WordPress has been serving millions of people from all aspects of life around the world. It is the first choice of many when it comes to blogging or website development, due to its flexible and easy structure.
However, it has been observed that due to various factors and sometimes user’s negligence; WordPress site becomes slow. Hence every other WordPress site owner have to visit a blog or two on for the speedup techniques. Although it is important to understand that those techniques get updated frequently and this is what we intend to cover in the following article.
Lesser loading time plays an important role in enhancing user experience as well as for improving ranking in the search engine page results (SERPs). After researching and testing, I have collected a few effective techniques that can help you in speeding up your WordPress site.
Why Speeding up WordPress Website Is Important?
Preferably, your site must load within 2 seconds in order to capture maximum user engagement. Anything beyond that does not only spoil the user experience but also harm your site ranking in Google SERP.
In order to grab the attention of your visitors, you need a fast loading website since it is important for many other reasons as well. Some of them are:
You need a fast loading website for search engines, like Google, to rank it at a higher place.
If you have an ecommerce store, you must know that your customers are less likely to purchase from you due to slow loading time.
You will lose subscribers because your site takes too long to load any of the content.
Slow websites are indeed a pain. So let’s start fixing them!
Tools For Testing WordPress Site Speed
To know whether your website is slow or not, you first need to check out the speed of your current website.
Note that your page load time may differ from load time of other pages, as each page depends on the factors below:
- Size of the page
- Number of requests it generates
- Whether that page is cached or not
- Is that a static page or a dynamic page
There are a number of online tools that can check your website load time. Most popular of them are listed below. Before testing a website, be sure to select the location closest to your server location to test from.
How Can I Speed up WordPress Website?
Now that you know the current status of your site; you may proceed with these easy steps to speed up your WordPress site. These optimization techniques can help your site load faster and enhance user experience.
1. Start With an Optimized WordPress Hosting
Your web hosting service plays an important role in overall performance of your WordPress site. Majority of the sites are hosted on shared servers along with many other sites consuming the same limited server resources. Shared hosting can cause major performance and security issues no matter how much your site is optimized and secure.
In shared hosting, you pay less for low performance and speed. If any of the websites hosted on the server get a sudden traffic spikes, the load will ultimately increase on the server. As a result, this will cause all other websites to respond slow.
Ask yourself! Is there any other solution available, which could help you out?
Well, the solution lies in Cloud Hosting!
Nowadays, Cloud hosting has become very popular due to its performance and security. Most importantly, it is your own personal space. Some of the most popular Cloud Hosting providers are DigitalOcean, Vultr, Linode, Amazon, and Google etc.
But.. You need to hire a high-paid sysadmin to configure and manage the server for you. To tackle this, there are managed cloud hosting solutions like Cloudways that manages your server launched on any of their cloud infrastructure partners.
Cloudways is an optimized Cloud WordPress Hosting platform, integrated with advanced server-side caching technologies like NGINX and Varnish. There are other optional caching tools like Memcached, Redis, Opcache etc. that will boost your page load times.
NGINX is used to cache static content of any webpage. Whenever a visitor visits a page, NGINX caches the page and when a user from any corner of the world visits that specific page, NGINX serves the content.
Visitors send HTTP requests to what they see as a “regular” web server service but it is Varnish, which receives them. Varnish, in turn, relays the requests to Apache or Nginx and stores the responses in its cache so that future requests are served directly from there instead of through another processing operation in the web server. This speeds up response times and decreases the processing load in the web server itself.
2. Lightweight WordPress Theme
Majority of the WordPress marketplaces overflow with themes. Those themes are created to accommodate all sorts of requirements. There are no hard and fast rules for theme selection but it is recommended to use themes with frequent updates, proper support, and responsive design.
Choosing a lightweight theme is a plus. The default WordPress theme can be enough if you want to run a blogging website. For more features, you can use Pojo themes that are written with the best coding standards and are both accessibilities enabled and SEO-friendly features.
3. Deactivate or Uninstall Unused Plugins
Installing a bunch of plugins on a WordPress website will add tremendous amount of junk files on web server. This can cause servers to respond slowly. Try to use only required plugins from trusted sources. If you’ve any unwanted plugin, deactivate or uninstall it. For starting out, you can have a look at this compiled list of the most essential and widely used plugins for WordPress.
