How to Make your WordPress Website Faster
I hate a slow loading website and you know who else does Google and your site visitors. Not only will a slow web site make your potential customers bail early before they even see what you can offer them but Google actually knows how long your site takes to load as well.
That becomes a problem because Google never wants to give their users a bad experience which includes slow loading web sites. In other words, speed matters but it is important to kind of keep things in perspective here.
You need to consider the difference between actual full load time and then what I call perceived load time. There are many tools out there that are going to show you that total load time is 8 or 10 seconds.
What to be more concerned about is if the above-the-fold content loads quickly within 2 or 3 seconds. What happens is it gives that content below the fold some breathing room and a little bit of time to load while people are actually looking at that first image that pops up.
Testing Your Website Speed
The first thing you want to do here is run that speed report just to get a sense of where you’re starting from. I like to use GTmetrics.com, it will give you an overall grade or score and show you how long your site takes to fully load as well as the overall page size.
The great thing here is it will show you a list of some of the things your site is getting right and then other improvements you can make as well but you should definitely take this list with a grain of salt.
Some things are just going to be impractical to implement based on the way your site is built and some are going to be huge time wasters for the amount of time savings that it will get you.
I look at it like if you ever use the app Waze. It’s gonna give you a lot of really roundabout ways of getting to a place but sometimes it’s only going to save you 30 seconds and you have you go through a neighborhood and take a lot of left turns.
You want to do a reality check and make sure is this thing that’s going to take a long time to fix really going to get you any kind of time savings in the end. If not then you might just want to skip it.
For instance if your sites using these big beautiful images it’s going to be hard to get that perfect score. It can be a balancing act between having a site that loads really fast versus having a bit more visual content that will make more of an impact and draw more of your prospects in.
It’s all about what’s acceptable for you and for your visitors and you should really just look at that priority column to see which things will make the biggest impact and focus on those if you can.
Are You Using Shared Hosting?
The first thing is you might need to upgrade from shared hosting to a more dedicated managed WordPress host. Your site’s only going to be as fast as the server that powers it. If you have a slow server it’s probably going to come up as a to-do action on your GT metrics report.
Honestly most small business websites are perfectly fine being on a shared host but if that comes up on your report and you start seeing a lot of issues of slow load speed you might want to consider it.
The main difference here is a shared host is exactly how it sounds like, you’re on a server with a bunch of other websites. A dedicated server is just yours and of course that does cost more.
But if it makes your site load more quickly and more people are sticking around on your site it’s probably going to be worth the price difference.
It’s also really important to go with a host that specializes in WordPress, that’s going to get you on a server that’s properly configured to run WordPress websites much more efficiently.
Caching Plugin Is Vital For WordPress
You need to use a caching plug-in and I’ll explain why. WordPress pages are basically rebuilt and shown on the fly every time you get a new visitor to your site.
To build your pages WordPress basically has to scramble to find all the data, then put it all together and then show it to your users. This involves a lot of steps and it can really slow your website down especially if you have a lot of visitors at the same time.
For this reason I recommend just about every WordPress site run some kind of a caching plugin like w3 total cache. Caching can actually make a huge difference and make your site load about two to five times faster.
So here’s how it works, basically instead of going through that whole page generation process every time, the caching plugin actually just makes a copy of your page and then shows that to every user afterwards.
Optimize Your Images
The next thing you want to do is optimize your images. Images make up around fifty percent of a pages total size and because of that you can get some pretty big improvements just by optimizing your image sizes.
When we’re talking about optimizing your images there are basically two ways to do that. The first way refers to the actual dimensions of your photos.
I see this all the time with clients, they’ll take a picture with their phone or they’ll download a stock image in the full dimensions then they’ll upload this really big file of like five thousand pixels or more and they’ll upload that right into their WordPress site.
Well the average browser window size for most people viewing your website is about 800 pixels wide so basically you’re uploading an image that’s way too big.
