WordPress is the world's most popular content management system (CMS). While it started off as a blogging platform, it is now the CMS of choice for millions of sites, including major corporations like Microsoft and some federal government agencies.
Of course, even a great CMS can have issues - like slow loading time, especially with larger themes or plugins installed. When your site lags, it can turn off visitors - and cost you sales, donations, and more. Fortunately, there are several proven - and easy - steps that you can take to speed up your WordPress website.
Inclind works with small businesses, big corporations, nonprofits, and member organizations throughout the country to help them design, develop, and maintain their website. We have deep experience with WordPress, including building sites and ensuring that they work as you expect. Reach out today to talk to a member of our team about your website needs.
What Causes WordPress Slow Downs?
Waiting for a website to load was fairly common in the not-too-distant past. Go far enough back, and you may even remember waiting for your dial-up to connect before you could even start surfing the web.
Now, people expect websites to be well-designed, easy-to-use, and readily available. If a website is slow to load, it can affect your search engine rankings and customer behavior. Broadly, if your website is slow, it will rank lower in search engine results, and people who do visit the site may form a negative opinion of your organization.
So what causes WordPress websites to load slowly? There are many possible causes, and the best way to figure out the specific issues on your site is to run a speed test (described below). Generally, the main causes for a slow WordPress site include:
- Improperly configured web hosting server
- Site pages, particularly images, that are too large and are not optimized
- Improper site configuration (failure to set up the site to serve cached pages)
- Bad plugins
- Too many external scripts
Remember: these are some of the most common reasons a site is slow, but they may not necessarily be the issue for your WordPress site. The best way to learn exactly why your site is running slowly is to perform a speed test.
How to Speed Up Your WordPress Website
If your website isn’t running as quickly as you’d like, you will likely need to take steps to speed it up. The exact fix may vary based on your specific situation. However, performing routine maintenance can help avoid problems and keep your website running as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Run a Speed Test
Before doing anything else, you should run a performance test to determine if your WordPress site is slow and why it is slow. Doing a speed test regularly is a good idea, as your site may be slow for someone else, even if it isn’t slow for you. That is because when you visit a website often, your browser automatically creates a cache so that it loads quickly. Users who don’t navigate to your site frequently won’t have the same experience.
For this reason, you should consider running a speed test as part of your routine site maintenance. While this test won’t necessarily give you a picture of exactly how each site user will experience your website, it is a good estimate. Many free online tools, like IsItWP’s speed test, allow you to get a good idea of any issues with your site. You can also use Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool to see how Google loads and views your site. Generally, your page should load in under 2 seconds - but the faster, the better.
The performance test you use will likely have specific suggestions for improving loading and performance. You can use this information to make changes to your site to maximize speed. However, these suggestions are often fairly technical, so you may need to consult with a website developer for assistance in implementing the improvements.
Update Your Site and Plugins
WordPress is an open-source CMS, meaning users can view and modify the source code. As a result, WordPress is updated frequently, as are its plugins and themes. One of the best - and easiest - ways to ensure site speed is by updating your website. Like performance tests, this should be part of your regular maintenance. Not only will it speed up your site, but it can also ensure that your WordPress site is as secure as possible.
Images are incredibly important to create a dynamic, attractive website. Yet images can really slow down your website speed because it takes time to load them. The simplest solution is only to upload photos that have been optimized for speed. You can compress images using your camera or phone before uploading them, which will improve your site’s speed.
Install a Caching Plugin
WordPress pages are dynamic, which means that they are built each time someone visits your site. This requires a lot of steps and work, which can slow down your site. One of the best ways to minimize these slow-downs is by installing a caching plugin on your WordPress site. This can make your site 2 to 5 times faster than before.
A caching plugin will make a copy of each page after the first time that it is loaded. It will then serve the cached version to every user that visits your site afterward. It is essentially a digital shortcut that can significantly improve site speed.
Check Your Plugins
Plugins are a way to customize a WordPress site. They can be incredibly useful, but too many plugins - or poorly-coded plugins - can slow down your site. Every so often, you should go through your plugins and delete any that you aren’t using to decrease your page load speed.
