9 Easy Ways to Improve WordPress Site Speed and Performance

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

Although WordPress is quite an efficient system out of the box, there are always ways to improve. That’s the beauty of the platform…customization. And today, I’ll go over the easiest methods to boost WordPress site speed and its performance.

While every website will be unique with specific needs, I’ll go over the methods that are often universal. Just keep in mind that sometimes you may need to tweak some settings to get the best results.

This depends on how you have your own website set up.

If you’d like, here is my video on the topic…
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How to Speed Up Your WordPress Website

So, there are thousands of ways you can boost WordPress performance. But what if you don’t know much about coding, or don’t really know where to start?

Well, here are some of the easiest ways you can improve website speed right now.

1. Selecting the Right Web Host

OK, I know that moving your website to a new web host isn’t necessarily a quick fix. But, I wanted to point it out anyway simply because of how important it is overall.

Not all web hosts are created equal. And some just don’t seem to put in the same amount of effort as others.

For instance, I made the move to GreenGeeks and saw an improvement of over 3x compared to my old web host. In one case, a 15-second load time decreased to around five just by migrating.

Needless to say, finding a good web host for your needs is imperative if you want to build a fast and successful website.

2. Choosing the Best Themes

The theme you use in WordPress could contribute to slow speeds. In fact, some themes will contribute to cumulative layout shift depending on how the developer sets up the code.

Consider a theme that is “lightweight” for the Internet. This means one that isn’t overloaded with functions and features that you may not even need.

If you find a theme you like, try it with a speed test. You might be surprised by how much a theme can affect WordPress site speed.

3. Installing Optimization Plugins

Optimization plugins can do wonders for even the slowest of websites. And the WordPress repository is full of options. The hardest part is deciding which one will be the most efficient for your site.

Personally, I prefer using the Autoptimize plugin. Not only did it improve my site speed by more than 30 points in PageSpeed Insights, but it also got rid of the cumulative layout shift problem.

With that being said, you’ll still have to find one that fits your specific website. What works for me, may not work the same for you.

4. Optimizing Your Images

Optimizing your image use is probably one of the easiest ways to speed up a WordPress website. From compression plugins to saving images as a smaller file, anything you can do to shave off download time is beneficial.

For example, if you save JPGs in Photoshop as “high” quality instead of “maximum,” you could decrease the image size by two to three times smaller. And this is without losing much detail, if at all.

One thing Google suggests is to use Next-Gen formats, like WebP. Unfortunately, not all browsers are capable of using these new format types.

Something else you may want to consider is lazy loading in WordPress. This stops images from loading until the visitor actually needs to see them. Although WordPress does this by default today, there are a lot of plugins that come with this feature.

Not all plugins play nice together. Only use one optimization plugin to manage lazy loading!

5. Limit the Ad Serving Networks

Ad serving networks, such as AdSense, will impact site performance. This is because it pulls data from a third-party server, which could cause latency issues.

Every ad you show on your site is one that will cost you in terms of website speed.

You can use these systems without seeing too much of a drawback. Just make sure you’re not overloading your website with these advertisements.

If you’re ever in any doubt, always run a speed test and see if your ad network is impacting performance.

6. Limit Third-Party Affiliate Banners

Affiliate links and banners are among the most common methods to monetize a blog. Unfortunately, they can also be among the most common that prevent you from speeding up WordPress.

Much like the ad networks, affiliate banners often retrieve images from their own servers. This means your visitors have to wait for your website to load the image from the affiliate platform.

Using links is fine, as this is pure HTML coding that doesn’t need to access an outside file system. But the banners you show can impact performance.

Like the ad networks, you can use them…just be wise about how many you choose to add to your site.

7. Using a CDN

A Content Delivery Network, or CDN, improves WordPress site speed by essentially saving your website in other servers around the world. This way, distance isn’t a factor when it comes to user performance.

For example, let’s say your web host has your website saved in a server in Houston, Texas. Someone in Ireland wants to visit your website. Instead of pulling site information from the Houston server, the CDN could have a server located in the UK. At which point, the Ireland visitor will see that copy instead.

Essentially, you’re caching your website in various servers across the globe to improve individual user experience.

The best part is that a lot of CDNs will have free accounts available. For instance, I use Cloudflare on one of my blogs, and it’s worked out great so far.

