Top 10 Simple Ways to Speed up WordPress

speed up wordpress

Are you looking to speed up WordPress to give your site visitors a better user experience and boost search rankings? Having a fast loading WordPress website is crucial to your success in this digital age. After all, 47% of consumers expect websites to load within 2 seconds or less. Adding to that, 40% will abandon your site if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

Your site speed has the potential to make or break your conversions. It can influence your search rankings. And it will determine how long people are willing to stay on your website to see what you have to offer.

Because of that, we’re here to share with you the top 10 ways to speed up WordPress. And to help you out, since there’s a lot of information, here’s a table of contents so you can jump ahead if you want to:

Why Speed up WordPress

According to Microsoft, the average person has an attention span of 8 seconds. In other words, people surfing the internet don’t have patience to read through all of your content. If they do read your content, most will only skim what they view.

And people definitely aren’t going to wait around for your website to load.

Not to mention, a StrangeLoop case study involving Google, Amazon, and other large websites revealed that a 1-second delay in page loading time could lead to a 7% loss in conversions, 11% fewer page views, and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction.

slow load times stats

Plus, Google and other search engines have long been punishing slow loading websites with lower rankings because a slow to load website doesn’t provide an exceptional user experience.

What Slows Down Your WordPress Website

Okay, so you know that you need to have a fast loading WordPress website if you want higher search rankings and more traffic, subscribers, leads, and sales.

But what exactly slows down a website in the first place?

Learning the most common things that will slow your website will help guide your efforts to optimize it for speed and performance.

Here’s a look at the primary reasons your WordPress isn’t loading as fast as you’d like:

  • Poorly coded WordPress plugins
  • Page sizes that aren’t optimized for the web
  • Huge images that take forever to load and drag your page speeds down with them
  • A non-cached website that must reload site content every time someone clicks on your site
  • Low-quality web hosting
  • External scripts such as font loaders, ads, and more

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of things that will slow your website down. However, it’s enough to give an idea so that when you read through our list of tips meant to help you improve site speed, you’ll see the connections.

How to Test Your WordPress Website Speed

Before you jump into optimizing your WordPress website in terms of speed, it’s best to know where your website stands right now. Remember, just because your site loads quickly for you on your browser, doesn’t mean that’s happening for every site visitor that comes to your site.

In fact, modern browsers like Chrome store your website in the cache and pre-fetch it as soon as you start typing in the URL. That means your site will load nearly instantly for you.

However, for a brand new site visitor, this may not be the case. So, it’s best to test your site’s speed (and check for suggestions) using a Google site speed test like PageSpeed Insights.

With this free online speed test, you can see how fast both your desktop and mobile sites are loading.

pagespeed insights speed test

If you scroll down, you’ll also see a list of suggestions to improve site speed, some of which made our list as actionable things all website owners should do to increase site speed.

pagespeed insights suggestions to speed up wordpress

Want to know exactly how fast your webpages load? Check out Pingdom’s site speed test and see for yourself:

pingdom speed test results

The neat thing about this tool is you can test how fast your website loads from locations all around the world. This is especially helpful if you have an international audience and want to make sure that no matter where someone lives, they can access your site blazing fast.

Now that you know how fast your website loads, and have a few improvements in mind, see what else you can do to speed up WordPress and impress your site visitors.

1. Choose a High-Quality Web Hosting Provider

There are many types of web hosting in the market for self-hosted WordPress users to choose from. But what works for one may not work for another in terms of site speed and performance.

Your web host should take measures to optimize your website for speed. For example, with a high-quality web host you might enjoy:

  • Free CDN services
  • Built-in image compression and optimization tools
  • Server-side caching solutions
  • Top of the line hardware
  • WordPress optimized servers
  • Expert WordPress support
  • Support for PHP 7 or higher

Shared web hosting solutions are the main culprit for slow loading times. This is because with shared hosting, everyone is sharing a limited amount of resources on one server. The minute someone pulls extra resources for themselves, the other sites being hosted on that server suffer. That’s why if you’re going to use shared hosting, you should pick a reliable one such as Bluehost or SiteGround.  

2. Minimize HTTP Requests

According to Yahoo, 80% of a web page’s load time is spent downloading elements such as scripts, stylesheets, and images. And every time one of those elements loads, an HTTP request is made. The more files your website has, the more HTTP requests that will be made. And the larger the files are, the longer each HTTP request will be.

So, minimizing the number of HTTP requests and reducing file sizes will help you speed things up.

