“This website is too slow”, “It’s taking too long to load”,……. These are the worst of the remarks website owners have to deal with. No matter how important content your site might have, users would soon jump into an alternative website if it were not fast loading.
As a webmaster/ website owner, you might have searched “How to speed up my website?” plenty of times on the web. Following it, you might have also searched “Why is my website very slow?”, and “Does site speed really matter?”. And you did surely open some of the top links on SERPs. I doubt if you ever found any link with complete information for all of the queries.
Keeping this in mind, I have tried to put together answers to all these questions. The post is mainly divided into four sections as mentioned below. You can click to jump to the specific section at once.
Let’s start discussing each section now.
A. Does site speed really matter?
Let’s start with a very general statement – Everybody loves a speedy website that instantly takes you wherever you want to go. Certainly, you will not wait for a slow site to load when you have hundreds of other similar websites.
Yes, exactly people abandon a website instantly if it is slow loading. And, higher bounce rates are sure to take your sleep away – you fail to make an attractive impression on the new visitor, lose hope the user will visit again and surely bad remarks for your site. That is a disaster – you can afford to ignore website speed.
Kissmetrics Blog reveals that 47% of users expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, 40% leave a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load and 1-second delay in page response can result in 7% reduction in conversions. It signifies how slow site speed adversely affects user experience, conversions and overall business.
LoadStorm has created an infographic on how website performance impacts conversion rates for a summary of the statistics shown by many studies. The studies revealed that poor site performance adversely affects conversions. It states that peak load time for conversions is only two seconds. Below is a piece of the infographic by LoadStorm.
Web Performance Impacts Conversion Rates – Infographic by LoadStorm
Another striking factor why site speed is important for webmasters is Google’s ranking algorithm. Giving priority to the user-friendly experience, Google has started to include page speed as an important factor affecting SERP rankings. Since Google is a major source of traffic, site speed optimization remains a vital task for webmasters.
B. Why is your WordPress site slow?
Various factors determine the page speed of your WordPress site. The underlying technology of WordPress as a CMS platform and dynamic website generator is one of the basic factors due to which a WordPress is blog slow. The basic difference between the static and dynamic websites is the scripting and interactivity which lacks in the static websites.
WordPress is a platform for creating dynamic websites and a CMS (Content Management System) technology, which provides a user-friendly admin panel for creating and managing a website. It allows you easily add and manage thousands of pages, posts, categories, tags etc and keep the site updated with the latest, fresh information. Unlike static websites, you can have a large volume of data in a WordPress site – bigger data equals to the slower speed.
Besides the structure of WordPress software, there are various factors that affect the WordPress page performance. I want to list them out briefly below:
1. WordPress Extensions
By WordPress Extensions, I mean WordPress themes and plugins. Sometimes you may fail to be smart while selecting a theme or a plugin and you may end up choosing a horribly coded theme or a plugin. Since most of the themes and plugins are created by other people than the ones who created the core WordPress software, the quality is always questionable. If you created a website using a poor quality theme and plugins, it would surely ruin your entire effort.
2. Hosting and Servers
Another important factor determining the site speed is the server type your site is hosted on. If you are using a cheap hosting plan, it is sure to result in poor site performance and frequent downtime of your site. Basically, websites hosted shared hosting are slow since the same server is shared by multiple users, sometimes hundreds of sites share the same service.
3. The user device
The revolutionary technology these days is also focused on improving the processing ability of the user devices. The slower devices may not be able to load the advanced components the modern design has brought up, making your site load slower.
C. How to speed up your WordPress site?
After discussing the factors affecting the site speed, let me roll onto the major part of the post – how to improve WordPress site speed. I have tried to mention simple yet actionable WordPress optimization tips. Let’s explore them:
1. Update WordPress, Theme and Plugins
WordPress as the most popular CMS today has been evolving with numerous updates by now. The updates are intended to make the software more user-friendly and secure as well as fixing the issues seen in the previous version/ update. So, updating the core WordPress software will keep you away from some potential security issues and slowing speed caused by outdated code. So, Keeping your WordPress version up to date will help to improve your site performance.
Besides, the core WordPress software, you must keep the theme and plugins updated. Keeping them updated will help you keep your site speedy and secure.
2. Enable Caching
Caching immensely helps to reduce the loading time and one can experience the improvements instantly. Caching generates static HTML files from a dynamic WordPress site and serves the saved HTML files that reduce the processing load on the server and improves the site performance.
Among many plugins, WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache are best of the WordPress caching plugins. You can download any of them FREE from the official WordPress plugin directory and install in your site.
3. Optimize WordPress database
As you upload content each time on your site, WordPress automatically saves even unnecessary stuff, which makes your website database uselessly heavy. It is one of the main reasons why your site takes a lot of time loading pages. There are some efficient WordPress plugins for cleaning up your WP database and improving the page speed. WP-Optimize, WP DBManager, WP Clean Up Optimizer, and WP-Sweep are some of the best of them.
