How To Speed Up WordPress

WordPress, in my opinion, is the best content management system…nothing comes close to it! However, one of the downsides is that it can become slow and sluggish. Well, in this article, I will show you how to speed up WordPress.

Why Can WordPress Be Slow?

If WordPress is the best content management system, you are probably wondering why it can be slow.

Well, the main reason that WordPress is so great is that there are thousands of themes and plugins available to extend its functionality. However, this is also its downfall when it comes to speed.

Some themes can be poorly coded and the more plugins your site uses, the more strain it puts on your server. The unfortunate result is a website that can become slow over time.

Why Does WordPress Speed Matter?

Are you wondering why does WordPress speed matter? Well, the answer is simple…it leads to a poor user experience.

When someone lands on your website, you only have a few seconds to capture their attention and convince them to stay on your site.

If your content does not load within the first 3 seconds, then there is a high chance that the visitor will become frustrated and leave to visit one of your competitor’s website.

According to a report by Bing’s search team, a 2-second longer delay in page responsiveness reduced user satisfaction by 3.8%, increased lost revenue per user by 4.3%, and reduced clicks by 4.3%.

Second to this is that page loading speed is now a ranking factor. This basically means search engines like Google measures how quickly your website pages load and will rank your website based on the result.

How To Speed Up WordPress

Now that we understand why WordPress can be slow and why WordPress speed matters, let’s learn how to speed up WordPress.

The list provided below is in no order of importance and not every step may be effective for everyone, depending upon how your site has been built.

However, following just some of these steps will definitely make a difference and the more you can try, the better.

1: Choose A Good Host

The first step to ensuring your site gets off on the right foot in terms of speed, is to ensure you pick a good quality hosting company.

There are two main types of hosting accounts – shared hosted and dedicated hosting.

Shared hosting is cheaper and involves you sharing web space with many other websites. As the disk space and bandwidth is shared with these other sites, it means your site will generally load slower.

Dedicated hosting is more expensive but means you get your own dedicated server space, i.e. you don’t share it with anyone. The result is a faster load time due to you not having to share your disk space and bandwidth.

However, this isn’t to say that shared hosting is all bad. Depending upon how much traffic you have and the amount of space needed, shared hosting can work out a better option. Also, with the addition of CDN’s you can boost the speed of a shared hosting account quickly and easily.

If you are looking for affordable shared hosting with the option of a CDN, then why don’t you take a look at our website hosting packages.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a dedicated hosting solution, I personally recommend Krystal Hosting. Sign up using the discount code C85CDBA0 and you will get £5 off your first order!

2: Use A Decent Theme

When looking at how to speed up WordPress, one of the main culprits of a WordPress website being slow is when people use poorly built themes.

Many free and even premium themes can be poorly coded, don’t benefit from regular updates and come bundled with loads of free features and plugins.

When choosing a theme, don’t be fooled by the large amounts of free plugins they are throwing in. You need to ensure your website only has the features and plugins it needs – nothing more!

So, check that you can disable and remove the plugins and features you won’t need.

Check how often the theme is updated and the level of support you will receive. Also, look at the feedback from other users – has anyone else complained about the theme being slow?

Lastly, many theme developers will let you know what it scores in speed tests like Google PageSpeed Insights. However, don’t take their word for it. Make sure they have a demo site for you to look at and run it through some tests yourself.

As a WordPress web designer in Chichester, we will only ever use two themes for all our WordPress websites; Beaver Builder and Astra. These are highly regarded as being two of the fastest and most reliable theme frameworks for WordPress.

3: Use A Caching Plugin

When a website loads for the first time, some of the page content is stored in cache memory, which helps the site load faster when viewed again from the same machine.

By using a reliable cache plugin, you can set which elements should and should not be cached to have more control over your loading times.

However, I only advise using a cache plugin if you really need to. If you are using a decent host and theme, then you may find that installing a cache plugin won’t offer any further benefits.

But, if you are using a host and theme that is not up to scratch, then a cache plugin is a great solution to give your site the needed boost.

I recommend W3 Total Cache, which is the best cache plugin available when looking at how to speed up WordPress. However, be warned that W3 Total Cache is very advanced and does require knowledge of servers and caching to set it up correctly.

If you are not confident in doing this yourself, then you may want to use a plugin like Autoptimize. Although this doesn’t offer as much control as W3 Total Cache, it is a lot simpler and easier to use.

4: Consider A CDN

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is where your website content is cached and stored on multiple servers all over the world.

When someone makes a request to view your website, its content can then be served from a server that is physically closer to the visitor’s location. This results in faster load times.

When choosing a CDN service, I would always advise going to your hosting company first as it is best to have them set this up for you.

