It is very essential to learn how to speed up WordPress site for any website owner.
As we all know that page loading speed has a great impact on user traffic, bounce rates, user satisfaction, conversions, and profits in business.
From the big giants;
“1 second of load lag time would cost Amazon $1.6 billion in sales per year” – Amazon
“When load times jump from 1 second to 4 seconds, conversions decline sharply. For every 1 second of improvement, we experience a 2% conversion increase” – Walmart
“A lag time of 400 ms results in a decrease of 0.44% traffic – In real terms this amounts to 440 million abandoned sessions/month and a massive loss in advertising revenue for Google” – Google
“An extra 0.5 seconds in each search page generation would cause traffic to drop by 20%” – Google
That means it is highly required to have a fast site – not just for ranking well on search engines, but for keeping your profits at a higher side as well.
Hence, this is an informative guide showing you techniques on how to speed up a wordpress site.
Why Website Speed Matters?
Speed up WordPress Site to Influence Conversions
47% of consumers expect a web page that will load within two seconds.
51% of US online shoppers cite slow websites as their top reason for abandoning a purchase midway.
53% of mobile users abandon sites that take over 3 seconds to load.
That means, it doesn’t matter if you are running a setup, as large as Amazon or an individually handled small website, the takeaway from this is very clear – It is very important to speed up WordPress site for visitor retention and conversion because every second will count.
Website Speed indirectly helps in ranking on Search Engines
The goal of any search engine is to present their audience with the best results in the least amount of time possible. Directly, speed is not a ranking factor for any search engine to decide upon their position. But, a site with a slow load time will have a terrible bounce rate.
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors on a website who navigate away from your site after viewing one page only.
Search Engines typically downvote the sites who have a higher bounce rate. This is seen more often with mobile traffic as they tend to have a slower connection.
Additionally, Google has started Mobile-First Indexing starting from 1 July 2019, for all new sites.
Since mobile devices have taken over as the primary Internet devices, we should make sure our website speed is top-notch.
Is my website slow?
A website can be slow due to a number of reasons like;
- the large size of a web page
- multiple requests generated to the server
- web caching not effectively done
- slow web hosting service
- un-optimized images
- multiple media hosted on shared server segments
- and many more.
In the latter topic, we will look at 21 effective steps to increase loading speed of website. But for now, let’s understand what is the actual speed required, or in other words – what’s a good page load time?
What are good Response Times and Page Load Times?
Response Time is a calculation that starts from the HTTP GET request to the specified URL diving it into 3 parts;
- Time to First Byte
- the Time to Receive Headers
- Time to Load HTML of the Site
Out of the 3, time taken for the first byte is the one that is generally observed. It’s the time your browser spends waiting on the webserver to get back the data that is requested.
The best noted should be under 100 milliseconds for websites with static content like HTML, images, CSS and JS Files. Whereas, 200~500 milliseconds for websites hosting dynamic content that have include files and PHP scripts with all the other content as seen on a static website.
Not to forget, when our browser connects to a web server, you must consider the following;
- DNS Lookup
- Initial Connection
- Receiving Data
- Closing Connection
Page Load Time
Keeping that in mind, we head to the next concept called Page Load Time. Both Response Time and Page Load Time give you a clear picture of, “how to check website speed?”
Page Load Time plays a major role in setting a benchmark when understanding how to speed up wordpress site.
It can be understood by determining how long a specific page takes to load in its entirety. Meaning, it considers all of the parameters mentioned in the response time plus calculating the average for loading of all images, Scripts, CSS, etc.
As per the above image it is highly recommended to have a Page Load Time between 1~3 seconds, which increases the website speed drastically.
All the site owners have a lot of work to do. As you increase website loading speed, keep checking the benchmarks recommended by Google, to set your own goals.
The 21 most effective ways to speed up WordPress site.
Good Quality Hosting to Speed up WordPress Site
This is the most basic step. But, hosting is one of the components where you get what you have paid for.
