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!
63 thoughts on “Make Your WordPress Site Load Faster Or Be Left Behind”
Sharon Hurley Hall
Hi DiTesco, thanks for the tips. Does Smushit play nicely with Cloudflare (because Cloudflare has its own minification doesn’t it?)
Hi Sharon. I installed Smush.it just some days ago and I have already noticed some differences in load time, specially on the homepage. That being said, I think it plays nicely with CloudFlare 🙂 The plugin does not require any type of configuration. Just install and activate, set and forget. Don’t see too much of these around, lol. Anyway, try it and see if you notice any difference. I think that if any, it will only benefit site. Let me know if you give it a go and how it went for you… Thanks for stopping by
Sharon Hurley Hall
Well, I don’t know if it was just the Smushit effect or the combo with Cloudflare, but I just got an A grade in GTMetrix for the first time! 🙂
Hi Sharon. WOW, congrats. In my opinion, I would almost speculate that it is the “combo” effect that made you get that “A” grade 😉
Sharon Hurley Hall
Yes, but here’s a puzzler. I got the A-grade for the non-www version of my site. When I put in the full URL (with the www), I got C-D – any thoughts on why that might be, DiTesco?
Hmmm, not sure and so to show you that like many say, sites with and without www are in some occasions treated differently. How do you have your preferred URL set up in WordPress and in Google’s webmaster tools? Do you have it with or without the www? Mind boggling indeed and something that I will be doing some digging for sure 🙂
Sharon Hurley Hall
I have it setup without in Webmaster tools. Looks like it’s with in WordPress, so I’l change that so they’re the same.
All CDN comparisons between Incapsula/ CloudFlare hat I’ve seen so far have indicated similar results on both.
I believe that where the edge really shows is in Incapsula’s security expertise- Cloudflare simply doesn’t have that track record or feature list to show for it.
Hi Ally. I have been using Incapsula for quite a while now on otehr websites and while I am very satisfied with it, the point here is “making your site faster”, and for that purpose, I believe CF has a slight advantage. Anyway, at the end of the day, it is really a matter of choice. I recommend both, with a bit of inclination towards CF 🙂
Hi DiTesco, I’ll be the first to admit there’s nothing worse than a blog that takes forever to load. Especially if it’s due to a buildup of ads and junk in the sidebar. I’ve never had any issues with this as you know I keep the blog engage community blog rocking free of ads and it’s on a dedicated server which helps big time. This article it extremely well researched and has tons of information for anyone looking at speeding up their blog. You know I’m tweeting it for sure!
Hi Brian. Thanks for taking the time to leave your views and thoughts about the subject matter. Glad to see that we are both under the same “radar” on this one. Thanks for visiting, really appreciate it 🙂
Harleena [email protected] Writer
These are some awesome links that I would surely need to check out, as I do at times think that website is loading slower than normal, though at other times it seems perfect. Wonder what could be the reason. I have hardly added many banners or links as such, though maybe the background or header could be a reason. I would start by checking out the correct loading time and then ways to get things online.
Thanks for the great links and post 🙂
Hi Harleena. That’s definitely the wisest move. First check what your current speed load results and then walk your way through the changes. BTW; have you heard of CloudFlare before? Are you using it?
Harleena [email protected] Writer
Never heard of CloudFlare earlier, but would try it out!
Awesome post, thanks for all the tips & resources! This is great not only for designers, but for everyone that uses the internet. With faster pages, everybody wins.
I agree. A faster web is really of everyone’s interest. Thanks for stopping by
Thanks for the tips. I need to review the speed of my sites and see what’s slowing them down.
I know Dragonblogger has done a lot of testing with CDN’s and has seen some major improvements.
Hi Jason, Justin has been making a lot of test and has actually provided some very good info on how to improve a sites performance. The method here is “one” way of doing it 🙂
OK, couldn’t help myself… did the WhichLoadsFaster test between my site and yours. Yours won. Yay for you 😀 – not so Yay for me ;-( …LOL
Looks like your determination to work on your site speed has paid off partner … well done. 😉
Great stuff as usual. Thanks for the reminder on the uninstall unused plugins. I have a few dead-weights i have to unload.
WOW, my site faster than yours? That’s news, lol.
