This post is part of my guide about how to start a blog. Read the full guide to learn all the steps involved in creating a blog from scratch.
A fast website is essential to your success. Just an additional second added to the page loading time can make a tremendous difference between getting a customer and losing a potential customer.
If your site takes too much to load, many people will just close the tab in their web browser and never come back.
- Slower Site, Less Customers
- A Slow Site Affects SEO
- How To Measure Website Speed
- WordPress Speed
- How To Speed Up WordPress
- 1. Web Hosting
- 2. Use a Caching Plugin
- 3. Use a CDN (content delivery network)
- 4. Clean WordPress Database
- 5. Choose your WordPress theme wisely
- 6. Reduce the number of plugins
- 7. Optimize images
- 8. Minify and Combine Assets
- 9. Remove Unwanted Links & Scripts From <HEAD>
Slower Site, Less Customers
According to a study conducted in 2009 by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Akamai.com, has concluded that the most e-commerce users were expecting for a page to load in about 2 seconds and 40% of the visitors will wait no more than three seconds before abandoning the website.
This study has also highlighted that the speed of your website is an essential factor in a consumer’s loyalty. A 79% of the online customers who experience a dissatisfying website visit are less likely to buy from the same site again and 27% are even less likely to buy from the same site’s physical store.
Even though this study is pretty old now and these numbers might have changed a lot in 2017, the results should give you a better understanding why the site speed is so important.
A slow site will also hurt your brand.
If a visitor interrupts his session because your site’s pages load too slow, that’s a poor user experience.
Not only that it’s very likely that that person won’t revisit your site in the future, but it’s very probable to question the quality of all your services based on his initial experience and even share his opinions with friends, on his blog or public forums.
Even if you sell physical products, if someone first finds your website but is not able to access it because it is loading too slow, that can certainly hurt your reputation even though your products might be exceptional.
For that person, the visit to your site represents the initial interaction with your business. If this first contact is not satisfactory, he will simply go to your competitors.
A Slow Site Affects SEO
A slow website can also increase the time needed for the search engines to index your site’s pages and can limit the number of pages visited by crawlers.
Here’s a response from one of Google’s employees on a thread of Google’s Webmaster Central Help Forum to the question of someone who had issues with the “Fetch as Google” function of Google Console.
Besides the indexing issues, the mobile site speed has also become a ranking factor for Google in its mobile index.
Due to a high visitor abandonment rate, the bounce rate of your site will increase as well.
The bounce rate is another metric used by Google and other search engines to determine the quality of your site’s content by tracking the time someone spends on your site since has found the website in the search results.
How To Measure Website Speed
Even though your site might seem to load fast when you access it, it may be slow for others.
The further the location of your web hosting server is from the visitor’s country, the longer it will take for your site to load for that person.
If you only target the people from your local area, you shouldn’t have this kind of problems, but if you focus on an international market, then you should also take in consideration the speed of your site for all your visitors.
There are many services and tools for testing the speed of your site.
A few of the services I use are:
Some of these sites allow you to test the speed of your website when is accessed from various locations across the world and some even let you test the speed on several web browser and devices.
While it’s not easy to achieve a perfect speed score, it’s achievable.
I was able to achieve a perfect A:100 score on Pingdom for the front page of my site using the optimization techniques listed in this article.
Note that you will get different results with different services, and each page will have its own score. Also, I’ve also had to exclude the Google Analytics code and Google fonts for achieving this perfect score (I’ve added these back after I took the screenshot).
Do not make too many compromises concerning the user experience to only achieve a few extra points to the speed tests. The scores assigned by these services are purely indicative, but the optimization tips are very useful.
WordPress was designed to be a blogging platform, and even though the features added to the core script have multiplied with time and has become more a content management system, it’s still lightweight compared to other similar software.
Out of the box, the speed performance of WordPress is decent, but once our websites start to get more widgets, menus, and all kind of features added by themes and plugins, WordPress speed and performance drops significantly, and our sites require additional attention.
Fortunately, there are certain things we can do to improve WordPress speed without being a programmer, and that’s exactly what I’ll cover further in this article.
How To Speed Up WordPress
There are many WordPress and Non-WordPress factors that can influence the speed of your website.
1. Web Hosting
The web hosting is probably the most important aspect of your site.
If your site is hosted on an overcrowded web server, or a server with a very poor configuration, there’s nothing you can do, except changing your web hosting provider or plan.
Many web hosting providers just stack too many sites on the same server for making more money. That’s usually the case with the new companies that offer shared web hosting at extraordinarily low prices.
Most of these companies typically are just resellers who rent their servers from the big hosting companies and host as many sites as possible on the same servers to make a more significant profit.
I never buy hosting from the new and small companies regardless how low their prices are.
