How to Improve Your WordPress Site Load Time (and Why You Should)

Simplicity of use has made WordPress the most popular CMS in the world. You can set up a beautiful-looking WordPress site by simply installing a theme, and achieve more complex features with the help of plugins.

While this simplicity is a great advantage, if it isn’t used wisely, it can really work against you. A badly coded theme or too many plugins can slow down your site, and cause slow loading, a common problem for many WordPress users.

So, in this article, you’ll learn what is potentially making your WordPress website slow and receive actionable tips for improving its load time.

But first, let’s see why everybody talks about website speed and why it’s so important.

Why speed is important for a website

In this fast-paced world, nobody likes waiting—especially your visitors. So, if your website takes a while to load, people might hit the back button. This increases your bounce rate and eventually, Google will penalize you by dropping your ranking.

Lower ranking means fewer visitors, less sales, lower revenues, and the list goes on.

How slow is your website and why?

There are a few online tools you can use to check your current website loading speed.

Here are three of them to consider:

Some of the most common reasons for slow loading time include:

  • Web hosting. A poorly configured web server can have an impact on your website speed.
  • External scripts. Too many external scripts from fonts, JS (JavaScript) libraries, and ads can hurt your website loading time.
  • Unoptimized images. Unoptimized images can make your website very slow.

How to improve load time

Now that you know the reasons why your website is slower than it could be, it’s time to take the steps necessary to improve your load time.

Optimize Hosting for Geo-location or Use a CDN

If you have a readership base hailing from one central location – then you’d want to find a host with a local data center, which will improve your site’s loading times in that area. To help you get started – HostingRaja has data centers around India, LCN is a UK web host with a great foothold in the British isle, and Amen.fr is a host with data centers around western Europe. Alternatively, if you have a global site – then you’d want to go the extra mile and invest in a CDN.

CDN (content delivery network) is a network of servers placed all around the world, and using this type of setup can help improve your website speed across the board for readers no matter where they are.

Basically, CDN’s store static elements like CSS (cascading style sheets), JS (JavaScript), and images of your website, so when a user tries to access your website, it fetches these things from the server closest to them. This improves their load time considerably.

Always use trusted hosting

Web hosting quality can have a major impact on the website performance. So, while cheap options are available, you ultimately pay the price in terms of performance when taking this route.

Many hosting companies have catered to demand by offering WordPress-specific hosting packages. Additionally, shared hosting can be a great starting point when making the initial investment in a good hosting company.

However, once your website grows large enough, you’d benefit from switching to managed hosting providers. With managed hosting, you get a highly optimized server for your WordPress site, and everything is maintained by them to keep it fast.

Optimize your images

Images are one of the most important content elements when it comes to user engagement. But if you don’t optimize them before uploading them, it can have an adverse effect.

The same image can have different file sizes depending on the file format and compression method. Though normally, JPEG, PNG, and GIF are the standard formats used throughout the web.

JPEG is the most compressed version as it reduces file size, but it will also likely decrease some image quality. PNG is the uncompressed version, so it won’t reduce image quality, but it will have larger file sizes.

GIF is another image format which supports animation. It too reduces image quality, but not file size. So, it’s generally only used for showing little animations. For images with 1 or 2 colors (like icons), use PNG file formatting as it will have better quality with less file size than JPEG.

You can use Photoshop or any other image editing software to optimize your images. In Photoshop, go to File > Save for Web & Devices or hit Ctrl + Alt + Shift + S (Windows) or Cmd + Opt + Shift + S (Mac) to optimize your image for web.

If you want to optimize existing images on your WordPress site, use plugins like WP-Smushit or Imagify. These will optimize new images while uploading as well.

Take advantage of caching

We’ve already talked about how CDN leverage caching technology to serve your content faster. Similarly, you can also take advantage of caching via some plugins.

W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are both great options. These cache a copy of the static elements and serve the content faster. On average, caching can make a site 2-5 times faster.

Minify CSS and JS files

Minifying CSS and JS can reduce the load time of your site by reducing file size. In the minify process, multiple files are combined into one, so the server doesn’t have to call from many different areas. This makes your site load faster.

If you check your site using Google page speed, it will also likely recommend minifying CSS and JS. WordPress has a few plugins—like BWP-Minify or W3 Total Cache—that work for this purpose too.

Keep everything updated

Though keeping things updated may not increase your site speed, the outdated version will make your site vulnerable to security threats thus making it slow, so always use the latest WordPress version. Plus, WordPress frequently releases new updates to counter security concerns and you want those updated to save you and your visitors lots of potential headaches from being hacked.

Similarly, your theme and plugins will release updates from time to time, so keep them updated as well.

Clean up your repository

As your site gets older, there may be images, plugins, and themes that are no longer used. Maybe you found a better one and left the unused one in the library. With time, these types of actions can use up your valuable server space, making your site run slow.

As a webmaster, it’s your responsibility to keep the repository optimized. To do this, use Media Cleaner plugin. This will find and delete unused images from the media library.

For plugins, check the inactive tab to locate inactive plugins. Delete them if they’re no longer required.

Reduce the number of HTTP requests

Minimize the number of HTTP requests made to the server, as the higher the number of requests, the more time it takes the server to produce the content.

Images, external CSS, JS, and fonts make an HTTP request, so minimize the number of these types of files as much as possible. This is also where minifying of JS and CSS comes in very handy.

Excessive external fonts will add more time too, so you might just want to use them as little as possible.

Don’t upload videos directly to the library

You can upload videos directly to the WordPress media library, but that doesn’t mean that you should because videos take huge bandwidth from your server, making your site slower.

Instead, upload your video to YouTube, Vimeo, or some other video hosting company, then embed it directly in your WordPress editor. This will save your server’s bandwidth and make your video (and your site) run faster.

Split up long comments

If you have a highly engaged site, you probably get lots of comments. That’s great. But the downside of this is that many comments loading at once can really slow down the page.

The solution is to split the comments into multiple pages, and WordPress has this feature built right in.

Just go to Settings > Discussion and check “Break comment.” Adjust the settings as required.

Use excerpts on your blog listing page

If your blog listing page shows full content, it’s not good for your site’s speed either. Instead, show only excerpts. Some themes show excerpt content by default; some show full content.

Though this feature is completely theme dependent, you can still make your content excerpt with Advanced Excerpt plugin. It’s a simple plugin with very few settings, but it does the job quite well.

Use optimized themes

A badly coded theme can make your website slow too. Alternatively, a good looking theme with lots of features doesn’t guarantee best coding practice. That’s why it’s always good to start with a theme or framework that has good coding standards. TwentySeventeen theme or some frameworks like Genesis have solid coding bases.

You can always add features later, through quality plugins.

Optimize your database

As your WordPress site gets older, your database’s size will increase and some old data will no longer be required.

For good performance, remove this unnecessary data. You can use the WP-Optimize plugin to do this task for you.

Conclusion

Load time is very important for a website as just one second can be the difference between revenue and rejection. These are some tips that can help you optimize your website for better performance.

You don’t need to implement them all, just implement the ones within your scope and knowledge and you’ll see improved load time. After you do, feel free to share your experience in the comments section below!

Ananda is a freelance front end developer and CSS expert from India. He writes about front end development in his blog designtheway.com

The post How to Improve Your WordPress Site Load Time (and Why You Should) appeared first on Torque.



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