Hmmm, wonder why it did not surprise me that you were going to make those comparisons, haha. Thanks partner for stopping by. Some of the things I’ve been doing here, I learned from you 🙂 And oh, yeah.. get rid of those plugins that you are not using. It makes a big difference to just delete them. Talk later
People don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to page load times. If your site or page isn’t doing or loading something in a few seconds they don’t stick around long. And, I don’t blame them. Sometimes it is out of your control like when the host server is bogged down by some other user or process running in the background. Definitely worth a little time to make your site load faster.
Thanks Ray for your views. It is really important that we take a little time to “tweak” our sites for performance. I am on shared hosting and these changes made a big difference both in speed and money. Had I not done this changes, I would have had to opt for more expensive solutions
sam @ goa carnival
Thanks for this we shouldn’t avoid that thing which all mentioned in this blog post. This is very true thing lot of thing are depend on loading time of a site if it will take too much time for loading than it means definitely we will ready to face some problem regarding that because many people don’t want to stop on that site which one take too much time for load.
Beside that these are very good tools to use for get better result on loading of site.
Hi. I agreee. Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts. Appreciate it.
With the W3 Total Cache plugin that adds into your bundled CDN, it’ll definitely optimize your WordPress sites.
I agree Ricardus. I use W3 on other sites bundled with CF and it has been a great combination. In this site, I am using WP Super Cache as initially I had some issues with W3 and decided to discontinue using it. Both are great and if I were to start a new site, I will probably also prefer W3 over WPSC, if I am to combine it with CF. Thanks
James [email protected] Giveaway
I used CloudFlare myself for a while, didn’t like the so-called improvements (checked at Google’s Pagespeed tool and there was no difference, then checked Pingdom, then Yahoo…all no dice).
Probably the best thing besides using a NGinix server is to install the lightspeed technology, a route I’ll be trying soon myself if HostGator allows that.
Oh, wanted to add that Google offers a “free” CDN of their own…but they don’t accept everyone. Haven’t used them yet but got accepted to try them.
Hi James. Thanks for taking the time to add your opinion about the JS being loaded in the footer section of the site. You are right, there is a plugin for that too, but I also can not remember which one. As for using “dropbox”, hmmm, it might not be totally recommended. Justin of DragonBlogger recently wort something about that and it is really a matter of choice.
As for you experience with CF, I am still puzzled why, like you, many people say that they have not noticed any difference. Can’t say the same. In my case, CF has been doing a great job since I satrted using it. So to show you that there are many added factors that can affect a sites loading time.
As fr Google’s page speed service, yeah, I signed up too but have not been lucky enough to get accepted in their trial phase. If you got accepted, you should give it a go. I heard good things about it. If you do give it a shot, I would appreciate you letting me know how the experience goes 🙂
I have hardly added many banners or links as such, though maybe the background or header could be a reason. I would start by checking out the correct loading time and then ways to get things online. Keep up the good work.
Thanks Jack. Regardless whether you are image heavy, or have some external calls, it is always good to use some of the methods above. The faster the better 🙂
There are so many options that are free that can greatly help increase the performance of your WordPress blog/site that it is silly not to use the options.
I used CloudFlare for some time, but have switched to Incapsula for the security enhancements. I recommend either service as they are both great.
I have been using W3 Total Cache for quite a while, but have just install WP Smush.it to see how it will impact the performance of my blog.
Thanks, DiTesco, for the mention of GTMetrics. i never new about them before reading your post and tried them out. They have a great service that I will use in the future along with some of the other services to test my blog’s performance.
Hi Paul. You are right about the number of options available out there, and it is mind boggling why many people prefer not to use it. Anyway, I also use Incapsula for other sites and my experience has been, in terms of speed, less satisfactory than that of CF. Although I agree that both are great services and is more a matter of choice whether the user prefers more speed or security.
Smush.it is a plugin I just installed some days ago. I can tell you right now that it makes a difference and it is one of those few set and forget functionality, that is worth it.
Thanks for leaving your thoughts. Always good to see you here 🙂
This is exactly what I need, I tried many test to one of WP blog and wonder why does it takes time to load even though I removed some unused plugins :/
Thanks Sir Francisco 🙂
You are welcome. I hope this works for you. Let me know if you implement all or part of it. I would really like to know about your experience. Thanks
Great list, my blog was extremely slow before when I had so many plugins, but as I uninstalled them 1 by 1 and tested, it got a bit faster.