Also, never host your website on a free hosting plan (you will thank me later).
Two crucial features for increasing the speed of your site that your hosting plan should include are PHP 7+ and HTTP/2.
PHP is a server scripting language, and WordPress is built upon this programming language.
While all the web hosting plans include PHP, not all the plans include PHP 7+.
PHP 7+ is the newest version of PHP. It’s more efficient, better optimized than the previous PHP versions, can reduce your site’s resource consumption and will make your site faster.
HTTP/2 is a major update of the HTTP/1 network protocol used by the World Wide Web. This HTTP protocol is more secure than its predecessor and significantly faster.
The company I recommend for web hosting and which include both PHP7+ and HTTP/2 for all the hosting plans, is Siteground. Siteground is one of the best hosting providers and has some very affordable shared hosting plans.
Besides that, Siteground’s web hosting plans also include a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate, free daily backup, and more.
I don’t want to get into details about every aspect you should take into consideration when you choose your web hosting provider because I have already covered this topic in detail in my guide on how to choose web hosting.
2. Use a Caching Plugin
WordPress is a software that relies heavily on a database for storing and displaying the site content. When we overload our site with too many plugins, or if we choose a theme that’s not well coded and optimized, that will result in a WordPress site that loads very slow and which consume many resources from our web hosting plan.
Fortunately, you can optimize the WordPress speed and resource consumption with the help of a caching plugin.
Even though this solution is available to everyone, many people don’t use a caching plugin for speeding up their WordPress site. And I don’t blame them.
Not all site owners are programmers or have technical knowledge about web servers and sites and some people just think the caching plugins are too hard to configure.
When I first discovered WordPress, I didn’t even know what “cache” means (that was about ten years ago).
If you are interested in using W3 Total Cache, read my guide on how to configure W3 Total Cache settings.
3. Use a CDN (content delivery network)
A content delivery network will deliver your site’s static files and caches from the web server that is closest to the location of your website visitors. This will not only improve the speed of your WordPress site but will also help you to reduce the bills for your web hosting by lowering the resources consumed by your site.
Besides the benefits already mentioned, a CDN will also add a few additional security benefits to your site. For example, I use KeyCDN, and I’ve received a free SSL certificate, hotlink protection, bot protection, DDoS protection and a few other features.
Most of my posts contain a high number of images. The WordPress SEO tutorial includes approximately 70 images and all are loading very fast thanks to KeyCDN.
If you are interested in using KeyCDN, read my guide on how to set up KeyCDN for WordPress.
A content delivery network has its web servers especially optimized for delivering the content very fast, and the majority of world’s most famous websites utilize CDN services for their static content distribution.
4. Clean WordPress Database
The database of WordPress will often get filled with post revisions, drafts, spam/trashed comments, pingbacks, trackbacks and expired transient options.
The number of this useless data can increase quickly, and with that, the size of your database. Over time, it will lead to a decrease in the performance of your WordPress website, your site will become slower and will consume more resources from your web hosting plan.
Here’s a screenshot of what my website has managed to collect in approximately 30 days.
As you can see, there is a lot of worthless data. And all that has been gathered only in about 30 days. Imagine how these numbers would look in a year or two of not optimizing the database of your WordPress site.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a programmer or web server guru to be able to clean WordPress database. There is already a plugin for that called WP-Optimize.
WP-Optimize is free, easy to use and it will save you from a lot of headaches.
Just install this plugin, then go to the “WP-Optimize” menu, select what data you want to delete and click the “Run Optimization” button.
The plugin will do the heavy lifting and clean the database of your WordPress site.
WP-Optimize also has a feature that enables the plugin to do a scheduled clean-up.
I don’t use this option, but I prefer to periodically run the manual optimization process.
5. Choose your WordPress theme wisely
One common reason for a slow WordPress site is the theme.
People tend to choose a WordPress theme that will suit all the possible scenarios.
What if I will need a portfolio at a later time? How about testimonials? But what if I’ll also need a blog, a photo gallery and a contact page?
The problem is that too many people start their website without a clear objective in mind. They want a WordPress theme that can cover any possible future need, without knowing that a WordPress theme loaded with too many features is very likely also to slow down their site.
Instead of choosing a theme that does it all, just focus on finding a theme that covers your primary needs.
Another popular mistake is that too many people want their website to be the best-looking site ever. They are looking for a theme with the fanciest slider, a hundred of loading effects on page load, and so on.
I recommend you to choose a theme which was mainly designed for your niche, instead of selecting a Multi-Purpose WordPress theme that’s advertised as an “all-in-one solution” for all the sites.
Instead of focusing on the design, I’ve focused mainly on the functionality and on the primary purpose of the theme, that of being a WordPress theme for blogging.
