The Importance of WordPress Performance Optimization
There is no need to say how popular WordPress is. At the same time, this popular CMS has a significant drawback – it is really slow in the stock configuration for the most use cases with images and numerous posts. And this is a serious issue because search engines consider site speed as a serious factor for search output. WordPress performance tuning is a must for every blog owner.
The good news is that the popularity and flexibility of WordPress suggest the existence of numerous plugins which let you improve speed greatly. is a necessary complex of measures for every WP owner.
It’s important what tool you’re using to analyze your website performance. You can find a comparison of the existing tools here.
I’d recommend that you use Google PageSpeed Insights. It’s a good idea to check what’s your initial result before you’ve started optimizing.
Choosing a WordPress theme
Most people pay attention to design-related aspects when they’re looking for a WordPress theme. This makes sense, everyone wants to have a pretty website.
However, there is a pitfall when it comes to WordPress page speed optimization. A selected theme has a significant effect on website load speed. So, if a website load speed is among your top priorities then you have to select a well-optimized theme, not only the prettiest one.
And remember that the vast majority of WordPress themes can be easily customized so it makes sense to select the most optimized one and then adjust it for your needs. On the other hand, this will require certain CSS knowledge.
Keep in mind that some nice-looking themes may affect website performance. You need to find a balance between WordPress speed optimization and design. Here are several tips which may simplify your research:
- Try finding the simplest possible theme.
- Don’t forget about its mobile version
- Pay attention to the responsiveness of the layout.
- Big images affect load time, avoid them if this is not crucial
A homepage is the face of your website and it needs to be well-optimized.
You can find my recommendations on WordPress landing page optimization:
- Avoid overusing widgets. That’s a common mistake of newbies – social media buttons are needed only if you have a blog and only in posts.
- Display excerpts on the homepage, not full posts.
- Avoid showing too many posts on your homepage. 4-5 would be enough.
The main idea is that you need to reduce the number of HTTP requests as much as possible to speed up loading of your WordPress in the user’s browser.
WP Asset Clean Up is a plugin to speed up WordPress by decreasing the number of HTTP requests for a website making pages load faster. The plugin prevents unnecessary scripts and styles from loading on your pages. Thanks to this, the assets load on the pages where they are actually needed without acting the other pages. Additionally, WP Asset Clean Up shortens the HTML code of the actual page.
WordPress Image Optimization Plugin
Images are among the things which take much time to load. Thus you need to pay additional attention to this during WordPress speed optimization.
Happily, there are some WP plugins which make this process really simple. I prefer EWWW Image Optimizer but you can also consider WP Smush, Insanity or CW Image Optimizer.
After the installation and activation of a WordPress plugin for image optimization you simply go to Media > Bulk Optimize:
Just bulk optimize all pictures in WordPress Media library using Start Optimizing option. Moreover, it is possible to optimize not only pictures in your Media library but also do that to graphical elements of the theme and so on with Scan and optimize option.
Sure miracles don’t exist and you need to be ready for drawbacks. For better load time you will need to pay with a lower quality of the images. So, if you’re a photographer then most likely it’s not for you. I’d rather recommend using a good CDN such as CloudFlare or MaxCDN.
Also, the process of the optimization itself is pretty resource consuming so try to conduct it not in business time and not in parallel with the backup creation or any other resource-consuming process. This will be even easier thanks to the scheduled optimization feature in Advanced Settings of the plugin.
If you’re using cPanel then you’re a lucky guy because it includes Optimize Website function. It uses Apache’s mod_deflate for compression of your content before transmitting it to the browser of your visitor.
The most wide-spread and efficient compression method today is Gzip. Thanks to using Gzip compression WordPress may decrease response size up to 60-70%. Just log in to your cPanel > go to Software section > Optimize website menu.
Here you need to select Compress all content and click on Update Settings.
Select Compress all content and then click on Update Settings.
Using Caching WordPress Speed Optimization Plugin
And here goes the most important part of WordPress speed optimization. A properly configured WordPress plugin for speed optimization (or caching plugin) may improve your website performance greatly.
W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are the most popular caching plugins for WordPress. As for me, W3 Total Cache is the best WordPress cache plugin because it comes with more customization options. On the other hand, WP Super Cache may be good for users who don’t need a lot of option.
The main features of W3TC include:
- page caching
- WordPress gzip compression
- CDN (Content Distribution Network) support
- browser caching via ETags
I prefer the following configuration of the plugin on shared web hosting:
After the plugin is installed and activated, go to Plugins > Installed Plugins > find W3 Total Cache > Settings:
It is important to avoid enabling Object caching and Database caching if you are a shared hosting user. These features may result in resource usage spike and make load speed even lower. These caches are for WordPress websites hosted on a VPS or Dedicated server only.
Scroll down the page and check Enable next to the following options:
- Page Cache
- Browser Cache
Then click on the Save All Settings button.
If you wish to get familiar with all configuration options of WordPress 3 Total Cache plugin, you may find them listed in this article.
Below you can find some additional measures which do not have an effect on the page speed but may improve resource usage and user experience.
Run scan again after that. The only blocking CSS/JS file left should be your combined CSS file, and nothing else.
Using browser cache
Configuring directives for caching static content of the website in your regular visitors’ browsers is another way to bring higher load speed. WP Total Cache includes the Browser Cache function which will let you configure these values.
Go to WordPress admin dashboard > Performance menu > General settings:
Use WordPress admin dashboard > Performance menu > Browser Cache section to configure preferred headers (I’d just enable all of them):
If you do not have W3 Total Cache installed on your website, you can enable browser cache with the help of Browser Caching with .htaccess plugin. That’s the best WordPress browser caching plugin.
Enabling hotlink protection
When someone uses a direct link to an image which is hosted on your website to display it elsewhere, the load goes to your WordPress.
You may want to block such direct links to avoid server overload. Luckily, cPanel includes such useful functionality. Use cPanel > Hotlink Protection function:
Organizing your WordPress plugins
Having too many active plugins is never a good idea. Some of them may overuse your Input/Output or CPU resources and trigger poor load time. So, the first advice is to disable plugins which aren’t necessary for you.
The second recommendation is to use P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) plugin for WordPress which allows you to determine which of your plugins eats your resources. After you find such plugin, you may disable it or find a less resource-consuming alternative if the plugin is crucial for you.
Another good idea is using Plugin Organizer plugin for WordPress. Thanks to it you can select which plugins to disable and decide on the order your plugins are loaded in. That’s another way to improve your site load time.
It’s hard to explain how excited you will feel when you’ll be scanning your website after all of these measures are applied. I hope now you know how to increase WordPress speed. Have a fast WP!