There are a few easy ways to speed up your WordPress site. Last week, I visited a beautiful website of an art therapist after reading her monthly newsletter. It took forever to open. It was easy to track down the reasons and suggest some fixes to her that she could do herself. I’ll share some here.
Pages that open slowly discourage visitors.
“Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.”1 Common sense. So much so Google now uses it as one of its SEO metrics. – ibid.
Or seen negatively, research by Gomez.com and Akamai.com found, “47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.”
The goal of any site owner is to have their pages open in less that 3 seconds. Ideally, much less.
There are often easy fixes that could bring site speed under 3 seconds.
Site Speed Tools
How to find out what they are? There are several good free tools which, when run, will
1. Give you a baseline to gauge improvement.
2. Point out what’s wrong.
3. Tell you what needs to be fixed
One, Google Pagespeed, will even show you how to fix it.
I like to use Gtmetrix, Google Pagespeed, and Google Analytics.
GTMetrix – register for free and it will save all your runs for your sites. It’s satisfying to see pages opening faster.
Google Pagespeed – measures both desktop and mobile page opening speed. It suggests fixes, providing links to specific instructions for each of the issues.
Google Analytics – to see how the actual speed of all indexed pages on your site.
The Easy ways
Of all the easy things to work on which will have a big effect on site speed are images. [Tweet “A photo taken with a cell phone has more bytes than a web page of text”]
Order of fixes by most impact in a site with images that are straight from a camera (probably also in the order of easiest to do):
1. Don’t use images. The fastest site has no content.
2. Resize and optimize images before using them.
3. Use WP Smush plugin to optimize if the images are already on the site and you don’t want to replace with optimized images.
4. Limit decoration images and images not directly related to content.
5. Optimize ads.
(Warning. The following description is way over simplified and is likely inaccurate). Caching is a way to store reusable items to be used again. On CNN.com the logo is reusable. A news story is not. It needs to be current. A CNN page is sped up if the logo is used over and over again.
There are several ways to cache a web page to speed up your WordPress site. Here are three:
6. Use a content delivery network (CDN).
Traffic to a site goes first through the CDN before getting to the site’s servers. This has site speed and security implications that work for the site. CDNs provide faster sites using caching and servers closer to end viewers. They also offer increased security, weeding out attacks before they get to the site’s servers. More info, see this Wikipedia article describing CDNs.
CloudFlare is an excellent CDN which has a free tier.
7. Use caching plugins to cache from your site. W3 Total Cache is popular.
Use both. W3 Total Cache works well with CloudFlare. CloudFlare provides settings guidelines for W3 Total Cache. Update CloudFlare now has some caching: “It is possible to cache the HTML of a WordPress site at Cloudflare’s Edge using a feature known as ‘Bypass Cache on Cookie’. This can dramatically improve the speed of your website and reduce server load…” https://support.cloudflare.com/hc/en-us/articles/200169756-Can-I-use-caching-plugins-like-Super-Cache-or-W3-Total-Cache-W3TC-with-CloudFlare-
9. Domain name – keep it at a registrar that specializes in DNS (Domain Name Services). For not easy reasons do not keep your domains at your sites’ web host.
10. Use a theme that loads fast. Find fast themes run the theme demo through GTMetrix or Pagespeed. Warning: it’s easy to change themes but often hard to do it while having widgets and other stuff behave as you expect.
11. Fonts – Use popular or Google Fonts so unusual ones don’t need to be downloaded to viewers’ browsers.
12. Plugins – reduce the number you’re using. Added benefit – decreases security risk. Use P3 (Plugin Profiler Plugin) plugin to discover plugins which slow page load. If possible delete or replace with one that affects site speed less. By the Way, P3 affects site speed negligently. You can disable or delete it when you’re not using it to test plugins.
If you have a blog:
13.Use Excerpts (“read more…”) either via WordPress settings or on some theme settings to show how much of a post shows on a page.
14. Limit how many comments show per page to 5-7.
15. Disable pingback and trackbacks. You can get the same information from Google Analytics. This is easy to do but won’t increase speed much.
Conclusions – easy ways to speed up your WordPress site.
I’ve hopefully provided an easy to follow overlook of ways to speed up your website and increase your visitor’s happiness with your endeavors.
Do you have experience with any of these? Other easy ones to suggest? Had problems with any of these? Successes? Please comment below. I’d love to help with the problems, hear about the successes and discover other easy ways to speed up WordPress sites. Contact me if you’d like your site speed tested and receive suggestions – no charge.
Contact me if you’d like your site speed tested and receive suggestions – no charge. I will do a follow-up post with tests and results of fixes.