12 Easy Ways To Speed up Your WordPress Site

12 Easy Ways To Speed up Your WordPress Site

Graham Pinkney

Last Update: 2nd July 2019

12 Steps to Speed Up WordPress In 2019 

You’ve worked hard to make your user has a smooth journey around your site with great content and an excellent user experience. But there may be a problem causing your users to leave your site before it even loads – slow site speed. This is our ultimate WordPress speed advice guide for 2019 providing you the steps to get your site super fast.

Why Does Your WordPress Site Need To Be Fast?

People often overlook site load times, but this can determine the success of your WordPress site. Studies show that if your site is taking more than four seconds to load, 25% of users will simply leave the page. What’s more, delays of just one second have been shown to relate to fewer page views, decreased conversion rates and bigger bounce rates.

What’s more, if you own an ecommerce site, site speed is vital to prevent high shopping cart abandonment rates. Amazon reported that speeding up their site load times by just 100 milliseconds meant a 1% boost in revenue. To the retail giant that will have been millions.With Microsoft Bing reporting that a two second delay increased lost revenue per user by 4.3%.

Most importantly it’s makes for a bad user experience particularly on mobile where users expect quick loading and instant information. This is something which Google are now heavily penalising as mobile site speed became part of their ranking factors in 2018. It’s likely to take an even heavier weight as most sites have also moved to moble first indexing. 

So there really are plenty of reasons for you to get up to speed with your site’s loading speed. 

How to Check Your Website Load Speed?

Before you make any changes you may want to measure your current speed so you can track your progress. This is an informative way to test the front-end site speed quickly. What’s great about this kind of tool is that it will provide you with specific steps to improve your site speed, rather than just giving you generic advice. 

There are numbers of tools you can use to check website loads speed, these include:

Testing Your Mobile Site Speed:

More In Depth Site Speed Reporting:

If you want to get the most in depth insights, we would recommend using the Google Lighthouse Web Developer Tool on Chrome. This provides insights into speed, accessibility and also gives your site an overall SEO score.

How to Speed Up WordPress?

Now you have an idea on what you should be focusing on to optimise speed on your WordPress site – here’s some tips on how to do it: 

  1. Choose your host wisely  

You can easily get cheap hosting and prop your WordPress website up, however it’ll never deliver the performance, stability and security you require. We recommend using dedicated WordPress hosting, such as WPEngine (the best), Dreamhost, Hostgator. Don’t base your decision on price alone, pick the hosting that will best compliment your site and deliver the speed you require. 

  1. Choose a responsive theme

What many businesses love about using WordPress is that there are a plethora of amazing themes to choose from. Many of them will also be mobile compatible and completely free to use. WordPress is fantastic in that it will manage many mobile aspects such as picking the right image size for the right device. If the WordPress theme you are currently using does not have a responsive design then you may need to think about switching to another one. Having a more responsive theme allows for an overall improved user experience with faster loading times. This means you can have exactly the same URL for both desktop and mobile and both will work fantastically well on their respective devices.

Before committing to your theme we would recommend checking the theme’s demo for page speed and try using a tool like Pingdom to see how quick the load times really are.

A couple of themes WordPress bloggers recommend are the Twenty Nineteen theme (the default WordPress theme) or the Focus Framework theme. Both are super simple but avoid the ‘bloat’ that other themes have, causing your site load to become unbearably slow. 

  1. Improve browser caching

When searching the web our browsers cache some data from websites automatically to reduce bandwidth and improve page load speed when we revisit. Improve the caching process by specifying a longer duration of time for static content (JavaScript, CSS, images etc) to be stored.

There are a couple of ways you could do this: 

  • You could add the ‘Expires’ header into your .htaccess files. It may sound a little bit tricky, but it couldn’t be simpler; You can find the code for the Expires header everywhere online, but we recommend using this excerpt from the HTML5 Boilerplate which can be found here.
  • Or you could optimise caching at a server level so that whenever a user visits your site, they will be served with a static html file instead of having to load the comparatively heavier WordPress PHP scripts. A great way of doing this is with the WP Super Cache plugin. With over 6 million downloads it is the most popular caching plugin for WordPress, largely due to its usability and ease of adjusting the rate at which static html files on your pages refresh. Make sure you follow the instructions extremely carefully though. W3 Total Cache also comes highly recommended as being easy to install and use. 

 Browser caching can be a bit contentious because if you do it wrong, you’ll actually end up making it worse. So give us a shout if you need help with getting this done

  1. Use a Content Delivery Network

A CDN can really improve the speed of your site. And chances are your favourite blog sites are already using them. With files hosted on local servers around the world, it means that server loads are reduced because content is delivered from the nearest place geographically to your user as possible.

Jetpack’s Photon is one of the most popular WordPress speed plugins available that will help you achieve this. Once in place, you will have to change the output links of any files you are serving through your CDN. This can be done manually, or with a CDN integrations such as W3 Total Cache.

