15 WordPress Speed Optimization Tips To Improve Your Core Web Vital Scores (2022)

Wordpress speed optimization tips

Looking for some awesome WordPress speed tips?

These are the same tips I use to get 100% GTmetrix scores on my homepage and <2s load times on nearly every one of my posts. You’ll learn everything from optimizing plugins, images, server response times, CDNs, and external resources like Google Fonts and YouTube videos.

Use GTmetrix as your tool of choice.
It gives accurate load times and has extensive recommendations like which images need to be optimized, which plugins are slowing down your WordPress site, time to first byte, CDNs, etc.

Google PageSpeed Insights is only good for measuring server response times which should be <200ms. Otherwise, it’s pretty useless and there are many articles out there explaining why.

Pingdom is the most accurate tool for measuring load times, but their recommendations aren’t as great as GTmetrix. (for example, it doesn’t say which specific images need to be optimized).

This post you’re reading has a 1.61MB page size, 69 requests, and still loads in about 1s:

Wordpress speed optimization tips gtmetrix report

If you have questions or need help, drop me a comment or you can also hire my WordPress speed optimizer to help you improve scores + load times with before + after GTmetrix reports.

 

1. Avoid Known High CPU Plugins

“It’s not the number of plugins, it’s the quality,” said everyone

If you’re using any of these slow plugins, consider replacing them with a faster alternative.

*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
  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. Elementor
  15. Facebook Chat
  16. Fancy Gallery
  17. Fuzzy SEO Booster
  18. Google Analytics
  19. Google Language Translator
  20. View Full List Of 73 Slow Plugins

How To Find Your Slowest Plugins
You can either use Query Monitor, or go through your GTmetrix report to see if the same plugin is showing multiple times in your PageSpeed and YSlow tabs. Also check the Waterfall:

Slow wordpress plugin waterfall

 

2. Don’t Let Plugins Run On Every Page

Asset CleanUp lets you selectively disable plugins + scripts from loading on certain content. For example, you can disable your contact form and rich snippets plugin from loading on content they don’t show on. Or disable your affiliate marketing plugin from loading on pages.

This eliminates unnecessary requests and reduces load times. Asset CleanUp is also easier to use than Plugin Organizer and other plugins with similar functionality. I highly recommend it.

Asset cleanup selective disable

 

3. Use A Top Rated Cache Plugin

Which cache plugin is best? Look at these Facebook polls:

WP Rocket is usually #1 because it comes with many features most cache plugins don’t (database cleanup, lazy loading images + videos, local fonts + analytics, prefetching, CDN integration) which is why it usually yields better scores + load times than other cache plugins.

That also means if you were to use most other cache plugins, you would need to install about 6 extra plugins, when WP Rocket has these all built-in. If you’re like me, you’d have just 1 plugin.

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 Not Included With Most Cache Plugins:

  • Database Cleanup: built-in to WP Rocket, or use WP-Optimize.
  • Lazy Loading: built-in to WP Rocket, or use WP YouTube Lyte.
  • Heartbeat Control: built-in to WP Rocket, or use Heartbeat Control.
  • Local Google Analytics: built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS Analytics.
  • Local Google Fonts: built-in to WP Rocket, or use either OMGF or SHGF.
  • Prefetch DNS Requests: built-in to WP Rocket, or use Pre* Party Resource Hints.
  • Facebook Pixel Browser Caching: built-in to WP Rocket (no other plugin does this).
  • CDNs: built-in to WP Rocket (both Cloudflare + multiple CDNs), or use CDN Enabler.

Swift Performance Lite is good too, but it’s more difficult to setup and you probably won’t get the same results as WP Rocket. But Swift does come with a plugin organizer which is helpful.

 

4. Upgrade To PHP 8.0

Upgrading to a higher PHP version is the easiest thing and can make your site 2-3x faster.

All you have to do is login to your hosting account, find the PHP version manager, and make sure you’re on the latest version (check your website after). Some hosts are quicker to release newer PHP versions than others, another reason why you should avoid GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator (both were late to release PHP 7.2 and will likely be stuck there for awhile).

Php 8. 0

You can use the Display PHP Version plugin to check which PHP version you’re currently on.

Display-php

 

5. Optimize External Scripts

External scripts can are anything on your website that create external requests from outsides websites. Embeds are very common (embedded videos, Github code, job postings, even GIFs).

