There is no doubt that one of the most important things for a website’s effectiveness is speed. A fast loading website is good for users experience, and what’s good for users is good for everyone. This holds true for your online business and your SEO campaign. If there is something that could potentially drive your visitors away, is your site taking forever to load. Recent studies show that users leave a site if it hasn’t loaded in 10 seconds or less. Think about it, what is the first “contact” your visitors have when arriving your site? You might have a sleek design, lots of great content to offer, etc., but before anything else, your site has to fully render and load for them to navigate through it, right? Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the impact of how a slow site can impact your business.
[note]Fast = Better User Experience = Better Rankings = Improved Traffic = Better Conversions = More Sales[/note]
There are several ways to make your WordPress site load faster. This guide’s intention is to be one of those ways, and will only entail free methods and tools. If you are not making use of anything similar to what I am about to share with you, I am convinced that if you implement what you learn here, it will make your WordPress site load faster. Obviously, I can not guarantee 100% that this will work for you (it has for me), but you will never know unless you give it a shot. BTW, this guide is for self-hosted WordPress powered sites only.
Do You Need To Make Your Site Load Faster?
First things first. Let’s test your current sites page loading time, to see whether or not it requires boosting. My experience tells me that it always will, be it immediately or in the near future. So it won’t hurt to “prepare” your site for lots of great content and massive traffic. Testing your sites speed will also tell you the difference, before and after you apply these changes.
To test for your site loading time, I recommend using the following services. All of them are free and I suggest you run a site test on at least two of them to compare results. After testing, note the results for future reference.
- WebPageTest – Great site speed tester. Recommended by Google for their Page Speed Service comparison. You can also test how your site performs on mobile devices and on different browsers.
- Google Developers – Graduated from the former Google labs, Google developers is a page speed online test site, which provides some great insights on what you need to do to improve your sites performance.
- Pingdom – Another great tool to test for site speed. Pingdom also offers DNS health check and free alert service that notifies you when your website is up or down. Awesome!
- GTMetrics – One of my new favorite. Site provides great analysis of a website by giving grades on both PageSpeed and YSlow. In addition to measuring speed, this tool comes with great recommendations to tweak your site for optimum performance.
- WhichLoadsFaster – Great to compare two websites head-to-head. Compare your site website load time with a competitor and see results.
Now that you have done your test for site speed, it is time to move on the next phase.
WordPress plugins to optimize performance and speed
1) Install a cache plugin. Cache plugins Improve site performance and user experience by caching – browser, page, objects, database, and more. The ones I recommend are W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache. Installing a cache plugin is “mandatory” for better site speed performance.
2) Install WP Smush.it – One of the elements that slows down a website are images. This plugin reduces image file sizes and improve performance by compressing the files. Excellent plugin. All you have to do is install and activate, nothing else. There is a new “beta” feature that allows for “bulk smushing”, but depending on the size of your media library, this could take a very long time and cause errors. You may want to skip that bit.
3) WP Optimize – During the course of time, your WordPress database piles up a lot of bytes by keeping post revisions, among other things. These post revisions may occupy a lot of space and may hurt your websites performance. This simple but effective plugin allows you to clean up your database and optimize it without an need for technical knowledge. In addition, it also comes with other features to improve your WordPress sites security.
4) Uninstall unused or useless plugins – WordPress plugins are great and makes our lives a lot easier. It is very easy to get overwhelmed and install lots of plugins, but you should know that they “slow” down your sites performance and some can eat up lots of server resources. Run through your list of installed plugins and deactivate those that you feel are no longer of value to your site. Once deactivated, delete them from your site. Don’t leave them there.
Free CDN Service For WordPress Site optimization
CDN or content delivery network has been traditionally an expensive option. Fortunately, there are now free CDN services that you can use without having to change your hosting provider. The best service that is currently available is hands down, CloudFlare. CloudFlare goes beyond just an ordinary CDN service. Most of the recommendations the above test sites recommend are easily achieved just by using CloudFlare’s service. I am currently using their service on virtually all of my websites, and I can’t tell you enough how it has helped me a great deal.
On a side note. Please do note that I am using CloudFlare with only (aff links) BlueHost, iPage and Hostzilla (Cloud Hosting, free up to 100mb). I am not aware how CloudFlare works with other hosting providers, although I am sure that there should not be any problems. The best combination I have an experience with is CloudFlare + WestHost (aff). It flies 🙂
Installing CloudFlare is easy and it takes but 5 minutes to get your site up and running. To find out more about CloudFlare, its features and how to install it, please refer to my CloudFlare review post. Everything you need to know is there. As an alternative to CloudFlare, is Incapsula. It is a very similar service and more info can be found on my Incapsula review posts.
These services will improve your websites performance and boost site speed significantly, along with providing added security against online threats. There are some minor disadvantages, but in my opinion, are outweighed by the advantages.
[note]UPDATE: Are these methods not enough! If they aren’t, try adding up these additional methods to further increase your WordPress sites performance.[/note]
That’s it! The above WordPress plugins and Free CDN services is all you need to increase your WordPress site speed and performance. Obviously there is always the matter of using WordPress themes that are coded properly and whenever possible SEO optimized. For that purpose, I can only but recommend two of the best WordPress themes that I am using, those being Thesis and Genesis (aff links), period. They are that good. Anyway, If you can think of anything that I missed out, please do let me know. Remember to backup all your files first before doing anything with your site. Good luck!