For many reasons, ‘how to speed up my WordPress website’ is a hot topic on the internet these days. Many users are no longer willing to spend time waiting for your website to load – no matter how useful your content might be. A fast loading website helps improve user experience, boosts your SEO efforts and increases your page views and visit duration. Unfortunately, not every WordPress website is fast enough to satisfy users – yet this is one of the quickest ways to acquire page rank and new visitors. Luckily, there are some advanced techniques you can implement to make your WordPress website load faster, and we’ll be looking at a few ideas in this article.

Does it matter if your website is fast?

This is a trick question, right? You might think that because your webpages load within a reasonable amount of time, it should be fine with your visitors. On the contrary, the truth is that a few seconds could be the difference between the success and failure of your website.

Studies have shown that a good percentage of internet users are not satisfied if a webpage takes more than two seconds to load – and 40% of these visitors will leave a website that takes more than three seconds to open up. That’s not all; a one second delay can cause you to lose as much as 7% in conversion. This means that if your website typically earns $100,000 in a day, a one second delay can cause you to lose roughly $2.5 million in sales in one year. That is a huge chunk of money in any region or currency. In addition, you stand the risk of being penalized by Google and losing page rank positions if your website does not meet your visitors’ expectations for speed and performance.

In a nutshell, if you want more visitors coming to your website and extra revenue, you have to do all you can to ensure your WordPress website is as fast as possible.

Website Performance & Speed Matters

Is your website currently fast enough?

Before trying to make your WordPress website faster, you need to find out exactly how fast it currently is. Your website may load speedily enough at your end, but not as fast on the devices of your visitors. This is because modern browsers like Google Chrome keep a cache of your website and automatically fetches it when you try to load it.

Brendan Wilde, the Head of Marketing at www.openhost.co.nz stated that “the best way to determine an accurate speed reading is to do a speed test. This will show you how fast your WordPress website is, so that you can decide how much improvement to aim for”. He added that most visitors expect your website to fully load in two seconds. “If you can shave off a few microseconds from your load time, that is a bonus”, he buttressed. You can check the speed and performance metrics of your website with free tools like GTMetrix which utilizes both Google’s PageSpeed score and Yahoo’s YSlow score to determine the performance metrics of your website.

Now, let’s get to grips with how you can speed up your WordPress website.

Find a better web host

You may not know it, but one possible reason for a slow website is your web host. It may seem like a good idea to host your website on any hosting server you find on the internet (after all, you’re just starting out and may not have many visitors). The wrong web host will deliver poor performance, which can significantly affect the speed of your website. Apart from the technical issues associated with a poor host, another related issue that can affect the speed of your WordPress website is the hosting plan you’re working with. While there’s nothing wrong in starting out with a shared hosting server, a time will come when you need to move to a VPS or dedicated server, where you don’t have to share traffic with other websites.

Even if you must use a shared hosting platform while working towards a better plan, ensure you host with a reputable hosting provider that takes extra measures to secure and optimize your WordPress website for improved speed and performance. If you’re not using cloud hosting technology, you should consider hosting your WordPress website on a server closest to where your target visitors are coming from (or invest in a CDN – Content Delivery Network).

HostGator web hosting services

Optimize or change to a lightweight theme  

There are many web elements – including widgets, icons and sliders – that make your WordPress website highly attractive. However, it’s important to point out that some of these elements also slow down your website. If your plan is to avoid this, you should consider opting for a lightweight theme, such as the default WordPress theme or any of the many minimalist themes that can be found on the WordPress theme repository and third party theme sites. However, be careful though when installing third party themes and plugins. Only install from publishers and authors you trust, as some of them could contain malicious code that can be used to compromise your website.

