WordPress Speed Optimization – 7 Tips to Speed up WordPress Sites

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A fast-loading website is no longer an option – it is a necessity that must be achieved in online business.

Just like waiting in a long line at a store can frustrate customers, slow-loading websites can lead to impatient users abandoning your site before seeing your content. 

Site speed can improve conversion and sales and help a business generate more leads. It can also enhance engagement, as more people can interact with your content conveniently.

Google loves fast websites that improve user experience. It has introduced several tools and guides to help business owners learn about their site speed, troubleshoot on-page speed errors, and get recommendation fixes. 

I shared 7 WordPress speed optimization tips in today’s article to improve a slow WordPress site loading time and user experience and fix core web vitals metrics. 

Before that, let’s learn why site loading time is essential to online business. 

Why is Website Speed Important? 

There are several reasons page speed is essential to a business’s growth. Here, I look at some of the most common and significant impacts of improving site loading time. 

Enhanced User Experience 

Nobody enjoys waiting for a website to load. Studies show that users expect pages to load in 3 seconds or less, and a one-second delay can decrease conversion rates by 7%. 

A fast website keeps visitors engaged, lets them quickly find the information they need, and ultimately improves their overall experience.

Improved Search Engine Ranking (SEO)

Google prioritizes fast-loading websites in its search engine ranking algorithm. 

This means a website that loads quickly is more likely to appear higher in search results, leading to increased organic traffic.

Moreover, Google has since shifted to mobile-first indexing. This means Google will index the mobile version of your site and consider its performance and speed as one of its ranking signals. 

Boosted Conversion Rates

Speed directly impacts how likely visitors convert, whether purchasing, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading a resource. 

A faster website reduces the chance of users abandoning the process due to slow loading times, leading to higher conversion rates for your website’s goals.

If users can quickly find what they are looking for on your website or landing pages, it increases the conversion rate, boosts sales, and helps a business generate more revenue. 

Now that I have your attention, it’s time to discover what is slowing down your WordPress site.

This is one of the first steps you must take to diagnose a slow website and fix any issues with page speed and performance. 

Identifying Speed Issues on Your WordPress Site

Before you can optimize your website for speed, you need to understand where the bottlenecks are. 

You must identify website resources that might be affecting speed and performance negatively. 

Luckily, several free and user-friendly tools can help you identify areas for improvement. There are lots of these tools, but the ones I recommend include.

Google PageSpeed Insights

This popular tool from Google analyzes your website’s speed, SEO, accessibility, best practices, and performance and provides specific recommendations for improvement.

Page Speed Insights offers valuable insights into your website’s performance on desktop and mobile devices.

Page Speed Insights report

Specifically, PSI (Page Speed Insights) helps you measure Core Web Vitals metrics, such as Largest Contentful Paint, Total Blocking Time, Cumulative Layout Shift, Interaction to Next Paint, Time to First Byte, and Speed Index—more on how to fix Core Web Vitals in WordPress site down this post. 

It is a powerful and helpful website page speed testing tool to find technical errors affecting your site speed and performance, then leverage its recommendations to fix and improve the page/website. 

GTmetrix

Like PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix offers detailed speed reports that pinpoint areas for optimization. It includes a waterfall chart that visually represents how long it takes individual elements on your page to load.

GTmetrix also measures your site’s Core web vitals performance metrics. In addition, it measures speed indexes from different user regions, devices, networks, and page sizes.

This information can help you learn more about the impact of each minor or significant change you make to your website in real-time.

Pingdom Website Speed Test

Another great option is the Pingdom Website Speed Test, which provides a comprehensive speed report and an overall performance grade. It also offers a breakdown of load times for different elements on your website.

One feature I love about Pingdom is the breakdown of your website resources. You can see how each element or resource contributes to page speed and site performance. 

Pingdom shows each script’s total size, HTTP request, response time, and more. 

Pingdom testing tool report

To use any of these tools to measure or improve your site speed, just enter your website or specific page URL in the respective tool, and they will generate a report within seconds.  

While these tool interfaces might differ slightly, they all provide key speed and performance metrics such as:

  • First Contentful Paint (FCP) – The time it takes for the first content to appear on your website is crucial for initial user perception.
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – The time it takes for the main content of your website to load completely, giving users a clearer picture of the page.
  • Overall Load Time – The total time it takes for your entire website to load.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift – CLS calculates how elements (buttons, images, text, etc) on the page shift or move around during page rendering or downloading. A good CLS score is under 0.1. 
  • Total Blocking Time – It measures the total time it takes for a page to respond to a user request or actions, such as mouse clicks, scrolling, keyword inputs, taps, etc. TBT is one of the most significant factors responsible for scoring the performance of a web page. 

Using any of the tools above, you can analyze your website speed issues, get expert advice, discover areas for improvement, and even get directions on the right tool to fix the technical problems. 