Avoid shared hosting as much as possible. You can opt for managed WordPress hosting which eliminates the risk of security, only if you know how to keep the server updated regularly.
Hosting by your own dedicated server is the best, but until you reach that much of manpower/budget, you can opt for a VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting. VPS hosting needs you to pay a little more for setup and management but offers you website speed.
Use Updated Versions of WordPress and its Component
Using the latest versions of WordPress and its components not only helps in optimizing WordPress website speed but also fixes any security vulnerabilities.
Note – There is nothing worse than a compromised website.
Always look into the CMS to check out new features and bug fixes to run your website more effectively without letting it slow down. If at all you plan to use a new component like a plugin, check website speed before and after installing the plugin on-to your site.
Choose a Right Theme that Speed up WordPress Site
When we talk about themes, we should be not only looking at the design part of the theme but also its size.
An average WordPress theme without any additional plugin would roughly be over 600 KB and require a 20~30 HTTP requests for a blank site.
That means WordPress themes must be lightweight as we are anyways going to add a few required plugins (on the go), upload images, etc. These activities take up the disk size and make the website comparatively heavier than it usually is when running a site with the theme itself.
Thereby, leaving us with no option but to speed up wordpress site by understanding when and where we can use certain tweaks of website speed optimization to achieve a quicker Page Load Time.
Some of the simple and lightweight themes are GeneratePress, Zakra, Astra, Airi, etc. All these themes mentioned are below 600 KB having HTTP requests below 20. They are a good option for starters/beginners or site owners who want to manage a site with few pages.
Reduce HTTP Server Requests
Websites spend a lot of time downloading different parts/sections of the web page, like images, tables, sheets, scripts, videos, etc. These components must be downloaded from the server. Hence, they are all categorized under HTTP Server Requests.
The more on-page components you have, the more time your site will take to load. Right-click the web page, select inspect and open the network tab, to see the Page Load Time, Size and HTTP requests.
To drastically increase your website page speed, you can perform the following;
- Use images where it’s required.
- Optimize by saving them in WebP format or try reducing the size of the JPG/PNG file, also suitable for optimizing OnPage SEO
- Host videos on other platforms like YouTube/Vimeo.
- Enable lazy loading which delays the loading of images, until they are actually visible on the page.
- Combine graphical resources – CSS Sprite.
- Use lesser code.
Make use of File Minification
File minification is a process of removing unwanted code and whitespaces.
Asynchronous Loading of CSS & JS Files
Perform Monitoring Over Time
Further, monitoring actually offers a lot of information like how many visitors have visited, the exact Page Load Time, availability and uptime, etc. These types of data help us in taking essential decisions, leading to better and far more effective performance.
Website speed checkers not only display the Page Load Time and speed but also give information on Time to First Byte, DOM Content Loading Time, number of DNS lookups, URL Redirects if any, etc.
Optimize Images to Speed up WordPress Site
Images are the most essential part of any HTML web page. It’s said that a picture is equal to a thousand words. Images really give a very clear picture to the user/reader.
Add images to your web pages to make your content clearer, for gaining a higher user experience. But, also keep in mind that images take up a lot of space and require more time to load.
Always optimize your images by using plugins or third-party tools. Some of the plugins are Optimole, WP Smush, etc.
You can also use some of the third-party tools like compressor.io, imageoptim, tinyjpg, etc. Using any of the above-mentioned plugins/tools will reduce image size and drastically increase website page speed
External Hosting Platforms for Videos
It is best to host your large video files from external hosting platforms. By using a shared server you will exhaust all your space. For some hosting account subscriptions, large video files are against the terms of acceptable use.
If multiple users try to watch the video from your site, the server will need to deliver that file to all the users. There are high chances that this will lead to lower user performance. Meaning the loading of that webpage will become very slow.
Using external video platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, and others not only allows you to save space on your server but also gives high user experience. Therefore, this is an important tweak to speed up wordpress site.