To do this, find out how many requests your site is making in the first place to use as a benchmark. Hubspot has a free online tool called Website Grader that will tell you exactly how many page requests are being made on your website, among other things.

number of http requests

Once you have a number in mind, follow these best practices for minimizing HTTP requests on your site:

  • Remove unnecessary images that aren’t adding value to your site visitors
  • Reduce the files sizes of images you want to keep by compressing them using a WordPress plugin like Smush It or a free online tool like TinyPNG
  • Set your website to load JavaScript ‘asynchronously’ so your webpages can render multiple page elements at once rather than one at a time (check out any number of free WordPress plugins to do this)
  • Evaluate things like video and audio clips to see if any of them are adding to your slow loading times
  • Combine CSS files because for every CSS file you use, you add more HTTP requests (Fast Velocity Minify is a great solution)

After you’ve made some changes, re-test your site using the same tool (e.g., Website Grader) and compare the results with your benchmark to see improvements.

3. Utilize a CDN

A content delivery network (CDN) will help you deliver your site content to visitors across the globe instantly. CDNs leverage servers around the world and store copies of your website on all of them. Then, when a user arrives on your website, the server geographically closest to the site visitor delivers your site’s content in a flash.

Adding to that, CDNs help mitigate DDoS attacks and prevent your website from crashing. During a DDoS attack, tons of requests are thrown at one server in an attempt to bring it down, along with every website being stored on that server.

However, if you use a CDN and one server crashes because of an attack, another server will just pick up the slack and deliver your site’s content without missing a beat.

4. Use a Caching Plugin

Your WordPress webpages are ‘dynamic,’ meaning they are always changing. When someone clicks on your website, WordPress has to build your webpages from the ground up. It does this by finding the code, putting it together, and displaying it on a computer screen in a way that site visitors will understand.

As you can imagine, doing this process over and over again has the potential to really slow things down.

If you use a WordPress caching plugin, your website won’t have to construct your site like that every time someone visits. Instead, it will store a copy of your website in a cache once someone lands on your site. Then, the next time this person visits your website, the cached (or, already put together) version of your site will display instantly for them.

Here are some of the best WordPress caching plugins in the market:

If you’re really lucky and use a web host like SiteGround, you’ll have access to its proprietary caching solution, SuperCacher:

siteground supercacher

5. Clean Up the WordPress Database

It’s not something you likely think about a lot, but your WordPress database can fill up with unwanted data and slow your site down. By getting rid of this unwanted data, you make it smaller and easier to load. Doing this also reduces the strain you place on your server, which is another reason some websites load so slow.

The easiest way to clean up your site’s database is to use a WordPress plugin like Optimize Database, WP-Sweep, or WP Optimize.

Plugins like these will help you:

  • Clean up WordPress tables and retrieve space lost to data fragmentation
  • Remove unnecessary data like trashed/unapproved/spam comments, pingbacks, and trackbacks
  • Delete revisions of posts, pages, and custom post types (you define how many to keep)
  • Get rid of trashed pages and posts
  • Wipe out expired or all transients
  • Clear the OEMBED cache

And the best part is, you can schedule your site’s database to be cleaned and optimized so you never have to worry about it again.

6. Update Everything

Updating the WordPress core, themes, and plugins is not done just for security purposes. Though that’s definitely important, making sure everything is updated also allows you to access performance improvements too.

Each update will come with new features plus fix security and bug issues. Also, it will also come with speed and performance enhancements that you can take advantage of by just updating them. And to update them, all it takes is a quick click or two:

wordpress updates

Just make sure to create backups of your site before making any major updates to your website. You never know when a rogue update might bring your site down. Don’t risk losing all your hard work because you didn’t have a reliable backup on hand. For help with site backups, make sure to check out this roundup of the best WordPress backup plugins around.

If the thought of updating everything on your website all the time is a drag, don’t worry, there are plenty of reputable managed WordPress web hosts out there that can help you with updating your core, themes, and plugins. (e.g., Flywheel, Pagely, and WP Engine).

7. Disable Pingbacks and Trackbacks

Pingbacks and trackbacks are little alerts you receive any time your blog or page receives a link. In other words, if someone else out there in the internet world links to your website in their site’s content, you will receive a pingback or trackback.

The problem is, these put a lot of unnecessary strain on your server’s resources. Plus, it generates requests from WordPress back and forth between your site and the other site linking to you. All of this combined equals slower page loading times for you.

Of course, the link juice you receive from others is great. But you don’t have to know every time someone links to your website. Instead, disable pingbacks and trackbacks in the WordPress dashboard and save your site from slow loading times.

