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Living in a world that keeps getting faster means your WordPress website needs to load quickly as well. We’ve been saying this for years – the longer it takes for your website to load, the more likely you are to lose that visitor, so it’s critically important that your website loads lightning fast. There are a number of ways to speed up WordPress, but if you’re not an experienced web developer, where would you even start? Lucky for you, WP Butler has got your back. We’ve put together these tips to help you maximise your site speed.

Why speed up your WordPress website?

There are two critical reasons to speed up your WordPress website: customer retention and search engine ranking.

Customer Retention

According to Pingdom.com, when a website’s load time goes from 3 seconds to 4 seconds, the bounce rate jumps from 11% to 24%! That’s a significant increase in bounce rate, and it only gets worse every second thereafter. So, the longer your website takes to load, the more visitors, customers and potential revenue you’re losing. 

Search Engine Ranking

Search engines will rank your website higher if it loads faster. A few of Google’s Core Web Vitals – metrics for representing user experience on your website – reflect page load speed. Therefore, speeding up your website isn’t optional if you want your website to succeed.

The two most relevant metrics for load speed are:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint: how long it takes the main content to load (ideally, ICP is 2.5 seconds or less)
  2. First Input Delay: how long it takes a website to become interactive (ideally, less than 100ms)

Google wants its users to have a good experience whenever they click through to a website from a search results page, so they decided to include these metrics in their search algorithm.

Ensuring your website loads faster is one way to make sure more people see your website.

Overall, having a fast loading WordPress website will not only help to gain more customers, but also help you to retain them.

How fast should your WordPress website be?

It helps to know what speed you’re aiming for before you get started. Your website should load in less than 3 seconds. The faster, the better, but under 3 seconds is a realistic goal that will retain a high percentage of visitors. By 3 seconds, you’ve only lost 11%, but this more than doubled by 4 seconds.

Now that you have a goal, you need to determine a baseline before making any changes.

Before you get started, get benchmarking.

Optimising your website for speed won’t matter if you don’t know your website’s current load speed. Without a baseline, you won’t know which of the changes you made worked and which didn’t. There are a couple of tools you can use to check your website speed:

These tools essentially work the same – they request your web page as if they were a visitor, and keep track of how long each element takes to load.

Simply copy and paste your URL into the box and click Start. These tools allow you to choose a region from where the test will be run; keep that in mind when you are performing these tests because there will be significant differences between websites hosted in the United States and websites hosted in Australia if the testing region is Vancouver, for example.

Once the test is complete, you will have a pretty comprehensive breakdown of your website’s load speed. There will be a number of other statistics as well, but load speed is what we’re focusing on here. Take a note of your baseline speed, and re-test when you make any changes to see if they worked.

Now that you have a benchmark, let’s get into the speed optimisation tips.

How to speed up WordPress

1 – Switch to a faster hosting provider

One of the most significant factors in website speed is your hosting. There are so many hosting providers out there that choosing one can be overwhelming. Many people end up choosing a host based on price. But if your website is on a cheap shared hosting server, your performance will be affected by other sites on that server. For best results, we recommend a managed WordPress host, like WP Engine.

Think of it like you’re taking a shower. If another person uses the water while you’re taking a shower, the water pressure decreases. There are limits to what the host’s server can handle at one time. 

Meanwhile, with managed WordPress hosting, this means you’ve always got dedicated water pressure all to yourself!

Whatever hosting solution you choose, check online reviews and see what speeds the host guarantees to ensure you get what you pay.

2 – Use caching to speed up WordPress

Every time a WordPress web page is requested, it needs to be dynamically created at the web server and then sent to the browser. Caching will speed this up!

A caching plugin will store a copy of each page to prevent the need to build it from scratch every single time it is requested.

There are two ways to set up caching on your website: through your hosting or using a plugin.

If your web hosts offer to cache, you will find caching options somewhere in the hosting options, on the host’s specific dashboard (in your WordPress Dashboard), or cPanel. Alternatively, you can contact your host and ask if they provide caching.

If your host doesn’t offer to cache, you can download a free caching plugin like WP Fastest Cache or WP Super Cache.

3 – Optimise Your Images

Using images on your website is a must for keeping your audience engaged, but they will slow down your website’s load time if not used correctly. While it may be simple to upload a photo straight from your camera or a royalty-free images service, these images are usually too large for the best performance.