Use excerpts in place of full content  

Typically — by default, your posts are displayed as full content on your homepage. While this could be helpful to make your content easy to read, it also makes your website chunky and slow to load – especially if you have a lot of content. A better idea is to use excerpts in place of the full content. Excerpts are like teasers that tell your visitors what to expect when they click on the link. There are two ways to do this is WordPress. The first is to use the ‘read more’ tag found in the WordPress editor. Even though this method gives you more control (as you get to specify where the excerpt ends), it means you’ll have to do this on every post. A simpler method is to make the process automatic. You can do so by going to ‘Settings; Reading’ and selecting either the ‘Full text’ or ‘Summary’ option. The only downside to this option is that you cannot control where the cut- off happens.

Furthermore, companies that register domain names these days have been know to use ’Search Here’ to make it easy for users to look for names they wish to use for their website. This technique of using excerpts has a way of boosting user experience.

Use lazy loading for content and images

Not many people know about lazy loading, but it’s a web development technique that prevents images on a website from loading simultaneously. Instead, it only shows the image when the user gets to the point on the page where the images are (when they scroll down). Images are one of the many reasons for slow websites, lazy loading will really help cut down the loading time of your website. Fortunately, there are many lazy loading plugins on WordPress to choose from.

Reduce HTTP requests

Many WordPress themes and plugins come with all sorts of code bloat and file dependencies from other sources – such as the author or publisher’s website. These files include images, scripts and stylesheets. While it’s fine to use some of these, if your website is making a lot of external HTTP requests, it can be slowed down considerably. A lot of these files are optimized to load fast, so it may make more sense to host them on your own website.

A quick hack to solve the external HTTP request issues is to disable stylesheets and scripts completely or merge them into one file. If you’d rather not get your hands dirty by looking into code and the like, use a plugin to concatenate these files (merging them together as one).

WordPress plugins

Optimize your WordPress database  

If you’ve had your WordPress website for a while, you’ll likely have a lot of information on your database that you no longer need. To improve the performance and speed of your website, you should consider optimizing your database to get rid of this unused information.

You can easily do so by using the WP Sweep plugin that allows you to clear your database of unused tags, trashed posts, revisions and so on. Alternatively, you may want to manually prune your database to remove this excess information.

Disable hotlinking  

As long as you’re creating quality content on your website, the chances are someone will want a piece of it. Whether you like it or not, your content will definitely be copied, stolen or scraped sooner or later. Fortunately, search engines are smart enough to detect which is the original. However, this practice called hotlinking can negatively affect your WordPress website’s performance. Hotlinking is when people directly link to images on your website, rather than uploading it on their own servers. This way, they use up your bandwidth without the courtesy of giving you any traffic.

Preventing this simply involves adding a short line of code to your .htaccess file – as seen below:

#disable image hotlinking
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?mydomain.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.com [NC]
RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [NC,F,L]

Where mydomain.com represents your own domain and should be replaced accordingly.

WP Super Cache WordPress Plugin
WP Super Cache WordPress Plugin

Install a WordPress caching plugin  

WordPress works by dynamically creating a HTML version of your website anytime someone accesses it. This is another factor that may cause your website to load slowly, so it makes sense to have a readymade HTML version to display anytime it is requested. This is exactly what caching does. Caching takes a prepared version of your website and shows it to the visitor without having to process the information from scratch. When you install a caching plugin on your WordPress website, you significantly increase the speed at which it presents content to your visitors.

There are many options to choose from when it comes to picking a WordPress caching plugin; some are free, while others come in premium versions. If you’re comfortable handling code on your website, you can manually configure caching via the .htaccess file.

How to leverage browser caching in WordPress

Conclusion

There you have it – eight advanced techniques you can implement today to make your WordPress website load faster. Of course, there are many other techniques you can use, but the above  will provide an excellent starting point. Contact Bryt Designs today if you’re interested in optimizing your WordPress website!

Author
Bryan Miller

Bryan Miller is an entrepreneur and web enthusiast specializing in web design, development and digital marketing. He is currently attending the fully-employed MBA program at the University of California, Irvine. Feel free to send Bryan a message here.

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