How To Reduce CPU Usage In WordPress (And Avoid Getting Bandwidth Limit + CPU Errors Where Your Site Gets Shut Down)

I had serious issues with CPU overages on my WordPress site.

All this means is we need to reduce the amount of resources consumed by high CPU plugins, images, wp-cron, databases, external requests (usually generated by plugins), comment spam, and prevent spammy bots from crawling your website using the Blackhole For Bad Bots plugin.

We will also utilize Cloudflare’s CDN, remove bloat from the WordPress admin using Clearfy and Hide SEO Bloat, then test common settings in cache plugins that often consume high CPU.

When you’re done, hopefully your CPU graph looks like this:

Reduce-CPU-Usage-WordPress

By reducing CPU usage, you will be putting less stress on your server, making your site faster. Hosting companies want you to upgrade your plan which does work since you will be getting more server resources, but you should try these alternatives before reaching into your pocket.

If you’re using slow hosting like EIG or GoDaddy, I would seriously reconsider. I use SiteGround who is also used by Yoast, recommended by WordPress, and was #1 in 20+ Facebook polls. I’m on their semi-dedicated GoGeek plan and  not only are my server response times well under 200ms, but my GTmetrix report is pretty much unbeatable. They will also migrate you for free.

How To Reduce CPU Usage In WordPress

  1. Check CPU Usage In AWStats
  2. Eliminate High CPU Plugins
  3. Remove Bloat With Clearfy
  4. Disable WP-Cron
  5. Clean Your Database
  6. Upgrade To PHP 7+
  7. Offload Resources To CDNs
  8. Enable Hotlink Protection
  9. Block Bad Bots
  10. Optimize Images
  11. Common Fixes In WP Rocket
  12. Common Fixes In W3 Total Cache
  13. Configure Optimal Cache Plugin Settings
  14. Delete Unused Plugins + Themes
  15. Disable Unused Settings In Plugins
  16. Block Comment Spam
  17. Protect Your WP-Admin
  18. Minimize External Requests
  19. Limit Google + Bing Crawl Rate
  20. Avoid Resource-Hungry Themes
  21. Disable Resource-Hungry WooCommerce Features
  22. Host Download Files On External Websites
  23. Disable AWStats + cPanel Statistics
  24. Turn Off SiteGround’s Site Scanner
  25. Use A Hosting Plan With Sufficient Server Resources
  26. Upgrade CPU/RAM

 

1. Check CPU Usage In AWStats

AWStats
AWStats is built-in to most cPanels (SiteGround, Bluehost, GoDaddy) in their “statistics” section and can help identify the source of high CPU. It tells you how much bandwidth specific elements are consuming including unknown bots, images, pages, files, downloaded files, etc.

AWStats helps you find:

  • Total bandwidth usage
  • High bandwidth crawlers
  • High bandwidth IP addresses
  • High bandwidth download files
  • High bandwidth files (eg. images)

Monthly-Bandwidth

If unknown bots are consuming CPU, try blocking spam bots with Blackhole For Bad Bots.

Robots-Spiders-Bandwidth

If images are consuming high CPU, use GTmetrix to find which images need to be optimized. Serve scaled images, compress them with ShortPixel, and use Cloudflare’s hotlink protection.

File-Type-Bandwidth

Server Response Time
High CPU can also lead to slow response times, which you can test in Bitcatcha or PageSpeed Insights. Google says it should be under 200ms. Of course, this is mostly controlled by hosting.

Bitcatcha Server Speed Report

 

2. Eliminate High CPU Plugins

These resource-hungry plugins are CPU killers.

High CPU plugins usually include social share, statistic, chat, calendar, page builders, backup, and plugins that run ongoing scans/processes or show multiple times in your GTmetrix report.

  1. AddThis
  2. AdSense Click Fraud Monitoring
  3. All-In-One Event Calendar
  4. Backup Buddy
  5. Beaver Builder
  6. Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps
  7. Broken Link checker (use Dr. Link Check)
  8. Constant Contact for WordPress
  9. Contact Form 7
  10. Contextual Related Posts
  11. Digi Auto Links
  12. Disqus Comment System
  13. Divi Builder
  14. Essential Grid
  15. View Full List Of 65 Slow Plugins

Find Slow Loading Plugins
If the same plugin appears multiple times in your GTmetrix Waterfall report, you may want to find an alternative plugin that is more lightweight. External requests can also destroy your report (eg. from Google Fonts, Gravatars, AdSense, and the high CPU plugins I mentioned).

Slow WordPress Plugin

Query Monitor
Query Monitor shows your slowest plugins, scripts, styles, queries, hooks, PHP errors, and a wealth of information to pinpoint speed issues. This may require some technical knowledge, but it’s worth hiring a developer who can make optimizations with the help of Query Monitor.

Queries-By-Component

Don’t forget to minimize plugins, delete the ones you’re not using (not just deactivate them), and use lightweight plugins that consume minimal resources. For slider plugins I recommend Meta Slider or Soliloquy, for galleries I recommend Envira Gallery or FooGallery, and for social sharing use Sassy Social Share or Social Sharing (by Danny).

 

3. Remove Bloat With Clearfy

By “bloat” I am referring to the heartbeat API, autosaves, post revisions, pingbacks, and all the “miscellaneous” things that consume resources and should be disabled for most sites. The top 3 plugins to disable these are Clearfy (recommended), perfmatters by Kinsta, and WP Disable.

Option 1: Clearfy

Clearfy Performance Settings

Clearfy Defence Settings

Clearfy Advanced Settings

Option 2: Perfmatters By Kinsta ($25/Year)

perfmatters settings

Option 3: WP Disable

WP-Disable-Requests

WP-Disable-Tags-Settings

WP-Disable-Admin

WP-Disable-Others

 

4. Disable WP-Cron

The wp-cron is loaded on every page load and schedules automated tasks like publishing scheduled posts, checking for theme and plugin updates, and sending email notifications. Instead of running it on every page load, you can schedule it to run every 90 minutes or so.

Step 1: Disable WP Cron Jobs

Add the code to wp-config.php, before where it says “That’s all, step editing! Happy blogging.”

define('DISABLE_WP_CRON', true);

Step 2: Replace With A Real Cron Job
You still need wp-cron (eg. checking for theme/plugin updates), just not on every page load. Each host has their own instructions for this, here is SiteGround’s tutorial. You can set the cron job to run every 90 minutes, or increase it even more if you don’t have lots of scheduled tasks.

 

5. Clean Your Database

Deletes post revisions, spam, trash, transients, and database tables that accumulate overtime are often left behind when you uninstall plugins… making your site slower with higher CPU.

You should clean these at LEAST once a month using WP Rocket or WP-Optimize. They have similar settings with an automatic cleanup option (I highly recommend enabling this) but I like WP Rocket since it was rated the #1 cache plugin in this Facebook poll and has options for database cleanup + lazy loading images/videos/iframes. Most other cache plugins don’t have these extra options which means you also need to install WP-Optimize and a lazy load plugin.

WP-Rocket-Database-Settings

 

6. Upgrade To PHP 7+

About 50% of WordPress users run PHP 5.6 or lower:

WordPress-PHP-Version-Stats

When upgrading to PHP 7+ can process requests almost 3x faster:

WordPress PHP Benchmarks

SiteGround (and most hosts) have an option to upgrade in their cPanel:

PHP-Version-Manager

I recommend PHP 7.2:

PHP-Upgrade

The last step is to check your website for errors. If you see any, run the PHP Compatibility Checker to make sure your plugins are compatible. Poorly-maintained plugins may not be.

 

7. Offload Resources To CDNs

CDNs reduce the load on your server by offloading resources to their data centers. Each CDN has their own set of data centers, and more data centers = more offloading (and faster delivery of your content). I use both Cloudflare (free) and StackPath ($10/month with free 30-day trial).

Cloudflare offloads resources to their 200+ data centers:

Cloudflare Data Centers

Cloudflare-Bandwidth-Savings

Sign up for Cloudflare, add your site, and run the scan. You’ll come to a page where Cloudflare assigns you 2 nameservers. Then in your hosting account, change nameservers to Cloudflare’s.

Cloudflare Nameservers

StackPath offloads resources to 31 additional data centers:

StackPath-Data-Centers

Step 1: Sign up for StackPath (they have a 30-day trial).

Step 2: In the dashboard, click the CDN tab, then create a StackPath CDN Site:

StackPath-CDN-Tab

StackPath-CDN-Domain

CDN-URL-StackPath

Step 3: Copy your CDN URL and paste into your cache plugin (you can also use CDN Enabler).

WP-Rocket-CDN-Settings

Step 4: In StackPath go to CDN → Cache Settings, then click Purge Everything

StackPath-Purge-Cache

Step 5: Run your site in GTmetrix and “content delivery network” should be green in YSlow.

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

 

Hotlink protection can be enabled in Cloudflare (or sometimes your hosting account). This prevents people from copying/pasting your images onto their own website, which sucks up bandwidth. This usually happens if you have high quality images on your site (eg. photography).

Cloudflare Hotlink Protection

 

9. Block Bad Bots

In AWStats, you might see bots + spiders consuming a lot of bandwidth. Obviously we don’t want to block Googlebot and other legitimate crawlers, but we do want to block spammy ones.

Robots-Spiders-Bandwidth

Step 1: Install Wordfence.

Step 2: View Your Live Traffic Report (in Wordfence’s Tools settings) which shows you all bots hitting your site in real-time. Googlebot is obviously OK, but when I observed mine, I saw compute.amazonaws.com was making a ridiculous amount of requests every couple seconds. I Googled it and sure enough, this was a bot known for sucking up bandwidth. View your report for a minute or two and see if bots with sketchy names are constantly hitting your site. If you have doubts, Google their hostnames and see if other people are having issues with that bot.

Live-Traffic-Report-Wordfence

Step 3: Block Bad Bots (3 Options): Wordfence, Blackhole For Bad Bots, or Cloudflare Firewall Rules. Wordfence itself can cause high CPU (I recommend one of the other options).

Wordfence – Go to the Blocking settings and add the spam bots you wish to block. Asterisks serve as wildcards, so if I block *amazonaws.com* it means any hostnames containing amazonaws.com (whether it has characters before or after it), that bot will be blocked. I have saved thousands of requests/bandwidth just by blocking these two spammy hostnames:

  • *amazonaws.com
  • *linode.com

Wordfence-Blocking-Rule

Blackhole For Bad Bots – adds a hidden link to your pages that forbids all bots from following the link. If a bot disobeys it, they are blocked. Googlebot and other good bots are whitelisted.

Blackhole for Bad Bots

Cloudflare Firewall Rules – Cloudflare lets you create up to 5 firewall rules for free. Copy the hostnames of the most common bad bots (found in your live traffic report) and add them here.

Cloudflare Firewall Rule To Block Bad Bots

Step 4: Go to your Blocking log and enjoy watching those spam bots get blocked.

Wordfence-Firewall-Blocking

Step 5: If you do decide to use Wordfence, configure rating limiting settings. This limits/blocks crawlers (and humans) from making excessive requests, blocks fake Google crawlers, and improves security on 404 pages. These are the same settings recommended by Wordfence:

Wordfence-Rate-Limiting

Be sure to tweak the Wordfence “options” tab to limit bandwidth consumed by this plugin:

  • Do not “enable automatic scheduled scans”
  • Do not “enable email summary”
  • Enable “use low resource scanning”
  • Decrease “limit the number of issues sent in the scan results email” to 500
  • Do not enable “updates needed (plugin, theme, or core)”
  • Increase “update interval in seconds (2 is default)” to 10-15 seconds
  • Decrease “how much memory should Wordfence request when scanning” to 100MB
  • Enable “delete Wordfence tables and data on deactivation”
  • View Wordfence’s options page for more recommendations

 

10. Optimize Images

Images can consume lots of bandwidth, as shown in AWStats:

File-Type-Bandwidth

There are 3 ways to optimize images in GTmetrix.

Image-Optimization

  • Serve scaled images – resize larges images to be smaller
  • Specify image dimensions – specify a width/height in the HTML or CSS (screenshot)
  • Optimize images – losslessly compress images (I recommend ShortPixel or Imagify)

Start by optimizing images that appear on multiple pages (logo, sidebar, footer images). Then run your most important pages through GTmetrix and optimize individual images on those. The first item you should work on is “serve scaled images” since this requires you to scale (resize) an image to the correction dimensions, upload the new version to WP, and replace it.

 

11. Common Fixes In WP Rocket

WP Rocket says:

Occasionally some of the options on the File Optimization tab, such as Remove Query Strings, or Minify/Combine can cause high CPU usage in cases where your site has a lot of CSS or JS files. Try disabling these options and then monitor your CPU usage.

There have also been reports that critical path CSS and preloading can increase CPU. You can use a plugin to increase the preload crawl interval from 500ms (the default) to 1.5s or higher.

 

12. Common Fixes In W3 Total Cache

Common CPU solutions for W3 Total Cache:

  • Test object cache
  • Delete and reinstall the plugin

 

13. Configure Optimal Cache Plugin Settings

These 3 are all very important:

  • If you’re using a cache plugin
  • Which cache plugin you’re using (I recommend WP Rocket)
  • Whether the settings are configured optimally (some can cause high CPU)

Why WP Rocket?
It has more features than most cache plugins, which means you don’t need to install extra plugins for these, while giving you better results. Otherwise you will need to research which features your cache plugins comes with, then install these plugins if it doesn’t support them:

WP-Rocket-Features

If you can drop $49 on WP Rocket, buy it then see my WP Rocket tutorial. It’s easy to setup, updated frequently with new features, includes documentation, and support. If not, I have tutorials for Swift, WP Fastest Cache, W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and Autoptimize. For free plugins, I recommend Swift or WP Fastest Cache (Swift is a tricky to setup but has great reviews in the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group and comes with most features as WP Rocket, while WP Fastest Cache is easy to setup but lacks features included with WP Rocket).

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

 

Some hosts like GoDaddy and WP Engine blacklist cache plugins because they have their own built-in caching system. In this case, use Autoptimize to optimize HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It also has a CDN option. See my Autoptimize tutorial, otherwise if your host doesn’t blacklist cache plugins, I recommend either WP Rocket or Swift.

You can also try disabling your cache plugin and checking CPU usage. If your cache plugin is indeed causing issues, reach out to the plugin developer (or switch plugins).

 

14. Delete Unused Plugins + Themes

Unused themes store preconfigured settings in your WordPress database (similar to plugins). Go to Appearance > Themes then delete all the WordPress themes you’re not currently using.

Delete-Unused-WordPress-Themes

 

15. Disable Unused Settings In Plugins

Just like we tweaked Wordfence’s settings to reduce CPU usage created by the plugin, go through each one of your plugin settings and decide whether you need individual features. For example, in Yoast under Settings > General > Features I disabled all of the following…

Yoast-Feature-Settings

Disable plugin settings that:

  • Provide statistics
  • Run ongoing scans
  • Send admin or email notifications
  • Pull resources from external websites

Examples:

  • WP Rocket’s preload bot
  • Wordfence’s live traffic reports
  • Broken Link Checker’s ongoing scans
  • Yoast’s settings under Dashboard > Features
  • Chat and calendar plugins that run constantly
  • Statistical plugins that constantly collect data
  • Related post and popular post plugins that store tons of data

 

16. Block Comment Spam

An ongoing accumulation of spam comments isn’t good for your CPU usage. The Anti-Spam plugin has always work well for me (I tested plenty of others) and it doesn’t use CAPTCHA.

 

17. Protect Your WP-Admin

Attacks are commonly targeted at the WordPress admin, which is not only a security threat, but will consume high amounts of CPU especially since these pages aren’t usually not cached.

WordPress-Admin-Page-Rule

 

18. Minimize External Requests

External requests are hard on the server.

  • Gravatars
  • Google Fonts
  • Google Maps
  • Google AdSense
  • Some Social Sharing Plugins
  • Many others from my list of high CPU plugins

Often times, these will be very noticeable in your GTmetrix report:

GTmetrix-Advertisements

Cache-Gravatar-Images

Step 1: Eliminate Them If Possible

Step 2: Optimize Them

Step 3: Prefetching DNS Requests
Some cache plugins like WP Rocket let you prefetch DNS requests (as well as perfmatters and WP Disable). This helps browsers anticipate external resources so they can load them faster. Luke created a nice list of common domains to prefetch which you can then add to WP Rocket:

Prefetch-DNS-Requests-WP-Rocket

Prefetch-DNS-Requests

 

19. Limit Crawl Rate By Google + Bing

Google is usually the most resource-hungry crawl bot (by far) and you can limit their crawl rate in the “site settings” section of Google Search Console. This lowers the requests made by Googlebot and does NOT affect your rankings or penalize you in any way. Unless you run a news website or publish time-sensitive content (and you have a hosting plan with sufficient resources), you don’t need Google crawling your site quickly and consuming tons of resources. Websites struggling with CPU usage should lower this – keep in mind it resets every month.

Crawl-Rate-Google-Search-Console

Google says this on their crawl rate page

“If Google is making too many requests per second to your site and slowing down your server, you can limit the crawl rate… we recommend against limiting the crawl rate unless you are seeing server load problems that are definitely caused by Googlebot hitting your server too hard… you canot change the crawl rate for sites that are not at the root level.”

You can do the same thing with Bing Webmaster Tools in the crawl control settings

Bing-Crawl-Control

 

20. Avoid Resource-Hungry Themes

Bloated, poorly coded, and non-maintained themes are a recipe for disaster.

Instead of using a theme with tons of built-in features, use a lightweight (minimal) theme and rely on plugins to only add functionality you absolutely need. I always recommend StudioPress along with their Genesis Plugins which is what I use on my own site. Yoast also uses Genesis.

studiopress-themes

 

21. Disable Resource-Hungry WooCommerce Features

WooCommerce sites naturally require more CPU. This is something to keep in mind when choosing your hosting plan, and you should ideally not be using shared hosting.

Optimizing Woocommerce

  • Disable WooCommerce cart fragments
  • Disable WooCommerce scripts and styles
  • Disable WooCommerce widgets
  • Disable WooCommerce status metabox
  • Disable automatic product feed plugins

Most of these can be done using the perfmatters plugin.

perfmatters woocommerce optimization

 

22. Host Download Files On External Websites

I barely have any files to download on my website so the bandwidth is low enough where I don’t worry about this. But if you have tons of large files that suck up bandwidth when people download them, consider uploading them to Dropbox or another file sharing website and pointing people there. That way dropbox.com will be handling the bandwidth and not you.

Download-Bandwidth

 

23. Disable AWStats + cPanel Statistics

AWStats, Webalizer, and other statistical programs in the cPanel are good for identifying the source of high CPU usage, but these actually increase CPU just like any WordPress plugin that collects statistics. All I’m saying is that when you’re done using these, you should delete them.

 

24. Turn Off SiteGround’s Site Scanner

If you’re getting CPU overages on SiteGround and you paid for their SG Site Scanner, try contacting their support team to turn this off. The ongoing scans may be causing high CPU.

SiteGround-SG-Site-Scanner

As nice as these emails are, you should try turning this off…

SiteGround-SG-Site-Scanner-Emails

 

25. Use A Hosting Plan With Sufficient Server Resources

Generally, the higher the plan the more server resources you get (and yes, upgrading should cure CPU overages/bandwidth limitations). For example on SiteGround’s features page you can see how many server resources come with their StartUp vs. GrowBig vs. GoGeek plan. Just scroll down to the “we allocate the resources you need” and look under the server tab…

SiteGround-Server-Resources-Comparison

 

26. Upgrade CPU/RAM

Make sure you have enough RAM so you’re not always on the edge of your limit. If it’s almost always maxed out, this puts stress on your CPU. You want to have enough resources so your server is relaxed. In this case, the 2GB of RAM was almost always maxed out, so upgrading to 4GB was a smart move. Most shared plans don’t let you add RAM (you’ll need to upgrade to a plan that includes more resources) but you can usually add them on most cloud hosting plans.

Cloud-Memory-Increase

 

SiteGround (#1 Host In Facebook Polls)

SiteGround is used by Yoast, myself, and recommended by WordPress. They are #1 in nearly every Facebook poll and give most people significant load time improvements especially if they were using mediocre hosts: GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, InMotion, Dreamhost, EIG.

Yoast-on-Twitter-We-just-switched-to-Siteground

I use their semi-dedicated GoGeek plan which comes with 4x more server resources than shared hosting. Click through my pages to see how fast they load, check out my GTmetrix report, or see people who migrated and posted new load times. They also do free migrations.

DigitalOcean on Cloudways and Kinsta are also good and start at $10/month and $30/month. Cloudways is more for developers who don’t need cPanel, email hosting, or the support you get with SiteGround. Kinsta is basically what WP Engine used to be (pricey, but awesome). My entire blog is basically dedicated to helping people make their website load faster. I refuse to recommend $2/month hosting since it’s most people’s biggest regret when running a website.

How To Check If Your Hosting Is Slow
Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights to see if reduce server response time is in your report. Google recommends it should be <200ms. Anything above 1 second is not good. You can also check your TTFB (time to first byte) in GTmetrix’s Timings tab or bytecheck.com.

Reduce Server Response Time

2019 Hosting Poll

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

WordPress-Host-Poll-Aug-2018

Shared-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosting-Poll

Go-To-Hosting-Company

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

Managed-Hosting-Poll

WooCommerce-Hosting-FB-Poll

2016-Web-Hosting-Poll

Best-WordPress-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-2019-Poll

WP Friendly Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png

Managed-WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosts-Poll-1

Hosting-Poll-For-Speed

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-June-1

SiteGround-Recommendation

2014-Managed-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Hosting-Poll-Feb-2019

Hosting-Recommendations-Poll

Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll

SiteGround is recommended by WordPress:

SiteGround-Recommended-WordPress-Host

And by Ivica who runs the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group with 16,000+ members.

WordPress-Speed-Up Recommended Tools

A few threads:

Godaddy To SiteGround Migration

EIG-To-SiteGround

SiteGround-Migration

SiteGround has 3 plans:

SiteGround-Plans

Higher plans include more server resources (#1 factor in the WordPress optimization guide). Here’s the full comparison chart, but GrowBig gives you about 2x more server resources than StartUp, and GoGeek is semi-dedicated hosting which gives you even more. GrowBig and up comes with a free migration, staging, advanced caching, and ability to host multiple websites. GoGeek comes with priority support. Their cloud hosting is quite the price jump at $80/month.

You can see this on their features page:

SiteGround-Server-Resources-Comparison

I use SiteGround because:

  1. My GTmetrixPingdom reports speak for themselves
  2. My pages load instantly (click through them if you want)
  3. Fast speed technology (PHP 7.3, NGINX, SG Optimizer, Cloudflare)
  4. Recommended by Yoast, WordPress, Ivica from WordPress Speed Up
  5. Free Let’s Encrypt SSL, easy to use cPanel, and features for eCommerce
  6. WordPress support is unbeatable even without GoGeek’s priority support
  7. GrowBig comes with staging, more storage, and more server resources (scroll down to “we allocate the resources you need” and hover over the server tab)
  8. GoGeek comes with even more server resources, storage, priority support
  9. Free migrations, migrator plugin, and a 30-day money back guarantee
  10. Plenty of praise on Reddit, Facebook conversations, Twitter, TrustPilot
  11. Tons of praise on Facebook: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7#8, #9, #10#11
  12. Many people already migrated and posted results on Twitter: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6#7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30, #31, #32, #33, #34, #35, #36, #37

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for SiteGround with my affiliate link I will donate a good chunk at no expense to you. Each year I donate $3k to GoFundMe campaigns (2018 was to feed the hungry in Denver, 2017 was to Red Cross at Hurricane Harvey). Your support helps and I genuinely appreciate it. I try to make my reviews unbiased and backed by evidence in the form of Facebook polls, tweets, and real conversations. If you don’t want to use it, here’s a non-affiliate link to SiteGround. Either way I truly believe they are a stellar WordPress host and your site will run faster/smoother… do your research on Facebook groups + Twitter and you’ll find most people say the same.

OMM-On-SiteGround

People usually migrate because their speed technology can cut load times in half:

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix Report

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

Joomla GTmetrix On SiteGround

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New Pingdom Results On SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

 

Hire My Developer To Reduce Your CPU Usage

I’ve been working with the same guy since 2011 – he is amazing at speed optimization and helped me optimize my site to load in <1 second with great GTmetrix and Pingdom reports.

His name is Pronaya and he should be able to solve your CPU overages (if you still need help) and help you improve scores/load times in GTmetrix and Pingdom. You can hire him by creating a profile on freelancer.com and searching for username bdkamol. Here is his full WordPress speed portfolio. He’s $40/hour from Bangladesh (so there is a time change) and you can email him at bdkamol@gmail.com. He also has a perfect 5 star review on his profile.

Pronaya-Kumar-S-Reviews

You can also consider posting your problem in the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group if you want feedback from people who have already been through the problem of high CPU, but I have covered the most common solutions throughout this tutorial.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ What is the easiest way to reduce CPU in WordPress?

Find and eliminate high CPU plugins, update to PHP 7.4, configure a good cache plugin with optimal settings, using a CDN, and disable unneeded WordPress functions like the Heartbeat API. Upgrading to faster hosting will obviously help.

✅ Which plugins consume the most CPU?

Social sharing, statistic (analytic) plugins, sliders, portfolios, page builders, calendars, chat, contact forms, related post, sitemap, Wordfence, WPML, and any plugin that runs ongoing scans or processes. These can be found using Query Monitor or GTmetrix Waterfall.

✅ Does all shared hosting have CPU limits?

Yes. Even though some shared hosting companies claim to have unlimited bandwidth, they still enforce CPU limits. This is usually found in their terms are conditions.

✅ Does WooCommerce cause high CPU?

