11 Ways to Speed Up WordPress

 This is a guest post by Ahsan Parwez. 
How to speed up WordPress surely is a hot topic these days. Fortunately, there are numerous techniques that you can employ to get the job done. So, our intent here is to list every trick we know of that can make your WordPress site a lot faster.

But first…

Why should you speed up WordPress?

There are many reasons that ring alarm bells, some of which might even cause major concerns for you:

  1. Search engines (like Google) rank websites with fast-loading times higher than the slow-loading ones. So, if you want to improve your position in the SERPs, improving speed should be one of your priorities.
  2. Studies have shown that site-loading speed of more than 2 seconds usually results in about 47 percent of visitors bouncing off the website. So, to keep about half of your visitors interested, you should speed up your WordPress.
  3. Online buyers are the most impatient lot; they expect the page to load within a second. So, if you are running an e-commerce store on WordPress then you better get ready to make major improvements so your business can be more profitable.

How to test the loading time of your website?

First things first, you need to analyze the current load time for your website. Keep in mind that this speed may differ from page to page, as it depends on various factors, namely:

  • the size of that particular page,
  • how many requests it generates,
  • whether it is cached or not,
  • and lastly, what kind of content (static or dynamic) it hosts.

The homepage of a website is usually used as a benchmark to test the load time. In order to check the speed of a website, the following three tools are used extensively across the web:

  1. WebPageTest.org
  2. Tools.Pingdom.com
  3. PageSpeed Insights (this doesn’t really report the page loading time, but does highlight the elements that you can tweak to speed up WordPress)

Okay, it’s about time to start talking some business! Here are the 11 ways to speed up WordPress:

1. Choose a better web hosting provider

The major factor that influences the speed of a website is the hosting of your WordPress website. It might seem like a good idea to host your new website on a shared hosting provider that offers “unlimited” bandwidth, space, emails, domains and more. However, the point that we usually miss out on regarding this offer is that shared hosting environments fail to deliver good loading times on peak traffic hours, and most fail to provide 99 percent uptime in any given month.

Shared hosting tends to deliver a poorer performance because you are sharing the same server space with countless other websites, and there is no telling how much resources others are using. Plus, you don’t know exactly how well the servers are optimized.

Thankfully, the web-hosting industry has advanced with technology, and the prices of cloud hosting providers have decreased with the passage of time. In the present times, you can buy dedicated cloud servers from SiteGround, DigitalOcean, Amazon Web Services, and even Google Compute Engine at a nominal price. However, setting those servers up can be a daunting task as you are required to set servers up from scratch. There are web hosting providers like Cloudways (where I work) who make the task of setting up optimized cloud servers as easy as click and launch. You can read more about the process here: how to set up WordPress through Cloudways.

2. Use a lightweight WordPress theme / framework

WordPress themes with a lot of dynamic elements, sliders, widgets, social icons and many more shiny elements are immensely appealing to the eye. But remember this: if they have too many elements and higher page sizes, then they will definitely cause your web server to take a thumping.

The best option here is to use lightweight themes, like WordPress’ default themes.The new Twenty Fifteen theme is always a good way to start off a blog. For a feature-rich website, you can also opt for a theme that uses a good framework like Bootstrap or Foundation. For instance, all themes at ThemeIsle are built on top of Bootstrap, which provides a great way to speed up WordPress.

3. Reduce image sizes

Images are the major contributors to size increment of a given webpage. The trick is to reduce the size of the images without compromising on the quality.

If you manually optimize the images using Chrome PageSpeed Insights extension or Photoshop or any other tools, the process will take a long time. Fortunately, there are plugins available for just about everything you can think of, including image optimization. The ones worth mentioning are:

Using any of the above mentioned plugins on your WordPress site will drastically reduce image sizes, thus improving the speed of your website.

4. Minify JS and CSS files

If you run your website through Google PageSpeed Insights tool, you will probably be notified about minimizing the size of your CSS and JS files. What this means is that by reducing the number of CSS and JS calls and the size of those files, you can improve the site-loading speed.

Also, if you know your way around WordPress themes, you can study the guides provided by Google and do some manual fixing. If not, then there are plugins that will help you achieve this goal; the most popular being the Autoptimize that can help in optimizing CSS, JS and even HTML of your WordPress website.

5. Use advanced caching mechanisms with a caching plugin

WordPress caching plugins (e.g. W3 Total Cache) have been there for a long time, making the complex tasks of adding caching rules to your website elements easier. Combining such plug-ins with advanced caching mechanisms like Varnish could help you better the loading-speed of your website and ultimately speed up WordPress considerably.

6. Use a CDN

The people who visit your website belong to various locations in the world, and needless to say, the site-loading speed will differ if the visitors are located far away from where your site is hosted. There are many CDN (Content Delivery Networks) that help in keeping the site-loading speed to a minimum for visitors from various countries. A CDN keeps a copy of your website in various datacenters located in different places. The primary function of a CDN is to serve the webpage to a visitor from the nearest possible location. Cloudflare and MaxCDN are among the most popular CDN services.

7. Enable GZIP compression

Compressing files on your local computer can save a lot of disk space. Similarly, for the web, we can use GZIP compression. This maneuver will dramatically reduce the bandwidth usage and the time it takes to gain access to your website. GZIP compresses various files so that whenever a visitor tries to access your website; their browser will first have to unzip the website. This process brings down the bandwidth usage to a considerable extent.

You can use either a plugin like the GZip Ninja Speed Optimization or add the following codes in your .htaccess file.

AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript

8. Cleanup WordPress database

Deleting unwanted data from your database will keep its size to a minimum and also helps in reducing the size of your backups. It is also necessary to delete spam comments, fake users, old drafts of your content and maybe even unwanted plugins as well as themes. All of this will reduce the size of your databases and web files, and thus speed up WordPress – your WordPress.

