If you want to improve your website’s search result ranking, then you need to take a closer look at your loading time. Site speed has become increasingly important to search engines; they want to provide their users with the best results they can and sending them to a site that loads slowly doesn’t add up to a good user experience. Unfortunately, WordPress is a platform that can have speed issues – so, in this article, we’re going to show you several ways to make your WordPress site load faster.
Why speeding up WordPress is important
Search engines down rank slow websites because users find them frustrating. If a page loads slowly, visitors head straight for the back button and go elsewhere. The expectation is that, regardless of the device accessing the site, the page will load almost instantaneously. Google is so concerned with this that it now allows owners to test their site speed and provides them with an overview of what is causing their loading time issues.
So, how do we speed up WordPress?
1. Check you are using the right hosting package
One of the biggest causes of a slow website can be using shared hosting. When you use shared hosting, you are sharing the resources of a server with many other websites. Whilst this can be fine for smaller websites, sites that have increasing traffic and bandwidth requirements may find the performance of their site is affected by other sites on the server.
VPS (Virtual Private Servers) offer a cost effective solution for smaller websites. They can be purchased for just a little more than shared hosting but provide many of the features of a dedicated server.
2. Make sure your web host allows you to enable gzip compression
Gzip compression can reduce the size of the data your website sends by up to 90% and so dramatically speeds up loading time whilst reducing a visitor’s data usage. Using gzip is highly recommended by Google; however, some web hosts do not allow their customers to use it – especially on shared hosting plans. Check carefully that you web host does.
A. Use a lightweight theme
If your WordPress theme has lots of features built in to it, it will need more resources to allow those features to function. This can increase the amount of data needed to be sent to visitors in order for your website to function on their devices – hence slowing it down.
Obviously, there are some features which you will want your website to have, but many themes come ‘feature packed’. If your theme has lots of features that you do not use, then it might be preferential to move to a lighter theme to improve your site speed.
B. Clear out your unused plugins
Plugins are an incredibly useful way to add functionality to your WordPress theme, but each one you install will have its own script that will slow down the speed of your website. Over time, you will notice that you will stop using some of your plugins or will replace them with better ones. To speed up your website, deactivate the ones you no longer use and delete them completely.
Always consider how necessary a plugin is before installing it; if you can live without it, then from a speed perspective, it is best not to install it at all.
3. Install a caching plugin
If you imagine your website as a piece of flat-packed furniture that has to be sent to the visitor and constructed on their browser, then caching is the process of prebuilding some of the flat-packed elements so that it speeds up the time a browser needs to construct the website at the other end. There are a number of caching plugins that you can install that will help you significantly improve the performance of your WordPress site, in particular, W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.
4. Take advantage of a content delivery network (CDN)
Content delivery networks are not free, however, some web hosts have CDN services included in their packages. There are also CDN plugins which can be used.
5. Speed up with image optimisation
Images are large files and if you have a lot of them on your web site they can significantly impact on your site speed. This can be a real problem for some websites, especially ecommerce sites with lots of product images.
Image optimisation is the process of reducing the size of the images on your website. This can be done in a number of ways; firstly by using a compressed file format, such as .jpeg or .png files and secondly by keeping the image density small – 72 dpi is the ideal size for internet images. You can also help by uploading images that are the correct dimensions for your website so that WordPress doesn’t need to resize them.
Obviously, it can be time consuming to optimise every image, so you can save time by adding a plugin such as WP-SmushIt which will automate the optimisation for you as you upload images to your site.
6. Help your homepage load faster
Your homepage is likely to be your most visited page so it’s important that this page loads as quickly as possible. There are a few easy tweaks you can do to help. If you have posts on your homepage, make sure you display excerpts instead of full posts and keep the number of posts you display fairly small – having twenty full posts on your homepage with images will really slow it down.
Secondly, try to get rid of the sidebar on your homepage as all the widgets will slow down the load time. If you can’t do this, use a custom sidebar plugin so that you can have fewer widgets on your homepage than on other pages.
Finally, try to eliminate any other heavy or unnecessary content on your homepage. You are unlikely to need sharing buttons or video on your homepage and features like sliders can be slow to load – especially if you have lots of images rotating.
7. Speed up by staggering image loading
When it comes to judging page load times, it’s important that what appears on the screen is what loads first – this means that the top of a web page, what is referred to as ‘above the fold’ needs to be delivered first.
One way to achieve this is to use a lazy load plugin such as jQuery Image Lazy Load. These plugins are useful because they load all the images above the fold but the ones below do not load until the visitor begins to scroll down. By staggering the loading of the images, it means the rest of the website can load quicker – thus speeding up the initial load time of the website.
8. Keep your database optimised
Your WordPress database stores pretty much everything you do – some of this is vital to the health of your website but other things can be unnecessary data bloat that just slows down your website. This includes things like post revisions and spam comments. If you are working on a post and constantly click on ‘Save Draft’ as you work, you may accumulate hundreds of post revisions over time. Using a database optimiser plugin, such as WP-Optimize, you can keep your database leaner and more efficient – helping to speed up the website for your users.
These eight tips will help you improve your website speed and thus make it more likely that your pages and posts will rank higher in search results. They are also quite easy to implement and use. There are some more advanced methods to speeding up your WordPress site too, but for a WordPress beginner, these are an ideal way to make a start.
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