WooCommerce sites generally require more plugins, and often times, more CPU. If these are not selected carefully, the extra resources consumed by those plugins can put stress on your server. WooCommerce sites also load extra scripts, styles, and cart fragments which don't help either. WooCommerce sites are better off on cloud hosting.

✅ How can I check my website's CPU consumption?

Your hosting account should tell you how much CPU you're consuming. Some hosts have tools like AWStats which show specific images, bots, and other resources that consume lots of resources.

Let me know if this tutorial worked in the comments!

See Also: How I Optimized My WordPress Site To Load In <1s (38+ Tips)

Cheers,
Tom

14 Ways To Fix A Slow WordPress Admin Panel (Dashboard) With Bloat Removal, PHP 7.4, Page Rules, And Avoiding 65 Slow Plugins

Have a slow WordPress admin panel?

A slow WordPress dashboard is usually caused by high CPU plugins, cheap shared hosting, a bloated database, or incorrectly configured cache plugins and CDNs.

These tips should speed up your admin panel while also making your website load faster in GTmetrix by lightening the load on your server. And if your WordPress dashboard is still slow after this tutorial, drop me a comment with your GTmetrix report and I can have a quick look.

How To Speed Up Your WordPress Dashboard

  1. Move Away From Poor Hosting
  2. Avoid Slow Loading Plugins
  3. Upgrade To PHP 7.4
  4. Disable WordPress Heartbeat
  5. Remove Bloat From Your Dashboard
  6. Remove Junk From Your Database
  7. Offload Resources To CDNs
  8. Add Cloudflare Page Rules
  9. Clear WooCommerce Transients
  10. Increase Memory Limit To 256MB
  11. Configure A Solid Cache Plugin
  12. Disable “Object Cache” In W3 Total Cache
  13. Block Spam Bots From Hitting Your Server

 

1. Ditch Shared Hosting

I’m guessing you’re using GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, SiteGround, an EIG hosting company, or some form of shared hosting if your admin panel is slow.

I would also guess you have a slow server response time in PageSpeed Insights and slow TTFB in GTmetrix. That’s because shared hosting lacks server resources and can barely support high CPU tasks like WooCommerce, Elementor, AdSense, or Jetpack. SiteGround has CPU limits too.

That’s why I would skip shared hosting all together and go straight to Cloudways. They do free trials and free migrations.

They’re who most people recommend in the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group and #1 in most recent Facebook polls, especially since SiteGround increased prices and went downhill. I migrated from SiteGround to DigitalOcean on Cloudways and you can view the results below.

SiteGround-vs-Cloudways

I use them and you can check my GTmetrix report, or visit cwdoserver.com to test the speed of a $10/month Cloudways DigitalOcean test server I set up with an Astra Site. It loads instantly (for reference, stgrndserver.com is the identical Astra Site only on SiteGround’s GrowBig plan).

2020-Hosting-Poll

Cloudways Response Times

Godaddy-to-DigitalOcean-Migration

VPS Cloud Hosting WooCommerce Poll

SiteGround-Alternative

Hosting Recommendations Facebook

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

Elementor-Hosting-Poll

Untitled

Vultr-Migration

WordPress Hosting Suggestions

SiteGround-Alternative-For-Beginners

VPS Cloud Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

Cloudways-Facebook-Review

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for Cloudways or Kinsta using my affiliate links, I earn a commission at no expense to you. I am not an affiliate for Bluehost, HostGator, or GoDaddy since they’re not fast and the results show it. I also donate a good chunk of my blog’s income to GoFundMe campaigns and seriously appreciate your support.

If you see this in Google PageSpeed Insights, you know the issue:

Reduce Server Response Time

 

2. Avoid Slow Loading Plugins

Thank you Ivica from the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group for contributing to this list (and ps. that’s an amazingly helpful group if you need tips on WordPress speed). The most common slow plugins are social sharing, backup, statistic, chat, sliders, page builders, and plugins that run ongoing scans/processes – or appear multiple times in your GTmetrix report.

  1. AddThis
  2. AdSense Click Fraud Monitoring
  3. All-In-One Event Calendar
  4. Backup Buddy
  5. Beaver Builder
  6. Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps
  7. Broken Link checker (use Dr. Link Check)
  8. Constant Contact for WordPress
  9. Contact Form 7
  10. Contextual Related Posts
  11. Digi Auto Links
  12. Disqus Comment System
  13. Divi Builder
  14. Essential Grid
  15. View Full List Of 65 Slow Plugins

You can use Query Monitor to find your slowest plugins:

Query Monitor Slow Plugins

Or the GTmetrix Waterfall tab:

Slow WordPress Plugin

Alternative Lightweight Plugins

 

3. Upgrade To PHP 7.4

Upgrading PHP versions can easily make your site 2-3x faster.

According to WordPress stats, most users run outdated PHP versions since your hosting company won’t upgrade you automatically. The Display PHP Version plugin tells you which PHP version you’re currently running, otherwise you can just find it in your hosting account.

WordPress PHP Benchmarks

Upgrade to the latest PHP version in your hosting account:

PHP-7.4

*Check your website for errors (if you see them, revert back to an earlier PHP version, or analyze your plugins to see which ones are not compatible and causing the errors).

 

4. Disable WordPress Heartbeat

The WordPress Heartbeat API can slow down your WordPress dashboard since it consumes resources by notifying you when other users are editing a post, real-time plugin notifications, etc. You have a few options: copy and paste this code into your functions.php file, use the Heartbeat Control plugin, Perfmatters, or WP Rocket also has an option to disable Heartbeat.

add_action( 'init', 'stop_heartbeat', 1 );
function stop_heartbeat() {
wp_deregister_script('heartbeat');
}

 

5. Remove Bloat From Your Dashboard

90% of WordPress bloat can be removed using the Perfmatters plugin by Kinsta.

Perfmatters lets you disable pingbacks, trackbacks, heartbeat, XML-RPC, jQuery migrate, limit post revisions, increase the autosave interval, and includes plenty of other features that can fix a slow WordPress admin panel. It can also help optimize WooCommerce sites, host Google Analytics locally, prefetch/preconnet external scripts, and even has a script manager for selectively disabling plugins. It basically takes care of speed optimizations WP Rocket doesn’t.

perfmatters-features

Delete Unused Plugins + Themes – all unused plugins and themes should be deleted if you’re not using them (don’t forget to check WP-Optimize for database tables they may leave behind).

Delete-Unused-WordPress-Themes

Use Script Managers To Selectively Disable Plugins/Scripts – Perfmatters includes a script manager for disabling plugins/scripts on specific pages/posts (you can also do this with the Asset CleanUp plugin). For example, contact forms can usually only be loaded on the contact page. Social sharing buttons can only be loaded on the blog. Schema plugins can often be disabled on pages not using schema, and so on. Viewing which scripts/plugins are being loaded on your pages and posts (and disable the ones you don’t need) can greatly improve load times.

perfmatters-script-manager

Pro Tip For Yoast – install the Hide SEO Bloat plugin. This blocks all Yoast’s advertisements.

 

6. Remove Junk From Your Database

A bloated database can slow down your WordPress dashboard which you can use WP Rocket or WP-Optimize to clean.

This deletes your spam folder, trash folder, transients, and the potentially thousands of post revisions stored in your database. You usually don’t need these, so delete them and schedule a cleanup to run every week (or at least every month) which can be scheduled in either plugin.

WP-Rocket-Database-Settings

Delete Tables Left Behind By Old Plugins – when you delete a plugin, it can leave behind old tables containing pre-configured settings and other information. That’s why you see it’s tables are still in your database, but the plugin is “not installed.” If you deleted a plugin and don’t plan on using it again, go through the “not installed” tables and delete them. You will need to use WP-Optimize or Advanced DB Cleaner since WP Rocket doesn’t support going through tables.

WP-Optimize-Tables

 

7. Offload Resources To CDNs

CDNs help speed up the WordPress admin by offloading resources which lightens the load on your server. I recommend either Cloudflare or RocketCDN (if using WP Rocket). Cloudflare can be set up by changing nameservers, RocketCDN can be bought from your WP Rocket settings.

Once setup, check your analytics in your CDN’s dashboard and make sure it’s working. Offloading 58GB of bandwidth last month? Yeah, that will definitely improve your server.

Some hosts have an option to activate Cloudflare in the cPanel, otherwise you’ll need to add your website and change nameservers in your domain registrar (eg. GoDaddy or Namecheap).

Cloudflare-Bandwidth-Savings

 

8. Add Cloudflare Page Rules

Free Cloudflare accounts come with 3 free page rules.

Here are 3 page rules I recommend setting up for WordPress sites.

Page Rule 1: Cache Everything And Force HTTPS – ensures your site is cached aggressively.

http://*yourwebsite.com/*

Always-Use-HTTPS-Page-Rule

Page Rule 2: Secure The WordPress Admin And Bypass Cache – sets the security level of the WordPress admin to high and bypasses Cloudflare’s cache inside the admin, since you don’t want your CDN (or apps + performance features like Rocket Loader) running inside the admin.

yourwebsite.com/wp-admin*

WordPress-Admin-Page-Rule

Page Rule 3: Decrease Bandwidth Of WP Uploads – since the content in your WP Uploads folder does not change frequently, you can increase the Edge Cache TTL to a month. This can potentially save on your bandwidth since the WP Uploads folder cache won’t refresh as often.

yourwebsite.com/wp-content/uploads*

WP-Uploads-Page-Rule

You should also enable hotlink protection in Cloudflare’s scrape shield settings which prevents people from pasting your images on their website when the image is still hosted by you, which means you’re consuming the bandwidth. Enabling Cloudflare’s hotlink protection prevents this.

 

9. Clear WooCommerce Transients

If you’re running WooCommerce, transients can cause bloat in your database and slow down the dashboard. To clear them, go to the WooCommerce Status settings → delete all transients.

Delete WooCommerce Transients

 

10. Increase Memory Limit To 256MB

WooCommerce sites, Elementor, WPML, and other systems require a 256MB memory limit, but you should really increase this anyway, since most hosts will set the default as 128MB.

Step 1: Edit your wp-config.php file.

Step 2: Add the code before the line that says, “Happy Blogging”.

define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M');

Your host may have an option to increase memory limits (below is for Cloudways).

Memory-Limit

 

11. Configure A Solid Cache Plugin

I recommend WP Rocket and that you check my WP Rocket settings.

It’s usually the #1 cache plugin in polls primarily because it comes with more features than any other cache plugin (resulting in faster load times and less plugins needed on your site). If you’re not using WP Rocket, I suggest WP Fastest Cache, however try using WP Rocket if you can.

Correctly configuring a solid cache plugin has a huge impact on your GTmetrix scores, load times, and speed of your admin panel. If your WordPress admin is slow, recheck your settings.

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

With most other cache plugins, you would need to install about 6 extra plugins to get these features, when WP Rocket has them all built-in, reducing the number of plugins on your site. If you’re like me, you only want to use 1 plugin, otherwise you will need to research which features your cache plugins comes with, then install these plugins if it doesn’t support them.

WP-Rocket-Features

Most people have a cache plugin installed, but the settings aren’t configured optimally. Review my guides to make sure your cache plugin is configured for optimal load times.

 

12. Disable “Object Cache” In W3 Total Cache

If you’re using W3 Total Cache go to the General Settings and disable object cache. See my W3 Total Cache settings to make sure everything is configured properly since Cloudflare and StackPath may also be the culprit – plus most people don’t have the ‘performance tabs’ setup correctly. That tutorial has been used by over a million people with like… a million comments.

However, W3 Total Cache has bugs and the plugin developer doesn’t go a great job updating it, so do yourself a favor and switch to WP Rocket if you have $49 (they’re almost always rated the #1 cache plugin in Facebook polls) or WP Fastest Cache which is free and usually rated #2.

W3 Total Cache Object Cache

 

13. Block Spam Bots From Hitting Your Server

You would never know it unless you looked, but spam bots can constantly hit your server and consume resources. It’s a waste of bandwidth and can slow down your WordPress dashboard. In this step, we’ll find bad bots in Wordfence’s live traffic report and make sure they’re blocked.

Step 1: Install Wordfence.

Step 2: View your live traffic report (under Wordfence’s Tools settings) which shows you all bots hitting your site in real-time. Googlebot is obviously OK, but when I did this, I saw compute.amazonaws.com making a ridiculous amount of requests every couple seconds. I Googled it and sure enough, this was a bot known for sucking up bandwidth. View your report for a minute or two and see if bots with sketchy names are constantly hitting your site. If you have doubts, Google their hostnames and see if other people are having issues with that bot.

Live-Traffic-Report-Wordfence

Step 3: Block the bots. You have a few options: Wordfence blocking (however the plugin itself consumes resources), Cloudflare firewall rules (comes with 5 free rules which means you can block 5 bots), or the Blackhole For Bad Bots. I have a tutorial for blocking bad bots using all 3 methods. It depends on how many you want to block; if it’s only a few, I’d use Firewall Rules.

Login to your Cloudflare Dashboard and go to Firewall → Firewall Rules → Create A Firewall Rule. Copy the bad bot’s hostnames (from Wordfence) and add it here in the “Value” field. Since you can create 5 rules, you would repeat this step for your 5 worst bad bots from Wordfence.

  • Field = Hostname
  • Operator = Contains
  • Value = hostname of the bad bot you found in Wordfence

Cloudflare Firewall Rule To Block Bad Bots

Step 4: Go to your Blocking log and enjoy watching those spam bots get blocked.

Cloudflare-Firewall-Events

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 What are the most common remedies for a slow WordPress admin?

The most common remedies for a slow WordPress admin are using a better cache plugin, configuring it with optimal settings, upgrading to faster hosting, and avoiding high CPU plugins. If using W3 Total Cache, try disabling the object cache option.

🚀 Will changing hosts fix a slow admin panel?

If your server response time is high in Google PageSpeed Insights, this can put stress on your server and slow down the admin panel. Changing hosts can fix a slow admin especially if you're using a low quality host like GoDaddy, Bluehost, or an EIG brand.

🚀 Will a CDN speed up the admin panel?

Using a CDN offloads resources and puts less stress on your server, therefore speeding up both your website and admin panel. Cloudflare is a great free CDN, and using multiple CDNs can help even more since more data centers means more offloading.

🚀 Do spammy bots slow down the admin?

Yes, spammy bots that constantly hit your site are a waste of server resources. You can use Wordfence to find all bots hitting your site in real-time, then use Wordfence, Block Bad Queries, Blackhole for Bad Bots, or Cloudflare firewall rules to block spammy bots.

🚀 Which plugins slow down the admin panel?

Most slow WordPress plugins include social sharing, statistic (analytics), sliders, portfolios, page builders, calendars, chat, contact forms, related post, sitemap, Wordfence, WPML, WooCommerce, and any plugin that runs ongoing scans or processes. Always make sure you're using lightweight plugins that are maintained and coded well.

🚀 Do cache plugins affect the speed of the admin panel?

Yes. Which cache plugin you're using and whether it is configured optimally has a huge impact on your website's overall performance. Make sure you're using a top-rated cache plugin and that you're taking advantage of all it's features.

See Also: How I Got 100% Scores In GTmetirx

Watch My Video – it’s a 42 minute video, but I cover pretty much everything (timestamps in video description) and you should learn a ton of great information on WordPress site speed:

Did it work? Let me know in the comments.

Is your WordPress admin still slow? Send me your GTmetrix report and I’ll have a quick look.

Cheers,
Tom

How I Optimized My Slow WordPress Site For 100% GTmetrix Scores — 28 Tips For Speeding Up WordPress Sites (2020 Guide)

Have a slow WordPress site?

This post you’re reading has over 70 images, 470 comments (while showing Gravatars), uses external fonts, Google Analytics, social sharing buttons, and an embedded YouTube video. Yet, it can load in under 2s with a 2.56MB page size, 89 requests, and 100%/97% GTmetrix scores.

Everyone ranking for “slow WordPress” in Google has a bad GTmetrix report: WP Buffs, Themeisle, Torque Mag, and Search Engine Shop who uses 0 images and copies my keywords.

So thanks for choosing mine!

I’ll show you how to take your GTmetrix + PageSpeed Insights report and make WordPress-specific optimizations that improve grades/load times. I’ve already written popular guides on WP Rocket, slow plugins to avoid, and a list of 24+ speed plugins. This combines everything.

When in doubt, look at the WordPress optimization guide to see the most important factors. The most common fixes for a slow WordPress site are usually related to your infrastructure (theme, hosting, page builder, cache plugin, CDN, and plugins you’re using). While optimizing images and third party scripts can definitely speed up WordPress, most factors are site-wide.

For this, I recommend Cloudways or Kinsta (hosting), Astra or Oxygen Builder (theme + page builder), and WP Rocket (main optimization plugin). You will avoid 90% of speed issues and they’re all rated highly in Facebook polls. Comment with your GTmetrix report if you need help.

How To Speed Up A Slow WordPress Site

  1. Use Faster WordPress Hosting
  2. Rethink Your Theme + Page Builder
  3. Configure A Solid Cache Plugin
  4. Upgrade To PHP 7.4
  5. Enable Varnish + Memcached
  6. Use A CDN
  7. Avoid 65+ Slow Plugins
  8. Optimize Third Party Scripts
  9. Google Fonts
  10. Google Analytics
  11. Google AdSense
  12. Google Tag Manager
  13. Comments + Gravatars
  14. Facebook Pixel
  15. Use A Fast Social Sharing Plugin
  16. Optimize Images + Videos
  17. Reduce Server Response Times
  18. Clean Your Database
  19. Remove Bloat
  20. Disable Plugin Usage Tracking
  21. Disable Plugins On Specific Pages + Posts
  22. Minimize Redirects
  23. Don’t Enable Yoast Indexables
  24. Utilize Plugins By Gijo Varghese
  25. Increase Memory Limit To 256MB
  26. Make WooCommerce Load Faster
  27. Block Bad Bots From Using Resources
  28. Identify Bottlenecks In Speed Testing Tools

GTmetrix (load times) should be your primary metric while PageSpeed Insights doesn’t even measure load times. Getting 100% in every single tool is not realistic unless you have a bare bones, static HTML site. Don’t obsess over scores – obsess over your actual load times instead.

2020-GTmetrix-Report

Watch My Video – it’s a 42 minute video, but I cover pretty much everything (timestamps are found in video description). You will learn a ton of good stuff on WordPress speed optimization.

 

1. Use Faster WordPress Hosting

Hosting is the #1 factor in the WordPress optimization guide.

Run your website through Google PageSpeed Insights and check if reduce server response times is in your report. Google recommends a response time of <200ms. You can also check your TTFB (time to first byte) in the GTmetrix Timings tab. If these are slow, so is your hosting.

Reduce Server Response Time

I would personally skip the shared crap and go with Cloudways.

They’re who most people recommend in the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group and #1 in most recent Facebook polls, especially since SiteGround increased prices and went downhill. I migrated from SiteGround to DigitalOcean on Cloudways and you can view the results below.

SiteGround-vs-Cloudways

I use them and you can check my GTmetrix report, or visit cwdoserver.com to see the speed of a $10/month Cloudways DigitalOcean test server I set up with an Astra Site. It loads instantly (for reference, stgrndserver.com is the identical Astra Site only on SiteGround’s GrowBig plan).

Do your research on EIG, SiteGround’s CPU limits, and look at Facebook polls, conversations, and migration results. Check your server response time in PageSpeed Insights and your TTFB.

2020-Hosting-Poll

Cloudways Response Times

Godaddy-to-DigitalOcean-Migration

VPS Cloud Hosting WooCommerce Poll

SiteGround-Alternative

Hosting Recommendations Facebook

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

Elementor-Hosting-Poll

Untitled

Vultr-Migration

WordPress Hosting Suggestions

SiteGround-Alternative-For-Beginners

VPS Cloud Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

Cloudways-Facebook-Review

I signed up for 15+ hosting accounts to test their speed. All domains in this video are live, which means you can visit them in real-time and click through their pages, use GTmetrix, etc.

Each website is identical except for it’s hosting (same Astra Starter Site, SSL, no caching, no CDN, and the same 6 plugins). I also used WP Hosting Performance Check and KeyCDN to measure the most popular options. The results align with what most people are saying in the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group which I recommend joining to get real, unbiased opinions.

#1. DigitalOcean On Cloudwayscwdoserver.com was the fastest, is who I use, and are very popular in Facebook Groups (especially as an alternative to SiteGround). DigitalOcean is also the only host mentioned in the WordPress Optimization Guide. Cloudways was #1 in most recent Facebook polls and people who migrate usually see significant load time improvements. They use PHP 7.4, Maria DB 10.3, Memcached, Varnish, Nginx, and Redis. Pricing starts at $10/month with no strict CPU limits or renewal prices like on other hosts. The community manager is very helpful and they do free migrations. You can get 25% off your first 2 months with the promo code OMM25.

#2. Kinstaknstaserver.com had similar speeds as DigitalOcean on Cloudways only they are more expensive starting at $30/month. Known for being capable of handling many concurrent visitors. People consistently recommend Kinsta in Facebook Groups, Twitter, and in migration results. Even though they’re not always #1 in Facebook polls (likely because not everyone can pay $30+/month), they are great for high traffic sites.

#3. WPX Hostingwpxserver.com is also very quick, but Cloudways and Kinsta are slightly faster. Starts at $20-$25/month and is who Matthew Woodward recommends.

#4. A2 Hostingatwoserver.com usually outperformed other shared hosting but is not nearly as fast as cloud hosting (just cheaper). I use A2 for my girlfriend’s restaurant website and it’s decently fast with good uptimes. A2 (and all shared hosting) is only sufficient for smaller websites with low traffic/plugins. Otherwise, use cloud hosting.

#5. SiteGround – has gone downhill with many complaints about their renewal prices, price hikes, CPU limits, and support isn’t as good as it used to be. SiteGround shifted to Google Cloud hosting (instead of shared) which is supposed to be faster, but load times and TTFB on stgrndserver.com were usually above 1s. Their SG Optimizer plugin should help, but I still wouldn’t use them. You’re better off on Cloudways DigitalOcean.

Affiliate Disclaimer – I would seriously appreciate you using my affiliate links which means I earn a commission at no expense to you. This would help me make GoFundMe donations ($6,000 so far)! I try to base my recommendations on tests, Facebook polls, and conversations I see on a daily basis in the 30+ WP Facebook Groups I’m active on.

 

2. Rethink Your Theme + Page Builder

Most people are using Astra Themes.

The only problem with Astra is that most of their themes use page builders. Even Elementor adds a lot of scripts that can mildly slow down your WordPress site (you can check these in Asset CleanUp or Perfmatters). That was my biggest complaint when I had my site redesigned in Astra (I even went themeless). My StudioPress theme was slightly faster with 0 extra scripts.

It really depends on what you want; if you like Astra + Elementor for designing your site and don’t mind a slight decrease in speed, that’s what I would recommend. If you’re a speed freak like me and only want the fastest stuff, I wish I would have stuck with StudioPress and Genesis.

studiopress-themes

Here were my extra CSS and JavaScript files added by Elementor:

Elementor-Scripts

I recommend either Astra or Oxygen Builder.

Astra-Themes-Facebook-Poll

 

3. Configure A Solid Cache Plugin

As far as GTmetrix scores go, your cache plugin has the biggest impact.

WP Rocket is the most popular cache plugin (it’s also what I use) mainly because it comes with more speed optimization features than any other cache plugin. This not only results in better GTmetrix scores, but also means you don’t have to install a bunch of extra plugins on your site.

Get 10% off WP Rocket by signing up for their email list on their coupons page. Then check my recommended WP Rocket settings for optimal GTmetrix scores/load times.

With most other cache plugins, you would need to install about 7 extra plugins to get these features when WP Rocket has them all built-in. Otherwise you will need to research which features your cache plugin comes with, then install these plugins if it doesn’t support them.

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

What About SG Optimizer? If you’re on SiteGround, use their SG Optimizer plugin (instead of WP Rocket) with these SG Optimizer settings. It’s free and comparable to WP Rocket (you will still need heartbeat control and database cleanup). This plugin is only for SiteGround’s hosting.

WP Engine + GoDaddy – these hosts have their own built-in caching system and blacklist you from using cache plugins. In this case, use Autoptimize to optimize HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

I also have configuration tutorials for WP Fastest Cache, W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and Swift Performance, but I definitely recommend WP Rocket as your one and only caching plugin.

 

4. Upgrade To PHP 7.4

Login to your hosting account (or use the Display PHP Version plugin) to see which PHP version you’re currently running. WordPress stats show most users are running outdated PHP versions when PHP 7.4 is available on many hosting accounts. Upgrading is as simple as finding the PHP Version Manager (or similar) in your hosting account, then upgrading the latest version of PHP.

PHP-7.4

WordPress PHP Benchmarks

Some hosts are quick to release new versions (SiteGround, Cloudways, Kinsta), while others don’t make an effort to stay current in technology. Another reason to avoid EIG and GoDaddy.

*Check your website for visible errors since non-maintained plugins may not be compatible. If you do see errors, you can always revert back to an earlier PHP version.

 

5. Enable Varnish + Memcached

Many cloud hosting providers support Varnish + Memcached. Login to your hosting account and activate them. If you’re using Varnish, be sure to enable the Varnish addon in WP Rocket.

Hosting-Application-Services

 

6. Use A CDN

Most people use Cloudflare or RocketCDN (from WP Rocket).

RocketCDN uses StackPath’s data centers and offers it at a lower price than if you buy directly from StackPath. Both are great CDNs, but there are a few major differences between the two.

Cloudflare vs. RocketCDN

  • Cloudflare is free, RocketCDN is $6.99/month
  • Cloudflare cannot serve images from their CDN, StackPath can
  • Cloudflare has 200+ data centers, StackPath has 45 data centers
  • Cloudlare’s data centers are likely not as high-performance as StackPath
  • Cloudflare has a dashboard you can login to and tweak, RocketCDN does not
  • Cloudflare’s dashboard has extra features like page rules, Rocket Loader, Railgun
  • Cloudflare requires changing nameservers (some hosts also have an option to activate Cloudflare directly from your account), StackPath’s set up is automatic with WP Rocket

Cloudflare-Bandwidth-Savings

Ensure Cloudflare Compatibility With WP Rocket – WP Rocket and most other cache plugins ask for your Cloudflare Zone ID, Global API Key, and your Cloudflare account email. Add them.

