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3 simple PageSpeed ​​& Core Web Vital Hacks for WordPress

The page experience update is coming, and if you are reading this, you will probably either cringe to tackle the issues you have ignored or look for some ways to improve the work you have done.

Most people in the industry are aware that it will start off quite easily and become more influential over time.

Google’s John Mueller compared it to cooking. They start with just a pinch of salt and will slowly adapt to get things right.

I see this update much like the HTTPS update. The day it rolled out, it did not seem to have an overwhelming impact. But how many HTTP pages do you see ranking today?

Now you can rightly argue that this may be coherence and not causation. After all, it’s easy to go for HTTPS, and all new sites do pretty much just that, and it can not be that HTTP pages were punished out of the top spots.

Nevertheless, if you have an insecure place, you are now facing a sea of ​​sites with an advantage over you. It may be a small advantage, but everyone has it.

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I do not know about you, but if I run a race, I want good shoes.

They may only give me a 5 second boost over 5K, but those 5 seconds – in our context here – can be the difference between a clicked position and a non-clicked one.

So consider the following as a few quick and easy hacks.

Core Web Vitals Hack 1: Cloud Flare

This is not WordPress exclusive.

My own page does not get the love it deserves when it comes to updates. “The shoemaker has no shoes,” they say. As such, things are going pretty badly on the Core Web Vitals front.

Many people may not be aware of it, but Cloud Flare offers a free service that includes many speed improvements.

To give you an idea before I started down the Band-Aid path to Core Web Vital and Page Experience hacks for my site, our speed was:

After launching Cloud Flare’s free plan and activating the speed optimization components, we hit:

Big differences there, as you can see. And everything from approx. 20 minutes of work including account setup.

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After upgrading to Pro ($ 20 / month) and adjusting all but one setting (see below), we got:

Hmm … 11 points for $ 20. Not bad.

The settings I enabled were:

Polish image optimization. Mirage.

And because my site is in WordPress, we have the ability to:

So I installed the plugin and applied the recommended settings.

The result?

You will notice something funny here. FCP and Speed ​​Index both improved, but LCP was decimated.

This is after several checks, and some resulted so high at 62 – but still.

So I tested a couple of the settings, none of them improved things, and therefore I turned off the WordPress plugin and we were back in the 70s.

The lesson?

Not everything works.

Always test.

Interestingly, the real speed of the plugin improved. That is not the subject here, but had to be noted.

Next time …

Core Web Vitals Hack 2: Hummingbird

No, I’m not talking about the Google algorithm from 2013, but rather about the WordPress plugin.

Of course, this section only applies to those who use WordPress.

I have tested a lot of different speed and caching plugins, and each one seems to work in different scenarios better than others. But the most consistent if you have a good hosting provider seems to be Hummingbird – in my experience.

I add the hosting provider aspect as other plugins may work better on inferior hosts, but in that case my primary recommendation would be … get a better host.

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Why Hummingbird?

What I like about Hummingbird is that it’s not just a simple caching plugin (after all, we have cache from our decent hosting (or Cloud Flare), right?)

Hummingbird has caching; I just do not use it.

I also like that I can connect Hummingbird to Cloud Flare to fine-tune some settings remotely.

Their automated optimization, in the cases I tried, was pretty poor.

It’s probably decent if you do not know what you are looking at, but if you are willing to spend some time on the settings – you will do better manually with an interface such as:

It may be necessary to play around a bit to figure out what things need to be moved inline and what things will break features on your site if handled incorrectly (I look at jQuery).

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It is worth noting that in connection with this article, I have disabled all speed enhancement and caching features from Cloud Flare while writing this section. So the starting point is 34 at the time of writing.

I pushed all my CSS and JS to the footer and compressed it. This is not possible for everyone and many pages break when you push jQuery down as many slider etc. require it to load before doing so.

It is recommended to test several pages, including product, contact, websites and virtually at least one page from each layout / template you use.

I should note that I tested combining the files, something I have never had success with, and the results were worse.

In the end we got the result from 34 to:

Solid improvement.

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My rule of thumb here is to get it to around 60 at the absolute minimum. This allows an error or degradation to occur without falling below the 50-threshold to “bad”.

And last but not least…

Core Web Vitals Hack 3: Asset Cleanup

WordPress plugin Asset Cleanup is another quick fix provider.

The basic function of plugins is to allow website owners to stop loading scripts on specific pages or sets of pages. The proposal comes from:

Plugins for social sharing are a good example. We use them on our blog, but they load the whole page.

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You notice that it is stated that they do not directly affect the performance score. Let’s put it to the test.

After disabling the Hummingbird plugin, we come in with a score of 35.

Once installed and set up, you will find yourself on a page similar to:

Here is where you might spend some time and where their test mode is handy.

Some scripts you simply know whether you need them or not (e.g. a contact form on a page grouping), but others you may not want but want to test (do you really need your slider plugin on each page?) .

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If you are on dev or in test mode, you might just want to disable them all and then enable them one by one, test functionality along the way. That’s the route I went.

After approx. 20 or 30 minutes (as you should do in each section, although once you have made one, they are faster):

When the offending areas reach:

Again, solid progress.

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But what happens if you start …

Combination of these 3 hacks

Combination did not seem to work well in my experience.

The scores and real times got worse when two combined. This was unexpected as Cloud Flare and Asset Cleanup should have played well together.

But…

However, the results may vary, and if you test each – I would suggest testing different combinations and even other plugins if you have the time and inclination.

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In our case, we settle Cloud Flare.

And for those who are curious, you may have noticed that the readings above are for mobile. With Cloud Flare, our desktop comes in at:

And now to turn things off …

But of course that is not the end of the test.

So so far I have turned off all optimizations and keep them off until September after the rollout.

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Basically, I want to see how big a kick in the ass we get (if any) and then see how fast we recover.

I can not recommend you to do the same.

Once we’ve fixed it, I’ll visit and update this piece.

More resources:

Image credits

All screenshots taken by the author, June 2021

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