So your WordPress website is somewhat sluggish. You want to speed up your WordPress Website for faster loading pages, which improves your user experience and boosts your WordPress SEO. The loading speed of your website is a Google ranking factor. And who doesn’t want to climb that ladder? It does bring traffic to your site! And this makes it a crucial skill for any website owner. There are many options available to prevent your website from slowing down. Here is a guide on how to speed up your WordPress website. Good riddance to slow-loading pages!
So, What's the big deal?
Does speed really matter? Well, it’s debatable! I’m not going to give you the usual statistics. Many people would say that speed is necessary because our attention span has been shortened. But here is an interesting article that “Busts the Myth”. We are faced with so many distractions during our day and we just don’t have any time for any delays. We are also faced with instant gratification. In my opinion, it’s all about what you value. Where do you want to spend your time? How much time do you have to spend on any given click? Is your website quick enough, or do I go elsewhere? No more delays, please. Some of you will be scanning through this blog to get to what’s relevant to you while others will be able to read through the entire blog from beginning to end. Its all about relevance and value – and of course lets not forget that Google includes site speed in it’s ranking algorithm! So, having said that, if your website is a place where you are earning any income, then speed is definitely a top priority. Let’s keep your shoppers happy!
But First, Lets Check That Speed
Where you live in the world or where your website lives (hosting company) makes a difference in how quickly your page loads. You might think that everything is nice and speedy, but because you are spending a lot of time working on your site, your browser will cache the static elements. However, your site will load very differently for someone viewing it for the first time or from the other side of the world! Here are two free online tools you can use to test the speed of your website.
Pingdom has the option of testing your website from different locations which is great considering that geographics influence user experiences. Another great site to use is GTmetrix. Both tools provide a complete list of everything that slows down your website.
So, What Speed Should I Be Aiming At?
Well, Google loves lightning fast sites and they are gearing towards ‘mobile first’ index in 2018. Apparently, two-thirds of smartphone users use their phone to access the web. More shopping is done via mobile devices. Most studies show that users want sites to load in under 2 seconds. This means that you need to focus on the delivery of the fastest desktop and mobile-friendly user experience you can deliver. The faster the better without affecting your shopper experience. Don’t let them close the web page because it’s taking to long to load. Remember (without trying to lose any sleep over it) that if you don’t do it, your competitors will!
Check out the Page Speed Online tool here. It’s a tool developed by Google Labs which shows you your desktop speed, as well as your mobile speed. Nifty! GTMetrix also has this option, but you need to create an account first. Don’t worry – Its Free! For the moment they can only check Android devices. Now For the Nitty Gritty…
1. Choose a Quality Host
The quality of your hosting company is very important. They need to take the extra measures to optimize your website for performance. I can’t tell you which is the best hosting company, as everyone has their own reason why they would choose a particular company. What I can do is suggest the guys you often hear good reviews about. First, let me explain a few of the different types of hosting there is on offer:
This means that your website is been shared with other websites on the same server. Although this may not sound great, if you choose a decent professional hosting company, they will make sure that the server will not be overworked. Shared hosting is great when you are just starting out.
VPS (Virtual Private Server):
A Virtual Private Server is, well, private. You put on there what you like. You basically pay for the number of processors you use and the amount of memory you require. Also how much disk space is needed. You are in charge which means you have to manage all the technical errors and security issues yourself. There is, however, a growing number of companies that can manage your VPS for you.
Dedicated Server Hosting:
Here you have a whole server just for you. You are not sharing any resources with any other website. It is probably better to go with the managed version, but there is unmanaged available if you choose.
Managed WordPress Hosting:
This will give you the most optimized server to run WordPress. When deciding on your hosting company, here are a few things to consider: Speed / Automatic backups (although I would do my own backup too) / Advanced security configurations / Fee SSL / Free CDN / Free migration / Free domain.
Here are the top 3 recommendations based on reviews by reviewsignal:
VPS – Webfaction / Knownhost / SiteGround
Dedicated – Knownhost / SiteGround / Softlayer
Reseller – SiteGround / Liquidweb / TSO Host
Cloud – Pantheon / Webfaction / SiteGround
WordPress – Pantheon / Flywheel / WPEngine
Note: Take note of how often SiteGround gets mentioned! This is one of the reasons why I use and recommend them.
