Speed Up WordPress in 7 Simple Steps

10–12 minutes to read

If Your Site Takes More Than 3 Seconds To Load, You’re Screwed (plus how to speed up WordPress).

When you land on a website that doesn’t load instantly, what do you do? If you’re like the majority of human beings on the internet, you click your way to greener pastures. Few things bring out the need for instant gratification like browsing the Internet, but page speed (site speed) affects more than just our dizzyingly short attention spans. Aside from user satisfaction, page speed plays a crucial role in SEO (search engine optimization), especially on-page SEO. Even more importantly, it directly impacts a site’s ability to convert visitors into paying customers. If you’re an intelligent online business owner and you care about converting traffic into sales, it pays to get your page up to speed.

Speed Up WordPress: Why does it really matter? How slow is too slow?

Since you’re unlikely to stick around to wait while a website loads at a snail’s pace, you shouldn’t expect visitors to your WP site to do the same. Let’s breakdown the importance of page load time and speeding up WordPress, then I’ll give you 7 easy ways to make your site load faster. Consider this: In 2010, Google officially announced that page load time is a part of its ranking algorithm. Therefore, even if your SEO game is on point, it may all be for naught if your pages load slowly.

In addition to onpage SEO, page load speeds affect UX (user experience) and conversion rates directly. Consider these stats from an authority in online marketing, KissMetrics:

  • Every delay of one additional second decreases user satisfaction by 16 percent

  • 47 percent of users expect pages to load in two seconds or less
  • And 79 percent of users are unlikely to do business with a company again if their website performance is poor
  • 40 percent of users abandon pages that take three seconds or longer to load

When I first read that last stat I was floored, literally 40% of potential paying customers vanish if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load! I shudder to think how much money people with slow sites are leaving on the table. If your site is slow I feel for you, let’s make it fast.

Seven Easy Ways to Improve Page Speed

Now that you see how vital it is to speed up WordPress, you’re probably chomping at the bit to make your website load at the speed of light. Then again, you might be worried about what that actually entails. Will it cost a lot of money? Will it involve a lot of time and effort? I have some good news for you: There are plenty of easy, free ways to boost a site’s load speed. We have rated each of these with a technical difficulty level!

Send your webpage into hyperspeed and increase its load time with these seven handy tips:

1. Clean Up Your Code – (Difficulty: Hard)

The more streamlined your code is, the smaller your site is. Not surprisingly, smaller sites load faster. You need to “minify” your code, or pare it down to the bare essentials. This means eliminating extraneous things like indentation, line breaks, extra spaces and the like. Use Google PageSpeed, which includes a suite of tools that test and automatically optimize your site for optimal speed and ultimately speed up WordPress. For CSS and JavaScript, try YUI Compressor.

2. Remove Unused Plugins – (Difficulty: Easy)

Sure, they’re convenient. Here’s the thing about plugins, though: They often drastically reduce load time, and they can cause security problems too. Eliminate all unnecessary plugins from your site, especially the ones that are bogging it down. Check out the official WordPress.org Guide for “Cleaning House” for your WordPress install.

3. Minimize HTTP Requests – (Difficulty: Hard)

Every element that exists on a website must be requested and then processed by the server. Therefore, the more elements a page contains, the longer it’s going to take to load. Images, stylesheets, scripts and the like all contribute to the work that must be done to render a page. There are many ways to reduce the number of elements on a page. For example, combine several stylesheets into one. Eliminate as many scripts as possible, and place those that must remain at the bottom of the page. Whenever possible, use CSS instead of images. Here is a guide on how to reduce your HTTP requests, the fewer HTTP requests, the more you speed up WordPress.

4. Enable Caching – (Difficulty: Easy)

When someone visits your page for the first time, their browser must download all of the elements. Therefore, the page loads the most slowly the first time. On subsequent visits, it will load a lot more quickly–as long as you’ve enabled browser caching, which places temporary files on users’ hard drives. In turn, fewer requests are made, and the page loads more quickly every time thus you speed up WordPress. Ideally, static elements (like images and text) should be permitted to be cached for a minimum of one week. CSS files, media files, image files and the like should be allowed to be cached for at least a week or, even better, a full year. Third-party elements like ads should be allowed to be cached for at least one day. A quick way to get basic caching setup would be to use a caching plugin like WP Super Cache.

5. Optimize Images – (Difficulty: Easy)

Users love webpages with lots of images, but those unoptimized images can really slow things down and hurt your site speed. Three things affect how quickly an image loads: its size, its file format and its src attribute. If the latter is inadvertently left blank, the server will get bogged down trying to locate the attribute. Ideally, images should JPEGs or PNGs. GIFs are so-so, but avoid TIFFs and BMPs at all costs. As for size, crop images prior to uploading them. Try the WP Smush It plugin to quickly optimize images.

6. Enable Compression – (Difficulty: Hard)

Shrink down the files that make up your site so that they load more quickly, this leads to massively speed up WordPress. Any file that’s 100kb or larger should be zipped and compressed to reduce HTTP response time and bandwidth. Make sure that your server is setup to enable compression, and use gzip, which is supported by around 90 percent of browsers, to make things even easier.

7. Get Fast Hosting – (Difficulty: Easy)

More than anything, the hosting that you rely on affects your site speed. Entrecloud, a WordPress hosting provider, guarantees that every site you move over will be faster than your old hosting provider by at least one second, we speed up WordPress for you. We also completely eliminate the pain and frustration of moving to a new host with free migrations and no downtime in the process. It takes less than 5 minutes to get setup. Whether you run a high traffic blog or an online business, we have you covered.

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Austin Felton is a serial entrepreneur, technologist and foodie who lives in Austin, TX.