Website performance is more than just site speed, and it goes beyond the immediate user experience to affect everything from SEO rankings to conversions.
According to data collected by Portent, a site that loads in 1 second has a conversion rate three times higher than sites that load in 5 seconds and five times higher than sites that load in 10 seconds. It’s clear, therefore, that improving your WordPress website performance can significantly impact your site’s success.
This guide will help you understand why performance matters along with a helpful checklist of strategies you can use to ensure your WordPress website performs at its peak. Let’s dive in.
What is Website Performance?
Website performance is sometimes used interchangeably with site speed, but it encompasses many other aspects.
Web performance, broadly speaking, is a mix between the objective measurement of a website (loading speed, conversion rates, etc.) and the experience perceived by the user. Basically, website performance is a measurement of how responsive your website is to the needs of your end user.
While site speed is part of the equation, there are other elements of site performance that should be monitored, like making sure your page elements load correctly, in the right place, and with the correct functionality (i.e., buttons are clickable, video playback works correctly, etc.) to ensure a seamless user experience.
Why Does Website Performance Matter?
Website performance is a multifaceted concept that extends beyond mere site speed. It encompasses a range of factors that collectively influence your site’s success.
Understanding why website performance matters is essential for anyone looking to maximize their WordPress website’s potential.
Here are a few key reasons website performance matters to your site’s success:
As noted above, website performance can have a direct impact on SEO as search engines, particularly Google, consider the way your site performs when determining search rankings.
Google’s algorithm takes into account page loading speed, mobile-friendliness, and overall user experience, and a slow, poorly-performing website can result in lower search engine rankings, reducing your site’s visibility and organic traffic.
Conversely, a well-optimized site can enhance your SEO efforts, leading to higher rankings and increased online visibility.
User Experience (UX)
Website performance also has a direct impact on user experience. Users expect web pages to load quickly and function smoothly, and slow-loading websites can leave them feeling frustrated, leading to higher bounce rates and decreased engagement.
A slow, clunky user experience can tarnish your brand’s reputation and drive potential customers away. On the other hand, a fast and responsive website enhances user satisfaction, encourages exploration, and fosters positive interactions, ultimately driving conversions and customer loyalty.
As people’s preferred devices continue to evolve, website performance doesn’t only matter on desktop. The way your site performs on smartphones, tablets, and a range of other devices is paramount.
Mobile users have even less patience for slow-loading websites, and their expectations for a seamless experience are higher than ever. A WordPress website optimized for mobile performance ensures you can effectively reach and engage with your mobile audience, expanding your potential customer base.
Optimizing website performance can lead to cost savings in several ways. A well-optimized site consumes fewer server resources, reducing hosting costs.
Additionally, it can result in lower advertising expenses since a high-performing site typically achieves better ROI from marketing efforts. By enhancing performance, you not only improve user satisfaction but also make more efficient use of your budget.
In today’s highly competitive digital landscape, websites that prioritize performance gain a significant edge over their slower counterparts.
A fast, reliable website is a powerful marketing tool that can differentiate your brand and attract discerning customers who value a seamless online experience.
These are just a few of the reasons performance is such an important factor for websites of all sizes. Ready to find out how to make sure your site is performing at its highestlevel? Read on for our WordPress Performanc echedcklist below.
WordPress Performance Checklist
The following eight-point checklist will help you identify key areas affecting your web performance and provide tips for optimizing your site.
1. Choose Reliable Managed WordPress Hosting
The foundation of every high-performing WordPress website is a reliable hosting provider, as the hosting platform you choose will impact your site speed, uptime, and security as well as your ability to scale up as your site and your traffic grow.
While a low-cost option may be suitable for small sites with little traffic, this may mean sharing server resources with other sites, and if your neighbors on the server use more resources than they had estimated, it may end up affecting your site by association. A managed WordPress host will take care of many of the technical tasks related to maintaining a WordPress website, freeing up your time to focus on your business.
When choosing a hosting provider, consider key factors such as the provider’s uptime guarantee, the location of their servers, whether they provide 24/7 customer support, and the reviews of their customers. You might also want to check whether they offer additional features such as automatic backups, free SSL certificates, or staging environments, which can provide additional performance benefits.
2. Use Lightweight Themes, Plugins, & Fonts
Every element you add to your site takes a certain amount of server resources to load properly. The larger the file, the more difficult and time consuming it will be to load. So, if your site is full of large theme, plugin, or font files, it will load more slowly than a site running on lighter code.
The best practice for building a new site is to start with a lightweight theme and add the functionality you need through additional plugins or font files. Read reviews from users who have built sites with the products you plan to use to ensure they’re satisfactory, and try to refrain from adding too many elements at once (unless you’ve used that specific set of tools before and seen success). That way, if your site suddenly starts to slow down, you’ll be able to more readily identify which files are causing the delay.
Additionally, you can use tools to test the performance of a theme before you decide to use it. Use a local development tool like Local to spin up a site using the theme, plugins, and additional code you intend to use in a live environment, then use Google Lighthouse to check how quickly the site would load in a live environment. To gauge the performance of sites that are already live, Google PageSpeed Insights can provide…well, insight.