I found that the best thing to do is to try and get plugins that do more than just 1 function that way you can have a smaller plugins database and as a result your blog could be a bit faster.
I love GTMetrics, thanks for sharing. 🙂
Hi Sayed. Indeed, getting rid unused plugins make a difference. A it here and a bit there does some wonders 🙂 As for “bundled plugins”, I am not really in favor of that. With the exception of some really known plugins, you should take caution. It one breaks everything else might break too 😉
Hey Ditesco! I loved your post, i am not much of a techie, i am a designer, with very less knowledge of action scripts & coding. I have one question, i have a list of around 10 to 15 online tools that test my web page loading speed. and these all show different results. not even one is same.. i use Google webmaster tools and technically what Google says we follow. One simple (or you may call it stupid) question.. why all these tools show different results?? (these tool are available freely online and when you will search Google for ‘website loading speed’ you can find them)
Hmmm.. Difficult to give you an exact response, but think of it this way. There are many search engines too and each one of them return different result.. why? Simply because they treat each factors, etc., differently. In page speed, I would say somewhat the same. This is why, I recommend using the tools above and test your site on at least 2 or 3 of them. Then make an average and you should have a reasonable figure to work with.
Long time no see diTesco 🙂
I tried w3tc and uninstalled it bcz it cuased problems with site design and other plugins and im on the fence about cloudfare or cdns as the idea of hosting some of my site files elsewhere doesnt sit well with me so I stuck with wp super cache and changed my theme…
Congrats on getting first page google rankings for making money online…but watch out bcz I am on page 3 for the same term and page 1 for make money online tips and I am coming fast 😉
Hi Caleb. Indeed, long time no see. I hope all is well with you. CloudFlare is great Caleb because it really speeds up your site and you don’t have to move any of your files anywhere. They stay right where they are, in your current hosting provider. All you have to do a small change in your DNS and you are good to go. Read my CloudFlare review to learn more about it.
As for the terms on Google, yeah, I will be keeping an eye on you 🙂 You are after all, a friendly competitor. how are things going?
I have tried several times to use Cloudfare and each time I activate it I am UNABLE to log into my WordPress site…I don’t know why it does this and from studying there are many others who have this problem and therefore choose NOT to use Cloudfare :confused:
As for how things are going, apparently things are going good as compared to so many others in this competitive niche of ours. Most recently I have starting testing how to use rss aggregator sites for pulling traffic.
Hi Caleb. I think the problem might e because of your IP address. All you have to do is to “whitelist” CloudFlare’s IP range with your provider and maybe set the security level to “low” and you should be able to solve the problem. In any event, have you tried writing to them. Their support is fantastic and they respond pretty fast. Or even faster, send them a tweet 😉
I did not have to whitelist due to the fact that theres a Cloudfare option already within my Hostgator cpanel so after switching it on my Hostgator rep told me to wat 72 hours then I would be able to log back in. Everything is fine now and hooked up.
Another point worth mentioning is that Cloudfare has a WordPress plugin which I installed and this really puts things in proper place and does not mess up the log stats 😉
So true. What’s the use of having the most likable and lovable website design and content when the page load invites a lot of just-forget-about-it readers. I have used Cloudflare myself and I totally like their service. It really does a great impact on my site traffic.
Hi John. What can I say.. I could not agree with you more. No use of having a nice site with great content if no one will have the patience for the site to load. I for one am ot of there, unless I already know you 🙂 thanks for stopping by my friend. I hope all is well with you
Mohsin ali waheed
Well interesting post. Many people believe that making your website load faster can help you earn respect in the eyes of search engines but i have seen many websites on internet which have very slow load time but there website traffic is growing day by day. I personally think its a good practice.
Hmmm, not sure that slow websites are actually having their traffic increase that much. I think that in the end they will have to eventually worry about serving their visitors better. Perhaps some of those sites are unique in some way, otherwise I doubt that someone would have the patience to wait. Anyway, agreed, it is always a good practice. For as long as you improve users experience I think you have a +1, lol
I’ve got a very short patience when searching a post and when I open it, so slooow in loading the page so I’m leaving that page instantly ( point of view as a visitor). I don’t want my site to end up like that, so it is really vital to fasten it up to the fullest.
