5 Free and Easy Ways to Speed Up Your WordPress Site Performance
When you visit a website, how long are you willing to wait for loading to complete? If you’ve ever thought about it, it’s probably not very long. In fact, user experience research shows that 47% of users expect pages to load within two seconds. Not to mention that your site’s performance can even affect your ranking in search engines. So how do you make your site as fast as possible? Follow these five free and easy ways to optimize your WordPress site.
Find Out Your Current Site Speed
Before you start optimizing, get a pulse on what your site speed is now. Pingdom is a speed testing tool that allows you to paste your site address in and run a performance test for free. You’ll be able to test your site virtually from different locations in the world—a great advantage if you have a specific geographical audience. The tool will give you a score and some suggestions to optimize your speed.
After running your speed test, you’ll also get a list of specific performance insights. Using this list, you can root out the more pressing issues with your site speed first, and work your way down to the smaller problems later.
Go ahead and run your test. When you can pinpoint some areas for improvement, you’re ready to move on to the next step. These five optimizations are great for any WordPress site, but can also help you solve some of the more specific problems found in your performance report on Pingdom.
1. Optimize Your Hosting Plan
Some of the biggest gains can come from upgrading your hosting plan. Depending on your plan, and how much traffic you have, your hosting plan may not be adequate. In order to fix this, the easiest path is changing your hosting plan, or worst case scenario, your provider.
With shared hosting, often the most affordable option, you are hosting your website on a server shared with other websites. Depending on the traffic, one website might be making more requests to the server and slowing down all the other sites.
Some great options to enhance your server performance are Bluehost’s WordPress hosting plan or their Dedicated Hosting, depending on your budget constraints. If you’re changing hosting providers, keep in mind that you’ll need to migrate your website to make it work.
Now, you don’t necessarily have to upgrade your hosting plan to make your website faster. Let’s look at some free ways to optimize before you make that decision.
2. Use Browser Caching to Optimize Loading Times
Web browsers have a feature known as caching. It works by saving some of the files and images loaded the first time you visit a website so that it loads faster the next time you visit it. With WordPress, you can enhance the caching functionality of your website for free with a plugin.
The W3 Total Cache plugin is a great way to set up better caching on your WordPress website. This plugin will let you configure caching and can really trim down the time it takes to load your page.
Here’s how to install WordPress plugins.
3. Optimize Your Images
Many websites you visit will have very large image files that take a long time to load. Image compression can take care of this. There are ways to optimize your images even when they’re already uploaded to your website. The Smush WordPress plugin from WPMUDEV will allow you to compress existing images on your WordPress site, and will even convert your images into compressed jpegs. This plugin comes free, and also offers a pro version which allows you to smush your whole image library at once.
Now that you know about image optimization, you should also compress any new images you upload. The smush plugin can be configured to auto-smush any new images, but we recommend checking your image sizes and compressing them as much as you can on your own first. You can compress images in a program like Adobe Photoshop if you have it, but there are also free image compressors on the web, like compressor.io. For the web, always try to get the best image quality in the smallest file possible.
Another way to optimize pages with lots of images is a lazy load plugin. a3 Lazy Load is a great option, which will only load the images visible on the page first, and then load new images as you scroll down, saving tons of loading power.
4. Database Optimization
This sounds like something you’d hire an intern to do. But thankfully, optimizing your WordPress database is easy with the right plugin. One of the preferred plugins is WP Optimize, which is amazing and also free. What it does, essentially, is clear out any unnecessary data being stored. It specifically targets some of the inefficiencies that are built into WordPress functions that are often unused. For example, WordPress stores infinite revisions of posts so you can go back to a previous version. While this is an awesome feature, you probably don’t need all 150 revisions for all time and eternity.
Installing this plugin will optimize many of the features on your website automatically, and you can control what gets optimized. A bonus feature is that you can set up automatic backups with UpdraftPlus to run before each database cleanup.
5. Changing WordPress Settings
In addition to the many free plugins and resources available to speed up your website, you can change some basic WordPress settings to maximize efficiency.
Keep Everything Updated
One of the most basic approaches, and most vital, is to keep all your software up-to-date. Navigate to Dashboard > Updates to check for updates available for your WordPress core software and plugins. Updating is also crucial for your site security.
Adjust Reading Settings
Another thing you can do, especially for blogs or portfolios, is adjust your reading settings by going to Settings > Reading.
Here you can reduce the load by lowering the number of posts per page, and by choosing Summary instead of full text for the feed.
Adjust Discussion Settings
There are some minor gains for altering WordPress’s default discussion settings by going to Settings > Discussion.
First, disable link notifications from other blogs as shown here.
And if you have a ton of comments (congratulations) you may want to split them into pages using the setting below.
Deactivating and Removing Bad or Unnecessary Plugins
Plugins are at the heart of WordPress customization. In fact, many times it’s better—in terms of speed—to start with a lean WordPress theme and add plugins to expand the features you need. But there are some bad plugins out there, which may slow your site down. Read our guide to finding good WordPress plugins to be proactive about choosing the good ones.
Using the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) plugin you can figure out which plugins are slowing you down and determine if you can deactivate them.
Common culprits are things like slider plugins and outdated front end plugins. Also, if there’s a plugin that you only use once in a while, you can deactivate it until you need it again.
In addition, you should always take a general look at plugins and do some spring cleaning. Just like going through your closet, ask yourself if you are going to use it. If not, get rid of it, and you can always get it back if you decide you need it.
These 5 free and easy tips can take your site speed from sluggish to speedy with only a couple hours of fiddling. There’s always more room for improvement, and each website is a different story. So if you find yourself stuck, give us a call or check out WP Live. Our WordPress experts can walk you through your site performance upgrade step-by-step.