Perform Browser Caching to Speed up WordPress Site
Caching a webpage happens by storing the elements of that page on your local drive in a cache. This is done for loading that webpage faster if you had to revisit it again.
This prevents a lot of HTTP requests sent to the server, thereby increasing website speed.
For enabling browser caching you can run a plugin called W3 Total Cache. Install the plugin, navigate to Page Cache, and enable it.
By enabling browser caching you are letting your website’s cached version to get stored on your visitor’s browser.
After enabling this you can test the website speed to see the results. Perform the website speed check on platforms like Pingdom. You will see a good improvement in your Page Load Time.
File Concatenation to Speed up WordPress Site
Minimizing HTTP requests is the basic objective when you try to implement file concatenation. File concatenation reduces the files that have to be downloaded from the server. Thereby, decreasing the number of HTTP requests.
Downloading one large file is always faster than multiple smaller files. This concept will increase loading speed of website.
Enable GZip to Speed up WordPress Site
File concatenation is a useful tweak to speed up wordpress site but after the advent of HTTP/2 and an increase in Mobile-Speed Indexing, compression has become an important concept which helps in reducing the size of the site.
Compression is useful for mobile users having limited bandwidth and network limits. File compression is the easiest and proved to be the best in reducing Page Load Times. Tools like Gzip can help you perform this tweak.
Gzip locates the strings of similar code on your website and replaces them by smaller files. Generally, HTML and CSS have a lot of similar code with additional whitespaces.
Optimize CSS delivery to Speed up WordPress Site
If there is anything about the style of your web page, then it’s all with CSS. It holds all the style aspects required for your web page to load properly.
Typically, a website accesses this information in any of the two ways possible – From an external file, which gets loaded before the actual page gets rendered, or at the time the page is rendering.
External CSS is common and is loaded in the head of the HTML, where the code looks like;
<!-all your styles->
<link rel = ”stylesheet” type = “text/css” media = “all”
href = https://yourURL/style.css/>
Inline CSS is inside your page’s HTML code. Avoid using CSS in HTML for cleaner code. Perhaps use the technique of putting CSS code into an external stylesheet. This method not only increases visibility but also reduces the size of your code.
Another important concept to take from this is that, if you use only one external CSS stylesheet it will reduce the number of HTTP requests generated, thus increasing the website speed.
Use a CDN to Speed up WordPress Site
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a network of servers and data centers geographically distributed throughout the world. They are responsible for providing high availability and high performance to end-users.
In a traditional hosting scenario, your website is hosted on a single server. Every user who visits your site sends their request to that same server. In other words, this system is very traffic-intensive. The server processes each user’s request, which thereby slows down the Page Load Time for all the users.
In short, traditional web hosting is no longer capable of meeting the user’s demands. There is no point in hosting your website on a single server when you know your traffic is going to be humongous and coming from every part of the world.
To overcome these issues, we have better technology, called CDN. By using a CDN, you can cache your website on a global network of servers (generally free CDNs, Commercial CDNs, and Telco CDNs). In simple terms, a CDN helps a user’s request to quickly get routed to his/her closest server. Thus, drastically reducing the Page Load Time and increasing website loading speed.
Reduce Unwanted Plugins to Speed up WordPress Site
Plugins are tools for easing our tasks of managing a website. They are beneficial to us in ways like coding, monitoring, emails, automation, etc.
Keeping too many unwanted plugins will add a huge amount of junk to your web files. They increase the size of the backup and put a lot of load on server resources.
Keep looking for unwanted plugins and get rid of them once a while.
Enable Lazy Loading to Speed up WordPress Site
If you are using a single external CSS stylesheet instead of inline CSS. Consider this technique, where the top-most section of the page loads faster than the rest of the page.
This is also called as “above-the-fold” loading. Consider, you have a blog post having lots of images, an embedded video, or a podcast. With Lazy Loading enabled, the content will get loaded first, followed by images and thumbnails of videos/podcasts.
