Do you want to speed up your WordPress site? Fast loading pages improve user experience, increase your pageviews, and help with your WordPress SEO. In this article, we will share the most useful WordPress speed optimization tips to boost WordPress performance and speed up your website.
Unlike other “X best WordPress caching plugin” lists or generic “X tips to speeding up WordPress” tutorials, this article is a comprehensive guide to WordPress performance optimization.
We include everything from why speed is important, what slows down your WordPress site to actionable steps that you can take to improve your WordPress speed immediately.
To make it easy, we have created a table of contents to help you navigate through our ultimate guide to speeding up your WordPress site.
Speeding Up WordPress in Easy Steps (No Coding)
Studies show that from 2000 to 2016, the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 7 seconds.
What does this mean for you as a website owner?
You have very little time to show users your content and convince them to stay on your website.
A slow website means users will potentially leave your website before it even loads.
According to a StrangeLoop case study that involved Amazon, Google, and other larger sites, a 1 second delay in page load time can lead to 7% loss in conversions, 11% fewer page views, and 16% decrease in customer satisfaction.
On top of that, Google and other search engines have already started penalizing slower websites by pushing them down in the search results which means lower traffic for slow websites.
To sum it all up, if you want more traffic, subscribers, and revenue from your website, then you must make your WordPress website FAST!
Often beginners think that their website is OK just because it doesn’t feel slow on their computer. That’s a HUGE mistake.
Since you frequently visit your own website, modern browsers like Chrome store your website in cache and automatically prefetch it as soon as you start typing an address. This makes your website load almost instantly.
However, a normal user who is visiting your website for the first time may not have the same experience.
In fact, users in different geographical locations will have a completely different experience.
This is why we recommend that you test your website speed using a tool like Pingdom.
It is a free online tool that allows you to test your website’s speed from different locations.
After you run your website speed test, you might be wondering what’s a good website speed that I should aim for?
However, the faster you can make it, the better it is. A few milliseconds of improvements here and there can add up to shaving off half or even a full second from your load time.
Your speed test report will likely have multiple recommendations for improvement. However most of that is technical jargon which is hard for beginners to understand.
However understanding what slows down your website is key to improving performance and making smarter long-term decisions.
The primary causes for a slow WordPress website are:
Now that you know what slows down your WordPress website, let’s take a look at how to speed up your WordPress website.
Your WordPress hosting service plays an important role in website performance. A good shared hosting provider like BlueHost or Siteground take the extra measures to optimize your website for performance.
However, on shared hosting you share the server resources with many other customers. This means that if your neighboring site gets a lot of traffic, then it can impact the entire server performance which in turn will slow down your website.
On the other hand, using a managed WordPress hosting service give you the most optimized server configurations to run WordPress. Managed WordPress hosting companies also offer automatic backups, automatic WordPress updates, and more advanced security configurations to protect your website.
We recommend WPEngine as our preferred managed WordPress hosting provider. They’re also the most popular one in the industry. (See our special WPEngine coupon).
For enterprise WordPress hosting, we recommend using Pagely because they’re the best in business.
We know that making changes to your website configuration can be a terrifying thought for beginners, especially if you’re not a tech-geek.
But don’t worry, you’re not alone. We have helped thousands of WordPress users improve their WordPress performance.
We will show you how you can speed up your WordPress site with just a few clicks (no coding required).
If you can point-and-click, you can do this!
WordPress pages are “dynamic.” This means they’re built on the fly every time someone visits a post or page on your website. To build your pages, WordPress has to run a process to find the required information, put it all together, and then display it to your user.
This process involves a lot of steps, and it can really slow down your website when you have multiple people visiting your site at once.
That’s why we recommend every WordPress site use a caching plugin. Caching can make your WordPress site anywhere from 2x to 5x faster.
Here’s how it works: Instead of going through the whole page generation process every time, your caching plugin makes a copy of the page after the first load, and then serves that cached version to every subsequent user.
As you can see in the graphics above, when a user visits your WordPress site, which is built using PHP, your server retrieves information from a MySQL database and your PHP files, and then it’s all put together into a HTML content which is served served to the user. It’s a long process, but you can skip a lot of it when you use caching instead.
There are a lot of caching plugins available for WordPress, but we recommend using the WP Super Cache plugin. Check out our step by step guide on how to install and setup WP Super Cache on your WordPress site. It’s not difficult to set up, and your visitors will notice the difference.
Note: If you’re using a managed WordPress hosting provider, then you don’t need a caching plugin because they take care of it for you.
Images bring life to your content and help boost engagement. Researchers have found that using colored visuals makes people 80% more likely to read your content.
