In today’s age, awesome online experiences are a crucial element to building a loyal fanbase. While a positive digital experience can lead to brand advocacy, one that fails to meet expectations on things like site speed can lead a prospect running in the other direction. In fact, Google engineers have discovered the blink of an eye — 400 milliseconds — is too long and causes people to search less.
Not only that, but page speed also affects SEO. Google takes the user experience into consideration with its page ranking algorithm. Since a slow loading site detracts from the user experience, this can damage SEO rankings.
To help you deliver the best experience online possible (and help improve your SEO efforts), we’ve provided this list of tips to help enhance the performance of your WordPress site. Whether it be page size, slow plugins, or some other culprit, read on for some useful tips to help boost page speed times and improve your site’s overall performance.
1. Run A Site Speed Diagnosis
First, you’ll want to run a test, like the WordPress Speed Test, to determine what could be the culprit of slow page load times.
After you insert your site’s URL, you’ll be emailed a custom analysis regarding how fast your site loads and specific recommendations to speed it up.
For WP Engine users, try using Page Performance in the User Portal. Similar to the test above, Page Performance is catered to our technology stack to give you actionable recommendations to speed up your site. You can even schedule recurring tests to see how changes to your site (like adding a new plugin) impact page speed.
2. Configure a CDN
No matter a user’s location, your content should be delivered blazing fast. Sometimes this isn’t always feasible, though…that is, if your site isn’t on an infrastructure that contains data centers in other parts of the world. Distance can mean lag in content delivery, which is where a content delivery network (CDN) becomes handy.
A CDN leads to faster page load times because when configured, your website will use an optimized server that’s closest to your site visitor. The data center will store static content and files, and then deliver them to users based on their location. This can help reduce external HTTP requests because the static content is already ready to go instead of requesting tons of HTTP at once.
Choosing a CDN depends on the popularity and needs of your site. Some WordPress CDN solutions include MaxCDN, Cloudflare, or CacheFly. (WP Engine’s MaxCDN solution can be configured through the User Portal.)
3. Split Excessive Comments Into Pages
If your content is getting a ton of comments, this could be causing page lag. Breaking the comment section into pages is a good idea to shave off the time it takes for them to load.
To paginate comments, simply go to Settings » Discussions and then choose the number of comments you want per page. This should help improve memory consumption and boost page load times for posts and pages with tons of comments.
4. Remove Unused Media/Plugins/Themes
Unless you abide by a minimalist lifestyle, over time, we all tend to accumulate clutter. These unnecessary “things” should be cleaned out every now and then. The same goes for your website.
Removing unused plugins and themes
Not only do unused plugins and themes present security vulnerabilities, but they can also detract from WordPress site performance.
To broom out these cobwebs, simply determine which plugins and themes you find absolutely necessary. The others…toss em! If anything, you can at least deactivate them to cut down the amount of code your site needs to load.
Removing unused media
You can use a plugin like Media Cleaner to dispose of unused media or you can do so manually. To manually remove unused media, simply go to Media » Library and click the unattached option.
You’ll then see all of the media files that aren’t being used on your site. You can delete those files to free up space.
There are a number of plugins built to minify code. Autoptimize is one of the top rated free plugins for this task. You might also try the premium plugin WP Rocket which helps with site optimization, including minification. CSS Compressor is another good option that simplifies CSS code.
6. Clean up your database
If left unchecked, your WordPress database will start to accumulate clutter over time. To make it squeaky clean, you want to clean up any leftover tables from uninstalled plugins and remove overheads. Cleaning up your database can be done manually through phpMyAdmin, although can be tricky and damaging if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you aren’t a technical whiz, installing a plugin to accomplish this task is the safer way to go. WP-Sweep and Advanced Database Cleaner are both safe bets to broom through your database and get rid of things like old revisions, spam comments, MySQL queries, and more.
7. Upgrade to PHP 7.3
Using the most recent version of PHP is the quickest way to improve the performance of your site. PHP 7.3, which was released in April, introduced improvements in security and performance. WP Engine customers who moved from PHP 7.2 to PHP 7.3 have seen up to a 15% decrease in request processing time. This mirrors official PHP benchmarks that show PHP 7.3 is 10% faster than PHP 7.2.
Before upgrading to PHP 7.3, it’s recommended to test your site first with the PHP Compatibility Checker plugin to detect if your theme or any plugins might present any incompatibility issues.
Read more about what’s coming in PHP 7.4.
8. Optimize Images
Images are imperative to keeping a site visitor engaged. While your site may contain a ton of beautiful imagery, it’s a good idea to optimize these images to achieve fast page load times. When directly uploaded to your site, images contain metadata that take up unneeded space. Too large of a file can hog up bandwidth and cause a page to lag in load times.
A plugin like Smush Image Compression and Optimization or ShortPixel Image Optimization will take the work off your back by automatically stripping an image of unnecessary data upon upload (without sacrificing image quality).
9. Enable GZIP Compression
When a user hits your website, a call is made to your server to deliver the requested files. The larger the file, the longer it’s going to take for the full page to load. Gzip works to compress your webpages and style sheets before they’re sent over to the end user.
Gzip compression can be enabled through the sensitive .htaccess server file. Therefore, it is recommended you ask your hosting provider or developer to set this up for you. A plugin like WP-Rocket can also enable gzip compression for you.
You can visit checkgzipcompression.com to see whether or not your site is gzip enabled.
10. Achieve minimalism with site design
Is it time for a site re-design? If so, think minimalism over clutter when it comes to the design of your site. Starting with a good, lightweight framework, like Genesis, is the first step toward simplicity, site responsiveness, and an optimized site that doesn’t turn users away. When it comes to your home page, fewer elements are better to start with. Just remember, the more features you have, the longer it’s going to take for your site to load.
11. Forgo Shared Hosting
Shared hosting might seem like a good deal at first. But when your site goes down or experiences page lag due to another site’s problem, you’ll want to reconsider investing in a proper infrastructure.
Part of what you’re paying for with dedicated hosting providers is lightening fast speed regardless of traffic. WP Engine, for one, has built the scalable architecture EverCache into its technology stack. Even if your site experiences a traffic surge, you won’t have to fret about site downtime.
In addition, enterprise plans with WP Engine are run in dedicated environments for optimal WordPress site performance.
Once you implemented these solutions, you’ll hopefully see a noticeable improvement in site speed and page load times. Remember, for faster site performance, you can do these things:
- Run a WordPress speed test
- Configure a CDN
- Limit comments per page
- Remove unused media/plugins/themes
- Clean up your database
- Upgrade Your PHP Version
- Optimize images
- Enable gzip compression
- Start with a lightweight theme
- Reconsider shared hosting
Have you optimized your site recently? Leave us a comment below to let us know what your favorite tricks are for boosting WordPress site performance.