Since Google announced in late 2010, that they are a mobile first company they officially started counting website speed as a ranking factor.
Leave alone Google, researches have shown that even users tend to abandon a site that takes 3 seconds or longer to load (source).
Having a swift site that loads faster will definitely help you increase your rankings and please your readers. If you have a site that loads slow here is a detailed guide to speed up your WordPress site.
Start, Shall we?
Why WordPress speed matters?
If you’re a WordPress user you’ll know that your site tends to get slow over time. This is not because WordPress is buggy but because of the fact that most of us install way too many plugins and take unfair advantage of the freedom WordPress offers us.
But, this does take a toll on your site conversions. For example, Mozilla boosted its conversions (downloads) by 15.4% by just improving the loading time of it’s landing pages by 2.2 seconds only. Even Amazon calculated that a delay of 1 second in loading time could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year.
Website loading time has similar effect on conversions if you’re a blogger, selling a service, affiliate marketing or any other website owner.
Now that you know how important website loading time is and why speed matters, let’s head over to the factors that play a key role in shaping your website loading time.
Factors Which Affect Site Loading Time
Before you start your speed optimization process, you must understand the factors those affect your site loading time. Once you understand them then you can optimize your site accordingly.
1) Website Hosting Matters
Your web host plays a key role in the time your site takes to load completely. Mediocre or cheap shared hosting services might appear to be lucrative on the outside, but on the inside, they are just stacks of Apache and their servers are optimized.
Cost effective hosting are a great way to start blogging but you should know these do limit your ranking potential in various ways, one being the time to first byte. Time to first byte is actually the time taken by the server to deliver its first byte of data to the browser. Typically a site should have below 200 ms of TTFB (recommended by Google) and you’d be surprised one hosting I used for a site of mine had a TTFB of 2 long seconds.
Having a website sharing its server with 200+ other websites is a bit scary as you don’t know how unoptimized your neighbor sites are. Furthermore, most shared hosting sites have frequent downtime which leaks visitors and deteriorate your site rankings at the same time.
On the other hand, managed WordPress hosting services like Flywheel hosting gives you a first hand in site speed and user experience.
2) Choice of Themes, Plugins and Add-ons
After choosing a WordPress host, your work is half done. you need to optimize your site for being light-weight and giving less stress to hosting on its end.
WordPress themes and plugins (specially the ones that come with multiple theme design setups like betheme are great but they do add to the bloat by giving you extra codes you’d never need).
Similarly, simple widgets and plugins that we use daily like a social media widget, a Google plus follow button etc can add up to your loading time. Use them only when you absolutely need.
Sometimes, we add up certain plugins that we are not using currently. For example plugins like WordPress migration, custom font and typography plugins etc add to the weight of the site. These plugins get loaded everytime when a page that uses them loads on your website. So, it is better to get rid of those plugins or only activate them when you need them.
3) Messy Sidebar With Ads and Affiliate Banners
Blog monetization is a very important part of blogging and we cannot ignore it completely for the sake of boosting the speed of your website.
Naturally, with the addition of every new method of monetization your blog ends up with one more new ad on the sidebar.
There are various ways in which you can declutter your sidebar and increase your website speed while not compromising on your earning potential.
You can remove banner ads and create text or CSS based ads that are definitely a notch lighter than banners. Writing product reviews or linking similar products in your content can do the same affiliate wonders than sidebars. (We’ll talk more about this below!)
4) Other factors
There are a lot of other factors that can slow down your site like unoptimized images, unused codes and formatting at a per page level and even scripts like your Google analytics script, social sharing widget scripts add to your page weight.
Redirects pointing your page and many other factors which you can get a clear insight of by just punching your URL to a page speed testing tool like Google page speed insights tool.
How To Speed Up Your WordPress Site Like A Pro?
According to a case study, your website speed affects your website conversion rates.
While there are a ton of articles on Google related to speeding up WordPress sites, here are some of the easy and quick tips to speed up a WordPress site like a pro.
Expert Tips to Speed Up A WordPress Website Quickly
Pro tip: Go to Pingdom tools and enter your domain to find out your website performance. You can quickly figure out how much time your website takes to load on browsers. The tool also gives you quick recommendations on how to speed up your site loading times.
#1. Pick the RIGHT Web Hosting
Whether you’re using WordPress or not, choosing the right web hosting is important. Many WordPress users are still not aware of the fact that their web hosting performance is directly proportional to their website speed.
Unfortunately though, the web hosting industry is flooded with a gazillion number of hosting choices which makes it really hard for most WordPress users to pick the right web hosting to run their sites faster.
Instead of using shared hosting, you can quadruple your website’s speed and performance by using VPS hosting. Dedicated (or VPS) hosting usually costs a bit more than shared hosting servers but it is worth every penny when you want faster loading sites.
In a research done by Search Engine Journal, it’s proved that VPS hosting can make your site loading extremely faster (twice faster) than hosting your site on shared hosting servers.
#2. Optimize Everything
Here are a few essential things you need to optimize in order to speed up your WordPress loading times really quickly.