This technique helps in user retention and does not let the user leave the site. Thus, reducing the bounce rate of the website. Search engines upvote such sites which have a lesser bounce rate.
For WordPress, Lazy Load is the best plugin that can handle this tweak very well. Perform a speed test of website before and after enabling Lazy Load.
Hotlinking is an activity where you use images in your content, which are actually hosted on another site. Meaning, instead of uploading an image to your site’s own media library, you provide a link to another site.
The problem you face with this kind of activity is that your server’s bandwidth is used for responding to the user’s requests while you don’t get anything from it with respect to user traffic. Giving an adverse effect on your speed of wordpress site.
Try to avoid hotlinking as much as possible.
Secure your Site to Speed Up WordPress Site
This is WordPress’s most neglected technique. You have to always keep your site secure, up and running. Determine all types of attacks, if any, happening on your site.
Attacks like brute force, denial of service, etc., can get your site completely down in minutes. Having you lose all your customer base in one go. Make sure you keep your theme up to date every now and then. Keep your alerts on, in-case if there are multiple spikes in your server load, you can investigate it.
Enable HTTPs & HTTP/2 to Speed up WordPress Site
Earlier the web used HTTP 1.1, there was a need for an update – HTTP/2. It is said that HTTP/2 has many improvements over its predecessor like better performance, multiplexing, header compression, etc.
It is indeed very essential to upgrade your website from HTTP to HTTPS. By running HTTPS you get three key layers of protection;
- Encryption: All the data exchange between the client and server is encrypted. Meaning attacks like eves-dropping and man-in-the-middle becomes an old story.
- Data Integrity: Data can never get corrupted or modified during a transfer.
- Authentication: This proves the user is communicating with the website he/she intended to. This helps build trust, increase user retention, and adds more value to the business.
Search engines like Google recommend and index the sites working on HTTPS. Running HTTPS can reduce the bounce rate of your site.
Reduce Redirects to Speed up WordPress Site
Redirects are required when you want to remove issues related to broken links. As your website grows, there are pages which require to be moved and/or deleted. The result of this movement is a broken link.
You need to understand that a well-planned website structure can eliminate the need for redirects in the first place. The reason being, redirects generate additional HTTP requests. These requests impact speed and performance in a very negative way. That could lead to an increase in the site’s bounce rate which can have a terrible effect on speed of wordpress site.
To identify all the redirects, use a tool called Screaming Frog. This tool is helpful in crawling websites when you want to fetch their technical details.
It helps in running a scan for filtering the 301 redirects. Eliminate the issues and keep only those links which are serving a purpose. You can see that under the “Status”
Monitor Mobile Page to Speed up WordPress Site
With an increasing number of mobile users, you would want to enable lightning speed for your website on mobile as well. When you talk about your site loading on a mobile phone, you need to keep in mind the network connection speeds offered by 3G, 4G, etc.
It is always best if your site loaded under 2.5 seconds. Try using Test My Site to check and audit website speed test of your own site or a particular page on the site. Keep in mind site speed and page speed are both different.
In short, this tool works like a mobile page speed loading checker.
As WordPress websites are comparatively heavier than regularly coded web sites, knowing these techniques are helpful for keeping optimum Page Load Times.
After performing these tweaks, how to check website speed?
Simple, test website speed by tools like Pingdom website speed test. Enter your URL, and select the server’s location (closest to your users), you can even leave this to default.
Below is an example of how to check website speed;
It is highly required to take a backup before performing any tweaks mentioned above, to avoid crashing anything. Another important thing to note is that, after performing any of the techniques mentioned to speed up WordPress site, always speed test website.
Spend some time, and understand your website speed. Look for new issues every now and then and check if they have any big impact on the speed of the website. Try and eliminate those factors, as mentioned here and achieve a ninja fast website speed.
Feel free to leave any comments and/or feedbacks if you know any more techniques.