WordPress Essentials: How to Speed Up Your WordPress Site

There’s no doubt WordPress is the best and most powerful blogging platform out there. However, one of its most significant weaknesses is that it’s usually very slow. If you don’t take the necessary measures, you’ll end up with a sluggish website that will not only be a huge hassle for site visitors, but will most certainly lose you subscribers and customers.

In this world where instant gratification is a must, smooth and fast content delivery can have a huge impact on your business. Website speed has become more of a necessity than a simple rule. It has become an important factor for boosting your rank in search engines. Google itself factors website speed into their algorithm, putting great value on sites with fast loading speeds. So if your site is too sluggish, expect your search engine ranking to sink despite all your marketing efforts. This in turn attract less traffic to your site.

It makes a lot of sense. After all, nobody likes to wait around for a website to load. In fact, 40% of site visitors abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load! It’s particularly crippling for eCommerce sites, where almost 80% of online shoppers who are not satisfied with a website’s performance are less likely to visit and buy from the same website again.

You don’t want that to happen to you, right?

With all that said, what can you do to improve your site’s overall performance? Read on to discover various ways to speed up your WordPress site and to keep your customers happy.

But first things first…

Why is Website Speed So Important?

First of all, you need to understand why your WordPress site’s speed is very important to your success.

First impressions are vital to any website.

One way to check your site’s speed is to load it using a nifty web tool called Pingdom.

Pingdom

If you’ve been in this business for a while, you’d know by now that branding is vital. Accompanied with a nice layout, putting important things above the fold and all the good stuff, you can keep your site visitors engaged and keep them hooked to your site.

On the other hand, if your pages load slowly, you’ll easily lose these people before you even have the chance to convert them. Even if you have a beautifully designed website, your visitors won’t be able to appreciate it if your page doesn’t load fast enough.

Take note that on average, you only have a single-digit time frame before losing somebody to a slow-loading site. Because of this, you are stunting your brand’s own growth!

So how can you fix this?

Fixing the Foundation

To prevent your house from sinking into the ground, the first and most important thing to do is to lay the foundation.

The same goes for your website.

If your WordPress site is hosted on a sluggish server or using a bloated theme, a few simple tweaks won’t work. What’s important is that you need to fix the foundation.

But what makes a strong foundation and how you can set it up in order to have a site with lightning-fast speed?

Choose a Good Web Hosting Company

Your web hosting service provider and the hosting plan you choose should have a big impact on your site’s speed. You may be tempted to go for free or cheap web hosting (especially when you’re on a tight budget), but trust me, web hosting isn’t something you should skimp on.

If you want your WordPress site to run quickly, you need to start with a good, quality web hosting company and hosting plan.

For this to work, you need to look into specific resources like the memory or central processing unit (CPU) on the web server where your site is hosted. But in some cases, these resources are not enough for your site to function the way you expect it to.

This is especially true for sites on shared hosting. So if you’re planning to build your site on a shared hosting web server, you need to consider upgrading your web hosting account once you have money to spare.

You can go for a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or a dedicated server, but what really works best for WordPress sites is managed hosting, wherein you get to have your own systems administrator from the web hosting company itself. The administrator is in charge of handling the hardware, system software, and operating systems. This lightens your load because someone else will carry the burden for you.

As a rule in managed web hosting, you still have administrative access to the system, although you can interact with it via a Web-based interface.

However, if you’re feeling a little adventurous and want to handle things on your own, you can set up and optimize your own web server that’s dedicated for your WordPress websites. This, however, takes time and a little bit of technical know-how. What’s more, a dedicated server usually comes at a hefty price.

Limit the Number of Plugins You Use

A lot of people love to try out a new plugin for their WordPress site. I’m pretty sure most of you are guilty of installing a plugin you don’t really need, or installing one, testing it, and then deactivating it; leaving the plugin sitting idly in the installation.

The thing is, you shouldn’t overload your website with useless plugins. A high number of plugins adds an overhead to your site and slows your site’s speed. That said, you need to carefully choose your plugins and install only those you really need. If you’ve installed a lot of plugins, now is the time to remove inactive ones you don’t even use.

Another thing that causes your site speed to slow down is keeping spam comments in your WordPress database. Make sure to delete spam comments from your database on a regular basis.

And just like spam comments, you also need to get rid of old post revisions from your database, because this could put unnecessary strain to your site and could slow down the speed. Consider installing a plugin like Better Delete Revision to remove these old revisions from your posts/pages.

Choose Your Theme/Framework Carefully

You might be drawn in with the allure of free WordPress themes or those with eye-catching designs, but not all themes are created equal. While some of the themes are fast and well-coded, others are just too bloated with unnecessary features and elements, catching you under false pretenses that it’s “flexible and highly customizable”.

If possible, choose a simple and lightweight theme. You also need to take a closer look at the framework for additional benefits to your site, including:

  • Improved loading speed
  • Enhanced security
  • Basic search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Unique designs

When choosing a framework, you need to check the frequency of updates, how seriously they take security, and what kinds of designs they can offer out-of-the-box.

Besides this, you also need to look at the SEO features being offered by a theme. A good theme allows you to easily add a custom title or custom meta description to your content.

Some popular and trusted WordPress theme frameworks include:

Consider Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Using a content delivery network for your website could help reduce bandwidth usage and improve your site’s loading speed.

A CDN hosts your files (content, images, CSS and JavaScript files, etc.) across a vast network of servers from different locations around the world. For example, if a user from Japan visits your site, then they would download files from a server closest to their location. Because your bandwidth is spread across various servers, the load on any server is significantly reduced and your visitors will experience faster loading speed.