A recent and very interesting WordPress hosting survey was taken by CODEINWP. You can find their results here.
As a Side Note – When choosing your hosting company, try and stay away from any EIG owned companies. They just don’t have a great reputation.
2. A Fast and Uncluttered Theme:
Having an uncluttered theme or a theme that is not bloated is the next step in keeping your website speedy. Some themes can look very impressive, but they are not coded well and can cause your site to slow down. You don’t want any extra unnecessary code that needs to load. Rather add quality plugins that are relevant to each site. This keeps everything lightweight. See here for the fastest loading WordPress themes. I use Astra the most. It is lightning fast and easily customizable.
3. Enable Caching:
Caching will drastically improve page load time. Especially when you have multiple people visiting your site at once. It is quite a process for WordPress to generate any given page. So the caching plugin will make a copy of the page and serve that cached version to the subsequent users instead. The browser needs to receive less ‘fresh’ information from the site, resulting in a faster load time. It can make your WordPress website anywhere from 2x to 5x faster. These are the most popular caching plugins: WP Rocket / W3 Total Cache / WP Super Cache / WP Fastest Cache
Side Note: If you are using a Managed WordPress Hosting provider, they usually take care of the caching for you.
4. Content Delivery Network (CDN):
Because users in different geographical locations experience different loading times on your site, using a CDN can help speed up loading times for your users. The further away the computer that hosts your site is from the visitor, the longer it takes to transmit your site data. A CDN is a network made up of servers all around the world. These servers store your static files used to make up your website so your visitor will receive those files from the server located closest to them. This makes your website faster, as well as your web hosting server as the CDN will be doing a lot of the hard work. My server location is in Chicago (USA) and I have a CDN with Cloudflare who have data centers all over the world, including South Africa. Which is where I live. So people living in South Africa will probably be receiving images from data centers in either Cape Town or Johannesburg. Here is a list of some of the more popular CDN’s:
Here is a great infographic by wpbeginner to show you how it works.
5. Optimize Images:
Images just bring so much life and color to a website. However if they are not properly optimized, they can bring a whole lot of lag to your website too. We need to compress images before uploading them onto your website. And it is best if you save them in either JPG or PNG format. Here are a few ways of dealing with this. If you are using Photoshop, you can use the ‘save for web’ option. Photoshop is quite an expensive image editing tool. Fortunately, there is Gimp which is free. To add the ‘save for web’ plugin to Gimp for Linux, just install the following code into your terminal: sudo apt-get install gimp-plugin-registry Another option is to use TinyPNG. They are an online service that performs the same action. If you prefer to automate the whole process – and who wouldn’t? – then it would be best to use an image optimization plugin. Here is a list of the most popular ones: WP Smush / EWWW Image Optimization / Imagify
Best Practices for Website Optimization
Here is a list of best practices which are important to help maintain a healthy website.
1. Update Your Core Technologies
Make sure that your PHP is always updated. It is a key part of website performance. The way this is done will differ according to your hosting company. I use SiteGround, so there it is usually done in the ‘PHP Version Manager’ on your cPanel. You will find a select box which will allow you to switch to different versions. Remember to always do backups before any kind of update!
2. Update Your WordPress Website
WordPress often comes with updates which fix security problems and bugs. Your WordPress theme and plugins will also come with regular updates. It is up to you to make sure that they are always updated to the latest version. This will also prevent nasty and malicious code being added to your site. This makes your website run a lot more smoothly.
3. Perform Regular Database Maintenance
Clean up your database by removing all the unused data like old spam, trash, post revisions, etc which can slow down your site. The most popular tools to help you do this are WP-Optimize / WP-DB Manager and WP-Sweep. If WP Rocket is your go-to caching plugin, they have the option for this in the database settings.
Hopefully, you will find some of these techniques to be an effective way of speeding up your website. Try implementing them one at a time to see how it affects your speed. Remember not to get overly stressed about it. Just make sure that you create quality websites that will make your visitors want to come back for more. Make it visually appealing and provide all the relevant information. A good balance is important. And remember to find out what your users value.
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