterfall speed test will help you quickly idenfity problem images on a page.
Mistake #14 – Letting emotion dominate
It’s easy to feel panicked, stressed or annoyed when it comes to site speed, and it can be for any number of reasons. For some people it’s because they don’t know where to start, for others it’s yet another boring task to add to their plate when they want to be doing something more creative, for some it’s because they feel that it’s not good enough or “wrong.” Or, it could be a mix of all these things.
It also doesn’t help that there are a lot of companies selling products and services based on fear marketing, and a lot of blogging communities panicking about Google updates. Many bloggers will quit from pressure, even though site speed and related Google updates wouldn’t even have affected them or been something they needed to worry about.
Remember, there will be tens of thousands, if not millions, of people out there who will do absolutely nothing in the way of speed optimization and still rank and get traffic and make money just the same.
So what we suggest is: Take a step back from the noise. Take a deep breath. Make a plan of where to start (this post or our support team can offer you some suggestions. Acknowledge your feelings, but don’t let them take over. Site speed is only a small factor and isn’t the end of the world, and for most people doing a few easy tasks can make a good enough difference that they can move their focus to something else.
Speed Takeaway: Don’t think you have to look at this alone – we’re here to help!
Found this post useful? You’ll love our easy to follow speed optimization course, Speed Boost.
Speed Boost is free for Lyrical Host customers, or super affordable if you’re not a customer!
Or pin this post to help someone else: