15 Practical Ways to Boost Your WordPress Speed

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Speeding up your website can boost your brand, improve your Google rankings, increase your conversions and reduce your bounce rate. In this article, I’ve pulled together my top 15 tips for boosting WordPress speed. Across our hundreds of clients, these are the main things that keep popping up.
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Speeding up your website can boost your brand, improve your Google rankings, increase your conversions and reduce your bounce rate.

In this article, I’ve pulled together my top 15 tips for boosting WordPress speed. Across our hundreds of clients, these are the main things that keep popping up.

Benchmarking your speed

A simple way to benchmark your WordPress speed is to use the free Pingdom site speed tool. If your site download time is over 3 seconds, then you should use these tips to speed your site up.

1.  Hosting

Cheap hosts are acceptable when you are starting out. Managed hosts are faster, so when you can afford to, it’s a good idea to upgrade. Often just the server response time will be enough to provide a significant boost in site speed. We increased our site speed 54% the day we moved to WP Engine.

2.  Caching

The best way to handle caching is at the server level. That’s why managed hosts are great, because all of this is taken care of. However if you aren’t on a managed host, it’s worth looking at manually setting up caching on the server and / or a cache plugin like W3 Total Cache.

3.  Have less plugins

We suggest having less than 20 plugins in total. I’ve seen some clients with over 50, and this is my first suggestion to them. All plugins will have some sort of an impact on your site speed. Often just making some compromises in site features can be enough to speed up your site significantly.

4.  Avoid problematic plugins

Some plugins can be particularly draining on your server. Install the P3 Profiler Plugin and see which ones are slowing your site down. Just remember to uninstall it after you run it. Examples of problematic plugins can be database-intensive plugins like related post plugins or backlink checkers.

5.  Avoid off site features inside WordPress

Another thing that will slow down your site is when you use WordPress to do things that it doesn’t have to be doing. Examples could be analytics, backups or backlink checkers. These can be done inside wordPress but only at the expense of front-end speed. So if speed is your priority, look for ways to do these outside WordPress. Ferraris don’t have cup holders.

6.  Keep WordPress and plugins always upgraded

It’s reasonably safe to assume that the latest version of WordPress and any plugins will contain more current and more efficient code. Therefore you’d expect that when you upgrade it’s only going to be a good thing for website speed.

7.  Have a cleanly coded theme

If you are running an old theme, or a poorly coded theme it could have a big impact on your site speed. Make sure you only use a theme from a reputable theme provider or a skilled programmer. Sometimes themes need to be re-written from scratch to get rid of the legacy code.

8.  Reduce image size

The size of your website will have a direct impact on the time it takes to download. Usually if a website is too big, it’s because of images not being optimized. The easiest way to tell is to visit gtmetrix.com and run the free speed tool on your site. GT Metrix will analyze your images and even produce optimized versions for you.

9.  Use a CDN

A CDN or Content Delivery Network will serve additional files like images from computers closer to each individual visitor. This makes the downloading of those files, faster for your visitors. If you are with a managed host, they may include this feature. If not, a good service to check out is cloudflare.com. If you aren’t running an SSL on your site, their free plan might be all you need.

10.  Have less external calls

Every time your website calls on external sites, it slows your site down. For example if you use an external service for your opt in forms or a Facebook like button. These are fine in moderation but they can quickly get out of hand. External calls might be found in plugins or in the theme itself. If you can compromise on some of those features, you will find your site loads quicker.

11.  Get rid of excess baggage

Having extra ‘stuff’ on your site can impact on your site speed. Examples could be excess data in the database, backups taking up space, too many themes, too many plugins, too much code in your themes etc. Like cars, websites need to be maintained to keep them running efficiently.

12.  Delay JavaScript loading

Sites will often have a bunch of JavaScript files that are loaded in for certain functions. An example could be a script used for a slider or a live chat box. If it’s not 100% essential that it loads before the page itself, you can delay the loading of these scripts. This is also called loading them asynchronously. This makes the page visible to the user quickly and loads the scripts in while the user is checking out the site.

13.  Use CSS Sprites

CSS sprites is where you combine smaller images into one larger image and use CSS to only show the part that is relevant for that part of the site. Good use cases are for images for button mouseovers or where you have a few icons used on the site that are similar. It’s a small win but it can speed the site up to be loading less images.

14.  Optimize high traffic pages

One of the best things you can do for speed is to apply the 80:20 rule. Most of your visitors are probably hitting your homepage, your about page or your blog page. So rather than trying to optimize every single page in the site, it makes sense to focus on those. Check Google Analytics to see your high traffic pages, and make sure they are well optimized. This will have the biggest impact for the most amount of visitors.

15.  Remove query strings from static resources

Certain resources on your page can be skipped by caching services because of the address format they use. Use the piece of code below to change the format so they are cached. Include this piece of code in your theme’s functions.php file and it will remove query strings from static resources. Make sure you know what you are doing before you do this, or speak with a skilled WordPress developer.
function ewp_remove_script_version( $src ){
return remove_query_arg( ‘ver’, $src );
add_filter( ‘script_loader_src’, ‘ewp_remove_script_version’, 15, 1 );
add_filter( ‘style_loader_src’, ‘ewp_remove_script_version’, 15, 1 );

What ways have you found to boost your site speed?

These are my top tips, I hope they are useful for you. What ways have you found to boost your WordPress speed?

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Alyona Galea

Alyona is a WordPress enthusiast, focused on sharing interesting things she comes across during her work with this great CMS. She loves exploring new destinations and maintains a travel blog at www.alyonatravels.com

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5 Responses

  1. Dan, thanks. I knew 7 of 10 your advices, so need to check and apply more 3!
    I tested new websites deeply for speed and only recently got 96/100 for desktop и 89 for mobile from Google speedinsight, here results and my article:
    Always improving!

  2. Nice one Dan, this is the most brief yet complete overview of how to speed up WordPress

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