Last updated: April 17, 2019
How to Speed Up WordPress
Disclosure: Your support helps keep the site running! We earn a referral fee for some of the services we recommend on this page. Learn more
With more than 72 million WordPress sites on the Web (and counting!), it’s safe to say that this content management system (CMS) is one of the world’s most popular site design platforms. And because it’s so ubiquitous and user-friendly, WordPress attracts not only accolades, but expectations, from people looking to incorporate it into their websites. The software itself is so intuitive and responsive that many of its adherents want the sites they create using it to share those traits; however, like any other application, WordPress has its limits as well as its perks.
If you use WordPress to host your site, you might share a complaint common with other WordPress users: your site is too slow. Slow to load, slow to refresh, slow to use. This can be due to a number of factors: too many or improperly-installed plug-ins; poor mobile optimization; inadequate hosting resources to meet the demands of the website; or a site that’s simply too large and cluttered with unnecessary files, media, and themes. Whatever the reason, if your site is slow, you don’t have to take it lying down.
Beyond the simple steps of removing unnecessary plug-ins and themes, modest changes to your site can help you improve performance. Replacing dedicated social media buttons with simple text or image links can improve speed (particularly on mobile devices) by reducing pings to the servers hosting those sites. You can also use a variety of tools from around the Web to test the speed of your WordPress site, optimize your database, site, and media files, and even compress your entire site to maximize speed without harming performance.
WordPress is a flexible and intuitive tool that gives you the power to create professional, compelling websites for your visitors. By taking the time to optimize your site files, reduce resource usage by unnecessary themes and plug-ins, and make the most of your multimedia, you can make sure your site is both up to snuff and up to speed.
How to Fine Tune Your WordPress site for Maximum Speed
Every website owner has at least one thing in common, no one wants to be slow. If your site doesn’t load quickly enough you can lose readers, rank, traffic and even revenue. Twenty-five percent of people leave a site if it has not loaded in four seconds and 40% leave after three seconds. Here is a look at some efficient ways to speed up your WordPress website.
Test Your Speed
First things first, find out what is slowing your site down.
- Test the speed of your site with a free benchmarking service.
- This will show you what is causing the slowdown and how to speed it up.
- For a better understanding of your speed use more than one benchmarking service.
- Here are some you can try:
- Yahoo Yslow
- Google PageSpeed Insights
- Use these each time you make a change to get an idea of the effect it had on your speed.
Remove Unnecessary Plugins
For some this will be as painful as cleaning out your closet, but it’s important to remove unnecessary plugins that are slowing your site down.
- The more functional the plugin, the more it slows you down.
- Small and poorly coded plugins can also slow your site down.
- P3Profiler is a plugin that will give you details about which plugins are slowing your site down.
An Optimised Database
Your database houses everything about your WordPress site, from spam comments to old plugin tables. Optimising your database is a relatively easy way to speed up your website, here are a few ways to get started.
- Regularly clean out your spam comments.
- Clean up your plugin leftovers. Even after you delete a plugin, they can leave unnecessary tables in your database.
- Plugins Garbage collector is a plugin that will help you clean up the unwanted tables.
- Each time you make a change, save a draft or publish an update WordPress stores each version.
- This can quickly take up space in your database and slow you down.
- You can configure the amount of post revisions saved, and even disable it.
- To disable, set WP_POST_REVISIONS to false by pasting define( ‘WP_POST_REVISIONS’, false ); to your wp-config.php file.
- To allow a certain amount of revisions, change it to define( ‘WP_POST_REVISIONS’, 3 ); replace “3” with the number of revisions you would like to allow.
- You can also use the plugins Simple Revision Control and Revision Control.
- WP-DBManager, WP Cleanup, and Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions are all good options for database optimisation plugins.
Content Delivery Networks
A CDN hosts a copy of your site in different places around the world so your readers are directed to a server closer to them.
- This cuts the download time that your readers around the world would normally have.
- According to Max CDN, with the help of a CDN a reader in England can have a response time of about 24 milliseconds to a site hosted in New York.
- Without the CDN the response time would be around 350 milliseconds.
- CDNs charge customers based on the amount of bandwidth they use, but it is worth it when your site is significantly faster.
Every photo on your page must be downloaded by your reader each time they open a page. This includes the photos in your website design as well as the ones in your content.
Tips to speed up image issues:
- The more images you have, the longer your loading time, so minimize the number of images in your website design.
- Even the little avatars on your comments make external calls.
- Instead of using Gravatar or the default silhouette, set the avatars to “blank.”
- Use CSS when you can
- Style your header and footer with CSS rounded corners instead of a large image.
- Use a slideshow to split your images up on different pages
- Add this code within the content area: <!–nextpage–>
- Decrease image size by more than 50% by optimizing your images.
- If your program has it, always save using the “Save for Web & Devices” option.
- Find a balance between image quality and size. The smaller you go, the weaker your quality.
