How to Speed up WordPress Website – Speed Optimization Guide

For a WordPress website owner, learning how to speed it up is an essential skill.

You may ask why and to answer it briefly, a speed-optimized website not only increases user satisfaction but also increases customer acquisition and conversion rate and eventually leads to an increase in revenue.

For all these reasons, I have put together a guide on how to speed up WordPress
Let’s jump into all the best ways to load your website faster!

Why Speed Matters?

Before getting into how to speed up your WordPress website, the important question is, Why does speed matter?

You would think as long as it feels fast, it would be fast. Well, certainly that’s not what statistics say.

Slow Speed Apalls Visitors

Here are some statistics that might surprise you!

Human Attention Span decreased in the last decade.

How does all this matter to you as a website owner? 

Due to this, you now have a very little to no time to let your users wait. It is important to load your content faster and put forward to your audience before they abandon you and never look back.

53% Mobile Visits are abandoned if load time greater than 3 seconds
  • Users feel a 26% Increase in frustration after waiting 500ms at critical points in transactions.

These figures may not sound a lot in just abstract numbers, but they definitely have consequences in reality. 

For example, Mozilla experienced 60 million additional downloads per year for their Firefox browser, after they made their page-load 2.2 seconds faster.

Speed is a Ranking Signal on Google

Google officially recognizes site speed as a ranking signal in Desktop and Mobile searches. 

Google gives extra points to faster loading websites, as it helps them in the long run.

A faster speed not only retains your customers but also increases the chances of ranking on SERPs (Search Engine Results Page).

Losing out on organic traffic is a big NO-NO in terms of any type of marketing, let alone something as big as Google’s organic traffic.
And if you’re someone with whose main traffic source is SEO, you need to have a fast website.

What Affects Page Loading Speed?

A website speed report can be overwhelming a non-technical person, especially with all the technical jargon making fun of you.

There has to be a basic foundation of what affects page loading speed; yeah there are multiple factors but one has to know the most important ones to weed out the ones built upon it.

Primary and most basic causes of a slow WordPress website are :

  • Web Hosting
  • WordPress and Server Configuration
  • Theme and Page Size
  • Resource heavy plugins and elements

How to test your WordPress Site Speed?

Before letting you know the way to WordPress speed optimization, it is better to have an initial result to compare and check all your efforts towards optimizing a website. 

Use these tools for your betterment.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Based on Lighthouse by Google, PageSpeed Insights gives a lot of detailed information about how your website behaves and gives a definite audit for the same. 

But this tool definitely is not very ‘non-tech savvy’ friendly.

Google PageSpeed Insights Test

Here’s a screenshot from one of our previous articles which has a score of 88(Mobile) and 96 (Desktop). 

GTmetrix

GTmetrix Speed Test Tool

GTmetrix is definitely the best tool in the online world for speed optimization. GTmetrix has integrated tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and Yahoo’s YSlow on one single platform.

Adding to it, GTmetrix gives recommendations on where to improve and what to be prioritized.
You can even download a detailed report in PDF format, for free.
Here’s a sample report from GTmetrix I generated recently.

I would recommend you to sign up for an account on GTmetrix and save your website’s initial report and start optimizing your wordpress website!

Ways to Speed Up WordPress

Hosting

Hosting is one of the most important and basic factors for website speed. 

Invest in Quality and Reliable Hosting

A good quality hosting provides you all the resources you need to have a fast website. 

Since hosting is one of the most important factors, spending time and researching for a good web host is a necessary task.

For someone with a good budget, a Dedicated Server or a VPS is recommended.
But the problem with these is that you have to be either tech-savvy to handle it or need to hire an IT Guy (generally).

If all of this sounds like a headache, Managed WordPress Hosting is recommended. Doing so means your website will be hosted on servers that are specially optimized for WordPress and you don’t have to fret about how to manage all the technical part. I recently reviewed VapourHost which falls under the same category.

Also, it is recommended to only go for a Shared Hosting if they have a Zero Tolerance policy against spammers. If a company happens to allow spammers on their servers, your website will be doomed because of the bad neighbour effect.

Adding to this, server location is also important as, the closer the web hosting server, the faster your website will be fetched and will be loaded. 

Use a Lightweight Theme

Once you’ve decided where to host your website, selecting a theme for your domain becomes a new task.

And browsing through thousands of themes on a marketplace like ThemeForest, you’ll start loving the themes with thousands of features.
Unfortunately, in the real world, you don’t need thousands of features that you may or may not use. These unused features hog up the resources anyway and end up resulting in a slow website.

Solution? Use a really lightweight and basic theme like GeneratePress or Astra and build up a fancy website on it using additional plugins. This makes the website way faster and modular. 

Keep WordPress up-to-date

As the title suggests, it is recommended to keep your WordPress updated all the time. Not only it’s helpful for security and new features, but the latest version is compatible with the newer web technology. 

Adding to this, it is best if your server is on the latest version of PHP(either 7.2 or 7.3).
Here’s a benchmark test by Kinsta, which concludes it is best to have your website running on PHP 7.2 or 7.3.

Reduce Irrelevant and Heavy Plugins

It’s not surprising that many people have filled up their WordPress website with just pure crappy plugins that have no relevance at all or maybe are just resource-heavy plugin.

Resource heavy plugins can be something which has loads of animations and requests leading up to a way too slower website. 

Plugins like JetPack, Google Analytics Dashboard are one of the examples. As a website owner, you don’t need your traffic reports on your WordPress dashboard and parallelly also being the reasons why your website loads slow.

