You can literally never go wrong by making your website faster. It’s helpful for your SEO – Google will rank slower websites lower than quick ones, especially on mobile. It’s also crucial to making your website user-friendly (and help boost sales!). Now, there are all sorts of tactics you can use to speed up WordPress. But here are some of my tried-and-true absolute favorites. And you can do most of these in less than an hour.
1) Audit Your Plugins
Often times, websites can suffer from what I like to call “plugin overload”.
This can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes plugins get left over from development, and are no longer needed once the site is live. Or you might have a plugin installed but you don’t use it. Sometimes updates to WordPress or your theme will introduce new features, meaning you no longer need the plugin you were using.
And while a website can function perfectly with a lot of plugins, you have to be careful. Each plugin has to be “initialized” when your website is loaded – even if it’s not being used on the page – and the more plugins you have, the higher your risk for PHP Errors, Plugin Conflicts, and a slow website.
I recommend going through your website at least once a quarter and taking a good, hard look at the plugins you’re using. Did you stop needing one of them? Are there any inactive ones you haven’t deleted yet? Can you find better, more lightweight alternatives? Removing the unnecessary plugins on your website is a great way to speed up WordPress and keep your risk of conflicts low.
If you come across plugins you absolutely need, but are only using on certain pages, I’d recommend using a tool like Perfmatters to control exactly which pages that plugin can load its resources on. That will help keep the amount of front-end bloat on your website down and make sure you’re only using extra styles and scripts (which can slow your site down) where you need them.
2) Optimize Your Images
I wrote a whole blog post on optimizing images. But it remains one of the easiest, and most effective ways to speed up WordPress.
You can optimize your images before you upload them to your site. This is a great option if you don’t want to add a plugin to your website specifically to manage your images. Two services I’d recommend for this are TinyPNG or Imagify. Both feature easy to use drag-n-drop interfaces and do a great job at compressing your images into a smaller filesize without sacrificing much, if any, quality.
You can also set up your website to automatically optimize images when you upload them! This saves time and effort in the long run – no extra steps! Both of my favorites, TinyPNG and Imagify have WordPress plugins that use their amazing services to compress your photos and graphics. Other popular image compression/optimization plugins include WP Smush, EWWW Image Optimizer, and Shortpixel.
3) Minify Your Scripts & Styles
Even if you had your website custom built, odds are there are still scripts or styles (files that control the look and functionality of your website) that could be minified. This means taking the files, and removing any extra white space in the code, removing comments, and often times combining them into a few files to cut down on how much has to load. Minification is one of the best ways to keep your website’s size small and it’s speed up.
But it can sound really scary if you’re not a coder.
Fortunately, there are plugins that can help with this. One of my favorites is Autoptimize. It lets you minify and combine your CSS (styles), JS (scripts) and HTML, shrinking the overall size of your website and making it run faster. And it’s dead simple to use – just check a box and it does the rest!
4) Enable Caching
By default, WordPress has to “run” in the background and generate a page every time someone visits your site. That can eat up server resources and take a looooong time to finish, sometimes. Caching, on the other hand, will create “static” pages for your website. This means that when users visit your site, WordPress doesn’t have to work as hard, and it’s faster. You can also enable Browser Caching, which will save copies of your website resources (like styles, scripts, or even whole pages) on your user’s device so if they visit again, it loads faster.
This sounds super technical and scary. And, in the past, WordPress caching was super technical and scary. But now it’s fairly routine.
WP Fastest Cache is a free plugin, with a $40 upgrade to premium. WP Rocket is a $40 premium plugin. The features of both plugins are very similar – though WP Fastest Cache Premium also has an image optimizer. Both are WooCommerce-friendly and work well, so either would be a good choice to help you speed up WordPress.
5) Take A Look At Your Hosting
Not all web hosts are the same. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for, and cheap hosts have incentive (like airlines!) to cram as many websites on as little server space as possible.
If you have wiggle room in your budget, upgrading your host could be a really easy way to get a speed boost out of WordPress. And it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. My “budget” host of choice, MDD Hosting, has Cloud plans with dedicated resources (meaning other sites going over won’t affect yours!) starting at $5.99. They’ll even migrate your website for free!
If you really want speed/power/ease of use/peace of mind, Flywheel has amazing managed WordPress hosting. They’re optimized for speed, with built-in caching and a CDN. And prices start at $15 for one site – not a huge leap for a dedicated platform. They do free migrations, too!
Sometimes switching hosts isn’t an option. If it’s not for you, you might still want to contact your host. Some hosts have special caching enabled on their accounts, like Varnish or LiteSpeed, that you can take advantage of to make your website faster. Or maybe they can help you pinpoint a problem plugin that’s dragging down your site and slowing down performance. It never hurts to ask!
Speeding up WordPress doesn’t have to be complicated.
Even if you’re not technical, you can put all of these tips in motion to help speed up your site. And believe me, there is literally no downside to a fast website. So go crazy, optimize away, and remember to take a backup before you change anything!!!!