This guide shows how you can improve loading times dramatically, in only a few easy steps. Website speed is one of the top-ranking factors for SEO, and slow loading times are a major cause of page abandonment. Therefore, making your website faster is a must to increase user experience and crucial for search engine rankings. With these steps, you can speed up your WordPress website right now!
Numbers don’t lie
Before we take a closer look, just look at these impressive stats that are related to your website speed. A one-second delay in page load time yields:
- Page views drop 11%. 40% of visitors will leave a website when it takes more then 3 seconds to load.
- Customer satisfactions plummits by 16%. 44% of users will tell their friends about a negative experience they had online.
- Conversion go down with 7%. A 2 second delay during checkout can result in a 87% abandonments
- For every 0,1 second improvement in speed, Wallmart’s incremental revenue increased up to 1%.
These figures speak for themselves. Many sites take over 8 seconds before they are loaded completely. This is why they have a dramatic performance, in terms of conversion, bounce rates (dwell time) and user experience.
If these numbers look somewhat familiar to you, then now would be a good time to speed up your WordPress website, and start implementing these strategies.
For some of the steps, we are going to install a plugin. Although adding plugins to your website can slow things down, there are also plugins that do the opposite. The plugins I show you, will only make your website faster! And remember, before installing plugins, it’s good practice to make a backup of your site first.
First, check how fast your website is now.
First, we need to know where we stand now. You can do this by inserting your URL into speed tester like Google or GTmetrix. So, before you get started, first run your site through these sites do see what the current status is of your website. Then, with every action you take, test your site again to check what difference it has made!
The first thing you should do is install a caching plugin. For a website to be displayed, it needs to fetch all the elements of the website through the browser, to the server, to the database where the website is stored.
The process of fetching an element is called a “requests”. For a website to be fully displayed, many requests need to be made, because for every element, a request is needed. These elements could be images, stylesheets, pages, and posts, etc.
Cache stores these requests closer to the user, instead of sending these requests all the way back to the server each time. So for each request, this adds up, making your website a lot faster.
These stored requests basically create a static version of your web page that it delivers to your visitors. And when you do make a change to the site, these will be displayed because these plugins are set up to empty the cache and then regenerate it with updated content when specific conditions are met, making your website dynamic again.
For caching I like to use a plugin called WP-Optimize. This great plugin combines several functionalities into one. Besides cashes your website, it also cleans your database, which will also speed up your website.
Minimize HTTP requests
This created a nice bridge into the next topic we can look into to speed up your website, the number of HTTP requests. As mentioned, your website is made out of different elements, such as images, text, styling, etc. For each of these elements, the browser needs to request them, to get downloaded them from the server. If you can minimize the HTTPS request, you are increasing your website speed.
We all want a website that looks great. But looks and speed often don’t go hand in hand. You are better off with a basic website that loads fast, than with a website that looks great, but loads like a snail. Because all these beautiful elements, all have to be requested again.
We have already mentioned how we can reduce the route it takes when we spoke about caching. The other thing we can do is minimize the amount of these requests.
A website can still look great, without too many fancy bells and balloons. The thing is that we need to make a difference between nice to have and need to have. Because with every element we add to our site, it will slow it down. Make sure all the element have their useful function. Functionality should triumph over looks, always! My suggestion is to leave them out as much as you can and make your website as clean as can be. This will also save time to maintain the website.
Limit the number of plugins
Plugins are great for adding spectacular elements to your website. But, these plugins simply function like elements again. And we know what that means. Therefore, only use the highly necessary. Plugins that only make your website look good, but add anything in terms of functionality, you can leave out!
Some plugins are slower than others. If the plugin you need on your site is slow, try looking for an alternative. There are many plugins out there that do the same thing but put a different load on your site.
Minimize image site
Almost every website uses images. Placing striking images in the right place of your site can add significant benefits to user experience. But images take much more space than text.
On average, images take up a total weight of a website by about 34%, according to HTTP Archive. Therefore, compressing your images to reduce its size can be a huge performance boost to your website.
The plugin I use for this is WP Smush. It allows you to compress the image as soon as you upload it. The images you already have uploaded in the past, I will compress them too in one simple click of a button!
When you have many images on your page, try applying lazy loading to your page. This feature allows for images to be only partly loaded. At first, only the images that can be seen, or are positioned above the fold, are loaded. Once visitors scroll down the page, more images get loaded.
Clean up the database
Easy to do, but this part is usually overseen, mainly by non-professionals. Having a clean database helps your site to load faster, because it will operate more efficiently.
Over time, your database gets cluttered with tables you no longer need. These could be articles that you have deleted, spammed comments, plugins you no longer use, old theme settings you no longer require because you are running a different theme etc.
Now you could go into PHP Myadmin and start sorting and organizing tables from there. But, you will be pleased to know there are plugins for that, to make it easier!
The one I like to use most, is WP optimize. This plugin is a whole performance pack, that not only cleans up your database, but also cashes your site if you wish to.
Content Delivery Network
A Content delivery network improves the logistics by installing a copy of your website on different servers around the world. These servers store a cached version of your site. The server which is closest to the user’s location loads the website.
This shortens the travel time for the browser to fetch the website, which enhances website speed.
In addition, Cloudflare scans traffic for threats and coming from malicious sources It will automatically block this unwanted traffic. If you have good hosting, Cloudflare is included and can be activated with a simple mouseclick.
The maximum site speed your website can reach is largely influenced by the maximum speed of your hosting. If you have a host that is capable of minimum speeds that load your website in three seconds, then three seconds is the best it will get, and it cannot load it in two seconds. Thus, the host puts a cap on the maximum speed your website can operate at.
Personally, I have tried a few hosting companies, but the one I like most is Siteground. They offer three types of packages for hosting your WordPress site. Normally you should be fine with the smallest package, but if you are like me and you want just that bit more of performance, you should get the Go Geek package!
No matter what plan you choose, all plans use the latest technologies for speed such as:
- SSD drives. Files and databases are stored on Solid State Drive technology.
- NGINX web server technology.
- Geeky SuperCacher. An inhouse cache system is created for all plans.
- Free CDN available. Stands for content delivery network. This installs a copy of your website on multiple servers around the word. This decreases loading times for someone in China trying to visit a site based in London.
- HTTP/2 enabled servers. Latest version of the HTTP protocol installed
- PHP7. This is the lasts version of PHP which is the language which communicated to the database of the website.
They also include CDN, which is a bonus and can be installed in under 10 seconds!
Check your PHP version
Check which version of PHP you are running. Making sure you have the latest version of PHP can improve site speed significantly.
You can do this with your hosting company, for instance in CPanel. If you have been with your host for a while, chances are you are running on an older version of PHP. The reason why this isn’t updated automatically is because updating your PHP can cause certain plugins to break if they haven’t been updated in a while. Therefore, they will not update your PHP and you have to do it yourself.
After updating, check if everything is still working and if it isn’t, then downgrade again to an earlier version where everything is working fine again.
Go try it!
There you go! Applying these steps will dramatically speed up your WordPress website and user experience. It is interesting to see what difference each step makes in your website’s performance. Therefore, run a speed test before and after you apply each step!