The speed and performance of your WordPress website are more important this day compared to before, as the user expectations have grown over that passed years. The page speed refers to the length of the time it takes for the pages or media content to be downloaded from the website's hosting server and displayed onto the requesting web browser.
Having a slow website can affect the behavior of your visitors. A slow website can turn your visitors off and make them leave your site for good, while the faster one can deliver an exceptional user experience making you visitor wanting to return for more information.
In this guide, I will show you the essential steps you can do on how to speed up your WordPress site. Follow the recommendations below to make your site load times down, ensuring the best user experience for your visitors.
Use a Lightweight WordPress Theme or Framework
This might surprise you, but yes, the WordPress theme you are using on your site influences the overall speed of your website.
There are themes, usually the premium themes; offer a lot of customization and features like sliders, widgets, pop-ups, and other eye-catching elements. However, the more customization and features you use, the more likely the size of your pages to get bigger - and this will add more load to your web server slowing down your website.
The best solution here is to use a lightweight theme. A lightweight theme is a kind of WordPress theme that offers only the things that you will need. Some of these are the default WordPress themes, which are free.
Use an Effective Caching Plugin
Caching is one of the most important easiest ways to improve the speed of your WordPress site.
The caching is the process of creating static versions of your pages and saving them on the server. Every time a user visits a page on your website, the page will be served from the cache instead of running PHP codes and executing database queries, resulting in a reduction of the server load.
Caching may sound a very like a complicated task that only experienced developers can do, but with the use of a plugin, you can easily add caching rules to your website easier.
There are several plugins available out there to enable caching on your WordPress site, one of them is the W3 Total Cache. This plugin has been there for a long time and still being used by millions of WordPress websites. Its default settings work perfectly well, so you can enjoy the speed benefits right after you install and activate it.
Clean up Your WordPress Database
After using your WordPress for a time, your database will have lots of data. Some of those data might not be used or needed any more such as revisions, auto drafts, spammed comments, and more. These kinds of data make the WordPress database bloated and larger, affecting the performance of your website since it will take longer for your server to get information from database tables.
To improve the performance of your website, you can optimize your database by cleaning up all the unnecessary data. This can be done easily with the use of the WP-Sweep plugin. This plugin will allow you to clean up your database by deleting the unnecessary data and to keep your database size to a minimum.
Remove or Deactivate Unnecessary Plugins
Plugin consumes resources regardless if they are active. Installing a plugin will consume disk space and will add small data to the database. Activating it will add more data to the database and will execute codes and script when needed depending on its purpose. Deactivating it will stop the execution of scripts and codes, but the data will remain in the database and on the disk.
Keeping the unnecessary plugins on your WordPress site will not only consume more resources, but they will also add more clutter on your web files which will increase the load to your server, resulting in slow response.
Removing your unused plugins will not only declutter your server but will also free up some more space, allowing you to use it on more important matters. However, if you have plugins that are important but only use them on certain occasions like a plugin that will allow you to back-up your contents manually - you may consider deactivating them and activating only when you need to use them.
Images are the major contributor to the sizes of your pages. Using enormous images in terms of dimensions and file size slows down your web pages and gives your visitors an unpleasant user experience. This unpleasant user experience can make your visitors leave your site and they may never come back again. This issue can be fixed easily with image optimization.
Image optimization is the process of reducing the file size of your images without sacrificing their quality, resulting in faster page load speed. There are many ways you can do to optimize your images. One of them is to edit your images using a photo editor to resize and save them into the correct format before uploading them to your website. If you already have your images uploaded on your WordPress site, the most effective way to optimize them is to use the Smush plugin.
After the installation and activation of the “Smush“ plugin, go to its dashboard page by clicking the ”Smush” then ”Dashboard” on the sidebar menu. On the plugin dashboard, you will see the summary of your site images like the total savings you get after optimizing your images, the number of optimized images, and images that need optimization. There is also a button on the page that says "Bulk Smush Now", that will allow you to optimize multiple images in one click.
Lazy Load Your Media
The concept of Lazy loading is to delay the loading of a media object until the point when it is needed. This usually refers to not load the image or video until the user scrolls down the page or before they come into view.
Lazy loading will not only improve the loading speed of your website but will also save your bandwidth by using lesser data, in case the user doesn't scroll down on your pages.
To implement lazy loading on your WordPress site, I will suggest you use the a3 Lazy Load plugin. Its a popular and very simple to use that works right out of the box.
Disable Pingsbacks and Trackbacks
The pingbacks and trackbacks are core components of WordPress that will notify you through email or WordPress dashboard whenever someone links to one of your posts. This might sound helpful, but there are other services you can use where you can check the links of your website like Google Webmaster Tools.
Every time someone linked or referenced your blog post in their post, it will make requests from WordPress back and forth - and this can put an undesirable amount of load on your web server, especially if you receive a lot of them. This feature is being widely abused when targeting a website with DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks.
You can disable all this feature by going to your WordPress dashboard and navigating to "Settings" then "Discussion". Uncheck the "Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new posts" and click the "Save Changes" button at the bottom of the page.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
The visitors to your website come from different locations all over the world, and of course, your site's loading speed will change depending on how far your visitor from the location of your web server.
To make this simple; If the visitor is far from the location of your web server, your website will load slower on their browser, and if the visitor is closer to the location of your web server, your website will load faster. This is because of the data transfer, the further the distance the higher the latency.
Having followed these steps, you should now have a faster website compared to before.
The primary goal of improving the speed of your website is to provide your visitors with the best user experience that they deserve whether they are on mobile or desktop browsers. Providing this, you will not only gain the loyalty of your visitors, but you will also help your website to improve its search engine ranking.