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Fast website loading speed matters more than you think. It’s common knowledge that a fast website speed will result in a good user experience and vice versa. However, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
In one way or another, your website’s speed affects a lot of other metrics such as your bounce rate, time on page, and even customer reviews on other websites. A lot of websites tend to slow down with time, but WordPress websites usually suffer more than others. Today, let’s take a look at why this is happening and what you can do about it.
Why Your Website’s Speed Is Important
An average user will stay on a website longer if the site speed is faster. The website speed also directly affects the conversion rate. In fact, website speed is so important nowadays that Google has made it a ranking factor. What does it mean for website owners? It means that no matter how hard they try, they will never make it to the top of the search results if their website is not fast enough.
According to some online sources, 79% of online shoppers say they won’t go back to a slow website. Not to mention that a slow website leaves a bad first impression. We generally assume that if it takes ages for the website to load, it must be unsafe, unprofessional, and unreliable.
Did you know that more than half of users tend to leave a website if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load? Only a few years ago, an average user could hang out for another second or more, but users are getting more and more impatient…
So, if you don’t want to lose your customers, you need to invest in performance optimization. Your efforts will pay off soon because a faster website means more sales, visitors, engagement, and revenue. And it won’t cost you much – there are a lot of great free tools out there that can also boost your website’s performance.
What Can Cause Your Website to Slow Down
There are a lot of factors that contribute to your website’s slow speed. The plugins that I’ll mention below will give you a detailed report with a list of issues that increase your website’s loading time. But most of the time, these are the main reasons:
- Too many plugins
- Old, outdated plugins that need to be replaced or updated
- Poor quality, cheap hosting
- A hosting plan that doesn’t mean your growing needs
- No caching (some caching plugins might help!)
- You are the owner of a high-traffic website that doesn’t have a content delivery network (CDN) enabled
- There are a lot of heavy, high-quality images or videos in your WordPress gallery (image compression or optimization can solve this problem)
- The website is using HTTP instead of HTTPS
- You are not taking advantage of the HTTP2 protocol
- Your WordPress version needs to be updated
- You are using an out-of-date theme (here comes WordPress theme customization)
- The PHP version should be updated
- The website’s files are not minified
How to Test Your Website’s Speed
As of today, WordPress has almost 60,000 free plugins available on its official page, so if you don’t want to pay for a plugin, you don’t have to. Both free and paid tools offer an in-depth analysis of your websites’ performance. Usually, paid plugins and accounts just offer more details as well as more insights and suggestions to improve the performance.
To get you started, here are some well-known speed test plugins and tools that will do the job:
- Google’s PageSpeed Insights
- Speed Booster Pack
- Pingdom Tools (Keep in mind that its free version doesn’t allow you to select the browser or connection speed)
- YSlow (http://yslow.org)
What You Can Do to Speed up Your WordPress Website
1. Review Your Plugins and Themes
Let’s start simple. When was the last time you updated all your plugins? WordPress can be pretty annoying when it wants to update something – the red warnings start to appear everywhere. Still, a lot of website owners ignore those warnings for months.
Try to make it a habit to do plugin updates regularly, ideally every month or so. Set aside a day and time when you don’t have a lot of active users on the website – say, Friday night – and make sure you update all plugins and then briefly test your website after that. And as usual, don’t forget to create a backup of your website before doing any updates (including WordPress and PHP version updates).
Keeping plugins up-to-date is vital if you want your website to perform better. However, some developers do not release updates for years and sometimes, it’s better to get rid of those plugins before it’s too late.
You can find thousands of abandoned plugins on a WordPress marketplace, and all of them can be replaced with modern alternatives. It’s easy to tell when the plugin is not maintained – just look at their page on the wordpress.org website. On the right, you’ll see all the important information, specifically when the plugin was last updated and tested.
2. Your Hosting Provider Matters
Your WordPress hosting service influences the website’s performance. Managed WordPress hosting companies take the extra steps to optimize your website. They also offer automatic backups, updates, and advanced security. If you have a good shared hosting provider and still encounter issues, you might need to review and upgrade your plan.
3. Implement Caching
Another pain point that can be easily avoided is caching. Caching makes your website run faster by reducing the load on your WordPress hosting server. Good news – you don’t have to be a developer to set up proper caching on your WordPress website. These or similar plugins will do all the work for you:
- WP Rocket is considered to be the most beginner-friendly caching plugin on the market.
- W3 Total Cache is an advanced plugin with a lot of options but it’s not as intuitive as other options.
- WP Super Cache is frequently recommended by big hosting companies.
Using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) will complement your WordPress caching plugin for even better website performance. You can use Sucuri, Bunny CDN, Cloudflare, or some other popular CDN provider to speed up loading times for all your visitors from different countries.
4. Image and Video Optimization
While you can upload audio and video files directly to your WordPress site, it’s never a good idea to do that. Why? Because photos and videos, especially high-quality ones, will take up a lot of space. Sometimes, you can even be charged extra for it.
So, you can either avoid storing high-quality content on your website altogether or optimize it before posting. There are a lot of image and video compression WordPress plugins that can help you with that:
5. Minify Your Files
While your website won’t be able to tell the difference, your users will certainly notice an improvement in your website’s speed. Again, you can use a good WordPress plugin for that. Some of the most popular minifying plugins are WP Super Minify, Autoptimize, or W3 Total Cache that I mentioned earlier.
6. Clean up Your Media Library, Posts, and Pages
It’s always a good idea to delete the old posts, images, pages, etc. from your website. If it’s not an option for you, there is still a good way to improve your website performance by using excerpts on your homepage and archives.
By default, WordPress displays full pages and loads them all, which can quickly become a problem if you post a lot of content. To fix it, go to Settings » Reading and select “For each article in a feed, show: Summary” instead of “Full Text.”
One last tip: if your posts frequently get a lot of comments, go to Settings » Discussion and check the box next to the “Break comments into pages” option. This way, it will be easier for your website to load them.
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While the website speed optimization methods discussed in this post are effective, and you can easily implement them yourself, we can help you make your WordPress site even faster and more performant. With 16+ years of industry experience and thousands of successfully completed WP projects, we know everything about the world’s most popular CMS.
Helping your business succeed is our top priority!