9. Deactivate or uninstall plugins

Keeping unwanted plugins on your WordPress websites will add a tremendous amount of junk to your web files. Moreover, it will also increase the size of your backup and put an overwhelming amount of load on your server resources while backup files are being generated. It is better to get rid of the plugins that you don’t use, and also look for alternate methods to use third-party services for automating or scheduling tasks (like sharing of your latest posts to social media).

IFTTT or Zapier are two web services that help in automating such tasks and reduce the burden on your website and server resources.

10. Keep external scripts to a minimum

The usage of external scripts on your web pages adds a big chunk of data to your total loading time. Thus, it is best to use a low number of scripts, including only the essentials such as tracking tools (like Google Analytics) or commenting systems (like Disqus).

11. Disable pingbacks and trackbacks

Pingbacks and trackbacks are two core WordPress components that alert you whenever your blog or page receives a link. It might sound useful, but you also have things such as Google Webmaster Tools and other services to check the links of your website.

Keeping pingbacks and trackbacks on can also put an undesirable amount of strain on your server resources. This is so because whenever anyone tries to link up to your site, it generates requests from WordPress back and forth. This functionality is also widely abused when targeting a website with DDoS attacks.

You can turn it all off in WP-Admin -> Settings -> Discussion. Just deselect “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks).” This will help you speed up WordPress some more.

Conclusion

The biggest advantage of lowering your website’s loading time is that it will help tremendously in improving the experience of your visitors. The case remains the same whether they are using mobile devices or PCs. Furthermore, it will also improve your rankings in the SERPs. After all, reduced bandwidth usage of your hosting and faster site-loading speed on the client side will only benefit you both in the short as well as the long run.

If you haven’t started a blog yet, see this guide: First Site Guide. It’s a great resource that offers step-by-step tutorials on building a personal or professional blog.

Now it’s your turn. How do you speed up WordPress? Do you have any tricks up your sleeve?


About the author: Ahsan Parwez is an advocate of open source platforms, specially WordPress. By profession he is a technical SEO and WordPress geek, he currently works at Cloudways as WordPress Community Manager.
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  • Hello Ahsan,

    Great topic and a good write up as well with surefire ways to speeding up the wp blogs. Google is working hard to give users a better experience while they visit any website thus it is giving preference to those sites that load faster.

    Fewer number of plugins is one thing that everyone is doing to speed up but few other things like gzip compression and cleaning up database tables are important too and everyone should take these into consideration.

    I would like to read such guides more from you over here. Thanks for the post 🙂

    • Thanks for the complements Atish,

      Keeping your database and application files clean is one of the trick to keep your website lightweight and perform faster. In some cases it reduces the number of requests to and from browser to user and application to database, hence improving the overall performance.

  • Those are effective ways to speed up WordPress, Ashan.

    From my experience, the Big difference comes from the hosting service.
    When I moved from shared plan to a dedicated server, the loading time of my sites has been dramatically decreased!

    • Hi Erik,

      Hosting plays a vital part and these days you can get a dedicated, optimized hosting environments at the same cost as that of shared hosting providers.

  • Hello Ahsan,

    Webpage speed is an in-thing now! Just paying a little attention OR no attention at all will haunt the websites..

    I am glad that I am doing some (not all) things right with less plugins, cleaning database time to time to try best to keep the images lower in size.

    I am gonna check all the items mentioned by you and compare/work on my blog to see what I am missing.

    So great to find this blog from ManageWP. Keep rockin’!

    ~ Adeel 🙂

    • Hi Adeel,

      Definitely, websites with better loading speeds have higher chance of outranking their competitors in the desktop and mobile SERPs. So I advise SEOs to reduce the site loading time on priority basis, it helps in the long run.

      These steps should be easy to follow for anyone with basic working knowledge of WP. Thanks for appreciation.

  • Merle Gibbins

    I found this very interesting and have learnt a lot from your post regarding speeding up your website. I am not at all techi minded but will be trying out some of these resources. Thanks for sharing this great article.

    • Hi Merle,

      I highlighted the points that are easy to follow for the non techs too. Hopefully you’ll see a lot of performance benefits after going through each one of them 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing these tips.We got something new to improve performance from this article

    • Hopefully you will see major improvement in loading times after following this tutorial.

  • Merle Gibbins

    Thanks for sharing this great information. Looks like I have a lot of work to do on my blog !! I don’t think my loading time is slow but a lot of the tips above I am guilty of.

    • I’m glad it helped. Good luck in making your site faster. 🙂

  • Tyrohn White

    I loved how you concluded the article most authors miss that part. Article is good for beginners as it is missing lot of technicalities. Previous article i read on same topic from some website called template toster had involved some technical aspects but that too was not detailed. Too many reference links make your mind diverted from the main stream.

  • thanks for Creating useful post can i use cdn free if i don’t use premium paid cdn do you know a website which is provide free cdn service

  • thanks, this is amazing.

  • Mike Patterson

    Helps me a lot in fixing my site issues. Thanks for this info.

  • Hi thanks for sharing such a nice and informative article with us. I was just facing this issue. Thanks for your help

  • This is a great information about speed up word press. here you mentioned 11 ways to speed up word
    press, this is really easy and plausible to us and you have exactly said about the competition so to cope with competition we need to more past about word press speed. In addition, I hope it will help me a lot, so thank you very much.

  • My website if fully optimize and showing all the green signal on GT Metrics but it’s loading time has 17 sec that annoying me .. how can improve the speed in below 5sec.

  • Excellent topic. I really like this. Thanks for your comp-apprehensive post.