6. Reduce the number of plugins
The WordPress plugins are great, and there’s no reason for not using plugins to add the needed functionality to your site.
However, some people just exaggerate and install all the plugins they find. Their WordPress websites become then very slow, consume a lot of resources from their web hosting plan, and they usually blame WordPress for that.
The number of the plugins you use is not very relevant concerning the speed of your site. A single plugin that’s not well optimized can slow down your site more than 100 plugins.
Instead of installing every plugin you find, try to imitate yourself by using as fewer plugins as possible. I usually use around ten plugins for my sites on average, and I’ve never used more than 20 plugins for a single WordPress installation.
Check my post about the WordPress plugins I use the most for my sites.
I also wrote an article exclusively about WordPress plugins. So, if you want to know more about what are the plugins, how to choose and how to install a WordPress plugin, read the post.
7. Optimize images
One of the WordPress speed optimizations which is often overlooked by many people is the images optimization.
It’s not enough to use a caching plugin and a CDN if your posts include hundred of unoptimized images that add up a few mega to the size of your pages.
Some of my posts have many images. My tutorial about WordPress SEO and how to configure the Yoast SEO plugin has close to 70 images, but the total page size is only 1.69 MB, where the size of the images is 1.51 MB. That’s not bad at all for approximately 70 images.
Most of the images can be compressed and optimized without losing too much of their original quality. In fact, the difference is not even notable most of the times.
Fortunately, there is also an easy way to optimize your site’s images without editing the photos one by one when you use WordPress.
My secret is Optimus, a free WordPress plugin that compresses the images uploaded using WordPress Media Manager.
There are more WordPress plugins that can optimize your images. I chose Optimus because this plugin can also optimize the images already uploaded to your Media Library.
The only downside of this plugin is that with the free version you can only optimize images under 100kbs. The premium version (Optimus HQ) costs about $19 per year (at the time I write this post), which is very affordable.
However, since the majority of my images are already under 100kbs, I still use the free version of Optimus. I manually optimize the images over this size using this free online image compression service.
That site only works for .png images, but there are also alternatives for .jpg, .jpeg, or other image formats.
I like Compresspng.com because the image optimization can be taken very by specifying the number of colors an image can have.
To use this site, just upload one or more images and these will be automatically compressed (usually by 60% or more).
If you want your images to be even smaller, you can click on every image and set the maximum number of colors that image can have (fewer colors, smaller size). This feature is usually helpful for the black and white screenshots, or photos with a low number of colors.
Once you are happy with the result in the preview, click “Apply“, and download the image by clicking the “Download” button.
8. Minify and Combine Assets
Don’t worry. You won’t have to do this manually.
There are WordPress plugins designed especially for this purpose. For some of my sites, I used Autoptimize and it’s very good and easy to use.
By minifying your site’s assets, it will be reduced the size of the files that need to be loaded once with a page. The whitespaces and the comments will also be removed from the code since these are only useful for developers.
The benefit of combining the files is that multiple files will be loaded with a single HTTP request (I know, I know, technical stuff).
Besides becoming faster, your website will also consume less bandwidth.
9. Remove Unwanted Links & Scripts From <HEAD>
The WordPress development team has added more features to the core script with every release. That’s a good thing, and most of these features are very handy.
However, sometimes, there have been added some features that should not have been included in the main script, but remain as plugins.
Unfortunately, you cannot disable the Emoji from the WordPress options.
Besides the Emoji, WordPress still includes in the <HEAD> section of every page some worthless links or some .xml files designed for outdated services that no one uses anymore.
A few example:
- Support for Windows Live Writer
- Support for Really Simple Discovery (RSD)
- Displays the short link to a post
- The WordPress generator meta
- RSS Feed links
These won’t probably slow down your site very much, but you should keep your page code as lightweight as possible. The less code, the faster your page will be rendered by the web browsers and processed by the crawlers of the search engines.
To remove these, you can add a piece of PHP code to your functions.php file, but if you don’t use a child theme, the changes will be overwritten when you update your theme.
To avoid this and since this post is designed for the people who are not programmers, you can use the Remove Links and Scripts plugin.
This plugin allows you to choose what you want to remove and what you want to keep in the head section. It’s very likely that you will never need any of the features this plugin can disable, so you can just remove all the services the plugin allows you.
The speed of your site does matter. A slow site will hurt your traffic, SEO, conversions, and brand.
Fortunately, it’s not very hard to optimize a site that runs on WordPress. With a few plugins, a quality web hosting, and a CDN, your website can become much faster and will consume fewer resources from its hosting plan.
Now that you know how to speed up WordPress, it’s time to put everything you’ve learned into practice and make your site super fast.