Make your WordPress website faster with these 9 tips
WordPress is the Content Management System that drives 27% of all websites across the entire Internet. Out of all the websites that use a CMS, it is in almost 60% of the cases WordPress, followed a long way behind by Joomla (6.3%). WordPress is enormously powerful, perfectly adaptable to anyone’s requirements and, above all, super user-friendly. However, raw WordPress is not noted for its speed. And if you add too many or the wrong themes and plugins, the site can become quite unresponsive. How can you make your WordPress website faster? These 9 tips will turn a site that runs at a snail’s pace into a veritable greyhound.
How fast is my WordPress website?
Know your numbers – that’s a saying that ought to be hanging above every webmaster’s bed. You can ascertain the speed of your website and regularly monitor it with these tools:
- Google Page Speed Insights measures the speed on various devices (desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc.).
- Pingdom provides you with an overview of load time, page sizes, plus a detailed analysis of each page. The results are also saved so that you can track your improvement measures.
- Not only does GTmetrix give you a complete history of a website’s load speed, but it also provides you with a detailed report with tips for improving performance. Handy: you can see where the load speed is constrained via the video playback feature.
- Webpagetest allows you to choose a country from which to run the test, which is really handy if you have visitors from all over the world.
- YSlow Browser Plugin lets you view from your browser the speed of each site you visit, expressed in 20 different performance factors. This one is quite useful for drawing a comparison between your website and those of your competitors.
How do I improve the speed of my WordPress website?
Put these 9 tips into practice and you will be amazed by the results!
1. Choose your WordPress hosting very carefully
Price should not be the key criterion when choosing your hosting provider. Rather it should be the facilities on offer.
- Examine the Service Level Agreements and uptime guarantees and, above all, the support: in case of problems, can you reach your hosting provider 24/7 and speak in your own language? At Combell, we can say ‘YES’ to all of that.
- Are there tools & infrastructure available for optimum speed, which include SSD hosting and caching options with Varnish? Are the servers HTTP2-ready? All these options are available at Combell. Read more: Boost the loading speed of your website using HTTP2.
- Is your current hosting provider not compliant and you would like to transfer to Combell? Combell’s specialised transfer team will carry out the migration in next to no time and without any hiccup.
2. The theme: the basis of a fast WordPress website
There are a huge number of WordPress themes: some free and some you have to pay for, simple ones and others with all the bells and whistles. So how do you find the right theme?
- Do some research in advance: while surfing, see which theme is being used on each WordPress site.
- As a rule, simple themes are much faster than complex themes.
- If you find a theme that is suitable for your purpose, check its speed in advance: put the link of the demo page through its paces with the testers mentioned above.
3. WordPress plugins: too much of a good thing
You can find a plugin for any additional feature you want. It is very tempting to keep on expanding the options on your website with new plugins. However, too many plugins can have a damaging effect on speed.
- A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of plugins to 10.
- Check the speed of each plugin with the P3 Plug-in Performance Profiler.
4. Images: size matters
We are not talking about the dimensions of the image itself but rather the file size. Images that are several MB in size obviously load more slowly than small images. Therefore, you should optimise your images:
- Rescaling ≠ reducing: if you reduce the dimensions of an image by clicking and dragging, the size of the file stays the same!
- Compress your files: in the image editor, select the option ‘save for the web’.
- Use WP Smush: this plugin automatically compresses all files you upload to WordPress without visible loss of quality.
5. Cache: limit the dynamic movements
Each time someone visits your website, pages are created on the fly with content retrieved from a database. But for static components of the website that are not subject to change, this is not actually necessary.
- So use caching tools like Varnish and Redis, which retain static content in the cache.
- For more about this, read our article on how to make your website perform better with Varnish.
6. WordPress Scripts: optimise your code
- Size: keep your files as small as possible by removing all superfluous spaces, line breaks and indents. The Better WordPress Minify plugin can help you to do this.
- Bundling: we recommend you to bundle your files, because each script establishes a separate connection to the server. Test how many requests are generated by your scripts using HTTP Request Checker.
7. CDN: do not put all your eggs in one basket
Allow your scripts and images to be fetched from multiple servers rather than just one server. This also speeds up the loading process.
8. WP-CRON: silence the overzealous butler
A cron job is a task that is scheduled to run at regular intervals. In WordPress, this is managed by wp-cron.php: it makes sure that scheduled postings are published on time, checks for updates to themes or plugins, sends out e-mail notifications, etc.
Each time someone visits your website, wp-cron.php, like a zealous butler, will check whether everything is ready for receiving the visitor, or whether tasks still need to be carried out first. But if you have a lot of visitors, this procedure is going to hold them up and slow things down.
Furthermore, these constant checks increase the load on the server. For those reasons, you should disable the standard WP-Cron and replace it with a modified script. You can do that as follows:
- Via FTP, open wp-config.php in the root of your WordPress installation
- Add the following line, preferably straight after the database settings: define(‘DISABLE_WP_CRON’, ‘true’);
- Later, you can devise your own cron job and write it to the wp-cron.php file. You can find more information about this here.
9. Your WordPress database: clear out all the rubbish!
The WordPress database stores not only all the content of your postings, but also data that comes from comments and statistics, and redirect and security plugins that add tables full of data from the logs to the database. Over time, the database can get quite heavy and ponderous, which will have a negative impact on speed. So how do you keep the database in tip-top condition?
These 9 tips will undoubtedly bring your WordPress website up to record speeds. Good luck!