WP-Rocket-Cloudflare-Add-On

Configuring The Cloudflare Dashboard – if you’re using Cloudflare, login to your dashboard. There are a few things in here that aren’t available if you set up Cloudflare through your host.

Page Rule 1: Cache Everything And Force HTTPS – cache your website aggressively.

http://*yourwebsite.com/*

Always-Use-HTTPS-Page-Rule

Page Rule 2: Secure The WordPress Admin And Bypass Cache – sets security level of the admin to high and bypasses Cloudflare’s cache in the admin, since you don’t want CDNs (or apps + performance features like Rocket Loader) running inside the admin.

yourwebsite.com/wp-admin*

WordPress-Admin-Page-Rule

Page Rule 3: Decrease Bandwidth Of WP Uploads – since the content in your WP Uploads folder does not change frequently, increasing Edge Cache TTL to a month can save on bandwidth, since the WP Uploads folder cache won’t be refreshed as often.

yourwebsite.com/wp-content/uploads*

WP-Uploads-Page-Rule

Setting Up RocketCDN Or StackPath – the easiest way to set up RocketCDN is with WP Rocket. If not using WP Rocket, you will need to sign up for a StackPath account through their website then follow instructions for creating a CDN site. They will assign you a CDN URL which most cache plugins (including Autoptimize) have a field for. Or use the CDN Enabler plugin.

Make Sure Your CDN Is Working – every CDN should show 100% in GTmetrix YSlow except Cloudflare’s CDN. To make GTmetrix detects Cloudflare, you’ll need to sign up for a GTmetrix account → User settings → “add your hostname to YSlow CDN Hostnames.” You can also use Cloudflare’s Claire Chrome Extension to see if it’s working. GTmetrix always detects StackPath.

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

 

7. Avoid 65+ Slow Plugins

You can find your slowest plugins in the GTmetrix Waterfall tab or Query Monitor.

Slow WordPress Plugin

Most slow WordPress plugins include social sharing, statistic (analytics), sliders, portfolios, page builders, calendars, chat, contact forms, related post, sitemap, Wordfence, WPML, WooCommerce, and any plugin that runs ongoing scans or processes. These can be identified using Query Monitor or GTmetrix Waterfall.

  1. AddThis
  2. AdSense Click Fraud Monitoring
  3. All-In-One Event Calendar
  4. Backup Buddy
  5. Beaver Builder
  6. Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps
  7. Broken Link checker (use Dr. Link Check)
  8. Constant Contact for WordPress
  9. Contact Form 7
  10. Contextual Related Posts
  11. Digi Auto Links
  12. Disqus Comment System
  13. Divi Builder
  14. Essential Grid
  15. View Full List Of 65 Slow Plugins

Lightweight Plugin Alternatives

 

8. Optimize Third Party Scripts

Third party scripts are anything that create requests from external websites.

These include Google Fonts, Analytics, Maps, AdSense, Tag Manager, embedded videos, social media widgets, Facebook Pixel, Gravatars, or even like buttons from your social sharing plugin. Some can be optimized to have no impact on GTmetrix while AdSense/Tag Manager are harder.

The next sections (7-16) show you how to optimize specific third party scripts that may be giving you errors in your GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights reports.

Step 1: Learn Which Third Party Scripts Are Slowing Down Your Site
Look at reduce DNS lookups in GTmetrix YSlow or third party usage in PageSpeed Insights.

External-Scripts

Common third party domains taken from Github:


//maps.googleapis.com
//maps.gstatic.com
//fonts.googleapis.com
//fonts.gstatic.com
//use.fontawesome.com
//ajax.googleapis.com
//apis.google.com
//google-analytics.com
//www.google-analytics.com
//ssl.google-analytics.com
//www.googletagmanager.com
//www.googletagservices.com
//googleads.g.doubleclick.net
//adservice.google.com
//pagead2.googlesyndication.com
//tpc.googlesyndication.com
//youtube.com
//i.ytimg.com
//player.vimeo.com
//api.pinterest.com
//assets.pinterest.com
//connect.facebook.net
//platform.twitter.com
//syndication.twitter.com
//platform.instagram.com
//referrer.disqus.com
//c.disquscdn.com
//cdnjs.cloudflare.com
//cdn.ampproject.org
//pixel.wp.com
//disqus.com
//s.gravatar.com
//0.gravatar.com
//2.gravatar.com
//1.gravatar.com
//sitename.disqus.com
//s7.addthis.com
//platform.linkedin.com
//w.sharethis.com
//s0.wp.com
//s1.wp.com
//s2.wp.com
//stats.wp.com
//ajax.microsoft.com
//ajax.aspnetcdn.com
//s3.amazonaws.com
//code.jquery.com
//stackpath.bootstrapcdn.com
//github.githubassets.com
//ad.doubleclick.net
//stats.g.doubleclick.net
//cm.g.doubleclick.net
//stats.buysellads.com
//s3.buysellads.com

Step 2: Add Domains To Prefetching
Take the external scripts from your GTmetrix report and add them to WP Rocket (Preload → Prefetch DNS Requests). Prefetching and other browser resource hints makes them load faster. If you don’t have WP Rocket, you can do this with Perfmatters or Pre* Party Resources Hints.

Prefetch-DNS-Requests

Step 3: Use Flying Scripts To Delay Loading Them
The Flying Scripts plugin delays loading JavaScript until the timeout period you set in the plugin. It’s the only plugin that let me show Gravatars without them impacting my GTmetrix report, but this can also be done with other third party scripts. Just enter the keyword of the script into the plugin (eg. discuz) and set a timeout period. I also recommend checking out Gijo’s speed plugins.

Flying-Scripts

Don’t forget to see the next few sections which will help you better optimize external scripts.

 

9. Google Fonts

Here are 4 steps for optimizing Google Fonts and Font Awesome.

Optimize Fonts With WP Rocket Or SG Optimizer – both WP Rocket and SG Optimizer have an option to optimize Google Fonts. This combines your fonts to create fewer HTTP requests.

Optimize-Google-Fonts

Host Google Fonts Locally – use the OMGF plugin to host fonts locally. The plugin will automatically download your fonts, create a stylesheet for them, then include it in the header.

Preload Fonts – grab the URLs of your font files in the GTmetrix Waterfall report and add them to WP Rocket’s “preload fonts” option, or in OMGF. This helps browsers download fonts faster.

Preload-Fonts

Be Minimal With Fonts + Weights – be minimal with the number of fonts and weights.

 

10. Google Analytics

Hosting Google Analytics locally will fix the leverage browser caching issue for Google Analytics in GTmetrix. For this, I use the Flying Analytics plugin since WP Rocket’s Google Tracking add-on still showed errors. Insert your Google Analytics Tracking ID (the UA code) into the plugin, then use the “Minimal Analytics Inlined” method which only adds a measly 1.4KB.

Flying-Analytics

Plugins to host Analytics locally: WP Rocket, Perfmatters, Flying Analytics, CAOS.

 

11. Google AdSense

Google Adsense is one of the most difficult scripts to optimize and you shouldn’t expect a good GTmetrix report with it. You can try enabling Cloudflare’s Rocket Loader which defers loading of JavaScript until after rendering, but affiliate links are way faster and usually more profitable.

 

12. Google Tag Manager

GTM should usually only be used for large, unoptimized sites.

If you absolutely need it, use a good Google Tag Manager plugin and be minimal with tags, but that’s about all you can do. I don’t use GTM on my website (my load times are more important).

Google Tag Manager Speed

 

13. Comments + Gravatars

I use 3 plugins for comments which you’ll see zero errors for in GTmetrix.

  • wpDiscuz: commenting plugin.
  • Flying Scripts: delays loading of Gravatars.
  • WP User Avatar: use a custom, optimized photo as the default avatar.

Step 1: Configure wpDiscuz to load faster.

Comment thread displaying → initiate AJAX loading after page and lazy load comment.

Disqus-Comment-Thread-Displaying

General → disable “use WordPress native AJAX functions” and enable combine/minify JS/CSS.

Disqus-General-Settings

Styles and colors → disable “load font awesome CSS lib.”

Disqus-Load-Font-Awesome-CSS-Lib

Step 2: Delay Gravatar loading with the Flying Scripts plugin.

Speed-Up-Comments

Step 3: Upload a custom, optimized photo using WP User Avatar.

WP-User-Avatar

Retest your GTmetrix report and your comments should load much faster with no errors.

 

14. Facebook Pixel

Use the Pixel Caffeine plugin and host Facebook Pixel locally in WP Rocket.

Facebook-Pixel-Browser-Caching

 

15. Use A Fast Social Sharing Plugin

WP Rocket did a test on the fastest social sharing plugins.

The Grow by Mediavine plugin (Social Pug) was rated the #1 fastest social sharing plugin. It’s also what I use and saw no difference in my GTmetrix report. You can see a preview near my comments section; the buttons look nice, can be loaded before and after the content, and has options for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, email, print. You can also do a floating bar.

 

16. Optimize Images + Videos

There are several ways to optimize images. The first 3 items are in GTmetrix, the last 2 are from PageSpeed Insights. Speed testing tools only show you unoptimized images for the single page you test (keep that in mind when fixing serve scaled image or specify image dimension errors).

  • Serve scaled images – resize large images to be smaller.
  • Specify image dimensions – add a width/height to the image’s HTML.
  • Lossless compress – use an image optimization plugin to compress images.
  • Lazy load images + videos – delays load of images/videos until they’re visibly seen.
  • Serve images using next-gen formats – use WebP/SVG format instead of JPEG/PNG.

image-optimization

Serve Scaled Images – resize large images to be smaller. GTmetrix tells you the correct dimensions. Just click the image in GTmetrix, resize it to the new dimensions, and replace it. Never use the ‘drag to resize’ feature in the visual editor since this only resizes the displayed image (not the actual image). It’s best to resize to the correct dimensions before uploading it.

Serve-Scaled-Images-GTmetrix

Create a cheat sheet so you can use the correct dimensions before uploading images:

  • Slider images: 1903(w) x 400(h)
  • Carousel images: 115(h)
  • Widget images: 414(w)
  • Full width blog post images: 680(w)
  • Featured images: 250(w) x 250(h)

Specify Image Dimensions – means you need to add a width + height in the image’s HTML or CSS. This usually only happens for hand-coded HTML and plugins that don’t take care of this for you. Get the image dimensions from GTmetrix, locate the image, then add the width and height.

Specify-Image-Dimensions-WordPress

Optimize Images – losslessly compress images (also known as “optimize images” in GTmetrix). The best way to compress images is when you’re editing them (eg. in Photoshop or GIMP) since you will likely see a loss in quality with image optimization plugins, even if you select “lossless compression” in the settings. Otherwise, ShortPixel or Imagify are decent options. These plugins can also be resource-intensive and slow down your WordPress website temporarily.

Lazy Load Images + Videos – in your WP Rocket Media settings, enable lazy loading of images, videos, and replace the YouTube iframe with a preview image. These will make images and embedded videos load significantly faster, as they’re often the heaviest element on a page. If you’re not using WP Rocket, try A3 Lazy Load (for images) and WP YouTube Lyte (for videos).

WP-Rocket-Lazy-Load

Serve Images In Next-Gen Formats – most image optimization plugins have an option to convert images to WebP format, or the WebP Converter For Media plugin has great ratings.

Serve-Images-In-Next-Gen-Formats

 

17. Reduce Server Response Times

I want to clarify a few things about server response times.

Most hosting providers let you monitor CPU and RAM (memory usage). If you notice these are very close to exceeding your limits, this will put stress on your server. The whole goal is to make your server “relaxed” by giving it enough server resources to accommodate your site’s resource consumption (from high CPU plugins, traffic, WooCommerce, etc). If you notice you’re almost hitting your limits or exceeding them and getting 503 errors, it means your server is stressed.

Cloud-Memory-Increase

That’s why it’s so important to look at how many server resources come with your hosting plan. Any host that says “unlimited bandwidth” is lying (just check their terms and conditions page and they will mention their CPU limits). Especially if you anticipate high resource consumption, make sure your hosting plan includes enough resources to properly accommodate your site.

SiteGround-Server-Resources-Comparison

 

18. Clean Your Database

Use WP Rocket or WP Optimize to clean your database.

Ongoing cleanups keep your database optimized and removes transients, spam + trash comments, and potentially hundreds of post revisions which WordPress stores automatically every time you update content. Unless you need post revisions to restore backups of old content, you should be able to delete everything. I recommend scheduling weekly cleanups.

WP-Rocket-Database-Settings

Delete Old Plugin Tables – one thing I like about WP-Optimize is the option to delete database tables left behind by old plugins that aren’t installed anymore (these are often pre-configured settings). If you don’t plan on using these plugins again, delete the tables that say “not installed.”

WP-Optimize-Tables

 

19. Remove Bloat

Perfmatters (by Kinsta) is the ultimate bloat removal plugin.

The features page includes descriptions of what each item does, but it removes unnecessary WordPress features which you probably don’t need. It even has options for optimizing your Google Analytics tracking code, WooCommerce, prefetch + preconnect, and heartbeat control. Remember to selectively disable plugins in the Perfmatters script manager or Asset CleanUp!

perfmatters-features

Limit Post Revisions – use Perfmatters or add the code to your wp-config file.

define('WP_POST_REVISIONS', 5);

Increase Autosave Interval – use Perfmatters or add the code to your wp-config.php file.

define('AUTOSAVE INTERVAL', 5);

Disable Trackbacks + Pingbacks – use Perfmatters or disable in Settings → Discussion.

Disable-Trackbacks-Pingbacks

Disable Unused Addons + Modules – if you’re using a plugin containing a bunch of addons or modules (Elementor, Ultimate/Premium Addons, JetPack), delete the ones you’re not using.

Disable-Addons

Delete Unused Plugins + Themes – any plugins/themes you’re not using should be deleted.

Delete Unused WordPress Themes

 

20. Disable Plugin Usage Tracking

Any time you have an option to disable usage tracking, do it. Sorry plugin developers.

I also don’t recommend Yoast’s speed indexing (the comments have horrible reviews).

Yoast-Speed-Indexing

 

21. Disable Plugins On Specific Pages + Posts

The Perfmatters script manager (premium) and Asset CleanUp (free) both let you disable plugins/scripts from running on specific pages/posts. Some plugins load across your entire site (even on content they’re not being used on), so it’s best to disable them when that’s the case.

Examples:

  • Disable slider plugin on pages that don’t use sliders
  • Disable rich snippets plugin on pages that don’t use rich snippets
  • Disable contact form plugin on pages that don’t have a contact form
  • Disable affiliate link management plugin on pages that don’t use aff links
  • Disable social sharing plugin on all pages (since it’s usually for blog posts)

perfmatters-script-manager

Perfmatters and Asset CleanUp (the premium version) have a Regex option that allows you disable plugins/scripts based on specific URL patterns and categories. For example, you may want to only enable your schema plugin on posts containing the word “review” in the URL.

 

22. Minimize Redirects

If you have URL redirect errors in GTmetrix, it usually means you changed the WWW or HTTP(S) version of your website but didn’t change all your links and images to reflect the new version. In this case, try using the Better Search & Replace plugin to fix these errors in bulk.

minimize redirects

Third party scripts and poorly coded plugins can also cause redirect errors in GTmetrix. The solution completely depends on which plugins and third party scripts you’re using on the site.

 

23. Don’t Enable Yoast Indexables

Yoast 14.0 came out with indexables which they claim “can provide a speed boost of 5-10%.”

However, if you look at the comments, it’s clear they have not thoroughly tested this (many complaints about CPU spikes, crashed websites, errors, etc). None of the feedback looks positive, so I would at least hold off of clicking that button until they do more thorough testing.

Yoast-Speed-Indexing

 

24. Utilize Plugins By Gijo Varghese

Gijo Varghese has create quite a few plugins for speeding up WordPress.

These plugins help you host Google Analytics locally, optimize images and serve them from a CDN, preload pages, delay loading scripts by creating a timeout, and ensure text remains visible while loading fonts. All have great ratings. Check out his WP Speed Matters Facebook Group.

Gijo-Varghese-plugins

 

25. Increase Memory Limit To 256MB

WooCommerce and WPML require a 256MB memory limit, but you should really be using 256MB no matter which type of WordPress site you’re running. Some hosts have an option to increase it in their dashboard, otherwise edit your wp-config.php file and add the code below.

Cloudways-Memory-Limit

define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M');

 

26. Make WooCommerce Load Faster

WooCommerce sites run extra scripts, styles, cart fragments, and they usually require more plugins. That’s why when choosing a hosting plan, you should usually buy one tier up of what you actually need to accomodate for the extra resources often required for WooCommerce.

WooCommerce Cart Fragments

Optimize WooCommerce Scripts, Styles, Cart Fragments
To optimize these, use Perfmatters or there are quite a few solutions on Github and WooCommerce. Disabling scripts will disable WooCommerce scripts and styles everywhere except on product, cart, and checkout pages. There’s also an option to disable cart fragments.

perfmatters woocommerce optimization

Clear WooCommerce Transients
If you feel like your WooCommerce website is getting sluggish, go to WooCommerce Status settings → delete all transients. Transients temporarily store cached data in your database.

Delete WooCommerce Transients

 

27. Block Bad Bots From Using Resources

You would never know if spam bots are hitting your site unless you checked your Wordfence live traffic report. By blocking them, you will save resources and put less stress on your server.

Step 1: Install Wordfence (you’ll want to uninstall it when you’re done).

Step 2: View your live traffic report (under Wordfence’s Tools settings) which shows you all bots hitting your website in real-time. Googlebot is obviously OK, but when I did this, I saw compute.amazonaws.com making a ridiculous amount of requests every couple seconds. I Googled it and sure enough, this was a bot known for sucking up bandwidth. View your report for a minute or two and see if bots with sketchy names are constantly hitting your site. If you have doubts, Google their hostnames and see if other people are having issues with that bot.

Live-Traffic-Report-Wordfence

Step 3: Block the bots. You have a few options: Wordfence blocking (however the plugin itself consumes resources), Cloudflare firewall rules (comes with 5 free rules which means you can block 5 bots), or the Blackhole For Bad Bots. I have a tutorial for blocking bad bots using all 3 methods. It depends on how many you want to block; if it’s only a few, I’d use Firewall Rules.

Login to your Cloudflare Dashboard and go to Firewall → Firewall Rules → Create A Firewall Rule. Copy the bad bot’s hostnames (from Wordfence) and add it here in the “Value” field. Since you can create 5 rules, you would repeat this step for your 5 worst bad bots from Wordfence.

  • Field = Hostname
  • Operator = Contains
  • Value = hostname of the bad bot you found in Wordfence

Cloudflare Firewall Rule To Block Bad Bots

Step 4: Go to your Blocking log in Cloudflare and watch your spam bots get blocked.

Cloudflare-Firewall-Events

 

28. Identify Bottlenecks In Speed Testing Tools

GTmetrix – my tool of choice since you can find exactly which images, plugins, fonts, and external scripts take longest to load (plus it shows your time to first byte and redirect errors).

2020-GTmetrix-Report

Pingdom – the most accurate tool for measuring your load times according to WP Rocket which is the primary metric you should be measuring (not grades), but there is a correlation.

Google PageSpeed Insights – good for measuring server response times but also has other recommendations like using next-gen format for images (eg. WebP), lazy loading, avoid third party scripts, preconnect, minification, caching recommendations, and serving scaled images.

Query Monitor – great for finding slow plugins, scripts, styles, and other elements slowing down your site. Make sure to delete it when you’re done since the plugin itself can be slow.

Get Help Fixing Your GTmetrix Report

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 What are the most important speed factors?

Your infrastructure (hosting, theme, plugins, page builder, CDNs) have the biggest impact on load times.

🚀 Which cache plugin should you use?

WP Rocket is usually rated the top cache plugin in Facebook polls since it has built-in features most cache plugins don't. These extra optimizations should yield better scores and load times in GTmetrix. The top free cache plugins are usually WP Fastest Cache, W3 Total Cache, and Swift Performance.

🚀 Which WordPress hosting should you use?

The best hosting is highly debatable, but Cloudways, SiteGround, and Kinsta generally the top 3 hosts based on 30+ Facebook polls.

🚀 Which speed testing tool should you use?

GTmetrix has the most robust recommendations especially for finding slow plugins, images, external scripts, and measuring TFFB. Pingdom doesn't have as many recommendations, and Google PageSpeed Insights doesn't measure load times.

🚀 How do you optimize images?

You can optimize images using a plugin like ShortPixel or Smush to compress images and strip EXIF data. Make sure you're resizing images to the correct dimensions, and ideally serve them from a CDN. Lazy loading images and videos will also make the page faster.

🚀 Should you use AMP?

Generally, you should avoid AMP (accelerated mobile pages) since the design changes can lower conversions. Kinsta's conversions dropped 59% after adding AMP and they decided to remove them.

🚀 How do you optimize plugins?

Find high CPU plugins using Query Monitor which usually include portfolios, statistics, sliders, and plugins that run ongoing processes. Next, replace them with lightweight plugins that consume minimal resources. Delete all plugins you're not using, and disable unnecessary plugin settings that consume resources. Finally, selectively disable plugins from loading on certain content using a plugin like Asset Manager or Perfmatters.

🚀 How do you optimize external scripts?

It's best to avoid external scripts all together, such as Google AdSense, Facebook widgets, and plugins that create external requests. Some plugins such as Disques let you load it conditionally. If the page contains JavaScript, try the Async JavaScript plugin. Finally, prefetch all external URLs that are loading on the page.

Really hope this helped! Drop your new GTmetrix scores + load times in the comments :-)

Cheers,
Tom

25 WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins For Speeding Up Your Website In 2020 (Same Ones I Used To Get 100% GTmetrix Scores)

WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins

Need a solid list of WordPress speed optimization plugins?

These are the same speed plugins I used to get 100% GTmetrix scores on my homepage and most of my posts. They’re a collection of plugins I use myself and popular plugins in Facebook Groups. I do WordPress speed optimization for a living – so I geek pretty hard on the plugins!

This is not a typical list of cache plugins: I dive into advanced plugins like selectively plugin disabling, browser resource hints for external scripts, hosting things locally, and bloat removal.

ps. If you join the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group they have a list of 60+ recommended WordPress Speed Up Tools and useful links. But I did try to include the important ones here :)

The only speed optimization plugins I use on my site are WP Rocket, Perfmatters, WP-Optimize, TinyPNG, and wpDiscuz (my lightweight comment plugin). If you’re using SG Optimizer or another caching plugin, you will need to install a few extra speed plugins since these lack some functionality (see the notes listed in each section below).

The Best WordPress Speed Plugins Of 2020

  1. WP Rocket
  2. SG Optimizer
  3. Perfmatters
  4. Asset CleanUp
  5. TinyPNG
  6. WP-Optimize
  7. WP YouTube Lyte
  8. Heartbeat Control
  9. Pre* Party Resource Hints
  10. OMGF | Host Google Fonts Locally
  11. CAOS | Host Google Analytics Locally
  12. wpDiscuz
  13. Flying Scripts
  14. WP User Avatar
  15. CDN Enabler
  16. Breeze By Cloudways
  17. Autoptimize
  18. WP Fastest Cache
  19. ToolKit For Elementor
  20. AMP For WP
  21. Query Monitor
  22. Display PHP Version
  23. GTmetrix For WordPress
  24. WP Hosting Performance Check
  25. Better Search Replace

1s-2020-GTmetrix-Report

 

1. WP Rocket

WP Rocket was rated the #1 cache plugin in most Facebook polls.

That’s because it comes with more features than any other cache plugin. This means better GTmetrix results and less plugins needed on your site. Otherwise, with other cache plugins, you would need to research which features it doesn’t include, then install these extra plugins if it doesn’t support them. If you’re like me, you want to use 1 plugin (WP Rocket) for everything.

  • Database cleanup (built-in to WP Rocket, or use WP-Optimize)
  • Heartbeat control (built-in to WP Rocket, or use Heartbeat Control)
  • Lazy load images/videos (built-in to WP Rocket, or use WP YouTube Lyte)
  • Host Google Analytics locally (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS For Analytics)
  • Prefetch DNS Requests (built-in to WP Rocket, or use Pre* Party Resource Hints)
  • Host Google Fonts locally (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS For Fonts, or SHGF)
  • Integration with Cloudflare + other CDNs (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CDN Enabler)

Get 10% off WP Rocket by signing up for their email list on their coupons page. Then check my recommended WP Rocket settings for optimal GTmetrix scores/load times.

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

WP-Rocket-Features

 

2. SG Optimizer

SG-Optimizer-Plugin

SG Optimizer only works if you’re on SiteGround’s hosting.

On a demo website, I tested SG Optimizer with a fresh installation of Astra’s Outdoor Adventure theme on SiteGround’s GrowBig plan and got a 1s load time with 99%/94% GTmetrix scores. If I used a CDN, my GTmetrix scores would have been exactly 99%/100%.

Since SiteGround’s big update to SG Optimizer, it’s now comparable to WP Rocket. It also uses server-side caching and binaries which is faster and more efficient than the file-based caching by other cache plugins (including WP Rocket). If you’re on SiteGround, I would definitely use it.

See my recommended SG Optimizer settings to learn how to configure SG Optimizer.

SG Optimizer Features

  • Caching (static, dynamic, memcached)
  • Minify & combine HTML, CSS, JS
  • Gzip compression
  • PHP version selection
  • Optimize Google Fonts
  • Defer render-blocking JS
  • Compress new + existing images
  • Lazy load images, videos, iframes, Gravatars, thumbnails, widgets, mobile

Features SG Optimizer Lacks

  • Heartbeat control
  • Database cleanup
  • Bloat removal
  • CDN URL
  • Prefetch + preconnect
  • Host Google Analytics locally

 

 

 

3. Perfmatters

Kinsta’s Perfmatters is the ultimate bloat removal plugin.

A few notable features include decreasing the autosave interval, limiting post revisions, disabling heartbeat and pingbacks, prefetching + preconnecting fonts and third party scripts, and optimizing WooCommerce scripts, styles, and cart fragments. It basically takes care of the last 10% of WordPress speed optimization with features WP Rocket/SG Optimizer don’t have.

perfmatters features

Perfmatters includes a script manager for selectively disabling scripts/plugins on specific content (same thing as Asset CleanUp). Some plugins load across your entire site even when they’re not being used. By selectively disabling plugins, you will reduce page sizes and make them load faster. There’s also a Regex option to better control where plugins are being loaded.

Examples:

  • Disable slider plugin on pages not using sliders
  • Disable rich snippets plugin on pages not using rich snippets
  • Disable contact form plugin on pages not using contact forms
  • Disable affiliate link management plugin on pages not using aff links
  • Disable social sharing plugin on all pages (since it’s usually for blog posts)

perfmatters-script-manager

 

4. Asset CleanUp

Same thing as the Perfmatters script manager (lets you selectively disable scripts/plugins) only Asset CleanUp doesn’t have bloat removal options, but it is free. Plugin Organizer and Plugin Load Filter are similar, but AssetCleanUp has great reviews and is what most people are using.

Asset CleanUp Check All

 

5. TinyPNG

Compresses images to get 100% for the “optimize images” items in GTmetrix.

I have tried Imagify, ShortPixel, and other image optimization plugins but they all resulted in a loss in quality even when the “lossless” option was selected. Slowly but surely, I am redoing these images in TinyPNG. I see barely any quality loss which I can’t say for the other plugins.

TinyPNG-Plugin

 

6. WP-Optimize

A big difference between WP-Optimize and WP Rocket’s database cleanup feature, is that WP-Optimize lets you delete old plugin tables.

Both plugins let you delete trash (trashed posts, spam posts, post revisions, transients) and optimize your database tables. But WP-Optimize lets you view your individual database tables and delete tables left behind by old (not installed) plugins. If you don’t plan on using these plugins again, you can delete their tables since they often leave behind pre-configured settings.

WP-Optimize-Tables

WP Rocket does the same thing, only it doesn’t let you delete old plugin tables:

WP-Rocket-Database-Settings

 

7. WP YouTube Lyte

Lazy loads videos by inserting responsive “Lite YouTube Embeds” which only calls the “fat” YouTube player when the play button is clicked. Videos take the longest time to load by far. Just to give you an idea, my W3 Total Cache tutorial only has 2 videos, but when I lazy load them that post’s load time went from 5s to 1.5s. It has the same function as light video embeds.

If using WP Rocket, you can simply lazy load videos and replace iframes with a preview image.

WP-Rocket-Lazy-Load

 

8. Heartbeat Control

The WordPress heartbeat API consumes resources by sending you real-time plugin notifications, when other users are editing a post, and so on. 99% of people should disable it.

Heartbeat-Control

WP Rocket and Perfmatters also let you disable it, or add this code to your functions.php file.

add_action( 'init', 'stop_heartbeat', 1 );
function stop_heartbeat() {
wp_deregister_script('heartbeat');
}

 

9. Pre* Party Resource Hints

Supports browser resources hints which can make fonts and scripts load faster.

WP Rocket already supports prefetch + preconnect, otherwise you can use Pre* Party Resource Hints. Third party scripts can be found in the “reduce DNS lookups” section of your GTmetrix report or shown as “reduce the impact of third party code” in PageSpeed Insights.

These can be Gravatars, Google Analytics, Maps, Tag Manager, AdSense, embedded videos, or any third party request generated on your website. You’ll want to prefetch these (Luke created a nice list of common domains to prefetch). And if you’re using Google Fonts or Font Awesome, grab your font URLs from the GTmetrix Waterfall tab and add them to the preconnect section.

Third-Party-Usage

 

10. OMGF | Host Google Fonts Locally

OMGF can fix Google Font-related errors by downloading all your Google Fonts (using the Google Fonts Helper API) and generating a stylesheet for them. You will need to configure the settings to serve fonts from your CDN and select the folders to save font files to. While some plugins like WP Rocket and SG Optimizer already optimize fonts, OMGF can often yield better results especially when served from a CDN. The Self-Hosted Google Fonts plugin is similar.

Google-Fonts-GTmetrix

What it looks like:

OMGF-Settings

Tip: if using external fonts, be minimal with the number of fonts (and font weights) you choose. If for some reason this plugin doesn’t fix errors, I have a guide for hosting Google Fonts locally.

 

11. CAOS | Host Google Analytics Locally

Leverage Brower Caching Google Analytics

CAOS fixes the leverage browser caching item in GTmetrix by hosting Google Analytics locally. Install the plugin, enter your Tracking-ID, and CAOS will add the Tracking Code to the header or footer. But if you’re using WP Rocket or Perfmatters, these already have this functionality.

CAOS-Analytics-Settings

 

12. wpDiscuz

Why is wpDiscuz in my list of WordPress speed plugins?

Because with wpDiscuz, I get an awesome comment plugin on my blog with virtually no expense to my GTmetrix report. This is usually not the case with other commenting plugins. Go to your wpDiscuz settings and use the tweaks below which should make the plugin load faster.

Recommended settings to speed up wpDiscuz:

Comment Thread Displaying → initiate AJAX loading after page and lazy load comment.

Disqus-Comment-Thread-Displaying

General → disable “use WordPress native AJAX functions” and enable combine/minify JS/CSS.

Disqus-General-Settings

Styles And Colors → disable “load font awesome CSS lib.”

Disqus-Load-Font-Awesome-CSS-Lib

 

13. Flying Scripts

Flying_Scripts_by_WP_Speed_Matters

This plugin helps you optimize third party scripts found in GTmetrix (reduce DNS lookups) and PageSpeed Insights (minimize third party scripts).

It delays loading of JavaScript until the timeout period you set in the plugin. For example, you can delay loading your comments plugin and Gravatars for 3 seconds which can significantly speed up initial load times. In fact, Flying Scripts is the only plugin that let me show Gravatars without them affecting GTmetrix. It is definitely one of my favorite WordPress speed plugins.

Flying-Scripts

 

14. WP User Avatar

The blank default Gravatar can still create errors in GTmetrix.

If you don’t want it to, install the WP User Avatar plugin which hosts the default Gravatar locally. Upload your own optimized Gravatar image (ideally a 50×50 pixel compressed image).

WP-User-Avata

 

15. CDN Enabler

CDN Enabler helps you set up a CDN (content delivery network). This does not work with Cloudflare which requires changing nameservers, while CDN enabler is specifically for StackPath, KeyCDN, and other CDNs that provide a CDN URL. First, sign up for a CDN (I use StackPath) then enter your CDN URL into the CDN Enabler plugin. See instructions below:

Step 1: Sign up for a CDN (I use StackPath who has 34 data centers) and create a CDN site.

Step 2: Grab Your CDN URL:

StackPath-CDN-URL

Step 3: Enter your CDN URL into CDN Enabler, then configure the settings:

CDN-Enabler-Plugin-Settings

 

16. Breeze By Cloudways

Breeze is only if you’re using Cloudways hosting.

It has a long way to go if they want to catch up to SG Optimizer or WP Rocket, and I would personally use WP Rocket instead as it lacks many features (probably why it doesn’t have the best ratings). While I highly recommend Cloudways hosting, I can’t recommend Breeze yet.

Breeze-Cache-Plugin

While the Cloudways Breeze plugin isn’t great, their hosting is.

SiteGround-vs-Cloudways

 

17. Autoptimize

Optimizes HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You don’t need Autoptimize unless you’re hosted on GoDaddy, WP Engine, or any host who blacklists cache plugins, since WP Rocket and most cache plugins optimize the code for you. But while GoDaddy and WP Engine’s built-in caching might be fine, it doesn’t optimize HTML/CSS/JS. That’s where Autoptimize comes into play.

Autoptimize

 

18. WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache is usually rated one of the top free cache plugins and is easy to configure. However, it lacks quite a few features and if you want them, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version, in which case you’ll be better off with WP Rocket. I have a configuration tutorial on the WP Fastest Cache settings as well as W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.

WP-Fastest-Cache-Settings

 

19. ToolKit For Elementor

ToolKit does a little bit of everything (minification, combination, font optimization, lazy load, bloat removal, gzip, browser caching, expires headers), but it doesn’t do everything. You’ll be better off using WP Rocket combined with Perfmatters. One thing I like about ToolKit is the option to disable unused widgets in Elementor, WordPress, and in the WordPress dashboard.

ToolKit-for-Elementor

 

20. AMP For WP

I was using AMP, but I ultimately disabled it and now I don’t. But if you want to add AMP (accelerated mobile pages) to WordPress, this is one of the most highly rated AMP plugins since it has lots of customization options. One of the frustrating parts about AMP is that it strips some of your design elements, so you want to make sure the mobile pages still look nice.

Warning: AMP can sometimes decrease mobile conversions. Read Kinsta’s study on how their conversions dropped 59% when using AMP. I ultimately decided against it.

AMP-Pages

This plugin has tons of settings for customizing mobile pages:

Accelerated-Mobile-Pages-Plugin-Settings

 

21. Query Monitor

Find your slow loading plugins, queries, scripts, and other elements that take longest to load. Make sure you delete it when you’re done, since Query Monitor can cause high CPU in itself.

Query Monitor Slow Plugins

You can also use GTmetrix Waterfall to find your slowest plugins:

Slow WordPress Plugin

 

22. Display PHP Version

Display PHP Version simply shows which PHP version you’re running. Faster PHP versions = faster load times, so be sure to login to your hosting account and use the latest PHP version.

Display-PHP

 

23. GTMetrix For WordPress

The GTmetrix WordPress plugin monitors your load times and PageSpeed + YSlow scores, then sends you a report directly in your WordPress dashboard, or through scheduled email reports.

GTmetrix-WordPress-Dashboard-Widget

GTmetrix-Scheduled-WordPress-Reports

GTmetrix-Scheduled-Reports

 

24. WP Hosting Performance Check

Shows overall performance of hosting and whether your technology (PHP, MySQL, WordPress versions) is running slow, in which case it should be updated. It also shows your slowest pages.

Hosting-PHP-Server-Response

Browser-Load-Speed

Web-Server-Response-Time

Bytecheck.com and GTmetrix also show your TTFB (time to first byte) in the Waterfall tab:

TTFB Check

GTmetrix TTFB

Cool Trick: one of the only things PageSpeed Insights is good for is checking for server response times. Google says it should be under 200ms. If not, your server (hosting) is slow.

Reduce Server Response Time Under 200ms

 

25. Better Search Replace

If you see minimize redirects in your GTmetrix report, this usually means you changed the WWW or HTTPS version of your site, but didn’t change your links to reflect the new version.

Minimize-Redirects

Instead of fixing all your links manually, use the Better Search And Replace plugin to update them in bulk. It can also be helpful for fixing broken links, or even bulk updating links/images which appear on multiple pages/posts. Better Search Replace can be an enormous time saver.

Better Search Replace – WWW Versions

 

Other Notable Tools / Resources

Cloudways and SiteGround – they are usually rated the top hosts in Facebook polls by far, with many people who migrated and posted their new load times. Both use cloud hosting and are extremely fast; SiteGround is more user-friendly but renewal prices are high and they have strict CPU limits. Cloudways is usually faster but more technical and they don’t support direct email hosting (you would need a Rackspace account). Both are very fast and do free migrations.

Cloudways Response Times

SiteGround Load Time Migration

SiteGround-Bluehost-Migration

Switching To SiteGround

Godaddy to DigitalOcean Migration

2018 Hosting Recommendations

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

VPS Cloud Hosting WooCommerce Poll

Hosting Recommendations Facebook

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Untitled

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

SiteGround-HostGator-Migration

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

Vultr Migration

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Suggestions

VPS Cloud Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Preferred-Web-Hosting-Poll

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for Cloudways or SiteGround using my affiliate link, I will earn a commission at no expense to you. I am not an affiliate for Bluehost, HostGator, or GoDaddy because they’re not fast and the results show it. I also donate a good chunk of my blog’s income to GoFundMe campaigns and would seriously appreciate your support. I try to make recommendations based on pure evidence.

Cloudflare – free CDN and speed/security service which mirrors your site (and offloads resources) on over 200+ data centers. Integrates with most cache plugins with options to use aggressive minification, Railgun, and hotlinking. All my cache plugin tutorials include Cloudflare setup instructions and don’t forget to set up page rules for your WordPress site.

StackPath – paid CDN which adds 30+ additional data centers around the world (more data centers = faster content delivery), reducing the distance between your website/visitors – a recommendation in the WordPress optimization guide. $10/month with a free 30-day trial.

Pingdom – most accurate tool for measuring load times according to WP Rocket, though GTmetrix has better recommendations for actually optimizing your site, in my humble opinion.

GTmetrix – good for identifying images that need to be optimized using the 3 methods: serving scaled images (resizing them), specifying images dimensions in the HTML/CSS, and optimizing images (lossless compression). GTmetrix recently switched to a fully loaded time metric which shows a longer load time than previously. Their waterfall tab measures individual slow loading elements, and if your time to first byte is long that indicates your hosting is slow.

Google PageSpeed Insights – most recommendations can be ignored but it’s good for measuring server response time which Google recommends <200ms or your hosting is slow.

Pronaya (My WordPress Speed Optimizer) – you can hire my WordPress speed optimizer on freelancer.com who I’ve been working with for 5 years and we’ve optimized multiple sites to load 500% faster. His name is Pronaya, he’s $40/hour and has a perfect 5/5 star review with 19 reviews (just sign up for a Freelancer account and search for user BDKAMOL). If you think I’m good at speed optimization, Pronaya is way better. I’ve also been working with Usama (his username is I333) who is quite cheaper but is also amazing with 4.9/5 stars and 375+ reviews.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 What are the 5 most important speed plugins?

WP Rocket, SG Optimizer, OMGF, Perfmatters, and Autoptimize are 5 top speed optimization plugins.

🚀 What is the best cache plugin?

WP Rocket was rated the #1 cache plugin in numerous Facebook polls because it has more speed features than other cache plugins including database cleanup, heartbeat control, lazy load, and optimizing Google Analytics. WP Fastest Cache is usually rated the top free cache plugin, and SG Optimizer is good if you're on SiteGround.

🚀 What's the best image optimization plugin?

ShortPixel, TinyPNG, Imagify, and Smush are 4 popular image optimization plugins.

🚀 Which plugin is best for optimizing fonts?

OMGF, Perfmatters, WP Rocket, and Autoptimize all have font optimization options. WP Rocket and Perfmatters let you preconnect them which makes them load even faster.

🚀 Should I add AMP?

We chose not to use AMP after reading Kinsta's article about how their conversions dropped by roughly 50% due to AMP.

My WordPress Speed Optimization Tutorial – has 400+ comments with people saying things like “My page speed score on gtmetrix went from 69 to 93” and “this might be one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever read.” Tons of people have used it to improve Pingdom/GTmetrix scores.

I hope you find these WordPress speed optimization plugins useful! If you have questions leave me a comment. Or if you simply need to fix your slow WordPress site, see my tutorial above. It has over 400 comments and has helped many people reduce their load time to <1s.

Cheers,
Tom

The Ideal WP Rocket Settings With Cloudflare + CDN Instructions Which Got Me 1.2s GTmetrix Load Times (2020, Latest Version 3.6.1)

These are the same WP Rocket settings I used to get this GTmetrix report.

WP Rocket was rated #1 in numerous Facebook polls because it comes with more speed optimization features than any other cache plugin. That’s why it usually yields better results in GTmetrix, Pingdom, and PageSpeed Insights. It also means you don’t need to install a bunch of extra plugins (Heartbeat Control, plugins for hosting Google Fonts and Analytics locally, etc).

I will show you how to optimize fonts, the difference between CDNs (Cloudflare, RocketCDN, StackPath), configure Cloudflare settings and page rules, optimize third party requests using preload and prefetch, image optimization plugins, WebP images, and how to delete old plugin tables in your database which you can’t do with WP Rocket (we will use WP-Optimize for this).

I tried to make this tutorial as robust (and simple) as possible. But if you still need help configuring the WP Rocket settings, drop a comment with your questions or GTmetrix report.

  1. Dashboard
  2. Cache
  3. File Optimization
  4. Media
  5. Preload
  6. Advanced Rules
  7. Database
  8. CDN
  9. Heartbeat
  10. Add-Ons
  11. Cloudflare
  12. Image Optimization
  13. Tools

If you haven’t bought WP Rocket yet, I would appreciate you using my affiliate link. I also donate a good chunk of my affiliate income to charity. You can get 10% off by going to their Coupons Page, sign up for their email list, and they will send you a code.

 

1. Dashboard

Leave both options off unless you want to be a beta tester or let WP Rocket collect your data anonymously which results in a (very small) performance decrease. RocketCDN is covered in the CDN section, but you don’t need it if you’re using Cloudflare. You can clear the cache or regenerate critical CSS if you make design/plugin changes but they don’t appear on your site.

WP-Rocket-Dashboard-Settings

 

2. Cache

These are good cache settings as long as you don’t use a plugin for your mobile website and don’t allow multiple users to login to your site (eg. bbPress). I increased cache lifespan from 10 to 24 so the cache doesn’t have to refresh as often, which saves a little bit on server resources.

WP-Rocket-Cache-Settings

Mobile Cache – enables caching for mobile devices. Only enable “separate cache files for mobile devices” if you use a plugin for your mobile website (like the free version of WP Touch).

User Cache – leave disabled unless you have multiple users logging into your website (bbPress for example) where there is user-specific content. It gives each user their own cached version.

Cache Lifespan – a lower number means the cache will refresh more frequently, but it consumes more resources. A cache lifespan with a lower number means it won’t refresh as frequently, but saves resources. Do you care more about your cache building frequently or saving server resources? Since I only publish a couple posts a week, I increased it to 24 hours.

 

3. File Optimization

All HTML, CSS, and JavaScript settings should be enabled individually while testing your site for visible errors. These are the file optimization settings I use which gave me the best results in GTmetrix, but you should be testing your GTmetrix report to check the impact of each setting.

WP-Rocket-File-Optimization-Settings

Minify Files – enables minification of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Check your site for visible minification errors after enabling each one. If you see any, view your source code, find the problematic CSS or JavaScript files, and exclude them from being minified. That way, you still get the benefits on minification (just not for that file). Otherwise, they should all be enabled.

Combine Files – just like minify, enable and check your site for errors.

Optimize Google Fonts – this compresses fonts into 1 single file, ensures text remains visible while loading fonts, and preconnects fonts (tells browsers you intend to load Google Fonts). Remember to prefetch/preload fonts in the Preload tab and be minimal with fonts/weights.

Exclude CSS – if for some reason a minification option messes up your site layout, locate the problematic file and add it here. See WP Rocket’s article on resolving issues with minification.

Optimize CSS Delivery – your page will start loading without CSS styles which is a depreciated item in PageSpeed Insights. WP Rocket automatically generates this for you. WP Rocket says:

“By enabling these options you may see an improvement in your performance grade on GTmetrix, Pingdom Tools, and Google PageSpeed Insights. Results will vary from site to site. Always remember to test the effect on the speed of your site. “

JavaScript Files – same concept as CSS only with JavaScript files.

 

4. Media

Most sites should enable everything especially in the lazyload settings. If you use embedded YouTube videos on your site, replacing the YouTube iframe with a preview image can cut load times in half since videos are very heavy. You’ll also still need a plugin to create WebP images.

WP-Rocket-Media-Settings

Lazy Load – delays loading of images, iframes, and videos until you scroll down the page and they become visible. This significantly reduces initial load times and HTTP requests, but constantly loading images as you scroll can be annoying (test it out for yourself). Always lazy load videos and replace iframes with a preview image since embedded videos are very heavy.

Disable Emojis – emojis slow down your site. You can also disable them under Settings → Writing → Formatting, then do not convert emoticons.

Disable WordPress Embeds – similar to Cloudflare’s hotlink prevention, it prevents other sites from embedding your content on their site which sucks up bandwidth and stresses your server.

WebP Caching – enable if you’re using WebP images. If you’re not using WebP images already, you should since they load faster and look nicer than JPEG + PNG. Using WebP also fixes the serve images in next-gen format item in PageSpeed Insights. You will still need a plugin that converts images to WebP. I use WebP Converter For Media plugin but Imagify, ShortPixel, and most image optimization plugins have an option to convert images to WebP (TingPNG does not unfortunately). Finally, check your image files in the source code to make sure they use .webp.

 

5. Preload

Preloading is done automatically by WP Rocket when you activate it with your XML sitemap. Prefetching and preloading fonts are especially important for optimizing fonts and third party scripts which you can find in the Reduce DNS Lookups section of your GTmetrix YSlow report.

WP-Rocket-Preload-Settings

Prefetch DNS Requests – run your site through GTmetrix and look at the Reduce DNS Lookups section in your YSlow report. You will see all third party scripts loading on your site which can be anything from Google Fonts to Google Analytics, Maps, ASense, Tag Manager, YouTube, or even social media platforms if you embed social posts or use social share buttons on your blog.

WordPress External Scripts

Grab all those URLs from your report and paste them into the Prefetch DNS Requests section of WP Rocket. This will help browsers anticipate those external requests and load them faster.

Or use this list of common domains to prefetch as a reference:


//maps.googleapis.com
//maps.gstatic.com
//fonts.googleapis.com
//fonts.gstatic.com
//use.fontawesome.com
//ajax.googleapis.com
//apis.google.com
//google-analytics.com
//www.google-analytics.com
//ssl.google-analytics.com
//www.googletagmanager.com
//www.googletagservices.com
//googleads.g.doubleclick.net
//adservice.google.com
//pagead2.googlesyndication.com
//tpc.googlesyndication.com
//youtube.com
//i.ytimg.com
//player.vimeo.com
//api.pinterest.com
//assets.pinterest.com
//connect.facebook.net
//platform.twitter.com
//syndication.twitter.com
//platform.instagram.com
//referrer.disqus.com
//c.disquscdn.com
//cdnjs.cloudflare.com
//cdn.ampproject.org
//pixel.wp.com
//disqus.com
//s.gravatar.com
//0.gravatar.com
//2.gravatar.com
//1.gravatar.com
//sitename.disqus.com
//s7.addthis.com
//platform.linkedin.com
//w.sharethis.com
//s0.wp.com
//s1.wp.com
//s2.wp.com
//stats.wp.com
//ajax.microsoft.com
//ajax.aspnetcdn.com
//s3.amazonaws.com
//code.jquery.com
//stackpath.bootstrapcdn.com
//github.githubassets.com
//ad.doubleclick.net
//stats.g.doubleclick.net
//cm.g.doubleclick.net
//stats.buysellads.com
//s3.buysellads.com

Preload Fonts – copy your font files from GTmetrix Waterfall (they have a tab for font files) and paste them in WP Rocket’s preload fonts field. Retest your website and they should load faster.

Google-Fonts-Waterfall

 

6. Advanced Rules

Advanced Rules are mainly for eCommerce sites, however WP Rocket is already compatible with most solutions like WooCommerce and BigCommerce. But if you’re having issues with cart widgets, caching, or something related to eCommerce, they have documentation for that.

Otherwise, leave this blank.

WP-Rocket-Advanced-Rules

Never Cache URLs – if you’re using an eCommerce shopping cart that is not supported by WP Rocket, add your cart and checkout pages here which will exclude these pages from the cache.

Never Cache Cookies – same principle as previous option only based on cookies.

Never Cache User Agents – prevents Googlebot or other user agents from caching pages.

Always Purge URLs – let’s say you have a blogroll on your homepage. If you create a new post, you want that homepage blogroll updated immediately by emptying the homepage cache. That’s what this setting does, however WP Rocket automatically clears the cache for your homepage, categories and tags once new content is created… so there is usually no need for this. But if there are other page’s cache you want cleared when new content is posted, add it.

Cache Query Strings – mainly used to cache search result pages + price filters on eCommerce.

 

7. Database

Scheduling database cleanups keeps your site and admin fast, just know what you’re deleting!

WP-Rocket-Database-Settings

  • Revisions – old versions of your posts which are saved when you hit “Publish.”
  • Auto Drafts – automatically saved versions of your post if you don’t hit “Publish.”
  • Trashed Posts – posts and drafts you deleted.
  • Spam Comments – comments marked as spam.
  • Trashed Comments – comments marked as trash.
  • Expired Transients – transients that have expired and are still in your database.
  • All Transients – stores data that takes a long time to retrieve (eg. social counts on blogs).
  • Optimize Tables – optimizes database tables to run more efficiently.
  • Automatic Cleanup – how often you want WP Rocket to clean your database.

Delete Unused Plugin Tables (Not With WP Rocket) – one thing WP Rocket doesn’t do is let you go through your individual database tables and delete tables left behind by old plugins that aren’t installed anymore. I recommend installing WP-Optimize and going through your tables every so often, especially if you deleted plugins (plus it shows you the actual size of the tables). The tables that say “not installed” are the ones that were left behind by old, uninstalled plugins.

WP-Optimize-Tables

 

8. CDN

You should really just use Cloudflare’s free CDN, in which case you would change nameservers and don’t need to do anything in this tab (see the Cloudflare tab instead).

WP Rocket says you shouldn’t use RocketCDN on top of Cloudflare. And since WP Rocket uses StackPath’s data centers for RocketCDN (who only has around 32 data centers), you’re better off on Cloudflare who has 200 data centers and counting. More data centers = faster website.

