How to improve the loading speed of your WordPress website
I started writing this post having in mind that you already may find on Internet tons of blog posts about how to improve the loading speed of a WordPress website. Some of them are truly useful and full of efficient tips while others are created only for the sake of writing.
You may ask me why I continued to write this post. Do I have a magic tip to really skyrocket the speed of a WordPress powered website? Do I release a revolutionary plugin? Unfortunately, the answer is negative to the both questions. I still wrote this post because I didn’t find a complete post about improving the loading speed of a WordPress website for beginners. Yeah, taking care of the loading speed isn’t a task for beginners, but it shouldn’t disarm the less experienced ones. By following step-by-step all the recommendations from this post it’s highly probable that every WordPress user will improve the loading speed of his/her website.Wrapping up, if you are a beginner and you want to speed up your WordPress creation, then this post is for you!
“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” said Zig Ziglar and I guess that this statement will convince the intermediate and expert WordPress users to give a try to this post.
One of the most common fears of the beginners interested in getting their hands dirty with speed optimization is that some of their actions may make the situation even worst. This is true, but almost everything may be repaired (“almost” is purposely bolded – therefore you should understand that your actions can’t have 0 risk).
First things first, before starting the speed optimization process it’s highly recommended (you may read mandatory) to back up your website. Luckily, there are a lot of plugins that help you in this regard; WPMU DEV article offers you multiple solutions for every kind of budgets.
Secondly, before starting fastening your website, you should have a solid grasp of the current state of it and the eventual major problems. Consequently, I think that you should use some tools to test the website speed. Much more, some of these will give you useful hints about your problems and how to resolve these.
Note: Even if you have an amazingly quick website, you still need an equally reliable hosting server. I can’t stress enough on how important it is. If you are looking for more hosting options you can check out these hosting reviews by WHSR.
There are many tools for testing website speed, some are free while others are premium; anyway, all of them give you some interesting insights!
Page Speed Insights is a tool released by Google and I think that it is enough to convince you that it should be extensively used by anyone seriously concerned about his/her website. It’s simple to use and you get relevant information regarding what should be improved. Google really cares about mobile device users and it can be seen in how Page Speed Insights works. It offers two “marks” to the loading speed of a website – for its mobile and respectively for its desktop rendering.
Pingdom is another reliable tool to test the speed of your website. You can test for free the loading speed of your website, but it also offers precious information as page analysis or history. I think that history is a quite useful feature, especially for bloggers. By periodically checking the history of the website loading speed, the bloggers can notice which blog post affected the results. For example, if you used multiple images that weren’t optimized in your latest blog post, the Pingdom history might suggest you that something was wrong.
GT Metrix is a tool that should be used periodically by the website owners. It realizes a deep analysis of the websites and it allows comparing them. In this way, you have a clear understanding of your strong and weak points by comparing with your competitors. The most important factors revealed by GT Metrix are PageSpeed Score and YSlow Score and it offers page details as page load time, total page size, and the number of requests.
Web Page Test doesn’t benefit from a great design, but it provides some extremely useful insights about your website speed. The specific of this tool is represented by the grades given to the websites. The performance review is professionally made and it may be a good framework for the future actions taken for improving the speed.
Varvy is not as complex as the previous resources, but it is helpful in making a good idea about the loading speed of a website. Once you add the name of the website into the text box and hit the “Test” button you will get a mark (X out from 100) and a conclusion (i.e. “This webpage is on the slow side of average.”). Besides these, Varvy makes a short analysis and gives to the user some hints about what should be done to make the website load faster.
These are only a few tools that should be used regularly by a webmaster willing to have a fast website. In the next lines, I will present you the most common factors that negatively affect the loading speed of your website. Of course, I will suggest you some solutions…I hope that these will work for you! Once again, I want to emphasize that making a website loading faster is a story with no end –there will be always a potential improvement. It’s a trial and error matter, so you should have time and patience!
Basically, there is no universal perfect solution for all the websites. Each online presence is special and has specific requirements. One of the simplest and efficient solutions is to buy the most advanced hosting plan of one of the top hosting providers. In this case, it’s highly probable that you pay much money for hosting than you get from website monetization. If you don’t have a heavy visited website, then it’s a matter of time until you quit maintaining the website.
My idea is that the hosting plan adopted should be linked with the profile of the website. Wrapping up, I am afraid that I can’t give you a clear answer – “chose this hosting provider that it is the best”. Instead, I will name just a few hosting providers as follows: SiteGround, Fly Wheel, WP Engine, Blue Host, HostGator, Go Daddy etc. They are in no particular order but are famous for their quality services. You should check their offers (from time to time the hosting companies offer discounts/promo codes so take care of this aspect), evaluate your needs and finally make a decision.
2. Use a speed optimized theme
I read many posts about improving the loading speed of a WordPress website and in a few ones I met this topic. It’s a huge mystery to me why so many writers neglect this subject; a theme considerably affects the loading speed.
I consider that it was neglected because it’s pretty difficult to test the loading speed of a theme before achieving it. Anyway, before achieving a theme, it’s wisely to check for other buyers’ opinions and double check the features. The most famous marketplaces of WordPress themes have exigent teams that check the themes before starting selling them, therefore the huge majority are top-quality. In conclusion, think twice before achieving and using any WordPress theme!A poorly coded theme may ruin your“friendship” with Google spiders; I guess that is useless to mention that Google cares about the users and ranks better the fast loading websites.
