If you’ve got an insatiable need for speed, you’re not alone. The WordPress “web performance optimisation” industry is booming. WordPress is the #1 CMS in production world side, and getting it loading as fast as possible should be a priority.
And for good reason!
It’s no secret anymore that page loading time is now a serious component in Google’s ranking algorithm. Especially now with the latest Rankbrain algorithm, user engagement is now intricately tied into the rankings.
Faster page load time results in lower bounce rate. Lower bounce rate results in higher rankings.
The bottom line is simple:
If you want to maximise your WordPress website’s visibility you better be sure that it’s loading fast!
6 Step Process to Speed up your WordPress Site
Step 1: Test Your Sites Performance to Establish a Baseline
Before you start optimising your site, you need to find out how fast your site loads before any optimisations occur.
Thankfully, there are a number of free online tools such as GTmetrix and Pingdom that measure your page loading time and present you comprehensive waterfall reports that will show you exactly where any potential bottlenecks are.
This is important so you can evaluate the success of your web performance optimisation endeavours with a post-optimisation “before and after” comparison report.
What is considered slow nowadays?
This depends on what your page size is. As a general rule, try and aim for a sub 1 second page load time if possible. If you are using high resolution images and cannot decrease the size because it will wreck your design motif, then under 2 seconds is acceptable. But over 2 seconds and you’re going to be at a disadvantage.
Step 2: Choose a Fast WordPress Hosting Provider
Make sure you don’t choose WordPress hosting based on price and resources alone. If you do, you’ll most probably end up buying hosting from Bluehost, Hostgator, or another of the usual “unlimited” hosting providers.
Choose a managed wordpress hosting provider that offers support for things like NGiNX, Varnish Caching, installation of WP Caching Plugins, Performance Audits, as well as security hardening services. Because no matter how fast your site loads, it will make no difference if it’s infested with malware. Google punishes slow sites, but it also punishes insecure sites as in the same breath.
Step 3: Optimise and Compress your Images
If you’re the type of person that simply uploads your pictures to your media folder without optimising images then you’ll never have a fast WordPress site. It’s amazing how many people out there upload images directly off of their DSLR camera with image sizes of +10MB each image and then wonder why their site is loading slow.
There are generally two ways to optimise your images in 2017.
- Optimise them BEFORE you upload them to your WordPress site using Photoshop, Sketch, or another local program that can help you do lossless compression.
- Optimise them AFTER you upload them to your WordPress site using the Smush-it plugin. This is much faster because you don’t have to think about compression on your local end. Just upload the images as you want it (the pro version allows compression of photographs of up to 32MB!!!) and let Smushit do the rest.
Step 4: Install W3Total Cache Plugin
Caching is super important. If you’re not caching your WordPress site then you’re falling behind. Thankfully, you dont have to be a professional system administrator any longer to handle caching using Varnish cache or NGiNX microcaching. While external caching using Varnish is obviously amazing, you can still get away with serious performance benefits by simply using application caching.
W3Total Cache Plugin is what the industry recommends for newbies that just want a plug and play solution without much tinkering about. It’s got exactly the features you need to be able to control your cache settings and purging parameters with a simple UI that my grandmother could understand. Oh yea, and it works like a charm. Even on a 2GB RAM VPS you can surf a couple hundred concurent visitors using W3Total Caching if you’re MySQL is properly optimised (and images too!)
Absolutely. You can never cache enough!
Gzip caching is awesome because it forces the browser to do a lot of the processing reducing the load on the server. Gzip caching is based on the DEFLATE algorithm and if you want to learn more about it then you’ll have to understand LZ77 and Huffman coding.
Ask your managed hosting provider (you should get one if you don’t – saves loads of time) to install/configure it for you. Requires a few tweaks to your .htaccess file, but it’s not that difficult!
Step 6: Setup a CDN (Optional)
CDN stands for content delivery network and is very useful if you have geographically diverse readers on your WordPress site. Also helpful if you have large media files that you serve. Yes, Cloudflare is free and popular but there are better alternatives out there if you’re willing to spend the money. Fastly is a great CDN that’s based on Varnish cache (aren’t they all!) with a no-bullshit mentality, loads of documentation, and excellent support.
Need to boost the performance of your WordPress site? Follow the above 6 step process and you’ll be well on your way! There’s a lot more that you can do – obviously. But this is a start. Have more ideas on how to boost your WordPress performance? Let us know in the comments below!