WP Rocket’s CDN tab is only for setting up CDNs who use CDN URLs (StackPath, KeyCDN, BunnyCDN), it is not for Cloudflare (which requires changing nameservers and using the Cloudflare tab) or RocketCDN (requires signing up through WP Rocket).

That means there is nothing to do in WP Rocket’s CDN settings since CDN URLs don’t work with Cloudflare or RocketCDN (they’re specifically for StackPath, BunnyCDN, KeyCDN, etc).

Here’s the catch.

I’m using both Cloudflare and StackPath. Yeah, I’m going against advice not to use multiple CDNs, but it’s been working great and I’m offloading a ton of bandwidth to StackPath. While I don’t advise this and it’s not recommended by WP Rocket, it works for me. If you want to try this, sign up for StackPath, create a CDN site, then copy/paste your CDN URL into WP Rocket.

StackPath-Bandwidth-Savings

Grab your StackPath CDN URL:

StackPath-CDN-URL-WP-Rocket

Paste the CDN URL into WP Rocket:

WP-Rocket-CDN-Settings

Testing CDNs – since Cloudflare is set up differently and requires changing nameservers, the “content delivery network” in GTmetrix YSlow will be red (but will be green for other CDNs).  That doesn’t mean Cloudflare isn’t working; use the Claire Chrome Extension to make sure it is.

Exclude Files From CDN – lets you serve files locally instead of the CDN. Usually, these files come from plugins designed to disregard cross domain load. In most cases, there is no need.

Example:

  • {uploads_dir}/wpcf7_captcha/*
  • {uploads_dir}/imagerotator.swf
  • {plugins_dir}/wp-fb-autoconnect/facebook-platform/channel.html

 

9. Heartbeat

Instead of using the Heartbeat Control plugin, WP Rocket has it built-in.

The WordPress Heartbeat API tells you when other users are editing a page/post and shows you real-time plugin notifications. You usually want to disable Heartbeat completely, or at least reduce it, since it consumes resources and contributes to CPU overages (eg. on SiteGround).

WP-Rocket-Heartbeat-Settings

 

10. Add-Ons

If you’re using any of these services, activate it’s add-on.

WP-Rocket-Add-Ons

Google Tracking – fixes the “leverage browser caching” issue for Google Analytics in your GTmetrix report by hosting Google Analytics locally. If it’s still not 100%, use the Flying Analytics plugin. If you’re using Google Analytics, remember to optimize it in the Preload tab.

Facebook Pixel  – enable if using Facebook Pixel to host it locally. If you’re using Facebook Pixel, remember to optimize it in the Preload tab.

Cloudflare – enable if using Cloudflare.

Synchronize Sucuri Cache – enable if using Sucuri. This automatically clears Sucuri’s cache whenever you clear WP Rocket’s cache which helps keep your content synchronized. For the Sucuri Firewall API Key (For Plugin), login to Sucuri here, select your website, go to the API tab, then copy your API Key (For Plugin) and paste in WP Rocket when you expand the Sucuri field.

 

11. Cloudflare

As mentioned earlier, Cloudflare is the only CDN you need which offloads a ton of bandwidth.

Cloudflare-Bandwidth-Savings

Sign up for Cloudflare and you will come to a page where they assign you 2 nameservers.

Cloudflare-GoDaddy-Nameservers

Change nameservers in your domain registrar to the one’s Cloudflare gave you.

SiteGround-DNS-Records

Add your Cloudflare information to WP Rocket.

WP-Rocket-Cloudflare-Add-On

Global API Key and Zone ID are found in your Cloudflare dashboard.

Cloudflare Global API Key

  • Global API Key – found in your Cloudflare dashboard.
  • Account Email – same email you used to sign up for Cloudflare.
  • Zone ID – found in your Cloudflare dashboard.
  • Domain – your website’s domain name.
  • Development Mode – use when making a lot of code changes to your site.
  • Optimal Settings – activates optimal Cloudflare settings: minification, aggressive caching, and deactivates Rocket Loader for better compatibility. Most common issue is Rocket Loader, but I also noticed it turns on email decoding which made my GTmetrix report worse, so I don’t use this (and instead configured Cloudflare in their dashboard).
  • Relative Protocol – sometimes if people download files from your site, there are no contents in them. Leaving this option OFF will prevent this from happening.
  • Clear All Cloudflare Cache Files – do this after you’re done configuring WP Rocket.

Configure Cloudflare Settings In The Dashboard – a lot of people have been asking about Cloudflare’s dashboard and how to configure it. Here are the things I recommend you do.

Page Rule 1: Cache Everything And Force HTTPS – cache your website aggressively.

http://*yourwebsite.com/*

Always-Use-HTTPS-Page-Rule

Page Rule 2: Secure The WordPress Admin And Bypass Cache – sets security level of the admin to high and bypasses Cloudflare’s cache in the admin, since you don’t want CDNs (or apps + performance features like Rocket Loader) running inside the admin.

yourwebsite.com/wp-admin*

WordPress-Admin-Page-Rule

Page Rule 3: Decrease Bandwidth Of WP Uploads – since the content in your WP Uploads folder does not change frequently, increasing Edge Cache TTL to a month can save on bandwidth, since the WP Uploads folder cache won’t be refreshed as often.

yourwebsite.com/wp-content/uploads*

WP-Uploads-Page-Rule

As I mentioned, Cloudflare won’t fix “content delivery network” in GTmetrix YSlow because of the way it’s set up. Instead, use the Claire Chrome Extension to ensure Cloudflare is working.

 

12. Image Optimization

WP Rocket recommends Imagify because it’s their plugin.

But even when you select lossless compression, it’s definitely not lossless and neither is ShortPixel. I used both for many months and switched to TinyPNG which I’m very happy with. The only thing about TinyPNG is that it doesn’t support WebP in which case you will need a plugin like WebP Converter For Media. But I find the quality is much better than with Imagify.

WP-Rocket-Image-Optimization

 

13. Tools

Import and export your WP Rocket settings, or rollback to the previous version of WP Rocket.

WP-Rocket-Tools-Settings

Export Settings – export your settings to use on multiple sites.

Import Settings – import your pre-configured settings here.

Rollback – if you update to a new version of WP Rocket and it causes issues, this will fall back on the previous version.

 

WP Rocket = #1 Rated Cache Plugin

WP Rocket comes with many features most cache plugins don’t (see below). That means if you were to use other cache plugins, you would need to install about 6 extra plugins to get those features when WP Rocket already has them built-in (more features, yet less plugins on your site). That’s also why WP Rocket yields better results in GTmetrix/Pingdom and is what I use.

WP Rocket incorporates:

  • Database cleanup (built-in to WP Rocket, or use WP-Optimize)
  • Heartbeat control (built-in to WP Rocket, or use Heartbeat Control)
  • Lazy load images/videos (built-in to WP Rocket, or use WP YouTube Lyte)
  • Host Google Analytics locally (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS For Analytics)
  • Host Google Fonts locally (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS For Fonts)
  • Integration with Cloudflare + other CDNs (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CDN Enabler)

I tested WP Rocket against 3 top free cache plugins and while they all do a great job, WP Rocket gave me the best results in Pingdom (.4s load times). Your cache plugin and hosting are 2 main speed factors so it’s definitely worth the $49. Configuring the right WP Rocket settings with Cloudflare + StackPath can fix over 20 items in Pingdom and GTmetrix. So let’s do that :)

The WP Rocket settings are WAY easier to configure than W3 Total Cache and they update the changelog regularly so you’ll actually get ongoing updates. If you have questions (or want to share your new load time), drop me a comment. WP Rocket also has documentation which I reference throughout the guide. Good luck – remember to benchmark those Pingdom scores!

Here are the Facebook polls:

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

I tested WP Rocket, WP Fastest Cache, and W3 Total Cache… making sure all cache plugin settings were configured optimally. WP Rocket won BUT this with the lazy load feature turned ON. The other cache plugins do not have a lazy load option and when I turned lazy load off in WP Rocket, I got a .5s load time… the exact same as WP Fastest Cache. I didn’t see a huge difference when clicking through my pages – both loaded super quickly. I know Pingdom can show different load times during different tests, but I just wanted to share my own experience.

WP Rocket (.406)
Pingdom Page Speed Test

WP Fastest Cache (.527)
WP Fastest Cache Load Times

W3 Total Cache (.619)
W3 Total Cache Load Times

 

Recommended Host: Cloudways

In case you were wondering what hosting I use, it’s Cloudways DigitalOcean.

SiteGround-vs-Cloudways

Join the WordPress Hosting FB Group to see what real, unbiased people are saying. Look at Facebook polls and tweets of people who migrated and posted their server response times.

I signed up for 15+ different hosting plans and tested them with the identical website:

DigitalOcean On Cloudwayscwdoserver.com had the fastest load times, is who I use, and are very popular in Facebook Groups (especially as a SiteGround alternative). Cloudways does monthly pricing starting at $10/month with no high renewal prices or strict CPU limits like SiteGround. Their stack is very fast: PHP 7.4, Maria DB 10.3, Memcached, Varnish, Nginx, and Redis. Only complaint is their email hosting costs $1/month (you will need a Rackspace account). Their community manager is helpful and they do free migrations. Get 25% off your first 2 months with the code OMM25.

Kinstaknstaserver.com has similar speeds as DigitalOcean on Cloudways only they are more expensive starting at $30/month. Known for being capable of handling many concurrent visitors. People consistently recommend Kinsta in Facebook Groups, Twitter, and in migration results. Even though they’re not always #1 in Facebook polls (likely because not everyone can pay $30+/month), they are great for high traffic sites.

WPX Hostingwpxserver.com is also very quick, but Cloudways and Kinsta are slightly faster. Starts at $20-$25/month and is who Matthew Woodward recommends.

A2 Hostingatwoserver.com usually outperforms other shared hosting, but it’s not nearly as fast as cloud hosting (just cheaper). I use them for my girlfriend’s restaurant website and it’s decently fast with good uptimes. A2 (and all shared hosting) is only sufficient for smaller sites with lower traffic and plugins. Check this Facebook poll.

SiteGround – have gone downhill in my opinion and are no longer my recommended host. Load times and TTFB on stgrndserver.com were usually above 1s. Many complaints about their renewal prices, price hikes, CPU limits, and support isn’t as good as it used to be. SiteGround shifted to Google Cloud hosting (instead of shared) which is supposed to be faster, but they didn’t perform well. Their SG Optimizer plugin will help, but I still wouldn’t use them. You will be much better off on CW DigitalOcean.

Affiliate Disclaimer – I would seriously appreciate you using my affiliate links which means I earn a commission at no expense to you. This would help me make GoFundMe donations ($6,000 so far)! I try to base my recommendations on tests, Facebook polls, and conversations I see on a daily basis in the 30+ WP Facebook Groups I’m active on.

I would personally skip shared hosting since cloud hosting is exponentially faster. This is especially true if you’re on GoDaddy or EIG brands (eg. Bluehost and HostGator) and for resource-intensive websites running WooCommerce, WPML, page builders, or slow plugins.

There are plenty of migration results if you check Twitter and Facebook Groups. Avoid the bloggers promoting Bluehost and WP Engine because they have the highest commissions and do your research. Hosting is the #1 factor in WordPress’ optimization guide – very important!

Cloudways Response Times

Godaddy to DigitalOcean Migration

VPS Cloud Hosting WooCommerce Poll

Hosting Recommendations Facebook

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

2018 Hosting Recommendations

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

Untitled

Vultr Migration

WordPress Hosting Suggestions

VPS Cloud Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

 

View My Full WordPress Speed Guide

Here’s my full WordPress speed guide, or watch my video. It’s a 42 minute video but I cover pretty much everything (timestamps in video description) and you will learn lots of good stuff.

 

FAQs / Documentation

I spent many hours digging through their documentation to make sure this tutorial uses the best WP Rocket settings, but they are still extremely helpful if you haven’t checked them out.

wp rocket documentation

There are also video tutorials in the Tutorials tab to help configure your WP Rocket settings.

wp rocket video tutorials

Tutorials I found the most helpful:

🚀 What's the best way to configure WP Rocket?

The most important steps are to enable everything you can in the file optimization tab, set up CDNs like Cloudflare + StackPath, disable WordPress heartbeat, and activate any services you're using in the Add-Ons tab.

🚀 How do I add a CDN with WP Rocket?

If using Cloudflare, you will simply change nameservers. If using an external CDN like StackPath or KeyCDN, you will copy/paste your CDN URL into WP Rocket. If using RocketCDN (powered by StackPath), sign up through the prompt in WP Rocket.

🚀 Why was WP Rocket rated #1 in most Facebook polls?

It comes with many features other cache plugins don't have: database cleanup, heartbeat control, option for multiple CDNs, lazy loading, local Analytics, Facebook Pixel browser caching, and more. That's why WP Rocket usually yields the best results in GTmetrix.

🚀 Which image optimization plugin works best with WP Rocket?

Even though they recommend Imagify which is owned by WP Rocket, I use ShortPixel because I see virtually no quality loss and still get 100% for Optimize Images in GTmetrix.

🚀 What other speed optimization plugins do you need besides WP Rocket?

You still need an image optimization plugin like ShortPixel, font optimization (eg. OMGF), and I also recommend using Asset CleanUp or Perfmatters to selectively disable plugins.

 

Get Help From My WordPress Speed Optimizer

Still need help with your GTmetrix report?

I’ve been working with Pronaya for 7 years (he’s the one who optimized my GTmetrix report). You can hire him by signing up for freelancer.com and searching for username bdkamol. Here is his full WordPress speed portfolio. He’s $40/hour from Bangladesh (so there is a time change) and you can email him at bdkamol@gmail.com. He also has a perfect 5 star review on his Freelancer profile. Serious inquiries only, and please don’t expect 100% scores if you’re using slow hosting, a bloated theme, and tons of heavy plugins. Please follow my speed guides first.

Pronaya-Kumar-S-Reviews

Here are some reviews on his profile:

BDkamol-WordPress-Speed-Reviews

So… how are those GTmetrix scores looking? Let me know in the comments!

See Also: How I Got 100% Scores In GTmetrix

If you found this tutorial helpful, a share is always appreciated :)

Cheers,
Tom

How To Optimize Images In WordPress (For Both Speed + SEO)

When it comes to image optimization, you’ve probably heard enough about alt text.

There are actually 20 different ways to optimize images (if you include both SEO and speed optimization). These will give you better scores in GTmetrix/Pingdom, potentially rank you higher in search, and make your content load much faster. I’ve managed to get a 100% GTmetrix report with .5s load times… optimizing my images in WordPress was a big part of it.

Optimize images BEFORE uploading – using a program like Photoshop to optimize images before uploading them can save lots of work. You can resize, compress, strip EXIF data, save in correct format (eg. PNG/JPEG), and write a descriptive file name (which will automatically be used as the alt text if using the Automatic Image Alt Attributes plugin). That’s 6 optimizations!

If you require high resolution images (eg. a photography website), you may not want to resize and compress them (step 3 and 8) since these can reduce quality, even if it’s by a small amount.

Main tools I use – I use GIMP to resize/compress images (my image editor of choice), WP Rocket for my cache plugin, Imagify for further lossless compression + removing EXIF data, both Cloudflare and StackPath CDN, Automatic Image ALT Attributes plugin to automatically use the image file name as alt text, and Optimum Gravatar Cache to cache Gravatars in comments. I use WP Review Pro as my rich snippets plugin, Better Search Replace to bulk update images (very handy), and GTmetrix as my speed testing tool. See the full list of tools.

Table Of Contents

  1. Find Unoptimized Images
  2. Serve Scaled Images
  3. Specify Image Dimensions
  4. Losslessly Compress Images
  5. Combine Images Into CSS Sprites
  6. Avoid Image URL Redirects
  7. Serve Images From A CDN
  8. Cache Images
  9. Make Favicon Small And Cacheable
  10. Remove EXIF data
  11. Cloudflare Image Optimization
  12. Lazy Load Images
  13. Save As Correct Format
  14. Image File Names
  15. Alt Text
  16. Open Graph (Facebook + Twitter)
  17. Images In Featured Snippets
  18. Structured Data
  19. Style Images
  20. Resize GIFs
  21. Cache Gravatars
  22. Avoid Embedding Images From External Websites
  23. Image Optimization Tools

 

1. Find Unoptimized Images

Run your site through GTmetrix and you’ll see these items in the Page Speed/YSlow tabs. The first five are usually page-specific, meaning GTmetrix will only show the unoptimized images for the single page you test. The last 3 usually occur on your entire site. Of course, these are only 7 ways to optimize images, but some of the most important, so we’ll be doing these first.

  • Serve scaled images: resize large images to correct dimensions (step 2)
  • Specify image dimensions: specify a width/height in the image’s HTML or CSS (step 3)
  • Optimize images – losslessly compress images (step 4)
  • Combing images using CSS sprites – combine multiple images into 1 image (step 5)
  • Avoid URL redirects – don’t serve images from wrong www or http(s) version (step 6)
  • Use a content delivery network – serve images/files from a CDN (step 7)
  • Leverage browser caching –  cache images/files using your cache plugin (step 8)
  • Make favicon small and cacheable – use a 16x16px favicon and cache it (step 9)

Image Optimizations In GTmetrix

Start by fixing images that appear on multiple pages: logo, sidebar/footer images, etc. Also start with serve scaled images as you may have to resize/reupload them with new dimensions.

 

2. Serve Scaled Images

If you see serve scaled images errors in GTmetrix, it means you have oversized images and need to resize them to the correct dimensions (which GTmetrix provides you with). As long as you follow your image dimensions cheat sheet (see below), you shouldn’t see these errors. But if you already uploaded oversized images, you’ll need to resize them manually, or use a plugin.

Serve-Scaled-Images

Bulk Resize Images Using A Plugin – the problem with this, is that different images call for different dimensions (widgets, sliders, fullwidth images). While most image optimization plugins have an option to resize images to one single specific set of dimensions, you should really crop/resize them before uploading. If you do resize images using a plugin, keeps backups of the original images (and only test a few out) in case you’re not happy with the results.

Resize Large Images

Resize Images Manually – get the correct dimensions from GTmetrix and resize/reupload them. Remember, GTmetrix only shows unoptimized images for the single page you test.

Create A Cheat Sheet Of Your Website’s Image Dimensions
Your sliders, blog sidebar, featured images, and blog content body all call for specific dimensions which images should be resized to. Create a cheat sheet so you can resize them before uploading them to WordPress. This is especially helpful if you have many areas of your website requiring different images sizes, and if you have multiple designers/editors.

Example:

  • Slider images: 1900(w) x 400(h)
  • Carousel images: 115(h)
  • Widget images: 414(w)
  • Fullwidth blog post images: 680(w)
  • Featured images: 250(w) x 250(h)
  • Yoast Facebook OG image: 1200(w) x 628(h) – step 11
  • Yoast Twitter OG image 1024(w) x 512(h) – step 11

680 Pixel Width Rectangle

 

3. Specify Image Dimensions

This means adding a width/height to the image’s HTML or CSS. The Visual Editor does this for you (but widgets, some page builders, and custom HTML do not). Test a few pages in GTmetrix.

GTmetrix tells you the image’s dimensions…

Speciy Image Dimensions GTmetrix

Add the width/height to the image’s HTML…

Specify Image Dimensions

 

4. Losslessly Compress Images

These are “optimize images” items in GTmetrix. Many programs (eg. Photoshop and Gimp) have the option to compress when exported. While this is a great start, image compression plugins usually get even better results. I prefer Imagify, Kraken, ShortPixel, or Smush. Other plugins are known to visually reduce image quality and may cause errors with your images.

Compressing Images With Imagify

  1. Sign up for Imagify
  2. Install the Imagify Plugin
  3. You will be prompted with the instructions below:
  4. Enter your API key from your Imagify account
  5. Set your compression level (normal, aggressive, ultra)
  6. Imagif’em all (photo below) with bulk optimizes all images on your site
  7. Once you’ve reached your limit, pay $4.99 or wait next month to reset your limit

imagify

Test how images look with different levels of compression…

Imagify Compression Comparison

Once signed up, bulk optimize all images on your site…

imagify-wordpress-image-optimization

Set the option to optimize images on upload…

Imagify Optimize Images On Upload

 

5. Combine Images Into CSS Sprites

On my homepage, you may think you see 21 icons, but they’re actually 1 single image. This is a CSS sprite, where you combine multiple images into 1 single image. This reduces the number of images (and requests) which is why my homepage only has 10 requests. Instead of loading 21 images, it loads 1. You will need CSS knowledge to do this, or use a CSS sprite generator.

CSS Sprites

GTmetrix CSS Sprites

Only Use CSS Sprites For Decorative Images – you lose a lot of image alt tags when you combine 21 images into 1. Do NOT combine important images into CSS sprites if they describe your content. As for me, the speed of my homepage is more important than it’s SEO… I use my homepage’s GTmetrix report in a lot of places (so I have to keep it clean) and my homepage, believe it or not, doesn’t target a keyword. It’s purpose is to outline my tutorials… and load fast.

 

6. Avoid Image URL Redirects

If you changed to HTTPS, www versions, or started serving images from a CDN, you should bulk update all your images (and links) using Better Search Replace so they are serving the correct version. Otherwise you may see minimize redirects or use cookie-free domains errors.

Minimize Redirects

Cookie Free Domains

Use the Better Search Replace plugin to bulk update image URLs…

Better Search Replace WWW Versions

Better Search Replace HTTP vs. HTTPS

 

7. Serve Images From A CDN

This requires changing image URLs to include your CDN URL

  • Old Image URL (Without CDN)https://onlinemediamasters.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Tom-Dupuis-Widget.png
  • New Image URL (With CDN)https://t9w8m8j8.stackpathcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Tom-Dupuis-Widget.png

Cloudflare vs. StackPath – I use both Cloudflare and StackPath since more data centers = faster content delivery. Cloudflare has 200+ data centers, StackPath has 34+ data centers which are heavily located in the United States (which is where most my visitors are from). Cloudflare does not assign you a CDN URL so we’ll use StackPath’s CDN to serve images.

StackPath-Data-Centers

Step 1: Choose a CDN. I use StackPath (they have a 30-day trial).

Step 2: In the dashboard, click the CDN tab, then create a StackPath CDN Site

StackPath-CDN-Tab

StackPath-CDN-Domain

CDN-URL-StackPath

Step 3: Copy your CDN URL and paste it into your cache plugin (below is for WP Rocket)…

WP-Rocket-CDN

Step 4: Replace image URLs to include your CDN URL (using Better Search Replace).

Better Search Replace CDN URL

Step 5: Check for old image URLs using Chrome DevTools. Sometimes, your cache plugin or CDN Enabler takes care of this, except links in CSS and JavaScript which are hard-coded. For the links which are left behind, they are normally in files (such as CSS or Javascript) that need manual checking and replacing. Chrome DevTools shows you all domains currently being used.

Step 6: Run your site in GTmetrix and “content delivery network” should be green in YSlow. You shouldn’t have any errors in “minimize redirects” or “use cookie-free domains” either.

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

 

8. Cache Images

Most cache plugins have an option for browser caching, which caches images. I use WP Rocket which was rated the #1 cache plugin in multiple Facebook polls, and I have tutorial for that. Swift Performance is generally ranked the #1 free cache plugin (I have a tutorial for that too).

Browser Caching

 

9. Make Favicon Small And Cacheable

Ensure your favicon is 16x16px, is favicon.ico format, and is cached using your cache plugin.

 

10. Remove EXIF data

Exif data contains information such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal length, camera model, date the photo was taken, and more. You don’t need this for images on your website. The VA Removing Exif plugin removes Exif data automatically once images are uploaded.

Most image optimization plugins (including Imagify, ShortPixel, Kraken, EWWW, and Smush) have an option to remove EXIF data automatically. Here is the settings for Imagify…

Imagify Remove EXIF Data

 

11. Cloudflare Image Optimization

Cloudflare also has a few ways to optimize images. Mirage and Polish are found in your Cloudflare speed settings while Hotlink Protection is found in your Scrape Shield settings.

Cloudflare Mirage (Pro Feature) – reduces image requests, lazy loads images, and improves image load times on mobile devices with slow network connections. Here are more details…

  • Resizes images based on a visitor’s device/connection. A visitor on a poor connection will get a smaller version (lower resolution) until they are back on a higher bandwidth.
  • Reduces amount of requests – instead of sending multiple requests for all images on the website, Mirage pulls this into one request so visitors can see images immediately.
  • Lazy loads images (only loads them once users scroll down and actually see the image).

Cloudflare Image Mirage

Cloudflare Polish (Pro Feature) – strips EXIF data and compresses images.

Cloudflare Image Polish

Cloudflare Hotlink Protection – prevents people from copying your images and pasting them on their own website, which (since you’re still hosting that image) will suck up your bandwidth.

Cloudflare Hotlink Protection

 

12. Lazy Load Images

This delays the loading of images until users scroll down the page and visibly see the image. While it improves initial load times, constantly loading images as you scroll can be very annoying. I personally only lazy load videos, since those take much long to load than images.

You can use the Lazy Load plugin, Lazy Load For Videos plugin, or use WP Rocket…

WP-Rocket-Lazy-Load

 

13. Save As Correct Format

PNG vs. JPEG – PNG is uncompressed (larger file size) and should be used in simple images without lots of colors. JPEG is a compressed (smaller file size) which slightly reduces image quality but is smaller in size, and is used in images with lots of colors. GIMP and other image editing programs should use the correct format automatically, but this is still good to know.

jpg_vs_png

Illustration by Labnol
 

14. Image File Names

Search engines use both alt text and image file names, so name your files before uploading them to WordPress. If you’re using a plugin that adds alt text automatically based on the file name, naming your files is all you need to do! Do not stuff keywords, just describe the image.

