How to speed up WordPress website for beginners

Do you want to speed up WordPress website of yours? I do. In past few years, I have worked on multiple web design projects based on WordPress and learned the harsh truth. WordPress can be a powerful tool for your business, but it is slowing. things. down.

Why is speed so important? Every second of loading costs you approximately 7% loss in conversions. Even more, you will lose up to 40% of your visitors if your loading time exceeds 3 seconds. Not to mention the SEO! Yes, Google is looking into your website speed within their search algorithm.

Every second of loading costs you approximately 7% loss in conversions. Click To Tweet

But we still love WordPress, so what can we do about it? There are few simple tricks I use as a baseline for performance improvements, and I am willing to share them with you.

Good hosting

Choosing WordPress hosting can’t be overestimated as it will determine the overall success of your website performance. Every next step you’ll take during your performance journey will fail badly unless you have a good server to host your site.

For a complete pro, it is a good idea to jump deep into exploring server configuration and bargain for better CPU and RAM. But for a regular business owner, there are other things you have to handle. For you, a good idea would be looking into recommended hosting services that are tailored specifically for WordPress.

It all comes down to your budgets, where you can choose from low-cost solutions, like One.com, or more advanced services, WPEngine. Of course, there are plenty more alternatives available and you can easily jump from one service to another.

Themes optimized for speed

A common mistake when choosing WordPress theme is aiming for “All-in-One” alternative. Let’s make it clear, there is low probability you will need all the fancy features. Make sure your theme vendor does take performance seriously, instead of simply adding new features to generate more sales.

The paradox is that some of the very basic free themes outscore premium themes in terms of performance.

Why? Because they are keeping things simple and so should you. So-called, swiss-knifes sounds like a powerful tool, but would you use them for just carving a fish?

Google Page Speed Insights for Testing
A good way to examine WordPress theme performance with Google Page Speed Insights.

Upon choosing a theme, make sure to test it for performance with tools like Pingdom and compare the data.

WordPress cache plugins

Every time a user visits your website, there is a whole cycle performed to retrieve information. This process significantly impacts the time requested for a website to load, and more visits to your website increase this time frame.

To overcome this pitfall you have to use the WordPress cache plugin. What cache plugin does is it will serve a cached (pre-prepared) version of your website to user’s browser. The downside of this process is that sometimes it takes a bit more time for the website to propagate the changes.

Once it comes to the choice between cache plugins, there are plenty of them, yet I would suggest sticking to W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache as they have proven to be reliable tools for many of my projects.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

What the heck is the Content Delivery Network (CDN)? Many files on your WordPress website are static and don’t get updated really often. Here, we can refer to images, CSS and JavaScript. Loading those files all over again directly from your server requires resources and slow things down.

CDN on the other hand, allows you to use a global network to distribute those files directly to your website visitors from different sources located nearby. This will allow you to save on your own server resources and speed it up for your visitors.

Example of Content Delivery Network (CDN)
An example of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) map with distribution centers.

I prefer MaxCDN or CloudFlare (you can even have it for free, depending on your scope) as a good alternative to a costly Amazon CloudFront (which is something to consider for a large scale project) as it works great with WordPress websites and cache plugins.

Optimized images

A major part of your website consists of images, as it is one of the most engaging forms of content. Although there are certain rules on how to use images on your website efficiently, there is still a place for improvement.

Kraken.io free online image optimization tool
Kraken.io reduces image file size within seconds allowing you to speed up your website.

Whenever you are adding an image to your WordPress website, make sure to optimize it file size. Resources like Kraken.io allow you to reduce the file size of any image without loosing quality. And trust me on this one, for some images you will experience a decrease in file size for up to 70%!

Useful plugins only

We have talked it over already with WordPress themes, but I’ll never stop repeating it. Cut all the fat! There is no need to overwhelm your website with tons of different plugins and add-ons.

Selection of right plugins is a piece of art, apart from new features, they can offer you a better ways to get things done and boost your productivity. At the same time, you will need to think twice if you really need another bunch of code to be loaded just to have some fancy options that maybe never used by you or your visitors.

I always encourage my clients to constantly review a list of their plugins and remove the ones which are not in use.

Excerpts make difference

By default, WordPress will load all the content from posts on your homepage and archive pages. This will make your website slow and will probably look ugly as well.

The key to success here is an excerpt, a native WordPress way to limit an amount of content displayed prior to posts on a homepage and archive pages. With less information to display your website will load faster – simple as that!

Optimized WordPress database

Over time you will have a lot of unnecessary data stored in your WordPress database, like trash and revisions.

The easiest and a fully automatic way to clean up your database is by looking into database optimization plugins, like WP-Optimize or WP-DBManager.

And even more, database optimization plugins can help you deal with spam comments, fake users, old draft and more.

Conclusions

We experience a lot of pressure from different devices to have mobile friendly websites and website performance is one of the key factors there. With conversions and SEO put at stake, we are not in the position to lose website visitors because of bad performance.

With these essential tips in your pocket, you are able to take this process into your own hands. And to finalize this tutorial, never forget to test your success by referring to page speed tools, like Google PageSpeed.

