How to Speed Up Your WordPress Website with a 5-Step Checklist

Do you enjoy waiting for a website to load? Neither do your visitors.

“Gosh, it’s great how this page took 6 seconds to load!” –Nobody

Speed optimization is one of the most overlooked aspects of building & maintaining a website. And it affects everything: If your website is slow, you’ll get lower search engine rankings, it will be harder for you to convert visitors to customers, your existing customers will have lower satisfaction rates, and there’s a slight chance that you’ll get shot because you have a slow website.

Thus, having a faster website is (obviously) better for you and everyone who spends their precious time in your website. And in this article, I’m going to show you how to speed up your WordPress website. (Article by Barış Ünver from Optimocha.)

 

How I Got Into WordPress Speed Optimization

I’ve been building WordPress websites since 2006.

First, I wanted to start a blog on wordpress.com, and then I moved the blog into its own domain. Then I started tweaking it like crazy: Breaking the theme a couple hundred times, installing and uninstalling all kinds of plugins, publishing multiple posts every day… I didn’t know I would enjoy making websites before 2006.

Then I started making websites for other people. I mean, I was already making websites for other people but not with WordPress. (I was using Macromedia/Adobe Flash to make websites. Sure, you can laugh, but it was so cool back then!) While using WordPress to make a few websites every month, I learned a lot. I learned so much, in fact, I wanted to teach others.

So, I applied for a writing gig at Wptuts+, which was then renamed to Tuts+ Code. Between 2012 and 2016, I published 134 articles about how to make stuff with WordPress, and how WordPress works in detail. In 2014, I was promoted to “lead author” of the WordPress category, so I wrote with that title for 2 years.

In 2016, I left Tuts+ Code and decided to start my own online business. Not a “startup”, mind you–I hate that word! I’ve been obsessing about speed back then, and I was kind of good at it, so I decided to start the business around that idea.

Now I’m the owner and founder of Optimocha, one of the few tailored speed optimization services around the world. Every day (except weekends and holidays and the days I don’t feel like working), I speed up WordPress websites and offer WordPress maintenance for websites that need constant attention.

 

Your 5-Step Checklist to Achieve Better Speed on WordPress

Since I’m so awesome at optimizing WordPress for performance, I’m going to tell you about speeding up WordPress in five smart steps. Gotta say, you might already saw a few of these suggestions but you’ll also find original ideas. Remember: All of these ideas come from experience!

1. Invest!

This is not a biased opinion because I charge people to speed up websites, this is something that you should already be comfortable with: You may need to spend in order to create value, in terms of speed.

I’m not saying that you have to spend–free, quality plugins and some common sense (with a dash of minimalism) might result in a very fast website as well. But you have to embrace the fact that money spent on speed is an investment, not an expense item.

One of the biggest factors in your website’s performance is your hosting environment. Choosing a good company is not only good for your mental health, but it also keeps your website stable. Do your research and invest in a server with solid state drives, lots of RAM, high-end CPUs and up-to-date server-side software. Two of my favorite hosting companies are Siteground and WP Engine.

Yet, having a great server doesn’t speed up a crappy WordPress installation. You have to invest in performance plugins like ShortPixel (to compress your images) and WP Rocket (to cache your content and such) so you’ll serve your content in the fastest possible way.

2. Have a Lean Setup–and Keep It That Way!

Having a killer server and great performance plugins still doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely have a fast website–you need to be mindful of how you publish the website! And that means two things: You need to pay attention to your WordPress setup and your content.

Installing more plugins doesn’t always slow down your website, but it does, most of the time. A great exercise that I make my clients perform is asking if they need each plugin… out loud! And by “need”, I mean “make more money or have more subscribers”. Literally talking to yourself about whether that plugin helps you earn more money or grow your audience is a great way to realize that some of your favorite plugins are just there because you enjoy having them. And sometimes it’s best to brutally murdering what you love. Or burning it alive.

Ahem… Another aspect of a lean setup is having a lean content. Do you really need that slider on your homepage? Is it crucial to have your Instagram feed in your sidebar? Why on earth do you have a cryptocurrency exchange widget? You get the picture. I’m not saying that you should get rid of important parts of your content, but you can perform the same exercise above for your content, and find out whether or not that piece of information/visual is absolutely necessary for your visitors.

3. Update, Update, and Don’t Forget to Update (also Update)

You have to have up-to-date software in order to have a more reliable website. Newer versions of software can provide smaller, faster-loading assets or a more secure delivery of its features. And as software, I mean WordPress itself, WordPress plugins, WordPress themes, and sometimes even third-party scripts.

You can defer updates by a few days or a week for major updates, but be sure to stay up to date.

4. Get Out of the “Third-Party Hell”

You have control over the files that are hosted in the server (or the CDN) you pay for. You’ve got no control over the other files. You can’t control over the files of that Vimeo video embedded into your page. You can’t control the Google map’s iframe and the SVG and JavaScript and CSS files within that iframe. You can’t control the Disqus comments script and all the assets that come with that script.. You can’t control the live chat widget’s files. You can’t control any of the ads that are injected into your website, even if they’re just text-based ads.

Let that sink in for a few seconds.

So, what to do? You can either start trimming down the third-party assets that are loaded into your web pages, you can cache them locally if you can (which is never encouraged, but can work if you do it right), you can make them load after your whole page is loaded (a.k.a. “lazy loading”), or you can choose better alternatives with better servers and smaller asset footprint.

Getting creative also works. Displaying a map as a static image instead of an interactive Google map made a page load twice as fast in one of my optimization jobs. On another job, the guy decided to ditch Google ads altogether, because he knew that the money he could get from a faster site would be more than the money he made from the ads.

All in all, third party scripts, styles, images, fonts and iframes should be chosen carefully.

5. Leave It to the Experts, Maybe? 😉

Time for some shameless plug! I’m going to cut it short though. If you think your time is more valuable than working on speeding up your website, or you just don’t want to get your hands dirty and risk crashing your website, you can reach us at optimocha.com for a free website assessment, or our full optimization/maintenance packages. We also have a money-back guarantee: If you don’t get a measurable, significant speed increase, you get your money back. We also talk to you every step along the way so you know exactly what happens to your website in terms of speed optimization.

 

Conclusion

Adopting these practices could mean a lot for your website: You can convert more visitors into customers or subscribers, you can rank higher in search results, you can not get shot because you have a faster website. If I were to sum everything up in 280 characters or less, I’d say:

“In order to have a faster WordPress website; invest in better hosting & plugins, have a lean & up-to-date WordPress setup, keep your content light, and hire experts when you need to.”

In fact, why don’t you tweet it out so your friends could know about it as well? 🙂

Have a great day!

Author: Barış Ünver from Optimocha.