10 Ways to Speed up Your WordPress Site

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The loading speed of your WordPress site matters to search engines, as it has a significant impact on the ranking of your site.

Nobody likes a slow site. Just think about the sheer number of times you revisited a website that took too long to load…we’re guessing it’s zero. Let’s look at some statistics to back this up.

As shown in this Kissmetrics infographic, 40 percent of site users exit a site that takes more than three seconds to load. The statistics are even scarier for e-commerce sites: 80 percent of shoppers who are not satisfied with a site’s speed or performance are less likely to shop on the same site again. Plus, a one second delay cuts customer satisfaction by 16 percent and results in a 8 percent loss in conversions. Yikes!

Speed is also a critical component of Google’s ranking algorithm. If you have a slow site, your Google rankings will fall and you will experience considerably less traffic to your site. As we saw with Google’s introduction of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), mobile page speed is also going to be an important ranking factor.

So you now understand the effects of site speed user experience, engagement and SEO. What can you do to make your site load faster? This post will take you through 10 quick and effective ways to speed up your WordPress site.

Before we begin, you need to measure your current site performance and speed so that you can quantify any improvements in performance after you implement the methods in this post. Pingdom offers a free performance analysis for your site. You can also look at your site’s page speed and other performance data in Google Analytics under the Behavior section.

Let’s get to it.

1. Choose a Good Hosting Service

Choosing a good hosting service can be quite tricky unless you have experience or advanced knowledge of the subject. Here are some of your options simplified.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting should only be an option if you have numerous sites that you rarely use. At an average of $4 per month, you get what you pay for: strained resources and consequential unreliable service.

Virtual Private Servers (VPS)

VPS is the way to go. They give you more resources and usually offer additional tools and services like automatic updates, mobile site customization apps, backups and more. At an average rate of $25 and up per month, Virtual Private Servers are still very affordable.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is typically used by webmasters with experience in server technologies or by websites with enormously high traffic. So if you have a hugely popular site that needs dedicated servers, and do not understand the tech behind it, you may want to hire someone else who does.

Managed WordPress Hosting

Managed WordPress hosting can be a good way to go. The servers are built for WordPress so it comes with tools and features that are designed to make your WordPress site run optimally. You can obviously also run WordPress on a VPS, but managed WordPress hosting solutions are only intended for WordPress sites.

There are, however, a few restrictions: certain WordPress features like plugins and themes may be disabled due to security concerns.

Still confused about which option is best for your site? Perhaps talk to customer service teams for each option and discuss your specific needs.

2. Choose a Lightweight Theme

Is your theme lightweight? If not, you should consider switching to one. Unlike premium themes that offer many features – most of which you probably don’t use or need – and unnecessarily load too many scripts and styles, lightweight themes come with only the basic features that you need, making them faster than premium themes.

You can use various free plugins to optimize your site speed but you won’t see results if your theme is not fast to begin with. WPDean has gathered a great selection of the fastest themes out there, so be sure to check those out.

3. Reduce Image File Sizes

Images take up a lot of space in your wp-content folder and consequently lower your site speed. That’s why it is always a good idea to compress all your images.

Plugins like EWWW Image Optimizer and Compress JPEG & PNG Images reduce image file size without losing too much quality. For example, the latter plugin compresses image file sizes by 40-60 percent for JPEGs and 50-80 percent for PNGs without a visible loss in quality.

4. Add Lazy Load to Images

Lazy Load is a tool that can drastically speed up any image heavy site. What it essentially does is force images to load only when they are in a reader’s view, so above the fold. For example, if you were to see an entire post on a single page, the first few images within your view will load and the rest will load as you scroll down the page.

Ready to implement it? Here are a few popular versions that’ll get the job done with minimal effort from your part:

  • Lazy Load: Straightforward and easy to use. Just install, activate and you’re good to go. A no-brainer for anyone’s site.
  • Rocket Lazy Load: A lightweight plugin with a tiny script (less than 2 KB!).
  • Unveil Lazy Load: More lightweight than Rocket Lazy Load with an even smaller script (0.5 KB).
  • Image Lazy Load: More lightweight version of Lazy load. It does give you more options and has settings for lazy loading images on mobile.