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26 comments

  1. Hi there,
    Thank you so much for the very helpful article. I am just looking to speed up my site. This post gonna help me a lot.

    1. Awesome! Make sure to share your results later on.

  2. Muchas gracias por los consejos me encanto ahora voy a ver los plugins que me interesa mucho, tengo una pregunta para ti afecta el seo si cambias el http ah https.
    Necesito saber qué respuesta tienes para esto, a mí me afecto considerablemente en el seo quiero saber si google reconoce el trabajo que realizamos con anterioridad o simplemente tenemos que empezar de nuevo, espero tu respuesta mi amigo me ayudaras mucho un abrazo y éxitos.

    1. In fact, Google loves security and prefers https. From one side, any change in address is bad, but if you set up all the redirects right (from http to https) without any broken links on your site, it won’t have any bad effect and result in even better SEO.

  3. I like WP Rocket. The support is amazing. In my opinion WP Rocket is the best Caching Plugin for WordPress! And it’s compatible with Visual Composer! But it works out of the box with many other plugins. This is not an advertising post, I only really like that Caching Plugin!

    1. Will need to get in touch with them. Do they have a free version available as well somewhere on WordPress.org?

      1. Hi Raitis,
        I don’t think so. I use the “no limit” licence for all of my websites. They offer nice discounts if you decide to extend the subscription… I think the price is reasonable because I’m using the plugin on all of my sites… Sure, I could use super cache or something but WPRoket is so easy to configure. You can setup a CDN like MAXCDN or cloudflare with one click… And if you have compatible problems you can ask the support and they respond in no time and until know they found the problem and fixed it everytime. Would be awesome if WpBakery and WP Rocket would work together. That are my favourite WP Plugins :)!

  4. I’m using visual composer (Paid version) on a website and when I run the google test I get desktop speed of 29%, when I disable Visual Composer I get 83%. Are you doing anything to improve the speed of visual composer. I run a CDN and caching

    1. John, I would suggest looking into the amount of content. There is no way that plugin itself can have such an impact. Maybe you have tons of content that slow down your site. Of course, once you disable Visual Composer it doesn’t get rendered.

      1. What kind of content are you referring to that can slow down the site?

        1. Basically, huge media files and tons of content has a direct impact on site loading. If you will place plenty of high-resolution images it will have an effect.

  5. How about frameworks? I’m looking into them and there is so much to consider. thanks for the great info

    1. Hi Omar, I think that frameworks are completely different topic to look into. Promise to investigate it, do you have any thoughts on frameworks you can share?

  6. Great ideas on Speeding up WordPress site. Image optimization required to reduce the size of a file and adding Alt tags, Description etc. Remove the unnecessary plugins to improve the page load time. Check out this detailed guide on how to speed up WordPress site

    1. Hi, I see that you have some detailed steps which may be too advanced for beginners, but, of course, they totally make sense for pro WordPress user.

  7. I have doing almost everything from the list except optimizing database. Thanks for the list and plugin suggestions.

    1. Good to hear, hope database optimization is also on the list now.

  8. Is there a minify plugin that you recommend? Autoptimize breaks the layouts when I try it. WPEngine doesn’t allow W3TC.

    1. With WPEngine I would suggest talking to them. I know they plan to have some sort of a shortlist of recommended plugins.

  9. google’s page speed insights tool is telling me that this file is causing a problem in rendering the above the fold content:
    https://maxcdn.bootstrapcdn.com/font-awesome/4.6.3/css/font-awesome.min.css?ver=4.8

    I do not want to use font awesome. And visual composer is still loading it. How can I de-queue it?

    1. You should look into kb.wpbakery.com on how to deque Google Fonts.

  10. No doubt, the page loading time is significantly essential for any website/blog and as because of the slow rendering websites lose almost everything. For any internet site, the loading time is a major factor in developing now. I’m usually busy on one side trying my best to optimize the overall loading speed of my blog. The clean & near coding of HTML can help you to cut off a couple of seconds on your blog. One point I want to tell you that after I moved to Genesis or magazine framework, my blog loading speed has decreased by over 2.2s. Possibly that’s because it has a plain and lightweight structure and it even corrected me to remove unwanted and heavy plugins.

    About the images, not so many users are well aware of Photoshop, so for the alternative to optimize graphics there are lots of websites to help you to compress image size that matter greatly on the entire size of your HTML page rendering on the user side. Also, I switched to a dedicated server and the faster CDN (Content Delivery Network) that not only work for WordPress for the Blogger as well. The use of CDN and can cause a significant difference in site loading time. I used to make changes to HTML and keep an eye on site loading. A dedicated hosting including regular tweaking can make a difference.

    The slow loading causing the two most valuable things to stay away from your website that matter is “Google” and “Visitor.” So it really matters to work hard on optimizing the loading speed of the site and each page.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  11. How do i optimize loading time of google font api? Its creating a bit of a delay due to the far-time expiration date on the google fonts i use – do i embed the fonts in the header or edit it elsewhere?

    1. Additional font loading requires a bit more resources – we don’t have a custom mechanism in place as we rely on the best practices, but probably some custom solution you mentioned could make things better in your case.

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