You need your WordPress site to run as fast as it can. The faster your pages load, the better experience your visitors are going to have. Page speed is directly linked to WordPress SEO. That is why in this article we are going to discuss actionable tips that you can use to improve the speed and performance of your WordPress website.

This is not a generic tutorial. We want to look at what is slowing your WordPress site down and what you can do to increase its speed immediately.

image of a slow website

Why Be Concerned about the Speed of Your WordPress Site?

Time is money in a very literal sense when it comes to your website. Over the past decade and a half, the average human’s attention span has dropped by five seconds. This means that you have less than seven seconds to convince a person who has clicked on your page that they should stay on your page and possibly spend their hard earned money on your site.

According to a study that looked at Google, Amazon, and some other large sites, a one second page load delay can equal a seven percent loss of conversion. Seven percent does not seem like a lot until you look at it over the course of a year. Let’s say that your site is making $10,000 a day. Over the course of one year a one second page load delay will cost you $250,000 in sales.

But My Site Doesn’t Seem Slow to Me

Many feel that their website is okay because when they visit it on their computer, it’s not slow. What they are not considering is that since they visit their site frequently, Google Chrome stores their site in a cache and automatically pre-fetches it as soon as they start typing an address. As a result, their site loads almost instantaneously.

We recommend that you test the speed of your website using a speed tool like IsItWP’s. The tool is free, and it gives you a good idea of your website’s speed. Something else to consider is the way that people in different geographic locations interact with your website.

What Is Slowing Your Website Down?

This is key information that you need to have. Knowing in advance what slows down your website will make it easier for you to fix it long-term. Some of the more common culprits include:

Page Size – This happens primarily because your images have not been optimized for the web.

Web Hosting – When your web hosting server is not configured for WordPress, this can have a negative impact on your website’s speed.

Poorly Coded Plug-ins – A bad plug-in can negatively impact your website and significantly slow it down.

• External Scripts – External scripts could include things like front loaders, ads, etc. These will have a major impact on your website’s performance.

If WordPress is not properly configured, for example, if your site is not storing cached pages, then your server is going to get overloaded, and your website is going to slow down if it does not crash completely. Now that we understand why your site is slow to load, the impact a slow site can have on conversion rates, and why your site might be slow to others but not to you, let’s change our focus and identify some of the things you can do to speed your site up.

It Starts with the Hosting

WordPress hosting is a service provided by hosting companies that is tailored to the needs of WordPress users. When it comes to securing your web server, avoiding cheap hosting is an important first step to take. High quality data centers are monitored around the clock and don’t rely on resellers.

With WordPress hosting, you sign up for a plan and you are able to the store videos, images, content, etc. The hosting company makes it easy for you to access the stored information and directs your visitors to your site.

Not all WordPress hosting is created equal. Shared WordPress hosting is probably the most popular hosting option. Its advantages include its price and flexibility of plans. Depending on the service you contract and the amount of space and bandwidth you need, you can expect to pay between $3 and $25 each month.

As the name implies, shared hosting means that you are sharing a server with other sites. In order to make money, most shared hosting companies will over stuff their server. The hope is that the majority of the people using the server will not use a lot of bandwidth. But what if all of the users use their maximum bandwidth? Well, you are going to start to notice that your site is slowing down. You are going to start to get errors, and issues that other people are having with their site might trickle over on to yours.

The better option is managed WordPress hosting. This is dedicated hosting where you have the entire server to yourself. Sure, it’s going to cost you more money, but you are going to have more CPU power, more bandwidth, you are going to be able to customize the server, and your customers are going to have a better experience. And just think, the money that you make from visitors who would have otherwise navigated away from your site will more than compensate what you are paying for hosting.

Optimize Images for Speed

You need images on your site. Colored visuals make it more likely that people are going to read your content. That being said, if your images are not optimized, they can hurt your site more than they can help it. The truth is that non-optimized images are one of the biggest problems seen on starter websites.

how to optimize files for better performance

Everyone has a camera in their pocket on their phone. And they want to upload their image directly to their website. We recommend that you take some time and use a photo editing software to optimize your image. It’s possible to decrease in image’s size by a factor of five while still maintaining its appearance.

Also, we recommend that you only use JPEG and PNG files. JPEG is compressed, so your image file is going to be smaller and is going to have slightly reduced quality. PNG files are uncompressed, so the image size is going to be slightly larger and you’re going to have improved quality. Photos that have a ton of images and colors do better as JPEG files. Simpler images are better as PNG files.

Keep WordPress Up-To-Date

Press is an open-source project. This means that it is updated frequently. The updates are not simply a way to offer new features. Updates offer bug fixes and fix security issues. Updates also occur on plug-ins and themes.

You have the responsibility to update your plug-ins and themes regularly. If you don’t, your site will not only slow down, but it will also become unreliable. Failing to update WordPress can turn your site into a security threat for your visitors.

WordPress makes it brain-dead easy to update the site. If there are minor fixes, WordPress will do these automatically. Major fixes will require you to do the update.

Use a CDN

Earlier, we discussed how visitors from different geographical locations will experience different loading times on your site. This is because the physical location of your web hosting server is going to impact the speed for individuals in different locations. Just imagine, if your server is located in New York, a visitor from Pennsylvania or New Hampshire is going to have relatively fast upload speeds. But what about someone visiting your site from Tokyo? They are going to experience a noticeable slowdown.

CDN setup

This is where a content delivery network comes into play. A content delivery network is a network of servers around the globe. On each server, the static files from your website will be stored. So these are files that don’t change, such as images, JavaScript, CSS, etc. Every time a user from a particular country visits your site, they are served the static images from a server that is closer to them. The result is that your web hosting server is faster because the CDN is doing a lot of the work for you, and your customers get faster page load times.

Use Faster Plug-ins

If you use poorly coded WordPress plug-ins, your site is going to be dealing with a lot of bloat, and this will inevitably slow your site down. You need to be particular about the plug-ins that you use. You want plug-ins that are well maintained and frequently updated. Shy away from free versions of paid plug-ins. These usually carry malicious code that will slow down your site.

We cannot provide an exhaustive list of the plug-ins you can use and those that you cannot use. We would recommend that you take the time to do a speed test before and after you install a plug-in. This will allow you to determine how the plug-in is impacting your site’s performance.

There are other tweaks you can make to speed up your WordPress site’s performance. We hope this article got you on the road to making the necessary improvements. In the future we will do a deep dive into some of the points we have mentioned and others that may be beneficial. Until then, we look forward to hearing from you. Please leave your thoughts and comments on this article in the comments section below.

Laura Harvsey

Laura is a part time tech blogger and full time marketing manager. She lives in Toronto, Canada. She's also a wannabe blockchain engineer and an Ethereum developer.

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