Best WordPress Speed Optimization Techniques

Now that you’ve identified potential speed bottlenecks on your WordPress website, improving its performance and loading time with some essential WordPress speed optimization techniques is next. 

Some key strategies can significantly improve your website’s loading times.

1. Optimize WordPress Images 

Images are often the biggest culprits behind slow loading times. High-resolution photos from your camera can significantly bloat your website and hinder performance.  

Here’s how to tackle these challenges.

First, reduce the image file size by utilizing tools like Smush, ShortPixel, Imagify, or TinyPNG to compress your images without sacrificing significant quality. 

Most image optimization plugins offer lossless compression, reducing file size and maintaining visual quality for the human eye.

Also, choosing the right image format for photos can help you achieve a good balance between quality and file size. 

JPEG is preferred for photos, while PNG is better for graphics with sharp lines and solid colors.

You also need to resize Images to appropriate dimensions: Don’t upload images larger than what’s displayed on your website.

You can use an image editing software like GIMP or a WordPress plugin like Resize Images before uploading to ensure your images are the perfect size for your website layout.

Lastly, consider lazy Loading to delay loading images outside the user viewport until they are scrolled into view. 

This prioritizes the loading of essential content above the fold (the visible area of the website without scrolling), leading to a faster perceived loading speed. 

Plugins like Lazy Load by WP Rocket can automate this process for you. Alternatively, use Jetpack’s built-in Lazy Load feature if you prefer a free option. 

2. Leverage Caching Mechanism 

Caching stores a static HTML version of your website’s content, allowing it to be served to returning visitors much faster than if it had to be generated every time the user visits your site.

Here are two main types of caching to consider:

  • Browser Caching – Modern web browsers automatically cache certain website elements like images and stylesheets. This reduces the need to download these elements repeatedly, speeding up subsequent user visits. WordPress plugins like WP Super Cache, WP Rocket, or W3 Total Cache can help optimize browser caching for your website.
  • Server-side caching involves storing a cached version of your entire website on your server. This cached version can then be served to visitors significantly faster than generating it dynamically each time. Plugins like WP Rocket or WP Fastest Cache offer server-side caching functionalities.

Cache is one of the essential WordPress speed optimization best practices you must implement. The impact is instant, and you can enable it on your website effortlessly using a plugin like WP Rocket.

If you’re on a low budget and can’t purchase WP Rocket now, the best alternative option is to host with Cloudways.  

Cloudways has its built-in WordPress cache plugin, Breeze. It works great, too, and can help you fix many errors affecting page speed and site performance. 

3. Minify and Combine Files 

Websites rely on many CSS and JavaScript files to style elements and add functionality. However, having too many separate files can slow down loading times.  

The easiest way to minify and combine files in WordPress is by using a file optimization plugin like Autoptimize and WP Rocket

Both plugins will remove unnecessary characters like comments and whitespaces from your CSS and JavaScript files. 

While this doesn’t significantly reduce file size, it can improve loading speed by streamlining the code browsers need to interpret.

Likewise, these plugins combine files and reduce the number of HTTP requests a browser makes during rendering. 

WP Rocket will combine multiple CSS or JavaScript files into a single file. This reduces the overhead of each request, leading to faster loading times. 

Autoptimize and WP Rocket can automate the minification and combining of files for your WordPress website.

Both plugins work equally well for file optimization; one difference is that WP Rocket has other features and functions that are not present in Autoptimize. Also, WP Rocket has no free version, while Autoptimize lets you use its free plugin but with limited feature access. 

Implementing these essential techniques can significantly enhance your website’s speed and user experience. The next section will explore additional optimization strategies for those seeking faster loading times.

4. Database Optimization

Over time, your WordPress database can accumulate unnecessary data, like post revisions, spam comments, and orphaned transients (temporary data). This data bloat can impact website performance. 

You can utilize database cleaning plugins like WP-Optimize or an all-in-one WordPress optimization plugin like WP Rocket

These plugins offer functionalities to clean up your database by removing post revisions, comments, spam comments, unused tags, and transients. 

The good part is that these plugins let you automate the whole process. You can automatically run it on schedule and perform it daily, weekly, or monthly.  

This ensures your WordPress database is always cleaned to maintain optimal website performance. 

Optimizing the WordPress tables is also crucial. 

Use WP-Optimize to delete used tables. However, you should run backups before attempting such actions. Just in case it didn’t go as well as planned. 

5. Use a Content Delivery Network

When a user requests information from your website, the content or request has to travel from your website origin server to the client’s computer, then its browser. This process can significantly have a negative impact on loading time. 

A CDN (Content Delivery Network) stores cached copies of your website’s static content across geographically distributed servers to simplify these processes. So, each time a user requests information from your site, instead of serving the request from the origin server, the CDN network finds the nearest CDN location to the user and serves the content to the user from that server. 