Label Image File Names

 

15. Alt Text

These should be the same as your image file name. You can use the Automatic Image Alt Attributes plugin to automatically use the file name as the alt text. As long as you’re using relevant images, some of them should naturally include (bits) of your keyword… there is absolutely no reason to stuff keywords in images, which risks a keyword stuffing penalty.

Add Alt Text To Images Automatically – use the Automatic Image Alt Attributes plugin. Now whenever you add an image, the plugin will add alt text which is the same as the file name…

<img src="https://website.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/WP-Fastest-Cache-Plugin.jpg" alt="WP-Fastest-Cache-Plugin" width="577" height="247" />

Find Missing Alt Text – Screaming Frog is a free tool that shows you all images missing alt text.

  • Download Screaming Frog SEO Spider
  • Enter your website and click “Start” to crawl the website
  • Click the images tab
  • Go to Overview → Missing Alt Text (see below)
  • Locate those images on your site and add alt text

Missing Image Alt Text – Screaming Frog

 

16. Open Graph (Facebook + Twitter)

This makes your content format properly when shared on Facebook/Twitter, specifically your image since both networks use custom dimensions to display it, otherwise it will look funny.

facebook-share

If using Yoast, go to the “Social” settings and enable Open Graph for both Facebook/Twitter…

Yoast-Social-Meta-Data

Now edit a page/post, then click the “share” link in Yoast and you will see options to upload custom images for Facebook (1200 width x 628 height) and Twitter (1024 width x 512 height).

yoast-social-media-optimization

 

Featured snippets are when Google shows bits of your content at the top of search results and can (but are not guaranteed) to include an image. Google will pull these from any 1st page result, however it’s up to them whether they will even display a featured snippet or image. These also make your snippet show up twice and are an incredible way to get lots of traffic.

3 Types Of Featured Snippets

  • Answers
  • Tables
  • Lists

Featured-Image-Snippets

How To Get Featured Snippets In Google

  • Target a keyword where people want a concise answer
  • Use Moz Keyword Explorer to identify question keywords
  • Use Answer The Public to find even more question keywords
  • Choose whether the answer should be a paragraph, list, or table
  • Design a nice graphic (or take a photo) describing the keyword
  • Use optimal character length (see photo below taken from Moz)
  • Create fact-based content with quality references (links, graphics, etc)
  • Target keywords that already have an featured snippet but do a poor job
  • If you’re aiming for the answer box, target your keyword using an exact match
  • Make sure you’re on the 1st page for the keyword, if not, improve the content

Optimial Featured Snippets Length

 

18. Structured Data

Images can be used in structured data (and badges) for the following content types:

Video Rich Snippet

Recipe-Rich-Snippets

Product Rich Snippet

What Rich Snippets Plugin Should I Use?
I use MyThemeShop’s WP Review Pro (here’s a page I use it on) which supports 14 data types including recipes and product reviews. I used to use WP Rich Snippets but the developer abandoned the plugin and it hasn’t been updated for 2+ years, and the All In One Schema plugin is just boring (it has a lack of options and styling). WP Review Pro is very easy to use.

 

19. Style Images

Don’t forget to style your images! I use borders on most of mine.

  • Image Titles
  • Image Links
  • Image Borders
  • Image Captions

 

20. Resize GIFs

Just like you resize images to the correct dimensions, GIFs should be resized too (use GIF GIF).

Resize the GIF…

Resizing GIFs

Then compress it…

Compress GIFs

The result :-)

Optimize Dog GIF

 

21. Cache Gravatars

If you have posts with lots of comments, Gravatars can completely ruin your report. You can disable them, break comments to only show a certain number of comments, or try a Gravatar cache plugin. You may need to do a bit of testing as some plugins don’t work on some websites.

  • Cache Gravatars (Optimum, Harry’s, or FV Gravatar Cache)
  • Disable Gravatars completely
  • Set your default Gravatar to blank
  • Delete comments that don’t add value
  • Set your default Gravatar to a custom image on your server
  • Restrict your Gravatar images to smaller dimensions (e.g. 32px)
  • Paginate comments in WP Disable to only show 20 comments at a time
  • If none of these work, check out WP Rocket’s caching Gravatars tutorial

Cache-Gravatar-Images

 

22. Avoid Embedding Images From External Websites

Always upload images to your website, never copy/paste them. Otherwise you end up with extra requests as the image isn’t hosted on your server so it has to pull it from somewhere else.

 

23. Image Optimization Tools

Avoid using plugins with duplicate functionality – Imagify, ShortPixel, Kraken, EWWW, and Smush all basically do the same thing (lossless compression, EXIF data removal, resize images). WP Rocket has options for lazy load, caching, and CDN (and database cleanup + hosting Google Analytics locally) which most cache plugins do not, saving you from using extra plugins.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ How do you fix Optimize Image errors in GTmetrix?

By losslessly compressing them using a plugin like ShortPixel, Imagify, or Smush. I use ShortPixel because it always fixes this error in GTmetrix.

✅ How do you fix Serve Scaled Image errors in GTmetrix?

This means you need to crop/resize images to the correct dimensions. If images are too large, GTmetrix will show serve scaled image errors and tell you the correct dimensions they should be resized to.

✅ How do you fix Specify Image Dimension errors in GTmetrix?

View the image's HTML and check to make sure it has a specified width and height, as shown in this tutorial.

✅ Any other ways to make images load faster?

Removing EXIF data and using a CDN to serve your images will make the most difference outside the recommendations in GTmetrix.

✅ Which image optimization is best?

I use ShortPixel because there is virtually zero loss in quality and it fixes the Optimize Images item in GTmetrix.

 

What Do You Think?
Does your GTmetrix report look a little better? Let me know in the comments! And if you want more tips that will get you even better scores/load times, see my full WordPress speed guide.

New-GTmetrix-Report

See Also: How I Got 100% GTmetrix Scores

Cheers,
Tom

The Ideal Swift Performance Settings With Cloudflare + StackPath CDN Setup Instructions (With Facebook Polls) – 2019, Version 2.0.5

Swift Performance is the new cache plugin on the block, which has been getting raving reviews in the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group.

I’ve been using WP Rocket and already had 100% GTmetrix scores with a 1s load time (hard to beat), but Swift gave me near identical results. I stuck with WP Rocket, but I would rate Swift Performance Lite the #1 free cache plugin ahead of WP Fastest Cache, WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache, and the others. The Swift Performance settings are relatively easy to setup (I’ll walk you through everything). The Pro Version includes an image optimizer (for lossless compression + automatic image resizing), critical fonts, compute API, and support for their plugin. Cool part is, they have an option to pay monthly so you can try it for only $3.99/month.

Swift vs. WP Rocket – these are usually the top cache plugins in recent Facebook polls…

Swift-Performance-vs.-WP-Rocket-Poll

Swift-Performance-vs.-WP-Rocket

2018-WordPress-Cache-Plugin-Poll

Swift

  • Free (lite) version = amazing results
  • Mediocre documentation
  • Free version includes plugin organizer
  • Pro version includes critical fonts
  • Pro version includes image optimizer
  • Free

WP Rocket

  • Easier to configure
  • Better documentation
  • Facebook Pixel + Sucuri add-ons
  • No plugin organizer
  • No image optimizer
  • $49/year

Both Swift and WP Rocket support Cloudflare, CDN, heartbeat control, preloading, lazy loading photos/iframes, hosting Google Analytics locally, minification, script merging, gzip compression, and other features. They are actually very similar as far as their features go.

 

1. Wizard

The Wizard analyzes your site and helps configure basic Swift Performance settings. The out-of-the-box settings work great, but there are still more ways to optimize when you’re done…

Things You Still Need To Do

  • Tweaks → Cache Gravatars
  • Hearbeat → Disable All
  • Google Analytics → Bypass Google Analytics
  • Styles → Generate Critical CSS
  • Caching → General → Separate Mobile Device Cache (if using AMP or mobile theme)
  • Varnish → Custom Host
  • CDN → StackPath CDN
  • CDN → Sign up for Cloudflare and change name servers
  • Optimize Images (using Swift Pro or Imagify/Imsanity)
  • Database Optimizer → clean database
  • Plugin Organizer → enable/disable plugins on specific content

Swift-Performance-Lite-Setup-Wizard-Analyze-Your-Site

Swift-Performance-Lite-Setup-Wizard-Caching-Method

Swift-Performance-Lite-Setup-Wizard-Optimization

Swift-Performance-Lite-Setup-Wizard-Medi

Swift-Performance-Setup-Wizard-Finish

 

2. Dashboard

The dashboard shows stats, like how many known pages Swift detected vs. how many are actually cached. Swift also assigns each URL a prebuild priority and the date eache page was last cached. In the Warmup table, you can also manually add URLs if Swift didn’t detected it.

Swift-Performance-Dashboard

 

3. Settings

The general, media, optimization, caching, and CDN tabs are broken down into sections:

 

3.1. General

General

  • Disable Cookies – for GDPR when asking users to agree to cookies.
  • Hide Footprints – hide swift comments in the source code.
  • Use Compute API – speeds up merge settings and decreases CPU usage.
  • Enable Remote Cron – Swift’s API server will call wp-cron.php and run WP cronjobs as real cronjobs.
  • Debug Log – see warnings/errors shown in the log path (eg. public HTML folder).

Swift-Performance-General-Settings

Tweaks

  • Normalize Static Resources – attempts to remove query strings, however these are usually generated by slow plugins. The main way to get rid of them is to deactivate high CPU plugins (found in GTmetrix Waterfall) and replace them with lightweight plugins.
  • Prefetch DNS – anticipates external resources (eg. Google Fonts + YouTube videos).
  • Collect domains from scripts – helps with prefetching DNS.
  • Exclude DNS Prefetch – exclude domains you don’t want to be prefetched.
  • Gravatar Cache – caching Gravatars usually isn’t enough, you also want to offload them to a CDN and load Gravatars locally as explained in WP Rocket’s Gravatar tutorial. This improves load times for posts with lots of comments, as some of my posts have 300+ comments where Gravatars have suck up over 50% of load times.
  • Gravatar Cache Expiry – time Gravatar cache will expire (3600 is fine for most sites) but you can increase this if you notice it’s consuming too much CPU. If too high, users will never see the cached version. If too low, it can consume too much CPU.
  • Custom Htaccess – setup redirects or use it for other things.

Swift-Performance-Tweaks-Settings

Heartbeat
Speeds up WordPress admin and reduces CPU by disabling the Heartbeat API. This notifies users when content is being edited and allows plugins to send real-time notifications (adding requests). Disabling it saves CPU (WP Disable + Heartbeat Control plugin do the same thing).

Swift-Performance-Heartbeat-Settings

Google Analytics
Bypassing Google Analytics can fix items in GTmetrix/Pingdom related to Google Analytics. CAOS, WP Disable, and WP Rocket’s Google Tracking add-on also help fix items related to GA.

Leverage-Brower-Caching-Google-Analytics

Swift-Performance-Google-Analytics-Settings

 

3.2. Media

Images

  • Optimize Images on Upload – losslessly compress images which fixes “optimize images” in GTmetrix (only for the page you test). Imagify does this too and is what I use.
  • JPEG quality – keep at 100% to avoid lossy compression.
  • PNG quality – keep at 100% to avoid lossy compression.
  • Resize Large Images – resizes large imager to correct dimensions (many people upload oversized images). This fixes “serve scaled images” in GTmetrix. Imsanity does this too.
  • Keep Original Images – when Swift resizes large images, it will keep the original in case the new image isn’t the size you want it, so at least you have a backup of each image.
  • Inline Small Images – small external images are written directly into the HTML document, so the browser does not request those image files independently.
  • Lazyload – only loads images once you scroll down the page and actually see them. While this improves initial load times, it also means users constantly see images loading as they scroll down, which can be annoying. That’s why I only lazy load videos + iframes.
  • Force Responsive Images – uses the srcset attribute to provide several image sources for browsers so they can pick the right one.

Swift-Performance-Images-Settings

Embeds

  • Lazy Load Iframes – only loads iframes once you scroll down and see them.
  • Exclude Iframes – exclude certain iframes from being lazy loaded.
  • Load Iframes on User Interaction – only loads iframes when users interact with it (using the mouse move, roll, or touchstart).

Swift-Performance-Embeds-Settings

 

3.3. Optimization

General

  • Merge Assets for Logged in Users – disable, as it doesn’t improve load times and will likely do more harm than good, plus most optimizations should be on front-end.
  • Optimize Prebuild Only – disable unless you want to control when cache is built.
  • Optimize in Background – Swift will optimize pages in the background.
  • Fix Invalid HTML – some plugins/themes use invalid HTML, Swift will try to fix this.
  • Minify HTML – fixes multiple items in GTmetrix/Pingdom. Cloudflare takes care of this too, so you should only have 1 enabled (Swift or Cloudflare).
  • Disable Emojis – emojis add requests and hurt load times.
  • Limit Simultaneous Threads – speed of cache rebuild (lower if having CPU issues).
  • Maximum Threads – lower numbers = less CPU usage (2 is good).
  • DOM Parser Max Buffer – Swift developer set this numbers for a reason.

Swift-Performance-General-Optimization-Settings

Scripts
Merging/minifying JavaScript is notorious for causing errors, but I would test these and check your load times. If you see errors, find the problematic files and add them to ‘Exclude Scripts.’

  • Merge Scripts – many people say disable it, but I would test it.
  • Async Execute – JavaScript will theoretically load as 1 request and will be executed while the script is still loading, but it can also break things, so test option carefully.
  • Exclude 3rd Party Scripts – enable if using Merge Scripts, disable if you’re not.
  • Exclude Scripts – exclude problematic files if minifying JavaScript results in errors.
  • Exclude Inline Scripts – exclude problematic files if Merge Scripts results in errors.
  • Exclude Script Localizations – Swift developer recommends enabling it, otherwise you may have separate JavaScript files for all your pages.
  • Minify Javascripts – enable and check your site. If you see errors, exclude problematic files under Exclude Scripts (Cloudflare also does this, so only enable one).
  • Minify with API – enable only if default Minify JavaScripts option results in errors.
  • Proxy 3rd Party Assets – Swift says it can fix browser cache issues in GTmetrix related to GA, but can break scripts. Bypassing Google Analytics is a better option. Test it out.
  • Separate Scripts – saves merged JS files for pages separately. Generally this consume more CPU than it does good.
  • Print merged scripts inline – only enable if using memcached and WordPress can’t write your files.
  • Lazy Load Scripts – lazy loads external resources which can improve load times.
  • Include Scripts – include certain scripts not detected by Swift.

Swift-Performance-Scripts-Settings

Styles
CSS optimization can also cause errors, but can greatly improve scores/load times. Play with the settings and check a few pages to make sure everything is OK. If merging stylesheets and minifying CSS cause errors, locate/exclude problematic files (same things with JavaScript).

  • Merge Styles – recommended by Swift developer and fixes items in GTmetrix/Pingdom.
  • Generate Critical CSS – CSS will be loaded asynchronously, however the developer says this can increase CPU.
  • Print full CSS inline – developer says you shouldn’t need this.
  • Separate Styles – disable unless you have pages with different content types (eg. some use Visual Editor, some use Page Builders, etc) and need Swift to generate a different merged CSS for each page. May improve scores, but can increase CPU. Test carefully.
  • Minify CSS – enable, but this can cause issues so test your site (Cloudflare also does this, so only use one). If you see errors, exclude problematic files under Exclude Files.
  • Bypass CSS Import – enable (this merges imported CSS files as well).
  • Exclude 3rd Party CSS – if Merge Scripts is giving you problems, try this.
  • Exclude Styles – exclude problematic files if minifying CSS results in errors.
  • Include Styles – manually include styles if you’re not using Merge Scripts.

Swift-Performance-Styles-Settings

 

3.4. Caching

General

  • Enable Caching – enable.
  • Caching Mode – disk cache with rewrites is generally fastest for most sites. If you can’t edit the .htaccess file or Nginx config, use Disk cache with PHP. If memcached is installed, select memcached with PHP, but always try to use disk cache with rewrites.
  • Early Loader – enable unless it’s causing PHP issues.
  • Cache Path – specify directory for the cache path.
  • Cache Expiry Mode – time-based is best for nearly every website.
  • Cache Expiry Time – time cache will be regenerated. Too often and it will consume CPU, too little and users won’t see the cached version. 12 hours is good for most sites, but you can decrease this if you have time sensitive content (or clear cache manually).
  • Garbage Collection Interval – how often Swift checks for expired cache pages. 30 minutes is good, too high and it will consume CPU.
  • Clear Cache on Update Post by Page – add pages/posts where you want the cache to be cleared once it is updated, so users can see the new content.
  • Clear Cache on Update Post by URL – same concept as previous settings, only by URL.
  • Enable Caching for logged in users – enable if multiple users are logging into your site (eg. bbPress). This gives each user their own cached version, otherwise keep it disabled.
  • Separate Mobile Device Cache – enable if using AMP or a mobile theme.
  • Case Insensitive URLs – shouldn’t make a difference.
  • Enable Browser Cache – enable.
  • Enable Gzip – fixes gzip items in GTmetrix/Pingdom.
  • Send 304 Header – disable.
  • Cache 404 pages – enable, since spiders may be crawling invalid URLs and consume CPU. Caching 404 pages and serving them from a CDN cuts down on server resources.
  • Ignore Query String – doesn’t cache pages that are different for each user (unique sales pages if you run FB/Google ads, membership profiles, conditional logic on forms).
  • Enable Dynamic Caching – lets you specify cacheable $_GET and $_POST requests.
  • Cacheable AJAX Actions – cache resource-intensive AJAX requests by specifying their names here.
  • AJAX Cache Expiry Time – leave as 1440.

Exceptions
Depending on what assets your site uses, you may not want to cache certain static files (some common ones are eCommerce cart/checkout pages, admin, XML sitemap, and search pages.

  • Exclude URLs – exclude specific URLs from cache.
  • Exclude Content Parts – exclude specific content parts from cache.
  • Exclude User Agents – exclude specific user agents from  cache.
  • Exclude Crawlers – exclude specific crawlers from cache.
  • Exclude Author Pages – exclude specific author pages from cache.
  • Exclude Archive – exclude specific archives pages from cache.
  • Exclude REST URLs – exclude specific REST URLs from cache.
  • Exclude Feed – exclude specific feeds from cache.

Warmup
Warmup stores URLs in for the next cache prebuild. Each URL has a priority number (shown in the dashboard settings) where they can be adjusted manually. Lower number = higher priority.

  • Enable Remote Prebuild Cache – Swift will no longer use an external bot for prebuilding and will use the background process instead.
  • Prebuild Cache Automatically – prebuilds cache after it’s cleared. If using this, also enable “Optimize Prebuild Only.”
  • Discover New Pages – if Swift can’t find all your pages, this will help.
  • Prebuild Author Pages – prebuilds author pages.
  • Prebuild Archive – prebuilds archive pages.
  • Prebuild REST URLs – prebuilds REST URLs.
  • Prebuild Feed – prebuilds RSS feed pages.

Varnish
Enable Auto Purge – enable if using varnish cache – it will automatically purge it when Swift clears the plugin cache so you don’t have to do it manually.

Appcache
Appcache downloads your site (or specific pages) into the user’s browser on their first visit, making your website available even when they’re offline. Sounds great, but this significantly slows down your prebuild and is not worth it. I highly recommend leaving these disabled.

  • Enable Appcache for Desktop – disable.
  • Enable Appcache for Mobile – disable.

 

3.5. CDN

I use StackPath ($10/month with 30-day trial) in conjunction with Cloudflare. StackPath has 31 data centers, Cloudflare has 150+. More data centers = faster content delivery, and StackPath’s are heavily located in the US which is where, at least, most of my visitors are.

StackPath-Data-Centers

General

Step 1: Enable CDN.

Step 2: In the StackPath dashboard, click the CDN tab, and create a StackPath CDN Site

StackPath-CDN-Tab

StackPath-CDN-Domain

StackPath-Server-IP-Address

*Copy your server IP address as it is needed in step 4 of this section.

StackPath-CDN-URL-Swift-Performance

Step 3: Paste your StackPath CDN URL into the CDN Hostname field of Swift Performance.

Swift-Performance-StackPath-CDN-Settings

Step 4: In StackPath go to CDN → Cache Settings, then click “Purge Everything”…

StackPath-Purge-Cache

Step 5: Whitelist your server IP address in StackPath (WAF → Firewall).

StackPath-Whitelist-IP

Step 6: Run your site in GTmetrix and “content delivery network” should be green in YSlow.

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

Enable CDN on SSL – enable if using SSL.

SSL CDN Hostname – leave blank since hostnames are the same even if it’s SSL.

Cloudflare

Cloudflare adds even more data centers to your content delivery network…

Cloudflare Data Centers

Step 1. Sign up for Cloudflare and you will be prompted to add your site and begin a scan.

cloudflare-begin-scan

Step 2. Once the scan is done, select the free plan, then Cloudflare will take you through a set of pages. You will eventually be taken to a page where Cloudflare assign you 2 name servers.

Cloudflare-Dashboard-Swift-Performance

Step 3. Do a Google search for “how to change name servers on SiteGround” (only search for your host), then follow their instructions. You will be copying the 2 name servers provided by Cloudflare and pasting them into a custom name servers option in your hosting cPanel…

SiteGround-DNS-Records

Step 4. Grab your Cloudflare Global API Key (found in your Cloudflare profile) and enter it into Swift’s Cloudflare tab. Use the same email as your Cloudflare account, and enable auto purge which purges Cloudflare’s cache when Swift’s cache is cleared (so you don’t have to manually).

Swift-Performance-Cloudflare-Settings

MaxCDN / StackPath
You can ignore these options. StackPath bought MaxCDN and they no longer use an Alias, Consumer Key, or Secret. Simply create a StackPath CDN URL and enter it in the CDN tab.

  • MAXCDN Alias – outdated (use StackPath CDN URL).
  • MAXCDN Consumer Key – outdated (use StackPath CDN URL).
  • MAXCDN Consumer Secret – outdated (use StackPath CDN URL).

Swift-Performance-MaxCDN-Settings

 

4. Image Optimizer

Swift Performance’s image optimizer is good, but you don’t need to upgrade for this (you can use free image optimization tools/plugins): Shortpixel, Imagify, and Imsanity all do a great job.

 

5. Database Optimizer

The database optimizer deletes unused database tables (often left by plugins you uninstalled), transients, autosaves, trashed posts, spam comments, and potentially thousands of post revisions which are automatically stored each time you republish content. For the most part, it’s junk. Take a backup especially if you haven’t done this for awhile, as it cannot be undone.

Swift-Performance-Database-Optimizer

 

6. Critical Font

Critical fonts let you select icons from Font Awesome and efficiently load only the ones you choose, as oppose to the entire Font Awesome library, making these icons load much faster.

Swift-Performance-Critical-Fonts

 

7. Plugin Organizer

In your GTmetrix Waterfall tab, you may notice certain plugins are running on pages/posts where it’s not even being used. Contact Form 7 might be used on your contact page, but usually nowhere else (so it shouldn’t run anywhere else). My WP Review rich snippets plugin do this too. You can disable/enable plugins using Swift’s filters while adding multiple rules.

Swift-Performance-Plugin-Organizer

Examples

  • Enable URL Match /contact/ to only show Contact Form on that page
  • Disable certain plugins in your WordPress Admin to prevent CPU consumption
  • Enable URL Match with regex expression to only show rich snippets on ‘review’ posts

 

8. Upgrade PRO

Swift Pro lets you use their compute API, image optimizer, and critical fonts. Frankly I think they give away too much in their free (lite) plugin, and that these aren’t worth upgrading for.

Swift-Performance-Pro

9. Test Results In GTmetrix

With Swift Performance…
Swift-Performance-GTmetrix-Report

With WP Rocket…
2019-GTmetrix-Report

 

Conclusion

Swift Performance Lite blows other free cache plugins out of the water, even if you configure just basic settings using the Wizard. If you’re still have issues, see my full WordPress speed optimization guide which includes a list of high CPU plugins to avoid, lightweight plugin alternatives, AMP instructions, how to upgrade to PHP 7+, image optimization, and a link if you want to hire my developer on freelancer.com who helped me get a 100% GTmetrix score.

 

Why I Use SiteGround

SiteGround is used by Yoast, myself, and recommended by WordPress. They are #1 in nearly every Facebook poll and give most people significant load time improvements especially if they were using mediocre hosts: GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, InMotion, Dreamhost, EIG.

Yoast-on-Twitter-We-just-switched-to-Siteground

I use their semi-dedicated GoGeek plan which comes with 4x more server resources than shared hosting. Click through my pages to see how fast they load, check out my GTmetrix report, or see people who migrated and posted new load times. They also do free migrations.

DigitalOcean on Cloudways and Kinsta are also good and start at $10/month and $30/month. Cloudways is more for developers who don’t need cPanel, email hosting, or the support you get with SiteGround. Kinsta is basically what WP Engine used to be (pricey, but awesome). My entire blog is basically dedicated to helping people make their website load faster. I refuse to recommend $2/month hosting since it’s most people’s biggest regret when running a website.

How To Check If Your Hosting Is Slow
Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights to see if reduce server response time is in your report. Google recommends it should be <200ms. Anything above 1 second is not good. You can also check your TTFB (time to first byte) in GTmetrix’s Timings tab or bytecheck.com.

Reduce Server Response Time

2019 Hosting Poll

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

WordPress-Host-Poll-Aug-2018

Shared-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosting-Poll

Go-To-Hosting-Company

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

Managed-Hosting-Poll

WooCommerce-Hosting-FB-Poll

2016-Web-Hosting-Poll

Best-WordPress-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-2019-Poll

WP Friendly Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png

Managed-WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosts-Poll-1

Hosting-Poll-For-Speed

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-June-1

SiteGround-Recommendation

2014-Managed-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Hosting-Poll-Feb-2019

Hosting-Recommendations-Poll

Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll

SiteGround is recommended by WordPress:

SiteGround-Recommended-WordPress-Host

And by Ivica who runs the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group with 16,000+ members.

