(UPDATED): We’ve seen so many generic and dull lists of plugins that may not even work or product results. This list is tested and used on our clients’ websites.
WordPress websites are almost everywhere. An estimate shows that WordPress powers up to 40% of all websites with a Content Management System (CMS).
It is no secret that one of the most important conversion factors is your website speed. People tend to convert if your website is fast. Amazon did a study where they discovered that for every one-second delay their website load, it causes a 1% revenue decrease. That is a lot of money. 1% is indeed a big chunk of lost revenue. As for Small businesses, that figure may even be worse.
Most people will exit the website and look for another website from the search result page.
As a business owner or a web developer, it is undeniable that you should make your website faster NOW. On top of better conversions, Google Search Engine algorithms prefer websites that emphasize on User Experience, which is that of a speedy website.
So how do I make my WordPress website load faster?
1. Invest in better Hosting
Yes, this is a very generic tip. We couldn’t emphasize less why good web hosting matters a ton. It is a given fact that a slow web server will cause your website to load slower.
Shared Hosting is commonly picked by most website owners for its affordability and ease of use. Although we have nothing against shared hosting, we would strongly advise that you get a Virtual Private Server (VPS), if you can afford it. Choose your web host wisely. If you are unsure, give our article about web hosting providers here.
Bad web hosting can not only slow down your website but also cause downtime.
2. Minify styles, scripts and HTML
A stylesheet is what gives your website its design. It tells the browser how to display information. In technical terms, it is called the Cascading Style Sheet (CSS). Scripts are basically, scripts. It gives your browser instructions and tells it how to behave.
All of this takes space and the more code you have, the larger the file. Do not forget, spaces also takes up precious memory space as well. By minifying your codes, you remove the spaces which make loading them up faster. A smaller file loads faster than that of a larger one. What you want is to remove all the unnecessary spaces, increasing your website’s load time.
There are plenty of plugins available in the market. The one that we recommend is Autoptimize. It gets the job done fast with its easy to use and straightforward settings page.
3. Caching your website
Caching is a very important step that you must not overlook. On top of minifying your scripts, caching your website will make a HUGE difference in speed.
So how does caching work? As WordPress is a Content Management System, each and every page is dynamic. That being said, it takes a lot of resources and processing at the server end before you can see the loaded page. The lifecycle starts when you visit the website. Upon visiting the WordPress site, it queries the MySQL database for the relevant information it needs. Your server then executes it and returns the HTML website to your browser. Your browser then puts together all the HTML, scripts and styles. There you have it, a website.
That is a lot of steps to load just a SINGLE page. Every visitor will have to go through this lifecycle each time they visit a page. It’s going to slow your website loading speed significantly.
With caching, we remove most of the steps. After a caching plugin is installed, the life cycle happens once. Thereafter, the page is stored in the cache. When a visitor visits your page, the cache returns a ready page with all the information rendered.
There are a few plugins that serve this purpose. The ones that we recommend are:
- W3 Total Cache
- WP Fastest Cache
- WP Super cache
- Litespeed Cache (Only applicable for Lightspeed-enabled servers)
You may wonder why we recommended a few, but not one or two. The reason is that some plugins may not work on the specific theme that you are using. It takes some trial and error to find the right plugin. W3 Total cache and WP fastest cache seem to work fine with most themes. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool may give a different score for the different plugin, so make sure you try as all of them to find the best match.
4. Optimizing your images
This is also a given. Most of the time, the images you upload onto your website may not be optimized. An image with a larger size will take a longer time to load. However, having to compress an image one by one before uploading it into your website is a mundane task.
Therefore, we recommend Resmush.it. This plugin automatically compresses your image upon uploading. There is also an option to mass-optimize existing images in the gallery. Most importantly, the plugin is totally free of charge.
Sometimes, compressing your images may not even be enough. Google’s Speed tool may want you to convert your images to the WebP format. To do so, we recommend using Optimole.
Optimole is a free service which optimizes your images, and converts them, and displays images in the WebP format. It is free up to 5,000 visitors a day.
5. Correctly sized image
This point is (kinda) similar to the previous one. However, the difference is not the file size, but the actual image’s size. For example, you uploaded an image that is 500×500 pixels. However, on your website, the image only takes up the size of 200×200 pixels. if you don’t already know, extra pixels mean extra file size.
Next time, think about the actual size the image will occupy, then shrink the image down to the appropriate size.
As you can see from the image above, the image is 728×487 pixels. On the actual website, it only takes up the space of 596×399 pixels.
6. Content Delivery Network
A Content Delivery Network (CDN), is simply a network of servers in multiple locations or countries. It will cache/save a copy of your website and saves it on its many servers. Let’s say your original web server is based in Singapore. A visitor from Russia visits your website. The CDN automatically serves the cached website from the nearest server (Edge Server) to the visitor’s browser.
There are many CDNs that are optimized for WordPress. However, we recommend CloudFlare’s CDN. It has a free tier which is good enough for most websites.
Installation is rather straightforward, however, we will cover the steps in another article.
You can check Cloudflare out here.
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. It is a technology created by Google that allows web pages to load almost instantly on mobile phones. Chances are, you may even stumble upon one while reading articles or news online.
You may learn more about the AMP framework here.
Although AMP is not widely adopted on a majority of WordPress websites yet, due to its design limitations, many WordPress websites use it on its blogs.
There are a handful of AMP plugins for WordPress in the market, you can simply do a Google search and try it out.
8. Use a good theme
Although this may be unavoidable in some instances, you should definitely pick a WordPress theme that is SEO friendly and loads fast. It will make a huge difference in page load times.
Clear Cache for me
This is a plugin that automatically clears the cache for you when it detects that you Updated, Saved or Published something. It will come in handy.
Do give the plugins featured on this post a try. We will update this post if we find any better plugins. By following our tips, we are sure that you Google PageSpeed Insights score will increase.