Nowadays, a successful site means a fast site. Loading speed is extremely important to accommodate mobile visitors and also to get higher rankings on Google search results. In this article, you will learn how to optimize your WordPress site for speed in 5 easy steps.
1. Test Your Site Speed
The first thing to do is indeed to get an idea of your current site speed. There are a few free tools that will give you that kind of insight. My favorite is PageSpeed Insight, developed by Google. Since Google is such a huge potential source of traffic for your site, you should pay extra attention to it.
Input your site url on the text field and press the button. PageSpeed Insight will then let you know how fast your website is, on both desktop and mobile devices. Suggested fixes will be displayed.
2. Check Your Server
The first thing to look at when your site isn’t as fast as you’d wish is your web server. Too many website owners host their sites on poor quality hosts, resulting in loss of traffic and credibility.
If your website is small and gets little traffic, you can maintain correct performance on cheap, shared hosting like GoDaddy or 1&1. But if you’re looking for extra performance to handle growing traffic, you need some robust hosting. Managed WordPress hosting or VPS are usually solutions that provide great results on a middle sized WordPress site.
To check your server speed, there’s a great tool called Pingdom. Simply enter your site url and Pingdom will let you know everything about your server performances: general grade, load time, faster than X % of other sites, page size and the number of requests. If your grades are low, you should think about moving your site to a better server.
I’ve listed below my current top 4 web hosting companies for WordPress.
|Name||Pros||Price (Starting at)|
|WP Engine||Managed WordPress Hosting. 100% made for WordPress!||$29/month|
|Vidahost||Great quality, very fast. Hosting CatsWhoCode. Super fast support.||£2.99/month|
|HostGator||WordPress specific hosting. Cheap but still good||$4.99/month|
|Kickassd||High performance SSD hosting for cheap.||$7.99/month|
|InMotion Hosting||Cheap but still good||$4.99/month|
3. Use A Speed-Optimized WordPress Theme
Nowadays, most premium WordPress themes are built with only one thing in mind: a great design. While we all like a site designed with skill, a good design is nothing compared to speed. A mobile visitor doesn’t care about your design. Neither does Google when ranking sites on search result pages.
4. Optimize Your Images Using WP Smush
Images play a big role on every website, and consequently, they represent over 60% of the average byte per content type downloaded when a web page is loaded. Thus, images need extra care if you want your site to be fast and comfortable to browse.
Lucky you, the folks at WPMU Dev have created an amazing plugin called WP Smush, which optimizes your images by reducing their size, with no compromise on the quality. The plugin is available on both free and premium versions. The premium version allows you to process images larger than 2Mb, and bulk optimize your media library.
Once you have installed WP Smush, the first thing to do is to head over your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Media > WP Smush. You can now bulk optimize all the images from your media library. Owners of the premium version can process all images at once, while free users need to process images by bulks of 50. But in any case, you’ll get the job done and your site will be faster with optimized images.
By default, WP Smush will now compress any image uploaded in WordPress media library, so you won’t have to run the “bulk smush” process again in the future.
If you’d like to learn more about image optimization, I invite you to check The definitive guide to optimizing images for the web.
5. Install and Configure The W3 Total Cache plugin
W3 Total cache is a free WordPress plugin that offer tons of caching options to make your site a lot faster. In your quest for a fast website, this plugin is a must-have.
Once you have installed W3 Total Cache, you’ll notice a new dashboard menu named Performance. Here you can access all the caching options. By default, the caching isn’t active so you have to activate it yourself. No worries, nothing complicated even if you’re not familiar with caching in general.
On your WordPress dashboard, go to Performance > General Settings. On this page you can select the type of caching to enable. I suggest that you turn on the following:
- Page Cache
- Database Cache
- Object Cache
- Browser Cache
If you have a CDN, make sure to enable the CDN option and select the correct CDN type. CDNs are also an option to consider when you’re looking for performance and speed.
Once done, click on the Save all settings button. Caching is now active on your site, which should by now be way faster than before.
• Avoid using external plugins such as Facebook’s likebox. Those are generally making a lot of additional requests which slows down your site.
• Don’t use images for something you can do with CSS3 (Backgrounds, buttons, etc)
• If you’re using third party scripts, make sure that they load asynchronously. More info here.
• Use the Lazy Load plugin to only load images that are currently visible on the visitor’s screen.