This allows users to access content from the server closest to them, significantly reducing load times for geographically diverse visitors.

When you use a content delivery network like Cloudflare, your website benefits from its 200+ edge server locations across the globe. This brings your website content faster to users, irrespective of their location. 

You can sign up for a free Cloudflare account, which should be sufficient for most small WordPress sites. If you have a rather large website, consider the Enterprise solution, which brings more superpower and add-on features like Edge Page caching, bot mitigation, Web Application Firewall (WAF), DDoS attack mitigation, and priority support. 

6. Exclude Above The Fold Images From Lazy Load

Most image lazy loading plugins will attempt to act on every image on the page; while this can be beneficial, it also introduces another performance issue in PSI – Largest Contentful Paint.

The largest Contentful Paint is the time it takes for the largest element or text block to render completely from when the user loads that page. If you lazy load all the images on a page, it might affect the Core Web Vital scores in PSI, as the largest Contentful Paint time will eventually increase beyond 2.5. 

A good Largest Conteful Paint time is 2.5 seconds maximum. Anything beyond this time is considered poor or needs improvements. 

Here are some recommendations to get you started. 

  • Prioritize Critical Images – Identify essential images above the fold (the visible area without scrolling) and exclude them from lazy loading. This ensures a faster initial page load time, with crucial content displayed first.
  • Leverage Intersection Observer API – This advanced JavaScript API allows more granular control over lazy loading. You can define specific conditions for when images should load, such as when they enter a certain percentage of the viewport, leading to a more optimized user experience.

7. Use Optimized Web Hosting

Hosting is one of the major upgrades that might significantly impact your website speed and overall performance. No amount of optimization effort will bring noticeable improvement on a poor hosting server. 

In fact, most of the optimization tips shared in this post will yield significant results when complemented with high-quality hosting services with optimized stacks. 

You need a reliable web host with fast and reliable hosting infrastructure built on advanced and latest technology. 

If you’re a beginner with a small website with minimal traffic, you can consider shared hosting from Namecheap, Hostagator, or Hostinger. These web hosts offer features and tools that enable smaller sites to perform optimally.

However, if you manage a large site with thousands of monthly traffic, consider websites like Cloudways and WP Engine. These web hosts have the capacity and technology to deliver fast and efficient hosting services for high-traffic websites

Cloudways offers server-side caching with Varnish and NGINX, bringing extra optimization to your server. It also offers techniques like enabling compression at the server level or optimizing server-side scripting languages like PHP, which further enhance performance. 

You can check the Cloudways features and see how your website can benefit from its tools and hosting features. 

Additional Tips For WordPress Speed Optimization

While the previous sections focused on specific optimization techniques, here are some additional tips and considerations to keep in mind for a holistic approach to WordPress speed optimization.

This will help you gain the best possible optimization from your efforts. 

  • Choose a Reliable Hosting Provider – Your website’s hosting provider significantly affects speed. Opting for a reputable provider with robust infrastructure and optimized servers can significantly impact your website’s loading times.
  • Prioritize Mobile Friendliness – With the increasing use of mobile devices, ensuring your website is optimized for mobile browsing is crucial. Techniques like using responsive themes and optimizing image sizes for mobile screens contribute to a fast and user-friendly mobile experience.
  • Monitor and Maintain Your Website – Website speed optimization isn’t a one-time fix. Regularly monitor your website’s performance using the tools mentioned earlier (PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, etc.). This allows you to identify new issues and take corrective actions to maintain optimal speed.
  • Consider a Performance Testing Plugin – Plugins like WP Rocket or Perfmatters offer functionalities beyond basic optimization techniques. They can help with minification and caching configurations and even provide performance reports to give you deeper insights into your website’s speed.
  • Balance Optimization and Functionality – While speed is important, it shouldn’t come at the expense of core functionalities. Test any optimization techniques thoroughly to ensure they don’t break any essential features of your website.

Remember, Website speed optimization is an ongoing process. By implementing the techniques and considerations mentioned above, you can create a faster, more user-friendly WordPress website that delivers a superior experience for your visitors and helps you achieve your website’s goals.

Conclusion

Website speed is no longer an afterthought – it’s a fundamental element for online business success. By optimizing your WordPress website for speed, you can achieve many benefits and enhance your user experience.

Faster loading times lead to happier visitors who are more likely to engage with your content and convert to your goals. 

Also, faster page speed can improve Search Engine Ranking (SEO), giving you a competitive edge in organic search results.

A speedy website reduces the likelihood of users abandoning your site due to slow loading times, ultimately leading to more conversions.

The techniques outlined in this guide, from essential image optimization to advanced server-side caching, provide a comprehensive roadmap to optimize your WordPress website for speed. 

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