If you use WordPress, you might have noticed a seemingly endless supply of plugins claiming to speed up your WordPress site and boost your page speed score. And, for those of you who've tested them against measuring tools like Pingdom or GTMetrix, you might agree with us if we said most caching plugins don't live up to their expectations. That being said, there are some effective ways to speed up your WordPress site without investing too much time and effort. In this article we cover 3 quick ways to speed up WordPress and boost your page speed score without going into premium plugins or CDN services.

How to Speed up Your WordPress Site and Boost Your Page Speed Score Quickly and Effectively:

1. Optimize Your Photos, Graphics, and Other Images from within WordPress

Optimizing all your images is a strong first step in order to speed up WordPress. Install an image optimization plugin like TinyPNG, EWWW Image Optimizer, or reSmush.it to begin without too much setup. These usually work the same way by removing redundant color data, a process known as quantization, and clearing the metadata from your photos, graphics, icons, etc. This technique in general does not create any noticeable degradation of image quality. Though the default settings are good enough for most, you might be able to shave off a few more kilobytes by tweaking compression settings.

Remember to use your best judgement when it comes to image optimization suggestions. As an example, even Google's Page Speed Insights tool isn't gospel and will sometimes make impractical recommendations (as with all page speed testing tools).

2. Configure Browser Caching on Your Host

Next, let's configure browser caching on your host. Please note we recommend this step only if you're not using a caching plugin in order to avoid potential conflicts. If your web host provides cPanel or a server powered by Apache, simply insert this snippet inside the <IfModule mod_expires.c> block in either your webroot .htaccess file or server's apache .conf file:

ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType image/png "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType text/css "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType application/pdf "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access 1 week"
ExpiresDefault "access 1 week"

Alternatively, if your host is powered by NginX or sports a dual server configuration (e.g. Plesk Panel), you should not use the above code. Instead, reach out to your host to add this snippet to the server's nginx .conf file (not .htaccess).

location ~* \.(js|css|png|jpg|jpeg|gif|ico|mp4|webm)$ {
expires 7d;
add_header Cache-Control "public, no-transform";
gzip on;
gzip_proxied any;
gzip_min_length 1100;
gzip_comp_level 1;
gzip_types application/x-javascript application/javascript text/javascript text/css text/plain text/xml application/xml image/gif image/jpeg image/png image/x-icon image/bmp image/svg+xml application/x-httpd-php video/mp4 video/webm;
gzip_vary on;

Notice how we recommend setting the cache validity period for 7 days or 1 week. We find this duration strikes a good balance between browser caching and fresh downloads from your host and is also the minimum accepted duration in most page speed scoring tools.

If you're not sure where to put the code or don't feel comfortable modifying .htaccess, reach out to your host for some support. It is always best to err on the side of caution when modifying .htaccess or .conf files.

3. Remove Query Strings from Static Resources

This step is optional but strongly recommended in order to fully unlock the benefits of configuring browser caching. Removing query strings from static resources ensures web browsers can cache everything on your site they need to. Without this step, any improvements to your page speed score from step #2 might be limited. Simply paste this PHP snippet into the functions.php file of your child theme or into a snippets plugin.

function _remove_query_string( $src ){
$parts = explode( '?ver', $src );
return $parts[0];
add_filter( 'script_loader_src', '_remove_query_string', 15, 1 );
add_filter( 'style_loader_src', '_remove_query_string', 15, 1 );

Please note you can also paste the above snippet into the functions.php file of your theme and have success, though this isn't recommended. If you don't have a child theme and don't want to use a snippets plugin, here's a great child theme generator plugin to get you squared away.

So there you have it. If you invest 15-20 minutes to implement one or more of these steps, your WordPress site will be in much better shape. If you have questions or want to switch hosts, please reach out to Cyberia Technologies and we'll do our best to help.

On the hunt for that perfect domain name before moving on to small business web design? Do you perhaps feel pressured to get the best domain name, wondering which areas of the selection process actually matter? We've found that whether you're launching a business for the first time or you're a serial entrepreneur carving out a new brand, choosing a domain doesn't exactly get easier— in fact, the thought processes involved in choosing a domain are relatively the same no matter how seasoned you are. There are some factors that matter when settling on a new domain, and some that look like they should matter but don't—and instead can get in the way. Here's what matters when choosing a domain for your business.