But if your images aren’t optimized, they could be hurting more than helping. In fact, non-optimized images are one of the most common speed issues we see on beginner websites.
Before you upload a photo directly from your phone or camera, we recommend that you use photo editing software to optimize your images for web.
In their original formats, these photos can have huge file sizes. But based on the image file format and the compression you choose in your editing software, you can decrease your image size by up to 5x.
At WPBeginner, we only use two image formats: JPEG and PNG.
Now you might be wondering: what’s the difference?
Well, PNG image format is uncompressed. When you compress an image it loses some information, so an uncompressed image will be higher quality with more detail. The downside is that it’s a larger file size, so it takes longer to load.
JPEG, on the other hand, is a compressed file format which slightly reduces image quality, but it’s significantly smaller in size.
So how do we decide which image format to choose?
The majority of our images are JPEGs.
Below is a comparison chart of the file sizes and different compression tool that we could have used for the StrangeLoop image used above.
As you can see in the chart, the image format you use can make a HUGE difference on your website performance.
For details on exactly how to optimize your images using Photoshop and other popular editing tools, without sacrificing quality, see our step by step guide on how to save images optimized for web.
After installing a caching plugin and optimizing your images, you’ll notice your site will start loading a lot faster.
But if you really want to keep your website as fast as possible, you’ll need to use the best practices listed below.
These tips aren’t too technical, so you don’t need to know any code to implement them. But using them will prevent common problems that will slow down your website.
As a well maintained open source project, WordPress is updated frequently. Each update will not only offer new features, but also fix security issues and bugs. Your WordPress theme and plugins may have regular updates, too.
As a website owner, it’s your responsibility to keep your WordPress site, theme, and plugins updated to the latest versions. Not doing so may make your site slow and unreliable, and make you vulnerable to security threats.
For more details on the importance of updates, see our article on why you should always use the latest WordPress version.
By default, WordPress displays the full content of each article on your homepage and archives. This means your homepage, categories, tags, and other archive pages will all load slower.
Another disadvantage of showing full articles on these pages is that users don’t feel the need to visit the actual article. This can reduces your pageviews, and the time your users spend on your site.
In order to speed up your loading times for archive pages, you can set your site to display excerpts instead of the full content.
You can navigate to Settings » Reading and select “For each article in a feed, show: Summary” instead of “Full Text.”
For more details on the pros and cons of displaying summaries, see our article on full post vs summary (excerpt) in your WordPress archive pages.
Getting lots of comments on your blog posts? Congratulations! That’s a great indicator of an engaged audience.
But the downside is, loading all those comments can impact your site’s speed.
WordPress comes with a built-in solution for that. Simply go to Settings » Discussion and check the box next to the “Break comments into pages” option.
For more detailed instructions, see our guide on how to paginate comments in WordPress.
Remember how we mentioned above that users in different geographical locations may experience different loading times on your site?
That’s because the location of your web hosting servers can have an impact on your site speed. For example, let’s say your web hosting company has its servers in the United States. A visitor who’s also in the United States will generally see faster loading times than a visitor in India.
Using a CDN, or Content Delivery Network, can help to speed up loading times for all of your visitors.
When you use a CDN, every time a user visits your website they are served those static files from whichever server is closest to them. Your own web hosting server will also be faster since the CDN is doing a lot of the work.
You can see how it works in this infographic.
We use MaxCDN on all our projects, including here on WPBeginner. It works well with WordPress websites and complements your existing WordPress caching plugins for even faster loading times. See our guide on how to install and setup WordPress CDN solution MaxCDN to get started.
You can directly upload videos to your WordPress site, and it will automatically display them in an HTML5 player…
But you should NEVER do that!
Hosting videos will cost you bandwidth. You could be charged overage fees by your web hosting company, or they may even shut down your site altogether, even if your plan includes “unlimited” bandwidth.
Hosting videos also increases your backup sizes tremendously, and makes it difficult for you to restore WordPress from backup.
Instead, you should use a video hosting service like YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, etc., and let them take care of the hard work. They have the bandwidth for it!
WordPress has a built-in video embed feature, so you can copy and paste your video’s URL directly into your post and it will embed automatically.
Find out more details on how it works in our guide on embedding videos in WordPress.
When selecting a WordPress theme for your website, it’s important to pay special attention to speed optimization. Some beautiful and impressive-looking themes are actually poorly coded and can slow your site way down.
It’s usually better to go with a simpler theme and use quality plugins to get the features you need, than to choose a theme that’s bloated with complex layouts, flashy animations, and other unnecessary features.
