Many bloggers love WordPress, trust it as a platform, and use it to power their blogs. That’s great for all of us, because it means the WordPress software will likely be maintained indefinitely. And it drives the third-party plugin and theme market.
The more bloggers that use WordPress, the better the platform becomes for all of us.
WordPress is relatively easy to use. It has a lot of features, and you can add more with plugins. However, this openness also means it’s easy to make a SLOW WordPress site. If your blog suffers from WordPress performance issues, readers won’t stick around, subscribe, or visit again in the future.
Additionally Google doesn’t like slow websites because it’s a bad experience when a potential reader clicks a Google link and waits forever for your site to load.
This post will teach you to improve your WordPress performance and make a faster blog that is more user-friendly and helps you rank higher in Google.
A study from Akamai determined that a two-second delay in page load time increased bounce rate by 100%. What does this mean? It means that twice as many people who try to read your post will leave before the page finishes loading. Those are people who were interested in your title but too impatient to wait for your slow blog to load!
If you’re concerned about your WordPress performance, that’s great – you’ve taken a step in the right direction. Read on to find 13 ways to improve the speed and performance of your WordPress blog.
1. WordPress Performance: Choose your host wisely
One of the worst things you can do when it comes to your website performance (WordPress or otherwise) is to have a poor web hosting company. Lots of bloggers recommend web hosts based on how much affiliate revenue they can make, rather than how good the host is.
For your WordPress site, it’s best to choose a host that has lots of WordPress hosting experience. If you yourself aren’t very technical, it will also be good to have a host with excellent support and/or one-click installations of WordPress and popular plugins.
A bad host will cram too many websites on the same server, thereby reducing the performance of all of those sites. Or, they may not segregate the sites well from each other, and another user who installs a bad theme could cause issues such as spam or hacking.
2. Optimize Images
Bloggers love images and with good cause. Images help explain and illustrate concepts in your post. They also make your post look longer, and therefore more authoritative. However, don’t sacrifice your WordPress performance by uploading poorly-optimized images.
Your images should generally be sized at about the same size your users will view them. If your blog theme maxes out at 1200px wide, then your image probably doesn’t need to be more than 1200px wide itself. The only reason you may want to make it bigger is to allow for better viewing on 4K / Retina monitors, including iPhone. In that case, you may wish to make the images twice as wide as it’s likely to show.
In addition to resizing, you also want to choose the best format. Photographs should almost always be JPG. Logos, illustrations, and other images with lots of solid color work best in GIF or PNG format.
Finally, make sure to compress your images. You can do this several ways:
- Photoshop – use the Save for Web option
- Kraken.io – a great tool you can use to batch-compress images
- Google PageSpeed Insights – test your page in Page Speed Insights; if the images need optimizing, Google will tell you AND will allow you to download optimized versions of the images
- Optimizilla – a favorite tool of bloggers to compress and optimize images
- WPSMush – a WordPress plugin that can optimize your images. (Find a great list of image-related plugins for WordPress here.)
3. Don’t Host Your Own Videos
Videos take up a lot of bandwidth. Almost always (I’m sure there are exceptions) you will want to serve them from YouTube, Vimeo, or the like. The reason is that shared hosting plan usually limit your monthly bandwidth, and serving videos eats into that really quickly. Also, YouTube and Vimeo are optimized for video delivery.
If you include lots of videos on your webpage, you may even want to not load them until the viewer indicates he or she is ready to view the video. (Some people don’t like videos and will never watch them!) This process is called “lazy-loading”, and there’s a tutorial that describes it here.
There is also a WordPress plugin for lazy-loading videos, although I haven’t used it so I can’t say how well it works.
4. Select a Trustworthy WordPress Theme
There are tons of free WordPress themes available to choose from. Many free themes are very good. But many aren’t. Some may not be optimized, while others may include actual backdoors that allow hackers into your website.
If you choose a free theme, make sure it’s one with a good reputation. Unfortunately you’ll have to do your own research on this, because I use Genesis for almost everything. Hopefully this article will help; it describes how to determine if a free theme is trustworthy.
A paid theme may be better if it’s within your budget. A lot of people like Divi, although personally I can’t stand it. If you have just a bit of coding and technical skill, I find the Genesis Framework by StudioPress to be amazing. In addition to tons of child themes, it’s highly customizable with code snippets. Additionally, Bill Erickson has published a great collection of how-to posts for customizing Genesis.
Another benefit to Genesis is that it’s natively supported by the W3 Total Cache’s fragment caching (more on that below).
5. Optimize WordPress Comments
There are two great ways I know of to optimize WordPress comments. The first is to turn on comment pagination – which shows only a certain number of comments at a time. The viewer has to click the “next” button or a link to get to additional comments.
This is great because most of your visitors likely aren’t there (initially) to read the comments. Paginating them keeps the page size smaller so that there’s less content for browsers to load on the first visit.
