Why is Speed Important?
WordPress powers almost half of the world’s websites, and while it’s a useful platform, it has one major downside: it can be slow. With the ease of plugins, the plethora of bad hosting options, and bulky code, WordPress sites can quickly become sloth-like, impacting not only your SEO score but your user’s experience. The slower a website, the faster you’re going to lose users. Even a 1 second delay reduces page views by 11% and customer satisfaction by 16%. Yikes! Those who leave while waiting for a site to load will cause bounce rates to increase, lowering your SEO score. Double Yikes!
So How Do You Fix This?
Before you start panicking, let’s measure out your site. There are several tools that can help you get a good overview of how fast your WordPress site is running and what you can do to improve it. The top choices are:
Each of these tools measure speed differently, so it’s a good idea to check all of them to make sure you’re optimizing your site as much as possible. PageSpeed by Google is held in top reverence, but GTmetrix tends to give more insight into how to fix your speed. Pingdom is a good starting point for beginners as it lays out potential solutions in more user-friendly terms.
The best scores are a second or less, with 2-3 seconds leading in second place. After 4 seconds, you’re starting to lose people.
Top Ten Fixes to Speed Up Your WordPress Site
If you have a slow site, there are some simple fixes that will help keep your customers on your site. The major bonus? Most of these solutions don’t need any experience or coding! The main concept: keep things small. From images to files, it’s all about reducing your load time.
Before you even set up your site you need to make sure you are choosing the right hosting.
There are many options available, the most popular being shared hosting like Bluehost, GoDaddy, or Siteground. These are good choices for beginners as they automatically optimize your site for speed to the best of their abilities. However, being a shared host means you will be sharing server space with others, which will slow your site down depending on your plan. Take your time and do research on-site speed when selecting a shared host to find the best plan for your site.
Another choice is to go with a managed host, such as WP Engine or Flywheel, which are configured specially for WordPress sites, making them the top choice for speed. They also tend to have excellent security as added bonuses but are more expensive than a shared host.
We recommend Flywheel as they have quality site-caching, as well as several helpful features including free migration, auto backups, and automatic WordPress updates, CDN integration, and SSL support, all of which keep your site running smoothly and fast.
Smaller is better here—but be careful not to compromise the quality. As websites evolve, more and more are becoming media-based. Images and videos are king when it comes to good web design. From background images to large header videos, they have the potential to slow down your site if they aren’t optimized.
You can do this manually or use one of many plugins out there. The best solution is a combination of the two, manually reducing your image or video file size before placing them on your site, and then, if you need some extra boost, using a plugin like Robin Image Optimizer or Smush which will optimize them further without losing any quality.
A small, but important, detail to note is to make sure you upload the correct image format. This means, if a photo is complex and has a lot of different colors, it should be a JPEG. If it’s a simple photo that needs a transparent background like a logo or icon, it should be a PNG. This will also reduce the loading time of an image.
WordPress sites are dynamic, which means every time a user visits them, they are “rebuilt,” pulling the resources that create the page from CSS files or plugin files. This slows a webpage down considerably, especially if there are multiple users on the site at once.
To solve this, you need to use a caching plugin. Caching plugins are used to store a static version of your page, cutting down on the steps that are used to generate the page dynamically.
Check with your hosting before you install a caching plugin. Many platforms have built-in caching that requires no user knowledge, eliminating this extra step.
If your web host doesn’t have a built-in option or you want an extra boost of speed, a caching plugin will give you the option to cache what files you want and allow you to clear it when needed. There are several out there for free, and each one does a good job. Test them out to find the best user interface for yourself. Among the top ones are:
The word CDN gets tossed around a lot without much explanation. It stands for Content Delivery Network and in short, it’s a series of data centers in different geolocations that keep a copy of your site. Instead of having your site load directly from your host server (which can often be far away), a CDN will find the nearest server to your client and load it there, reducing the time they must wait. So if the user is in Kansas City, it will pull from a server in Chicago, instead of a New York server. One of the top CDN’s is Cloudflare, but there are others that are just as good.
Often your hosting will have the option of adding a CDN to your site—we highly recommend you toggle it on. It’s a simple step to making your users happy.
One thing to note is test this out on a staging site if your site is live. Some themes break with minified CSS or HTML files, causing it to look strange. Testing is key!
Today’s themes are great–you can build a website in no time that looks clean, modern, and beautiful. However, many themes come with bulky plugins that aren’t needed, causing your site to come to a slow crawl. Among some of the worst offenders are Slider Revolution and WooCommerce with massive amounts of files. Even the smaller plugins you would not think about, like a page duplicator, can really drag down your site.
Take five minutes and go through them, fully deleting them to get rid of all the unnecessary files. A quick and easy step with a big payoff.
Web pages are getting longer and bulkier. Traditionally, a site will load everything at once before showing it to the user, which makes them wait longer. Instead, for longer pages, such as a homepage, enable lazy-loading. Lazy-loading will only load as the user scrolls—so the top part will load first and as a user scrolls down more will show. This will also cause there to be fewer HTTP requests which helps to speed up a site.
You can also do this for images specifically. Instead of loading all the images at once, lazy-loading allows them to be loaded only when they show up.
As with most WordPress sites, there’s a plugin for that! For images, most optimizer plugins will have the option to lazy load, but for pages, we recommend Bj Lazy Load which works for a variety of content including text widgets, images, and even iframes. A3 Lazy Load is another great plugin that is designed to improve site speed on mobile as well.
Building a website can get messy leading to revisions, unused tags/meta, old posts, and unused images. All of that will lead to a bulky database with items that you don’t even need. To optimize your site, you’ll want to get rid of the extras, no coding needed.
Download Wp-Sweep for your site and click away those trashed posts and other items. It’s an easy and quick way to speed up your site. Make sure you backup your site before you do this, though, just in case you accidentally get rid of something you need!
Themes are a fantastic way to build and customize your site but with so many options on the market it can be tricky to find the right one, and often the one you want may not be the best for your site speed. Many themes are built with bad code and extra, unnecessary plugins or too complex of layouts.
So how do you find the right one that won’t slow don’t your site? The best advice is to keep it simple. Starting with a simple theme will typically allow for less complex code. Look for ones without a lot of videos or animations. While they are tempting, you can add them later with better plugins. Keep an eye on ratings and comments as well; you don’t want to purchase a broken theme.
Some of the best themes for speed:
Plugins and themes should always be kept up to date—if it’s not part of your site’s routine already, it’s time to make it now. By keeping everything updated you ensure you have the latest code, features, and security fixes. Having an old version running in the background will slow down your site and make it vulnerable to security threats. It’s a simple fix that goes a long way in keeping your site safe and fast.
Follow these 10 Ways to Speed Up Your WordPress Site and your site will be humming along. Don’t forget to check your speed after each implementation on your site, whether it’s a plugin or minifying code, to make sure everything is running smoothly. You’ll be surprised at how easy these steps are to do and how fast your site will be!
At Lazarus, we’re dedicated to continually providing you with free resources to keep you and your business front of mind with your current and future customers. This list of ways to speed up your WordPress site not enough? Check out our services here.