‘Why would I want to make my WordPress website faster?’, you may ask. Your loading time, or site speed, is important for a few reasons.
Firstly, site visitors aren’t going to stick around if they visit your site and don’t see something snazzy within a few seconds (research says that 40 percent of visitors will leave the website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds!).
Secondly, Google hates sites that are slow to load. They hate them so much that they whack big penalties onto slow loading sites. This is because they care about promoting websites with good user experience, and poor performance equals poor user experience.
So, what can you do to make your website faster? Well, first of all, you should establish what your current site speed is. Do that via your Google Analytics (if you have it set up, it’s Behavior → Site Speed → Overview) or via Pingdom.com.
Don’t panic too much about what it says, you’re about to do four quick things to improve it significantly:
1. Compress your images
This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce your page speed, and there are two ways of doing it:
- Manually, by resizing all of your images using software such as Photoshop.
- Install a WordPress plugin which will do much of the work for you. For this, I recommend WP Smush by WPMU DEV which will ‘bulk smush’ your images in one go. It can also be set up to automatically compress and resize your images as you upload them. You may find that you are left with some images that cannot be smushed due to their size – that’s when you need to manually compress and reupload them, but you’ll be left with a lot fewer to deal with! Upgrading to the premium plugin, offers even more compression.
2. Install a caching plugin to your site
Ok, don’t worry too much about the technical side of this. Caching just means that a ‘static’ version of your pages exists, and this is shown to visitors, rather than reloading the page every time. Hence, a quicker load speed. There are loads of caching plugins, but I recommend W3 Total Cache. It’s a super popular plugin (over 1 million active installs, which means it’s good…) and has loads of settings which you can delve into at your leisure, but the basic caching facility is the main thing to set up. Another way to reduce load speed is to use a CDN or Content Delivery Network. A CDN keeps a copy of your website in data centers located all over the world so that your site is delivered to people in various locations, more quickly. Thankfully, there are various free options for adding your site to a CDN, the most popular being Cloudflare, and the widely used WordPress plugin Jetpack also includes an image CDN feature.
3. Get a Better Hosting Provider
Your webhost is a major factor when it comes to your load speed, and there are various independent reviewers, such as hostingfacts.com to help you decide who to use. I personally recommend SiteGround, as they offer specific WordPress hosting plans and consistently come out as top for WordPress (naturally, you should consider other aspects such as security and customer service when deciding on your hosting provider)
4. Strip Down Your Plugins
Even if your WordPress website has been built professionally, it’s likely that you have at least one plugin that is still active, but you aren’t really using. Perhaps, even, you’re using plugins you don’t really need. To make sure that you aren’t putting unnecessary strain on your server (and slowing down your site’s load speeds), now’s the time to do a WordPress Plugin audit; only keep the plugins that you’re actually using and you actually need.
Once you’re through these four, pop over to Pingdom and check your speed again – you should see a significant improvement. Not seeing a difference? You might need to go ahead with some more techy improvements (and maybe call on your web developer for these; this is something I routinely monitor and resolve when you join the Website BFF Squad!).