WordPress is an excellent platform. Such is the popularity that a majority of blogs on the internet are powered by WordPress. If that’s the case, then why do you have to speed up WordPress site at all?
You actually need to.
WordPress, even though a great platform, can be really slow at times, which a few of you might have noticed from your website load speed. Since, WordPress offers support for a large variety of themes, plugins and customizations, people often tend to overdo things. Even if that is not the case, there are a few things that you need to know as a blogger to speed up WordPress.
Why do I need to Speed Up WordPress Site?
Most importantly, for your visitors. When someone lands on your blog for the very first time, you just have a few precious seconds to make an impression, only 10-20 seconds as per this Nielsen’s research. If your website loading speed is too slow, the visitor will navigate away from your page and you will never see them again.
You just cannot afford to lose visitors because of the slow page loading speed. Another thing you need to consider is that the website load speed is considered as a ranking factor by Google. So, in terms of an SEO perspective as well, you need to speed up your WordPress site.
Optimize WordPress Site Speed – From 3.58s to 1.63s
I tried out a few tweaks that I was comfortable doing and the things I thought were relevant for my blog.
You will be surprised to know that I was able to improve the homepage loading speed of my WordPress blog from 3.58s to 1.63s!
Here’s what my website load time was before this case study.
And here’s the result after implementing the steps.
As you can see I was able to speed up WordPress pretty effectively. So, I will be sharing my case study on how I went ahead to achieve this. I will be talking about the tweaks that I implemented and the one’s that I didn’t.
Note: Not sure why the ‘Performance grade’ rating reduced (It’s kind of inconsistent) but I am not much concerned about that since I was able to improve the page load time of my WordPress blog and that’s what I was aiming for!
Before getting started, you can check your website’s load speed using Pingdom.
Let’s take a look at how you can speed up your WordPress site.
How to Speed Up WordPress
1. Select the right web host
Needless to say, this is one of the top factors that influences your website load speed.
Here are 2 things that you must consider before choosing a web host to speed up WordPress.
- Choose a hosting company that has a good reputation.
- Choose a hosting company that has its servers located near the geographic location of your target audience.
There are plenty of web hosting companies that offer different features, from shared hosting to dedicated hosting, you name it. When choosing a web host, I would advise you to do your own due diligence and choose a company that is best for your requirement. Always check the company’s reputation as mentioned in the first point.
The second point is pretty self-explanatory. If the servers are located nearby your target audience, WordPress loading speed will obviously be faster.
2. Keep WordPress updated
WordPress pushes out updates quite frequently. The major updates come out every 152 days on an average and the minor one’s pretty often.
The new updates are designed to optimize WordPress performance and to secure WordPress. Obviously the new updates tend to speed up WordPress because of various optimizations.
So, make it a habit to update WordPress whenever you are prompted to.
3. Update WordPress plugins
You should always keep your plugins updated just like WordPress as new updates contain improvements and security fixes.
So, whenever you see a notification to update a plugin, go ahead and do it.
4. Clean up plugins that you don’t need
There are plenty of free plugins available and people tend to install a lot of them at times. The more the number of plugins, slower the load time of your WordPress blog.
As a matter of fact, just with 11 plugins, the impact caused to my WordPress site speed was 37% !
So, go ahead the remove the plugins that you don’t require. Even though a plugin is inactive, you should remove it permanently.
5. Image Optimization
Did you know that images consume most of your blog’s bandwidth?
Having more number of images definitely makes a blog look good, however you will have to compromise on WordPress load speed.
So, how do you counter this situation? There are 2 ways:
- Use a plugin to resize your images
- Use a website to resize your images
Now, I am not a fan of installing a lot of plugins as you might have noticed since I just have 11 plugins running on my WordPress blog. However, there are a few plugins that you should really be installing as they are excellent in optimizing WordPress.
Personally, to optimize the images on my blog, I use a website, TinyPNG than can losslessly compress and resize your images in addition to using an image resize Plugin called WP Smush.
Note: Once you install and activate WP Smush, it will automatically compress images once you start uploading them.
So, first I use TinyPNG which is an excellent site to shrink images and it’s absolutely free!
You just need to upload your images, click on shrink and wait for a few seconds – That’s it! Once the compression is completed, you can download the images to your laptop and then upload it to WordPress. Then comes WP Smush’s turn.
It automatically reduces the size of your images as you are uploading them. For the already uploaded images, you will have to do this manually.
6. Choose a solid theme/framework
A theme or a framework that you choose for your blog greatly influences the WordPress load speed. Most of the themes, though look beautiful contain a lot of clutter in the code. This tends to slow down WordPress.
As a matter of fact, the default twenty sixteen theme provided by WordPress is better than most commercial themes when you compare the minimalistic approach focused with site load speed.
