Hey blog fam! Here again with a great discussion on simple WordPress website speed optimization.
In the different Facebook groups I participate in a common topic is website speed.
Why is my website so slow? How can I improve my website load time? How to do a website speed optimization test? These questions and more are what you will find in this post!
I have written on this topic before however I believe it’s important enough to provide input to others especially as we learn and grow in our blog journey.
I will share the approach I use on each site that I work on. I’ve found that most issues can be resolved with this basic format,
but there are definite cases where there may be a need for more technical expertise from a website speed optimization service.
So if you are on the less techy side of the scale don’t worry this discussion is designed to help you sort out speed optimization issues.
Let me say this up front! WordPress website speed optimization will involve using plugins. There are both free and paid plugins that can fix most website issues.
When it comes to using a paid plugin you can expect more results and better performance.
The free plugins can work , but my experience has taught me the paid plugin will do a better job when it comes to optimizing.
Lets get to it!
WordPress Website Speed Optimization
You need to understand what issues your website has (if any) before attempting a blanket fix.
There are a number of online tools that can measure your sites performance. Pingdom, Google Pagespeed Insights and Gtmetrix are among some of the more talked about in the blogosphere.
My prefference is Gtmetrix. When you get your results gtmetrix seems to make it easier to discover issues you have and how to fix them.
This has been my experience. So lets head over to gtmetrix and have a look at your current website performance.
While your here lets explore the saying “why website speed matters” Website speed is directly related to user experience.
Importance of Website Speed Optimization
Related Reading: Why Website Speed Is Important
A fast loading snappy website generally means a better experience for your visitor.
You increase the possibility for more email sign ups, more product sales, and more conversions in general.
Many people coming to your website will be a first time visitor so you want to give them a great place on the web to find answers to problems they may have.
Google estimates that if your website load time is more than 5 seconds that you could be loosing up to 90% of those visitors.
We live in an ultra fast paced world today and the need for quick access to information is critical.
More and more users are accessing your website from mobile devices, (tablets and mobile phones).
It’s important to make sure your site is up to date, mobile repsponsive, and fast.
What is a Good Site Speed
What’s an ideal speed our site should load at? As a a best practice Google recommends you want to have a site with a full load time of less than 3 seconds.
It’s clear that we need a fast loading website so what steps do we take to work on this?
You’ve measured your site and received your report lets break it down.
The letter grade your given is secondary. We want to focus on 1. full load time 2. page size 3. requests.
Those are the metrics we want to move and the way we do this is looking at a few critical areas.
Guidelines to Speed Up Your Website
- Website Caching
- Website images
- External resources
- Theme design
What Does Hosting a Website Mean
A website hosting company will store all of your website files (such as text, images, and videos) on a server.
When someone visits your website the server will respond by delivering the viewable version of your website using the files it had stored.
There are high end hosting companies and lower end (not discrediting a lower end company) but there are different levels of hosting available.
When it comes to hosting I would say to find the plan that works best for your budget and website.
There are plenty choices out there and not to confuse the situation, choose what works best for you!
If your brand new looking at this you can use a shared hosting plan that will be reasonably priced.
Until you get to the point where you want to have complete control over your hosting and you have a website with tons of traffic you can also use a shared hosting plan.
Types of Web Hosting
Shared Hosting: Affordable hosting generally good for websites with low traffic (lots of websites, bloggers use this option)
Managed Hosting: For websites with huge traffic and allows a company to manage the server, and hardware VS the customer trying to manage
Cloud Hosting: If your website has fast traffic growth cloud hosting is an option that has some shared hosting features such as the simplicity and use. You will pay for the service to be managed by the company
Dedicated Hosting: Expensive option that gives the user an independent hosting plan. You do not share hosting with anyone so you can configure your plan to meet all your websites needs.
Colocation Hosting: More suited for individuals with experience in hosting. The ideal client would own there own servers and setup hosting through the servers.
A great option for bloggers would be SiteGround. I have websites hosted with SiteGround and have no complaints of there service.
You will get affordable pricing mixed with great customer service and a reliable fast hosting plan.
You can pay quarterly or annually and find discounts on your plan.
The basic plan with SiteGround is called “start up”. With this plan you get 10 GB of disk space, unlimited bandwidth, domain email address, and a free SSl.
The plan also does daily backups of your website and comes with a CDN from Cloudfare. Tons of value at a modestly priced level.