Some scripts can be optimized (hosting fonts + analytics tracking code locally), lazy loading videos, or even clever ways like taking screenshots of Twitter posts instead of embedding them. You can even try caching Gravatars using a plugin or using Disqus conditional load or Perfmatters (created by Kinsta) to optimize WooCommerce scripts, styles, and cart fragments.

Other external scripts are nearly impossible to optimize. I have never seen a site with AdSense have a decent GTmetrix report. High CPU social sharing and commenting plugins will always slow down your site (this ties into choosing lightweight plugins). My suggestion – optimize the ones you can, try to avoid the rest, and whatever’s leftover, make sure you prefetch this list of common domains to prefetch using WP Rocket. But, avoid external scripts whenever you can.

External scripts in gtmetrix

Google Fonts
You can host fonts locally using WP Rocket, OMGF, or Self-Hosted Google Fonts. Asset Manager and Autoptimize also have options for this. But the best way to optimize fonts is to host fonts locally. Go to the Google Fonts website and download all fonts you’re using (be as minimal as you can with fonts and weights). Next, convert the fonts to web font files using Transfonter. Upload web font files to the wp-uploads folder, and add the custom font to CSS.

Google Analytics
WP Rocket, CAOS Analytics, and the Local Google Analytics for WordPress plugin will fix the “leverage browser caching” error in GTmetrix when using Google Analytics. I use WP Rocket.

Google AdSense
Loading Google AdSense asynchronously and Cloudflare Rocket Loader can help optimize Google AdSense, but this is the biggest GTmetrix killer of them all. It’s basically a trade for monetization over performance, and there is little you can do to make AdSense load faster.

Embedded YouTube Videos
If you’re using WP Rocket, they have an option to lazy load videos and replace the iframe with a preview image (making it so videos are only loaded once people click the play button). If you’re not using WP Rocket, WP YouTube Lyte is a good alternative. This can shave multiple seconds off your initial load times and is easy. Many embedded videos can take over 2 seconds.

Embedded Tweets, Facebook, And Instagram Posts
If you embed posts on your website, consider taking screenshots and replacing it with an image (see the reduce server response time section for an example). I used a 2-column layout and took screenshots of Facebook polls. Now, they don’t have to pull requests from Facebook.

Gravatars
If you have lots of comments on your blog, you probably know how much Gravatars and even some commenting plugins can slow down your site. I decided to disable Gravatars since I’m picky about my load times, but you can also try Harrys, FV, and Optimum Gravatar cache. None of those plugins worked for me though. Your other option is to break or hide comments.

Social Sharing Plugins
Social sharing buttons pull external requests from Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. If your plugin has an option to update “like counts” you can adjust it so they’re not updated as often. Otherwise, I recommend one of these lightweight social sharing plugins:

 

6. Serve Scaled Images

Serving scaled images means you need to resize large images to be smaller.

GTmetrix tells you which images are too large and the correct dimensions they should be resized to. All you have to do is resize them then replace the old images with the new one.

Properly size images

It’s a good idea to create an image dimensions cheat sheet so you know the dimensions of all your different images. For example, your sliders might be 1024 x 400px while your widget images are 300 x 300px, or your fullwidth blog images might be 680px width (like mine). So before I create any image, I know it has to be resized to those dimensions for it to load fast.

Sample Image Dimension Cheat Sheet:

  • Logo: 300 x 100px
  • Sliders: 1024 x 400px
  • Widgets: 300 x 300px
  • Featured post images: 350 x 350px
  • Fullwidth blog images: 680px (width)

If you have serve scale images errors, you will need to fix those manually without a plugin. But once you get familiar with sizing your images properly, you should never have that error again.

 

7. Compress Images

ShortPixel, Imagify, and Smush are 3 top plugins for this.

Install one of those plugins (I use ShortPixel), sign up with an API key, then bulk compress all images on your site. Of course, you should check your settings, test a few images, and backup your images before bulk optimizing. Even if plugins say “lossless” there is almost always a small quality drop. This is a photographer’s dilemma – if speed is more important, do it. If not, don’t!

Shortpixel settings

 

8. Setup Cloudflare’s CDN

There’s no reason not to use Cloudflare’s free CDN.

It hosts your website on 200+ data centers, makes it more secure, and has tons of features inside their dashboard. If you haven’t setup Cloudflare and changed nameservers, I’d do that.