I actually recommend uploading images around 1400 pixels wide for those hero images, you can go up to 1900 for those big displays but most people aren’t going to see it that big. Just make sure you upload something that’s it more or less the right physical dimensions.
The next piece of the puzzle is compression and what this does is it takes those properly sized images and it makes them even smaller from a file size point of view.
If this all sounds complicated like too many steps there’s actually quite a few plugins that you can get for free that’ll take care of all of this for you automatically. I like to use Smush, it really doesn’t reduce the quality much and it does a great job compressing those file sizes.
Lose The Sliders
Alright, the next thing is to lose the sliders. I can’t tell you how many websites I still see that have that big image slider on the top of their homepage with the rotating images and the rotating headlines.
They really weigh a page down size-wise and that of course means slower load times and this is for two reasons. Basically they’re using multiple images up top and these are usually pretty big images so that’s going to weigh it down.
The other reason is there’s a lot of code involved to make that work so of course that takes extra time to load and the worst part is it’s right at the top of the page so if it’s not loading people are just looking at a blank screen.
I recommend just getting rid of the slider altogether and replacing it with one nice big image and one great headline.
Check Your Plugins and Widgets
Next thing is you want to find and remove slow plugins. If you’ve had a site for awhile you may have gone in and added plugins over the years some of which you may not even be using anymore but they’re still there and they’re still slowing your site down.
I’m not saying you’re necessarily going to want to delete all of these slow plugins, you may need some of them. Just take a look and if something is slowing you down and you know you don’t need it or you don’t even use it, just delete it.
Make sure to remove unnecessary widgets like social sharing widgets or video players. These elements need to call out to their own servers like from Facebook or YouTube.
If you combine those requests with everything else that your site has going on it can really start to slow down the process.
Let’s talk about those social sharing widgets which are great to have but I definitely recommend you only put those on your posts, podcasts or videos. anything that’s actually shareable.
Most people are not going to be sharing your homepage or your service pages, they just don’t really do that and as much as I love videos on a website what you don’t need is a grid of five or ten videos. Speaking of which, never upload videos directly to your website.
If you’re smart enough to include video on your website you should always be uploading it to YouTube, you could do Vimeo but YouTube is generally better for SEO.
Ideally you would upload your video to YouTube and then just embed it on your website. Hosting these videos yourself is just going to be a huge drain on your server which makes everything slower and this definitely goes for those ambient background videos.
Use Lazy Loading
Remember in the beginning of this post how I talked about the idea of perceived load times, well that’s what this tip is all about. By using a lazy load plug-in only the content that’s in the browser window is going to be loaded.
When the user scrolls down the other elements start to load just before they come into view. This not only speeds up your page loads but it also saves in bandwidth because it doesn’t have to load up all that data for people who aren’t scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the page.
Content Delivery Network
This next one isn’t really going to matter much if you only serve a local area but if you’re more global or more national you might want to use a content delivery network. A CDN will help your page load faster for visitors all around the world and here’s how that works.
Without a CDN every single visitor in the whole world whether they’re in LA or New York or Australia has to download your website from your server, wherever your physical server is located.
A CDN helps by storing copies of your website on various servers around the world and then whenever a visitor from anywhere tries to access your site, they’re going to get the copy that’s on the server closest to them.
That really reduces the lag time and of course page load speed and because of that I recommend using CloudFlare for this. They do have paid plans but they have a free plan and for most of you most small businesses out there the free plan is going to be just fine.
How to Make your WordPress Website Faster – Conclusion
I hope you take advantage of these tips on how to make your wordpress website faster. I think you can see how it can make a huge difference especially if you do any type of marketing.
If you’re trying to build a list or sell a product, the last thing you need is a site that takes forever to load. It’s like having a closed sign on your door because people will not wait for your store or site to open.
I want to know if you’ve tried any of these tips or anything else to speed up your website and if so how did it work. Leave any comments or questions below, I’ll look through everything and answer all the questions that I possibly can.