5 Easy Steps to Improve WordPress Performance
There are many things we can do to ensure our WordPress blogs or websites load quickly for our visitors. However, some methods are certainly easier to implement than others. In this article, I will focus on techniques that almost anyone can employ for their WordPress site.
Why Does Performance Matter?
Users of the web are increasingly expecting snappy responses from the websites they visit and failure of a site to load quickly will likely result in the visitor leaving the site. Many studies have confirmed that only a few seconds can make the difference in whether a visitor stays on your site and buys something or leaves to a competitor’s website.
Additionally, Google now takes page loading time into consideration when ranking websites.
Optimizing your WordPress site is particularly important for your mobile visitors who may not have a fast connection to the internet. Mobile website access has risen steadily over the past few years and is expected to be more prevalent than desktop browsing in the near future.
So, What Can We Do?
What can we do to speed up our website? Choosing a fast hosting company and ensuring your theme is coded well are just a couple of the things to consider; however, they involve some pretty drastic changes if you’re not familiar with code or moving entire WordPress installations.
Below, I will suggest a few easy steps that anyone who manages a WordPress website should be able to implement.
1. Test Your Website
The first step in speeding up your site is to identify areas that can be improved upon and provide a benchmark so that we know if we have accomplished anything or not.
There are many page speed testing tools available to help us with this. Here are a few of the most popular:
Enter your website URL into these online tools to get insights into what can be improved upon (and get a performance score we can compare to after we make some other changes).
2. Check Your Images
Chances are, a big portion of your site’s loading time is due to images, either in the content or in the theme itself. Check to make sure that images being used in the site’s content (particularly in slideshows) have been re-sized to web-friendly dimensions (only as wide as the content area allows). Also be sure the images are saved as .JPGs, not .PNGs, unless you need to use transparency for some reason.
Some image scaling is ok if you’re trying to target high-resolution devices such as Apple’s Retina Display, but serving an image any larger than double the display size is just increasing your load time without any added benefit.
Here is a handy plugin that can be installed into your WordPress site to assist with lossless automated image optimization:
3. Enable GZip
GZip is a server-side compression tool that will allow for compressed data transfer and faster page load times. The great part about using it is that in most cases, it’s incredibly easy to turn on. First, check to see if your site is already using GZip by entering your URL in the following web tool:
If you’re already using it, that great! If not, you can enable it on CPanel simply by clicking on this icon located in Software / Services:
If you don’t use a CPanel for your hosting, you can enable GZip by directly editing your .htaccess file located in your WordPress root installation. Add the following code to the .htaccess file:
mod_gzip_item_include file .(html?|txt|css|js|php|pl)$
mod_gzip_item_include handler ^cgi-script$
mod_gzip_item_include mime ^text/.*
mod_gzip_item_exclude mime ^image/.*
mod_gzip_item_exclude rspheader ^Content-Encoding:.*gzip.*
You may have to enable viewing of hidden files on your FTP client to see your .htaccess. If you are not using an Apache server, try checking out these instructions.
Simply enabling GZip can reduce the bandwidth usage by over 50%.
4. Install an Optimization Plugin
If you’re already using my favourite security plugin Wordfence, improving performance is only 1 click away. In addition to providing excellent protection to your website, Wordfence also has a caching option called Falcon Engine. Here’s a short video on how it works:
Additionally, I’m also a fan of the W3 Total Cache WordPress plugin that has many features for site optimization. This plugin has multiple caching options as well as JS / CSS minification and concatenation functionality. The easiest way to start using this plugin is to simply enable caching and minification (auto) and ensure your site is still displaying correctly.
Note: Don’t use the Falcon Engine and W3 Caching features at the same time. Just choose one or the other.
5. Change a Few WordPress Settings
There are a couple other things that are easy to change that can have a positive impact on WordPress site performance:
- Turn off pingbacks and trackbacks (Settings –> Discussion)
- Limit Revisions
You can limit the number of page/post revisions by inserting this code in your config.php file:
This will limit the number of revisions to 3 (feel free to set that number to whatever you wish).
You can also accomplish the same thing by installing the Revision Control Plugin. If you have been running your site for a while and would like to remove old revisions from the database, try installing the WP Clean Up Plugin. This will help clean up the database and remove all of the extraneous revisions that have accumulated over the site’s lifetime.
Even if you are only able to implement a few of these changes to your site, you are taking a step in the right direction towards faster website performance. Once you have made changes, go ahead and re-test your site to see if your page-load time or page score improves.