4 Ways To Make Your WordPress Site Load Faster
This is a guest post from our good friend, CEO of the Denver-based web design agency Eye9 Design, Ryan Ayres. If you have questions for Ryan, please either leave them in the comments section at the bottom of this post, or hit him up on twitter @RyanAyres53
It’s really freaking important that your site load quickly. Not just for search engine optimization purposes, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to provide an optimized user experience. While I love using the WordPress CMS for a variety of websites, it can present a few unique challenges with respect to optimizing your site’s page load times.
Before we dive into the action items, here are the tools I recommend for testing your website’s load times, and the standards I want my sites to meet:
- URIValet.com: Look at the Time to Download at 1.5mbps. Shoot for load times here of less than 5 seconds.
- Google PageSpeed Insights: This tools from Google gives you a 0-100 page speed score for both the mobile and desktop versions of your site. Aim for scores of 70 or above on both versions.
- Webpagetest.org: This gives you a nice snapshot of your site’s key performance metrics. I especially like the First Byte Time metric it provides; this indicates potential issues with your website’s hosting.
Without further ado, here are 4 ways you can optimize your WordPress website for page speed:
1. Make Sure You Have Adequate Hosting
Without adequate hosting, WordPress sites, like all sites, will not load as fast as they could otherwise. If your hosting plan doesn’t come with the resources necessary to support your highest traffic levels, without page load times suffering, you are setting yourself up for failure.
When picking a web host, understand the inherent demands of the WordPress site. Utilizing dynamic Web page generation, any individual WordPress page might pull elements from theme files, databases and third-party sites.
Generic shared hosting packages aren’t necessarily optimized for origin caching, a process that can dramatically speed up page generation. Caching pre-generated sections of WordPress sites enables faster access for larger numbers of simultaneous users.
2. Avoid Heavy, Sloppy, Multi-purpose WordPress Themes
WordPress offers webmasters the ability to use customizable themes that can be purchased for $50 or so. These themes are created by web developers and are intended to offer an alternative to custom web design, the idea being that you don’t have to be a professional web developer/designer to have an attractive and functional website.
Since you’re reading the Ethical SEO blog, you’re probably investing in, or considering investing in SEO to promote your website. If your site was built on a multi-purpose WordPress theme, you are putting yourself at a big SEO disadvantage, which means your marketing dollars aren’t going as far as they should.
Multi-purpose themes come with multiple color selections, slider options, and page types which inherently results in unused portions of code. If you are paying for your website to be more optimal than your competitor’s, these unused “purposes” can serve as an obstacle. The increased amount of unneeded scripts, requests, code and options is more dead weight for your site to carry, which means slower load times and more code for googlebot to digest before getting to the important content.
3. Prune Your Plugins
There are plenty of really well made and useful WordPress plugins, many of which I frequently recommend to clients. However, there are also plenty of plugins that are not well made, and could cause your site’s load times to suffer, or worse, cause security problems. It just takes just one poorly coded plugin to significantly slow down your WordPress website, and compromise your site’s security.
In general, I recommend using as few plugins as possible because it limits conflicts and inefficiencies that can hinder otherwise well-designed WordPress sites.
Here are the 4 plugins that I install on nearly every WordPress site on which I work:
- WordPress SEO by Yoast
- Contact Form 7
- Really Simple Captcha
- WP Sitemap Page
- W3 Total Cache (make sure you talk to someone who can help properly configure this one)
4. Optimize Your Site’s Images
Most of the horrendously slow WordPress websites that I’ve seen are so because they contain images that have not been compressed and saved in a web-friendly format.
Be sure that you are saving each image down to its actual display size. For instance, if the image will appear to users as being 50×50 pixels, you should not save the image as 500×500 pixels. Resize it down, and then save it.
Also be sure to use a web-friendly format. Typically JPEG is a great extension to use for web images. In many cases, PNG is your best option; just be sure that you are compressing the image down to it’s smallest size, without negatively impacting aesthetics.