WordPress-Speed-Up Recommended Tools

A few threads:

Godaddy To SiteGround Migration

EIG-To-SiteGround

SiteGround-Migration

SiteGround has 3 plans:

SiteGround-Plans

Higher plans include more server resources (#1 factor in the WordPress optimization guide). Here’s the full comparison chart, but GrowBig gives you about 2x more server resources than StartUp, and GoGeek is semi-dedicated hosting which gives you even more. GrowBig and up comes with a free migration, staging, advanced caching, and ability to host multiple websites. GoGeek comes with priority support. Their cloud hosting is quite the price jump at $80/month.

You can see this on their features page:

SiteGround-Server-Resources-Comparison

I use SiteGround because:

  1. My GTmetrixPingdom reports speak for themselves
  2. My pages load instantly (click through them if you want)
  3. Fast speed technology (PHP 7.3, NGINX, SG Optimizer, Cloudflare)
  4. Recommended by Yoast, WordPress, Ivica from WordPress Speed Up
  5. Free Let’s Encrypt SSL, easy to use cPanel, and features for eCommerce
  6. WordPress support is unbeatable even without GoGeek’s priority support
  7. GrowBig comes with staging, more storage, and more server resources (scroll down to “we allocate the resources you need” and hover over the server tab)
  8. GoGeek comes with even more server resources, storage, priority support
  9. Free migrations, migrator plugin, and a 30-day money back guarantee
  10. Plenty of praise on Reddit, Facebook conversations, Twitter, TrustPilot
  11. Tons of praise on Facebook: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7#8, #9, #10#11
  12. Many people already migrated and posted results on Twitter: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6#7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30, #31, #32, #33, #34, #35, #36, #37

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for SiteGround with my affiliate link I will donate a good chunk at no expense to you. Each year I donate $3k to GoFundMe campaigns (2018 was to feed the hungry in Denver, 2017 was to Red Cross at Hurricane Harvey). Your support helps and I genuinely appreciate it. I try to make my reviews unbiased and backed by evidence in the form of Facebook polls, tweets, and real conversations. If you don’t want to use it, here’s a non-affiliate link to SiteGround. Either way I truly believe they are a stellar WordPress host and your site will run faster/smoother… do your research on Facebook groups + Twitter and you’ll find most people say the same.

OMM-On-SiteGround

People usually migrate because their speed technology can cut load times in half:

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix Report

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

Joomla GTmetrix On SiteGround

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New Pingdom Results On SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 Is Swift better than WP Rocket?

WP Rocket was rated higher in most Facebook polls, is much easier to configure, and has documentation/support if you need help setting it up.

🚀 How do you setup Cloudflare with Swift?

Sign up for a free Cloudflare plan, copy the 2 nameservers provided by Cloudflare, and change nameservers to Cloudflare's in your domain registrar. Next, add your Cloudflare information (located in your Account tab) into Swift Performance's Cloudflare settings.

🚀 How do you use the plugin organizer?

Learn which pages/posts don't need certain plugins/scripts. This may require a bit of testing. Next, use the Plugin Organizer to disable those on pages/posts that don't need to load them. Only loading a Contact Form plugin on your contact page is a classic example.

🚀 What other speed plugins do I need?

Swift should take care of most speed optimizations. You need to look at your GTmetrix report (including the Waterfall tab) to see what exactly is slowing down your WordPress site. For images, I recommend ShortPixel. For fonts, you can try OMGF.

🚀 Is Swift Performance Pro worth it?

If you're going to pay for a premium cache plugin, you're better off paying for WP Rocket than Swift Performance Pro.

Thanks for reading – drop me a comment if you have any questions!
Tom

The Ideal Autoptimize Settings + Cloudflare/StackPath CDN (2020)

Autoptimize is a great plugin, but for caching, WP Rocket is usually #1 in Facebook polls.

So why would you use it?

Because some hosts like GoDaddy and WP Engine blacklist most cache plugins (since they have their own built-in caching system) but they don’t do things like optimize HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Google Fonts, or CDN (content delivery network). So while your host’s caching system might work well for caching, Autoptimize helps do the “rest” of the stuff (fixing items in GTmetrix + Pingdom). Avoid Google PageSpeed Insights as it doesn’t even measure load times.

Even the Autoptimize developer says on his plugin page that it works best when combined with a cache plugin. I recommend Swift if you’re going the free route, and WP Rocket if you can do $49/year as it’s easier to configure (it’s also what I use and I have 100% scores in GTmetrix) since it comes with many features most cache plugins don’t (database cleanup, hosting Google Analyitcs code locally, heartbeat control, and integration with both Cloudflare + other CDNs). I have tutorials for WP Rocket, Swift, WP Fastest Cache, W3TC, and even WP Super Cache.

So let’s configure the Autoptimize settings. I’ll also show you how to add a CDN (ideally both Cloudflare and StackPath) since each one has their own set of data centers, and more data centers = faster content delivery. CDNs are recommended in WordPress’ optimization guide.

autoptimize plugin

How To Setup The Autoptimize Settings

  1. JS, CSS & HTML
  2. CDN Options
  3. Misc Options
  4. Images
  5. Critical CSS
  6. Extra
  7. Optimize More
  8. Cloudflare

 

1. JS, CSS, & HTML

Enable all these to optimize JavaScript, CSS, and HTML files, then see instructions below.

Autoptimize JS CSS HTML Settings

Optimize JavaScript Code

  • Aggregate JS-files: enable, this combines JavaScript files as recommended by GTmetrix. If disabled, individual files will be loaded and they will not combined.
  • Also aggregate inline JS: enable, this combines JavaScript files that are located in HTML files. Autoptimize gives a warning which basically means if it breaks anything on your site, either exclude the JavaScript files or disable this.
  • Force JavaScript in <head>: disable, unless you have JavaScript errors. You’re better off trying to find problematic files and exclude them than select this option since this makes the JavaScript render-blocking (not optimal for speed).
  • Exclude scripts from Autoptimize: if you see errors after enabling certain JavaScript settings, find the problematic JavaScript and exclude files here.
  • Add try-catch wrapping: disable, unless you have JavaScript errors. This is another way to fix JS errors without having to enable force JavaScript in head.

Optimize CSS Code

  • Aggregate CSS-files: enable, same thing as aggregating JS-files only for CSS.
  • Also aggregate inline CSS: enable, same thing as aggregating inline JS-files only for CSS. Enable both to further improve load times + GTmetrix scores.
  • Generate data: URIs for images: disable if using a CDN. MaxCDN (StackPath) warns you that enabling this will forces images to be served from your origin serve instead of your CDN. Enabling this might initially results in fewer HTTP requests, but likely not after you setup a CDN and serve images through that.
  • Inline and Defer CSS: enable, you can only enable this option or “inline all CSS” which Autoptimize does not recommend in their FAQs. They say “although inlining all CSS will make the CSS non-render blocking, it will result in your base HTML-page getting significantly bigger thus requiring more “roundtrips”.
  • Inline all CSS: disable, Autoptimize does not recommend enabling this.
  • Exclude CSS from Autoptimize: if you see errors after enabling certain CSS settings, find the problematic CSS files and exclude them here. Note: the “minify excluded CSS and JS” option in the Misc Options needs to be disabled.

Optimize HTML Code

  • Keep HTML comments: enable, but if you see indent or spacing issues in your comments, leave disabled.

 

2. CDN Options

This is where your CDN URL goes (instructions below). Cloudflare does not provide you with a CDN URL (you will change nameservers instead). The CDN Base URL is specifically for StackPath, KeyCDN, and other CDNs – not Cloudflare. I suggest using both StackPath + Cloudflare as your CDNs will have more data centers, and more data centers = faster website.

Step 1: Sign up for a CDN. I use StackPath who has 45 data centers which are heavily located in the United States and is where most my visitors are. It’s $10/month with a free 30-day trial.

stackpath network

Step 2: In the StackPath dashboard, click the CDN tab, and create a StackPath CDN Site.

StackPath-CDN-Tab

StackPath-CDN-Domain

StackPath-Server-IP-Address

*Copy your server IP address as it is needed in step 5 of this section.

StackPath-CDN-URL-Autoptimize

Step 3: Paste your CDN URL into Autoptimize with http:// or https:// (whichever you use).

Autoptimize CDN URL

Step 4: In StackPath go to CDN → Cache Settings, then click “Purge Everything.”

StackPath-Purge-Cache

Step 5: Whitelist your server IP address in StackPath (WAF → Firewall).

StackPath-Whitelist-IP

Step 6: Run your site in GTmetrix and “content delivery network” should be green in YSlow.

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

 

3. Misc Settings

Here are the Misc settings:

autoptimize misc options

Save aggregated script/css as static files – if enabled, this means the CSS and JS files are saved to the cache and served through your server, so if your hosting doesn’t handle these, enable it.

Minify excluded CSS and JS files – if you’re excluding certain CSS and JavaScript files, it’s because there’s a problem when trying to optimize them, and you don’t want them minified.

Experimental: enable 404 fallbacks – disable, will redirect ‘missing’ files to help prevent or at least reduce site breakage. May require server level configuration (get help from your host if need be).

Also optimize for logged in editors/ administrators – disable, you usually want to disable performance features in the WordPress admin, including Cloudflare performance features.

 

4. Images Settings

Autoptimize can also help make images load faster.

Autoptimize Images Settings

Optimize Images – URLs on your website will be changed to point to ShortPixel’s CDN. This should not effect how they look as long as it’s lossless compression, but they will load faster.

Image Optimization Quality – find your own unique balance between compression and quality (I use Glossy). Here are the differences in each compression level from ShortPixel:

ShortPixel Image Compression Levels

  • Lossy: most compression, most quality loss.
  • Glossy: medium compression, little quality loss.
  • Lossless: low compression, lowest quality loss.

Load WebP in supported browsers – enabled if you use WebP images and lazy load images.

Lazy-load images – I personally do not lazy load my images because constantly loading images as you scroll down the page can be annoying for users. Yes, it results in fewer requests and is recommended by Google for faster load times, but I find it annoying. This is totally up to you.

 

5. Critical CSS

This refers to the Autoptimize criticalcss.com power-up plugin.

It requires a premium paid plan from criticalcss.com ($7/month).

The plugin creates critical CSS rules to make sure pages are rendered before the full CSS is loaded, improving the “start to render time.” All you need to do is install the plugin, sign up for a plan, the enter your Critical CSS API Key into the “Critical CSS” section of Autoptimize, and the plugin will do the rest. Check the plugin’s FAQ page for details on custom configurations.

I personally don’t use it and would rather use the extra $7/month on a more powerful server.

Autoptimize criticalcss com power-up

Autoptimize Critical CSS Settings

 

6. Extra Settings

autoptimize extra settings

Google Fonts – enable if using Google Fonts which slow down load times as they’re pulled from external resources (the Google Font library). I prefer the “combine and link in head” option since this improves load times without visibility seeing fonts load (which is what usually happens when loading asynchronously. Also test the last Google Font option “combine and load fonts asynchronously with webfont.js” and see which yields better results in GTmetrix.

Remove Emojis – enable (emojis are bad for load times).

Remove Query Strings From Static Resources – query strings are usually generated by plugins and cannot be fixed (in GTmetrix/Pingdom) simply be enabling this, but you can try. The better solution is to check your site for high CPU plugins and replace them with lightweight plugins. Most high CPU plugins include social sharing, gallery, page builders, related post, statistic, and live chat plugins. You should also delete all unnecessary plugins and clean the database (using a plugin like WP-Optimize) to clear tables left by uninstalled plugins.

Preconnect To 3rd Party Domains – helps browsers anticipate requests from external resources (Google Fonts, Analytics, Maps, Tag Manager, Amazon store, etc). These will usually appear as “reduce DNS lookups” in your GTmetrix report, but below are common examples.

  • https://fonts.googleapis.com
  • https://fonts.gstatic.com
  • https://www.google-analytics.com
  • https://ajax.googleapis.com
  • https://connect.facebook.net
  • https://www.googletagmanager.com
  • https://maps.google.com

Preload Specific Requests – you can find more about preload and browser resource hints from WP Rocket, but this basically makes it so certain files are downloaded as a high priority.

Async Javascript-Files – this means something is preventing above-the-fold content from loading fast. This tutorial on render blocking JavaScripts explains it well, but if you see JavaScript errors in GTmetrix and Pingdom, the Async JavaScipt plugin might do the trick.

Optimize YouTube Videos – if your site has videos, WP YouTube Lyte lazy loads them so they only load when users scroll down and click the play button, thus eliminating initial requests to YouTube’s servers. This can shave multiple seconds off loads times on content with videos, as they’re one of the heaviest elements on a page. WP Rocket and Swift Performance have this built-in to their settings, so you don’t need this if you use one of them as your cache plugin.

 

7. Optimize More

If you want to further optimize your site, here are the tools recommend:

WP Rocket – rated the #1 cache plugin in multiple Facebook polls and has many options not included with Autoptimize (database cleanup, heartbeat control, hosting Google Analytics locally, replacing YouTube iframe with a preview image, adding Browser Cache to Facebook Pixel, etc). WP Rocket also handles nearly everything Autoptimize does, so you only need 1 plugin for all those speed optimizations. That’s why it’s so great. You can also get 10% off here.

ShortPixel – popular image optimization plugin and the one I use.

StackPath – CDN with 45 data centers. Very easy to setup; just sign up for a plan ($10/month) then copy/paste your CDN URL into the Autoptimize CDN URL option.

SiteGround – usually rated the #1 host in Facebook polls and also used by Yoast.

Yoast-on-Twitter-We-just-switched-to-Siteground

2019 Hosting Poll

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

WordPress-Host-Poll-Aug-2018

Shared-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosting-Poll

Go-To-Hosting-Company

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

Managed-Hosting-Poll

WooCommerce-Hosting-FB-Poll

2016-Web-Hosting-Poll

Best-WordPress-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-2019-Poll

WP Friendly Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png

Managed-WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosts-Poll-1

Hosting-Poll-For-Speed

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-June-1

SiteGround-Recommendation

2014-Managed-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Hosting-Poll-Feb-2019

Hosting-Recommendations-Poll

Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll

People usually migrate because their speed technology is much faster than EIG or GoDaddy:

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

SiteGround also does free migrations with GrowBig+.

Cloudways – faster than SiteGround (it’s cloud hosting, not shared) and was also rated highly in Facebook polls. Starts at $10/month with their DigitalOcean plan. They offer 1 free migration (which I took them up on) and here’s what happened to my server response time:

SiteGround-vs-Cloudways-Cloud-Hosting

Hosting Recommendations Facebook

VPS Cloud Hosting WooCommerce Poll

VPS Cloud Hosting Poll

WordPress Hosting Suggestions

Cloudways Response Times

WP Engine To Cloudways

Untitled

Cloudways Pingdom Load Times

Cloudways-Facebook-Review

You can get 25% off your first 2 months of Cloudways with promo code OMM25.

Kinsta – $30/month premium hosting and while I haven’t tried them, I have heard nothing but great things about Kinsta’s speed, support, uptimes, and nearly everything about their hosting.

Perfmatters – plugin by Kinsta which takes care of what I like to call “miscellaneous optimizations” like selectively disabling plugins, limiting post revisions, disabling autosaves, hosting Google Analytics locally, and much more. It takes care of the final 10% of speed.

Some of these are recommended by Autoptimize, others are not:

Autoptimize Add Ons

 

8. Cloudflare

Autoptimize does not have settings to add Cloudflare’ CDN, but this is easy to setup. And you definitely should because this adds 200 more centers to your content delivery network (CDN).

cloudflare network

Step 1. Sign up for Cloudflare and you will be prompted to add your site and begin a scan.

cloudflare-begin-scan

Step 2. Once the scan is done, select the free plan, then Cloudflare will take you through a set of pages. You will eventually be taken to a page where Cloudflare assign you 2 nameservers.

Cloudflare-Name-Servers-Dashboard

Step 3. Login to your domain registrar (eg. Namecheap) and do a Google search for “how to change nameservers on Namecheap” (only search for your domain registar), then follow their instructions. You will be copying the 2 nameservers provided by Cloudflare and pasting them into a custom nameservers option in your domain registrar. Allow 72 hours for propagation.

Godaddy Cloudflare nameservers

That’s it!

 

What’s Next?

Watch My Video – it’s a 42 minute video, but I cover pretty much everything (timestamps in video description) and you should learn a ton of great information on WordPress site speed:

Want To Know How I Got 100% Scores In GTmetrix?
See my full WordPress speed optimization guide which has over 38 tips in fixing GTmetrix/Pingdom items including upgrading to PHP 7, serve scaled images, specifying image dimensions, database cleanup, hosting Google Analytics locally, WP Disable, and others.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 Do I need other speed plugins besides Autoptimize?

Yes, you usually want to also use a plugin for caching, image optimization, database cleanup, heartbeat control, and selectively disabling plugins. I recommend WP Rocket, ShortPixel, and Perfmatters for those.

🚀 How do you setup a CDN with Autoptimize?

Choose your CDN (I use StackPath), copy your CDN URL, and paste it into Autoptimize's CDN UR field.

🚀 How do you optimize Google Fonts with Autoptimize?

I recommend using the Combine And Link In Head option, and to preconnect your fonts using Autoptimize.

🚀 Does Autoptimize take care of caching?

No, you will need to use a separate plugin for caching. I recommend WP Rocket or SG Optimizer if using SiteGround.

🚀 How do you configure the Autoptimize settings?

Everything is listed in this tutorial - just keep an eye on your GTmetrix report and which specific items need to be fixed. If configuring the settings in Autoptimize doesn't fix it, consider using another plugin to fix items.

Questions? Drop me a line!
Tom

The Ideal WP Fastest Cache Settings With Cloudflare + StackPath CDN Setup Instructions (Updated 2020 With Latest Version 1.5.6)

WP Fastest Cache is usually rated the #1 free cache plugin in Facebook polls.

I was able to get .5s load times in Pingdom after configuring the WP Fastest Cache settings. They’re easy to setup and have options for both Cloudflare and StackPath’s CDN which can further improve grades/load times (I use both since more data centers = faster website). For hosting, I recommend SiteGround who is used by Yoast and rated #1 in 20+ Facebook polls. But if you’re looking for something faster than shared hosting, Cloudways DO is where it’s at.

I will show you how to configure the WP Fastest Cache settings, StackPath’s CDN, and what upgrading to WP Fastest Cache Premium did for me. I also have instructions for Cloudflare.

Leave me a comment if you have questions or see their support forum. But there are many complaints about WP Fastest Cache’s support just to give you a heads up. Remember to retest your site in Pingdom or GTmetrix when you’re done – and comment with your new load time!

How To Setup WP Fastest Cache

  1. Cache Plugin Comparison
  2. WP Fastest Cache Settings
  3. StackPath CDN
  4. Cloudflare
  5. Delete Cache And Retest In Pingdom

 

1. Cache Plugin Comparison

WP Fastest Cache is usually the #2 or #3 cache plugin in Facebook polls, trailing behind WP Rocket which is almost always #1.

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

Cache Plugin Test – I ran the same page through Pingdom which had minimal content so results would be accurate. I setup each one with the best settings and Cloudflare/StackPath.

WP Rocket (.406)
Pingdom Page Speed Test

WP Fastest Cache (.527)
WP Fastest Cache Load Times

W3 Total Cache (.619)
W3 Total Cache Load Times

WP Rocket vs. WP Fastest Cache – WP Rocket has quite a few extra features not included with WP Fastest Cache (database cleanup, lazy loading, heartbeat control, hosting Google Fonts + Analytics locally, prefetching DNS requests). While WP Rocket has these all built-in, you would need to install about 6-7 extra plugins to get these speed optimizations with WP Fastest Cache. With WP Rocket, you get more speed optimizations, yet less plugins running on your site. I wrote a WP Rocket setup guide which also shows you how to get 10% off the price.

StackPath vs. CloudflareStackPath is $10/month Cloudflare is free. Both are CDNs which mirror your site on multiple data centers around the world (reducing the distance between your server and visitor) and is recommended in the WordPress optimization guide. Cloudflare has 200+ data centers, StackPath, has 45 data centers which are heavily focused in the US (more data centers = faster website, that’s why I recommend using both). StackPath comes with a support team who improved my GTmetrix YSlow score by 8% – their support is great.

 

stackpath network
StackPath has over 45 full-stack locations spanning the globe.

 

cloudflare network
Cloudflare’s network spans over 95 countries.

Why Use StackPath?

  • StackPath’s 45 data centers use faster SSD servers + 10GB connections
  • StackPath doesn’t charge for HTTPS traffic, Cloudflare charges pay-per-use
  • StackPath’s team helped me configure my CDN and improved my GTmetrix YSlow score by 8%, putting the cherry on the cake to make my GTmetrix report nearly perfect
  • StackPath has dashboards that provide lots of information about your cached files
  • StackPath allows you to protect your account using a two-step authentication process; you can whitelist the IP addresses of people who are permitted to access your account

 

2. WP Fastest Cache Settings

If you plan on using StackPath, see my StackPath section which has it’s own WP Fastest Cache settings (you would disable logged-in users, mobile, and browser caching options) which is shown in StackPath’s WP Fastest Cache tutorial.

If you plan on using Cloudflare, use the settings below but disable Auto Minify and Rocket Loader in the “speed” tab of your Cloudflare settings (Railgun should be enabled). This is what the WP Fastest Cache plugin developer recommends in his Cloudflare tutorial. My Cloudflare section shows you how to sign up for Cloudflare, change name servers in your hosting cPanel, set page rules for optimal performance, and purge the cache once you’re done.

If you plan on using neither, use the settings below. The only thing you would change is in the Preload tab (pages per minute). If you’re on shared hosting use 4-6, VPS should use 10-12.

wp fastest cache settings

Breakdown Of WP Fastest Cache Settings:

  • Cache System – enable
  • Widget Cache System – caches your widgets (premium feature)
  • Preload – create cache of entire site automatically (shared hosting should use 4-6, VPS is 10-12. Creates caching delay for first user who views the page. Learn more)
  • Logged-in Users – don’t show the cached version for logged-in users (if it’s just you running your website, leave this checked. But if multiple users can be logged in, each user should have their own cached version, so it would be unchecked)
  • Mobile – don’t show the cached version for desktop to mobile devices
  • Mobile Theme – caches mobile theme (premium feature)
  • New Post – clear cache files when a post or page is published
  • Update Post – clear cache files when a post or page is updated (Learn more)
  • Minify HTML – decrease size of page (high priority Pingdom item. Learn more)
  • Minify HTML Plus – more powerful minify html (premium feature)
  • Minify CSS – decrease size of css files (high priority Pingdom item. Learn more)
  • Minify CSS Plus – more powerful minify CSS (premium feature)
  • Combine CSS – reduce HTTP requests through combined css files (combines JavaScript and CSS files between <head></head>. This reduces the amount of JavaScript and CSS files on a page which reduces the number of HTTP requests required to render the page. Also a high priority item in Pingdom. Learn more)
  • Minify JS – decrease size of JS files (premium feature)
  • Combine JS – reduce HTTP requests by combining JS files
  • Combine JS Plus – minify combined JS files (premium feature)
  • Gzip – reduce size of files sent from your server (reduces transfer time between server and browser, and is a high priority Pingdom item. Learn more)
  • Browser Caching – reduce load time for repeat visitors (Learn more)
  • Disable Emojis: remove emoji inline CSS
  • Render Blocking JS – remove render-blocking JavaScript (premium feature)
  • Google Fonts – loads Google Fonts asynchronously (premium feature) but this can also be done using the free WP Disable plugin which I highly recommend
  • Lazy Load – premium feature which you can use A3 Lazy Load for Learn more)

Nearly every item in WP Fastest Cache is found in GTmetrix/Pingdom:

GTmetrix-With-WP-Fastest-Cache-Cloudflare-StackPath

Delete Cache – clear the cache after configuring the WP Fastest Cache settings:

Delete-Cache-WP-Fastest-Cache

Image Optimization – premium feature which losslessly compresses images (an item in GTmetrix). This can also be done using the Imagify or Kraken plugin. I would not use any other plugins since these might break your site or have bugs – I have done tons of research on this.

WP-Fastest-Cache-Image-Optimization

Losslessly compressing images fixes the “optimize images” item in GTmetrix:

optimize-images-gtmetrix

Premium – see the difference below which shows 2 GTmetrix reports (it’s worth it). If you decide to upgrade for $49.99, they will send you a download link via email which you will manually upload in your plugins menu. Keep both the free and premium version activated.

premium plugin information

Premium
WP Fastest Cache Premium
Not Premium
WP Fastest Cache Free

Exclude – exclude pages from being cached (eg. eCommerce checkout pages).

WP-Fastest-Cache-Excludes-Settings

CDN – a CDN (content delivery network) makes your site faster by hosting it on multiple servers around the country and world, as oppose to 1 origin server (it reduces the geographical distance it takes your content to reach your visitors). See the StackPath section.

Database (DB) – cleaning your database removes unnecessary junk and makes it load faster. You can use the free WP-Optimize plugin to do this, upgrading for this feature isn’t necessary.

WP-Optimize Clean Database

WP-Optimize-Database-Cleanup

 

3. StackPath CDN ($10/Month With Free 30-Day Trial)

StackPath mirrors your site on 31 data centers, reducing the geographical distance between your server and visitors. This can reduce load times by multiple seconds especially for visitors who used to be far away from your 1 origin server. StackPath also helped me configure my CDN and was able to improve my GTmetrix YSlow score by 8% (see my report). They have a 30-day trial and their own tutorial on configuring StackPath’s CDN with WP Fastest Cache.

This is recommended in the WordPress optimization guide:

wordpress cdn recommendations

Step 1: Sign up for StackPath.