Cloudflare data centers

If you already have Cloudflare, here are a few extra speed optimizations:

  • Setup Page Rules to save bandwidth and secure your wp-admin
  • Configure Cloudflare’s speed settings to get the most out of their service
  • Enable Hotlink Protection to prevent people from using image bandwidth
  • Let your cache plugin take care of minification, then disable it in Cloudflare

 

9. Consider Multiple CDNs

Multiple CDNs = more data centers = faster delivery of your content.

Multiple cdns

I use both Cloudflare and StackPath. Smaller websites should be fine with just Cloudflare, but if you’re serious about speed I would consider an additional CDN. StackPath has excellent support and they will help configure the optimal settings if requested. KeyCDN is good too.

With other CDNs besides Cloudflare, they will generate a CDN URL which you will paste into your cache plugin (most cache plugins have a CDN URL field) or use the CDN Enabler plugin.

 

10. Make Plugins Load Faster

We all know plugins can destroy GTmetrix scores, so here are some tips for optimizing them.

  • Avoid high CPU plugins: avoid this list of slow plugins. Common slow plugins include social sharing plugins, portfolios, slider, statistics, backups, and others.
  • Replace high CPU plugins with faster plugins: some research will be required, but replace any of your high CPU plugins with faster, more lightweight plugins.
  • Delete plugins you don’t need: can you replace plugins with code (eg. insert GA tracking code directly, use Facebook widgets instead of plugins, or create a table of contents in HTML + CSS? Any plugins you can replace with code, do it.
  • Don’t use JetPack for a couple modules: first, disable all modules you’re not currently using in the debug settings. Next, do you really need JetPack if you’re only using it for a couple things? It’s infamous for slowing down sites. You’re betting off finding a non-bloated plugin that only does the same functionality.
  • Find your slowest plugins: use the GTmetrix Waterfall tab or Query Monitor (the queries by components tab) to see your slowest plugins. If a plugin shows multiple times in your PageSpeed + YSlow report, that may also be an indictor.

 

11. Limit Post Revisions + Autosaves

By default, WordPress automatically saves each post revision, and also continuously saves drafts when editing them. Saving drafts can be a waste of server resources, and storing thousands of post revisions can bloat your database, so we’ll at least tweak these settings.

Add this to your wp-config.php:

define('WP_POST_REVISIONS', 5);
define('AUTOSAVE INTERVAL', 5);

You can also disable autosaves and limit post revisions using Perfmatters or Clearfy.

Perfmatters optimization settings

 

12. Block Spam Bots From Hitting Your Site

Spam bots are a waste of server resources.

They hit your site repeatedly and consume server resources, without any benefit. And without checking whether they’re hitting your site (use Wordfence), you wouldn’t know they’re there.

Step 1: Find spam bots using Wordfence’s live traffic report. If you see the same bot constantly hitting your site, Google it’s hostname and see if other people have reported it as spam. Googlebot and other legitimate bots are obviously fine, but bots like amazon.aws and linode have been reported as problems. These 2 bots were hitting my own site nearly every second!

Wordfence live traffic report

Step 2: Block spam bots using Cloudflare Firewall Rules, BBQ, Blackhole, or Wordfence. I would personally use Cloudflare’s firewall rulers if you only have a few primary spam bots to block, since Wordfence itself can cause high CPU. To review, find the spam bots in Wordfence, block the spam bots using Cloudflare, then delete Wordfence so it’s doesn’t consume CPU.

Wordfence-blocking-rule

 

13. Reduce Server Response Times To <200ms

Most hosting recommendations are garbage, but it’s the #1 speed factor and you can use KeyCDN to test your global TTFB (which is also 40% of LCP). I suggest joining the WP Speed Matters Facebook Group to get unbiased hosting feedback. The 3 hosts below are solid and either use LiteSpeed servers, Cloudflare Enterprise, cloud hosting, and all 3 use NVMe/Redis. These are much faster than most “mainstream hosts” (SiteGround, Hostinger, Kinsta) who use slower SSDs, Apache/Nginx, and no Cloudflare Enterprise or Redis (and if they do, it costs $$$).

The aff links below are how I make a living and I appreciate you using them. Thanks :)

Namehero cloudways rocket. Net
These are the same hosts I recommend

  • NameHero – all plans use LiteSpeed which means you’ll use LiteSpeed Cache + QUIC.cloud CDN (arguably fastest setup on a budget). NameHero has more CPU/RAM than similar LiteSpeed hosts with cPanel + email hosting. I usually recommend the Turbo Cloud plan with 3 cores + 3GB RAM + NVMe for $7.58/mo. The main con is their data centers are only in the US + NL. If these aren’t close to your visitors, make sure to use QUIC.cloud (which has HTML caching) or look into ChemiCloud / Scala. All 3 use LiteSpeed and have at least a 4.7/5 TrustPilot rating.

