Google Pagespeed Insights is the tool to use to see what Google thinks of your website user experience. “A faster site means higher search positioning – all other things being equal”, says Google. This very site’s Mobile score was clocking in at a not-so-respectable 36 out of 100 just a few weeks ago, and now it’s clocking at a whopping 97-out-of-100 – a difference of 61 points! Read on to learn how I achieved this WordPress miracle!

Here’s our “97” score in all its glory!

How We Improved Our Google Pagespeed Insights Score by 61 Points on TheMightyMo.com!

Long story short: Simply switching from Divi to Beaver Builder and removing a bunch of images increased our score by 36 points (up to 81). I thought we had maxed out at that point. But then a couple of weeks later I decided to try some server-optimizations – catching, concatenating some files, delaying the load order of certain files, etc. After that work, we landed on a CRAZY score of 98. From there, I re-added some images to improve the trustworthiness of our site, which decreased our score down to 97 and then to 92 as I added fullwidth images back to the site.

Here’s our Before & After Google Pagespeed Insights Mobile Scores:

And in case you are wondering about other speed optimization tools, here are the results from Pingdom and GTMetrix:

Pros & Cons: Why We Made This Decision

This speed optimization was done for 1 reason only: Increase my organic Google search positioning.

Pros:

  • Google prefers faster sites.
  • Faster site means quicker pageloads for prospective customers.
  • Change is good. This is a controlled shake-up, and I can always go back to how it was.

Cons:

  • To speed up page loads, I’ve removed lots of the vanity stuff that can build trust with customers such as: animations, images, fancy styles, Google fonts, even my logo! I added back images, switched to WebP image formats, and now we’re up to a 97-out-of-100 in Google Pagespeed Insights!

Optimize WordPress

  • Deactivated wp-syntax plugin, since Gutenberg has a code module.
  • Deactivate Gravity Divi plugin, since we’re no longer using Divi theme.
  • Deactivate Hummingbird Pro plugin, because the simplicity of my new strategy doesn’t require it.
  • Deactivate Custom Sidebars Pro plugin, because I’m simplifying and prioritizing speed.
  • Deactivate Defender Pro, because A) My hosting is secure. and B) It adds a speed-slow-down footprint.
  • Deactivate Google Reviews Widget plugin, because I’m simplifying and optimizing for speed.
  • Deactivated Gravity Forms Image Choices, because I’m only using it on a single page that doesn’t get much traffic. Same with Gravity Forms Survey Add-on.
  • Deactivated OMGF plugin, as I’m going with system fonts for speed. I’m now using Georgia and Verdana fonts.
  • Deactivated Site Kit By Google Plugin, as I don’t think I looked at it a single time in the last year.
  • Deactivated URL Params plugin – can’t remember why that one was even installed! It’ll probably come back to bit me in the rear, and we’ll deal with it at that time.
  • Removed Jetpack’s css since I wasn’t using the Jetpack front end features. While I was at it, I deactivated Jetpack’s carousel, which is nice but unnecessary.

Add Plugins + Beaver Builder Theme

  • Added Beaver Builder Theme and child theme. I chose not to utilize Beaver Builder plugin nor Beaver Themer, instead relying on Gutenberg for page content and simplifying theme edits for speed.
  • Added Shortcode Cleaner Lite plugin to clean up Divi shortcodes on the fly.

Case Study #2:
How I Increased the Google Pagespeed Insights Mobile Score by 60% With 1 Hour of Work on TobyCryns.com

Long story short: Switching from Divi to TwentyNineteen WordPress theme on tobycryns.com sped up the site’s Google Pagespeed Insights score by 60%.

Why We Decided to Use TwentyNineteen Theme

  1. First we tried a couple of different server configurations:
    – More RAM provided a marginal speed boost.
    – Lightspeed server was worse than our Pressable server.
  2. Then we tried theme & file optimizations:
    – Hummingbird Pro
    – Smush Pro
    Both provided marginal speed boost and more headaches than the speed improvements were worth.
  3. Finally, we switched to TwentyNineteen theme. Why didn’t we start here? Because:
    – Divi has some beautifu & unique features we don’t want to part with.
    – We use Divi on lots of websites. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could figure out a way to speed things up for the millions of Divi customers out there? Alas, no dice for now.

Is TwentyNineteen Theme really faster than Divi theme?

Yes, TwentyNineteen is faster than Divi theme. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to start recommending it to our customers, nor will we necessarily stop recommending Divi where it’s appropriate. We’re always looking for the best combination of functionality and speed, and Divi is a great mix of both right now.

If I switch from Divi to TwentyNineteen will my site speed up?

Probably. Out-of-the-box Divi is heavy compared to out-of-the-box TwentyNineteen. Therefore, Divi will load slower than TwentyNineteen for 99% of people.

What About Beaver Builder & Elementor?

I don’t use Beaver Builder and Elementor, however my hunch is that they’re slower than TwentyNineteen for the same reasons that Divi is slower. (But I’d love to be proven wrong on this point – let me know if you’ve experienced something different!). UPDATE: This site now uses Beaver Builder!

Is TwentyNineteen the fastest WordPress theme?

Geeks around the globe regularly benchmark WordPress themes. Today, they all point to GeneratePress as the fastest theme. I tested GeneratePress on TobyCryns.com and saw virtually no difference in the site’s Google Pagespeed Insights score. Given that TwentyNineteen looks better out-of-the-box compared to GeneratePress, I’ll stick with the former for now.

Does Google Pagespeed Score matter?

Yes. If you think Google isn’t communicating its organic search algorithm through Google Pagespeed Insights, you haven’t been paying attention. There is, however, a sound argument to be made that Google is measuring the wrong stuff and the score isn’t actually helpful in determining the user experience. So, yes, it’s an arbitrary tool that doesn’t take user experience into account fully. And, yes, it matters to Google and you should pay attention to it.