8. Limit the Extra Plugins

Plugins are one of the things that makes WordPress such an amazing system. They give you a slew of tools for just about anything you can think of.

However, some plugins might also impact WordPress site speed. So, you want to make sure you’re not overloading your visitors with extras you might not absolutely need.

For instance, I removed the Instagram feed from this website because the images were taking way too long to load. My performance scores bottomed out thanks to Instagram.

Once that plugin was removed, the site became a lot faster.

9. Consider Using the AMP Plugin

Part of speed optimization comes in the form of mobile-friendliness. In fact, it’s one of the most important ranking factors in Google.

The AMP Project, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, streamlines your site for mobile devices. This is done by cutting out a lot of the non-necessary elements mobile users don’t need to open your site.

And, AMP will let you pick and choose which plugins to access for those using their smartphones or tablets.

Simply installing AMP on CrossingColorado.com worked to speed up the WordPress website. This improved its PageSpeed Insight score by 37 points for mobile devices!

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How to Check for WordPress Site Speed

Checking the speed of a website is a fairly easy process. And most systems today make it very user-friendly and easy to understand.

There are a number of platforms out there you can use, and most come with a detailed report as to what you need to work on and what elements are slowing your site.

1. GTmetrix

GTmetrix Results

Test with GTmetrix

GTmetrix is one of my favorite site speed testers. It’s a free speed checker that will analyze every aspect of your site while providing an easy-to-follow report. Using a grading system, you can see where your site needs help and make adjustments accordingly.

What I love about GTmetrix is that you can sign up for a free account and install it directly into WordPress.

2. PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights

Try PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights is Google’s own testing platform. It uses the Lighthouse system to analyze your site’s contents to give a report about your site’s performance. Although not as in-depth as GTmetrix, it does show scores for both desktop and mobile devices.

PageSpeed Insights is another testing system that you can install in WordPress. In fact, it’s part of the Google Site Kit.

3. Pingdom Website Speed Test

Pingdom

Test with Pingdom Tools

I’ve been using Pingdom off and on for years. It’s a simple tester that shows where problem areas are on your site while giving tips on how to fix those issues.

Although it doesn’t have a massive list of testing servers, it still does a pretty decent job all-around. I used Pingdom almost exclusively before I came across GTmetrix.

4. WebPageTest.org

WebPageTest

Try Out WebPageTest.org

WebPageTest ranks right up there with GTmetrix in terms of total breakdown of site performance. It does this by showing extreme details about what’s affecting your site speed in WordPress.

The only downside to this free tester is that you have to essentially “stand in line” and wait for an opening in the queue. And depending on the time of day, you could be waiting for several minutes.

Integrate Testing Tools in WordPress

GTmetrix is a free tool that is perfect for bloggers. Your free account comes with monthly credits you can use to dive into the nuts and bolts of how your website operates.

Personally, I like to integrate GTmetrix with WordPress using its plugin. This gives me a testing platform directly from the backend of the website. It’s great for examining WordPress site speed without having to open a new browser window.

You can also utilize the Google Site Kit plugin for WordPress. This lets you connect PageSpeed Insights directly to your site. Like GTmetrix, it lets you run tests on any post or page you have published.

When Should You Test WordPress Site Speed?

Normally, I run a test at least once per month to make sure that plugin and theme updates are not hindering speed optimization. I’ve seen some plugins hurt performance with a single update.

I’ll also test speed any time I make major changes to the website. Major changes can include:

  • Using a different theme
  • Adding frontend plugins that visitors see and use
  • Custom layout changes or code snippets
  • Migrations or restores from backups
  • Creating child themes to use on the site

Anything that will impact or change how visitors experience your site is worth testing.

Make WordPress Faster for Your Audience

Speed is one of the biggest contributors to a superior user experience. And the user experience is what Google holds most dear. So, practicing WordPress optimization is pivotal for your success.

Do what you can to keep your site fast and efficient. I’ll make a difference in the user experience, which makes search algorithms happy.

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Michael Brockbank

Michael has been a freelance writer since January of 2012. He has completed more than 8,000 jobs for a variety of clients ranging from animals to travel. Currently, he is the Content Marketing Team Lead of GreenGeeks Web Hosting.

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