For a simple, one-click activation that instantly improves your site performance, check out PageSpeed Boost!
3. Optimize Images and Videos for Speed
Just as your plugins, themes, and font files can bog down your site, large image, unoptimized images and videos can do the same.
Image optimization typically involves reducing the file size of an image as much as possible without affecting their quality, choosing the right image format for web use, or implementing lazy load for images.
Optimizing videos is similar to optimizing images in that you’ll want to choose the best format and compress the video as much as possible. You can also take the time to make the video resolution scalable depending on the user’s device (aka: smaller devices are served smaller video sizes), disable autoplay, and make the bitrate adaptive to speed up your site’s loading time when there are videos on page. An adaptive bitrate will ensure that users with low network bandwidth aren’t wasting time waiting for the highest quality version of a video to load.
4. Keep Your Database Clean
Every time you add or adjust an element of your site, those changes are stored in your database. Over time, databases can become cluttered with unnecessary data, such as spam comments, revisions, transient options, and outdated plugin data, and this cluttered state can affect site performance. Regular database optimization ensures that your site operates efficiently and prevents delays.
Manually cleaning up your database is always an option, but combing your files by hand can be extremely time consuming.
A high-quality database optimization plugin can help you clean up your database with just a few clicks, making the task easier and much faster. We’d like to note that, before you perform any database cleanup, you should ensure you have a recent backup of your database. That way, if anything goes wrong, you can easily restore the most recent version of your site.
5. Use a Content Delivery Network
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers located all over the world that stores cached versions of your site. When a user visits your site, the CDN delivers the site’s content from the server closest to the user, boosting your site’s speed and reliability.
Using a CDN, in addition to a good hosting provider, can greatly improve a site’s accessibility and performance for a global audience.
WP Engine utilizes Cloudflare CDN with each plan, so pages can be served to users around the world faster, sending fewer requests to the WP Engine origin server. WP Engine’s finely tuned caching rules will also apply at Cloudflare’s Edge network. Speaking of caching…
6. Cache for Faster Loading
Caching can be an absolute game-changer for WordPress websites. When a user first visits your website, your site will create and store a cached version of that user’s visit on the server. All subsequent visitors then get access to faster speeds, as the content is delivered from the cached version.
There are two main ways to implement caching for your WordPress site. One option is server-level caching, which can be provided by your hosting provider. This approach offers the advantage of not having to deal with caching plugins, giving you one less site performance element to worry about yourself. WP Engine’s EverCacheⓇ solution comes with every hosting plan, removing server strain and displaying your pages more quickly to customers all over the world.
Alternatively, you can opt for a plugin-based caching solution, such as WP Fastest Cache or Cache Enabler, which can also enhance your site’s performance. However, you should make sure to choose either the server caching route or the plugin route—while you may think using both together would make your site faster, they may actually work against one another and slow things down.
One last tip that can help you optimize your caching is to extend your cache expiration time. By increasing the expiration time to a longer duration, you can boost your cache hit ratio by reducing the frequency of uncached requests being re-executed. Learn more about WP Engine’s caching expiration times here.
7. Maintenance and Continued Updates
Ongoing maintenance is the lifeblood of a healthy and high-performing WordPress website. This can involve a number of things, from removing unnecessary files and optimizing images to checking content for broken links to regularly backing up your sites. One of the most important aspects of ongoing maintenance will be updating your themes and plugins when updates are made available.
Because developers are always trying to stay one step ahead of bad actors, plugin and theme makers release updates to their products from time to time. Typically, these updates help improve performance by fixing bugs, improve code quality, improve functionality, or patch security risks. And yet, about 52% of all WordPress vulnerabilities are caused by plugins that haven’t been updated.
Because of the security risks posed by outdated plugins and themes, you should update your site’s elements as soon as an update is made available.
8. Advanced Security Solutions for Sensitive Information
Speaking of security, it’s another vital aspect to your site’s overall performance. An unsecured site is vulnerable to attacks, and if you fall victim to a cybercriminal, you risk a lot more than just site downtime.
As soon as your site is infiltrated, all the information stored on that site—including but not limited to sensitive customer information like credit card numbers—is at risk. And because WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS, WordPress websites are some of the most frequently attacked.
So if your site handles a lot of sensitive customer information, you may need additional security. An advanced security solution can better protect your site against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, SQL injection attacks, malware, brute-force attacks, XML-RPC attacks, and malicious bots. They can also reduce the risk of inadvertently blocking legitimate users whose requests might get flagged as threatening by less intuitive security measures.
WP Engine’s Global Edge Security is a high-performance advanced security solution that’s designed to block attacks without slowing down your site’s performance. It includes an enterprise-grade Web Application Firewall and advanced DDoS mitigation alongside the performance benefits of Cloudflare’s CDN. You can learn more about Global Edge Security here.
Ensuring your WordPress sites continue to reach optimal performance is ongoing responsibility. By paying attention to key aspects like the quality of your hosting, the site elements you use, how your site content is being delivered, and your ongoing maintenance responsibilities, you can ensure your site is always at peak performance.