The fact that the content management system (CMS) runs more than a third of the web says how much of a big deal WordPress is. WordPress still dominates with about 35.2% market share in 2020. Perhaps what makes it tick for most webmasters is its massive community of WordPress developers, a huge selection of plugins, and the largest dedication of optimized themes.
Much as those are great, the myriad options sometimes get in the way of optimal user experiences. Heck, trying to speed up WordPress site with or without plugins can feel like splitting hairs. Overwhelming.
Choosing the best plugins for optimizing WordPress loading speed can feel as overwhelming, not knowing where to begin and which options work as they claim to do.
So, what if you had an in-depth guide to speeding up your WordPress website, detailing what you need to know, do, and where to start—all in one place?
Well, you found it.
This complete WordPress optimization for speed guide is dedicated to helping you increase page loading speed so you can hit your 2020 digital goals.
Why should you speed up WordPress site?
Think about this:
The longer your WordPress page load times, the higher the number of visitors you lose to your faster competitors.
That’s not all:
- If your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load a page, people just click away (Think With Google).
- Since mid-2018, search engines penalize slow websites by ranking them under their faster competitors.
- Google Search and Chrome even plan to label slow sites with a “mark of shame,” which may discourage visitors keen to have an optimal user experience from connecting with you.
- 8 out of 10 people who visit a slow website say they don’t plan to check back again.
- 12 case studies show page speed affects your conversion rate (HubSpot).
- The highest conversion rate happens on sites and pages that take between seconds 0 to 2 to load.
- Reducing page load time by a 0.4 second can increase traffic by 9% (HubSpot).
- Page speed affects how people perceive your site as it is directly related to the top four UX ranking factors.
- If you run a WordPress eCommerce site or online store, know that online buyers are the most impatient.
Takeaway: A slow WordPress website can mean an end to your online business, influencer status, and a ruined reputation to boost.
Optimizing WordPress to increase page speed, on the flip side, can mean you are well on your way to attracting more organic traffic, reduce bounce rates, increase page views, and boost your site income.
So, how to speed up WordPress site and increase your conversion rate?
We’ve organized this WordPress speed optimization guide in snackable chunks so you can bite them easily and take action immediately.
We’ll recommend proven tools, tactics, and tips to WordPress speed optimization which is slow: no unnecessary information, just actionable, straightforward stuff.
Are you in, already?
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Why is My WordPress Site so Slow?
It could be acting up for a bunch of different reasons, such as using:
- A cheap WordPress hosting service that doesn’t optimize for speed
- An outdated WordPress version
- Improperly coded plugins
- Bloated WordPress themes
- And much more, as you’ll see in the next sections below.
Oh, another thing.
E-commerce sites and online stores (dynamic sites) tend to have the most bottlenecks and experience the worst server resource hogging and slow-downs compared to static sites.
Dynamic sites are those that have a lot of activities going on at the same time with multiple components of the website changing every so often, such as hordes of people claiming discounts, browsing a new catalog, and checking out on an eCommerce site.
Static sites, on the other hand, do experience changes but not nearly at the same level as dynamic types.
Your WordPress blog, this website, and many others that don’t experience too many changes—such as constantly updating inventory—are good examples of static websites.
How to Check Your WordPress Website Speed?
Don’t load your own site and conclude the loading time you get is what everyone else gets.
To test for speed, use a top WordPress website page speed tester to experience what a completely new visitor to your site would.
Try the following plugins:
- PageSpeed Insights (by Google)
- Tools.Pingdom.com (also checks for HTTP/HTTPS errors)
- IsItWP website speed test tool
How Fast Should Your Website Load?
Consider this graphic by Cloudflare:
Keep page load speed at under 2 seconds for the best results.
How to Speed up a WordPress Website (Best Practices)
Choose a Quality WordPress Hosting Provider
You can do everything else right but if you choose a slow WordPress hosting service, it’ll all be for nothing.
Your host matters most in terms of the resources a page requests and how fast they are delivered by the host servers to load a web page fully.
You Can Choose to Subscribe to:
- Managed hosting: if you want top-performance at your own terms but prefer an experienced host handle all the technical stuff on your behalf. SiteGround, WP Engine, and Pagely offer WordPress optimized hosting services.