3. Caching plugins
Before delving deeper into the problem of caching, I think that it’s better to explain it to the less experienced ones. Cicero said that the power of example is huge- it’s a statement since 2000 years ago, but it’s valid even in our age.
Imagine that you are the owner of a new car. On the first days, you will take special care to parking, you will double check the buttons and the pedals and you will do everything slower so that you don’t make any accident. Depending on each one’s personality, after a specific period of time, you will park faster because you already have in your mind the size of the car.
The same is the situation of a caching plugin. The first time someone opens a webpage, there are requests between servers and it means precious time wasted in vain. A caching plugin keeps the webpages into his memory and once the user opens again the same webpage, it will load faster than the first time.
Luckily, the developers created many reliable caching plugins that sometimes really make miracles in terms of loading speed. W3 Total Cache is probably the most used plugin, but WP Super Cache and WP Rocket (premium plugin) are serious competitors. This fresh post from Colorlib is a mandatory resource if you are interested in using a caching plugin.
4. Enable compression
The concept of compression is universal, so at this point, everyone agrees with the idea that compression should have a positive influence on speeding up a website. Luckily, enabling compression, even though it sounds as a complicated measure to apply, it’s quite simple. W3 Total Cache has the option of compressing a WordPress powered website – I think that it is the simplest solution. If you need adrenaline J, you should add some line of code into your .htaccess file. Softstribe blog post is very useful in this respect, therefore, spend some minutes to read it.
Check Gzip Compression is an awesome free resource to test if your website is compressed…it’s simple and funny!!!
5. Minify JS and CSS files
When I started learning about speeding up the WordPress websites, minifying JS and CSS file was the most “horrible” task to do! I am not a programmer and everything that implies coding is a burden for me. I guess that there are many WordPress users in my situations – well, I have good news for you! Minifying JS and CSS files may be done with the help of a plugin! The repository is full of plugins to help resolving this issue; some of them are extensively used while others are new and still not widely used. Better WordPress Minify and Autoptimize are two of the most installed plugins for minifying JS and CSS files while WP Super Minify and WP Minify Fix aren’t (still) downloaded so many times.
The plugins are doing their job in a good manner, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have your hands dirty with minifying JS and CSS files. Much more, it sounds complicated, but the reality is different. The core idea of minifying is to remove the unnecessary characters (white space, new lines, or comments) from the code of a website.This article published by Elegant Themes is a good start to learn more about minifying files.
6. Optimize the images
I think that this is one of the easiest tasks to do in order to improve the speed. The best solution is to use a plugin and almost sure, the Google Page Insights will give you a better mark. I have used and I am satisfied withWP Smush, but I will give a try to EWWW Image Optimizer. Both plugins are massively downloaded and installed by WordPress users and the majority of them are content with the results.
7. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Unfortunately, your website may be truly fast nearby the location of your host, but it may run slowly on other continents. Many owners of WordPress websites, especially the blogs and online stores, can’t ignore the traffic received from other countries that are far away from their location. If you run a blog focused on web design topics and your location is in Eastern Europe, you can’t ignore the traffic from India, isn’t it? In these situations, the services of a CDN are golden. The job of a CDN is to cache websites and deliver them to the users depending on their geographical location in order to reduce the number of server requests. If I made you curious about, then you should read more about on CDN Reviews. The most CDNs offer premium services, but you have also some free plans to enjoy.
8. Audit your plugins
The optimum number of plugins is another topic that seems to have no end. If you expected to see here a number or a specific formula to determine the number of plugins for a website, then you are wrong. You should use as many plugins as you really need! Unfortunately, the number of plugins makes a website load slower because of the additional requests to the server. Consequently, limit the number of plugins and eventually check which one makes the most requests. Personally, I am very content with P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) – it’s simple to install and use and its conclusions should give you precious hints in determining which plugins should be kept or uninstalled.
9. Keep your database clean
In most cases, optimizing the images has a bigger impact on the speed of a website than keeping clean the database. Still, taking care of the database may reduce the loading time, therefore, you shouldn’t ignore this aspect. How to keep clean your database? If you thought that there is a plugin for this, you are right – WP-DBManager!Also, you should remove the spam comments, fix the broken links, and remove unused user profiles – all these factors making the website loading slower!
10. Disable Pingbacks and Trackbacks
If you want to disable them you should go to Settings -> Discussion and deselect “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks).
Pingbacks and trackbacks are used to keep you informed when someone linked to your website. These can’t distinguish between spam or good links to your website, so you should use other analytics tools to evaluate the links. The majority of the WordPress specialists recommend disabling pingbacks and trackbacks.
We reach the end of the improving loading speed story, but yours have just started! In conclusion, follow the above steps, experiment, use the testing tools and be patient! Some plugins may not be compatible and as a result, your website will load slower than before installing them. The main idea is that you should never give up and take any failure as a necessary step for making a better website. Don’t forget, there is no fully optimized website from the loading speed perspective! As a result, you should always find new modalities of improving the speed!If you have some that aren’t described here please don’t be selfish and share them with us! The more opinions, the better for all of us!
Daniel Pintilie is a big fan of WordPress and a part time blogger. He writes insightful articles for his personal blog- Daniel2Design and other WordPress blogs.