5. Use a Caching Plugin

Caching is arguably the best way to speed up your site and improve performance. Let’s look at how it works.

A cache is a place where data is temporarily stored. So when you visit a website for the first time, your browser caches active data to quicken the loading speed. When you later revisit the site, your browser will have a large portion of the site’s files stored within its cache, meaning the site will load faster since your browser doesn’t need to collect many files.

What caching plugins do is save an HTML copy of a website for a specific time period. The plugin then serves these files from the cache (as opposed to getting the server to process it).

WP Super Cache (free), W3 Total Cache and WP Rocket are three recommended plugins to do so.

6. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

CDNs enable you to host images off your server in order to decrease your image load times. They are also helpful in storage and potential migration of your site to a new host.

What a CDN does is store requested files – cached static content – close to a visitor’s geographic location. So if your website is hosted in the United States, and a user accesses your site in Chicago, they may receive your site images from a data center in Illinois. Similarly, even with your site being hosted in the US, if a user in London accesses your site, they may receive your images from a data center within the UK. In this way, transfer times, hops and other processing parameters are decreased, resulting in a much faster site.

Amazon Cloudfront, MaxCDN and CloudFlare are among the best CDN services you can use.

7. Minify JS and CSS files

You site has numerous HTML, CSS and JavaScript files to load. Those files are written by humans, to be read by humans, so they include extra blank spaces, characters, comments and formatting that servers do not need. You therefore need to clean them up so servers can read them quickly.

You can use CSS Minifier and JavaScript Minifier – both are free online tools –  to remove the unnecessary spacing, lines, comments and formatting. Simply copy and paste the code you want to minify and you’ll receive a minified version to paste back into your site.

There are quite a few reliable plugins that do not require you to tamper with the settings. Better WordPress Minify, WP Super Minify and AssetsMinify are free plugins that’ll do the job for you.

8. Clean up Your WP Database

Your database hoards a lot of data: from inactive plugins to revisions to spam and trashed comments. Getting rid of this unnecessary data can greatly reduce the size of your database and consequently speed up your site and improve performance.

WP-Sweep is by far the most popular and effective plugin for cleaning up a WordPress database. It is also quite straightforward to use. Once activated, go to Tools > Sweep and the plugin will begin analyzing your database. It will provide a report of different sections/components of your site that need to be cleaned. You have the option of cleaning individual items or sweeping everything up at once.

9. Optimize Your Homepage

Your homepage is arguably the most important part of your site since it serves as the main landing page. And optimizing it to load faster doesn’t require much effort on your part. Here are a few things you can do to increase the loading speed of your homepage:

  • Limit the number of posts on the page
  • Don’t show full posts; show excerpts instead
  • Sharing widgets (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. share buttons) should only be included in posts
  • Remove inactive plugins and widgets
  • Remove all other unnecessary content and elements from the page

The rule of thumb is to keep your homepage as clean and minimal as possible. It will look good and load faster as well.

10. Deactivate Hotlinking

You may unfortunately be victim to content leeching or theft: other sites may be serving images from your site instead of uploading them on their own servers. In doing so, they steal your bandwidth and you don’t benefit from any of the traffic they generate. This is called hotlinking.

The good news is that you can prevent this by adding some code to your .htaccess file. This article from JavaScript Kit takes you through the steps on how to get it done.

Wrapping Up

Speeding up your WordPress site can provide tremendous benefits. That being said, speed isn’t everything. You shouldn’t allow it to compromise other aspects of user experience, aesthetics, and most importantly, your business goals. Evaluate where site speed fits into your overall site and business goals and implement the above recommendations accordingly.

We would love to know your site speed and performance improvement methods, goals and ideas. Let us know in the comments below!

Arnaud, a foodie from Bruges, Belgium, is the editor for the Semper Plugins blog. He also manages the translation teams for All in One SEO Pack (over 58 languages!).

62 comments on “10 Ways to Speed up Your WordPress Site
  1. Oka says:

    Thanks a lot!

