8 steps to speed up your WordPress website
Over the last couple of decades search engines have been constantly releasing updates in order to improve their results and to present online users with the information they are looking for in a quick and effortless manner.
As of a couple of years ago, Google for example released a special user experience update, which introduced ranking factors and UX metrics such as website loading speed, element shifting and time until the given web page becomes interactive to name a few.
This update was due to the change in overall search patterns and result expectations. With an increasingly larger number of people spending no longer than 3-5 seconds on average to determine whether the page they are on will satisfy their intentions, it is clear that search engines needed to adapt, hence why factors like loading speed became a lot more influential.
Overall, if you want to keep performing well in the search engine results pages (SERPs), it is advised to optimize your website and ensure that it can load as quickly as possible with a good benchmark being around 2-3 seconds.
Seeing as how WordPress still remains one of the most powerful CMSes out there, in this article we are going to be providing you with some tips on how to speed up your WordPress website in order to accommodate these search engine changes and continue to perform well on search.
How to check the loading speed of your website
Generally speaking, there are a lot of online tools that can help you check your website’s performance with both paid and free options that you can choose from.
Premium SEO tools
SEO-related websites and tools such as Moz, Ahrefs & Semrush all have built-in website performance-tracking features, allowing you to track the different UX metrics. While such SEO tools are wonderful, they are premium services that require a monthly subscription.
PageSpeed Insights & Lighthouse - free and reliable
Google offers PageSpeed Insights as a free online tool, which you can use to check these UX metrics and your website’s performance. Chrome and chromium-based browsers even have these features integrated directly into the console.
You can find these analysis tools under the Lighthouse tab in your browser’s console, which can be brought up by pressing F12. Lighthouse is constantly being updated in order to provide webmasters and developers with useful information that can be used to improve metrics such as loading speed and time to interactive.
You can also check out our tutorial on how to use Google Lighthouse to improve your website’s performance.
Another useful tool that you can use to get a good overall look over your website’s health and its performance is GTMetrix. In addition to giving you suggestions on how to improve your website’s performance, it also provides you with a more in-depth technical report containing useful insights and tips that you can implement in order to improve your pages’ loading speed and delivery.
GTMetrix also allows you to test your website’s loading speed from multiple different locations as well as allowing you to continuously track and monitor your website’s performance.
How to speed up your WordPress website
The following are a number of useful tips which you can consider implementing that will positively influence your website’s performance.
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Utilize good Web hosting
When it comes to Web hosting, there are multiple debates over whether you should be using a VPS/VDS server or a shared hosting plan. While we are not going to be covering the VPS vs Shared Hosting debate in full in this article, there are some things that you need to know when it comes to improving your WP website’s loading speed.
When it comes to shared hosting, the server’s resources need to be shared between multiple customers and consequently - their accounts. Low-priced hosting services employ this particular hosting type in order to accommodate as many clients as possible on a single physical machine.
However, this also means that your website can find itself starved for resources when another website or application that is hosted on the same server exerts higher consummation. This can unfortunately result in our website becoming slow to load and respond to user requests, making it incapable of handling substantial traffic, even if the website itself is optimized appropriately.
Because of this, it is always recommended to use a VPS server, as you can be sure that your website will have its own independent resources due to the help of the virtualization technology.
However, not all shared hosting plans are the same. Our powerful shared hosting plans for example are substantially different! We offer a Lightweight Virtual Environment, which is similar in terms of technology to our VPS servers, just executed in a shared environment. This allows us to isolate resources for each hosting account, allowing you to scale easily by purchasing additional resources if needed.
We focus on providing the best hosting platform for your WordPress website by seriously investing into Web server speed. Hence why our shared hosting plans also incorporate a lightning fast LiteSpeed Web server that also utilizes LSCache in combination with lightning-fast SSD storage, a high-performance CPU and a reliable network.
Optimize your images
Images are an important part of any site as they attract and hold user attention. As a matter of fact, it has been proven in multiple instances that images are a much easier source of information as visual perception is exponentially faster than having to read through a given text.
However, using images in an inappropriate file format can severely slow down your website, which is something that we also touched upon in our tutorial on how to use your website as a marketing tool.
In general, you need to make sure that you are using contemporary files formats. While PNG and JPEG files are universally supported and utilized, they are quite big in file size and can take a while to load on your website.
Because of this, we recommend using innovative file formats such as SVG and WebP. SVG files are perfect when you want to display and resize graphics, vectors while keeping them in high quality. This lossless format is widely regarded as the successor to PNG.
WebP, on the other hand, can be used as a great substitution to many different file formats. It allows you to resize images by 27% when compared to JPEG or PNG. One such plugin that you can use to convert and optimize your images is WP-Smush it.
Lazy load your images to save on rendering time
Another thing that you can do to optimize your images, especially if you are using an image in your website’s header is to ensure that the image is fetched prior to it being displayed. You can do this by utilizing the ‘preload’ and ‘fetchpriority’ attributes. There are also a number of WP plugins that you can use to make these tweaks with WP-Smush-it being a prime example of one.
