Last Updated on September 29, 2022 by SERP Kingz
Wish your WordPress site loaded faster? Soon, it might.
WordPress is working on an update that could have a noticeable impact on not only your users’ experience—but your SEO as well.
It’s well documented that site speed is a ranking factor for Google. Google’s made no secret that the goal of search is to connect people with the information they’re looking for as quickly and easily as possible.
A slow site can frustrate users and cause them to leave before they even see what you have to offer. That’s not good for business—or your SEO.
Fortunately, according to a contributor working on WordPress 6.1, there is a “massive improvement to database performance” coming in November. (as this dev note shows)
These changes could also have an impact on SEO, particularly for larger WordPress websites, as well as WordPress sites with more complex/elaborate designs.
As it stands, WordPress can be pretty slow without proper caching configuration, hosting, and code optimization.
This is because each time a page is loaded, WordPress has to query the database for all of the content that makes up the page. Typical user browsing behavior can potentially result in literally thousands of database queries a minute.
Why Does WordPress Need to Make So Many Queries?
In the old days before Content Management Systems, if someone wanted to add a new blog post or change something on their website, they would have to edit the HTML code of the page directly.
If you wanted to add a new blog post, you would have to find the place in the code where you wanted the new blog post to appear, and then manually add the HTML for the blog post there.
If you wanted to change something that appeared on every page of your site, like your navigation menu, you would have to edit the code for each and every page of your site.
This was obviously a lot of work, and it was easy to make mistakes that would break your website.
Content Management Systems like WordPress were created to make life easier for website owners and developers by separating the content from the design and functionality of the site.
While designing WordPress websites takes more work up front than writing raw code for a page, it’s ultimately much easier and faster, because you don’t have to edit the HTML code of each individual page anymore.
However, this means that WordPress has to assemble all of the pieces of a page together to display the complete page to the user.
Can You “Explain This Like I’m 5?”
Basically, when a WordPress page is loaded, WordPress has to go into the database and find all of the different pieces that make up that page (like the title, content, images, etc).
It then puts all of those pieces together to create the page that you see.
This is the trade-off that Content Management Systems make—they’re much easier to use and edit in the future, but they’re not as fast as a hand-coded website.
The closest analogy I can think of would be writing a book in Microsoft Word versus writing a book with an old Smith Corona. (Not a perfect analogy, but you get the gist.)
5-Year-Olds Don’t Know What a “Smith Corona” Is
Fair point, you got me.
The point is, normally, WordPress has to assemble each page of your site like a puzzle every time someone visits a page. It has to go into the database and get all of the different pieces that make up the page, and then put them together. Fast.
Preferably so the visitor doesn’t see it.
And each time someone visits another page, WordPress has to go through that process all over again.
So if you have a lot of traffic, your site’s server can get bogged down pretty quickly trying to keep up with all the requests.
And if your site has a lot of content, or if you have a lot of traffic, this can quickly lead to slow load times, server errors, site crashes, and just general frustration for your potential customers.
This is why caching is so important in WordPress web design.
Caching essentially saves a copy of each page after it’s assembled so that WordPress doesn’t have to keep going back to the database every time someone wants to view a page.
Caching plugins, like W3 Total Cache, WP Rocket Cache, WP Super Cache, WP Fastest Cache, and WP Ultra Turbo NitroBoost Cache (might have made that last one up) can help alleviate some of these issues by creating a static version of your pages that WordPress can serve up without having to query the database each time.
However, this is not a perfect solution, and even with caching in place and properly configured, some WordPress websites can still be slow.
(Your web hosting and your overall web design also play critical roles in your WordPress site’s performance, but those are complicated topics for another day.)
How Does a WordPress “Speed Improvement” Relate to My Site’s Rankings?
While you obviously don’t want potential customers to click away from your site because it’s too slow, there’s another big reason why you want your WordPress site to be fast:
Google uses page speed as a ranking factor in its search results.
Simply, this means that if your site is slow, it could negatively impact your SEO.
Indirectly, slow-loading content can also result in a higher rate of bounces (people leaving your site after only viewing one page), which can also impact your SEO.
While it may be possible—if challenging—to get a slow-loading site to rank on page one, you’ll notice there aren’t many slow-loading sites ranking #1 for any competitive keyword. Google is set up to favor fast sites in its search results.
So if you want your WordPress site to rank well in Google, you need to make sure it’s as fast as possible.
What Does The 6.1 Update Mean if My WordPress Site Already Uses Caching?
For the most part, if you already have a caching plugin configured (well) on your WordPress site, you’re already seeing some significant performance improvements over vanilla WordPress.
However, there’s always room for improvement. In the words of a WordPress 6.1 contributor:
“This should result in billions of less repeated database queries”
Nevertheless, we don’t really know yet how much improvement this update will actually provide until it’s released next month.
Changes on The Horizon
The changes coming in WordPress 6.1 are said to address these issues by significantly reducing the number of database queries required to generate a page.
This is a big deal, and could potentially make WordPress much faster, particularly for you guys with huge, sprawling sites.
Is this update likely to make your slowest loading pages materialize before visitors in the blink of an eye? Probably not. But it could make it a lot faster. And that’s good news for your SEO.
Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how well these optimizations actually work in practice before we can make any definitive judgments. But the potential here is huge.
So if your company’s website currently runs on WordPress (or if you design websites in WordPress), keep an eye out for WordPress 6.1 when it’s released next month.
It could be a game-changer for your site’s performance, with a nice little boost for your rankings to boot.
A little boost to be sure—but in SEO, every little bit helps.