To do this, go to Settings > Discussion in the WordPress dashboard and unclick the checkbox labeled ‘Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new articles.’

disable pingbacks and trackbacks

This tiny change is just another way you can speed up WordPress and provide a stellar user experience to site visitors.

8. Deactivate and Uninstall Unused Plugins and Themes

We all know how easy it is to install and activate the latest WordPress themes and plugins. But the truth is, keeping themes and plugins on your website is one of the easiest ways to add bloat to your web files.

Plus, it makes your site backups bigger. And if you have automatic site backups scheduled to keep your data safe (which you should!), the bigger the backup will be and the more strain you’ll place on your server’s resources.

And did we mention that the wrong themes or plugins on your website can also cause security vulnerabilities and technical difficulties such as a crashed website?

Well, they can. As great as WordPress themes and plugins are, they do more than extend the design and functionality of your website if you’re not careful.

The key to fixing this problem is to use as many comprehensive plugins as possible (to achieve two or more goals with one plugin). You should also routinely look through your installs and delete anything you’re not using. There’s no sense letting themes and plugins take up room on your site when they aren’t needed.

9. Use External Hosting Platforms for Video Content

If you have a WordPress website that has a lot of large files, such as video content, you might want to use external hosting platforms for them to reduce load times on your site.

When you host video content on your own server, they take up a lot of space. And in a shared hosting environment, which comes with limited space and resources, this spells trouble for not only you, but everyone else sharing the server. Not to mention, even if you can upload large video files to your server, the user experience isn’t likely to be all that great. This is especially true if multiple people are trying to watch your video at one time.

So, what are you to do?

Use a third-party service like:

YouTube

With over one billion users, YouTube is one of the most-used video platforms in the world. In fact, YouTube tops every other major social media platform but Facebook, which is pretty impressive.

social media platform stats
(Source)

YouTube allows you to reach a broader audience base, increase brand awareness, and send traffic right to your website too. There is a 15-minute limit to each video you create (which may or may not be a problem). That said, YouTube’s enormous viewership is worth most of the disadvantages, including time limits.

Vimeo

Vimeo is the second largest video content platform behind YouTube, boasting a hefty 715 million views per month. It’s a simple platform to use and comes with features such as 360° views, live video streaming, and even 4k support features, making the user experience better than ever.

This platform is not known for hosting viral video content, though it does cater to those interested in high-quality videos that mean something.

Wistia

Wistia is designed for marketers and allows site owners to monitor in-depth analytics, such as where site visitors came from when they click a piece of video content. In addition, you can add calls to actions to all your videos, find out where people click, and even see how far into a video they watched before stopping. And to top it off, you can brand the look of your video presentation to make your content stand out.

Once you’ve chosen a third-party service to host your video content on, all you have to do is embed the video onto WordPress so site visitors on your site can enjoy the videos too. In the end, you end up getting the best of both worlds – those on your site clicking play and those browsing video platforms clicking play.

10. Don’t Forget About Mobile Speed

In March of 2018, Google rolled out its mobile-first indexing, meaning it will take into account your site’s mobile version (rather than its desktop version) when it comes to indexing and ranking your site’s content.

Because of this, your site’s speed is more important than ever. Even if your desktop website loads blazing fast, it’s worth taking note of how fast your mobile version loads. That’s because it’s not unusual to see a slower mobile version. And Google doesn’t like this.

More than that, mobile site speed is a ranking factor for Google Search and Ads too, making mobile site speed one of the most important things to focus on.

Poor mobile experiences lead to site abandonment and site visitors that will never return. Unfortunately, website owners don’t seem to understand this, seeing as the average mobile speed for websites spanning the world clock in at a slow 15 seconds.

Could you imagine waiting 15 seconds for one webpage to load?

Nope, we can’t either.

You mobile users demand (and deserve) better than this. This is especially true if you’re an eCommerce shop asking mobile device users to spend their hard-earned cash in your online shop.

If you want to rise above the competition, you’re going to need to do way better than 15 seconds. In fact, you’re going to need to aim for 3 seconds or less, because 53% of mobile site visitors will bounce if your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it! 10 surefire ways to speed up WordPress.

If you want higher search rankings, more traffic, and an all-around better user experience for site visitors, you’re going to have to take a proactive approach to improving site speed. And to make sure your getting the most out of those that visit your site and enjoy your site’s fast loading times, use one of these top mailing list plugins for WordPress to build a bigger email list and connect with people once they leave your site.

Have you ever used any of these tips to speed up WordPress? Have we left something off the list you think is important? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

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Editorial Team

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