How To Build A Fast WordPress Site, with Minimal Investment

First, lets look at some fast facts.

  • 1 in 4 people abandon a web page that takes more than 4 seconds to load.
  • 50% of mobile users abandon a web page that takes more than 10 seconds to load (3/5 never to return).
  • Amazon makes $67 million a day in sales. They could potentially loose $1.6 billion per year for just 1 second delay.

Note: Data sourced from a study made by OnlineGraduatePrograms about Instant America.

If you are blogging for business, these are numbers that should certainly concern you, and proves without shadow of doubt why site speed is so important to the success of your business blog. The repercussions of a slow-loading website can be detrimental in so many ways, that it could affect everything from your conversion rate to brand perception, among other things. And we are not even talking about the collateral damages a slow site can cause on your websites rankings on search results.

Anyway, what I am about to share with you today, is a result of various experiments I have been doing with my own WordPress powered websites. While this is somewhat different from the traditional “only free” stuff, I believe that come a time, whether we like it or not, we will most likely have to invest a bit, to achieve better results. If you are just starting your journey, or you haven’t done anything yet to improve your sites speed, then I suggest that you apply some of my recommendations on how to make your WordPress site load faster, first. If that is not enough, and you are really looking for a better option, then read on…

First things first. Test your page loading time. There is really no point of going further before knowing how long does it take for your site to load. There are many tools out there that will allow you to test for your sites speed, however, the following are the ones I recommend:

The Essentials

Basically and from what I gathered from my research and experiments, site speed essentially boils down to the following:

  • server speed – the speed at which the page is served
  • web page size – everything (plugins, theme, images, etc.)
  • external calls – example: scripts from other sources, such as Google analytics

The Ingredients

My experiments were based solely on what I had my hands on, and only after applying all other site speed enhancements (see link above on making WordPress faster) as suggested. Obviously there could be other options to consider. However, if you are not sure what web hosting, theme, etc., to use, these could get you started.

Websites: Aside from the obvious (this one), I tested two other sites, namely, (FCA) and (EB). The later two are relatively new, but I did not save them from using all the SEO plugins that I like using :).

Cloudflare (Free CDN) – All experiments where conducted with and without Cloudflare. Final result indicated that all sites had an increased performance with CloudFlare on. Get yourself familiar with CloudFlare’s free CDN service, if you are not already. iBlogzone has been using CloudFlare for one year now and I am very happy with it. It’s free! There is a PRO option, but to be honest, I have not yet seen any reason why I need to upgrade.

[note]UPDATE: 17/12/2012 – Introducing Incapsula[/note]

Incapsula (Free and Premium CDN) – While I have not conducted the same experiment noted here with Incapsula, I did another test, that you can read here on this review. Incapsula has a free version as well and works equally great to power your WordPress and improve your sites security. You should give it a try, specially if “other” alternatives are not working for you.

Web Hosting – I have three accounts. BlueHost, iPage and HostZilla (cloud server). All are shared hosting, so investment is minimal, compared to other alternatives. I have been on Bluehost (aff) for three years now and with the exception of the issue noted on my CloudFlare article, I have no complaints whatsoever (*). I have been on iPage (aff) and Hostzilla for nearly six months and so far, so good, no problems either. Actually, I started with HostZilla’s free Cloud Hosting (more info here) for the first two months and decided to upgrade to premium (ridiculously cheap).

(*) Check out my latest Bluehost Web Hosting Review.

Theme – Tested both sites (FCA and EB) on free and premium themes. I use Thesis here on this site and ended up with Genesis (aff) on the other two, that after testing a lot of other free and premium themes (e.g. HeadWay, Elegant Themes, etc.). Free WordPress themes are great but you should know how to choose them wisely. Many are poorly coded and some could even contain malicious codes, so research, test and apply. There is a new free theme, called Responsive, which is a great alternative. It is “responsive” (adjusts itself automatically depending on the device – great theme for mobile compatibility). Orion is also interesting.