  2. Emenike Emmanuel says:

    Hello Broes,

    Thanks for sharing. Speed is an advantage to your success as an online entrepreneur.

  3. Karen Denise says:

    Helpful, thanks a lot!

  4. Charles says:

    Thank you..

  5. June says:

    Could you check my website please?

  6. Rabia Rani says:

    Thanks for this useful information.

  7. IT eKattor says:

    Helpful, Thanks for sharing.

  8. Arga Eryzal says:

    Awesome tips, gonna try this. Thanks for your tips 🙂

  9. Noel Mades says:

    A lot of informations I’ve found here. Thanks a lot.

  10. gunter says:

    Hello Arnaud
    Could you check http://www.eucmh.com and then contact me please ?
    Thanks
    Gunter

    • Arnaud Broes says:

      Hi Gunter
      You should talk to your hosting agency.
      We can’t help you with loading times.
      Arnaud

    • You have a great-looking site.

      I think the site needs improvement in:

      1. Loading time. The problem lies in the amount of high-resolution image files. There are more than 30 image files about 100kb – 600kb. They of course slow down the loading time. You could compress the .jpg files by using compressjpeg.com. Just upload your files and select the desired quality. The file size will decrease significantly without losing image quality visually.

      2. You are eager to show everything in the sidebar, making it look crowded.
      – You can move some of the links in the sidebar to navigation and footer.
      – You can move login, register, translate EUCMH to the top menu.
      – You can use the Twitter widget to accomodate Tweets.
      – Rather than showing all Pinterest thumbnails in the sidebar, use a link to your Pinterest (social media plugin).
      – Reduce the tag cloud link , because the more links on a page, the more they becom a burden by just moving the mouse.
      – Reduce a lot of links, only show the important things so that your banner ads look more prominent.

  11. Gary says:

    Great tips… thank you.

  12. Vedz says:

    Hi Arnaud,
    This information is very useful but i have a question in my mind.

    I installed W3 Cache into my tech blog techhuntz.com after apply some setting my blog was deleted.

    Is any cache plugin is good for any website?

    • Arnaud Broes says:

      Hi Vedz

      I haven’t had any issues with this plugin in the past. In any case, caching plugins can be helpful to speed up your site’s performance.
      I do recommend that you always try new plugins and commit changes to a development version of your site, and not the live one.
      That way you can experiment all the way you want and do not break your live site when causing a fatal error.

      Kind regards

      Arnaud

  13. martin says:

    Thanks, Pingdom is a great tip.

  14. graham says:

    Thanks for the information about website speed problems. I use siteorigin page builder on my website. This uses lots of widgets on each page. Does using a page builder to build website pages affect the display time?

    • Yes, these page builders can severely affect the performance of a site. You can test this by comparing a copy of your site that is running no page builders and a basic theme such as the default Twenty Sixteen theme to your live site and see if there’s a difference in page speed.

    • Pat Bell says:

      You don’t have to use all the widgets. Imo SO pagebuilder is a great asset in building pages, so much quicker than faffing around with the complex CSS I’d need to do the same. I have just optimised several sites and the main slug was Jetpack, even with no widgets activated, just to WordPress.com connection was enough to give frequent error 500s. Removed it and I haven’t had one since.

  15. Buy, Hold Long says:

    Oh nice one, these tips should help me speed up my site. Thanks for that.

  16. Faisal Zamir says:

    Thanks for sharing these great tips.

  17. Eyu Clifford says:

    You are right, but why are some websites fast and others slow?

    • Arnaud Broes says:

      Site speed mainly depends on the amount of content that has to be loaded, the amount of traffic (visitors) the site has to process and the performance of the webserver (webhost).

  18. Jerry Peri says:

    Thanks a lot for the useful information, will sure benefit from it!

  19. Patrik says:

    Thanks a lot, will use most of your advice. Will be needed on my website.

  20. Seng Rean Sey says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing. I hope I can now improve my site speed.

  21. Granit aŞ says:

    Peki bu eklentiyi sizdenmi satın alacagız yardımcı olurmusunuz?