TRUTH: .com domain names are generally the most trusted & accepted among the public.

If your favorite domain name choice is available on many of the common top-level-domains (TLDs like .com, .net, .biz, or .info), you should try grab your-preferred-name.com or a very-close-match.com that you can live with. Less appealing TLDs like .biz or .info are often thought of as spam sites (unfortunately there is some truth to this given their usefulness as throwaway domains). Even if your small business or startup is completely legitimate, you risk creating a sour first impression when users visit your small business website. Please note this advice only relates to brand perception and the benefits of owning a .com TLD end here.

FALSE: New, or less common TLDs, like .agency or .guru negatively impact SERPs.

Though choosing a .com  domain for your business does in fact appear to be the most legit, this TLD is very, very old. The vast majority of the best matches for your brand are snatched up by other businesses or even squatters who try to resell at premium prices. It is simply a matter of time before registering a .com domain that is ideal for your business becomes impractical or impossible.

So here's where things get really interesting: many new top-level-domains have been added to the lineup in recent years, allowing much greater creativity and new possibilities when choosing a domain for your business. Google has weighed in on how they treat the new generic TLDs, with the main takeaway being they will not help nor hurt your rankings when compared to a .com domain.

TRUTH: Having the perfect domain name makes virtually zero impact to your bottom line.

choosing a domain for your business

When you start dreaming up a new business idea, it's all too easy to get caught up in perceived necessities, like having the perfect brand name, the perfect colors for your logo, and some shiny new business cards. While these things are nice-to-haves, they are, simply put, expenses—they won't actually earn you a dime until you launch. Do not fall prey to creating obstacles before you get your business idea out the door. Starting a business can definitely be nerve-wracking because no one wants to fail. Having a little bit of fear is completely normal, the cold hard truth is that your business will have already failed if you never launch. You can always go buy those ridiculously sexy business cards you've been lusting over later on.

TRUTH: Country code TLDs (e.g. .uk for United Kingdom & .sg for Singapore) are more relevant in their home regions.

Top-level-domains based off of country codes (ggTLDs) do in fact possess an edge over generic TLDs (gTLDs) in their respective regions. Your small business website's page relevance will need to still be a good match for user searches for the edge to matter. For example, if you buy a .my domain but your business doesn't operate inside Malaysia, then you're shooting yourself in the foot.

Pro Tip: Be careful not to mix up gTLDs that sound like they could be ccTLDs, especially if you desire the geo-targeting benefits of a true ccTLD. Some gTLDs appear extremely similar to ccTLDs (e.g. .london & .nyc) but in fact do not possess any geo-targeting benefits.

FALSE: Don't buy the .io TLD for your technology business because it's actually a ccTLD.

Though .io TLD is technically a ccTLD belonging to the British Indian Ocean Territory region, Google treats this top-level domain as a ‘gccTLD' to stop undesired geo-targeting.  This is great news for tech-focused companies, given the strong resemblance to ‘I/O' and its already global use throughout the IT industry.

FALSE: Using a "keyword stuffed" domain will significantly help your website's SERPs.

In recent years, search engines have become increasingly accurate at judging the relevance of a website domain, its content, and a number of other signals when deciding where to rank a website. In short, Google Bot has become very good at smelling B.S. The hyper-improved accuracy is in no small part due to AI/machine learning. If the recent advancements on the web from learning algorithms are worth basing predictions off of, search engines like Google and Bing are going to become ever smarter over the next several years. Operating a relevant, conversion optimized website at your-brand-carpets.com will easily rank higher than a crappy competitor at carpet-cleaning-service-city-state.com. Try focusing your efforts on running the best, most relevant website you possibly can for your target keywords and your ideal visitors.

Have we missed anything? Have you found evidence that contradicts any of the above info about domains? Please leave a comment and tell us!

