Optimizing Your WordPress Site for Speed

Speed. It’s not just the name of a corny blockbuster movie from the 90s. It’s what your site needs so that you can keep people engaged and focused on the content. And speaking of the 90s, the last thing you want is a site that loads like one from the days of dialup.

Internet users are accustomed to lightning fast load speeds, and won’t gamble with their time.

That’s because users have absolutely no patience when it comes to a slow website. If your page takes longer than three seconds to load, you’ll lose 40% of your visitors. Talk about a quick hand! These people must have descended from the fastest gunslingers in the wild west.

But jokes aside, folks really want a fast website. It’s one of the best ways to ensure an excellent user experience. A website that moves almost as fast as the speed of thought creates a seamless conversation between the site visitor and your content. The visitor can call up information quickly and efficiently, making your website feel intuitive and agile. They’re much more likely to stay longer, explore more, and return to a website that’s quick on the draw.

So, let’s discuss the best ways to optimize your WordPress website for faster loading. Below, I’ll give you my favorite tips for improving your site speed. You can do everything listed here, even if you’re a beginner in all things WordPress. By the end of it, you’re going to look like a pro, and what’s even better– your site will, too. Let’s get started.

Would you like a printable checklist of common issues that decrease website speed? Check this out!

Start with a Good Host

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A bargain basement web host will often leave you in the basement as far as speed is concerned. Instead of choosing a host that promises unlimited everything for .99¢ a month, go with a host that has a proven track record for speed.

If you don’t, you’ll often suffer from slow site speed during traffic peaks, or even worse– down time. What happens if your marketing efforts finally pay off and you get a sudden surge of traffic but your site is “temporarily down”? Those visitors will leave and never come back.

Companies like WP Engine, SiteGround, Pagely, and Flywheel all offer blazing fast speed. In fact, a provider who offers managed hosting is the absolute way to go when it comes to increasing speed on your WordPress site.

Now, I will warn you– you’re going to pay a heck of a lot more than .99¢ for managed hosting. Depending on the host, you may pay anywhere from $15 a month to $50, but don’t let that scare you. A managed host will definitely be worth the price of admission.

Wait, Why Do I Need a Managed Host?

A managed host is a provider who specializes in WordPress. While you have generalists out there who offer a one-size-fits-all solution to everyone who needs a website hosted, a managed host provides tailored support specifically for WordPress websites.

You’ll notice the difference in speed, security, and knowledgeable support. This is because a managed hosting company uses servers that are precisely configured to work with WordPress.

Additionally, a managed host will also automatically update your site to the latest version which may increase your site’s speed even more.

Use a CDN

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What is a CDN?

Short for Content Delivery Network, a CDN is a system, or a network, of servers that are positioned at various locations around the globe. Each one of these servers has a copy of your static website. Working along with managed hosting, a CDN makes your WordPress site even faster.

But how?

Let’s say you have a visitor on your WordPress website who is arriving from Germany, but your server is located in San Diego. Although your website may still load in seven seconds, wouldn’t it be so much better if a static copy of your website was on a server in Austria? For your German visitor, your website will load seconds faster, making the browsing experience so much more gratifying.

Sure, we’re talking seconds here, but every second counts. It’s not just about initial page load times, either. It’s also about how long it takes for individual page elements, like photos or CSS, to load as well.

If you go with managed hosting, many companies offer it as an add-on solution.

Optimize Your Images

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Images are a necessary component for websites, and I bet you have at least a few on your site now. But are those beautiful images slowing down your site?

A lot of site owners make the mistake of uploading a huge image (in both size and resolution), and then they use the upload feature in WordPress to resize the image. This isn’t optimal. You’re not actually resizing the image on the server. This means that each time a visitor accesses a page on your site with a large image, the server needs to call up that large image. Slowly.

The best way to avoid this fate is to install a plugin that automatically compresses your images. Here are a few of the best-rated image optimization plugins:

  1. WP Smush
  2. Imagify
  3. EWWW Image Optimizer

Minimize Your WordPress Plugins

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Plugins can make your site look cool and function in new and exciting ways. But there’s a dark side to plugins. Too many can plugins can dramatically slow down your website.

This includes plugins that you only installed but never activated.

Here’s the thing to remember: not all plugins are created equal. Some plugins are simply not coded efficiently, and can cause your site to load slowly. Some of them can’t play well with others and may even crash your site.

The more plugins you have on your site, the more server requests are sent. If you have a lightning fast host with plenty of bandwidth, you shouldn’t notice a drop in speed. However if you’re making it work with a budget host, you’ll have to put up with fluctuations in speed. The moral of the story: you get what you pay for.

My recommendation is to only use the plugins that enhance your user experience. However, your best option is to create a website with the functionality you need already built in, instead of rigging it together DIY-style. I can help with that. Let’s talk.

Remember to download this printable checklist of common issues that decrease website speed!

/ Jason Resnick

Jason is a WordPress developer helping small businesses, design and marketing agencies achieve their goals by specializing in Ecommerce and increasing conversions. Learn more about him here.

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9 responses to “Optimizing Your WordPress Site for Speed

  1. Currently in a holding pattern on this myself. Lost my edge in terms of optimization and some of my own personal sites have suffered traffic-wise. Literally as I type this running through an assortment of tools (in WordPress) to bring me back up to speed.

    Amazon once stated that for every 100ms they reduce their site speed they see an increase in revenue. I’ve seen this myself with work and personal projects. But now I’m more interesting in measuring exactly what that means for me.

    My hope is that once I improve this will traffic will improve but I’m also having trouble breaking traffic barriers with new sites I launch unless I put money into it. Any thoughts on that?

      1. Oh for sure… here I am the next day still tweaking. Decided to go with maxcdn and while I notice a speed increase pingdom tools doesn’t seem to. So back to the drawing board I go!

        1. Hey Billy, hopefully Jason doesn’t mind me dropping this in here. But I just did a podcast with WPInnovator the other day about speeding up WordPress. I know you will find some tricks/tips that you haven’t tried yet. http://leejacksondev.com/wpinnovator/30-speeding-up-wordpress-brian-jackson/

          I totally agree with you that speed is very so very important. Most people don’t realize just how much it affects, from SERPs, to conversion rates, to indexing images, everything.

  2. I agree with you that managed host is worth the price. I have a VPS at https://www.rosehosting.com and I’m extremely satisfied by their reliable support team due to their professional handling on my WordPress websites. Their tech support helped me to optimize my websites and the performances are impressive.

    Thanks.

  3. Using WP ENGINE you get a Automagically configured CDN to host your images on. Between WP ENGINE and SHARPSPRING, that’s what I use for CDN’s, otherwise sounds like my basic start to optimizing a website for speed.

    I’d like to see some information on, how you combine all your assets into one file instead of having them spread out across the WP/PLUGIN/THEME o SPHERE, I normally do this by hand by deregistering the assets and combining them in my GRUNT/GULP workflow..

  4. Hello Jason,
    Thanks for your outstanding article regarding speed issues for wordpress site.
    You already illustrated core task for boosting website speed. According to me, reliable web hosting , proper use of cache, minimize plugins and light wordpress theme are core task for boosting website speed
    Cheers

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