What About Other WordPress Speed Optimizations?

Autoptimize Isn’t Worth the Effort

I’ve been doing a lot of speed experimenting with Divi over the past few months.  What I’ve found from using Autoptimize and similar plugins is that they provide very minimal speed enhancement, because they take what you already have and repackage it (plus, the plugins, themselves, add load time).  The savings from combining javascript is usually minimal, plus, the logic behind combining files is a bit outdated – your browser used to be able to load 2 files at a time, but now it can load as many as 13!  They also cause other problems, so my personal opinion of Autoptimize and similar plugins is that they aren’t worth the effort.  When we get to the point where a hundredth of a second counts, then let’s revisit.

Optimize Images

The best way to speed up a site (if switching themes isn’t an option) is to optimize the content for speed.  For example, a plugin like Smush Pro (which we can install and configure), provides a great first step to force smaller image loads. See potential savings from Smush Pro below:

smush pro wordpress speed optimization

A better solution is to get rid of the images altogether. 

Also, switch to compression-friendly formats like jpg instead of png – or better yet, use WebP formatted images!

Questions to Ask about WordPress Speed Optimization:

  • Which images can we get rid of?
  • Turn on lazy-load images.
  • Get rid of background images.
  • Get rid of sliders altogether.
  • Turn off Jetpack Carousel.
  • Do you need Google Analytics? If not, turn it off.
  • Which 3rd-party add-ons are you loading? Are these necessary?
  • Are we doing all the caching possible?
  • Are we using compressed/web friendly image formats such as WebP or compressed jpegs?
  • Also read How you can speed up your WordPress site with a few clicks of the mouse.

What ideas do you have to speed up your WordPress site?

p.s. If this sort of speed enhancement geekery turns you on, Check out Steve Teare’s analysis of how Google Analytics slows down sites!

Case Study #3: What is the Fastest WordPress Theme?

I’ve noticed that this site has been falling in the Google rankings recently, and I’ve been wondering if it’s because it’s slower than some other sites. Specifically, I’ve been wondering if switching to the fastest WordPress theme would increase my rankings in Google search results. Below we run some publicly-available tests to determine which WordPress theme is fastest – Buckle up, friends! NEW: Updated to include Genesis theme!

Does How Fast Your Website Loads Matter to Google?

Yes, Google is pushing your website down the rankings if it’s slow. That’s why I switched to TwentyNineteen for my personal blog. If you feel your WordPress site is loading slow or that your slow WordPress site is costing you sales, read on!

Which WordPress Theme is Fastest?

So that brings us to WordPress speed. Which WordPress theme will decrease load times most and make your site fastest? This site currently uses Divi theme, and I wanted to do as close to an apples-to-apples test as possible.* So for the results below, I simple activated Divi Builder plugin and switched to TwentyNineteen, TwentyTwenty, GeneratePress, Beaver Builder, Genesis, and Divi respectively. For tools I used the publicly available Google Pagespeed Insights & Pingdom.

Conclusion

I won’t make you wait any longer – Based on my WordPress theme speed test results documented below:

  • If speed is your #1 goal, then I wholeheartedly recommend either TwentyNineteen, Beaver Builder, or Genesis themes for super fast load times.
  • If beautiful design or ease-of-use is your #1 goal, go with Divi and don’t look back.

WordPress Themes Ranked by Google Pagespeed Insights’ Mobile Performance Grade:

  1. Beaver Builder (60) (t)
  2. Genesis (60) (t)
  3. GeneratePress (52)
  4. TwentyNineteen (44)
  5. TwentyTwenty (40)
  6. Divi (36)

WordPress Themes Ranked by Load Time:

  1. TwentyNineteen (890ms)
  2. Genesis (900ms)
  3. Beaver Builder (1.54s)
  4. TwentyTwenty (1.88s)
  5. GeneratePress (2.67s)
  6. Divi (3.46s)

WordPress Themes Ranked by Page Size:

  1. TwentyNineteen (579k)
  2. TwentyTwenty (596k)
  3. GeneratePress (657k)
  4. Genesis (701kb)
  5. Beaver Builder (730k)
  6. Divi (1.1mb)

WordPress Themes Ranked by Requests:

  1. TwentyTwenty (44)
  2. TwentyNineteen (45)
  3. Genesis (47)
  4. GeneratePress (48)
  5. Beaver Builder (49)
  6. Divi (76)

TwentyNineteen WordPress Theme is Fast!

Genesis Theme is Fast!

TwentyTwenty Theme is Medium Speed

GeneratePress Is Fast!

Divi Theme is Slow!

No surprise here – Divi is a fully-functioning builder, and it’s fantastic at creating beautiful designs. Alas, it’s kind of a beast on the slowing-down-your-site end of things.

Beaver Builder is Fast!

NOTES:

  • Speed tests like this are open to interpretation and are influenced by many variables. For example, this test did not take dynamic image widths into consideration, which likely significantly lowered my Divi theme scores (e.g. I have beautiful full-width images with Divi theme, whereas TwentyNineteen loads much smaller versions on Desktop).
  • Pressable made a server update between the early tests and the later ones, so there’s likely some distortion caused by that.
  • Sometimes switching themes is a complex beast of a project (e.g. themightymo.com) and sometimes not (e.g. tobycryns.com).
  • I’d love to hear your personal results with each theme as well as let me know which WordPress theme you think is fastest!
  • I tried to get a Strattic clone up-and-running but failed on multiple attempts.
  • Learn How I Scored a 97 with WordPress in Pagespeed Insights Mobile Score
  • Also read How you can speed up your WordPress site with a few clicks of the mouse.