Along with with the wondrous versatility WordPress as a platform for your website comes a certain degree of maintenance responsibilities. Luckily the most important WordPress maintenance operations are easy to do with so many plugins to choose from. Optimizing your WordPress database every so often is excellent to protect your investment so that it runs smoothly in the coming years. In this article we'll cover how to optimize your WordPress database and explain in detail exactly why it's important to optimize your database from time-to-time.

Before Jumping into How to Optimize Your WordPress Database, Let's Share What's Happening Under the Hood.

Your WordPress database relies on two technologies to do it's job correctly, called MySQL and PHP. You don't need to know how to code in PHP to safely optimize your WordPress database, however possessing a basic understanding will help you make sense of what's contained in this article. The WordPress database does not dwell as a file on your web host, like the .php files you may have seen. Instead, the database is stored and runs inside a special program called MySQL, often also referred to as MariaDB. Your WordPress database keeps all of the following types of information:

  • The textual content for every page, post, product, etc.
  • The "metadata" for each of these, i.e. the date & time of publishing, and who the author is
  • Any comments on a blog post and their own metadata
  • All the revisions you've made to the content of each page, post, product, etc.
  • Theme settings, color values, etc,
  • All user emails, passwords, permission levels, etc.
  • Boatloads of other stuff.

A Healthy Database is Important for WordPress to run Effectively.

Imagine that each time you add a plugin, change a theme setting, or remove text on an article, your database is storing all that data, often without ever deleting it. If you frequently revise your content or you just have a really old website, your database is likely very bloated can benefit from a tune-up. Though the impact is negligible at first, it can contribute to more MySQL RAM usage and slower server responses over time. Not to mention, an unoptimized database can lead to unnecessarily large website backups.

Optimizing Your WordPress Database is Surprisingly Easy.

You may not be very technical or would rather not risk breaking something. Kudos to you! This is generally the best mentality to have towards any database changes. Today we recommend using one of these two easy, highly reliable plugins to optimize your WordPress database. Not to mention they are both free!

Now, even though we've used both of these plugins (separately) for years without incident, it's best practice to create a database backup. There are plenty of great database backup plugins, like UpdraftPlus, WP Migrate DB, and Duplicator. If you're a Cyberia Technologies hosting customer, then we have you covered with daily database backups taken automatically.

You Know How to Optimize Your WordPress Database Now.

Simply install one of these two plugins (there is absolutely no need to install both):

WP Optimize is a safe, effective database cleaner by the creators of UpdraftPlus:

Optimize Database Before Deleting Revisions has more options and includes a 1-click feature:

Completing the WordPress database optimization operation usually takes less than 60 seconds. Even though you might not need it, it would be wise to have your database backup handy. In the unlikely event something does break while optimize your WordPress database, you'll have a safe restore point to fall back on.

The act of learning the best practices for small business web design and then implementing them is both an art and a science. A lot of artistic talent can go into creating a beautiful, modern-looking website. When it comes to creating the site's layout, all that artistic effort can—and should be—backed up by hard data. Any small business web design provider worth his or her salt will have spent some time researching what works and what doesn't. Small business owners have a lot to gain by relying on all that tangible experience and wisdom.

There is (or at least should be) a methodical process that a small business web designer adheres to when designing the layout of a website's UI/UX, such as putting call-to-actions (CTAs) in the right places, picking the right types of colors, and positioning the small business' brand in a way that resonates with customers and positively reflects the industry.

The Difference in Hiring a Professional is Shown in How These Best Practices for Small Business Web Design are Implemented:

  • Clear messaging of who you are, what you do, and who it's for must be present above-the-fold (ATF).
  • A clean, easy-to-follow layout with simple, logical navigation is present throughout the website.
  • All necessary tech “under the hood” is in working order and can be maintained by any web developer.
  • Images are optimized with web-friendly dimensions & file sizes to ensure faster page speed

For small business owners shopping for a new website, the quality of the final project may well provide the difference between a 1% conversion rate and a 10% rate. Let's break down these best practices for small business web design into further detail.

best practices for small business web design

1. Do You Have a Clear Objective & Funnel for Visitors to Complete?

A professionally built small business web design should never be a collection of disparate pages, yet many of them are. Instead, the entire collection of web pages must be mapped out into a “tree”, with each page serving a purpose. This is called a sitemap and includes everything from the main landing page/home page all the way to the terms & privacy policy pages.