Step 2: Configure WP Fastest Cache with these settings when using StackPath:

stackpath wp fastest cache settings

Step 3: In the StackPath dashboard, click the CDN tab, and create a StackPath CDN Site.

click sites in stackpath

enter domain name

server ip address

origin authentication

Copy your server IP address from above.

cdn url

Step 4: Click “StackPath” in the CDN area of WP Fastest Cache.

WP-Fastest-Cache-StackPath-CDN

Step 5: Paste your CDN URL into WP Fastest Cache and use your website as the origin URL:

stackpath cdn url

Step 6: Click next, leave all file types selected, then keep clicking next until it’s ready:

stackpath file types

Next…

stackpath specify sources

Next…

stackpath exclude sources

Finish…

stackpath ready to go

stackpath integration ready

Done.

WP-Fastest-Cache-StackPath-CDN-Confirmation

Step 7: In StackPath go to CDN → Cache Settings, then click “Purge Everything”…

StackPath-Purge-Cache

Step 8: Run your site through GTmetrix and look at the YSlow tab to make sure it’s working…

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

Ok, NOW you’re done.

 

4. Cloudflare

SiteGround and most other hosts have an option to activate Cloudflare in the cPanel. If your host doesn’t have this options, you can setup Cloudflare using WP Fastest Cache (see below).

Cloudflare-Activation

Step 1: Sign up for Cloudflare and you will be prompted to add your website and begin a scan.

cloudflare-begin-scan

Cloudflare-DNS-Records

Cloudflare-CDN-Plans

You will eventually come to this dashboard where Cloudflare assigns you 2 name servers and provide a link to your Global API Key.

Cloudflare-Dashboard-WP-Fastest-Cache

Step 2: Do a Google search for “how to change name servers on SiteGround” (only search for your host), then follow their instructions. You will be copying the 2 name servers provided by Cloudflare and pasting them into a custom name servers option in your hosting cPanel.

SiteGround-DNS-Records

Step 3. Grab your Global API Key from the link in Cloudflare, or in your Cloudflare profile.

loudflare-Global-API-Key

Go back to WP Fastest Cache and click the Cloudflare tab. Enter the same email address used in your Cloudflare account, as well as your Global API Key.

WP-Fastest-Cache-Cloudflare-Tab

WP-Fastest-Cache-Cloudflare-API-Keys

Keep clicking next in WP Fastest Cache. They will automatically turn off the minify settings in WP Fastest Cache (since Cloudflare will now do this). They will also turn off Rocket Loader for better compatibility (your website won’t break), and set browser cache expiration to 24 days.

WP-Fastest-Cache-Cloudflare-Disable-Auto-Minify

WP-Fastest-Cache-Disable-Rocket-Loader

WP-Fastest-Cache-Cloudflare-Browser-Cache-Expiration

WP-Fastest-Cache-Cloudflare-Message

WP-Fastest-Cache-Cloudflare-Integration

Looks good!

WP-Fastest-Cache-Cloudflare-Confirmation

Step 4: Go to Cloudflare’s speed settings and make sure Auto Minify and Rocket Loader are turned off, but SG Railgun is on. This is what the WP Fastest Cache developer recommends.

Cloudflare-Speed-Tab

Step 5: Cloudflare says “we recommend you create a Page Rule to exclude the admin section of your website from Cloudflare’s performance features. Features such as Rocket Loader and Auto Minification may inadvertently break backend functions in your admin section.”

Add these 2 page rules in your page rules settings.

WP-Admin-Page-Rule

Cache-Everything-Cloudflare-Page-Rule

Step 6. Finally, go to your Cloudflare caching settings and purge individual files.

Purge Individual Files Cloudflare

All done!

WP-Fastest-Cache-Cloudflare-Confirmation

 

5. Delete Cache And Retest In Pingdom

In the WP Fastest Cache settings, go to the “Delete Cache” tab and “Delete Cache And Minifed CSS/JS.” Now rerun your website through Pingdom to view your updated scores and load time.

WP Fastest Cache Pingdom Test

Ideally the following Page Speed items are green:

  • Minify CSS
  • Minify HTML
  • Minify JavaScript
  • Leverage Browser Caching
  • Specify a Cache Validator
  • Enable gzip Compression
  • Defer Parsing Of JavaScript

Ideally the following YSlow items are also green:

  • Reduce cookie size
  • Add Expires headers
  • Reduce DNS lookups
  • Use cookie-free domains
  • Make fewer HTTP requests
  • Minify JavaScript and CSS
  • Configure entity tags (ETags)
  • Compress components with gzip
  • Remove duplicate JavaScript and CSS
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Remember, it can take Cloudflare up to 24 hours to propagate, so check back then.

 

6. WP Fastest Cache FAQs

Here’s the FAQ page if you still have questions.

WP-Fastest-Cache-FAQs

 

SiteGround (#1 Host In Facebook Polls)

SiteGround is used by Yoast, myself, and recommended by WordPress. They are #1 in nearly every Facebook poll and give most people significant load time improvements especially if they were using mediocre hosts: GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, InMotion, Dreamhost, EIG.

Yoast-on-Twitter-We-just-switched-to-Siteground

I use their semi-dedicated GoGeek plan which comes with 4x more server resources than shared hosting. Click through my pages to see how fast they load, check out my GTmetrix report, or see people who migrated and posted new load times. They also do free migrations.

DigitalOcean on Cloudways and Kinsta are also good and start at $10/month and $30/month. Cloudways is more for developers who don’t need cPanel, email hosting, or the support you get with SiteGround. Kinsta is basically what WP Engine used to be (pricey, but awesome). My entire blog is basically dedicated to helping people make their website load faster. I refuse to recommend $2/month hosting since it’s most people’s biggest regret when running a website.

How To Check If Your Hosting Is Slow
Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights to see if reduce server response time is in your report. Google recommends it should be <200ms. Anything above 1 second is not good. You can also check your TTFB (time to first byte) in GTmetrix’s Timings tab or bytecheck.com.

Reduce Server Response Time

2019 Hosting Poll

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

WordPress-Host-Poll-Aug-2018

Shared-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosting-Poll

Go-To-Hosting-Company

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

Managed-Hosting-Poll

WooCommerce-Hosting-FB-Poll

2016-Web-Hosting-Poll

Best-WordPress-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-2019-Poll

WP Friendly Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png

Managed-WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosts-Poll-1

Hosting-Poll-For-Speed

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-June-1

SiteGround-Recommendation

2014-Managed-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Hosting-Poll-Feb-2019

Hosting-Recommendations-Poll

Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll

People usually migrate because their speed technology can cut load times in half:

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix Report

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

Joomla GTmetrix On SiteGround

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New Pingdom Results On SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

SiteGround has 3 plans:

SiteGround-Plans

Higher plans include more server resources (#1 factor in the WordPress optimization guide). Here’s the full comparison chart, but GrowBig gives you about 2x more server resources than StartUp, and GoGeek is semi-dedicated hosting which gives you even more. GrowBig and up comes with a free migration, staging, advanced caching, and ability to host multiple websites. GoGeek comes with priority support. Their cloud hosting is quite the price jump at $80/month.

You can see this on their features page:

SiteGround-Server-Resources-Comparison

I use SiteGround because:

  1. My GTmetrix + Pingdom reports speak for themselves
  2. My pages load instantly (click through them if you want)
  3. Fast speed technology (PHP 7.3, NGINX, SG Optimizer, Cloudflare)
  4. Recommended by Yoast, WordPress, Ivica from WordPress Speed Up
  5. Free Let’s Encrypt SSL, easy to use cPanel, and features for eCommerce
  6. WordPress support is unbeatable even without GoGeek’s priority support
  7. GrowBig comes with staging, more storage, and more server resources (scroll down to “we allocate the resources you need” and hover over the server tab)
  8. GoGeek comes with even more server resources, storage, priority support
  9. Free migrations, migrator plugin, and a 30-day money back guarantee
  10. Plenty of praise on Reddit, Facebook conversations, Twitter, TrustPilot
  11. Tons of praise on Facebook: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11
  12. Many people already migrated and posted results on Twitter: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30, #31, #32, #33, #34, #35, #36, #37

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for SiteGround with my affiliate link I will donate a good chunk at no expense to you. Each year I donate $3k to GoFundMe campaigns (2018 was to feed the hungry in Denver, 2017 was to Red Cross at Hurricane Harvey). Your support helps and I genuinely appreciate it. I try to make my reviews unbiased and backed by evidence in the form of Facebook polls, tweets, and real conversations. If you don’t want to use it, here’s a non-affiliate link to SiteGround. Either way I truly believe they are a stellar WordPress host and your site will run faster/smoother… do your research on Facebook groups + Twitter and you’ll find most people say the same.

 

36+ WordPress Speed Optimization Tips

Watch My Video – it’s a 42 minute video, but I cover pretty much everything (timestamps in video description) and you should learn a ton of great information on WordPress site speed:

Follow my WordPress speed optimization guide which shows you how to:

  • Diagnose slow plugins using GTmetrix
  • Add AMP (accelerated mobile pages) using the AMP plugin
  • Use AWStats to find causes of high CPU (crawlers, images, etc)
  • Recommendations for lightweight slider/gallery/social sharing plugins
  • Use Complete Analytics Optimization Suite (CAOS) to host Google Analytics locally
  • Image optimization (serve scaled images, specify dimensions, lossless compression)
  • Use WP Disable to disable unnecessary settings in WordPress core while turning on heartbeat control, loading of Google fonts asynchronously, other speed optimizations

And plenty of others. Read the comments and you’ll see things like “My page speed score on gtmetrix went from 69 to 93” and “this might be one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever read.”

 

Get Help From My WordPress Speed Optimizer

Still need help with your GTmetrix/Pingdom report? I’ve been working with Pronaya for 7 years (he’s the one who helped me get a <1s load time in Pingdom). You can hire him by creating a profile on freelancer.com and searching for username bdkamol. Here is his full WordPress speed portfolio. He’s $40/hour from Bangladesh (so there is a time change) and you can email him at bdkamol@gmail.com. He also has a perfect 5 star review on his profile. Serious inquiries only, and please don’t expect 100% scores if you’re using slow hosting, a bloated theme, and tons of heavy plugins. Please follow my full WordPress speed guide first.

Pronaya-Kumar-S-Reviews

Reviews on his profile:

BDkamol-WordPress-Speed-Reviews

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 Is WP Fastest Cache Premium worth it?

If you're going to spend money on a premium cache plugin, most people use WP Rocket since it comes with more features than WP Fastest Cache Premium and will typically yield better results.

🚀 Which CDN should I use with WP Fastest Cache?

Cloudflare's free CDN is sufficient for most sites, however more CDNs = more data centers and faster delivery of your content. You may also consider StackPath or KeyCDN.

🚀 How do I clear cache when I'm done configuring the settings?

In the WordPress menu on top, go to WPFC and Delete Cache And Minified CSS.

🚀 What other speed plugins do I need besides WP Fastest Cache?

WP Fastest Cache does not come with the option for image optimization, database cleanup, lazy loading, heartbeat control, prefetch + preconnect, and optimizing Google Fonts + Analytics. I recommend Perfmatters, OMGF, and Advanced DB Cleaner.

🚀 Should I add AMP?

I do not use accelerated mobile pages (AMP) on this WordPress site. Read Kinsta's article about how their conversions dropped 50% due to AMP and you may not want to either.

 

See Also: How I Got 100% GTmetrix Scores

If your website loads faster feel free to leave your new page load time in the comments! Or if you have any questions I’m glad to help with that too. As you can see I’m a pretty big nerd when it comes to WordPress speed so if you follow these recommendations, there’s no reason your website shouldn’t load in under 3s. And if you found this tutorial helpful, please share :)

Cheers,
Tom

SiteGround StartUp Review – (They’re Rated The #1 Host In Numerous Facebook But StartUp Lacks Many Features In GrowBig)

SiteGround’s StartUp plan is only good for hosting 1 single low-traffic website. If you get decent traffic or are running any high CPU plugins, StartUp probably won’t have enough server resources and you could end up getting CPU overages. But if it’s a small site using lightweight plugins, and you don’t need the features that come with GrowBig/GoGeek, StartUp is easily the best hosting plan you can get for $6.99/month with the promo price.

Just know you can buy GrowBig for $2/month more and get way more stuff… about 2x as many server resources (number of servers is the #1 factor in the WordPress optimization guide), staging, on-demand backups, and you can host unlimited websites on your account… instead of 1. You can see all this on their StartUp vs. GrowBig vs. GoGeek chart. StartUp is good, but I would do GrowBig if you’re serious about your site – the speed alone is worth it.

Then there’s the GoGeek which is about 4x faster than most shared hosting plans. Smaller/starter websites should probably do GrowBig, websites with more visitors and higher CPU consumption should do GoGeek or cloud. My review will help you choose a plan, but also show you how to make the most out of their speed technology through PHP 7.3, Cloudflare, and SG Optimizer. I also have a guide on how I got 100% GTmetrix scores.

If this is a website(s) you care about and are expecting to make money from – do yourself a favor and pony up the extra $2/month. I currently pay SiteGround $80+/month for an upgraded version of their cloud hosting BUT… it’s an investment. This is primarily why my Pingdom report and GTmetrix report have near 100% scores on both with <1s load times.

Before paying for a higher plan because you want speed improvements, follow my guide on how I got 100% GTmetrix scores which will not only improve load times and scores in GTmetrix/Pingdom, but also reduce the resources needed on your hosting account, which can save you some money.

Why Choose SiteGround StartUp?

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for SiteGround with my affiliate link I will donate a good chunk at no expense to you. Each year I donate $3k to GoFundMe campaigns (2018 was to feed the hungry in Denver, 2017 was to Red Cross at Hurricane Harvey). Your support helps and I genuinely appreciate it. I try to make my reviews unbiased and backed by evidence in the form of Facebook polls, tweets, and real conversations. If you don’t want to use it, here’s a non-affiliate link to SiteGround. Either way I truly believe they are a stellar WordPress host and your site will run faster/smoother… do your research on Facebook groups + Twitter and you’ll find most people say the same.

 

SiteGround Facebook Polls

Join the WordPress Hosting and WordPress Speed Up Facebook Groups to see what real, unbiased people are saying, since hosting is the #1 factor in the WordPress optimization guide.

SiteGround was rated the #1 host in 26 Facebook polls and got me amazing results in GTmetrix/Pingdom (click through my pages). Their speed technology is far superior than EIG, Godaddy, and most other hosts, and uses PHP 7.3, NGINX, SSDs, HTTP/2, Cloudflare, and SG Optimizer plugin for WordPress. This usually results in significant load time improvements.

2019 Hosting Poll

View Poll

 

StartUp vs. GrowBig vs. GoGeek

You can see a full comparison chart on SiteGround’s features page

SiteGround-StartUp-Plan-Features

StartUp ($6.99/mo) – StartUp is good for hosting 1 low-traffic website that isn’t running high CPU plugins, but lacks server resources. All SiteGround plans come with tons of great features: email hosting, free Let’s Encrypt SSL, automatic daily backups, free WordPress + shopping cart install, 99.99% uptimes, and an easy-to-use cPanel. All plans include fast, core speed technology including NGINX, Cloudflare, SSDs, HTTP/2, PHP 7.3, SG Optimizer, and 4 data centers). SiteGround is one of the first hosts to implement new technology for speed and uptimes (eg. newer PHP versions), and you can check their Facebook page to stay updated. As with all plans, support is top notch. All plans include features for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal.

GrowBig ($9.99/mo) – host multiple websites with about 1.5x more server resources than StartUp and comes with staging (to test new plugins, designs, code) then launch it on your actual website with 1 click. This makes the extra $2/month completely worth it in my opinion. You also get on-demand backups so you can take one anytime you want, and a free website transfer. It comes with more storage, database resources, and email features. You get advanced caching with all 3 levels (static, dynamic, memcached) with the SG Optimizer plugin.

GoGeek ($14.99/mo)semi-dedicated hosting comes with about 4x more server resources than regular shared hosting plans. And yes, this makes a big improvement in speed and time to first byte. GoGeek has more storage, email, and database limits. Comes with PCI compliance to prevent credit card fraud on eCommerce sites and Git for repo creation. Priority support will answer your questions lightning fast. I usually get mine answered thoroughly in <10 minutes.

eCommerce Features – all SiteGround plans come with eCommerce features like a free Let’s Encrypt SSL. PCI compliance with GoGeek, and if you don’t feel comfortable installing a shopping cart on your won, SiteGround’s team offers to do this with the purchase of any plan.

SiteGround-eCommerce-Features

Automatic Updates – have SiteGround make automatic updates in your cPanel to WordPress core, plugins, Joomla core, extensions, etc. I have this enabled and haven’t had any problems.

SiteGround WordPress Autoupdates

WordPress, Joomla, Drupal Features – SiteGround has features for each one in their cPanel: free install, transfer, autoupdates, and advanced security are just a few features for each CMS. When SiteGround says they have advanced security, their team is literally on their game.

WordPress features…

SiteGround-WordPress-Features

WordPress tools in cPanel…

siteground-wordpress-tools

Joomla features…

SiteGround-Joomla-Features

Joomla tools in cPanel…

siteground-joomla-cpanel-tools

Drupal features…

siteground-drupal-hosting

 

StartUp Has Less Server Resources Than GrowBig/GoGeek

If you have a slow website, go to features page and scroll down to ‘We Allocate The Resources You Need’ near bottom of the page. You’ll see that GrowBig and GoGeek are much faster than StartUp since you get more server resources. This is the MAIN difference between plans…

SiteGround-Server-Resources-Comparison

Here’s how many server resources come with each plan…

SiteGround-Resources-Chart

 

SiteGround StartUp Is Good If…

  • You only need to host 1 website
  • You don’t require priority support
  • You don’t need a lot of server resources/plugins
  • You need less than 10GB of web storage
  • You have has less than 10,000 visits/month
  • You don’t have lots of (high resource) plugins
  • You’re having technical issues with your current host
  • You want a free Let’s Encrypt SSL (but don’t need a premium SSL)
  • You want automatic updates, backups, free domain, and email features
  • You want SiteGround’s core speed technology and Cloudflare’s free CDN
  • You want secure hosting with actual 99.99% uptimes and spam prevention
  • You want a hosting company with a support team that will actually help you
  • You’re running a hobby website, but for serious websites go with GrowBig or GoGeek

 

Upgrade To GrowBig/GoGeek If…

  • You want a free website transfer
  • You want more server resources for faster load times
  • You have multiples websites and need 20GB+ of web storage
  • You want priority support to get tickets answered immediately
  • You use a lot of WordPress plugins (or high resource plugins)
  • You want to create staging websites (GoGeek is needed for this)
  • You want Pre-installed Git or SG-Git for WordPress repo creation
  • You need a premium wildcard SSL or PCI compliance for an eCommerce site
  • You want advanced caching, even though plugins like WP Rocket are better
  • You run a business website and rely (or are planning to rely) on it to making a living

 

<1s Load Times + 100% Uptimes

Yes, I actually use SiteGround…

OMM-On-SiteGround

And my site loads in <1s second (view Pingdom report)…

2019-Pingdom-Report

Here’s my GTmetrix report

2019-GTmetrix-Report

It also has 100% uptimes in Uptime Robot

uptime-robot

I was originally with Godaddy and Bluehost but was disappointed in both. My website didn’t load fast and I was getting internal server errors all the time. Since migrating to SiteGround I could see a noticeable difference in my Pingdom scores, but also by clicking through my pages (give it a try)! I never have to worry about my website getting “randomly” shut down anymore.

I have used SiteGround StartUp, GrowBig, GoGeek, and am currently on their cloud hosting. My site still loaded in 1s on StartUp but I rely on it to make a living (and needed better performance) so I upgraded. I wouldn’t write my SiteGround StartUp review if I didn’t use it.

 

Tips For Improving Speed On SiteGround

Upgrade To PHP 7.3+ – higher PHP versions make your site faster. If you’re just moving to SiteGround, PHP 7+ should be activated by default. But SiteGround is great at releasing newer versions. When they do, be sure to test them in the PHP section of your SiteGround cPanel.

PHP Speed

PHP-Version-Manager

PHP-Upgrade

Cloudflare – in your SiteGround cPanel, activate Cloudflare with 1 click. Cloudflare is a free CDN with 200+ data centers and will help offload resources to their data centers, putting less stress on your own server. A CDN is also recommended in the WordPress optimization guide.

Cloudflare Data Centers

SiteGround Cloudflare Activation

SG Optimizer – SiteGround’s SG Optimizer plugin (for WordPress) uses server-side caching which is faster than the file-based caching used with most cache plugins. It also has many features outside of caching, like minification, lazy loading, etc. I personally use SiteGround for caching, then WP Rocket for everything else (see my tutorial), which was rated the #1 cache plugin in many Facebook polls. Your cache plugin has a huge impact on your load times and CPU consumption – I recommend trying SG Optimizer, WP Rocket, or Swift, but only use 1.

Optimize Imagesimages can be optimized in 20 ways, but the most common are these 3 items in GTmetrix. Serve scaled images means resizing large images to be smaller. Specify image dimensions means adding a width/height to the image’s HTML. Optimize images means losslessly compressing images using a plugin like Imagify, Smush, or ShortPixel (all are good).

Blackhole for Bad Bots Plugin – a common issue is spam bots hitting your site, which is a waste of server resources. The Blackhole for Bad Bots Plugin blocks them automatically which will save resources for real visitors. There are no settings – just install it and you’re good.

Optimize Plugins – this means deleting unused plugins, disabling unnecessary plugin settings that cause ongoing resource consumption (eg. statistics, backups, etc), avoid high CPU plugins, and only using lightweight plugins. I also recommend installing the Heartbeat Control plugin.

SiteGround Load Times
My WordPress site loads in <1s on SiteGround, but I’m not the only one. Here’s a chart comparing the average load time of websites running on some of the most popular hosts…

siteground-page-load-times

Core Speed: NGINX, SSD, HTTP/2 Enabled Services
SiteGround’s core speed technology is great no matter what hosting plan you choose. All shared plans include SSD (solid state drives) which provide 1000x higher input/output operations compared to regular drives, plus you get NGINX servers which are preferred for faster server speed. HTTP/2, PHP7, and HHVM can also be activated in SiteGround’s cPanel.

 

SiteGround’s Support Actually Helps You

You won’t be waiting 30 minutes for someone to help you (like Bluehost). SiteGround’s support usually responds to tickets in about 10 minutes with priority support. But even if you don’t have priority support they are SUPER helpful and knowledgeable about WordPress plugins, Joomla extensions, etc. For the few times I’ve had to contact SiteGround they always took the time to dig into my website and actually solve the issue. It makes a huge difference.

I usually get a response within a few minutes of submitting a ticket…

SiteGround-Support-Conversation

Chat support can usually solve your issue within 5 minutes…

siteground-chat

Tickets are usually answered within 8 minutes…

siteground-tickets

SiteGround has awesome feedback about their support…

SiteGround-Customer-Reviews

 

cPanel Demo

Here you can take SiteGround’s cPanel demo for a test drive. They have a WordPress installer, autoupdates, staging, Cloudflare, mail options, and plenty of other features that make your website run smooth and load fast. This includes tools for WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal…

siteground-cpanel

 

Praise On Twitter From Current SiteGround Customers

SiteGround-Support-Reviews

 

Conclusion: StartUp Is Decent But I Would Do GrowBig

SiteGround’s StartUp plan is good for “hobby” websites but if you’re running a business website that you rely on to make a living, I would definitely go with GrowBig or GoGeek.

GrowBig is $2/month more and will make your site load faster, plus you get priority support and other features. And if you want an even faster website with semi-dedicated hosting, GoGeek is even better. Regardless, if you’re currently using one of the terrible hosts in that Facebook poll, you will be happy you migrated. I’m on their cloud servers but that is $80/month ONLY because I’m obsessed with website speed (and rely on my website to make a living). Unless you really need this, one of their shared hosting plans will be fine. I hope you found my SiteGround StartUp review helpful and if you have any questions, leave a comment.

People usually migrate because their speed technology can improve load times by multiple seconds. You’ve seen my GTmetrix and Pingdom report, here’s what other people are saying:

SiteGround-Host-Migration

EIG-To-SiteGround

SiteGround-Migration

Godaddy-To-SiteGround

SiteGround-Backend

Best-Host-Conversation

Looking-for-a-new-host-provider-Facebook

View SiteGround StartUp / GrowBig

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 What are the main differences between StartUp vs GrowBig or GoGeek?

Higher plans include more server resources which make your site load faster. GrowBig+ can also host multiple websites and has extra features like staging, more storage, advanced caching, and on-demand backups. Check their Features page for a side-by-side comparison of each plan.

🚀 Will my website be OK on the StartUp plan?

StartUp is usually only good for new websites with low traffic which aren't running any resource-hungry plugins. I wouldn't recommend it for medium to high traffic sites, WooCommerce sites, or those running lots of resource-hungry plugins. For these sites, I would use GrowBig or GoGeek instead otherwise you will run into CPU overage issues.

🚀 What does SiteGround mean by less than 10,000 visits/month?

It's a rough estimate of how many monthly visitors the StartUp plan can handle, however this is usually not accurate. This depends on how many resources your site consumes, which plugins you're running, and whether your website is optimized for speed.

🚀 How should I configure the SG Optimizer plugin?

Run the latest PHP version, or choose the Managed PHP Version option in the Environment Settings. Next, test every setting in the Environment and Frontend Optimization tab and keep them enabled if they don't mess up your site. Optimizing images is important, but there's more to this than what's in SG Optimizer's settings (you also want to serve scaled images). Don't forget to enable Cloudflare's CDN in SiteGround.

🚀 What's the best way to migrate to SiteGround?

GrowBig and GoGeek come with a free migration, otherwise using SiteGround's Migrator plugin to transfer everything yourself.

 

Check Out My Other SiteGround Reviews