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How to speed up your WordPress website

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Why is WordPress so slow? Actually, out of the box, WordPress is very fast. What slows down WordPress websites is adding unnecessary features, cheap hosting, and poor code. In this article, we will explain how to speed up your WordPress website.

Why website performance is important

Nobody enjoys using a slow and buggy website. Especially not on their mobile devices. 

Website performance improves conversions, SEO, and visitor satisfaction. In fact, according to research, over half of the visitors will abandon a website that takes longer than 3s to load. 

This is why speeding up your website is especially important if you are selling products or promoting your services.

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Steps to speed up your existing WordPress website

Here are some recommendations that can help speed up your WordPress website.

Use efficient images and videos

This is the most common performance problem that we encounter. 

Using large and inefficient images and videos can make or break a website. 

Here are some tips to improve image and video quality performance on WordPress websites:

  • Use jpg images and avoid using pngs unless you need transparent backgrounds.
  • Properly size images so they aren’t too large. For example, if you need an image for a blog post you probably don’t need it to be 2000px wide. Shrink it down to 600px instead.
  • Use a free service like tinyjpg to compress images and make the file size smaller.
  • Utilize lazy loading (most caching plugins and themes have this option).
  • Use an image compression plugin like ShortPixel (affiliate link).
  • If you are using videos, upload them to YouTube and embed them with lazy loading enabled. Never upload videos straight into WordPress. 

Remove unused and inefficient plugins

Some plugins can bring WordPress websites to a grinding halt. While there is no magic number, we usually recommend having no more than 10 plugins installed. 

Not all plugins are created equally, and having less than 10 doesn’t guarantee perfect results, but it’s a good rule of thumb to follow. The number of plugins is usually not as important, it’s more about how well the plugins are made. 

But how do you identify which plugins are the most resource-intensive? The best way to identify resource-intensive plugins is by using New Relic, but this is a paid tool. 

If that’s out of your budget, you can also try downloading and installing the Query Monitor plugin, and follow this guide for identifying slow plugins

Once you identify slow and inefficient plugins, you should uninstall them, or find an alternative.

Utilize a content delivery network (CDN)

A content delivery network is a term used to describe distributing your website files closest to the user. 

While it’s not a requirement for businesses that target local visitors, it can speed up your website slightly. If you are targeting a global or international user base, a CDN is a must. It will serve your website closest to where your visitor resides.

Another benefit of using a CDN service is that it can help protect your website from hackers and distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks. It can also provide uninterrupted service even if one or more of the CDN servers go offline due to hardware malfunction giving users some redundancy.

The best part is that you can sign up for a free CDN service with Cloudflare. It’s quick and easy to configure and it will speed up your WordPress website, as well as protect it from hackers.

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Install and configure a caching plugin

Installing a high quality caching plugin is a must, especially for WordPress.

Since WordPress is a dynamic website technology (as opposed to static), it talks to the database server each time a user visits the website. Caching resolves this issue by storing web pages for quick retrieval, bypassing the call to the database. 

Most good caching plugins also offer functionality like minification (making the website pages smaller) and combining files for fewer trips to the server. 

All of these methods significantly speed up website performance. 

There are quite a few free caching plugins used to speed up WordPress, but our recommended caching plugins are W3 Cache, and Litespeed Cache. They are free to install and use but have a lot of options that tend to overwhelm users.

Some hosting providers such as Pantheon and SiteGround, offer their own caching solutions. If a hosting provider doesn’t have caching capabilities and you need something simple, check out Cloudflare’s WordPress APO service (paid product). This product helps boost the lackluster performance of shared and slow hosting plans.

Pick a high quality hosting provider

A good quality hosting provider can make or break your website performance. The old saying “you get what you pay for” definitely applies in this case. Since WordPress requires a bit more juice to run optimally, it needs more robust hosting. 

Better hosting providers will allocate more resources to your website, and also configure their servers for better WordPress performance. Some of them will also offer caching and CDN services which will further speed up your WordPress website. 

There are many great hosting providers, but we recommend SiteGround, Kinsta, or TFWPH because we use them for our projects all the time.

If you need help auditing your current website and migrating it to a better hosting provider, contact us. We love helping clients speed up their WordPress websites. 

Use a lightweight WordPress theme

Not all WordPress themes are created equally. Some themes come with a lot of bloat and can slow down websites significantly.

Themes that are simple, and professional don’t have to be bloated with features and required plugins, however. Besides a good hosting provider, having a fast theme is one of the most important speed considerations. 

At Clio, we only use fast and efficient themes, which makes our websites really fast by default. 

These are our recommended themes that we use for every project:

  • GeneratePress – a very light and slick theme that has functionality for both WooCommerce and WordPress websites.
  • Hello Elementor – pretty much a blank theme that works great with Elementor Pro. It’s also tuned for performance and doesn’t contain any bloat.
  • OceanWP – our favorite theme for WooCommerce websites due to the customization options. It works great with Elementor and is tuned for performance out of the box. 

