We all know the speed of a website is crucial for visitor retention. A slow website on mobile and desktop will leave visitors no other option but to click away. Google will see that, and your site ends up on page 5,000 of Google’s search results. Ouch.
In today’s digital age, the success of an online presence is measured by analytics. And your website’s speed plays a factor in these algorithms.
Below are our classy tips on how to double the speed of your WordPress website. These are organized from quick-and-easy gains to a bit more work–so be sure to start at item #1, and work your way down!
But first: why does your website need to be fast?
Let’s quote the experts:
Amazon found every 100ms of latency cost them 1% in sales. Google found an extra .5 seconds in search page generation time dropped traffic by 20%. A broker could lose $4 million in revenues per millisecond if their electronic trading platform is 5 milliseconds behind the competition.
Users click away when your website is slow- especially on mobile. Google knows this, and will not recommend your site in search results if your site is slow.
1. Clean Up Your Database Bloat
WordPress saves post-revisions as well as a content change every few seconds on some installs, which ultimately leads to hundreds of variations on a single blog post. This can be unnecessary. Why? Because it will lead to a huge database with a ton of bloat stored in that database. Here’s a plugin to clear out all the unnecessary database bloat.
However, it’s important to note that you might not see a major speed improvement if you’re on a slow/discount hosting package (around $5 per month). But, a CDN (Content Delivery Network) and a caching plugin will speed up cheap hosting. More on that below.
2. Cache Your Site
WordPress is written in PHP, which is a language that the server has to parse before sending you the webpage. Basically the computer has to think about the website before it shares it with the visitor. A caching plugin will help speed up your site’s “thinking time” by saving the website as static files.
This REALLY speeds up the website. There are some great options for caching:
3. Reduce the Load on the Server
Reduce your server’s load by using a great CDN implemented onto your site. A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a “system of distributed servers (network) that deliver webpages and other Web content to a user based on the geographic locations of the user, the origin of the webpage and a content delivery server.”
Here’s a great CDN we recommend: MaxCDN.
If you aren’t ready to go with MaxCDN right now, you can install the Jetpack plugin on your site and enable “Photon”. This will push your images through wordpress.com’s CDN which is free, but not quite as fast. MaxCDN works great with WP Rocket.
A third option would be to use Amazon CloudFront. Instructions here.
4) Get Rid of “El-Cheapo” Hosting
Do you know why your hosting is $3.99 a month? Because it sucks. Seriously. Your site is hosted on a computer with a bajillion other websites, and they are all eating dust, while the guys with a fast site are eating your lunch.
We like Media Temple. We like WP Engine. We like WordPress managed hosting (even if it’s with an inexpensive host) because it is isn’t a generic host at the dollar store. Meaning it isn’t setup to run everything. WordPress managed hosting is engineered specifically to get you a super-fast, secure WordPress website.
(Note: If you switch to WordPress managed hosting, such as WP Engine, then it won’t work with the caching plugin like WP Rocket because it has it’s own caching built in. But WP Engine works with the MaxCDN content delivery network. You pay a little bit more, but it’s worth it.)
5) Offload Video
Offload any video to Vimeo, or Wistia if you want to be super professional. Another option is YouTube, but you’ll get ads and their branding as part of the package.
If your visitors have already been to Google (they have), then their browser won’t download these static files again, but rather load them from the user’s own computer. Here’s a plugin to do it. Trust us, this plugin can really help. Every millisecond counts when it comes to page speed.
7) Image Optimization
Optimize your images. This means making the file size smaller with minimal loss in quality so they will load faster. Here’s a plugin for that.
8) Use a good theme
Use a solid & fast theme. We like StudioPress. It’s fast, without theme/feature-bloat and is built with security in mind.
9) Simplify and Purge Your Library of Plugins
Remove inactive plugins and widgets that you don’t need. Don’t load a million social plugins. Get your visitors where the need to go and make it easy for them. Don’t use Themes that are “Swiss Army Themes” (a theme that does everything.) There are thousands of these on Theme Forest. Beware.
10) Security Plugins that protect against torrents of bots and hackers
Stop malicious visitors from visiting your site to make sure your site stays up, keep it running fast, and minimize the opportunity for it getting hacked. Think no one would want to hack your site? Hackers/spammer have automated scripts that scour the web for older versions of WordPress and WordPress plugins and themes. They also have botnets testing your WordPress install for commonly used passwords.
Have you ever installed software on your computer in exchange for free emoticons? Your computer might be part of a botnet.
You might not think you’d be a target, but WordPress sites in general have come under attack numerous times over the past few years. When you’re on a platform powering over 30% of all websites, you’re a target. Also it’s not some hacker picking you out, it’s automated programs going after all WordPress websites.
Below are a few tools to mitigate that, and save you some heartache, and stop your site suddenly being filled with viagra ads. (People have had to hire us to unhack their site. Sucuri also offers this for free if you subscribe to their service.)
- Jetpack Protect
Install Jetpack & turn on “Protect.” This was formerly BruteProtect and it uses the cloud and all other website’s it’s installed on to protect your site from Bot/Brute Force Attacks. Free.
Install Google’s No Captcha Recaptcha on the WordPress login/account creation page. Free.
Get Sucuri Security Protection. An amazing amount of security and peace-of-mind and protection against malicious visitors is Sucuri’s service. The amount of benefits and features they offer are far too numerous to list, but they’ll clean your site if it ever gets hacked. Also try out CloudProxy by Sucuri.