4. Use Content Delivery Network (CDN)
I explained about NGINX a bit earlier that it caches static content on the server. A CDN is also similar to that. As its name suggests, CDN assists in the delivery of content across networks.
CDN caches your static content and spreads it to all their servers around the globe. Whenever a visitor visits a website, CDN serves them your content from the nearest server location. This practice really helps you boost up your website page load globally.
You can find a number of CDNs operating in the market today. To help you out, here are some of the popular ones:
- Rackspace Cloud Files
- Cache Fly
5. Using Caching Plugin
Cache is done in between the server and the visitor’s browser. It stores files for faster delivery instead of fetching it everytime from the server.
The most important way to achieve this is via browser caching where static files are stored on the computer of your visitor. Server caching is done most popularly with Varnish. It can cache frequently accessed files and content. Cloud hosting such as Cloudways comes pre-equipped with this kind of caching.
There are a number of caching plugins on WordPress repository. The most popular among them is W3 Total Cache, WP Rocket, and Breeze. For the purpose of this guide, I will be using Breeze – free WordPress cache plugin.
My WordPress site is installed on Cloudways. I would like to get rid of all pre-installed plugins except for Breeze plugin, which I am planning to use later on in this article.
If you test your website with Google PageSpeed Insights, you’ll notice a warning to minify JS and CSS files. That means you need to reduce JS and CSS calls to reduce server hitting and minify file sizes. By reducing them, you’ll observe site load times in a faster way. This will also help you to save bandwidth usage.
There are a number of ways to minify. You can do it manually or by using a WordPress plugin like Autoptimize and Breeze. There are other plugins too, but I find Breeze to be the best and the most simple one to use.
7. Enable Gzip Compression
It is one of the smart technique to speed up your WordPress website. Through Gzip compression, the files are reduced to up to 30% and are automatically decompresses when served on the user browser. This feature can be enabled in WordPress using caching plugins like W3 Total Cache and Breeze. Also, note that your server should also support Gzip compression.
Caching, Minification and Gzip Compression can easily be done using Breeze
8. Combined JS and CSS files
Combining multiple JS and CSS files can reduce browser HTTP requests. This method combines multiple JS and CSS files into one JS and CSS file.
I access this feature from Breeze by going to Advanced Options tab.
9. Compress Images
As I’ve discussed, speed testing depends on the size of a web page. Images are one the main reason for increased page sizes. If you manually try to reduce image size by using Photoshop or any other tool, that will take a bit of a long time. But, it is the recommended method.
Anyhow, the power of WordPress is that it offers a number of plugins that reduce image sizes and optimizes the web page without losing the quality of images.
10. Avoid Excessive Use of Social Media Buttons
Any social media button you use on your site requires its resources such as images that come with it. These buttons can trigger extra HTTP requests that can affect the speed of your WordPress site.
I tested a few and found Ultimate Sharing is a lightweight plugin for social sharing.
Note: Cached CSS cannot be used when CSS is inlined. Hence users download the same CSS code every time when they visit your web pages.
12. Clean WordPress Database
In your local environment, deleting unwanted files can save your hard disk. Similarly, deleting files from your host can also save disk size. Deleting spam comments, unused drafts, old backup files, etc. can save your disk size and ultimately speed up your WordPress website. This also minimizes the database and boosts up the response from the server side.
Among lots of plugins on the repository. I’ve found Breeze, WP-Optimize & WP-Sweep more useful.
Conclusion: Do Not Fret Over Speed but It Is Important!
Speed is extremely important for your WordPress website to function optimally. However, it is not everything. You should not engage in a race for being the fastest one to load. Make sure you are giving your users a website they find appealing and engaging enough with speed to stick around.
This article only lists a few tips and tricks on how you can speed up a WordPress website. A faster WordPress website will improve your ranking in SERPs and will also give visitors the experience they are looking forward to having.
If you have any comments, questions, ideas or tested methods for speeding up WordPress, then please let your voice knows in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!
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