Learning how to speed up WordPress is an essential skill for any website owner. Fast loading pages improve user experience, increase your page views, and help with your WordPress SEO.
Over 33% of the web is now powered by WordPress. While this is awesome, it also means there are thousands of different themes, plugins, and technologies all having to coexist. For the everyday WordPress user, this can quickly turn into a nightmare when their site starts to bottleneck and they don’t know why or even where to start troubleshooting.
Fortunately, website speeds don’t have to be a problem. With WordPress, solid web hosting, and a system of performance enhancements on your side, your website can run at top speeds and keep everyone happy in the process. It’s simply a matter of knowing what to look for and how to fix it.
Why Speed is Important for Your WordPress Site?
1. Slow Speed Leads to Lost Visitors
Here are some statistics concerning page load time and user behavior:
- Between 2000 and 2016, the average human attention span has dropped from 12 to just 8 seconds
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load within two seconds or less
- 40% abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load
- 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with a website’s performance are less likely to return
- One second delay reduces conversions by 7%, page views by 11% and customer satisfaction by 16%
However, the takeaway is clear: When it comes to visitor retention and conversion, every second counts.
2. Speed is a Ranking Factor on Google/Bing/Yahoo
A slow-loading site increases your bounce rate. That means the rate of users who pretty much leave immediately after landing on it. In this case, they just don’t bother sticking around until your page is done loading and hit the back button instead.
If that happens, the big G will take note and downvote you since they consider this behavior a sign of a low-quality site.
The problem is more prevalent with mobile traffic, which tends to have slower Internet connections than desktop computers. Plus, Google has gone on record, stating that for their mobile index, page loading speed will definitely become a ranking factor.
Considering the fact that mobile devices have taken over as the main Internet devices globally, you better make sure your site is up to snuff.
How to Check Your WordPress Website Speed?
Often beginners think that their website is OK just because it doesn’t feel slow on their computer. That’s a HUGE mistake.
Since you frequently visit your own website, modern browsers like Chrome store your website in the cache and automatically prefetch it as soon as you start typing an address. This makes your website load almost instantly.
However, a normal user who is visiting your website for the first time may not have the same experience. In fact, users in different geographical locations will have a completely different experience.
Speeding Up WordPress in Easy Steps
Understanding this is key to making smart decisions down the line. There is a huge difference between a site running slowly because it is on a low-cost server, and being slow because of inefficient code or massive images being loaded.
Note that the following list doesn’t contain items that can always be “fixed.” I’ll list all the separate layers that add to your speed.
1. Entrust Your Site to the Right Web Hosting
Start with a web hosting company that takes performance seriously. Preferably, find one that has the following characteristics:
- Specializes in WordPress hosting, so they understand the inherent performance problems associated with the CMS.
- Offers managed hosting options so you have to worry less about managing performance on your own.
- Uses servers built on the latest, greatest, and fastest of technologies.
- Includes caching (at the very least) and a CDN for further performance optimization.
2. Use Caching
Caching is the process by which a static HTML version of a web page is stored and reused as visitors come to a website.
If you have a site that doesn’t update frequently (at least certain pages of it), it would be greatly beneficial to use a caching plugin for site-level optimizations. My personal recommendation would be WP ROCKET.
These plugins decrease the load on your server (since it won’t have to handle every single HTTP request that comes through) as well as handle other speed optimization tasks:
- Page and browser-level caching (only if your web hosting doesn’t do this)
- Gzip file compression
- CDN integration (only needed if you don’t already have one)
3. Optimize Images for Speed
Images often make up the bulk of a page. That’s natural since they need more space than text or CSS. For that reason, in order to speed up WordPress, it is crucial that you learn how to make them as small as possible without losing quality, or what is called compression.
Within WordPress, you should use an image optimization plugin, too. This will compress your images even further while still preserving the overall quality and resolution of them. I would suggest using the Smush plugin for this.
4. Tidy Up
Keeping WordPress tidy, however, is a really easy way to lighten your server of unnecessary loading tasks. You just need to make time for it, or delegate to someone who does.
Here are the things you need to keep cleaned up:
- WordPress plugins: If you have deactivated a plugin and don’t intend on using it again, delete it. If a plugin hasn’t been updated in the last year or is now unsupported by the developer, delete it. If you have two plugins performing the same task, delete one of them.
- WordPress themes: Perhaps you were in the midst of testing a couple different themes for your site. Or maybe you transitioned from one theme to another. Ditch any theme that isn’t the primary one you are actively using.
- Media: Whether your site recently underwent a redesign or you just aren’t using some of the images you uploaded to WordPress, go through and clean them out.
- Pages: Businesses change and your website should be a reflection of that. If you’ve removed a service or product from your offering, get rid of the old page from WordPress.
- Posts: Blog posts can make a real mess if you’re not careful, especially if you have multiple contributors adding content to your site. To start, clean out any drafted blogs that will never see the light of day. You may even want to go through and delete blogs that are no longer relevant.
- Comments: If you’re using a plugin like Akismet, it will automatically take care of removing spam comments on your site. However, if you’re manually moderating them, make sure you permanently trash any of them you don’t want on there.
- Database: Even if you’re not the most technically savvy of WordPress users, you can keep your database files clean.
Following the advice in this article will make your site lean and fast, which will improve your page loading time and therefore user experience. These improvements might also bring in more money and help you save it some on the server costs, so it’s a win-win for everyone!