My name is Emanuel and I am co-founder of Templ.io which is a high performance, managed WordPress host built on Google Cloud. I have 10+ years experience working with WordPress and often help our clients optimize the speed of their sites.
In this article, I have gathered 5 high-impact and sometimes overlooked ways that you can use to speed up your WordPress website.
As you probably already know, having a fast website not only helps to improve the user experience of your visiting your website, but having a fast site also helps convert more of your visitors into customers as well as improve your search engine rankings.
But before we get into the actual tips, I want to share some general guidelines. Understanding the fundamentals To better be able to optimize the speed of a website, it is important that you have a basic understanding of the technical fundamentals of how a website is served to a visitor.
There are basically 4 factors that determines the speed of your website, namely:
- The size of the page
- The number of requests
- Whether it is cached or not
- If not, how long does it take for the server to generate the page using PHP+MySQL
So, to improve the speed of your website, there are essentially 4 things you can do: reduce page size, reduce the number of requests, enable caching and keep your code simple (read: use as few plugins as possible). Now that we have got that out of the way, let’s get into our 5 tips on how you can make your WordPress site faster.
1. Good hosting
Before spending hours on optimizing your website, the first thing to consider is your website’s hosting. There are serious limitations on how fast you can get your WordPress site if you are using a cheap, shared web host. So, if you really want a high fast loading website, you want to start with a good foundation.
If you have very good technical knowledge and a lot of times on your hand, a good VPS host will give you the most bang for your buck. However, most webmasters want to be able to spend as much time as possible on getting more sales and traffic, and often also lacks the necessary skills to maintain good security and performance for a VPS solution to be a sound option.
If you want to get the best performance, and with great customer support that will take care of all the security and performance optimizations for you, a good managed WordPress host is your best bet. Now, we at Templ.io offers just that, a high performance managed WordPress hosting solution built on Google Cloud, so obviously we are biased in this question, but we do really think a managed host is the best option for most serious webmasters.
Choosing a good web host will save you a lot of time, and will also provide you with great optimizations and features to make your website as fast as possible.
You have probably heard that caching is a great way to speed up your website. While this is true, there is often a lot of confusion what caching actually means when it comes to a website. There are several different kinds of caching that you can utilize to improve the performance and scalability of your website.
2.1 Page cache
What makes WordPress so great is that it is able to serve content that is created dynamically, using PHP and a MySQL database. While it is great that the content on a WordPress site is not static, it takes takes much longer time as well as server resources to generate a page that is dynamic compared to what it takes to serve a static HTML page.
This is where a page cache comes in handy. What a page cache does is that it stores a page that has been generated dynamically as a static HTML file. To utilize the performance benefits of a page cache, you can install many of the caching plugins that’s available for WordPress.
Some good ones that I can recommend are:
- W3 Total Cache – Free
- WP Fastest Cache – Free & Premium version available
- WP Super Cache – Free & Premium version available
- WP Rocket – Paid
While all of the plugins listed above will let you served cached pages, an even better solution is to handle the page cache on server level instead as a plugin. A page cache on the server itself will always beat a PHP based page cache in terms of speed.
2.2 Browser cache
Another form of caching that you should make sure to use as well is browser cache. What a browser cache does is that it stores static files such as images, CSS and JS files in the visitors web browser instead of downloading them over and over again for every page that a visitor goes to.
Obviously, this can greatly improve the load time for your visitors, and it will also help you save tremendous amounts of bandwidth. You should definitely make sure to leverage browser caching on all your production websites.
As with page cache, browser cache too is taken care of by premium hosting alternatives like ours but it is also easily solved by installing any of our recommended plugins:
- Leverage Browser Caching – Free
- W3 Total Cache – Free
- WP Rocket – Paid
3. Reduce the number of requests
Once you have activated caching on your site, we can start to look at other ways to improve your site. One of the things that has the biggest impact on the overall load time of your website is the total page size and number of requests.
To optimize this, the first thing you should do is to go through all your plugins and delete any plugin that is not crucial for your website. Most plugins adds both CSS and JS files that are loaded on all pages of your website so keeping the number of plugins on your site as low as possible is key to make your website load as fast as possible.
Not only does plugins load additional files on pages where they are actually needed, but they are instead added to every single page on your site.
To tackle this, I highly recommend the plugin Asset CleanUp. What this plugin does is that it lets you control what files are loaded on a page-per-page basis. While it takes some time to configure this plugin, trust me, the end results are definitely worth it as it can reduce your load times dramatically.
4. Optimize images
Beautiful images and graphics is of course a must to make a beautiful website, but images also has a big negative impact on your website’s load time if you don’t optimize your images properly. Two great plugins that can handle image optimization for you in WordPress is:
- Smush Image Optimization – Free
- EWWW Image Optimizer – Free & Premium Cloud Service
Both options will take care of image optimizations for you. Keep in mind though that they might put your server under very heavy load while they do their magic, so ideally you want to schedule optimizations to run nightly.
Besides optimizing JPG and PNG files, I also recommend to move from PNG to SVG (where applicable) and to try some next-gen image formats like WEBP, but that is beyond the scope of this blog post.
5. CDN (Content Delivery Network)
The last tip that I want to cover in this blog post is for you to use a CDN. What a CDN does is that it stores copies of your site’s static files across many different servers across the world, which sometimes can be physically much closer to your visitors than your actual web server and thus serve the files much faster.
This will also help offload your web server during heavy traffic. Many web hosts offers free CDN with their plans (Templ.io included), but in case your host does not I recommend to use Cloudflare as your CDN provider.
Their CDN is not only free, but they also offer market leading DDoS protection. While a CDN is more important for a website that has visitors spread out around the globe, I would still recommend everyone as it still offers some benefit for most sites.
As you can probably tell, we at Templ.io are obsessed with fast loading WordPress sites. Having a website that loads fast increases conversion rate, improves your SEO and can make your site standout against your slow competition.
I hope that you have found these tips useful and that you will now go and try them out by yourself. Good luck, and happy optimizing! 🙂