WordPress earned its reputation as the world’s most preferred CMS for its ease of use. It affords even those with limited technical knowledge an opportunity to create their web presence. However, that means it carries around a lot of weight, which means your website can slow down. Whenever a first-time visitor lands on your website, you have a limited window of opportunity to capture their attention and pique their interest to hang around long enough. If your site is lazy and sluggish, you lose. It is imperative to learn how to speed up a WordPress website.
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It’s all About Speed:
You may be asking yourself why you need to be concerned about speed in the first place. The fact that your website loads within the first few seconds may appear to be fine until you dig a little deeper. Today, something as seemingly inconsequential as a slight page-load delay can cost you big time. Let’s check out some stats;
Studies by Microsoft have shown a drop in human attention span from an average of 12 seconds to just 7.
We are all getting a little more impatient. No one is going to stick around, waiting for your page to load longer than they should.
Case studies involving Google, Amazon, and others reveal that a delay by just a single second in page load times can lead to Losses. Specifically, a 7% loss in conversions, 11% fewer page views, and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction. In monetary terms, that is even more significant as it directly affects your sales.
Speed is also a significant factor when it comes to SEO. With Google now factoring site speed in its ranking algorithm, sites that keep visitors waiting at the door longer than is necessary rank further down. The slow loading times of a site are a red flag to search engines as this indicates lower quality.
The problem slow speeds presents is more pronounced with mobile traffic. With internet connections slower than those experienced in computers, pages formatted for mobile have to be even more fine-tuned. Mobile devices are steadily becoming the main internet browsing mediums globally, and search engines are paying even closer attention to webpage speeds.
Tips for Speeding up Your Website:
When you notice a lag in your website loading times, the first thing you need to do is perform a webpage loading speed test. A good speed test report will point out weaknesses and make recommendations for improvement.
Several key factors affect the WordPress website’s loading times. Web hosting, themes and layouts, plugins, content & media size, database optimization, and other factors that the website owner needs to pay the keenest attention to improve time.
With these factors in mind, we can proceed to tackle how to take the necessary measures to speed up any WordPress site by keeping page loading times to a minimum.
1. Pick a Good Quality Host
When it comes to improving on speed, top on your to-do list should be the quality of your web hosting provider. The role your WordPress hosting service plays in the overall performance of your website is crucial. Web hosting services come in three variants;
(A) Shared Hosting
(B) Virtual Private Server (VPS)
(C) Managed Hosting
(A) Shared Hosting:
While there are shared hosting providers out there who do a decent job of optimizing client sites, the fact remains that it is a shared resource. Sharing a server with many other customers can means compromising the speed of your website.
To put it in context, a neighboring site getting lost of hits will adversely impact the performance of the server as a whole and your site speed as a consequence.
(B) Virtual Private Server Hosting:
When sharing space with an unknown number of others begins to affect the speed of your website negatively, it may be time to consider a VPS (Virtual Private Server). VPS refers to an actual, physical machine sold and supplied by a company.
The server has several different self-contained components, each running individually installed software. Even when there may be several sites using a single machine, each independently working part ensures there is zero lag.
For gigantic websites with visitors in the hundreds of thousands every day, a great solution is a dedicated server. A private server comes at considerable cost, but the fact that it is dedicated solely to your site makes it worth your while (and dollars). As a bonus, it comes with added perks such as uninterrupted power supply.
(C) Managed Hosting:
Using a managed WordPress hosting service whenever possible, gives you better-optimized server configurations to speed up your WordPress site. Automatic backups, updates, and improved security are also some of the notable perks you get from a managed WordPress hosting company.
Most notably, all the above-mentioned hosting options require the input of website owners in exerting control over the server as a separate entity. With managed hosting, your service provider will tend to all the aspects of server management. With this taken care of, a website owner can better focus on his core business.
2. Your Theme Matters
While this may sound surprising to many, your website framework is a decisive factor in determining how slow or fast your site loads. Often, loaded with tons of mostly useless features that you will never use.
A bloated theme can slow your website to a crawl owing to their sheer weight. For every feature, it comes with the added weight of required coding. Regardless of whether or not you use all of a given theme’s functions, they occupy valuable space and bandwidth even when running in the background.
It is essential to settle on a theme that offers a beautiful and functional experience without unnecessary baggage to curb this. Some lightweight ones can deliver world-class performance via great plugins without compromising speed.
The right theme will keep things lean and efficient, significantly reducing your loading time. Flashy animations and complex looking layouts may look cool but can negatively affect speed. Well coded themes are those that are great performers and aesthetically pleasing but also optimized for speed.
It is tempting to go for a beautiful and new shiny theme. However, for the sake of your website’s speed, consider one that allows you to turn off features that are not in use. Parallax scripts, sliders, Google Fonts, and more are all great features, but you should be able to choose when to use them.