Second, consider turning off commenter Gravatars. Gravatars are the small thumbnails that show next to each commenter’s name. Many commenters don’t set this up, so lots of them may be the gray default user icon. Not pretty, and not helpful to readers. Unless you have a good reason for commenter’s Gravatars to appear, turn them off.
You can disable Gravatars throughout your site by logging into WordPress. Then go to Settings > Discussion from the menu on the left side. Scroll down to the section that says “Avatars”, and uncheck the box next to “Show Avatars”. Then scroll to the bottom and click the “Save Changes” button.
However, if your theme uses Gravatar for authors, that may be less than ideal. It will turn off avatars everywhere. If you want to turn it off for just commenters, you’ll need to add a snippet of code to your theme’s functions.php file. Here are instructions on how to do that.
6. Consider Whether You Really Need *THAT* Plugin
Plugins are a great feature of WordPress; they allow you to have desirable features that aren’t included in WordPress itself. Awesome!
Unless that plugin slows down your website. NOT awesome.
In the plugins section of WordPress, you can activate and deactivate the plugins installed on your site. To test if plugins are a problem, deactivate them all. Test your site. Then reactivate one, and test it again, Reactivate another, and test it again. Soon you’ll find which plugin is slowing down your site. And keep in mind that it may be more than one plugin, so keep testing each one.
If you find a slow plugin, consider whether you really need that feature. If you do, is there another plugin that offers the same functionality but with better performance?
7. Disable emojis
8. Install Autoptimize
Autoptimize is a WordPress plugin. It combines and minifies CSS and JS files, lazy-loads images, and basically just makes your site run faster. Used in combination with a caching module (see next section), you should be well on your way to speeding up your blog.
Autoptimize is free, too, which is amazing for what it does. If you need help setting it up, the authors offer paid setup and configuration services.
9. Install a Caching Module
There are a number of caching plugins for WordPress, and many of them are very good. I put W3 Total Cache on all of my WordPress sites, because I like its features and I like only having to learn one cache plugin’s settings. If you choose another cache plugin, that’s fine! The big point here is to just choose one.
Without a cache plugin, whenever someone visits your website, WordPress has to build the page by checking its database. This involves a number of things. It has to load WordPress data, your theme’s data, your post’s data, your plugins’ data, etc.
When you install a WordPress cache plugin, when someone visits a page, it does all of that above, but then it makes a copy of the page on your server. Then when someone else requests the same page within a certain timeframe, WordPress just sends the file from the server. This means it doesn’t hit the database again to build the same page.
Loading a cached file from the server is often noticeably faster than building it from the database.
W3 Total Cache is free, but if you buy a license it unlocks more features. One of these paid features is Fragment Caching, which works really well with the Genesis and child themes.
10. Use a CDN for Better WordPress Performance
You may also want to consider using a CDN – short for content delivery network. W3 Total Cache (see above) integrates with one called MaxCDN. There are many other reliable CDNs, too, so feel free to look into others, especially if your caching module works with different ones.
A CDN makes copies of your website files available in several locations around the globe. This reduces the time it takes someone who is located far away from wherever your website is physically hosted, to get files from a closer location.
Many CDNs also do their own caching.
A CDN usually has an associated cost, and may not be needed for lower-traffic websites. However, as your blog grows, your need for a CDN may also increase. And hopefully by then you’re making lots of money…so the cost of a CDN isn’t that big of a deal!
11. Keep your site updated
To keep your WordPress blog running in top shape, keep your software updated. This means you should always install WordPress updates, theme updates (even those you don’t use), and plugin updates.
Before you run an update, make sure to take a backup! I like UpdraftPlus for backing up my WordPress sites.
To see what needs updating, go to your WordPress dashboard’s updates page. You can find this by hovering over “Dashboard” in the left menu, and then clicking “Updates”. It will show you whether WordPress itself has a new version, and which themes and plugins have new ones.
After you update everything, go test your website! Make sure there are no errors showing, and that you can navigate around your site without any problems.
12. Test your site regularly
As part of the process of improving your WordPress performance, you can test it using tools designed for this purpose. The ones I like are:
13. Finally, Monitor for Uptime
Your blog does you and your readers no good if it’s not reachable. All of that Pinterest traffic you worked so hard to receive goes nowhere if your site goes down. Your loyal readers get annoyed, especially if it happens often.
When you’re actively working on your blog, you’ll know if it becomes unavailable. Likely, you won’t be able to finish writing your post, because your WordPress dashboard won’t be available either.
But what about when your site goes down while you’re asleep, at your day job, or out with friends and family? This is where Pingdom comes into play. It’s a service that will monitor the uptime of your blog – or any other website. There is a price associated with the service, though, so you’ll have to decide for yourself whether it’s worth the cost.
Get to Business!
We hope that these ideas for improving your WordPress site help. Remember that old saying, “recognition is half the battle?” Well, the fact that you’re reading this post means that you’ve identified potential problems and are ready to fix them!
Do you have any other tips for speeding up WordPress? If so, make sure to drop us a comment below.