Your finished small business website must present a clear message of what you offer and why your target customers need to care. Visitors form opinions about your small business within seconds of visiting your new website, and will grant you only a few seconds before deciding to stay or leave. You must have the information they're looking for easily and readily accessible. Focus on making the first impression of your small business web design a stellar one.

Your must also plan the development of your small business website around a visitor objective you want completed. If your web traffic just comes and goes without any meaningful exchange, then it's all but useless. Common objectives can be getting visitors to subscribe to your email list, to book for your services, or to buy one of your products. Getting visitors to "convert" into customers is a science in and of itself, but any professional small business web design provider will recommend A/B testing to reveal the numbers.

2. Is Your New Small Business Web Design Fast (e.g. <2 Seconds)?

This is the age of information and people expect instant results more now than ever before. There are only seconds before another distraction comes along, and visitors hate slow-loading pages. You will only get a moment to grab their attention before they click away. This is why incorporating fast loading times into your small business web design is essential.

Your website pagespeed will be affected by both the website itself as well as your web hosting server. A website requires optimized images & code and high-performance hosting to load the fastest. Your small business web designer or developer should do each of the following in some capacity:

  • Optimize your website photos by cropping and/or resizing them to the most web-friendly resolutions.
  • Run all your website images through an optimizer like TinyPNG, EWWW, or WP Smush
  • Use a regularly-maintained visual builder or, if coding from scratch, write clean, easily serviceable code
  • Cut out bloatware, unclean code, and unnecessary WordPress plugins (Clearfy can help with this)

3. Is Your Small Business Website Mobile Responsive?

Over half of all global traffic (including 3rd world countries without good cellular/4G networks) comes from mobile devices. In fact, nearly 54% of traffic is coming from mobile, while just 43% is coming from desktop. Often, visitors come across your small business website on mobile first, and then decide whether or not they will revisit on their laptop or desktop.

You might be asking yourself, if that's the case, why does a mobile responsive site even matter? Won't they revisit with their desktop anyways? Perhaps not—if you lose out during a potential customer's early research stage, you may have lost them for good.

4. Have You Installed Tracking Tools like Google Analytics or Facebook Pixel?

Remember my earlier bit about science and conversion-tracking? Numbers indeed don't lie. When it comes to conversion optimizing, lowering bounce rates (getting visitors to stay), and boosting search engine rankings, empirical data is vital. Fortunately, search engine providers like Google make it ridiculously easy to gather this data.

Yet, sometimes I build or service websites for clients who are so eager to be done with everything, that the installation of Google Analytics is skipped. Completing the necessary steps your provider recommends, like installing Google Analytics, is important to get the best ROI out of your new small business web design. Not only are tools like these 100% free, but using them is as simple as emailing the code to your web developer. Still, some less experienced types of small business web designers or perhaps indifferent small business owners can skip over this step and forget.

Next, a professional small business web designer must be able to recommend what steps to take based on the results of the data. Many digital agencies also provide SEO services, such as on-page or off-page SEO. Cyberia Technologies leverages our close-knit network of SEO specialists to clients.

5. Can Fans Follow & Share Your Social Media Pages?

Your social media strategy must go hand-in-hand with your website, rather than exist in a parallel universe. Provide links to your small business website on your social media pages and integrate a social media tool like Monarch or Social Warfare. Put social media buttons on your website pages, blog posts, & products to get more shares, and in turn more reach.

6. Is the Security of Your Website a Priority to You?

In the age of information, security is front and center for websites both big and small. If you have a WordPress site, then it is only a matter of time before a bad actor tries to hack it. This very site receives over a thousand various attack attempts per month, and we are by no means “big time”.

Plenty of well-paid, well-respected IT experts, including web developers and system administrators, fail to properly secure their sites and servers. A professional small business web developer not ensures that your website is secured to the best it can be, but also works with you to teach the basics and best practices to keep your small business website secure post-development.

