In this step-by-step guide on how to speed up your WordPress site, we’re focusing on non-developer solutions, i.e. improvements anyone can make. Let’s steer clear of custom code implementation since there are so many other ways of improving the speed of your site. Before we get into the methods of speeding up your WP site, it helps to understand some basics, such as why speed is important and some general causes of a slow WordPress site.
As an administrator, you might not be fully aware of your website’s front-end speed. The first thing to do is to run an eyeball test on your website by checking your site’s page load performance on someone else’s computer. If you find it slow using it yourself as a user experience, so will other visitors—and this could cost you lots in terms of lost revenue.
The point of this is to experience your site’s content as a normal person—not as an admin. Before you start running diagnostic tests you want to get a feel for the actual end user experience. It’s recommended to not only test as a non-logged in user on desktop but also a mobile phone and a tablet. Each of these eyeball tests may reveal issues you weren’t aware of because you view your site in the same environment every day.
The next step is a little more formal testing. Enter your site into a tool like GTMetrix, WebPageTest, or Pingdom. Those tools will give you an estimated page load time as well as important metrics, such as time to first byte and waterfall load of assets. Ideally you want page load times of 2 seconds or less.
They will also provide suggestions for improving your site. Note: take those recommendations with a grain of salt as they tend to be generic recommendations, such as compress your files. Implement the suggestions below first and then re-run the tests to see where you stand before worrying about their specific suggestions.
So much of the important speed metrics for a WP site are measured in milliseconds. Some of these differences go unnoticed to the human eye—so why does it matter in the long run? Website speed matters for two main reasons: user engagement/conversion and search engine rankings.
Your website’s page load speed is critical for user engagement. According to studies by Akamai a 1 second delay in page load results in a 7% reduction in conversions. A two-second delay in web page load time increase bounce rates by 103 percent. Those numbers should scare you as the average load time for mobile sites is over 10 seconds. If your site falls into that category you can count on unhappy visitors and far less paying customers than you would have with a faster website.
Speed and SEO
Google recently moved to a mobile online index with page load time as one of the ranking factors. Your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) friendliness is vitally important for gaining online visibility and increasing web traffic. Although SEO comprises a number of different factors decreasing your sites page load time should be a major focus of your SEO efforts.
Your websites speed impacts your SEO in several ways. The most obvious is the direct page load ranking factor in the algorithm. However, as previous mentioned page load impacts user engagement. Part of Google’s ranking algorithm focuses on user behavior, including how much time a search visitor spends on the site, how many pages they view, and most importantly if they bounce (visit only one page and they hit back to the search result page.)
Over the past few years Google has placed increased focus on the end user experience. In fact in 2015 Google introduced AMP, short for Accelerated Mobile Pages. AMP is a fork of HTML that has strict design parameters that are designed to help speed up website performance on both mobile and desktop devices. Google is now working directly with Automatic, WordPress’s parent company, to incorporate AMP technologies into WordPress. Clearly Google is valuing fast loading sites, which makes it imperative your site loads quickly in order to rank well in the organic search listings.
Note: if you are interested in AMP WordPress themes and plugins checkout the AMPWPTools.com marketplace. Webzakt will be selling our AMP themes there soon.
There are many things that can cause your WordPress site to experience slow loading speeds. They range from big things like your web host to more intricate elements like media optimization. These are some of the common causes of a slow WordPress site.
Web Hosting Problems
Your web hosting service is responsible for delivering your content to the end user via their computer or mobile browser. Your web host’s server handles these requests based on the number or resources it has available. If you are on cheap shared hosting your web server may not have many resources available to handle the browser request so it sends the files slowly. Having a VPS (virtual private server) or a dedicated server means your site’s server has far more resources available and can load your web site much faster.
Another issue with web hosts is bandwidth. Even if your server has enough resources to deliver your web files quickly if the pipeline to deliver those files is full your site will still load very slowly. Web hosts that don’t provide robust bandwidth can you’re your page loads even if you have a dedicated server.
WP Configuration Problems
Websites that have been incorrectly configured by admin will experience a slower speed. Media content of all kinds can overload a requesting server if not properly cached.
Oversized Pages and Element
WordPress is a versatile CMS, which is not always a good thing for beginners to WP site design. It is entirely possible—especially when sizing and resizing your site’s pages—to make them too large. If your pages or elements are sized too large for the smallest device, your site will experience slower loading.
Poorly coded or designed plugins can also have a slowing effect on your WordPress website. In addition, whenever a new plugin is installed on your WordPress site, it increases the overall weight in bytes. Even when plugins are inactive, they can still contribute to slow loading and speed degradation.
External Script Overload
WordPress sites can get overloaded by advertisements and third-party redirections of many kinds. WordPress offers a bunch of fun customization tools for designing your site, but many of these front loaders are external and will hinder your site’s speed.