You should also be careful only to install plugins that are high quality and that are truly necessary for site design or functionality. Your website developer can help you identify better plugins to use for your site. You can also use a plugin like Plugin Organizer to disable plugins on certain pages so that you’re only using specific plugins where they’re needed.
Use a Lightweight Theme
When choosing a WordPress theme, you may be tempted to pick the most visually appealing one. While there may be some benefits to this type of theme, a complicated theme can slow down your site with unnecessary features. Instead, you should choose a theme that has been optimized for WordPress. You can then add features using plugins.
Avoid Directly Uploading Audio and Video Files
Photos, videos, and audio files can help create an interesting, dynamic website. But the problem with putting video and audio on your site is that it can chew up a lot of bandwidth. It also slows down your site considerably.
Rather than uploading your video and audio files directly to your WordPress site - which displays them in an HTML5 player - you should load the videos elsewhere, like YouTube or Vimeo. These sites have the bandwidth to host video so that it isn’t slowing down your site. You can then embed the video into your WordPress site by copying and pasting the URL onto your site.
Use a Content Delivery Network
A content delivery network (CDN) is a great way to speed up site loading times for visitors. A CDN has servers around the world, each of which stores static website files. When you use a CDN, website visitors get static files from whatever server is closest to them. In this way, visitors won’t have a slow experience based on their location. Cloudflare is a great CDN that offers a free tier.
Optimize Background Processes
On any WordPress site, there are certain scheduled tasks that run in the background. For example, search engines and other crawlers may scan your site to fetch content. These background processes can slow down your site considerably. You can optimize these background processes by ensuring that they only run during low traffic time or less frequently overall. You can also change your Google search console settings to crawl your site less frequently.
Simplify Page Design
There was a period when people were really excited about the various cool features you could add to a website - and so the trend quickly became to add a lot of plugins, images, and videos. Today, many site owners see the value in a more minimal design. While these websites can still be incredibly functional, they tend to have less content and images.
Whether you do a complete redesign or simply look for ways to trim your content, simplifying your website will often make it run faster. Take some time to analyze the content of each page so that you can make a decision about what is necessary - and what is just unnecessarily slowing down your page.
Clean Up Your WordPress Database
Over time, WordPress sites tend to accumulate junk, such as old data from unused themes, unpublished content, and old media. This can take up valuable server space, which will make your site slower. A plugin like WP Optimize can clean up your files and remove anything that isn’t essential to running your site as it currently exists.
The Best WordPress Speed Plugins (In Our Opinion)
You can use many different plugins to improve site speed on your site. WP Rocket is one of the largest and most popular plugins for improving site speed, but it isn’t one of our favorites. WP Rocket often doesn’t play nice with many different site themes and plugins. For sites using WP Rocket, we’ve found that when something on the site breaks, the culprit tends to be WP Rocket.
Instead of WP Rocket, we typically recommend using Autoptimize. Autoptimize performs many of the same functions that WP Rocket does. It will help you minify your code, compress your images, cache your site, and more. Unlike WP Rocket, Autoptimize rarely causes issues with sites, and it’s free!
If Autoptimize isn’t enough to speed up your site, our next recommendation would be NitroPack. NitroPack is an alternative to Autopitmize, and it does an excellent job of speeding up site load times. It particularly excels over Autoptimize when it comes to improving Google PageSpeed scores if you’re trying to optimize for Google PageSpeed. The downside to NitroPack is that it is expensive for a speed plugin. Pricing is tiered based on monthly pageviews. Pricing starts at $17.50/month for 50,000 pageviews a month and goes up to $146.67/month for 1,000,000 pageviews a month. Still, the price for NitroPack may be justified by your site's speed increase.
Want to Optimize Your WordPress Site? Inclind Can Help.
There are a lot of different strategies that you can employ to make your site run faster. While several are relatively easy, others require some technical knowledge. If you aren’t comfortable performing these maintenance tasks yourself, the Inclind team can take on this work for you.
Inclind is a MidAtlantic award-winning website design and development firm. We provide a range of services for organizations throughout the United States, including website design and development, redesign, search engine optimization, accessibility audits, and ongoing support and maintenance. We have deep experience working with WordPress and other CMS platforms and use that knowledge to ensure our clients’ websites run as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Interested in learning more? Fill out our online contact form or hit the live chat button to talk to one of our experts about your website.