Finally, you also need to think about utilizing lazy loading for all images on your website. Using lazy load allows your website to not have to load any images that are currently outside of the viewport. This can save you a lot of resources and increase your website’s overall loading speed.
Use a CDN to reach distant geographic locations
Utilizing a CDN, short for a content distribution network, can help your website load faster in many different locations worldwide, despite your Web server being located in one particular spot.
With global Internet speeds becoming significantly faster and network connectivity and coverage being constantly improved, websites’ loading speed has also been positively impacted. However, server location can still affect your website and its performance, hence why you should look into utilizing a content distribution network.
A CDN is a network of proxy sources that are strategically located to distribute data from websites to different geographic locations depending on the placement of the CDN. This ensures that data is delivered fast across the globe, regardless of where the primary hosting server is located.
Additionally, static resources such as images are served where necessary while also staying present on a local server for a set period of time, allowing nearby users who show interest in the information to be able to access it quickly.
There are many divergent CDN providers, the most popular of which is Cloudflare due to the incredibly high coverage that their network has. This is a premium service, however, there is also a free version that has limited features, but still allows you to utilize some of the advantages of having a CDN.
Use a caching plugin to speed up your website
Caching as a technology was primarily designed with one purpose in mind - making your website load faster.
It’s highly likely that your WordPress website serves pages dynamically with the content changing periodically. This means that every time a user visits your website, the CMS will query the database, follow the set algorithms and prepare a view that will be displayed in response to the user’s actions and requests.
The entire process of requesting, rendering and showing the results consists of many individual steps, which slow down the site. Due to this, we recommend using an efficient caching plugin.
Using such a plugin will cache the results and present new users with a cached version of the page until it is necessary for the page to be updated with new content.
One of the most popular WP plugins is LiteSpeed Cache. However, this plugin can only be utilized if your hosting provider is using a LiteSpeed Web server. We at VPSBG for example use LiteSpeed Web servers for our shared hosting plans as we want to provide our clients with the best possible software, hardware and hosting experience.
If your hosting provider does not support the LiteSpeed Cache plugin, we recommend giving W3 Total Cache a chance.
Nevertheless, the LiteSpeed Cache plugin has a number of great features that you can utilize to improve your website’s performance significantly. Some of the most popular and important ones feature the free QUIC.cloud CDN cache, the image optimisation option as well as image lazy loading, WebP format conversion and support among others.
You can easily activate the WordPress LiteSpeed Cache plugin for your WordPress website by following our step-by-step tutorial on how to activate the plugin via WordPress or through the cPanel administrative panel.
Avoid using resource-heavy WP templates & plugins
Another good tip that you can utilize to make your website load faster is to avoid using resource-heavy WordPress templates and plugins.
The more resources your website template consumes, the more difficult it will be for you to optimize it in the future, hence why it is a good idea to think about your website template prior to developing your website.
Usually, paid templates will have a lot more features and will be optimized better in comparison to free ones, however, don’t let this discourage you from using a free template. Just make sure to perform a couple of tests prior to making the final choice.
As for the plugins that you use - make sure to lower the amount of concurrently installed plugins is not that high. Having a lot of plugins running at the same time can cause your website to perform worse. Also, make sure to remove any plugins that you no longer use to not increase your website’s loading speed but to also ensure better overall security.
Keep your WordPress theme & plugins up to date
Keeping your WordPress version, theme and plugins updated is crucial when it comes to maintaining security and ensuring good performance.
It wasn’t that long ago when over 50% of all WordPress installations were found to have had a critical vulnerability. Installing the latest versions of your software is key not only when it comes to your website but your machine as well. Such patches not only introduce new features but also tend to fix a lot of existing security issues.
As we mentioned previously, you should also avoid using outdated and no longer supported plugins as they can be a liability to your website, serving as a backdoor for hackers which can not only exploit your website and damage its reputation and loading speed, but can also be a pose a serious threat to your users’ privacy and personal information.
Ensure that your hosting providers supports HTTP/2 or HTTP/3
Our final tip when it comes to speeding up your WordPress website would be to ensure that your hosting provider supports the HTTP/2 protocol.
Having access to the HTTP/2 protocol will allow you to take advantage of not only the fast and reliable connection connection to other websites and resources using the HTTP/2 and HTTPs protocols, but it will also provide you with an extra layer of security to further protect data transfer and your users’ privacy.
This protocol will also drastically reduce the number of connections that need to be made to the server, which will ultimately save you time. Additionally, this protocol will also allow you to utilize HTTPs, which can also help you perform better in terms of search rankings.
As of the last couple of years, we have also seen the introduction of HTTP/3, which is even faster and secure. We at VPSBG can help you utilize the HTTP/3 protocol as our shared hosting servers run on the LiteSpeed Web server, which inherently supports the HTTP/3 protocol.
Overall, there are many ways in which you can successfully improve your WordPress website’s performance, loading speed and user experience. All of the aforementioned tips are relatively easy to implement and don’t require any prior technical experience.