Setting up a CDN can be time-consuming and may require technical skills, but it’s definitely one of the best and fastest ways to improve your site’s speed.

Quick Fixes to Speed Up Your Site

Now that you’ve laid the foundation for your site, it’s time to begin fine-tuning it to perfection.

Use a Caching Plugin

Caching is a lot like taking a picture of your content and providing it to your site visitors without requesting it from the database each and every time. WordPress is an intricate mechanism in that, every time you load a page, a lot of things are happening on the backend.

Caching can be a tricky business. WordPress caching plugins are obviously quite useful, but if you set it up incorrectly, it could do more harm than good. If used properly, the entire process gets simplified: your content is served from the cache without being generated from the database again and again.

With the right caching plugin, your page loading time will drastically improve. Best of all, most WordPress caching plugins are free and easy to use!

My personal favorite is a plugin called W3 Total Cache.

W3 Total Cache

It’s free, effective, and very easy to use. It comes with all the features you need in a caching plugin, and installing it is pretty simple. However, you need to follow the installation guide carefully to ensure that you set it up correctly.

Optimize Your Database

As mentioned earlier, you need to delete spam comments and post revisions because they could add a heavy load on your WordPress database.

The database is where everything about your site is stored. It’s different from the physical files, uploads, themes, and plugins on your server. WordPress uses it to store your pages, posts, comments, settings, as well as plugin information. Every time a page loads, it reads the database.

A bloated database makes it difficult for you to find the information you need. This is the reason you need to optimize your WordPress database on a regular basis, especially if you’re running a large website.

WP-Optimize is a great plugin that routinely clears out trash in your WordPress database, keeping it efficient and filled only with important stuff that need to be kept.

WP-Optimize

In my case, I make sure to back up the database daily, optimize it every 3 days or so, and then fix it at least once a week. You can follow this practice too. However, if you post content several times a day, it’s best to schedule your database optimization more often.

And of course, when doing anything to your WordPress database, don’t forget to back up first.

Optimize Your Homepage

Here are a few simple things that you can do to make sure your homepage loads fast, which is probably the most important part of any site because visitors will land on this page most often.

What you can do here is to:

  • show excerpts/summaries instead of full posts;
  • limit the number of posts on the homepage (like showing posts between 5 and 7);
  • remove inactive widgets and plugins you don’t use; and
  • keep it minimalistic.

Remember that people have come to your site for content and not for the overwhelming number of widgets on your homepage! A clean, clutter-free, and straightforward homepage layout will help your page not only look good, but will also let it load faster.

Compress Your Images

Images are typically the largest files on a website, taking up most of the bandwidth. If you don’t compress them, they can take ages to load. Lucky for you, there are a lot of awesome tools out there to help you compress files.

One perfect example is a plugin called WP Smush.it. It works by automatically compressing images as you upload them to the Media Library. It strips meta data from JPGs and removes unused colors from indexed images.

WP Smush.it

All compressions are “lossless”, so there’s no loss in the quality of your images. What I like the most about this particular plugin is that it works retroactively, so if you have saved thousands of images in the library, you can easily run all of them through WP Smush.it, compressing them to a more manageable size.

Host Videos Externally

If your site has a super-fast web server with plenty of space, hosting videos won’t be a problem at all. Otherwise, you can host videos on services like YouTube or Vimeo. This can help improve your site’s speed. If you’re running a website with lots of videos, there’s no doubt you have already taken this into consideration.

Replace PHP with Static HTML Whenever Necessary

PHP is great for making your site more efficient and reduces the need to enter the same information over and over again. However, calling information through PHP consumes a lot of server resources. Consider replacing it with static HTML where appropriate.

Disable Trackbacks and Pingbacks

By default, WordPress interacts with other websites that come equipped with trackbacks and pingbacks. Whenever another site mentions you, it alerts you, which in turn updates data on the post. It’s an interesting feature, but it can slow page speed so it’s better to just turn it off.

Turning it off will not destroy the backlinks to your website, just the setting that generates a lot of work for your site.

You can turn of trackbacks and pingbacks by going to your WordPress admin dashboard, then on Discussion >> Settings.

Add Expiration to Static Items

By adding an expiry time to your static images, you can reduce the number of HTTP requests when loading other pages in your website. This in turn will make your pages load faster.

To do this, simply copy and paste the following code into your .htaccess file:

ExpiresActive On

ExpiresByType image/gif A604800

ExpiresByType image/png A604800

ExpiresByType image/jpg A604800

ExpiresByType image/jpeg A604800

Source: http://tripleseo.com/13-ways-to-speed-up-your-wordpress-site/

Turn Off Hotlinking

Hotlinking is a kind of “bandwidth theft” wherein another site uses an inline link to display an image that’s hosted on your site.

There are a lot of people who do a Google image search and assume that, not only is it okay to use your hosted image, but are also fine about embedding it using the link to the one you host. This makes your server load increasingly high and is leeching up your precious bandwidth.

To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, you can simply add the following code in your root .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?your-domain.com/.*$ [NC]

RewriteRule .(gif|jpe?g|png)$ – [F]

Source: http://tripleseo.com/13-ways-to-speed-up-your-wordpress-site/

[Always remember to back up your .htaccess file before making any changes.]

By following these simple steps, you can speed up your WordPress site and improve the experience of those who are visiting your site. Optimizing your website can make a huge difference in your site’s speed, and encourages visitors to stick around longer and engage with your content.

These simple measures won’t take very long to implement in your site and for the effort you put in, you will get a faster website and happier site visitors.

How about you? How do you speed up your WordPress site? Do you have some useful tips and tricks to share? I’d love to hear your questions, comments, and suggestions in the comments section below.

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