- Virtual private service hosting: If you are a more tech-savvy webmaster who needs uninterrupted performance and control with some savings. Check out Digital Ocean, Vultr, and Linode for decent and affordable VPS hosting
- Shared hosting: if you are looking for budget WordPress hosting and don’t mind sharing server resources with other webmasters, some of whom could bog your site down with their resource-hogging antics. GoDaddy, InMotion Hosting, HostGator, BlueHost, and SiteGround are great options to start with if you want decent uptime results.
Here Are Some Factors to Look Out for When Choosing the Best Hosting Service:
- Should offer WordPress-specific page speed optimizations
- Decent uptime record (95+%)
- Hardware and bandwidth allocation packages
Keep Your WordPress Site Lean and Updated
The average recommended website size is up to 500kb.
Yet, HTTP Archive found the average website size in 2020 was 1.97Mb for desktop and 1.77Mb for mobile. Think you can cut the fluff and only keep the necessary stuff?
Keep your WordPress website up-to-date.
If you haven’t already, download WordPress version 5.3 (or 5.0 and later) to enjoy some of the security patches and page speed benefits it offers for free—and which lack in versions 4.0 and earlier.
Install The Best Plugin To Speed Up WordPress
The average number of website HTTP requests in late 2019 by HTTP Archive
That will help minimize HTTP requests on your site. The fewer they are without compromising performance, the better.
Both ensure your site uses fewer server resources and time to load all that your site visitor requests during a session.
If you want to see how many files you can minimize, switch on Google Chrome.
- Go to Developer Tools
- Right-click on the WordPress page you wish to optimize for speed
- Click on Inspect
- Then on Network (drag Developer Tools sidebar to the left if you can’t see it)
- See all files on the page in the Name tab
- See all file sizes in Size
- See how long it takes to load each file in time
Now, use the WP-Rocket Plugin.
After installing and logging into it, go to Static Files and minify and combine the files you want to.
Then hit Save Changes.
Follow up by reloading the page to see if there are improvements. You can check in Chrome’s Developer Tools to see the changes in action.
Use the Best WordPress Image Optimizer Plugins
Using high-quality images in WordPress can easily slow the site down.
Yet, more site visitors want to see more visual content to stick around.
While you can use some of the best image editing tools to help you compress images for your WordPress optimization needs, there are dedicated WordPress plugins we recommend to help with it.
Don’t Upload Audio/Video Files Directly
Here is the thing:
Video content is the most powerful method to attract, retain, and convert browsers to loyal readers and customers in 2020.
Oberlo found the following:
Site visitors want to see more video content.
Video content reduces bounce rates, which in turn help boost your SEO ranking.
Ultimately, video sells more than any other content type in 2020.
But video is a heavy content type. Uploading it directly to your WordPress site can slow it down by demanding more server resources to load the HTML5.
Instead, embed video using Vimeo or YouTube to speed up WordPress site by letting the two handle the bandwidth and technicals of it all.
Optimize Background Processes
Scheduled updates. Frequent backups. Search engine crawling. These kinds of background processes take up some server grease out of your WordPress machine’s core.
You’ll have to correct these settings manually. Or you can use a full-blown WordPress management service such as Kinsta to flush down any excesses.
Some Manual Tasks You Can Complete Yourself Include:
- Increase PHP workers
- Configure how search engines such as Google’s crawl your website on Google Search Console
- Use MyKinsta tool to find out how many troublesome 404 errors you have so you can lighter pages
- Use WP Control Plugin to control CRON jobs, so repetitive tasks don’t limit your WordPress site’s performance
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN comprises a network of servers (POPs) in data centers located around the world that host a regularly-updated version of your static WordPress site.
The point is to deliver your content, including videos, images, and CSS files, to your visitors faster from a server nearest to them.
Note that a CDN is not the same as your web host. It is an additional investment in speeding up WordPress sites.
Use the Fastest WordPress Theme
As mentioned above, you want to have a website size that’s closest to the Google-recommended 0.5kb size.