However, if your hosting company does not offer a CDN service, then I would recommend Cloudflare, which is free and easy to set up in no time yourself. This also integrates perfectly with W3 Total Cache above and is a perfect solution to how to speed up WordPress.

5: Optimise Your Images

One thing that I see time after time is website owners uploading their own images to WordPress without optimising them first.

Yeah, there are some good image optimisation plugins available like Smush It, which I do recommend. However, this should not be an excuse for not doing some manual work yourself first.

Before you upload your images, ensure they are the correct size. You don’t want to rely on WordPress having to take an image that is too large and resize it on the fly when loading your page – this will use up valuable server resources.

So, use some image editing software like Photoshop to ensure your image is no larger than it needs to be.

Once your image is the right size, run it through an online web compression tool like Optimizilla. This tool is seriously good and allows you to adjust the level of compression and see the changes in real time.

6: Disable Hotlinking

Hotlinking occurs when another website direct links to the images on your own website. This is most commonly carried out when someone wants to use one of your images in their post, so adds a link to the image on your server within their article.

Although this can seem harmless, if the linking page receives a lot of traffic, it can lead to a lot of your own bandwidth being ‘stolen’ which isn’t good when looking at how to speed up WordPress.

By adding the following code in your .htaccess file, you can stop this from happening:

disable hotlinking of images with forbidden or custom image option
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?improveposition.co.uk [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.co.uk [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)? improveposition.co.uk/feed [NC]
RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [NC,F,L]

Obviously, you will need to replace our website address and feed address with your own.

7: Add An Expires Header

An expires header enables you to specify a time in the future so that your visitor’s browser does not have to re-fetch static content. This will typically include CSS files, JavaScript files and images.

By setting an expires header, it will help to reduce the load time to your regular visitors which is a great tip when looking at how to speed up WordPress.

To do this, simply add the below code to your .htaccess file:

ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/gif A2592000
ExpiresByType image/png A2592000
ExpiresByType image/jpg A2592000
ExpiresByType image/jpeg A2592000

The numbers above are set for a month, in seconds, but you can change them however you like.

Be aware that W3 Total Cache does have an option to set an expires header as well, so if you are using that plugin you may not need to set the header manually.

8: Add LazyLoad To Your Images

LazyLoad is the process of having only the above-the-fold images load on a page. Above-the-fold basically means the visible part of the browser that the visitor sees, before they start scrolling.

So in the case of LazyLoad images, only the images that are within that visible area will load immediately. Then, any images below-the-fold will load only when the visitor scrolls.

As not all visitors will scroll down on your page, this can save valuable load time.

I recommend installing the jQuery Image Lazy Load plugin to enable this useful feature on your WordPress site.

9: Turn Off Trackbacks & Pingbacks

WordPress posts come with a feature called trackbacks and pingbacks, which you may have seen on the post edit screen.

Every time another WordPress website mentions one of your pages, it notifies your website and updates data on your post.

By un-ticking the ‘allow trackbacks and pingbacks on this page’ option in the discussion window, you will keep the backlink whilst eliminating all the additional work that your website needs to do – another great tip when looking at how to speed up WordPress.

10: Use ManageWP

In this final step, I am going to recommend a tool that I swear by and wouldn’t live without – ManageWP.

ManageWP is a full management suite for WordPress, taking care of things like backups, updates, database optimisation, uptime monitor, SEO tracking and analytics, all controlled through their single manager plugin and online dashboard via their website.

However, the main features I want to highlight here are updates and database optimisation.

The WordPress database works hard in the background, storing all kinds of data. However, a lot of this stored data isn’t always required. This may include things like spam comments, post revisions and drafts, taking up valuable space and hindering performance.

So, it is good practice to clear out any unused data on a regular basis to keep your WordPress site running smoothly.

As well as this, it is vital that your WordPress system is kept up-to-date at all times, to ensure it is running the best it can. Even if you have followed all the steps in this article, your site will still suffer in the speed department if you don’t have a proper update procedure in place.

However, although keeping your WordPress site up-to-date is vitally important and can be done easily within the WordPress admin, it is imperative that you have a solid backup process in place first. This is where ManageWP comes into its own!

So, get yourself over to the ManageWP website, open a free account and put in your WordPress credentials. After a few minutes, their system will install their manager plugin onto your site. You will then be able to manage various performance tools all through the ManageWP dashboard.

Yeah, there are other database optimisation and update plugins available for WordPress, which you can install directly via your site admin. But, as I mentioned at the start of this article, the fewer plugins you have running on your site, the better.

Michael Hutton

Michael is a successful entrepreneur with a strong background in all areas of web development, online marketing, graphic design and IT. As the current owner of Improve Position, as well as a small range of other related businesses, Michael's enthusiasm shines through with his passion to help others understand and succeed in the world of online business marketing.

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