- Reduce image size by saving in the proper format.
- Simple images = 8-bit PNG
- Complex images = JPEG
- Use a plugin like Smush.it that reduces image size by removing unnecessary bytes from the image.
- Lazy load speeds up your site by only loading the images that are visible, as the reader scrolls down the images will load.
- Some lazy load plugins include: Lazy Load, BJ Lazy Load and Lazy Widget Loader.
Caching is a great way to speed up your content delivery and reduce the amount of requests from your server.
- By not using caching you are making multiple requests to your server and prolonging load time for your reader.
- A caching plugin changes dynamic files into static HTML files, speeding up the time it takes for your page to load.
- W3 Total Cache is a popular caching plugin, here is a quick guide to get you started with this plugin:
- Once you install, you will have a Performance tab under Settings.
- To avoid mixing settings enable the “Toggle all caching types.”
- From your Performance tab go to Page Cache and check the options.
- General: check all that apply
- Advanced: leave section as is
- Cache Preload: “Automatically prime the page cache” should be checked, fill in the number of seconds for “Update interval” and “pages per interval,” which should be no more than 10.
- Your sitemap URL will be: http://www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml
- Purge Policy: Home page, Post page, Blog feed and rss2 (default) should all be checked.
- Next, click on the Performance tab > General Settings and enable the Page Cache.
- Database Cache and Object Cache should both be disabled through General Settings.
- Before using any plugins or making edits yourself, make sure to back-up your database.
- Backup plugins include: BackupBuddy ($75), VaultPress ($15+), BackWPup, WP-DB-Backup, BlogVault ($9+)
- Read our complete guide to WordPress cache plugins
Minimise and Minify Your Code
Your code is an important part of your website, but it can also slow you down. Here are a few ways you can optimise and minimise your code:
- Google recommends using gzip, it can reduce your page size by 70%.
- It replaces common strings with temporary strings in your code.
- Once the browser receives the code it is decompressed so your reader sees your page correctly.
- You can modify your .htaccess file, or use a plugin (W3 Total Cache and WP HTTP Compression are two options).
- If you can’t use gzip, try WP-HTML-Compression, it compresses page size by removing comments and whitespace and shortening URLs.
- For better results you can minify your code before gzipping.
- You can also use the plugin W3 Total Cache to minify your files.
- Other options: Minify, WP Minify, and Autoptimize
Social Media Sharing
People are more willing to share things online if they see that others are doing the same.
- Showing readers your share options can help you, but it will also substantially slow your site down.
- This slowdown is caused by JavasScript codes from social media sites making calls to external servers.
- To speed up these plugins keep it simple by replacing the buttons with text links or images.
- This will eliminate the calls to external servers.
- If you can’t do without the social share buttons, consider using a plugin:
- Floating Social Bar, Share Center Pro or WP MashSocial Widget
- Instead of loading all of the items at once, asynchronous loading waits for one item to load before starting the next one.
Optimise Your Mobile Site
Speed is important for mobile users, most don’t have large enough data plans to sit and wait for your page and all its contents to load. You have a couple of options when it comes to your mobile site.
- Responsive design:
- Google suggests this option.
- It works on desktops, laptops, mobile devices and tablets.
- Each page on your site has the same URL.
- For images, the user’s browser downloads the full size then scales them down to fit on the mobile device.
- Adaptive design:
- Reduces your loading time on mobile devices.
- Your images and content are displayed with a minimal design that minimizes the size of your page.
- The size of your page can drop from 1.5 MB to less than 100 KB.
- You can choose a WordPress theme that comes with a mobile option, or use a plugin like WPtouch Mobile Plugin, WP Mobile Detector, WordPress Mobile Pack or MobilePress.
A Look at the Numbers
Here is a look at five popular WordPress plugins and their load times on the Frontend and Admin side.
- Admin: .006
- Frontend: .004
- All in One SEO Pack
- Admin: .010
- Frontend: .012
- Admin: .099
- Frontend: .009
- Admin: .007
- Frontend: .008
- W3 Total Cache
- Admin: .019
- Frontend: .008
- Measuring impact of plugins on WordPress loading – dev4press.com
- 5 Free Alternatives to BackupBuddy – appointzilla.com
- 5 lazy load WordPress plugins to speed up your website – top10wordpress.com
- Asynchronous Loading Plugins to Improve Page Load Speed – managewp.com
- Setting Up Guide for W3 Total Cache – softstribe.com
- 6 Top WordPress Backup Recommendations – stateofdigital.com
- 3 of the Best WordPress Plugins to Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly – sitepoint.com
- How to Speed Up Your WordPress Site – socialmediaexaminer.com
- How to Speed Up WordPress in 7 Easy Steps – newrelic.com
- 10 Must Have WordPress Plugins of 2013 Every Blogger Should Know About – jeffbullas.com
- Speeding Up a WordPress Website – wphub.com