7. Install an effective cache plugin
Caching is a concept where in the browser presents the last known version of your website to your repeat visitor instead of loading the page all over again. This is an excellent process that speeds up WordPress site and removes that extra burden from your servers.
There are plenty of caching plugins available for free in the WordPress plugins repository. I personally use and recommend W3 Total Cache. This is an effective cache plugin that will cache the elements on your blog and drastically improve the WordPress speed.
Just install, configure and activate the plugin and you are good.
8. Limit the amount of post revisions
Posts revision in WordPress is a good thing as it keeps saving draft revisions of your post till you hit the publish button. Now, when you have published your post, what happens to the draft revisions? They are kept stored in the backend.
While publishing this post, I had saved it as a draft around 15 times. Do I really need those 15 copies after I have published the post? No, I don’t.
I probably need 2-3 draft copies to revert to in case I mess something up, but I can easily get rid of the additional draft copies. Here’s when a plugin called Revision Control can be helpful.
With this plugin you can limit the number of revisions for posts and pages. This setting can be applied globally and only the specified number of drafts will be saved in the backend. This removes the unwanted clutter from your servers and helps in speeding up WordPress.
9. Install a3 Lazy Load
You should be aware that not all your readers scroll the entire length of the post and read every single word. But when the page is loaded, it loads everything including the images. Imagine you have written an ultimate post of 10000 words containing plenty of images. The page load time will be very high, isn’t it?
An excellent way to overcome this situation is to use the a3 Lazy Load plugin. This plugin will only load the images that appear on your browser window as you scroll the page. It won’t load the images that are outside the browser’s window. Once you start scrolling down the page, the subsequent images are loaded gradually.
This plugin not only reduces the burden on the servers, it also boosts up your page loading speed.
10. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
You won’t be surprised to know that a lot of websites and blogs are leveraging CDNs to boost their loading speed. A Content Delivery Network or CDN is a service that takes all the static files from your site, be it images, script, CSS etc. and serves it from a server that is located close to the user. This cuts down page load time dramatically.
CDN providers also offer good security features and they are easy to manage. Cloudflare is a CDN provider that offers a free service as well. In fact using Cloudflare with W3 total cache can be a decent combination.
11. Optimize your homepage
Optimizing your homepage can be a game changer in terms of speeding up WordPress as most of your visitors will land here. There are a few things that you need to take care of in order to achieve this.
- Show post excerpts instead of complete posts.
- If you are using a sharing widget, disable it for the homepage and show it only on posts.
- Limit the number of posts to display on the homepage. Typically 5-7 posts are good enough.
- Remove the plugins that are inactive and not being used
- Keep the design minimal. Readers come for the content and not for the fancy widgets!
- A clean and minimal homepage looks good and it improves the website load speed as well.
12. Prevent leeching of your content
Hotlinking can be used by other websites or blogs to link to and display images from your blog. This puts up an additional load on your servers thereby slowing them down, kind of theft of your bandwidth. Moreover, this technique can be used to scrape posts and images from your blog easily – One of the reasons I recommend you to create custom images for your blog.
To prevent leeching and disable hotlinking, you need to put a code in your root.htaccess file. Here’s a guide that you can refer for the code.
13. Increase the time of expires header
This directs the browser not to re-fetch the static content thereby speeding up WordPress site.
You will need to specify a future time frame (in seconds), edit the code below and paste in it your root.htaccess file. The below numbers are set for a month.
ExpiresByType image/gif A2592000
ExpiresByType image/png A2592000
ExpiresByType image/jpg A2592000
ExpiresByType image/jpeg A2592000
14. Optimize your database
WordPress uses a database to save the data which runs your WordPress site. Over time, this database can grow in size and may become a little messy. So, it is a good idea to optimize it to improve database performance thereby speeding up your WordPress site.
This may sound too technical a task to complete, however you can optimize your database easily by using a plugin called WP-Optimize which does the task automatically.
15. Enable gzip compression
Now this one is a more of a technical tweak. Gzip compression is a process which looks for repeated strings in a text file and replaces those strings in the file temporarily to make the file look smaller. This is a really effective method as the HTML and CSS files contains a lot of redundant text and have lot of white spaces. Gzip compression can reduce such file sizes by up to 70%.
So how does gzip compression speeds up WordPress?
Well, gzip compresses the files as discussed above before sending it to the browser. Since the file size is smaller as compared to the initial size, it reduces the transfer time dramatically. Gzip needs to be enabled on your webserver. Check out this post for more information regarding Gzip compression.
Final thoughts on speeding up WordPress
Well, since you read through the post, you would have come to know that there were plenty of tweaks that I had already implemented since I started this blog (so cool, right!). Honestly I did not change a lot of things apart from a few that I had not implemented.
However, I am sure that you will definitely leverage these 15 tweaks to speed up WordPress and will see a massive difference in your page load speeds. Do try them out and share your experience in the comment section below.