Improving your site speed is something you should care about the most during a technical audit. Generally, many users around the world prefer to browse websites that have better page loading speed.
Increasing the speed of a website starts with your WordPress web hosting. It’s not much different than the procedure used for optimizing a site hosted on a shared or a dedicated server.
In this article, we’ll explain what you can do to boost site performance and how you can optimize your site speed. We will also look at how you can diagnose problems that slow down your website and fix them.
So let’s get started.
Why Should You Speed Up WordPress Site?
The biggest problem with having a slow site is that your users will often lose patience and leave. This negatively affects your bounce rate which indicates the number of visitors clicking away after seeing only one page of your site.
Nearly half of users expect sites to load in two seconds or less and 40% will leave a site if it hasn’t loaded completely within three seconds. Also, a delay of even one second can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions.
Those numbers might be startling for some, but they help demonstrate the importance of maintaining a reliable, fast website. If lost traffic & conversions aren’t convincing enough, you should also consider your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Speed is one of the biggest factors that Google considers the most, so slow pages can lead to a drop in your search rankings.
Finally, you will also want to be aware of the effects of your website speed across platforms. Over the past few years, more people have been using smartphones to browse the Internet than desktop computers. In order to engage new users to your site, it’s important to speed up your WordPress site.
How to Test the Loading Time of Your Site?
First, you will need to analyze the current load time for your site which is the number of seconds your site takes to load a page. Keep in mind that this speed may vary from page to page, as it depends upon various factors, namely:
- How many requests it generates
- The size of that particular page
- Whether it’s cached or not
- And lastly, what sort of content (static or dynamic) it hosts
The homepage of any site is usually used as a benchmark to test the load time. To check the speed of a site, you can use free tools such as WebPageTest.
Now let’s explore 10 ways to speed up your WordPress site.
Ways to Speed Up Your WordPress Site
Choose a Better Web Hosting Provider
One of the major factors that influence a site’s speed is the hosting of your WordPress site. It might seem like a good idea to host your new site on a shared hosting provider that offers unlimited bandwidth, emails, space, etc.
However, we usually miss out on this offer because shared hosting environments usually fail to deliver good loading times at peak traffic hours, and most fail to provide 99% uptime in any given month.
Shared hosting has poorer performance because you’re sharing the same service space with countless other sites, and there’s no one telling how much resources others are using. Also, you don’t know how well the servers are optimized.
Gratefully, the web-hosting industry has advanced with technology, and the price of cloud hosting providers have decreased with time. You can easily buy dedicated cloud servers from sites like DigitalOcean and Amazon Web Services at a nominal price.
Use a Lightweight WordPress Framework/Theme
WordPress themes with many dynamic elements, widgets, sliders, social icons & many more such shiny elements are immensely appealing to the eye. But remember one thing: if a WordPress theme has too many elements and higher page-sized, then it will cause your web server to take a thump.
The best alternative is to use lightweight themes. One such solution is to go for the default WordPress themes. Or if you want a feature-rich site, you can also go for a theme that uses a good framework like Foundation or Bootstrap.
Reduce Image Sizes
Images are one of the major contributors to the size increment of your webpage. The trick to increasing your page speed is to reduce the images’ size without compromising the quality.
If you manually optimize the images using Photoshop or Chrome PageSpeed Insights extension or any other online tools, the process will consume a lot of your time.
Minify JS and CSS Files
If you run your site through the Google PageSpeed Insight tool, you’ll probably be notified about minimizing your JS & CSS files’ size. This means that by reducing the number of JS & CSS calls and those files’ size, you can enhance the website loading speed.
There are some famous plugins that you can use to minify your CSS and JS files – like the Autoptimize plugin that helps in optimizing JS, CSS, and even HTML of your WordPress site.
Use Advanced Caching Mechanisms with a Caching Plugin
WordPress Caching plugins, like W3 Total Cache, have been there for a long time. They help make the complex tasks of adding caching rules to your site elements easier.
Merging such plugins with advanced caching mechanisms like Varnish could help you better your site loading speed & ultimately speed up WordPress considerably.
Use a CDN
Your site may have a lot of visitors from all around the world. Needless to say, the site-loading speed will vary if the visitors are located far away from where your website is hosted. There are various CDN (Content Delivery Networks) available to keep the website loading speed to a minimum for visitors from different countries.
What CDN does is keeping a copy of your site in various data centers located in different places. The major function is to serve the web page to a visitor from the nearest possible location. The most important CDN services used worldwide are Cloudflare and MaxCDN.
Enable GZIP Compression
Compressing files on your local PC can save a lot of disk space. Similarly, for a web page, we can use GZIP compression to compress your site files. In this way, you can dramatically reduce the bandwidth usage & the time it takes to gain access to your site.
GZIP compresses different files so that whenever a visitor tries to access your site, their browser will first need to unzip the site. This procedure brings down bandwidth usage to a considerable extent. You can use various plugins like PageSpeed Ninja to enable GZIP compression.
Deactivate or Uninstall Plugins
Keeping unwanted plugins and data on your WordPress sites will add a tremendous amount of junk to your web files. Plus, it’ll also increase the size of your backup & put an overwhelming amount of load on your server resources while backup files are being generated.
So it’s better to get rid of plugins you don’t use & try to look for alternative methods. You can also use third-party services to automate or schedule tasks.
Keep External Scripts to a Minimum
The usage of external scripts on WordPress web pages adds a large amount of data to your total loading time.
So it’s best to use a low number of scripts, including only the essentials such as commenting systems (like Disqus) or some tracking tools (like Google Analytics).
Disable Pingbacks and Trackbacks
Pingbacks & trackbacks are two core WordPress components that alert you whenever your page or blog receives a link. It might seem useful, but you also have other choices, such as Google Webmaster tools & other services, to check your site’s links.
Keeping trackbacks and pingbacks on can also put an undesirable amount of strain on your server resources. Because whenever anyone tries to link to your website, it generates requests from WordPress back & forth.
You can turn it off by going to WP Admin > Settings > Discussions. Just deselect “Allow link notifications from other blogs (trackbacks and pingbacks)”. This will help you in speeding up your WordPress site significantly.
The biggest advantage of lowering your site loading time is that it helps a lot in improving visitors’ experience. Optimizing your site’s speed can also improve your rankings in the SERPs.
In short, faster website-loading speed on the client-side and reduced bandwidth usage of your hosting will benefit you both in the short and long run.