There’s a lot of talk today about the need to create strong online experiences for websites. Yes, a clever, positive website experience can sometimes help a business with branding. Yet, if you sacrifice the performance of your WordPress site to provide that experience, it may hurt more than it helps.
If that same online experience slows down your website’s loading speed, it doesn’t matter how much time or money you have invested in it. The average internet user expects any site they visit to load in three seconds or less. When they don’t, there’s a good chance they’ll click away to the competition’s website.
The importance of website performance optimization is vital. A website that loads fast and offers optimal performance is crucial for the online success of any business.
If you have a WordPress site, or you’re designing a site using it, optimizing your website couldn’t be simpler. WordPress performance optimization can help you deliver the best online experience possible. The following is a list of tips that help you take the performance of your WordPress website to the next level.
1. Test the Speed of Your WordPress Site
Testing your WordPress site’s speed is a great place to start. Tests like the Speed Test can tell you how fast your pages load. It also gives you insights into what might be slowing your site down.
Another tool you’ll want to use is Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Google is the top search engine worldwide. Google spent a fortune to create a search engine that supplies the best results to visitors fast. If Google is what most users will be searching on, you’ll want to ensure your website performs well there. The tool offers you suggestions on how to speed up your page load times.
2. Enable GZIP Compression
When a visitor visits your website, your server gets an http request to serve up the requested files. Larger files like uncompressed images can slow down your page loading speed.
The larger the file, the longer it’s going to take for the full page to load. Gzip compression reduces the sizes of pages, style sheets, and files before they’re sent to the visitor to speed up the process.
You can set up Gzip compression in a couple of ways. There are plugins like WP Rocket and WP Fastest Cache available. You can also enable Gzip compression using your .htaccess server file. Unless you’re experienced with .htaccess, it’s recommended that you have a web developer or your hosting provider help you set it up.
3. Avoid Cheap Shared Hosting
The shared hosting plans most hosting companies offer seem ideal until you understand what you’re getting. Shared hosting is paying to host your site on a server and sharing its resources with all the other websites on that server. If one of your neighbors has a site that consumes a lot of resources, your own site may experience downtime, slow loading speeds, and more.
While it costs more, there are other hosting types that are better options when it comes to WordPress performance. Virtual private server (VPS) hosting or dedicated server hosting gives you dedicated server space, or your own server, without having to share resources. They also offer environments that are customizable and scalable which are important to have as your business grows.
4. Remove the Clutter From Your WordPress Site
One easy way to optimize your website is to get rid of everything not in use. By removing unnecessary media, plugins, and themes, you cut down a lot of what your WordPress site has to load.
Audit your plugins and themes and deactivate and delete any that aren’t needed. Along with slowing your site down, plugins and themes that aren’t in use on your website present security vulnerabilities.
To clear out any unneeded media files, you can use a plugin like Media Cleaner. You can also remove media files by hand. Go to Media -> Library on your WordPress dashboard and select the unattached option. It will allow you to view any media files, not in use and delete them.
There are several plugins you can use to minify code both premium and free. Autoptimize is one of the more effective and popular free plugins for minification. Minification is just one of the great benefits of the premium WP Rocket Cache plugin.
6. Tidy Up Your Database
Your WordPress database can accumulate quite a bit of clutter in a surprisingly short period of time. It’s easy to eliminate excess tables from various sources.
Unless you are proficient in MySQL, trying to clean your database manually using phpMyAdmin is not recommended. Your best option is to use a plugin to clean your database. Advanced Database Cleaner and WP-Sweep are both plugins that allow you to efficiently delete database queries, spam comments, old revisions, and much more. Be careful with Advanced Database Cleaner. It is a powerful tool, but can also cause issues. Make a backup first. We recommend either using WP-Sweep or if you use WP Rocket you can use the built-in tool for this.
7. Move Up to PHP 7
PHP 7 is a powerful upgrade to this powerful open-source scripting language. It can manage uncached hits at two to three times the speed of PHP 5.6. The result is a 30 to 50 percent improvement in memory usage. PHP 5.6 is at EOL so if your host is still using it, you may want to upgrade, move servers or move hosts.
Before you move from PHP 5.6 to PHP 7, it’s important to know that once you upgrade, you can’t roll it back. Before you upgrade, thoroughly test your WordPress website with a plugin called PHP Compatibility Checker. It will let you know if any plugins or themes you’re currently using will cause any issues incompatibility.
8. Optimize Images
While images are a vital part of engaging the interest of your visitors, they can impact loading times when uploaded directly to your site. They can contain metadata which takes up space. Large image files can slow down your loading times.
Plugins like ShortPixel Image Optimization and reSmush.it Image Optimizer does the work for you by stripping images of the attached data when uploaded without degrading image quality.
The Best WordPress Image Optimization plugin I have used is Imagify. It does a great job with image compression and also takes care of WebP images without issues with transparent backgrounds. It works well with CDN’s or locally hosted. The pricing is fair for the quality you get from Imagify.
9. Use Responsive Design
Responsive design is a website creation method that uses flexible images, flexible layouts, and CSS media queries. While optimizing your WordPress site for performance and mobile isn’t the same thing, a responsive design greatly contributes to a high performing site. Responsive designs have fewer resources with mobile devices in mind and less high-resolution images for desktop computers. Desktop users don’t end up squinting to see tiny images while mobile users aren’t hung up downloading large images.
Many WordPress themes are responsive in design. When searching for themes at WordPress.org, select responsive design as a filter. We generally stay away from Themeforest due to bloated themes, but there are some incredibly well-done templates and some very good developers. We do, as a practice recommend the Astra theme, with Elementor for extreme performance. There are others such as OceanWP, Hello, and many others.
10. Use Caching
If your WordPress site is high-traffic, it could benefit from browser caching. Whenever a page on your site loads, data is fetched from your CSS files and database and combined with the HTML file to load into the user’s browser. The full process can take time. Caching stores the HTML files for future visits to save time. Many web hosts recommend the use of caching plugins to help manage WordPress sites on their servers.
There are several great caching plugins that will help your site load faster. Aside from WP Rocket, there is WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache.
In using some of all of the above solution, you’ll likely notice a significant improvement in your WordPress site’s performance and speed.
If you need help optimizing your WordPress site so it ranks well and provides your customers with great user experience, let us know. If you have other tips on how to speed up WordPress comment below.