April 14, 2021

8 Tips For Speeding Up Your WordPress Site

Website Performance Matters

The digital age has undoubtedly had a profound effect on attention spans. People expect results quick. Whether they’re looking for a product to buy online or reading a guide on website performance, they want to get what they came for immediately. Case in point: Microsoft concluded a study in 2016 that spanned 16 years, showing that in that time, attention spans dropped from 12 seconds to 8.5 seconds.

In other words, we have precious little time to capture a visitor’s attention and hold it. And one of the main things that causes a visitor to lose interest is a slow loading website. Studies show that even a one-second delay in page loading speed can cause a substantial decrease in conversions.

And it’s not just about conversions either—Google and other search engine penalize websites that don’t have adequate performance. In other words, if your website isn’t up to snuff, you could potentially lose hard-earned search rankings. With so many other challenges in online business and marketing, it’s imperative to make sure your WordPress website is fast.

Checking Your WordPress Website Speed

You’d be forgiven if you simply navigated to your website, paid attention to how fast it loaded, declared to yourself that it was quick enough, and left it at that. But there’s a lot more to it.

For starters, since you’ve likely visited your website recently, it’s loaded in your browser’s cache, meaning it’s going to load a lot quicker for you, regardless of potential performance issues. New visitors to your site certainly won’t receive the same experience, since the site needs to load completely for them.

Moreover, there are geographical limitations you need to consider. If your web hosting is in Toronto, it may not be as fast for someone in Vancouver. Long story short: You need to use a performance tool to measure website speed.

Google PageSpeed Insights is the gold standard of website performance tools. It’s capable of telling you exactly how well your website is loading and where you can improve it across a variety of measures. Generally speaking, anything above 90 is pretty good. Anything below that and it means you’ve got some work to do.

Google lightspeed test

Another great tool for measuring your site’s performance is the Website Speed Test tool over on isitwp.com. Like PageSpeed Insights, it offers plenty of feedback in terms of loading times and load requests, and provides you with a cumulative score based on these measures. Also like Google PageSpeed Insights, you want to score above 90.

website speed test

Both tools give you a lot of information you can work with, but they’re generally aimed at tech-savvy folks. For those using WordPress for its simplicity, the stats and action items can seem like greek. That said, they’re a good way to get a general idea of how your website performs, and if you’re seeing slower speeds, take advantage of these tips to get your WordPress website performing better:

8 Tips for Speeding Up Your WordPress Site

1. Pick the Right Theme

One of the best things you can do for your WordPress site performance is to use the right theme. Not all themes are created equal—some, while they may look nice, aren’t well-coded and consume considerable resources. The trick is to find a theme that provides you with everything you need, fits your preferred aesthetic, and still performs well.

Most theme developers provide a demo of their theme, complete with content. It’s good practice to use one of the above tools to measure the theme’s performance before making up your mind. If their demo doesn’t bode well, it’s certainly not going to do better with your content, so it’s a good idea to pass on it.

2. Pay Attention to Your Plugins

One of WordPress’s superpowers is its plugin ecosystem. There are limitless options out there that provide your site with endless functionality, all easily available within the plugin section of WordPress. But this easy ecosystem can spiral into bad site performance if you aren’t careful.

Just as with themes, you need to ensure that the plugins you choose are necessary and don’t seriously impact your site’s loading speed. This may even require you to install the plugin on your site and test the performance afterwards, but given the importance of speed, it’s worth the effort. Do your homework and make sure the plugins you choose are well-made.

3. Use a Caching Plugin

A caching plugin does wonders for your site’s performance. WordPress’s pages are “dynamic,” meaning they’re built on the fly every time someone visits your site. Caching plugins increase performance by building these dynamic pages and creating static versions of your website that load much, much faster for your visitors. The performance improvement is so substantial that a good caching plugin is pretty much mandatory.

A great free plugin is WP Super Cache. It provides you with everything you need to provide static site caches to your visitors. For those that want to take their performance and caching to the next level, WP Rocket is a fantastic premium plugin that does far more than just caching.

4. Reduce HTTP Requests

When a visitor loads your website, several processes happen in the background. Your page sends numerous requests to your web server (as well as other web servers) to retrieve all the files and resources it needs. These are called HTTP requests. These requests include images, CSS, and JavaScript, among other things. While HTTP requests are a normal part of the process, too many of them bogs your site down and hinders performance.

There are more technical methods for reducing HTTP requests, like merging—or concatenating— your CSS and Javascript files, but these methods get complicated. An easier method for managing HTTP requests is to regularly test your site, especially when you’re adding new plugins, themes, and widgets. If something you’ve added increases your requests substantially, it’s time to find an alternative.

It’s a good idea to be aware of the idea of HTTP requests and to try to keep them as low as possible. There are also plugins that can help in this regard, such as the aforementioned WP Rocket caching plugin.

5. Optimize Your Images

Images are one of the biggest bottlenecks for a website. And while a site with fewer images would indeed be blazingly fast, it would also be incredibly boring. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry so much about using images, so long as you’re properly managing and optimizing them.

Given the way devices work and disparities in image formats, it’s worth your time to understand proper image management for your site. Spending an hour or two learning how to format them and upload them will reap dividends on the performance front. To get started, look no further than this guide we put together.

6. Optimize Your WordPress Database

WordPress uses a database to store and access all the information and content that comprises your site. After prolonged use, a lot of junk and unnecessary data can accumulate in your database, which impacts your site performance. Things like unused tags, post revisions, or deleted posts can sit in your database, taking up space and increasing the time it takes for WordPress to access the data it needs.

A good database optimization plugin like WP-Optimize helps you clean up this unnecessary data, keeping your WordPress install running fresh. As always, we recommend taking a full backup and verifying it before touching your database in any way, plugin or no plugin.

7. Use a Content Delivery Network

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the location of your web host impacts how fast your site loads for users across various locations. If you’re using a Canadian web host that operates out of Toronto, people in Toronto will get better performance than someone in Vancouver. And if your audience is global, performance drops off substantially the further away a visitor is.

Using a Content Delivery Network, or CDN, dramatically increases your website’s performance, regardless of where your visitors are. A CDN takes all of your static content—such as your website’s JavaScript, CSS and images—and creates a mirror of it on various servers across the globe. This means that someone accessing your website from Sydney won’t need to retrieve everything from Canada. Instead, there’ll be a server somewhere in Australia that provides all of your static content to the user, giving them the same experience that a visitor in Toronto has.

8. Keep WordPress Updated

Good software is software that’s frequently updated. WordPress is pretty good software. It receives regular updates to add new features, improve security, and improve performance. As such, it’s pretty important to keep your WordPress site updated as frequently as possible.

This doesn’t just mean the core WordPress software—it means making sure all of your plugins and themes stay up-to-date as well. If you find your website has become unwieldy for one person to manage, it may be time to consider a WordPress managed update provider to help keep your site quick and secure.

Wrapping Up: Getting a Handle on Performance

Performance is one of the most crucial aspects of your website. It affects the user experience and your search engine results substantially. It’s definitely something you want to get a handle on.

We’ve provided you with some great ways to do just that, but proper page speed optimization is a sizable investment in time and energy. If you see that your website needs some TLC in the performance department, consider a WordPress maintenance plan from knowledgeable WordPress experts to help get your site back on track.

Join Our Newsletter

Stay up to date on the latest WordPress tips and news