Have you ever felt like you knew your website wasn't looking or performing the way you needed it to, however when it came to making a change you could never bring yourself to take action?
Well that's how I've been feeling for the last 3 months after making the switch to a new WordPress theme.
A theme which everybody told me would change our business forever.
They weren't lying.
Needless to say it turned out to be a bad move which you'll find out shortly.
In this post I want to cover the reasons why we changed both our theme and website hosting and how it's been the best decision we've made in a long time.
At the same time I'm going to show you a simple way of deciding what theme and hosting provider is right for you.
Let's start with a before and after as far as site performance goes.
Site Performance BEFORE The Switch
The first thing I did before making the switch was to get in touch with a bunch of different web hosts to ask them if they could improve upon my current performance.
After running a performance check it was clear that something needed to change and change fast.
Our site had an average load time of 7.5 seconds which in today's fast consumption society was creating a negative experience for anyone visiting our website.
I'll explain why this factor is incredibly important coming up.
Site Performance AFTER The Switch
We 2.5xed the page load time and almost 5xed the render time!
So literally just by changing our WordPress theme and hosting provider we more than tripled our performance.
Not bad for 3 days of work!
Why Is Website Performance So Important?
It's a good question and one that a lot of people ignore (myself included until just recently).
When we first started our skincare website over 6 years ago, I think people expected that websites take some time to load and that was a normal thing.
Due to the amount of content being created today, I feel like people “think” they have less time available.
Because of this, they don't want to wait even half a second extra to read a blog post or watch a video.
Well, guess who knows this?
Does Website Speed Affect SEO?
If you're like me, you may struggle to keep up with what Google likes and what they don't! In fact, for a long time we've avoided building a business around search traffic at all.
**Even though this was the basis of the first business we ever started!**
Because of this, I didn't think too much about what we could do to rank higher on Google and get more of their traffic.
That was until just recently when we realized we were missing out on a huge opportunity.
After spending a lot of time talking to people who were focusing a lot on SEO, it was clear that the one thing which kept coming was on site user behavior.
In other words, doing everything you can to:
And it's because Google looks heavily at these factors that having a high performing website matters A LOT!
In other words if your website loads faster then it will create an initial positive experience for your website visitors, which will lead to an improvement in on site user behavior.
The better the user experience, the higher Google will rank you on their search engine.
Note. This is one of MANY factors when it comes to ranking higher on Google.
Change #1: DIVI To Genesis
Have you ever used a WordPress theme that had a lot of impressive features but in the end was slow AF?
Well that's how I feel about DIVI.
It has an assload of customization options, however when it comes to usability and performance it really is a pain in the butt!
That's why I went on the lookout for other options and this time I wanted to do it right.
So, I formulated a set of criteria that myself or anyone could use to find the perfect WordPress theme.
Ready for it?
I asked 4 simple questions and each were worth 25%:
- How extensive are the customization options? (most people focus entirely on this, however it's less important than you think)
- What is it's level of performance? (in other words: page load time)
- How responsive is the customer support? (test it out by getting in touch with someone before you buy)
- How often is the theme being updated? (the more the better)
Based on these 4 questions and after doing extensive research, in the end it came down to 2 themes (actually they're frameworks which is same, same but different):
Thesis is one of the best performing WordPress themes of all time and designed specifically for SEO, however in the end I decided to go with Genesis due to the following reasons:
As soon as I saw that WP Engine had acquired StudioPress, I immediately realized that they would start to optimize their hosting for sites built on the Genesis framework.
In other words, there was an higher chance of getting an even better performance.
This was the trigger to make the move over to WP Engine and Genesis.
The Genesis Essence Pro Child Theme
The way Genesis works is that it's a framework that requires the use of “child themes”.
In other words, the first step is to install Genesis on your WordPress website, then without activating it you upload and install a child theme.
The child theme is what then gets activated.
I knew I had made the right decision as soon as I installed Essence because it was clear it was going to be easy to get up and running.
In the end it took less than 72 hours to get our website looking the way I wanted for a soft launch.
Change #2: Siteground To WP Engine
Have you ever hit the point in your business, where you just know you need to go to the next level?
Well that was me 6 weeks ago when I logged into my Siteground account.
I realized that it was time to take the Screw to the next level and that a cheap shared account at Siteground wasn't going to cut it ladies and gentlemen.
I also had a number of people telling me I should move over to WP Engine, however I decided to procrastinate, thinking it would take too much time and that it wouldn't be worth it.
Has this ever happened to you?
You put something off for a long time and when you finally took action, it turned out to be the best thing you could have done.
Well that's what happened with making the switch to WP Engine.
Before I say why I went with these guys, let me tell you the criteria I used to choose a hosting provider.
Even if WP Engine isn't the right fit for you, these 4 questions will help you out a lot.
Again, each are worth 25% to your overall score:
- How responsive and knowledgable is their customer support? (I annoyed them a lot on live chat!)
- Will they offer me better performance? (if you're not sure ask them to test your current performance using this free tool and if they say they can't beat it, they're not a good fit)
- How user friendly is their backend dashboard? (a lot of web hosts offer a terrible user experience and so ask them for a walkthrough)
- How easy will it be to migrate everything over to them? (if it's too complicated, it's not worth the time or effort)
There are a lot of other questions worth asking, however I felt like these were the 4 most important.
Notice how I didn't say “pricing” because when you first start, most hosting providers are affordable.
WP Engine starts at $35 a month which is slightly more than the cheap, crappy shared accounts at Bluehost or Hostgator, but still not enough in my opinion to break the bank.
Plus, as your traffic increases and you need to upgrade to something better, you should have the revenue available to do so by then.
After again doing my research it came down to 3 options:
- Keep my current account that is slow and cheap
- Stay with Siteground and upgrade to a dedicated server (starting at $269/month)
- Switch to WP Engine's Startup plan
In the end I went with WP Engine for the following reasons:
Would I Recommend Making The Switch?
I think about these types of questions a lot because it would be easy for me to say just copy what we are doing if you want to get better results.
However, the truth is that if we all copied the look of each others websites, then the internet would be visually quite boring.
I know there are many different options out there as far as hosting and site design goes and so hopefully you now have a framework you can use to make a more informed decision.
What I can say is that I have had a much better experience this time around with WP Engine than the last time.
We had an account with them back in 2014 and I wasn't very impressed with their customer support.
Clearly they've made some changes as their response time is almost immediate now and their agents know what they're talking about.
As far as themes go, I like the simplistic nature of the Genesis framework.
Whether you're a: blogger, podcaster, coach/consultant, online course creator or you even sell physical products, there is a child theme for you.
Just be sure to check each demo carefully before you buy.