Website speed is more important than ever.
Research suggests you only have 7 seconds to capture a viewer of a website before they click away. So what we’re talking about today is of utmost importance, not even mentioning how important site speed is for your SEO.
The WordPress blogging platform is used by millions of websites on the net. It’s incredibly powerful, but due to how customisable it is, is prone to getting slow.
So? Let’s speed up WordPress.
Find your website load time
Let’s see what we’re working with. How can we improve if we don’t know what we’re starting with?
If you implement most of the changes on this list, I guarantee your score will improve.
#1 Start strong with a good WordPress host
Your WordPress hosting is one of your most important factors in your site speed.
Your host is your foundation. Changing your WordPress host can improve your website speed more than anything else.
I’ve tried a ton of different web hosting options, through years of messing around with servers and web development. In my experience, one of the best web hosts when working specifically with WordPress is WPEngine, a specialise WordPress web host.
Different web hosts have different advantages — for instance I’m also a massive fan of Webfaction, but would only recommend it to someone who is a hit more into their web technology as it’s super customisable.
However, if you’re looking for a quick fix solution that will have you up and running in no time, minimal maintenance and keep your site running fast for years to come WPEngine is a great bet.
#2 Next? Blitz your plugins
Your plugins folder basically contains a number of different pieces of code that you are running on your site.
If you have smaller amount of plugins on your WordPress site, you have less code being executed; so that equals a faster site.
Go through your WordPress plugins, get rid of the ones that aren’t absolutely necessary. Do you really need WooCommerce? Probably, yes. Do you really need that plugin for displaying a unicorn when a link is hovered? Probably not.
Important: stick to well known and reputable plugins. It is most likely these will be well coded and have minimal effect on your site speed. Less popular plugins may well slow down your site due to poor code.
#3 Ditch your bad theme
We’ve all been there. You purchase a theme that looks cracking on a WordPress theme website and, somehow, it doesn’t just look like you imagined it on your own site.
The truth of the matter is, there’s a hell of a lot of shoddy WordPress themes out there, most of which include a ton of features and additions to try and get you to purchase them. The issue with this is that all of that comes with a ton of code that is slowing down your site. Your theme’s code should be as minimal as possible.
Since our mission is to speed up WordPress – the first priority is going to be to ditch your old outdated clunky theme and move to a fast efficient one.
Which leads me on to…
#4 Trying a WordPress framework
Imagine your WordPress website is a Boeing 747 aircraft. Okay? A WordPress framework would be the Rolls Royce jet engines that keep it up in the air.
Frameworks for the WordPress system make sure your website has the foundation necessary to make sure your website is successful from a tech perspective. They standardise your site to make sure Google have no trouble reading site and they present great user experiences.
In my opinion the best WordPress framework is Genesis by StudioPress. This is what Pixel Whizz uses, and is the framework and theme I install on every new WordPress site.
Blazingly fast, fantastic for SEO. There’s a whole host of reasons you need to choose Genesis for your WordPress site.
#5 Automatically crush your image sizes on upload
Images are one of the main contributors to your website load time.
This is tricky, because Images are essential to design and often function of your website. I’m not saying you should ditch or decrease the amount of imagery on your site. You just need to take the right steps.
Make sure the images you are uploading onto WordPress are of minimal size (that is to say, only the size you need them at and no larger). If you struggle with this, plugins like WPSmush will automatically optimise every image on upload to WordPress. After a few weeks, come back to the WPSmush dashboard and you’ll see how much website load it’s saving you:
Tip, once you’ve installed WPSmush, you can quickly crush all of your existing media with just one click. Simply navigate to the settings page and hit ‘bulk smush now’.
#6 Lazy load your images
Remember when I said images were important?
I’m just hitting it home. Images slow down your site a heck of a lot. This is because often images are the largest files on your website – and most of the time your browser will want to load them before the webpage is displayed.
One great way to bypass this, is to ‘lazy load’ the images on your website. This means that only images which are being displayed ‘above the fold’ will be loaded. The other images on your site will only be loaded when they are scrolled to by the user.
#7 Identify huge rogue images using GTMetrix
You see my face to the right of this post in the sidebar? That is obviously an image that I’ve uploaded through WordPress.
For the first month or so of having that image inside the sidebar, it was taking up 1.2MB of page load. 1.2MB! That’s almost more than every element on one Pixel Whizz page combined.
The image I had uploaded was far too large for the place that I was intending to display the image – but a few weeks on I’d forgotten it was taking up such a massive proportion of my page size. I only noticed when I did a scan on GTMetrix.com and it identified that I could save a massive amount of load time purely by reducing the size of that one image.