Don’t do that mistake, it’s way too costly to ignore. For such tools, you’re better off with Google Analytics itself and not some resource-hungry plugins.

Here are some plugin recommendations

SocialWarfare – One of the fastest (if not the fastest) social sharing plugin in the industry. It’s light and deserves all the appreciation.

Gutenberg – This is WordPress’ site builder plugin which may not have as many features as Elementor or Beaver Builder, but it certainly does a similar job at better page load times. 

Page Caching

After building up a website, this has to be one of the most effective and important steps in increasing speed.

Using a good caching plugin can speed up your website by 2-5 times. Here’s a good explanation (in simple English) on how caching works.

Briefly, Caching plugins decreases the number of steps taken to load a webpage, making it load way faster than it normally would.

You can use something like WP Rocket(Paid), WP Super Cache(Free) and W3 Total Cache(Free).
We at the moment are using WP Rocket and we definitely recommend it.

Many good WordPress hosts are built upon LiteSpeed, which has its own LSCache plugin, a free plugin which is as effective as the premium plugins in the market.  

File Minification and GZip Compression

File Minification and GZip Compression are simple yet effective methods which can be achieved through a good Caching plugin. 

File Minification is the process of minifying the irrelevant content/comments in-between your codes which may be useful for a human but certainly isn’t useful for a browser. 
Tons of lines of codes are stripped out of the platform and results in a faster loading website.

It is similar to what we do with Zipping and Archiving bigger folders and files on our computers. 

GZip Compression, compresses the reducible and redundant files to strip down the page size and help the website load faster.

These two functionalities are generally present in any good caching plugin, and no extra plugin is required to perform these two.

Good hosting companies themselves have server-side gzip compression enabled, if not, you can ask them to switch it on. 

Optimize Images

We know visuals make your articles engaging and readability increases. But a page with non-optimized images can do a lot of harm to the speed.

An optimized image can drastically change how your website loads, in fact, non-optimized happen to be one of the biggest reasons to slow down a website.

Well, how to optimize images on WordPress?

Compress Images

One of the go-to solutions is to first compress your images and then only upload them to your storage. Compressing can give a significant performance boost.

Use services like HighCompress, CompressPNG/CompressJPEG, and Compressor.io

If you already have a big media library on your WordPress site, it is recommended to install plugins like HighCompress, WP Smush or EWWW Image Optimizer. These plugins can compress your media library but do remember, they won’t be as compressed as the ones done by the websites I mentioned earlier. 

Lazy Load Images

Lazy Loading is the next step to optimizing your images for loading website a lot faster.

Let me explain what Lazy Load means; Lazy Loading is a method in which your media loads only when it is needed. This prevents them from loading upfront and using resources that might not be even needed. 

This feature can be implemented through any of the caching plugins.

Database Optimization

Over a long period of usage, your database will store data which might not be necessary anymore. 

Unnecessary data from things like uninstalled plugins, post revisions and irrelevant cells in the database.

Regular maintenance of Database can boost up the website speed significantly. This can be done through either caching plugins like WP Rocket or standalone plugins like WP-Sweep.

Server Requests: Reduce them

A server request is every time a browser calls (asks) some type of resource from your server. More the number of server requests, more the loading time of your website. 

To curb this, you can take in a few steps to decrease the number of requests (take in mind that it can never be 0) : 

  • Reducing the number of images and other heavy elements on your page.
  • Enabling lazy load to delay server requests.
  • Reducing heavy fonts and switching to fast loading fonts.

You can find more ways once you use the tools like GTmetrix to understand exactly where you can limit down the server requests.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Remember when we mentioned how the location of your server can affect the loading time of your website on different geographies.
For example, if your server happens to be located in Canada, a visitor from the USA will have a better loading time that someone from let’s say, India. 

This can be tackled by using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). 

Visual Representation of how CDN works, Source

A CDN is a network of geographically dispersed servers which delivers cached content from websites to its end users based on the location of the user.
For starters, CloudFlare is recommended as it provides freemium services. With a good budget, one can try either the premium services by CloudFlare or MaxCDN (which is now owned by StackPath)

Avoid Hosting Audio/Video directly to your WordPress

Yes, you can upload audio and video files on to your WordPress website, but you should never do that.
Not only hosting such heavy media will cost you tons of bandwidth, but they’ll also slow down your website as well.

Rather, prefer using third party video hosting services like YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo and SoundCloud and save your loading time!
You can embed them later on and feel blessed that you took my advice.

Migrate to HTTPS and HTTP/2

In 2019, what’s really important is to have your website to be running on the latest web tech. 

If your website is still on HTTP, it is recommended to migrate it HTTPS and enable HTTP/2. This may not have a significant result, but well, it’s easy to implement and one should always be on the latest web-tech.

Constant Monitoring

Once you have taken care of all the above methods, it is recommended to constantly monitor how well does your website perform. Use a tool like GTmetrix or Pingdom for this.

How fast should your WordPress Website Load?

After going through the whole series of methods and steps, one thing that would definitely come up is, how fast should it load?
Well, Google answered this in a report in 2018.

  • Speed: Average Speed Index
    Best Practice: Under 3 seconds
  • Speed: Average Time to First Byte
    Best Practice: Under 1.3 seconds
  • Optimize: Average Request Count
    Best Practice: Fewer than 30
  • Weight: Average Page Weight Bytes
    Best Practice: Less than 500KB

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