The Results

Following are the test results (GTMetrix)  that I ended up with the combination, CloudFlare + Theme + Web Hosting

iBlogzone: CloudFlare +Thesis + Bluehost

iblogzone site speed

4,41s – Not bad, but still needs improvement. Note that my page size is somewhat big and the number of request are quite high. Nonetheless, it is hanging in that 4s threshold.

EntrepreneursBusiness: CloudFlare + iPage + Genesis

entrepreneurs business site speed

2.09s – Great. Note that the page size here is nearly half of iBlogzone and the number of requests the same. So to show you that page size and external calls makes a big difference. Entrepreneurs Business is an infographics site, so there are large images.

FreeCloudApplications: CloudFlare + Genesis + Hostzilla

free cloud apps site speed

1.6s – Great again. Page size is the  lowest amongst the three. CDN + Cloud server is definitely fast. Hostzilla is relatively new, so if you want to take them for a test drive, it won’t hurt doing a bit more of research. Their free cloud hosting is the best out there, only limited by the disk space storage (100 mb), which can be easily lifted by going unlimited space ($15) or going Premium ($60 a year). Free Cloud Applications is just as the name suggests.


As you can see above, there is one common denominator, which is CloudFlare. You may or may not like it, but seriously, a free service like what they offer is hard to resists. Not only they boosts a sites performance, it adds security as well. And oh, you can also make money from their partnership with VigLink. An alternative to CloudFlare, as mentioned in the update above is Incapsula.

The options I covered, as I said, are those that I got my hands on, and there are several other themes, hosting providers, etc., that you can use. These options are effective methods for increasing the speed of your site, with minimal investment, but just like anything else, there is always more that you can do.

Are there any other cost effective methods you are doing that has proven to be successful? Please share your experience in the comments section!


DiTesco is a Business and Inbound Marketing Consultant, and founder of iBlogzone's main objective is to help startups and small business owners achieve success in their online ventures. | More About Me and my Digital Marketing Services in SP Brazil.

39 thoughts on “How To Build A Fast WordPress Site, with Minimal Investment

  • Super breakdown DiTesco. Load-time is a biggie. I keep my sites as light as possible to reduce the time it takes to load, because most readers won’t stick around for more than a second or 2 if a site doesn’t load. Thanks for sharing.

  • How To Build A Fast WordPress Site, with Minimal Investment @ditesco

  • they are very relevant advice that you just write, thanks to these tips I can control my buget for the creation of a new blog.

  • Thanks for the mention. It might be of interest to note that the different reporting tools will report different scores & make different recommendations to improve site performance.

  • How To Build A Fast WordPress Site, with Minimal Investment via @DiTesco

  • Great article with great intention. I’ve always used to test my site speeds, and am sure to keep it at three seconds or under. If my website ever takes longer to load, I hit the drawing board and get back to work.

    One thing I do, when beginning a website’s development, is outline all of the plugins I will use on a piece of paper. From there, I organize the list into High Priority, Medium Priority, and Low Priority. If my website is too slow, I begin removing from the Low Priority list. Very simple way to eliminate load time.

    If possible, move scripts – such as that for Alexa or Google Analytics – to the bottom of your website. The tracking won’t be as efficient, but it will speed up the load times. I think load times are a lot more important than traffic counting.

    I’ve never heard of CloudFlare. Will be checking it out in a bit. Great post!

  • Hi DiTesco, how about that! You got a similar score for each site. CloudFlare is really making a difference for you. Since I am on Host Gator it should be pretty easy for me to start using it too. Thanks for all the details, it’s really opening my eyes to this topic.

    • Hi Ileane. Hostgator is a certified partner of CloudFlare, and for you, using the service should be just but a few simple steps. I always was curious as to how it would work via the integration with the hosting provider. I think that it is an interesting “experiment” for you test. You can always turn it off, if you don’t like it 🙂

  • Thanks for the web page speed links. I’m going to test my sites.

    Load speed is often and unfortunately, an after-thought for me, which could be costly.