You may find other hosting companies with lower priced plans but they may not provide all of the features you get with the SiteGround service.
If you already have hosting with another company you can move your website over to SiteGround like I did.
They have 2 options and both are really simple. Option 1 you can use there free “site migrate” plugin which will work in most cases. The second option would be to use there technical support team to do the move for you.
Using there techs to perform the site move has a fee of $30 and is 100% done by there tech team.
You can get your website hosting with SiteGround here
As your website grows in popularity and your traffic begins to grow your server may work slower because it takes more time to render your web-page to multiple users on your site.
What caching will do is basically store a recent version of your website. This stored version is what visitors will see when they come to your site.
Anytime your website is changed or updated the stored version will also change.
This saves time in loading your website to visitors because the server does not need to send requests to load all resources from your site.
I use WordPress.org self hosted websites. There are a number of good caching plugins to choose from.
A couple of my favorites would be WP Fastest Cache. This is a lightweight well coded plugin that is FREE to use and will make improvements to your WordPress website speed.
Another favorite of mine would be WP Rocket. This plugin is definitely a great choice. It is a premium plugin (it costs $49) that is full of features.
Optimize The Size of Images on Your Website
Images would be the next area you want to focus on. This section will help to optimize your site by reducing your page size.
Beautiful well taken images look great on your website but tend to be a major cause of speed issues when not properly optimized.
When it comes to images each theme has a recommended dimension that you will want to use.
I’m not a photographer but I have seen some of the greatest images online and find that often times they are sized improperly.
Looking at your gtmetrix report if you scored poorly in the “optimize images” section you will be given specific recommendations to fix each image.
Both of these plugins offer a free service as well as a paid version.
When it comes to free VS paid in this case you get more useful benefits in the paid version of ShortPixel at a moderately priced level.
Plans starting at $5.00 per month for 5,000 images and $10.00 per month for 12,000 images.
See ShortPixel here
When it comes to reducing requests lets understand what these requests are and where they come from.
As the requests are completing your visitor will see your website.
For those of you with a minimalist type website (not many images, or videos) you won’t have a big issue here.
The issue is when a site has lots of neat images, plugins, and different features added.
Remember every thing you’ve added to your website will have an effect on you sites performance.
A caching plugin can help in this area.
There are free cache plugins like WP Fastest Cache that will help with your WordPress website speed optimization.
You can also use a paid plugin like WP Rocket to optimize.
The big difference in the free version and the paid versions is that the WP rocket paid plugin will provide more options and do a much better job at optimizing your site.
See WP Rocket here
So this is a pretty straight forward issue. When it comes to the WordPress website theme you choose it will be coded with data to make the theme work.
Some themes (really nice looking themes) can be over designed thus causing a negative effect on your sites performance.
What I mean by over designed is not to say the theme has any problems, but what happens with a theme is pretty basic at the time of loading.
Server requests resources, some of those resources may not be necessary when your site loads. As a result of that you have “bloat” in your theme.
There are ways to reduce the bloat a theme carries. You can use a plugin that allows you to choose what loads on your page.
These types of plugins are useful but I strongly suggest you understand totally how to use the plugin before applying changes to your site.
You could end up disabling some CSS that’s needed for your site to function and basically break your site.
When looking for a theme I would suggest a theme that is optimized and lightweight in its design.
What ever your theme choice will be, keep in mind that you will be weighing the cost of aesthetics over performance.
Reduce The Number of Plugins
Plugins can be a great way to add functionality to your website. Keep in mind that each plugin you install will require resources to run them.
The more plugins means the more resources being used. This where we run into issues with website speed being impacted negatively.
When using plugins be careful to only use needed plugins. You should also keep your plugins up to date as this would help to reduce security issues.
The topic of website speed optimization is one I sort-of geek out over. I wanted to write this and help those of you who are looking for ways to DIY your website project.
There are many things you can do to help with the overall performance of your website. A few to add to the list would be:
- Enable gzip compression
- Operate on the latest PHP version
- Use Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
- Optimize your database
You will want to test your website speed and find what specific issues your site may have.
Use Speed test tool such as Gtmetrix. You will be given a report that will aid in correcting any issues your website may have.
I hope this answers some questions for you and good luck on your blog journey.
Now over to you
I’m curious? What are some methods you use to handle your WordPress website speed optimization? Join the conversation and leave a comment below. We love to hear from our readers!