It is a fact that your site ranking will get badly affected if the pages take a lot of time to load in the user’s browser. Many designers are facing this challenge with Joomla websites and SEO is also getting affected due to this. However, you can practice some exercises while designing your website so that it loads at minimum time possible. Here we will discuss about the step-by-step process. Most of the concepts that will be shared here are Joomla specific, but these can also be tested with any CMS or other websites.
However before moving ahead, test your website on GTMetrix for its current grade in order to compare the improvement after the process is implemented.
STEP 0 (groundwork) : Secure backups. It is possible that some of the below steps may cause your website to crash. So, keeping full backup of the content is necessary.
STEP 1: Fix your goal of reducing the loading time of your website and stick to it. For example, set the target for loading time for your homepage to less than 2 seconds and score at least 85% on PageSpeed or something similar.
STEP 2: Activate the default Joomla Cache. Rather than running the same queries multiple times against the database, if you enable the cache, it will store a copy of your page and serve it from a temp file. This in turn will lighten the server load and improve its general load time. To do this, go to;
System > Global Configuration > System
Turn on progressive caching and set the cache expiry to 60 minutes or so.
STEP 3: Opt for the System-Cache plugin. This plugin can cache all the pages of the site, and then, alternatively recommend these to the browser. Browser side cache is a lot easy as it eliminates the need for re-downloading some high-sized images and files repeatedly. The browser instead uses the locally saved copies, which in turn, ensures reduced loading time. To enable this, go to;
Extensions > Plugin Manager
Look for the option – Cache and activate the System-Cache plugin. Also, set the Basic Options of the plugin to YES.
STEP 4: Do the browser caching at the server level also. It is more or less similar to the previous step and related strictly to browser caching. It is done at different levels of the server. In this, you are recommending the browser to cache certain files for a specific time period, for instance one month as suggested by Google PageSpeed. For this, you have to edit the .htaccess file to the following along with the max age value selected as 1 month in seconds:
Header set Cache-Control “max-age=2592000, public”
STEP 5: Activate GZIP compression. This step is to ensure that the content generated is compressed before being sent. It considerably reduces time on compressing and decompressing the content when compared to transferring uncompressed content. This can be enabled in Joomla 3 in the following manner;
System > Global Configuration > Server
Change the GZIP compression to YES.
STEP 6: Download JCH_Optimizer plugin. It can offer a real boost to your website’s PageSpeed grade. However, some of the functionalities of your site may get affected while doing this. So you need to do this task carefully while enabling the options.
STEP 7: Slowly minify your site content to make it lean. You may have to spend weeks in a row to get it done; but it can bring in amazing results in terms of fast page loading. Do remember the above-given tip of taking full backup before this step.
STEP 8: Also, minify the overall user requests and their size. Try to remove the extra images. If the image has come from an external website and is important to keep, then try to host its version and just link a copy on your site.
The GTMetrix also offers a unique feature whereby you can optimize the size of your site’s images hassle free.
STEP 9: Get content from Content Delivery Networks (CDN). CDN are specific servers which can store a copy of the static parts of your website and serve it to your site’s audience faster. However, if you have budget limitations, you can opt for free plans available at sites like Cloudflare etc.
STEP 10: Try to genuinely follow the recommendations on Yslow and PageSpeed. Both of these put forth a lot of new recommendations with details such as specifying a default character set or image dimensions etc. Also, get rid of bad requests; remove those images or files on your site, which are wrongly linked.
Remember it is not an overnight process; but if you keep on iterating it with your optimization effort by following the above exercise, you can eventually reach to a point where your site may become lightning fast.