  • I never knew about the cloud flare method. I scored a 72% on page speed and 81% on Yslow.

  • Good options to increase your WP performance > How To Build A Fast WordPress Site, with Minimal Investment

  • You have mentioned nice tips, I am using wp-optimize and w3 total cache plugin to make my WordPress blog faster. Also, I have reduced the image size. I am using light theme with minimum plugins.

  • Nice points, Page loading speed is really important and cloudflare is really an good option. I have tried it with my site but disabled it when I shifted from super cache to W3 total cache. I will enable it again, thanks for reminding.

  • Thinking of building a WordPress page? Consider these tips before hand.

  • For WordPress security is definitely a huge issue. I would not settle for any free themes and would take the time to pick out a premium theme from a trusted source. As soon as WordPress is installed on a domain I highly recommend uploading some easy security plugins like a login lock and a scanner. These will pay off in dividends in the future.

  • It can also help to minimize the number of plugins running on your website. One of the things I’ve noticed is that a few plugins — one in particular that I know of is a coupon code plugin — that add extraneous code to your website’s header on every page, even if the plugin isn’t used on that page. This increases the loading time of your entire website and is just poor programming IMO.

  • How To Build A Fast WordPress Site, with Minimal Investment via @BizSugar @ditesco

  • Site loading speed matters a lot. But can you tell me a good service which helps us to see the page speed and suggestions at the same time? If yes, please reply ASAP.

  • Great analysis and insights. We did almost the same for 2 of our clients and the results were great. Our combination was – WordPress+ Genesis + HyperCache+DB Cache Reloaded Fix + Gzip + VPS with eAccelerator + CloudFlare + Less size of homepage with less images + Less external Javascript

  • I think it would really best only to build a WordPress that is not bombarded with so many plugins, images, widgets and other nitty gritty things to make it an astounding site. It is always important to make it clear, simple and worth-reading.

  • Hi there DiTesco, I have been using w3 total cache to help with my site load speed and overall performance. But having read your post I will have to look into Cloudfare

    Thanks for the post!

  • Hey DieTesco

    Nice post website loading speed is the main concerned for getting more traffics I always used minimum plugin and proper cached theme and it’s great too minimized the site loading speed.

  • Hi.
    For a person new to creating websites having an understanding of the way things work really helps in the long run.
    I think an article on the sites you’ve mentioned on how they work will be great!

  • How To Build A Fast WordPress Site, with Minimal Investment via @DiTesco

  • I can personally attest to the effectiveness of CloudFlare. I’ve been using the pro version for the last month and have seen great results in page speed loading. More importantly though, my bounce rate dropped over 10% and is now just under 21% for the site. In addition (and probably a direct result to the decrease in bounce rate), the average time on my site is up as well. Page load speed was never a big deal to me up until a couple of months ago, and since addressing it my site has performed a lot better and the analytics show my customers appreciate it more too.

  • Hi Francisco,
    This experiment of yours clearly shows the benefits of CloudFlare, I have read in a lot of places about the benefits of using cloudFlare but I haven’t tried just because of laziness I guess 🙁 it seems that it’s time to try it on my blog and since my hosting hostgator has the option to setup it there is no excuse for not using it, thanks for sharing…

    • CloudFlare has been good to me, what can I say 🙂 I guess that one could only see the benefits by using it. There is always the option to revert back if you don’t like it. Like you said, Hostgator is a CF partner and setting it up takes just but a few minutes. A few minutes that could be very valuable for the long term. Let me know if you decide to take it for a spin. I would love to know your opinion about it. All the best

  • Hi Ditesco,
    Blog’s loading speed is really important. That is why I am using MaxCDN along with Standard Theme for wordpress. For hosting I have a shared hosting account with Godaddy and it has been good so far.

  • Word press sites are very good and easy to make with lots of good templates available. the investing part of it is in just hosting with doesn’t cost a lot if u are on the shared hosting.

  • Really good article. I’ve been having problems with my blog load time. I’ll definitely read the referenced articles to have a better understanding of what to do. Thanks for sharing.

