What’s better than a well-functioning website? One with fast loading time, of course. In this article, we’ll uncover nine easy steps to boost WordPress websites. You’ll be able to turn your site into a well-oiled content machine in no time!
Up for the challenge? Then let’s get started!
Why Does Website Load Speed Matter?
No one likes to wait — that’s the most straightforward answer.
According to Kissmetrics, 40% of visitors abandon a website when the loading process takes longer than three seconds. On mobile devices, the bounce rate even climbs up to 53%, meaning half of your audience will leave the site if it doesn’t load fast enough.
If losing readers sounds bad already, wait until you see the other impacts caused by a slow website:
- Decreases website traffic — since people don’t like waiting, a slow loading site will decrease your overall traffic.
- Creates a bad first impression — slow loading time indicates that you’re not being serious with managing the site along with the brand it represents.
- Decreases conversion rate — if you’re managing an ecommerce site, bad user experience can discourage customers from buying your products.
- Harms search engine ranking — search engines don’t favor websites with slow loading time, so there’s a chance your site won’t be ranking high in SERPs.
If you want to avoid these issues, make sure to take care of your site.
How to Check Your Website Speed?
We have good news for you. There are tons of free speed test tools that can help monitor your website’s speed and performance. Should you need more in-depth reporting, most have a premium version that is worth considering.
You can check our tutorial on how to test your website speed performance with GTmetrix. For basic testing and reporting, the free version offers plenty of robust features. You can also buy the Pro version to get additional report filtering and graphic features at a starting price of $14.95 per month.
Need a second opinion? Visit our list of top 20 free website speed test tools to get more insights.
9 Easy Steps to Speed up WordPress
According to MachMetrics, the ideal load time you should aim for is three seconds or less. If your website takes longer than that, you need to optimize it as soon as possible.
Take a look at these steps on how you can speed up a WordPress site:
Step 1 — Updating WordPress and PHP to The Latest Version
The easiest and most basic way to speed up WordPress websites is by updating the CMS core. Updates come out periodically with the latest improvements, which often means faster performance all around.
WordPress provides a hassle-free way to update your website through the admin dashboard — the Updates section, to be exact. In case you don’t have the credentials to access the admin area, this article covers other alternative ways to update WordPress.
As for PHP, your site should be running on the 7.3 version by now. You’ll get a significant performance boost just by migrating from PHP 5 to PHP 7 as it provides better memory optimization.
One crucial thing to keep in mind, however, is the lack of backward compatibility of PHP 7. This means that you won’t be able to use certain plugins and themes, including the ones that ran perfectly fine on PHP 5. To check whether your site is currently housing such plugins/themes, you can use the PHP Compatibility Checker WordPress plugin.
Step 2 — Removing Unnecessary Plugins and Themes
WordPress makes it so easy for you to expand your site’s functionality by installing plugins and themes. Despite so, housing too many of them can slow down your website performance.
To solve this issue, you need to remove or at least disable unused plugins and themes. Keep your site clean and tidy by only keeping the ones that contribute to the site functionality. Eliminating clutter will surely speed up WordPress websites.
Be sure to check our guide on how to install and uninstall WordPress plugins.
Minification is one of the most useful techniques to speed up WordPress websites. It attempts to reduce the size of your front-end files and scripts (HTML, CSS, JS) by removing unnecessary file comments and formatting. The best part is that this process won’t affect the files’ functionality.
Step 4 — Enabling Gzip Compression
By enabling Gzip compression, you can reduce the retrieval time of website data from the server to your visitor’s browser. In other words, your site will load much faster.
There are plenty of free Gzip compression test tools like CleverStat and GiftOfSpeed that can check whether your site has it on. If it’s not, you can either use a WordPress plugin or modify the .htaccess file to enable it. Check out this article for a complete tutorial on both methods.
Step 5 — Optimizing Images
While we agree that images can increase your content value, they are also one of the biggest culprits of slow websites. Media-rich sites are extremely prone to this particular issue. That’s because high-quality images take longer to load, thus slowing down your overall speed.
There are two ways to reduce the size of images without sacrificing their quality. Use a WordPress image optimization plugin or scale the images. If you want to go with the first method, this tutorial will guide you through the process using the Smush plugin. Alternatively, you can visit this page to know more about the image scaling process.
Step 6 — Splitting Long Content into Pages
Pagination is another trick to speed up WordPress websites. You can apply this process to the comments section and posts or pages with long content. By splitting them, you can avoid jamming up the site’s bandwidth and overwhelming visitors with a ton of information.
How to paginate the WordPress comments section?
- From your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Settings -> Discussion.
- In the Discussion Settings page, set the maximum number of comments per page and their order of display.
- Once you’re done, scroll down and click Save Changes.
Meanwhile, there are two alternative ways to paginate posts — manually or using a WordPress plugin.
How to Paginate WordPress Posts in Gutenberg Block Editor?
- Move your cursor to the part you want to split, then hit on the plus icon.
- Search for “page break,” then click on it.
If you want to paginate all posts and pages automatically, WordPress has plenty of free plugins that can do the job like WP-Paginate and WP-PageNavi. You can easily set a minimum word limit to determine where the pagination should take place and let the plugin do the rest for you.
Step 7 — Enabling Caching
Caching is one of the best web optimization techniques to speed up WordPress websites. Caching engines store frequently-used information on the client’s hard disk so that the browser doesn’t have to fetch that information from the server repeatedly.
There are tons of WordPress caching plugins that can help you execute this step.
Step 8 — Using a CDN
Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a geographically distributed network of data servers. Their ultimate purpose is to help you reduce latency, and thus increase the speed of content delivery.
By enabling CDN on your website, you’re dividing the static content to every data server within the network. Each data request that your web server receives is then transferred to the closest data server to the client’s location.
Step 9 — Optimizing Database
As your database is prone to storing useless data like spam comments and old drafts, you need to clean it periodically. Similar to uninstalling unused plugins and themes, deleting this type of data will reduce your database’s workload and the overall load time.
You can easily do this task by installing a WordPress database optimization plugin like WP-Optimize and Advanced Database Cleaner. The plugins will automatically remove unnecessary data from your database, plus compress tables and images at a scheduled time.
Having a slow website is a fatal error that all webmasters must avoid. If you left this issue unresolved for too long, you’re risking the growth of your website and the overall brand.
Let’s recap the nine simple steps to speed up WordPress sites:
- Update WordPress and PHP to the latest version.
- Remove unnecessary plugins and themes.
- Enable Gzip Compression.
- Optimize images.
- Split long content into pages.
- Enable caching.
- Use a CDN.
- Optimize database.
We hope this tutorial can help you speed up your WordPress website. Happy tinkering!