Premium WordPress theme shops like StudioPress, Themify, and Array Themes offer themes that are well coded and optimized for speed. You can also check out our article on selecting the perfect WordPress theme for advice on what to look for.
Before you activate your new theme, see our guide on how to properly switch your WordPress theme for a smooth transition.
Sliders are another common web design element that can make your website slow.
Even if your images are all optimized as described above, a poorly coded slider plugin will mean all your work is wasted.
We compared the best WordPress slider plugins for performance and features, and Soliloquy was the fastest by far.
Here’s how it compares to other popular slider plugins.
If you have a photography website or a portfolio, then you’ll probably want to use an image gallery plugin to display your photos.
It’s really important that you use a WordPress gallery plugin that is optimized for speed.
We recommend using Envira Gallery, which is the best WordPress gallery plugin in the market. It allows you to create beautiful image galleries that are lightning fast to load.
We tested its speed compared to a couple of other popular gallery plugins, and found that Envira Galley is almost twice as fast:
By using the WordPress optimization best practices and basic speed tips listed above, you should see a big improvement in your site’s loading times.
But every fraction of a second counts. If you want to get the very fastest speed possible, you’ll need to make a few more changes.
The following tips are a little more technical, with some requiring you to modify your site files or have a basic understanding of PHP. You’ll want to make sure to backup your site first just in case.
Readers tend to love blog posts that are longer and more in-depth. Longer posts even tend to rank higher in search engines.
But if you’re publishing long form articles with lots of images, it could be hurting your loading times.
Instead, consider splitting up your longer posts into multiple pages.
WordPress comes with built-in functionality to do that. Simply add the
tag in your article where you want to split it into next page. Do that again if you want to split the article on to the next page as well.
For more detailed instructions, see our tutorial on post pagination – how to split WordPress posts into multiple pages.
Many WordPress plugins and themes load all kinds of files from other websites. These files can include scripts, stylesheets, and images from external resources like Google, Facebook, analytics services, and so on.
It’s ok to use a few of these. Many of these files are optimized to load as quickly as possible, so it’s faster than hosting them on your own website.
But if your plugins are making a lot of these requests, then it could slow down your website significantly.
Note: This step is a little more technical and will require basic knowledge of PHP and WordPress template files.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of poorly coded WordPress themes out there. They ignore WordPress standard practices and end up making direct database calls, or too many unnecessary requests to the database. This can really slow down your server by giving it too much work to do.
Even well-coded themes can have code that makes database calls just to get your blog’s basic information.
In this example, every time you see
, that’s the start of a new database call:
You can’t blame theme developers for that. They simply have no other way to find out what language your site is in.
But if you are customizing your site using a child theme, then you can replace these database calls with your specific information in order to reduce all those database calls.
Review your parent theme for instances like this that can be easily replaced with static information.
After using WordPress for a while, your database will have lots of information that you probably don’t need any more. For improved performance, you can optimize your database to get rid of all that unnecessary information.
This can be easily managed with the WP-Sweep plugin. It allows you to clean your WordPress database by deleting things like trashed posts, revisions, unused tags, etc. It will also optimize your database’s structure with just a click.
See our guide on how to optimize and clean up your WordPress database for improved performance.
Post revisions take up space in your WordPress database. Some users believe that revisions can also affect some database queries run by plugins. If the plugin doesn’t specifically exclude post revisions, it might slow down your site by searching through them unnecessarily.
You can easily limit the number of revisions WordPress keeps for each article. Simply add this line of code to your wp-config.php file.
This code will limit WordPress to only save your last 4 revisions of each post or page, and discard older revisions automatically.
If you’re creating quality content on your WordPress site, then the sad truth is that it’ll probably get stolen sooner or later.
One way this happens is when other websites serve your images directly from their URLs on your website, instead of uploading them to their own servers. In effect, they’re stealing your web hosting bandwidth, and you don’t get any traffic to show for it.
Simply add this code to your .htaccess file to block hotlinking of images from your WordPress site.
Note: Don’t forget to change wpbeginner.com with your own domain.
You may also want to check our article showing 4 ways to prevent image theft in WordPress.
Some content scraping websites automatically create posts by stealing your content from your RSS feed. You can check out our guide on preventing blog content scraping in WordPress for ways to deal with automated content theft.
That’s it! We hope this article helped you learn some useful tricks to speed up WordPress and boost performance.
Go ahead and try out a couple of these techniques. Be sure to test your site’s speed before and after, and let us know your results in the comments.
You might also be interested in our case study of how we optimized List25 performance by 256%. It has a few more advanced optimization tips for you.
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