There are many ways in which to speed optimize your WP site. A few are one-time solutions, but most are ongoing practices. A fast WordPress site takes work so let’s get down to it…
Install/Activate a Caching Plugin for WordPress
Every time a user requests access to your website, data is sent from the nearest residing location of the content being requested. If your WordPress site contains any amount of media content (i.e. text, images, video) it will load slower the further from the site’s origin server. Web data must physically travel from its origin server to the request location, which can slow down your site unless you use a caching plugin.
Caching plugins for WP place copies of your website content into a server network, holding stripped down HTML script of your posts, videos, and any other content. Since these copies are lightweight and easy to load, they can be sent to many caching server hubs all across the globe. Then, when a user requests access to your site content, the first thing that they see will be the fast-loading cached content. For a premium caching plugin, you should check out WP Rocket.
For a free caching plugin from wp.org, try checking out WP Super Cache.
Resize Images for Optimal Loading Speed
Sizing your images to best enable speedy loading is a little more complicated than it seems. The weight of an image is measured in pixels—not inches or centimeters. Therefore, your dots per inch (DPI) and pixels per inch (PPI) image metrics are irrelevant to the weight of an image. This is because every monitor or viewing platform could have a different sized screen, which does not determine the stress put on a CPU or host server.
To begin with, always download the largest image size possible. This will be the highest quality, and allow you to resize, without quality degradation. If your images are blurry or unclear due to the enlargement of an image that was too small, this will negatively affect your user experience.
Prior to uploading your images to your website, optimize them for web content in an image editing software program such as PhotoShop. WordPress works faster with images that are small in byte-weight so convert your images to PNG or JPEG.
We prefer using JPEG for images with lots of different colors. There are some free online tools that will compress the overall size of your JPEG image. Compress JPEG is a free browser-based tool and JPEGmini offers a free trial download, which is good for 150 image compressions. SmushIT is an excellent free plugin that handles compression if you want more automation.
For images which are to be transparent or have transparent backgrounds, we recommend converting them to PNG. For PNG conversion, Compress PNG and TinyPNG are free online tools for compressing PNG files while retaining their transparent features.
In the end, your images will retain their entire pixel count while weighing less thus, enabling them to load quickly. Compressing the size of your JPEG and PNG image files will enable the optimal performance and speed of your WordPress site.
Create Multiple Pages for Long Blog Posts
Generally speaking long blog posts are great for SEO. However, long pieces of content that are media heavy can slow down the speed of your site. Fortunately this is easily fixable—just split up your long posts into multiple pages or if you go the AMP route try creating an AMP Story.
Splitting up your post into multiple pages can be done in the blog post text editor from your WordPress backend admin dashboard. In the text field, just type in the tag <!–nextpage–> and your post will be automatically split! It’s that simple.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN can be implemented through your web hosting service. A CDN is used to deliver content to viewers from the closest data center to the end user. The closer the server to a request—in geographic proximity—the faster the content request is processed.
Use WP Video Embed Feature – Don’t Upload Videos Directly!
Video media is one of the worst perpetrators of slow site speeds. Instead of uploading video content to your WP page directly, just embed the video from YouTube, Vimeo, or another web video host.
By embedding your videos, your site is saved from the strain of hosting that content. Viewers will still be able to view the video from your site, but it will be hosted on the origin site.
Optimize Your WP Database & Clean-Up Outdated Content
Once your site is built and designed, there is likely a lot of erroneous data left over that clutters things up. You can get rid of this outdated or useless data by installing a database optimization WordPress plugin. It will automatically get rid of dumb stuff like trashed posts, unused tags, and outdated drafts.
Post revisions can take up a bunch of space, as well. Out of the box, your WordPress site will save every post revision. This is unneeded diligence and can be corrected very easily…
Enter: define ( ‘WP POST REVISIONS’, 5 )
This will set your maximum revision storage to 5 for every post. On the 6th revision, WP will automatically delete the first revision copy.
Of course you want to be careful if you implement this on a site where you make multiple revisions to articles on a continuous basis. If you prefer a plugin over code you can use the free Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions to clean up your database (even if the plugin name is ridiculously long 😉
Keep Your WordPress Site Updated
Lastly make sure that you pay attention to your dashboard notifications, concerning plugin updates and WordPress software updates. Any time that you are using a plugin, theme, or WP version that is outdated, you are running the risk of encountering speed issues. There are plenty of plugins available to automate your site updates, we use ManageWP, but if you just keep on top of it, you won’t have any problem with manual updates.
The secret of how to speed up your WordPress site is attention to detail and a little diligence. If you are in tune with your Google Analytics metrics, it should not be a surprise when speed issues come up. If your WordPress site is running slowly, the tips listed above will certainly put you on the right path—if it doesn’t do the job altogether.
Thanks for reading! We hope you found this article useful on how to speed up your WordPress site. Feel free to leave comments or questions. And don’t forget to sign up for our montly newsletter for all the most current WordPress tip and tricks.