HI dhanna. Thanks for stopping by. I agree. While patience is a virtue, I think that time wasted is also not a positive thing. I really don’t see why, with all the tools that are today available, why someone should not make use of. Go figure.. All the best
I have been coming across a lot of article about making site load faster lately and the way you tied it to “better user experience” it makes total sense.
I try to use as few plugins as I can. Unfortunately one of my best plugins (sexy share) is making the site load very slow. I have been looking for a plugin that can do the same function, but wont slow down the site as much. Any suggestions?…
Hi Satrap. I used Shareaholic once here but decided to take it down too because of the resources it used. Instead I opted for ShareBar which offers pretty much the same objective but uses less resources and it floats nicely in my sidebar. Try it if you want. It might improve your sites speed, plus I think that it has better visibility, although not intrusive, for your readers to share your posts.
Thanks for the suggestion. Evey one who I talked to, recommended the same plugin you are talking about. I just dont know if it will blend with my theme. But I am going to give it a try.
By the way, if you change the plugin, do you lose the social votes that shows up next to the icons?…
Thanks for your help Fransisco.
Hi Satrap. I don’t think you will loose your Social votes by changing your buttons. I changed my buttons several times before and I did not notice any effect on votes. Anyway, you can test run both at the same time and see if the counts remain unchanged. Once you are satisfied, just get rid of the one you don’t want to use 😉
Hey Francisco. I love this topic 🙂
I went on a ‘blog speed bender’ a while ago, the results of which are in my post on the ComLuv link below.
Completely agree with all your points. Couple of things which seemed to be really significant are your host, and theme. Clunky themes slow down loading speed a lot, in most cases premiums like Thesis and Genesis do a pretty good job. I ended up moving to Swift which is potentially the fastest (but haven’t configured it properly as yet)
For the really keen doing things like reducing image size and quality before uploading (as well as using Smush.it) is a good idea. There’s also a plugin called ‘Gravatar local cache’ which caches the gravatars on comments.
I had problems with WP Minify, and even W3TC so at the moment I’m not using any of them. Need to go back in and tinker about and get things running quick smart again.
For sure: faster loading = happier visitors and higher ranking.
I always think I’m reading Dj Tiesto when I see your name :p
I recently dumped the WpSmushit plugin. Hostgator told me that it adds tons of server load to make images marginally smaller. I already use Photoshop Elements which has a save for web feature, so it was a no-brainer.
Another funny thing is Cloudflare. I have 3 sites on the same server (Hostgator VPS9) with MaxCDN. The one site that I still use Cloudflare for is actually the slowest even though all sites have identical themes/plugins.
Just had a problem recently with my website and since I’m just starting it up and have little knowledge on WordPress, I just can’t figure out what might be the problem that resulted into so slow site.. Thanks for this article I’ve started to clean out those themes that I don’t use anymore plus deleting some plugins that I’m not using. Now my site runs okay than the last time.
Your advices improved the load time on my site by 7 seconds! It was really slow. CloudFlare is pure brilliance. Thank you DiTesco!
Bryant Park at Citytech
Cannot wait to apply some of these tips to my site. The bit about the free CDN is great.
I’ve done a complete run through of your mentioned plugins, and am using them on our client’s site’s. I suppose this article has also generated you a great deal of traffic. Congrat’s on that…Keep up the great work…
I’m not sure if Smush.it is still working… it seems a little buggy. Is there anyway to actually if it works or not? Its hard to tell since its such a background plugin.
Also, I use Plugin Performance Profiler plugin (I think thats the name??) to find plugins that cause slow page loads. You might want to add that to the post. 🙂
Hi. thanks for your recommendation about P3. That’s has already been covered on another post of mine 🙂 We do agree on it though, it is a great plugin to measure plugins performance. However, you should run it like two or three times a day (high and low traffic times) and get an average. Only then should you make your decision of deleting or replacing a plugin. Different “times” during the day causes some variations.
Thank Ditesco! I was browsing around looking for some optimization and found your blog here. My website loads in 2 and half seconds, which is pretty slow, that’s why I needed the optimization.
I think the caching plugin you mentioned is by far the most important.
One of the main reasons is the fact that in many cases, the only thing standing between your site and a 500 class Internal Server Error if you see a spike in traffic is your caching script.
I use WP Super Cache and consider it one of the most important elements of my site.
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