Your average smartphone photo file size can be anywhere between 1 Megabyte (Mb) and 25Mb. Ideally, you want your image size in Kilobytes (Kb), not Megabytes. The smaller your photos, the faster they will load, but you do want to balance quality with size – you don’t want a website full of fast-loading, grainy images.

To keep your visuals small, you can use external software to compress them before uploading or a plugin to compress all current and future uploads. The default image viewers on both Windows and Mac OS allow you to resize and crop images, but you can also use editors like GIMP or Photoshop.

There are also many plugin options, such as Smush and Optimole. However you do it, make sure you keep your images small. For more information on photo size and shape, click here. However you do it, compressing your photos will speed up WordPress.

4 – Keep your site up to date to speed up WordPress

Keeping your WordPress installation, plugins, themes and hosting software, such as PHP, up to date is vital for quick page load times. As you know, WordPress often requires updates – sometimes these updates give access to new features or fix bugs and security issues, but oftentimes, the theme or plugin is just moving with the times to remain current and compatible with the WordPress core.

To give you an example, when PHP version 7 was released, it was twice as fast as its predecessor. So if you are still using PHP 5.6 (or lower), you are really damaging your website’s performance (and putting it at risk!)

If you don’t keep your website up to date, not only will it become vulnerable, but it will get slower and slower. Updates are another way to speed up WordPress.

5 – Manage your background processes

WordPress runs several actions in the background that can slow down your website, but there are ways to manage them so they don’t impact your user experience. Backups, cron jobs, and search engine crawls are just a few of the background processes that can slow down your website. 

Some tasks, like cron jobs, don’t heavily impact performance. Backups, on the other hand, can greatly slow down the site. So, make sure you’ve got a backup schedule set to run for when your website typically has low traffic, like outside of business hours.

6 – Use excerpts of your blogs on non-blog pages

Out of the box, WordPress displays the full content of blog posts on the Home page and in the Archives, which can slow down your website. Using excerpts on non-blog pages will only display a preview of the article. The shorter quote will require less loading. You can choose to use excerpts by changing the Reading settings within the WordPress dashboard.

7 – Limit the number of comments available per page

Having lots of people leaving comments on your website is an excellent problem, but it can slow down your site if left unmanaged.

To prevent your comments from increasing your load times, you can break the comments into separate pages by adjusting the WordPress dashboard’s Discussion settings. Breaking up the submissions into pages will reduce the number of comments people have to load when viewing a blog post.

8 – Don’t directly upload audio and video to your website to speed up WordPress

Just because you can upload videos to your WordPress website, doesn’t mean you should! Uploading large files directly to your website will use up valuable hosting space and cost you precious bandwidth.

Rather than upload video or audio files to your website, instead, use streaming services such as YouTube or Vimeo. These services are not only more cost-effective, but they are designed to deliver audio and video, ensuring the best possible user experience. Your media can then easily be embedded into your pages.

9 – Use a speed optimised theme and Gutenberg

Choosing a theme with lots of functionality is understandable; however, a lightweight WordPress theme will allow you to build a website that loads quickly. Bloated themes with lots of features can significantly impact your website’s load speed.

There are many speedy WordPress themes out there, and one size does NOT fit all! We often recommend GeneratePress or Astra. Both have free and paid options and are very lightweight. Plus, both work well with the Gutenberg block editor, which is light because it is the default WordPress builder.

10 – Remove unused themes and plugins to speed up WordPress

Removing unused plugins and themes from your WordPress website will eliminate a massive amount of data from your web files. Plus, fewer files will also mean smaller and faster backups. 

Every so often, check your plugins and make sure there are not any you’re not using. You might find that some plugins are only used once and then never again, so these can be removed after use.

As for themes, we recommend removing any that are unused, except maybe keeping one spare for debugging. Keeping a spare WordPress theme can come in handy if something goes wrong with your primary theme.

Start speeding up your WordPress website.

There are many ways to speed up your WordPress website, but these ten best practices are among the simplest and don’t require any coding.

There are also advanced tactics, such as minifying JS and CSS files, tidying up the database and using a content distribution network, but these ten are a great starting point.

If you don’t have the time and know-how to speed up your WordPress website, get in contact with WP Butler today. We can offer high-quality WordPress hosting and can optimise your website for speed. To learn more, call 1300 739 301. Or, go to our WP Butler Speed Optimisation page, purchase the product, and we’ll take care of optimising your website for you. 

Author Gary Weis

Gary is the founder of WP Butler. He specialises in Marketing, SEO, SEM, SMM, Website Concept & Strategy Development.

More posts by Gary Weis

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