Optimize your images
Most of your website hosting bandwidth is consumed by the amount of images you use within your blog posts and pages. Most WordPress users aren’t aware of this simple thing and they often use images without optimizing their sizes.
When you don’t optimize (read compress) images, your hosting bandwidth increases hence your website speed decreases. The simplest remedy for this is to compress images before you even use them.
Either use image compression tools online or install plugins like WP Smush to compress bulk amount of images from your WordPress dashboard at once to quickly speed up your WordPress sites.
Optimize your databases
Most of your files (data including posts, plugins cache, image files etc) are stored in your hosting databases. The bigger your website becomes the more burden lies on your databases. By optimizing your databases, you can immensely improve your site loading time as it reduces spam comments, fake users who register on your site etc.
Database optimization can be done in two ways – either by using a WordPress plugin or through phpMyAdmin. If you’re not a WordPress tech-savvy and don’t want to spend too much time in exploring your database files from hosting servers optimize, use simple plugins like WP Optimize to quickly optimize your website databases.
Optimize your post revisions
Your WordPress website stores revisions in your databases whenever you revise or update your blog posts. Few WordPress users have a habit of doing too many post revisions which only create an extra burden on their databases which ultimately reduces their website loading times.
Here’s how your website blog post revisions look like (from your WP dashboard).
So make sure to limit your post revisions and here’s a great tutorial on how to do it manually. If you prefer using a plugin to control your post revisions, you can use a free plugin called Revision Control.
#3. Install A Caching Plugin
Clearing cache from your website regularly can be one of the simplest and quickest ways to speed up any WordPress site. Caching daily or regularly can minify all the unwanted stuff from your databases and improves your website user experience.
Almost every WordPress user who gives top priority to their WordPress loading times uses a caching plugin. Although there are a ton of caching related plugins available in the WordPress plugin directory, the following two are highly recommended.
WP Super Cache: This caching plugin is developed by Automattic (the WordPress team itself). This can be super useful for compressing pages, simple caching and to generate static html files from your dynamic WordPress site.
#4. Get Your WordPress Basics Right
There are a couple of basic things related to WordPress that you need to implement regularly to keep your WordPress sites both faster and safer.
- Keep your WordPress site up-to-date: WordPress core platform gets updated frequently and make sure to update your WordPress whenever there’s a new version is available. Every WordPress update eliminates security risks and enhances your overall site performance.
- Limit your plugins usage: You might be using too many plugins to run your WordPress sites and most of them are NOT really essential. Using too many plugins can only reduce your website speed and performance and in the worst case, it may even lead to crashing your site all at once. As a good rule of thumb, limit your WordPress site plugin usage to 15 or even less.
- Add lazy load to your videos and images: Lazy loading allows your WordPress site to show images and videos only when the visitor scrolls down the page to actually see them. That way your website takes less time to load your web pages. You can use plugins like BJ Lazy Load to lazy load all your post images, post thumbnails, gravatar images etc.
- Update your plugins: Most WordPress plugins get updated frequently and make sure to update them whenever you their newer versions. Also take regular backups of your site whenever you update your core WordPress version or plugins to ensure that all your files are safe including images, blog posts, pages, comments etc.
- Use a lightweight theme or framework: There are a ton of WordPress themes available over the web and if you want to boost your site loading times, make sure to grab a lightweight and fast loading theme framework such as Genesis, or Divi themes etc instead of installing free or nulled WordPress themes. Before buying a premium theme for your WordPress sites, make sure to test the demo version of it on Pingdom tools to analyse the performance and speed.
#5. Start Using A Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN (also known as content delivery network) helps you move your website static files closer to visitors and also ensures that every page renders as fast as possible from whatever device a visitor is surfing from (mobile or desktop). It also allows you to give high quality speeds to all the users around the globe.
So moving content physically closer to your website visitors is the easiest and simplest way to dramatically boost your WordPress site speed and it can only be possible with a CDN.
Here are some of the benefits of using a CDN just case if you’re still wondering about the usage of it.
- Increases your page loading times (so less website bounce rates)
- Improves search engine rankings (your website speed impacts your search rankings)
- Reduces your website servers load
- Controls your website bandwidth to enhance speed
There are a ton of CDN’s are available but MaxCDN and Cloudflare are widely used by WordPress uses worldwide to speed up their sites.
Apart from the use of a CDN, GZip compression is also much needed to speed up your site performance. A Gzip is simply a file format and a software application used for file compression and decompression.
GZip reduces the used bandwidth and loading speed of every page on your WordPress site and optimizes your important files smaller and is achieved via plugins like PageSPeed Ninja.
Final verdict about speeding up a WordPress site
Online marketing is growing rapidly and thousands of websites are going live every single day. The competition is only getting bigger and everyone who’s thinking about buying online is turning to a website before making a purchase (to find reviews, product comparison, better deals and discounts etc).
That being said, no matter how good your website is – if it is taking too much time to load, you’ll be losing a lot of money and traffic to your competitors. Keeping an eye on your website loading times can double your website conversions.