Web server poll

Web server poll oxygen

Litespeed vs nginx vs apache
LiteSpeed servers are faster than Nginx/Apache
Ram on litespeed hosting plans
NameHero has more CPU/RAM than similar hosts if you compare specs

Namehero vs siteground feedback

Litespeed cache litespeed server

  • Cloudways Vultr High Frequency – while NameHero is shared, Vultr HF is cloud hosting with NVMe and 44 data centers. I moved from SiteGround and load times + hosting costs both cut in half while eliminating CPU issues. People are scared it’s “techie” but launching a server and connecting your domain can literally take 5 minutes (plus they offer a free migration). Redis Object Cache Pro is free and the Cloudflare Enterprise add-on is $5/mo which adds prioritized routing, more PoPs, image optimization, WAF, Argo, and load balancing. Cons are extra costs for email hosting (use Google Workspace), cache plugin (use FlyingPress), and Cloudflare Enterprise doesn’t have full page caching (coming soon). It’s monthly pricing with 3-day trials. Normally starts at $13/mo but here’s a coupon for 30% off 3 months.
Cloudways launch vultr high frequency server
Launching a server is easy and gives you more control
Siteground to cloudways shoutout
Many people posted migration results and they were ranked #1 in several polls

Slow ttfb siteground

Hostinger to cloudways speed improvement

  • Rocket.net – a step up from Cloudways in terms of speed, support, and easy of use. Unlike Cloudways, their Cloudflare Enterprise is free with full page caching and no configuration needed (the CEO Ben Gabler was previously Chief Product Officer at StackPath, so you’re not going to get a better CF Enterprise). You get 32 cores + 128GB RAM, NVMe, Redis, and Brotli. There are no PHP worker limits since only about 10% of traffic hits the origin server. They allow 10x more monthly visits than Kinsta, but the main con is bandwidth is low compared to Cloudways. Since hosting/CDNs are a big part of TTFB/LCP, you’re hitting 2 birds with 1 stone. While still small, they’re getting popular and start at $25/mo (yearly) or try them for $1. If you have a larger/WooCommerce site, I suggest having a conversation with Ben.
Keycdn global ttfb
Rocket.net averages a <100ms global TTFB (you can also search their TrustPilot reviews for “TTFB“)

Rocket. Net vs kinsta migration

Moved to rocket. Net vs siteground

Kinsta to rocket. Net ttfb redis

Hosts I Don’t RecommendSiteGround has been having TTFB issues for a while, SiteGround Optimizer does a poor job addressing core web vitals, and their DNS is unreliable. Plus, they censor Facebook Groups and threaten to sue people who write bad reviews instead of fixing their declining service. Hostinger is only cheap because you get less resources (i.e. CPU/RAM) and they mainly grew from fake reviews with previous outages and security problems. Kinsta is overpriced with low PHP workers, CPU/RAM, and Redis costs $100/mo. GoDaddy and Bluehost are obviously not good.

Siteground to cloudways dns issue

Siteground no value

Hostinger bad

 

14. Disable WooCommerce Scripts, Styles, Cart Fragments

WooCommerce sites are infamously slow.

This is partially because WooCommerce adds scripts, styles, and cart fragments to every single page on your site (even non-eCommerce pages). Just like you shouldn’t let some plugins run on every page (tip #2), you shouldn’t let WooCommerce options run on non-eCommerce pages. You can disable all these in 1-click using the Perfmatters plugin by Kinsta (which also lets you selectively disable plugins/scripts), otherwise you can use these codes from Github.

Perfmatters woocommerce optimization

Disable WooCommerce Scripts:

Disable WooCommerce Styles: see Woocommerce’s documentation.

Disable WooCommerce Cart Fragments:

 

15. Post Your GTmetrix Report In Facebook Groups

If you still need help, there are Facebook Groups where people are happy to provide feedback. Feel free to also leave me a comment, check out my full WordPress speed guide, or hire my team for WordPress speed optimization who will send you before and after GTmetrix reports.

2019-gtmetrix-report

Recommended Facebook Groups

Wordpress speed up facebook group

Hope this was helpful.

Cheers,
Tom

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