Here are a few down and dirty tips to make your WordPress site load faster.
You don’t need to know code to do any of this – it’s just a matter of configuring a cache plugin (W3 Total Cache), importing my pre-configured settings, deleting plugins you don’t need, and following my instructions. By the end your website should load much faster especially if you haven’t done these steps already (and even if you have, I bet you will learn something new).
I like to start with sitewide optimizations (things that affects the performance of your entire website) which is more efficient than doing things like optimizing individual pages and images.
Different websites have different bottlenecks which slow it down, so naturally the first step to improving WordPress speed performance is to find out what items are slowing it down…
1. Run Your Website Through GTmetrix
Run your WordPress site through GTtmetrix to see your page load time and which items are slowing it down. You can click on each item to see more details. This can help you find out which plugins, images, pages, and other elements of your site are slowing it down the most. Be sure to check both the Page Speed and YSlow tabs to see all GTmetrix recommendations.
- Under 2 seconds = legit!
- 2-4 seconds = nice
- 4-7 seconds = meh
- 7-10 seconds = ouch
- 10+ seconds = really?
2. Configure The W3 Total Cache Plugin
W3 Total Cache can shave seconds off your load time especially when combined with MaxCDN and Cloudflare (which integrate with W3 Total Cache). Use my W3 Total Cache tutorial to configure the ‘performance’ tabs on the left of your dashboard once the plugin is installed, then setup MaxCDN and Cloudflare. My tutorial includes a pre-configured zip file of the same settings I use which you can import into your own W3 Total Cache plugin.
Here are the settings for the “General” tab but you’ll want to go through my full W3 Total Cache tutorial to get the most out of this amazing plugin. My tutorial has over 200 comments and has been used by 30,000+ people to make their WordPress site load much faster.
3. Configure MaxCDN With W3 Total Cache
MaxCDN’s content delivery network is a paid service ($90/year with my 25% off coupon) but significantly improves load times for visitors who are far away from your server (shared hosting only has 1 server so the CDN basically mirrors your site on multiple servers around the country/world). Here’s a tutorial for setting it up with the W3 Total Cache plugin…
4. Get Faster WordPress Hosting
I use SiteGround and have 200ms response times with 100% GTmetrix scores and .4s Pingdom load times. Do a hosting check, run your own tests, or click through my pages to see how fast they load. They were rated the #1 host in 26 Facebook polls and are worlds better than EIG (Bluehost, HostGator), Godaddy, and bad hosts who pack too many people on the same server. They’re recommended by WordPress, do free migrations, and I use their semi-dedicated plan.
They have 3 plans to choose from…
The higher the plan, the more server resources you get (the main speed factor for hosting). GrowBig and GoGeek let you host unlimited sites, have priority support, and come with other features – but those are the main ones. See SiteGround’s features page for a full comparison.
5. Delete Unused Plugins + Find Slow Plugins With P3
The more plugins installed on your site, the slower your WordPress speed performance will be. Too many plugins (or 1 large plugin) can be the main culprit of your slow load times. Installing Plugin Performance Profiler and running a scan tells you which plugins are slowing down your site. Go through each plugin and consider deleting it, replacing it with code (eg. using a widget instead of a Facebook plugin), or find an alternative lightweight plugin.
Here’s what the scan looks like…
6. Optimize Images
You can break this down into serve scaled images, lossless compression, and specifying image dimensions (all of which are high priority items in your GTmetrix report). Serve scaled images means you need to resize large images to be smaller (GTmetrix provides you with these dimensions). Lossless compression is done through the Imagify Plugin – definitely the best plugin for this as the completely free ones can break your images. Specifying image dimensions means you need to specify a width/height in the image’s HTML or CSS, which GTmetrix will tell you. See the image optimization section of my YouTube video to learn all this.
7. Use A Faster WordPress Theme
If your WordPress theme comes with tons of built-in features (shortcodes, styling, theme options…) you may consider migrating to a theme that loads faster. GTmetrix doesn’t tell you to change your host, migrate to a faster theme or anything like that, so you will need to look into the theme for this. But if your site was slow from the start, this could be why.
I use a WordPress theme built in the Genesis Framework (recommended by WordPress Founder Matt Mullenweg), and you can view a list of my recommended WordPress themes which are SEO-friendly, responsive, HTML, and secure. It’s a pain, but worth it long-term.
Wrapping It Up
If your WordPress speed performance is still slow, check out my main WordPress speed tutorial which is more thorough. Or if you don’t want to deal with this, I offer WordPress speed optimization services (I actually use my developer for this who you can hire on that page for $40/hour through freelancer.com). I’m investing more time helping clients with WordPress SEO consulting so instead of the $700 I would charge, you can pay my Bangladesh developer $200 who is cheaper. He has helped me optimize my site (and client sites) to load 400% faster.
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