While you also want your site to have a feature-rich WordPress theme to look and feel great, opt to keep anything unnecessary to the bare minimum.
If you still want to keep the rich elements such as widgets, sliders, and multiple social buttons, do choose a WordPress theme that uses a good framework such as Foundation or Bootstrap.
Use Top Rated Plugins
Having a bunch of plugins active can actually work against increasing page speed for your WordPress site.
It is worse if the plugins are not themselves optimized for speed, are outdated or are full of bloatware.
But everyone says they have the fastest WordPress plugins. So, where do you start?
The Codecanyon.net plugin store offers a selection of plugins you can use for different categories—from online store plugins to extensions optimized for WordPress.
How to Increase WordPress Website Speed (Advanced Methods)
You can also decide to get a bit techy to speed up WordPress site. Here are some powerful ways to take your page speed optimization to the next level.
You can use the KeyCDN tool to check if your WordPress site is running on HTTP/1.1 or HTTP/2.
The HTTP/2 protocol comes with a flurry of performance-boosting benefits you can upgrade to in a few moments.
The protocol supports HPARK header compression, sending multiple requests on parallel to a TCP connection, and faster-encrypted connections, as well as asset concatenation and domain sharding by default to reduce overhead.
If you can, see how you can reduce external HTTP requests as well. This we recommend asking for help if you are not comfortable engaging in coding work, which can help protect your website from crashing.
Optimize WordPress Database
You can’t afford to clean up your site’s database regularly.
Just like you need a junk files cleaner for your smartphone or computer, your site also accumulates junk you may not see immediately, but whose consequences you can experience in the form of a slow WordPress website.
Tinkering with your WordPress database is not a joke. Deleting stuff, even a single line of code can crash your site.
You can, however, use plugins such as WP-Optimize and WP-DBManager to help you clean out the junk and maintain or boost your site’s speed.
- Reduce Database Calls: You also want to maintain and clean out your WordPress database regularly.
- Limit Post Revisions: Add the following line of code to your wp-config PHP file to set the maximum number of post revisions.
Source: WP Beginner; 4 revision times
Here’s how to locate the wp-config.php file in WordPress.
Again, if you have doubts about what you are doing, ask your web host service or a credible WordPress professional to help you out.
When your site hosts popular images, you may start to notice your bandwidth spiraling out of control if you haven’t disabled hotlinking in WordPress.
Hotlinking refers to when another person takes an image link from your site and embeds it on their site such that the image is using double the bandwidth it would have used if it was just being displayed on a single website.
As more people hotlink the image, your site performance could dwindle. How bad it can get depends on your hosting plan and the host’s capacity.
Disable hotlinking in WordPress by going to WP Security >> Firewall >> Prevent Hotlink >> Prevent Image Hotlinking (check) >> Save Settings.
Use DNS Level Website Firewall
If you already use a WordPress security plugin such as Sucuri, WebARX, and iThemes Security (formerly Best WP Security), you can use them to block out brute force attacks, malware, ransomware, and hacking attempts.
These tools help drive away from anything that can mess up your site’s performance.
Such harmful tactics include introducing a DDOS attack to hinder your site’s performance so you and your users can’t access it. Or, if it is accessible, it becomes too slow to use.
Use Latest PHP Version
WordPress uses PHP as a server-side code language.
PHP 7.3 has been out since December 6, 2018, and you can install it easy and quick to make your site 3 to 4 times faster.
Are Your Ready to Speed Up WordPress?
Speeding up your WordPress site may take a good chunk of your time. But it pays back in droves since the results attract more traffic, page views, and conversions for you.
There are other ways to increase WordPress page load speed, but the ones discussed here are critical.
Keep in mind that only by implementing the 14 techniques to speed up WordPress shared here will help you see real results. So, over to you.
Read Other WordPress Guides:
- Ultimate WordPress Security Guide
- Install WordPress on Windows: Ultimate Step by Step Guide
- How to Create the Best WordPress Staging Site
- How to Make WordPress Site Live
- How to Discover & Recover WordPress Site
- How to Add Custom Fonts to WordPress
- Wix vs WordPress: Platform Crucial Differences
- Can’t Login to WordPress Admin Dashboard?