Here's an example: one of the simplest yet routinely overlooked things you can do today is use a password generator and storage locker like LastPass. Read our post covering how to secure your WordPress site and protect against hackers to learn more.

So...Why Hire a Professional for Your Small Business Web Design?

So why should you shell out the big bucks for for a professional small business web designer? Hopefully the answer is to avoid getting unfinished, botched, or otherwise sub-par work where basic due diligence wasn't followed. Professionally building a new website can get expensive very quickly, no doubt. Though considering a costly alternative like a slow, under-performing, or even broken website makes any wise small business owner see why hiring a professional to design and develop a website is the smartest choice.

Optimizing images on your website is important, not only because it reduces the site footprint or file size, but doing this one step will net you the greatest gains in pagespeed. Even creating backups of a website with web-optimized images is much faster and takes up less storage space. Let's dive into how to optimize images on your website for performance by sharing with you a basic understanding of a few concepts:

  1. The differences between JPG vs. PNG image file formats
  2. Why it's important to resize images before using them (pixels)
  3. Why it's important to take notice of image file sizes (kilobytes)

How to Choose the Right File Formats When Optimizing Images

Both .jpg and .png file formats have their strong and weak points and its important to know when it's appropriate to use each. Using the correct file type in the right scenario will ensure your website performs the best throughout its lifespan. Here is a breakdown of each common file type:

  • JPG/JPEG file extensions are effective for real photos of people, places, or objects. They are, however, prone to corruption or "noise" after too many edits or too much compression. Also, JPGs do not support transparency.
  • PNG file extensions are best used to store artificial graphic designs, like logos, icons, info-graphic charts, and so on. These are not prone to the same corruption as JPG images, but they are way less efficient (read: unnecessarily huge file-size) than JPGs when you use them for organic photos. PNGs allow transparency.

How to Optimize Images for Backgrounds: Resizing Image Dimensions

  • We recommend minimum dimensions of 1280x853 or 1280x720 depending on the aspect ratio. These numbers do not have to be exact, but are guidelines based on the experience of developing hundreds of business websites.
  • Background images do not need to be larger than 1920x1280 unless a significant portion of your customer base uses 4K displays (and if the rest of your website is built specifically to accommodate users of 4K screens).
  • Images that take up less than 50% screen width (i.e. a product photo sitting in a half column) do not need to be wider than 640px.

How to Optimize Image File Sizes: Tips for Compressing Images:

  • Avoid using huge, raw/DSLR quality images to your website. Even if your website uses CSS to shrink them down and make them fit, visitors are still downloading the huge full-size images. Not only does your pagespeed suffer, but your visitors' devices go through more data and have to work more to size down the images on their end.
  • Automated image compression tools like TinyPNG, EWWW Image Optimizer, and WP Smush do wonders to reduce file sizes while preserving image quality.
  • You still need to resize image dimensions before running images through a compression tool to get the best possible result.
  • The ideal file size for a 1920x1280 background image should be <500KB*
  • The ideal file size for a 1280x853 background image should be 80-250KB*
  • For the sake of pagespeed, you should never use an image >1MB on a web page. Otherwise, you are unnecessarily adding to the page's load time.

*These are ballpark estimates and require common sense. If you have a small product photo that takes up 800KB of space for example, you need to go back and look at things.

Dangers of Over-Optimizing Images on Your Website:

  • Over-optimization (too much compression) is a potential problem and must be avoided. Over-optimizing your images will make them look grainy, low-res, or even unrecognizable in extreme cases.
  • EWWW and TinyPNG offer "lossless" optimization in their default modes, preventing this from happening. This will provide a positive difference in file size and pagespeed 99.9% of the time, without the human eye being able to tell any difference.
  • Avoid tweaking image compression settings unless you know what they do.
  • Some tools like Google Pagespeed Insights offer "optimized resources" at the bottom of their test pages that can be unusable due to over-optimizing. Take Google's (or any other pagespeed tester's) recommendations with plenty of salt.

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