You’ll receive a breakdown like the below from GTMetrix, so you’re able to quickly go in and correct the images.
#8 Consider using SVGs for site images
SVGs might be a new concept to you. This stands for “scalable vector graphic”. Basically, it means that whatever size the graphic displays, your image will remain razor sharp and look great.
That’s not why we’re talking about SVGs though.
SVGs in simple terms are purely lines of code. This means they are super small files and take almost no load time up on your site.
Website assets that you can swap out from normal image files, like PNG or JPEG, to SVG will help your load time big time. Things like your website logo, any site icons or social media icons, could all potentially be switched to SVG.
Note – you will need to install a plugin to enable SVG support within the WordPress media library.
Here’s an unoptimised JPG version of the Pixel Whizz logo. It sits at 93kb.
Here’s an SVG file for the same thing. It looks better and is only 4kb!
#9 Keep WordPress Up To Date
WordPress is an incredibly complex and extremely popular piece of software that is used by millions and millions of websites across the internet. This means that there’s a lot of improvements being made to it on a regular basis – and as it grows WordPress is getting quicker.
Keep WordPress up to date. It’s important for everything from speed to security.
#10 An oldie but goodie: Caching Plugins
Caching is one of those love it, hate it relationships that I have with technology.
On the one hand, caching can speed up your website massively. On the other hand, caching is damn well pretty complicated – and there’s not really any way to get around it! If you’re not aware, the basic idea behind a caching plugin is to reduce your page load time by reducing the file size of your website assets. (There’s a ton of other clever stuff they do too, but I’m not going to delve too deep).
Before continuing, go ahead and install W3 Total Cache on your website. It’s one of the best WordPress speed plugins available.
You’ll pretty much see an immediate boost in your site performance purely from installing W3 Total Cache. You will also, however, notice there is a crazy amount of settings. This is one of the best guides to the correct settings to get the best performance from W3 Total Cache.
#11 Reduce reliance on external services
In the past, almost all external services that you ‘plugged into’ your website would have had to be loaded first before your webpage displayed to users.
Nowdays, a lot of services have made the move to asynchronous loading. This means that the service will load in the background and not slow your website up to users. For example, Disqus the commenting system is loaded asyncronously (so in the background) into Pixel Whizz.
Basically, asyncronous good. Synchronous bad.
So double check the services you use, and make sure they load in asynchronously. If they don’t consider looking for an alternative that does.
#12 Enable GZIP Compression
Sounds technical, right?
Don’t panic. It’s really pretty simple. GZIP compression is just a method to speed up file transfers on the web. In other words, it can dramatically speed up your site.
Most hosts now enable GZIP compression out of the box, but it’s worthwhile to check and implement GZIP if you aren’t using it already.
Simply grab this code from betterexplained.com and paste it into your .htaccess file on your server.
Note: backup your .htaccess file before editing it!
#13 Experiment with using a CDN
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network.
In simple terms, a CDN will store all of your website assets in servers across the globe – meaning users can download them from a location much closer to them.
In the example above, instead of the asset being delivered from the original server location (green), it can be delivered to the user (red) from the much closer CDN server (blue)!
#14 Limit your fonts
It’s extremely common now for WordPress websites to use Google fonts. Google fonts is a fantastically robust, free service that contains a whole plethora of
The issue is, you seriously want to only pull in the fonts you need. Otherwise you’re increasing your page load for no reason at all.
I would limit yourself to two Google fonts maximum. One for headers, one for body.
For the fastest solution, you’ll want to use a default web fonts such as Times New Roman, or Arial. The downside with this method to in order to speed up WordPress is that it might look less professional, or compromise your design. This article contains a ton of useful information on web fonts that is well worth a read.
#15 Disable Pingbacks and Trackbacks
Settings > Discussion > Uncheck ‘Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new articles’
This is a feature that is used to notify you when someone links to your site. Unfortunately, it takes up quite a bit of server resource – ending up reducing your site speed.
Tools like Google Webmaster Tools can keep track on these links, so there’s no need to use this WordPress feature!
#16 Keep your database optimised
Stop! Don’t panic! I hate the word database as much as you. Thankfully, this tip is as quick installing a plugin.
If you’re unaware, things like your posts, comments and drafts are all stored within your WordPress database. Over time, your database will get larger and larger, which isn’t a problem – but can affect site speed if not kept on top of.
WP-Optimize is a database optimising plugin that will keep your WordPress database spick and span.
Simply running this plugin once a month or so, will perform actions like deleting spam comments from your WordPress database. These will have a dramatic effect to speed up WordPress.