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In our fast paced world, speed matters. It’s become so imperative to online commerce that, as of July 2018, Google has included page speed as a primary ranking factor in mobile search. This was the first time since 2010 that mobile search was given higher priority than desktop search for SERPs (search engine results pages). Of course, the update had, and continues to have, significant implications for website firms and agencies worldwide. Speed will always be a defining metric for success on the web, and that’s why this past summer we doubled down on our site optimization efforts beyond the traditional offerings of our premium hosting services.

For years, Razorfrog has provided companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond with premium website hosting services from industry leaders such as WPEngine and Kinsta. These fully managed web hosts leverage their own advanced caching systems and offer 24/7 assistance when it’s needed most. However, even with blazingly fast hosting and friendly support only a chat session away, we still ran into the need to finely tune our clients’ sites (as well as our own) even further, to get site performance where we want it to be.

This recent quest for continued site optimization resulted in page load speeds improving by an average of 38% for 150 of our managed websites. Read on to learn more about how we got to this point!

Initial Plan: Tools Offered by Google

Over the past few years, Google has recommended using their PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse tools (now built into Chrome DevTools), allowing for mobile and desktop audits to be conducted by webmasters and site owners. Ironically, these auditing tools do not actually calculate page speed, but provide various suggestions for improving the scores of four primary categories: performance, accessibility, best practices and SEO. The results generated are daunting at first and lie within a scale of 1-100, with 100 being exceptional. Having gone this route initially ourselves, I can safely say for all of us that it’s nearly impossible to achieve perfect scores in each of the four categories. At some point, tinkering becomes a game of diminishing returns.

In many ways, the results of these tools are certainly helpful but somewhat misleading. They are not an accurate reflection of what is arguably the most important ranking factor for a website: page speed.

Enter WP Rocket, A Premium Optimization Plugin For WordPress

On May 14, 2019, the courteous folks at Kinsta published their article “Hand Picked List of the best WordPress Plugins” which caught our immediate attention. Within this article we noticed WP Rocket listed as one of the best performance plugins available. Our curiosity led to us getting an agency license and testing it out on several of our sites. The results turned out promising, and soon enough, we made it our primary mission to install the plugin on 150 of our hosted websites.

Curious as to what the site speed results would look like for this many sites, we consistently performed site speed tests both before and after installing and configuring the WP Rocket plugin. Altogether the process took a little over two months to complete, as we needed to ensure the plugin would not conflict with our existing site infrastructures, as well as other plugins.

A Word On Our Site Speed Testing Workflow

Prior to sharing our data’s findings, we want to make note of a couple of key points which influence the results we’ve obtained.

We speed tested homepages only utilizing Pingdom’s Website Speed Test tool, which captures the desktop version of a site since there is no mobile option available. This is the recommended speed testing site by WP Rocket’s developers for its consistency and reliability. All testing was performed in Google Chrome utilizing a high speed internet connection with little to no latency. Pingdom speed tests were run several times to get the slowest and fastest load times possible, which we used for our data’s pre- and post- WP Rocket site speed tests. All sites were loaded with the same WP Rocket optimization profile across all of the sites.

The Results Are In!

From our data set comprised of 150 sites, we’re excited to report the following optimization performance metrics.

Load Time

Prior to installing WP Rocket, the average load time of the 150 sites tested was 1.68 seconds. After installation and configuration, this dropped to 0.94 seconds, for a total average decrease of 0.75 seconds. This is quite significant, resulting in our page loading times decreasing by 37.65% on average.

Sites Loading In One Second Or Less

Prior to installing WP Rocket, 37 out of the 150 sites, or roughly 25%, were loading in one second or less.

After installation, 114, or roughly 76%, met this criteria. That’s 3 out of every 4 sites loading in less than one second!

Note that several sites were on the edge of our threshold (within 0.02 seconds), but were not counted unless they registered at 1.00 seconds or less. Incorporating the slight deviation above the 1.00 second criteria could skew the data slightly, but not drastically enough to produce differences in our results.

View Our Data Set

We have anonymized our data set in order to include it within this post below. Thanks for reading!

Scott is Razorfrog's Lead Designer. He is a passionate web designer, graphic designer, branding specialist, accessibility expert and content creator. View Scott's bio for more details.

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