  22. Andreas Kramers says:

    Hey Arnaud, nice post. I especially like the hotlinking tip.
    As for caching plugins, WP Rocket is by far the easiest to configure and imho the fastest caching plugin. Boosts any WP installation with at least 30%.

    Keep it up!

  23. Afa says:

    The article was a big help, just implemented some of your recommendations. Thank you.

  24. Janice says:

    Hi Arnaud, lots of great advice. Thank you. I’m using Jetpack with WordPress. After enabling everything and adding the proper plug-ins, my Google page speed came back with an 88 and one thing to fix. What do I do with “eliminate render blocking Javascript and CSS above the fold”? Is there an easy solution without having to deal with code? Thanks again for all your great advice.

    • Hi Janice,

      Assuming you’re referring to the above-the-fold Google Analytics Javascript, you can safely ignore that message. The code is exactly where Google wants it, despite the Google Pagespeed message.

  25. great tips says:

    Thanks for sharing, but you said 10 ways? Where are they?

    • Arnaud Broes says:

      This blog post is paginated. You should click on the next page to find out.

      • great tips says:

        Oops, thanks a lot!
        Is that option of pagination good for SEO?
        What do you recommend ? A pagination post or all content on a single post ?

        • Arnaud Broes says:

          There’s no direct advantage for SEO. The main purpose of paginating posts is to add more structure to your text and enhance the reader’s experience. Important to note is that you have to implement these tags into the HEAD section of your code, otherwise you may actually experience a negative impact on your SEO:

          http://prntscr.com/e16re4

          However, improving the reader’s experience could have an indirect positive impact for your ranking & SEO due to the fact that readers will likely enjoy your content more, browse your site longer and revisit, increasing the popularity of your content which in turns raises your PageRank score.

  26. Tim says:

    Brilliant. Thanks. Less pages next time please. I am reading on a mobile. 🙂

  27. katimbo says:

    But I heard that too many plugins slow down the site.

  28. mike says:

    I like the information, but I want to know more about WordPress usage, what can I do?

  29. Michelle Hoffmann says:

    Thank you! 🙂

  30. BBO Crystal says:

    Like it, thanks!

  31. amit misal says:

    Helpful information for internet marketers like me.

  32. Sanata says:

    Thank you for sharing the information. It is very helpful to us, which requires the above information

  33. Khidir says:

    I have not been so understanding about accelerating performance, could love a more complete article

  34. ANOOP GUPTA says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing articel and helping us for SEO

  35. Pranav says:

    Hey ,

    Great post! Have implemented some of the following on my wp sites and seen instant results!

    Thanks For Sharing..!

  36. Perin says:

    Excellent article!

  37. Amiyo Biswas says:

    Most of my visitors are from Kolkata, India. Is there any site where I can the loading speed of our web site from Kolkata or India?

  38. Jack Venturi says:

    Hello Mike & Steve,

    Great Blog Post! I have my website hosted with WP Engine which also includes Max CDN. That is a quick way to speed up any website in itself. I also use the WP Rocket plug-in which does a real nice job also. My SEO plug-in is All in One SEO Pro which works like a charm and had very noticeably increased my rankings over the Yoast plug-in I was using at the time over two years ago. Thanks for the great product and especially the excellent tech support, I really appreciate it.

    • Arnaud Broes says:

      Hi Jack
      We appreciate your compliments as well and we hope you’ll continue enjoying All in One SEO Pack in the future!
      Arnaud

  39. Manoj says:

    Hi Arnaud,

    Excellent writing. Website speed is the key factor of successful blogging. We should use a simple, lightweight theme and less number of plugins on the site.

    I am familiar about some of the mentioned plugins and a few are new to me. Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge.

    Wish you all the best.

  40. Curtis The Mentalist says:

    Great info! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and expertise. With the short attention span that people seem to have these days, and being a self-employed individual, my website does a lot for me and speed is very important. Plus, I manage and do all of my own web stuff and making it simple for non-techies like me is something I’m very thankful for.

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