It doesn’t matter if you are running a small blog or a high-traffic business website. Optimizing your WordPress website should be one of your top priorities. Page load speed is so important today that even Google has integrated it into its SERP algorithm.
Studies also show that visitors do not have the patience to deal with slow loading pages. About 47% of people close the tab, if the web page doesn’t load in 2 seconds or less. That might sound as an impossible challenge, but luckily, WordPress users could optimize their websites to load up within this tough time limit.
If you could reduce the page load time of your website to 2.9 seconds, it is instantly faster than half of the existing websites on the Internet. This means that even simple improvements can result in far greater benefits for your website. And, as WordPress dominates a quarter of the Internet, your business would receive immense benefit from a higher position in Google’s SERP.
In this article, I will show how you can speed up WordPress websites through simple steps. The following action tips will not only improve the user experience of your website but also improve the business numbers. Note that you don’t have to be a developer to implement these tips. In fact, this article is specifically written for WordPress beginners.
WordPress Speed Test
Before undertaking your WordPress optimization trip, you need to know where your website stands at the moment in the optimization race. Testing the speed of your website is not just a formality. It is an important step that allows you to set a baseline from which improvements could be measured. There are a number of useful tools that allow you to measure the performance of your website.
Cloudways, a managed cloud hosting platform for WordPress, has recently published a detailed tutorial showing how to test the speed of your WordPress website with GTmetrix. The article also offers useful tips on speed improvement and shows the results of PageTest and Pingdom Tools. If you also want to check your website on other sites, you should consult to this tutorial.
Use a Cache Plugin
Caching is a well-known mechanism for reducing the number of certain requests on your Web server. Basically, caching plugins store certain portions of the web pages at the server or user browser level caches. This way when the visitor visits the page again, the browser does not retrieve those parts from the server. Caching can dramatically improve website performance and is, therefore, one of the most popular techniques for optimizing WordPress’ performance.
A ton of plugins is available for WordPress, which allow different types of caching. A popular choice is Breeze, a free cache plugin for WordPress.
Minifying is one of the most useful techniques if you want to improve the performance of your WordPress website. It tries to reduce the size of your front-end files and scripts (HTML, CSS, JS) by removing special characters, such as spaces and comments, from these files. The result is exactly the same features, with a reduced size. Fortunately, Breeze has this minification feature to improve WordPress website performance through minified files.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Given the fast Internet speed, it is easy to forget that web pages need a lot of files for proper display. All these files add to the page load time of the website. In addition, data is often located on distant servers. In this case, the distance is so great that it can negatively affect response times. Most websites resolve this problem via Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).
When you activate a CDN on your WordPress website, the client browser generally do not retrieve every page from the Web server. Some static pages are stored in CDN’s data centers. When a user requests a page, the static content is served from the nearest CDN server rather than the original server. This reduces the total number of requests that the web server has to process and greatly improves the page load time.
Enable Gzip Compression
In addition to minified files, you can also benefit from compressing large files that are requested by the visitor’s browsers. Generally Gzip, a popular compression algorithm is used for this purpose. Basically, every time someone visits your website, the resources (files) on your server are processed and downloaded to the visitor. Given the size of the files, The more resources are important; the more time it takes to load them at the end of the visitor. By enabling Gzip compression, you can dramatically reduce the size of these resources, which speeds up the process of loading WordPress.
To check if your WordPress website has Gzip compression enabled, use Check GZIP compression.
Remove Unnecessary Plugins and Themes
Plugins and themes are used to extend the functionality and appearance of WordPress websites. In almost all cases, plugins are used to add functionality that is missing in the core WordPress.
The problem is that users often install plugins and then forget about them. Over time, these plugins (whether used or unused) drag down the performance of the website. This is also true for themes that are installed but never activated.
As a general rule, the first thing you need to do is remove or at least disable unnecessary plugins. Ideally, your website should function with the minimum number of plugins.
Due to their static nature, images may appear to have little impact on the speed of your WordPress website. But do not be fooled: high-resolution images can seriously impact the speed of the website. This does not necessarily mean that you should give up high-resolution images in favor of smaller and blurry images.
There are several methods of optimizing the images on your website. WordPress plugins, such as Smush Image Compression and Optimization, provide a convenient way of reducing image size without compromising the to quality.
Split Extended Content into Pages
An important idea in optimizing the speed of WordPress websites is paging. It is simply a matter of breaking down a larger piece content into smaller blocks. These blocks can then be displayed one by one as separate pages.
Pagination is usually used for the comments section of websites, where loading thousands of comments strongly impacts page load speed. You can easily turn pagination on comments in WordPress — simply navigate to the Settings section and then go to Discussions. Here you can determine the maximum number of comments per page.
In addition to the comments section, paging can also help you divide a publication/page into several separate pages. This can be very useful for the long articles because users are less likely to be overwhelmed in the first glance. Pagination on articles can be activated by adding <!–nextpage–> into the HTML code of the WordPress post.
Upgrade the PHP Version
This is one of the least known (but very effective) tricks of optimizing WordPress. Migrating from PHP 5 to PHP 7 and PHP 7.1 can be daunting, but the benefits are going to make you want to attempt the upgrade immediately. The performance of WordPress is better on PHP 7.1 as compared to PHP 7 and PHP 5.
One thing that is crucial to keep in mind, however, is the lack of upward compatibility of PHP 7.1. This means that you will not be able to use some plugins and themes that work perfectly with PHP 5.x. To check if your website currently has such plugins/themes, use PHP Compatibility Checker for WordPress.
You now know several important ways of speeding up WordPress. When implemented, these steps significantly improve website speed. If I have missed out a trick, do mention it in the comments.