Straight out of the box, WordPress is pretty fast. However, if you bog it down with a heavy theme, plugins, and media, it’s no wonder that things start slowing to a crawl.
Your website’s speed matters. Google and other search engines take loading time into account for how you rank, especially on mobile. Slow websites are perceived by visitors as less credible, lower-quality, and less interesting. A slow website may even turn away potential customers to your faster competitors.
Fortunately, there are lots of techniques, tools, and plugins that have been reliably shown to boost your site’s performance. Keep reading to learn how to speed up WordPress.
Is my Website Slow?
Before you start working on improving your site speed, it’s well worth measuring it. Otherwise, how would you know if the plugins you try to speed things up with are actually making a difference? The extra overheads of installing additional plugins might even slow things down!
There are a number of different site speed testing tools online. Here are three that I would recommend:
Go ahead and measure your site’s speed in each of these tools before continuing. Record it somewhere to compare to later. Remember, since each tool is different you will likely get a different speed score from each. You can usually assume that your average speed is somewhere along the same lines, though.
Common Causes of a Slow WordPress Website
Let’s talk about some of the most common reasons your website is running slowly. Then we’ll discuss the different things you can do to address them.
- Slow Hosting. You can make every optimization in the books, but if your hosting provider doesn’t fit your needs, your site will still be slow.
- Unoptimized Images. Images should be uploaded at the size you want to display them at. They should also use the format that makes them look the best at the smallest possible file size.
- Slow Plugins. Turn off plugins you don’t need, and if a certain plugin is dramatically impacting performance, look for an alternative.
- Too Many Embeds. Embedded media from other sites can slow your site down. Try to limit it on your site to where it is absolutely necessary, like video embeds. Avoid embedded media in your sidebars and footers that load on every page.
Optimizing Your WordPress Install
Wait! Don’t add some more plugins just yet. Before you start adding to your site, it’s a good idea to take a look at what you already have installed, and optimize it for better performance.
Keep Things Up to Date
WordPress, and worthwhile plugins, are actively maintained pieces of software that are updated over time. Not updating your plugins, themes, and WordPress installation makes your site vulnerable. These updates also fix bugs and incompatibilities that can slow down or even break your site. Avoid these hassles by keeping everything up to date.
Paginate Posts and Comments
Search engines love long-form content. However, if your content is dotted with a lot of images, embedded videos, and more, that can be a lot to load at once. The solution? Add page breaks! In WordPress, all you need to do is paste the following shortcode wherever you want to break to a new page:
If your comments are what is making your posts super long, you can paginate those, too. Go to Settings > Discussion and check off this box:
If you prefer to avoid pagination, there is another solution in both of these cases! Keep reading to see my recommendation for a “lazy loading” plugin, that loads content as it’s needed.
Remove Plugins You Don’t Need
It is a good practice to occasionally sweep through your plugins and make sure you are not running any that you don’t need.
Some plugins are a single-use tool that you only need when, for example, you change themes. Common examples might be a plugin to regenerate your thumbnails, or a plugin to load demo content.
Take Advantage of Fully-Featured Plugins
Also, if you use a fully-featured plugin like Yoast SEO, it may allow you to turn off other plugins that accomplish the same thing. I don’t just mean other SEO plugins. Yoast has all the following features tucked away in its settings:
- Webmaster Tools verification
- Open Graph meta data (adding images automatically into shares of your content on Facebook)
- Twitter cards settings
- Pinterest site confirmation
If you use Yoast SEO, and you also have a plugin to do any of the things listed above, you can probably turn off the second plugin and just use Yoast SEO.
Remove Low-Performance Plugins
Chances are, you still have a number of plugins installed even after the two tips above. You can use another plugin to measure their performance and see if you ought to replace them with something faster.
P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) is a free WordPress plugin by GoDaddy that measures your plugins’ performance. It will monitor your site as it loads and tell you what is happening in a report. You can use it to identify plugins that are using way more resources than needed.
By the way, once you are done using P3, I suggest removing it! It is another one of those single-use tools like I mentioned above.
Add Plugins to Speed Up WordPress
The following plugins add a variety of new features to your site that don’t come with WordPress by default. Keep reading to learn what they do and how they can help speed up WordPress and boost your site’s performance.
W3 Total Cache
Caching plugins skip the long process of retrieving dynamic content from the server. Instead, they present your users with a copy of the HTML content that makes up your website. This is much faster than needing to retrieve the content from the server every time.
W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular free WordPress caching plugins, with over a million active installs. It is still being actively maintained and updated. Since the plugin is so popular and has a great track record, it is a good option for speeding up your WordPress site.
EWWW Image Optimizer
Lossless image optimization works by removing unnecessary information from the files you upload to decrease the file size. Lossy image optimization works by slightly reducing the quality of the image itself to decrease file size.
With EWWW Image Optimizer, you can use lossless image optimization on JPG, PNG, GIF, and PDF files, and lossy compression on PNGs for free. You can purchase credits for further optimization, but the free options are enough for most users to see a difference.
This plugin is actively installed on over half a million WordPress websites and is still maintained by the author.
Cloudflare is a Content Delivery Network, or CDN. CDNs speed up your website because they store copies of your content on servers around the world. When someone visits your website, they get the copy of your website closest to them, rather than only having access to a single server across the world.
Cloudflare is one of the only CDNs that offers a free basic version. Their free WordPress plugin makes it easy to integrate your WordPress site with their service. The plugin has over 100,000 active installs and is actively maintained.
BJ Lazy Load
Lazy loading means that your website content loads as your visitor scrolls. That means what is visible loads first, and then the rest of your images wait until the visitor scrolls to keep loading.
BJ Lazy Load is one of the most popular free lazy loading plugins for WordPress, with over 50,000 active installs.
These simple tips and easy to use plugins are sure to speed up your WordPress website. When you’re done working through this list, be sure to use those speed testing tools I mentioned at the beginning again. That way, you can see how your speed after optimizing compares to before. Choosing a fast loading WordPress theme is another way to boost site speed and performance that you might like to try.
Do you have another tip, or favorite plugin, for speeding up WordPress? Please let us know in the comments below.