  • You make some good points, but even with the plugins mentioned in your post, we still got additional gains by :

    (1) Editing the htaccess.
    (2) Using a CDN
    (3) Paralleling of our domains for downloads (and put blog on subdomain)
    (4) Using the hosted version of Google Libraries
    (5) Clean and optimize the wordpress database (plugin)
    (6) Run the tool and make changes required to make the site even faster.

    Before the caching and compression plugins mentioned were installed, it took our website about 2.5 seconds to load.
    After we installed the three plugins the page load speed came down to about 1.3 to 1.9 seconds.
    After we made the 6 changes above as well, we got the website load time to between 400ms to 700ms

    Overall this is a 350% speed improvement.

    Feel free to ask for the htaccess code that makes your website faster.

    It REALLY does make a difference, and customers stay longer on your website, and bounce rate goes down. And yes sales increase too!

    • Thanks for your input and now I am really curious as to what kind of “tweak” you can make on the .htaccess to make a website load faster…

      • Hi DiTesco,

        Yes, we will gladly post up here the htaccess tweaks to get the website even faster.

        (1) First benchmark your website at (and save the result URL so you can see it later).

        (2) Backup the existing htaccess first. Then edit the .htaccess to include:

        FileETag MTime Size

        ExpiresActive on
        ExpiresDefault “access plus 1 year”


        # BEGIN compress text, html, javascript, css, xml
        AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
        AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
        AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
        AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
        AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
        AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
        AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
        AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
        AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript
        # BEGIN compress text, html, javascript, css, xml

        # BEGIN, compress certain file types by extension

        SetOutputFilter DEFLATE

        # END Or, compress certain file types by extension

        #BEGIN expires headers
        ExpiresActive On
        ExpiresDefault “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType image/gif “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType image/png “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType image/jpg “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType image/jpeg “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType image/ico “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType application/javascript “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType application/x-javascript “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType text/javascript “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType text/html “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType text/xml “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType text/css “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType text/plain “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType image/bmp “access plus 1 month”
        ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash “access plus 1 month”
        #END expires headers

        # BEGIN secure htaccess file

        order allow,deny
        deny from all

        # END secure htaccess

        #START libperl block
        SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent “^libwww-perl*” block_bad_bots
        Deny from env=block_bad_bots
        #END libperl block

        Now save the htaccess, and check your website loads properly. If it does go to and run a new report. You should see your website was speed up even more.

        Otherwise restore the htaccess from backup if your website dosent load (you did backup right?) and try adding a section, save htaccess, check website, and repeat until you localise the problem. A “section” is between hash tags.

        Some people prefer to use Pingdom tools ( instead of…its up to you.

        • Thanks for putting this up. I will give it a try on a test site and will see hot it performs. Hopefully readers on this thread can also benefit from this tip. But as you said, first and foremost “BACKUP” first and then do the dance 🙂

          BTW, a quick question if I may: what does this part do?

          #START libperl block
          SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent “^libwww-perl*” block_bad_bots
          Deny from env=block_bad_bots
          #END libperl block

          • Hi DiTesco,

            Your very welcome.

            This purpose of the code between “START libperl block” and “END libperl block” is to prevent spam and save bandwidth.

            Certain tools programmed in PERL like website copiers, scrapers and some email hunters are blocked by the directive.

  • Just finished going through this entire article! I kept getting a 500 internal error port 80 thing because my blog was loading soo slow!

    So i gave GoDaddy a call to check up on my hosting and they said everything was fine, so instead of doing anything I was given an email with a few resource links. After an hour or so I landed on your website and appreciate the help!

    As of right now I’ve installed the cloudfare CDN (Free version) and am waiting on the DNS approval to take place. Hopefully this speeds up my blog!

    Thanks again!


    – Chris Altamirano

    • That’s great that you have installed CloudFlare. I would really be interested in knowing form you the results of the CF implementation. Is it faster, same or worst?

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