Nothing is more frustrating than a slow loading site. It will not only make your readers look for information on another site, but it will also affect your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). This means your site will rank lower in search results which can also lead to fewer page views and sales if you have an e-commerce website.
How to test your website’s speed
If you don’t know how to test your website’s speed, use one of these free tools:
- Google PageSpeed Insights: This is Google’s own page speed test and it will give your website a score and recommendations. You will notice that there is a difference between your site’s speed on desktops and on mobile devices.
- Pingdom: Also rates your site’s speed and gives recommendations, but my favorite thing about it is that you can see how long it takes for your site to load from different cities in the world.
- GTmetrix: will show you the PageSpeed score and the YSlow score. It will summarize different components of your website and will tell you how to optimize it.
Please understand that results can vary from tool to tool. Your homepage and blog pages will probably have different loading times. The time it takes to load your website will also be affected by how busy your site is when you test it and the place in the world that is used to test the site.
Try to get a high grade and a page speed that is under 3 seconds.
How to speed up your WordPress website
There are many things that you can do to speed up your WordPress website and I want to show you some simple ways to do it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a tech geek to make your blog faster.
1. Optimize images
Large images are probably the most common and easy to fix problems of slow blogs. I know it’s easy to upload images directly from your phone or camera, but those images are huge. Depending on your camera, your photos are between 3000 and 5000px and often over 2 MB. Now imagine you have a post with five huge images. How long do you have to wait until your page loads?
Optimizing your images is easier than your think and it doesn’t take a lot of time:
- Use your favorite photo editing software to re-size your images to the width of your blog. You can do this with any free app.
- Compress your images using TinyPNG or JPEGmini.
- Save your photos as JPEGs and your vectors or illustrations as PNGs.
Check out my post on image optimization to learn more about how you can make your images smaller.
2. Limit the number of plugins
Plugins are useful and there are so many amazing ones out there.
You’re probably tempted to try every plugin that your favorite blogger recommends and you might forget that you already have one that does that job. There’s no need to have two SEO plugins, multiple share widgets, or to use different plugins for your subscription forms.
Technically, it’s not the number of plugins that’s important, but the quality.
Popular plugins, like Jetpack, are very large and you might not need everything they offer. Other plugins might not have the best quality and that can also lead to a slow loading website.
If you don’t know what to remove, use P3 Plugin Performance Profiler. It will let you know what plugins are responsible for your slow website and it will help you decide if that functionality is worth it. And once you are done, you should delete it.
3. Use excerpts on your homepage
By default, WordPress shows 10 posts per homepage or archive page. If you have long posts and many images in each post, your blog will take a long time to load.
This might also be annoying for people that want to scroll through your blog without reading every article.
This problem can easily be fixed if you show excerpts and thumbnails on your blog page. If you don’t want to do that, you can insert a ‘Read More’ break in your posts from your post editor. Or you should at least limit the number of posts displayed on your homepage from Settings > Reading.
4. Cut down on external scripts
Here are some examples of external scripts:
- Pinterest follow widgets
- Facebook like boxes
- Facebook or Disqus comments
- Bloglovin buttons
- Icon sets (like FontAwesome) and external fonts (like Google Fonts and Adobe Typekit)
- Pop-ups and lead capture tools (SumoMe, LeadPages)
- Website analytics
You don’t have to remove all of them to speed up your website, but you can test your website’s speed using Pingdom or GTmetrix to see which are causing the most problems.
5. Start caching
Caching plugins temporarily store static pages (HTML files and images) so that they don’t have to be loaded every time there is a request. This makes your website much faster.
Caching is extremely useful for repeat visitors. So when someone visits your website for the first time they will have to load all the assets at least once.
Good hosts already have a caching system built into their servers, but if you’re on a shared hosting site, you can install one of these plugins:
- W3 Total Cache: the most popular caching plugin in the WordPress world.
- WP Super Cache: built by Automattic (of WordPress.com, Jetpack and Akismet fame) and useful for high-traffic sites.
While caching plugins can be very useful, they might slow down or even break your site if you turn on a setting that your host doesn’t support.
6. Use a CDN
CDNs copy your site’s assets on their servers and will deliver them to your readers using the server that’s closest to them. So if your site is hosted in the USA, but someone from Europe visits, your site will be sent via a European server.
Besides using servers that are close to your visitors, another advantage of CloudFlare is that it protects your site against malicious attackers and suspicious crawlers.
7. Start with a good theme
If you’re shopping for a new theme, you’re probably going to want one that’s easy to customize without changing the code and has every feature under the sun. While these themes might sound great, I’m afraid they might also be very slow.
When you choose a new WordPress theme, you should purchase one that looks close to how you imagine the perfect website and has only the features you need. A lot of features, like galleries or portfolios, can and should be added through plugins so you don’t need a theme that does it all.
I’m a fan of the Genesis framework, but that is not the only option. Just make sure that you read the reviews and test the demo site to see how fast your favorite theme is.
8. Find a better web host
I’ve left this for last not because it’s unimportant, but because I know that changing hosts is not always possible.
If you’ve tried everything and your site is still slow or if you have a lot of traffic, you should probably upgrade your hosting package or move to a better host.
Cheap, shared hosting usually works well if you have a small blog, but once you start getting hundreds of visitors a day, your host might not be able to handle the traffic.
My favorite host is Siteground and it’s also the one I’m using. Since moving to SiteGround I’ve noticed that my site is faster, safer, and there was even a decrease in spam comments. They’re also affordable.
There are many other things you can do to speed up your WordPress website, but these are tips that anybody can implement right away.
What do you do to speed up your site?