Another recommended CDN is StackPath – which is reasonably priced and comes with an easy to use dashboard including video tutorials for how to set it up. 

  1. Optimise your images

A really easy way in which you can improve your site speed is by ensuring that your images are compressed. When images are manually resized by JavaScript and HTML your browser has to work much harder to download these images. Far too often site images are oversized and they can account for 62% of a website’s total load time. If the size of your homepage is 1MB, a visitor with a 10Mbit connection will load it in 800 milliseconds. Reduce your images by 500kb, and it will take less than half a second for that page to load.

To compress your images while avoiding clogging your site with additional plugins, try the JPEGmini application—available for both windows and mac. It uses an intelligent and ‘lossy’ optimisation algorithm to reduce image size by up to 30%, without losing quality.

You could alternatively use the media tool embedded in WordPress where you can re-size the images as required, this reduces the file size and improves performance. Or if editing photos in Photoshop, you could try the ‘save for web’ function. 

If you don’t want to have to go through every single image the free plugin WP-SmushIt automatically compresses them for you when you are uploading an image. Which may sound like music to your ears. 

CSS sprites are another great tool and can speed up your website by treating all your images as one big image which takes less time to load than lots of small ones. You can use SpriteMe to turn all of your images into a sprite.

You can also save a user’s browser loading time by specifying what size your images are. Character sets can also be specified in the HTTP response headers by adding them to the website’s head section.

  1. Lazy load your images 

And while we’ve got you thinking about images – lazy loading your images will mean only those above the fold load, saving you speed on your page load and also bandwidth. You can do this automatically by installing jQuery Image Lazy Load plugin

While we’re on loading, you’ll need to make sure you don’t have any heavy JavaScript files in the head of your HTML. Read our render-blocking article here for more details on this. 

  1. Check your plugins

There are plugins that speed up your website. Interestingly though, too many plugins will have exactly the opposite effect. So make sure your plugins aren’t hindering your site. 

Find the pesky plugins by using a diagnostic plugin such as P3 Plugin Performance Profiler to analyse the profile of all of your other plugins when it comes to page loading times. It will help you to stop any culprit which could be slowing down your website by providing a detailed breakdown of those causing issues. 

One tip is social sharing plugins are often the source of slow site speeds and can be substituted for buttons in the source code of the theme instead.

While we’re here remember to remove any useless or inactive widgets too, especially on your homepage. Remember, people are here for your content not a load of different widgets and plugins. 

  1. Optimise your database

While the autosave feature in WordPress is great, it means that all of your drafts, revisions, unapproved comments and trashed content are stored in your database. 

A plugin that outweighs itself in value is the WP-Optimise plugin. Rather than precariously sifting through your database, WP-Optimise can quickly identify spam, post revisions, and drafts, and reduce overheads while saving you time.

The WP-DB Manager plugin is also great because it can schedule dates for database optimisation. 

  1. Remove hotlinking and leeching 

‘Hotlinking’, where other sites directly link to the images on your site from their articles – is a form of bandwidth theft that can make your server loads increasingly slow. As more people ‘scrape’ your site this can really take its toll.

If you create custom images for your site this is a must. And it’s easy enough to do.

Put this code in your root .htaccess file:

disable hotlinking of images with forbidden or custom image option

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?example.com [NC]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.com [NC]

RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [NC,F,L]

  1. Remove pingbacks and trackbacks

A quick way to speed up your site is to turn off pingbacks and trackbacks, which alert you when other blogs link to you. Do this in the ‘Discussion tab’ in ‘Settings’. Don’t worry, this will not remove the backlinks to your site, just improve your site speed. 

  1. Remove comments

A common cause of slow site speed is through an overload of comments. This is normally caused by spam and bots, who can place thousands of comments on your site. 

To overcome this issue, you can either turn your comments off or add a Captcha form. The Captcha form will ensure that all comments left are by real people and will filter out bots. However, if you do have lots of real customer comments being left on your site, then you will want to prevent slow site speed by breaking these comments into different pages.

  1. Minify your Javascript and CSS file content 

Get rid of any needless characters such as new lines, white space, code formatting and comments. With all your various plugins, you probably have lots of style sheets and numerous JavaScript files on each page – not ideal. You can put all relevant JS and CSS into one file each to really speed things up.

A plugin like Better WordPress Minify can do this for you quickly and efficiently. This is our recommended plugin for this – others can be a little too aggressive with the whole adventure and can cause problems of their own.

In Summary

There is nothing more satisfying then knocking a few hundred seconds off your site load speed (geeky but true for us), follow these ideas and you could be achieving warp speed before you know it. Do you have any ideas for speeding up WordPress sites, let us know in the comments below.

Graham Pinkney

Author Graham Pinkney

Graham heads up our digital marketing team here at Elementary with nearly a decade of agency experience working across clients from large retailers to SME's in varying industries. Graham's background is primarily in SEO, content marketing, analytics and conversion rate optimisation.

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