The Need for Speed: 8 Ways to Speed Up Your WordPress Site

January 19, 2016


Do you suffer from slow site-itis? Is your WordPress moving at a snail’s pace and you want to know how to decrease load times? Great! We’ve got eight ways to speed up your WordPress site, and most of them are free and easy to do. Ready? Let’s go.

Find Your Current Load Speed

First things first, let’s start by finding your current load speed. You can do an initial test on either Pingdom or WebPagetest. It’s good to know your starting numbers to help you see how fast (or slow) your site is for the average site visitor. At the end of making the following changes, you can then check your site again to see how you’ve improved.

1. Update Your Version of WordPress

While it seems like WordPress asks you to update every other week, it’s important to keep your site current. Just go ahead and click update. Updates can improve your site’s security, stability, and performance.

2. Don’t Use Shared Hosting

I know, I know… Shared hosting is cheap. You’re spending about $5 per month (or less) to host your website, and it’s hard to pass it up. However, sharing hosting can also slow down your load speed, not to mention make you more vulnerable to site crashes.

That’s not to say your only alternative is dedicated hosting. Instead, you can go with a Virtual Private Server (VPS). Without getting too technical, a VPS still shares resources but in a very structured manner. On a shared server, your website is one of hundreds (or thousands). Your website has to fight all the others for resources. One website could use up 90% of the available memory, and leave the rest of the websites scrambling for the remaining 10%. May the odds be ever in your favor.

With a VPS, every account gets a specific amount of resources unlike the first come, first serve nature of shared hosting. It’s superior to shared hosting in every way except maybe price, although you can find affordable VPS hosting.

Most web hosts offer a VPS option in addition to shared and dedicated serving.

3. Cache

One easy way to speed up your website is to install a cache plugin. Here’s what happens if you don’t:

A visitor comes to your site and as a result, a ton of information is called up. This includes images, comments, javascripts, post updates, and so on. This dynamic load takes a lot of time, depending on how much you have going on with your site.

That’s why you need a cache plugin. A cache plugin takes a static “snapshot” of your website and shows that image instead of calling up and loading everything dynamically.

A cache plugin can actually improve speed by up to 10 times.

The top cache plugins to go with are W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.

4. Use a Content Delivery Network

The Internet is global. You may have site visitors from Kansas to Kathmandu, and everywhere in between. But, depending on how close your site visitor is located to the server hosting your website, they may experience lengthy load times.

What’s the solution? A Content Delivery Network, or CDN for short. When you sign up for a CDN, your content is copied and distributed to servers across multiple data centers.

Let’s say your visitor is accessing your site from New York. Instead of forcing your visitor to wait while a server in Los Angeles delivers and display the content of your website, the CDN calls up a server much closer to your visitor (let’s say the nearest server is located in New Jersey). The result? A much faster load.

I know we’re talking about seconds here, but remember: every single second counts. This isn’t your dad’s dial-up. People expect immediate service.

There are a lot of great CDNs available. Consider the most popular: MaxCDN, CloudFare, and Amazon CloudFront.

5. Compress Your Images

Images and beautiful but bulky. While I’d never recommend getting rid of image off of your site (images break up the monotony of text), they can slow down your site. The answer? Compress them.

You can drastically decrease file size without compromising quality. There are plenty of ways to decrease image size, but you can also install a plugin to automatically reduce size. Check out the WP Smush, EWWW Image Optimizer, or TinyPNG plugins for a built-in image compression. You can also visit TinyPNG or TinyJPG respectively to compress your images up to 20 at a time.

6. Lazy Load

Did you know that one of the reasons why your website is taking so long to load is because it’s actually loading all of your images.

While caching plugins may reduce CSS and JS load times, it may not cache images. That’s why you need a plugin like Lazy Load. Lazy Load only loads images when they will be visible on the screen to the visitor. It’ll improve your load times and decrease your bandwidth usage.

7. Manage Plugins and Widgets

All those plugins and widgets that you don’t use? Yeah, they’re still taking up space and slowing down your site. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t still loading.

In fact, it’s time to take a closer look at all of the widgets and plugins currently in use on your site. Do they serve a real service to your site visitors? Do you really need a widget displaying the current weather? Do you really need three different social media widgets? I think you know the answer to that.

Let’s go on a plugins and widgets diet. If you don’t need it, get rid of it, especially if you value speed. Approach your plugins and widgets with a minimalist mindset.

8. Clean Up Your Database

Your bloated database can slow down your site speed. Stuff like pingbacks, un-approved comments, and old post revisions are weighing down your site. You need to clean up and dust the database frequently to get rid of the cobwebs of old, unnecessary, or redundant data.

Enter WP-Optimize, a plugin that can clean up your database in the background so you don’t have to venture in there by yourself. It’s creepy in there.

Final Thoughts

Takes these steps to speed up your WordPress site, and then test your load speed again. I bet you’ve made some steps towards. Let me know which ones you’re planning to try in the comments below.