WordPress is the most popular content management platform on the web today, serving as the framework for more than 25% of all websites. Since launching in 2003, WordPress has enjoyed rapid growth with each passing year, which has led to new features and the expansion of the platform as a whole.
While this has made WordPress a very powerful tool for businesses, bloggers and hobbyists who want to launch and customize their own website using the extensive themes, plugins and widgets that the WordPress community has developed, it has added a fair amount of bloat to WordPress itself, with most websites using only a small fraction of the features that come standard with the software. This has left many wondering what they can do to improve WordPress site speed.
If you have noticed some slow loading times for your visitors and want to take some steps to improve your website load time, there are some easily implemented changes that can lead to drastic improvements, even for those without a lot of technical knowledge.
How to Improve WordPress Site Speed
Start with a Quality Web Host
First and foremost, the WordPress site speed your blog is capable of is directly tied to your web host. There are limits to how fast that bargain bin web hosting plan can go.
Unfortunately, many bloggers and webmasters don’t realize just how important a quality web host is and end up wasting a great deal of time implementing other fixes like the ones mentioned in this article, when really a small investment in better hosting would make all the difference. Instead of choosing the cheapest shared hosting plan, upgrade to a VPS and you’ll quickly understand how important your hosting is for reliable loading times.
Although there are many quality web hosts out there for you to choose from, we recommend that you check out the iPage VPS plans. iPage serves more than 1,000,000 customers and has been a staple of the web hosting industry for years.
Activate a CDN
Using a content delivery network (CDN) is a surefire way to speed up your WordPress website and improve page load time on all pages delivered by the CDN. The practice of using a CDN to deliver large files like images and videos is one that has really found its footing in recent years and is used by nearly all of the largest websites on the web today. In fact, even smaller websites and blogs have a lot to gain from a CDN.
A content delivery network speeds up loading times by taking all of your static files (images, videos, CSS, etc.), and allowing your visitors to download them from the nearest possible server. Essentially, content delivery networks decrease the distance that your data has to travel to reach your visitors, which improves their experience when using your website and improves page load times. The best CDN today is CloudFlare, which delivers content for some of the largest websites on the web today.
Install WP Super Cache Plugin
Typically when WordPress is serving a page to a visitor, it is delivering heavy WordPress PHP scripts that must make calls to the server and can take awhile to load. The WP Super Cache plugin improves loading times by converting all of your WordPress pages to static HTML and serving that to your visitors instead.
WP Super Cache helps a server to deliver content more quickly and cleanly, reducing bandwidth and speeding up load times for your visitors. Although there are many cache plugins available on the WordPress plugin marketplace, WP Super Cache is the most popular and has received more than 500 5-star reviews from users since its release.
Optimize Your Images
For most websites, images represent the largest source of bandwidth usage. Images (and especially images that are unoptimized) can take up a lot of space and slow down WordPress site speed.
When was the last time that you stopped before uploading an image and thought about the amount of space that it was taking up on your web server? Remember that every person that visits your website has to load each image, which takes time and eats at your monthly bandwidth allotment. What most don’t realize is that almost any image could be much smaller in terms of the disk space it occupies, without sacrificing the quality of the image.
The best image optimization plugin for WordPress is EWWW Image Optimizer. Once installed, the plugin automatically optimizes every image that you upload as you upload it. It’s completely hands-free and helps to reduce load time, save bandwidth and backup your website more quickly without sacrificing image quality in the process.
Get Rid of Unnecessary Plugins
Sometimes it can be tempting to go a little crazy with your WordPress plugins. I know that I have definitely been guilty of installing a few too many in the past and negatively affecting the performance of my website in the process.
So the next time that you start scrolling through the WordPress Plugin Directory, remember that every plugin that you install adds additional scripts that must be loaded for the plugin to function, adding to the already bloated WordPress software.
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid plugins entirely.
Well-coded, small plugins are likely to have little effect on the loading times of your website, but you may run into issues as these problems compound. Before installing a plugin, ask yourself if you really need the features that it provides and whether it is worth increasing your load time in exchange for that functionality. Go through your currently installed plugins and try to remove any plugin that you don’t absolutely need.
Consider Your Theme Choice
The theme that you choose is perhaps the most important factor affecting WordPress site speed directly behind your web hosting itself. A poorly coded, bloated theme will slow down a website on even the highest quality web host. Sometimes it’s tempting to choose a theme that is full of images and bloat because it looks great, without putting a lot of thought into how it might slow things down. Instead, opt for more basic themes to speed up your website. Often times, simpler themes provide a better user experience anyway.
Optimize your WordPress Database
As time goes on, your WordPress database can get a little crowded. If you’ve never cleaned or optimized your database, you may be storing thousands of revisions, auto drafts, spam comments, orphaned content and useless tables. This can drastically affect the speed of your website and result in a very poor experience for your users. Using plugins like WP-Sweep, you can clean up all of the unused and unwanted data in your WordPress database, which will improve loading times and free up hard disk space.
WordPress is a great platform for businesses, bloggers and hobbyists who want a great looking website with lots of options for customization. However, it is without a doubt a hefty, feature-rich CMS that some would consider to be a bit bloated. Luckily, the active WordPress development community has released some excellent plugins that can help you to speed up your WordPress website with minimal hassle.