If you’re like most website owners, you probably spend a lot of time making sure the design and content of your website are top-notch. Unfortunately, the time you spend on these aspects won’t matter much in the long run if you’re not also making WordPress speed optimization a priority.
The speed of your website plays a pivotal role in its performance. To increase the likelihood that it works for you, rather than against you, it’s a smart idea to make use of certain WordPress plugins.
In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of optimizing the speed of your WordPress site. Then we’ll provide you with four of the best WordPress plugins you can use to boost the speed and performance of your website. Let’s get started!
Why WordPress Speed Optimization Is So Important
You want your website to deliver a strong user experience (UX) to your visitors. However, this goes beyond your site’s navigation and usability.
If someone visits your site and the page takes more than a second or two to load, it doesn’t just cause minor annoyance. It can also significantly increase the likelihood that they’ll leave your site to find what they’re looking for elsewhere, ultimately contributing to a higher bounce rate.
A slow site doesn’t just look bad to potential customers, either. It also can lead to negative ramifications from search engines as well.
Even if you understand that fast loading times are paramount to performance and SEO, you may not realize how (or where) your site is dragging. You can use page speed tools such as Pingdom and Google PageSpeed Insights to benchmark your site speed:
These tools can be incredibly helpful for gaining insight into your website’s speed and ways to improve it. However, you can also take it a step further by preventing the common problems from happening in the first place.
This includes everything from unoptimized images to improper caching configuration. WordPress speed optimization plugins can automatically take care of the issues slowing down your site before they have the opportunity to penalize you.
4 Plugins to Increase the Speed of Your WordPress Site
Now that we covered the necessity of a fast website, it’s time to dive into the plugins that can help you achieve one. Let’s take a look at four plugins that can help with your WordPress speed optimization.
With over one million active installations and a 4.5-star rating on WordPress, W3 Total Cache (W3TC) is a staple when it comes to WordPress speed optimization plugins. W3TC uses a content delivery network (CDN) integration to help reduce load times and enhance the performance of your website.
In case you’re unfamiliar, page caching (and, similarly, browser caching) is used to create static HTML files for every page on your website. This eliminates the need to send a request to the server each time someone visits your site, ultimately and drastically reducing load times.
W3TC features include:
- Page, browser, and database caching
- Transparent CDN integration and management
- Mobile, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) support
- Caching of minified and compressed pages and files
- WP-CLI support for cache purging and query string updating
- Caching statistics and performance insights
W3TC is one of the most powerful and effective WordPress speed optimization plugins you can get for free. After you install and activate the plugin, you can locate the settings under the Performance tab (located along the menu bar and the left-navigation):
At first, the dashboard can be a little overwhelming, especially for beginners. Therefore, we suggest reviewing some of the settings the developers recommend configuring.
Note: Having more than one caching plugin can cause compatibility issues that interfere with the plugins’ features. Therefore, whether you use W3TC or a premium plugin such as WP Rocket (which we’ll discuss later in this post), it’s recommended you uninstall any other caching plugins on your site.
2. WP Smush
Images account for the majority of a web page’s weight. While you want your website to have high-quality images, large file sizes can also dramatically slow your site down. Fortunately, there are ways you can reduce the file size without impacting the visible quality of the images.
One of those methods is to use an image compression and optimization plugin such as WP Smush. With over one million active installations and an impressive five-star rating on WordPress, this plugin is by far one of the most popular and preferred WordPress speed optimization plugins.
WP Smush uses lossless compression to clean your images of any unused or unnecessary data on upload. The result is images that are more lightweight and, therefore, quicker to load.
It also includes image resizing and incorrect image size detection, making it easier to pinpoint any problematic images that might be slowing down your site and scaling them down as needed.
Additional features include:
- Lazy load to differ offscreen images
- Bulk Smush, so you can optimize up to 50 images with one click
- Compatibility and support for NextGEN and Amazon S3 images
After you download and install the WP Smush plugin, you can locate the plugin dashboard under Smush from your WordPress admin menu:
You can download and use many of the features for free. However, there is also a premium version, WP Smush Pro, that starts at $7 per month. You can also try a seven-day free trial. This unlocks access to advanced features such as original image backup, one-click bulk optimization for unlimited images, and more.
3. WP Rocket
If you read our previous WP Rocket review, you’ll know that we’re fans of this plugin – and with good reason. WP Rocket is a caching plugin, which, as you might recall from the W3 Total Cache section, can help improve page load times by temporarily retrieving stored site information, rather than requesting it from the server each time a visitor returns to your site.
However, WP Rocket is different than other caching plugins in a number of ways. To begin with, it’s the first premium-only caching plugin that exist. While paying for the plugin may be off-putting to some, it’s important to remember that the cost comes in exchange for better performance and features than you might expect to see with free options.
A major advantage of WP Rocket is that it offers what’s called cache preloading. Basically, the plugin simulates a visit to your site so the cache is automatically preloaded. Not only does this help accelerate the speed of your website, but it can also make it easier for search engines to index your site.
Additional WP Rocket features include:
- Regular updates and support
- Page and browser caching
- Lazy load and image optimization
- DNS prefetching
- And much more
If you’re a WordPress developer, one of the unique benefits of WP Rocket that might be of particular interest to you is that you can white label it. As a developer-friendly plugin, it also contains plenty of hooks you can use for advanced customizations.
You can visit the WP Rocket website for a full feature list and comparison breakdown with other caching plugins. Pricing for the WP Rocket plugin starts at $49 for a single website. You can also try it for 14 days with a 100 percent money-back guarantee.
When it comes to boosting the performance of your WordPress site, PageSpeed Ninja is another helpful tool. However, as a WordPress speed optimization plugin, it is quite unique from others on this list.
This plugin works to analyze your site according to Google PageSpeed Insights best practices. It runs in the background of your site and offers suggestions for improvements, which you can find under Settings > PageSpeed Ninja.
The main draw of this plugin is that it’s like a built-in Google PageSpeed Insights tool for your WordPress site. You can view your performance score as well as the recommended suggestions without actually having to access the third-party site. Then you can resolve the issues with just one click.
This plugin is free to download and use. However, again, it’s worth mentioning that the plugin may have incompatibility issues with other caching and speed optimization plugins. Therefore, they recommend that you test your site via the PageSpeed Ninja website to see whether using it would benefit your site:
After you enter your site into the text box and click the Go button, it will analyze your site to determine if and how it can improve your Google PageSpeed Insights score. If there is a score improvement, you can select Request Invite, or simply download and activate the PageSpeed Ninja plugin on your WordPress site.
Nothing can hurt your site’s performance quite like slow loading times. Fortunately, there are WordPress plugins you can use to combat and prevent some of the common causes of a slow website. Installing these plugins can help make your site as fast as possible, so you don’t have to worry about a poor UX.
In this post, we discussed four plugins that can help with your WordPress speed optimization:
- W3 Total Cache. A powerful, free caching plugin that uses CDN integration and page and browser caching to boost site performance and speed.
- WP Smush. An image compression and optimization plugin that comes in both a free and premium version.
- WP Rocket. This premium, developer-friendly caching plugin offers advanced features such as lazy loading, DNS prefetching, and white labeling.
- PageSpeed Ninja. A free tool you can use to analyze your site against Google PageSpeed Insights best practices and identify opportunities for improvement directly from your WordPress dashboard.
Do you have any questions about using these plugins to increase your site speed? Let us know in the comments section below!
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