WP-Optimize is a WordPress database cleanup plugin, which optimizes your database by cleaning all of the unwanted data. It removes trash posts, comments, spam, trackbacks and pingbacks. It helps to increase your website speed considerably.
4. Optimize images
Images usually cover a larger space of your wp-content folder. Large image files take a lot of loading time and reduce the overall site speed. So image optimization is a vital task for increasing your site speed. To minify the image size manually, you can use image compression tools like TinyPNG. It compresses the JPEG and PNG image files by 50-80% without any loss of image quality.
WordPress plugins are brilliant. There are many plugins for image compression which automatically reduce image file sizes and enhance the speed of the site. WP Smush and EWWW Image Optimizer are the most popular of all image compression plugins. These free plugins automatically smush JPEG and PNG files and optimize the site speed.
5. Use a lazy load WordPress plugin
Lazy load is a smart technique for image-heavy websites, which are usually frustrating since they take ages to load. Lazy load delays the loading of images, i.e. it loads only the images “above the fold” – that users want to see. When the user scrolls down, the images below the fold will load on by one. Since it defers loading of all images at once, the page loads faster and ensures happy users.
BJ Lazy Load is an awesome WordPress plugin for WordPress speed optimization. It replaces all the images and iframes with a placeholder so that images load one by one as users scroll down instead loading all at once. Lazy load of images and videos helps to improve site speed and as well as saves bandwidth. Lazy Load and Rocket Lazy Load are other lazy load plugins for WordPress.
6. Use Content Delivery Networks
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a global network of servers situated at various parts of the world which deliver web content to the users from their nearest server point. A CDN delivers the static files to the users nearby so that it greatly reduces loading time, thereby ensuring you happy users.
7. Enable Gzip Compression
Gzip compression means the grouping of files to reduce file size and make it easier to transfer. It is a great way to make your WordPress site load faster as it reduces the size of your HTML, CSS and JS files. There are multiple options for adding Gzip compression to your WordPress websites like adding it through .htaccess or using compression plugins. If you are using one of the quality hosting providers, they may offer you this service as well. WP Super Cache, Check and Enable GZIP Compression and W3 Total Cache are some of the useful WP compression plugins.
8. Choose an efficient hosting provider
The site speed is not always in your hands as it largely depends on the web-hosting provider. Different web hosting schemes like shared hosting, virtual hosting, managed WordPress hosting don’t ensure the similar level of page speed. The sites hosted on shared hosting mostly have poor site performance as many sites are hosted on the same server.
For WordPress users, managed WordPress hosting is an opportunity in which the web host ensures the best level of site performance. As a website owner, your task reduces by half as web host providers take care of overall site performance by themselves. WP Engine, Bluehost and Siteground are some trusted WordPress hosting providers.
9. Disable Pingbacks and Trackbacks
Pingbacks and trackbacks are the notifications that you receive each time when somebody puts the link of your post/ page on another website. They are for sure awesome WordPress features, however, they are also sources of spams to your WordPress site. So disabling pingbacks and trackbacks may be a wise idea avoiding spamming and keeping your site secure and speedy. Antispam Bee and WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam are useful WP plugins to stop WordPress trackback and pingback spam.
10. Use a proper number of plugins
Plugins add a lot of functionality to your WordPress site however, they are not flawless. Installing too many plugins means gathering a lot of mess on your site, which increases the site database and reduces the page speed. So, you must make sure to have only the selected plugins installed on your site. Deactivate and delete all the unnecessary plugins, update and monitor the useful activated plugins and keep your site lightweight.
D. Tools for testing your WordPress site speed
Let’s roll into the final section of this post where I will discuss the best tools for testing the speed of your WordPress blog.
1. Google PageSpeed Insights
Google page speed Insights serves as the authentic tool to view your site speed from Google’s eyes. It provides the site performance score out of 100 on desktops and mobile devices separately. Along with the score, it suggests you various aspects that must be fixed on the priority basis. It is a simple yet very useful tool for testing site performance.
Pingdom is yet another useful free website speed test tool. It grades your website performance out of total score 100 and provides a report of load time, page size, total requests etc. It provides performance insights including grades to various aspects and suggestions to fix them.
GTmetrix provides a detailed performance report of your site instantly. The report includes PageSpeed score and YSlow score in percentage, page load time, total page size and the number of requests. Besides, it provides recommendations to improve your site’s speed.
WordPress site optimization is neither an absolute science nor a child’s play like thing. It obviously requires a deep-down interest and efforts of the webmasters. So, in this blog I have tried to figure out comprehensive tips to speed up a WordPress website for helping the WordPress beginners.
Was it useful to you? Let me know what you think!
Also, write in your native ideas below that may be missing in the blog.