Related Read: 20 Most Popular Free WordPress.Org Themes (Best Of 2019)
3. Optimize Your Plugins
WordPress plugins affect your site’s load time. While they are an absolute must-have for adding essential features to your website, they can also be a significant cause for its slow down. Identifying which plugins cause slowdowns means you can control them more efficiently.
Each plugin for WordPress is different in terms of functionally and capability. With plugins always making database queries and other loading assets, it is not unreasonable to expect that your site will have an increased load time.
Checking the files loaded by WordPress logins will reveal how they are affecting your page load times. Some tools can be used to access this information and show you all files that are loaded and how much time they took to load.
All well-coded plugins are developed to try to keep the files they load to a minimum. However, not all developers are that careful. Some WordPress plugins will load data on every single page loading instance even when those files aren’t required.
Thankfully, Plugins are easy to swap for one another. Installing and enabling is just as easy as the opposite; uninstalling and disabling. If a culprit plugin is slowing your site down, you can replace it with a superior one.
It is, however, essential to note that having too many plugins can be detrimental to your website’s speed. When it comes to plugins, you need to think quality over quantity. One great type that significantly improves speed and is a must-have is a caching plugin.
It is a good idea to keep a spreadsheet with information on your plugins the functions they perform. A Google Sheet is a great way to organize and maintain an overview of your WordPress plugins.
4. Keep Images and Video in Check
With Images often making up the bulk of a page, they can take up a lot more space in comparison to CSS or text. Resizing or compressing images without compromising quality is critical to space-saving and loading speed.
WordPress creates several sizes of any images you use for your content, allowing you to select an ideal size. However, posting a larger pixel image size and then proceeding to resize it while it is already uploaded will cause a slowdown in your website. Always ensure you pick the correct image sizes for your site.
That said, there are free WordPress plugins readily available to help you compress any images before uploading them. For best image resizing results; however, premium image optimization services are a better bet as they yield more practical results.
When it comes to video, the issue of media slowing down a site is even more apparent. While WordPress is perfectly capable of hosting and playing videos, doing so is not always a good idea. The costs in bandwidth for one are not worth it, particularly on limited hosting accounts.
Secondly, Videos occupy even larger space than images regardless of how they are formatted. Massive media files of any kind will make your WordPress website bulkier, slower and as if that isn’t bad enough, harder to back up.
If you can avoid including video in your content, you should. Besides, many perfectly capable dedicated video hosting sites can do an even better job. An even better way to work around this is to use auto-embed. All you need to do is copy the links from sites like YouTube, Daily Motion, and Vimeo among others link and paste them into your WordPress editor.
5. Database Maintenance
With time, the WordPress core and database can get clogged with tons of obsolete information that takes up temporary disk space. This accumulation can lead to a gradual slowdown in your website speed.
You will, therefore, need to optimize your database from time to time to get rid of all that unnecessary space-hogging information. You can even do this yourself by deleting unused tags, revisions, trashed posts, and the like.
However, opting to carry out database maintenance on your own can be tedious and time-consuming. A great solution is to use a dedicated plugin to do the job. Not only will an excellent database plugin optimize the structure, but it will also schedule dates for database optimization at set intervals.
With these database optimization tools, spam, post revisions, drafts, and the like can be optimized to reduce their overhead. Keeping your database usable and lean is crucial for better loading times. Without regular maintenance, your database can get out of control.
6. Stay Updated
Finally, in keeping your website’s core technology up to date, you can ensure the speed of your WordPress website is optimized. The regular releases of new HTML versions and other web technologies contain crucial improvements such as enhanced features and speed improvements. It is, therefore, critical to remain updated.
While a quality hosting service ordinarily handles updating of PHP, it is always a good idea to find your configuration menu to see that it is current. Doing this from time to time will see to it that you are on top of things.
It is, however, essential to test on staging sites before switching PHP versions as some codes may not be compatible with older WordPress versions. Not doing so means you run the risk of doing irreparable damage to your site.
Similarly, always ensure that you are not only running the latest version of WordPress but that all its components are in good working order. Each WordPress version comes with bug fixes and more to keep websites running smoothly and efficiently.
SEO, conversions, reduced bounce rates, and rankings and more, are heavily influenced by the speed of your website. Like we have seen, even a one-second lag has enormous implications. The techniques discussed above are useful in speeding up any WordPress website.
It doesn’t mean that to obtain optimal speed and page load times, you must use all of these tips. The general idea is to utilize whichever method(s) is within your reach and capability. It is important to note that even changes that may appear as minimal can make a huge difference.
Creating a website that is beautiful, easy to use, with seamless plugin integrations and rich features will come to naught if it is slow and sluggish.