With 2019 already in full swing, speeding up WordPress seems to be on everyone’s mind. Faster websites win more traffic and lose less return visitors. This year’s rat race will be fierce, so don’t get left behind, otherwise your number one visitors could end up being search engine spiders and web scrapers. Do you need hosting optimized for WordPress? GlowHost is offering 30% off WordPress Hosting right now!
In this article, we’re going to cover general guidelines to improve speed and reduce latency. There are literally tens of thousands of ways to speed up WordPress, but no one method will ever be generic enough to suit every situation. Every point is ordered from where you should begin, to where you should finish up. You can, however, run by these in any order for most guidelines.
Choose a Lightweight WordPress Theme
You should choose a minimalist and mobile friendly WordPress theme. Meeting these two basic suggestions does not mean you have to sacrifice visual appeal. Consider a simple theme with colors that compliment your website, and one that scores high on Google Page Insights. Not only will you be building from a good foundation, but you’ll save yourself time at the end of your project when launch time comes and it’s time for last minute tuneups.
With thousands of free WordPress themes available, there’s no right or wrong choice. As long as the design is minimal and mobile friendly, you’ll be off to a good start.
Optimize All Images
Images are often neglected while building a new website or working on an existing one. It’s common that webmasters tend to upload raw images, all without thinking of the repercussions later on, and end up shooting through gigabytes of bandwidth without knowing where it all went.
The solution? Compress and optimize all images uploaded into WordPress. This is a must, and there are countless tools to help you get the job done.
- Optimize at the web server layer with Gzip compression.
- Run plugins that compress and optimize media library images.
- A lazy image loader could go a long way for tall pages. (This prevents below-the-fold images from loading until the visitor scrolls down.)
With image compression through WordPress and leveraging Gzip for transfers, you’ll cut your bandwidth substantially which will improve overall network speeds for your visitors.
Disable Unnecessary WordPress Plugins
At this point, you should have a solid idea of what plugins you like and don’t like. Go through your list of plugins and disable any that you know for certain you’re not using. Go one step further, find out what plugins already provide a function that other plugins are providing.
- Disable older versions of plugins if you’re running a newer one.
- Consider embedding scripts into a widget instead of seeking out a plugin that does this (such as Google Analytics).
- Avoid design-changing plugins if the same purpose can be done with a little bit of CSS.
- Find any plugins that you just don’t need and turn them off.
Lastly, remove any unused plugins from the plugins folder since this does add a little overhead to your WordPress website. This tip will also make your website much safer since unused plugins will not be updated and may break your website if you choose to enable them at a later date.
Load External Scripts Locally
Have you ever wondered why a page has completely rendered, but the page was still loading? This is commonly due to the download of external scripts such as analytics, remote hosted files, and advertising embedded code. You can avoid remote server delays by uploading external script code directly to your web server.
- As recommended above, try to avoid plugin-based solutions.
- Load fonts locally in your WordPress themes.
- Avoid embedded media where possible (images, videos, and so on).
- If a plugin brings necessary scripts locally, install it as a last consideration.
While bringing scripts locally into your WordPress website’s code, be sure to keep them updated since some external scripts may change from time to time. You may be able to get clever with a cron job and wget command to pull updates, but take caution while going this route since this can be a security risk in itself. Only consider this with trusted sources!
Setup WordPress Page Caching
An essential component to every WordPress website (big and small) is a caching plugin. These tools take your website’s code to generate a static copy of otherwise dynamic pages for faster loading times. Here are some popular caching plugins in no particular order:
- Cache Enabler
- WP Fastest Cache
- Comment Cache
- WP Rocket
- W3 Total Cache
- WP Super Cache
The effects of a caching plugin can be noticed the moment it’s enabled. Find one that you want to try, enable it, and log out. Browse your website, and experience the vastly improved page speeds. In many cases, a caching plugin can improve performance several times over.
No caching plugin is the same, and their counterparts may be better suited for specific types of WordPress build. experiment with this one. You’ll be thankful later.
Minify and Compress JS and CSS
Minifying will reduce the number of page requests, take out comments and white space, compress the code, and send it all in fewer files (as few as a single static CSS and JS file).
Consider a Content Delivery Network
Leveraging a content delivery network (CDN) bears many benefits for both your website, and your visitors. Not only will a CDN reduce your WordPress website’s bandwidth usage, but will also speed up static content loading times since these will be loaded from a source much closer to your visitor’s location.
Here are some popular CDNs you may want to consider:
A CDN can also filter out bad traffic which greatly reduces bandwidth, as well as protects your website from dangerous robots. GlowHost even offers CloudFlare directly accessible from inside cPanel!
Be sure to include your minified JS and CSS files with whichever CDN you choose, but be sure to disable this while making changes to your website.
Advanced WordPress Speed Improvements
Going above and beyond the basics, there are tricks to make your website even faster with scheduled maintenance, and then there are tricks that make your website “seemingly” faster.
- Consider a plugin that will regularly clean up your database.
- Load CSS first, and JS last. This is often default with most caching plugins.
- Schedule WordPress cron jobs by adding define(‘WP_CRON_LOCK_TIMEOUT’, 3600); at the end of your wp-config.php file.
- Choose a URL with www or without-www and stick to it.
There are an infinite number of things you can do to speed up WordPress, so at this stage you should be learning more about what works best for your website. Learn the code, and see what you can take out to minify what’s left, and find out what you can add in to speed it up.
Disable Unused WordPress Features
Before you wrap things up, you’ll want to give your WordPress website a final walk-through. Find out what features don’t work well with your website.
Are comments important to your website? If not, disable this and benefit two fold by preventing spammers from degrading your reputation, and giving them less reason to submit thousands of messages per day. These resources are better spent on important tasks.
Have you already setup Google and Bing webmaster tools? Then you probably don’t need pingbacks and trackbacks. These search giants already tell you who’s linking to your website.
Some other options you may wish to disable include:
- Member registration
- Emoticon conversions to graphics
- Long syndication lists (3-5 is usually fine)
- RSS syndication
Concluding WordPress Optimization
As the internet becomes more massive and visitors demand faster speeds, you’re going to learn fast that optimizing WordPress is a never ending challenge to squeeze out the most from your hosting.
Keep at it and continue to learn, because there are no limits to how much work you could put into a WordPress website since there’s always something that could be done just a little better. Don’t forget – if you ever have questions, feel free to contact the GlowHost Support Team. We’re here 24/7/365!