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Limit the use of external scripts, libraries, and fonts

Certain plugins and themes load assets that you may not be using, you can disable them to speed up your WordPress website. 

Our favourite way to achieve this is by using Perfmatters’ (premium plugin) Script Manager. It allows you to see all of the assets that are being loaded by the website, and you can disable them on a single page or all pages. This is a really powerful feature, but it’s not the only great feature Perfmatters offers. In fact, it’s packed full of features to speed up a WordPress site. 

Limiting the use of external scripts, libraries and fonts can also be achieved by using a plugin like WP Asset CleanUP. The free version of this plugin has some powerful features that can help you see which assets are being loaded so that you can disable them. The premium version offers more functionality.

You can also preload assets for better performance using these plugins or using a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache and LiteSpeed Cache.

Keep the website, plugins, and PHP versions up to date

Keeping your WordPress website is not only a good idea from a security perspective, but it can also speed up your website. 

For example, PHP 8.0 can handle 50% more requests (or transactions) per second than PHP 7.0. 

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Plugins and WordPress version updates also often address performance issues and try to improve performance as well as functionality with every new release. This is why it’s a really good idea to keep your WordPress core, plugins, and PHP versions up to date. 

If you need some help with this, we offer WordPress maintenance plans.

Avoid using WordPress page builders

Generally speaking, WordPress page builders like WP Bakery, and Elementor will slow down your website. They contain various libraries and assets that tend to slow down website load times. 

We still feel that Elementor offers some really unique functionality and we use it for our builds. At Clio, we ensure that all unnecessary assets are removed to keep things light and efficient. Elementor can be really fast if it’s tuned for performance and the plugin author has committed to making performance improvements their main priority. 

If you prefer using WordPress page builders but are concerned about performance, you can check out GenerateBlocks and Oxygen which are very fast but don’t offer as much functionality as Elementor. You can also tune your Elementor website for better performance by following our guidance on improving Elementor performance.

How Clio helps clients improve their WordPress website speed

We hope that the tips in this article will help you speed up your WordPress website. Our recommendations and techniques are based on years of experience helping small businesses.

At Clio, we have helped many clients improve their speed scores. We have been developing WordPress websites since 2011, and have a lot of experience improving website performance.

Contact us if you would like us to help you speed up your WordPress website.

FAQs

You can improve your WordPress website performance by:

  • Using tuned and compressed images
  • Removing unused and inefficient plugins
  • Utilizing a CDN
  • Installing and and configuring a caching plugin
  • Using a high quality hosting plan
  • Using a fast WordPress theme
  • Limiting the use of external assets
  • Keeping the website, plugins, and PHP up to date

Performance plugins can help speed up a WordPress website, but they are not necessary. A fast theme, a good hosting plan, and tuned assets will help speed up WordPress load times without plugins. 

There could be a number of reasons why a WordPress website is loading slowly. Usually this is due to a slow theme, or using inefficient images or videos. In order to find out exactly why a website is loading slowly, perform a test using gtmetrix and fix any issues that are recommended by the tool. 

6 Responses

  1. Hi just came from you twitter post, and in need of some insight please. (PAID/PRO options are fine/preferred)
    You mentioned 3 main themes that you use.

    1) GeneratePress – Light weight, WooCommerce and WordPress websites.
    2) Hello Elementor – A blank theme for Elementor Pro.
    3) OceanWP – Favorite for WooCommerce websites due to the customization options. Works great with Elementor

    4) Astra / Pro – ANY THOUGHTS ON THIS ONE?

    I usually come across 2 types of sites (portfolio / e-commerce) mixture of both actually, and let’s say I’ve as a site with max 5-7 pages site. [Home, Services, Cat-A, Prod Gallery, About, Contact US, Shop] (with 20-50 products)

    You said using Elementor Pro (my preference) with Hello Elementor Theme, but being bare bone, won’t it take too much time & efforts building each and everything from scratch with Builder? I mean each site has different design requirements.

    1) Which theme do you suggest would suit the above scenario, GeneratePress & OceanWP seems competitors?

    2) Do you have some premade skeleton/templates (free/paid/self made) or are you just proficient now from experience.

    3) What about mixing woocommerce AND some client want a blog of recipes for spices they sell on the site.
    How do you handle that mix?

    I know I’m asking for a bit too much, but I’m starting learn WP eco system as a solo freelance to earn part time, and want some advice so I don’t spend time & energy learning so many things and not using a right solution that experts like you have already experimented & tested. Sorry for long post. Please HELP!

    1. Hi Abdul,

      Thank you for reading the article and asking these excellent questions.

      I have used Astra in the past and do like this theme as well because it’s pretty lean and fast.

      Here are the answers to your questions:

      1) For a website with eCommerce, I would suggest OceanWP (instead of GeneratePress) because it has a lot of functionality built in to support WooCommerce functionality. We personally use Hello Elementor because we have Elementor Pro which allows you to create templates for product pages and everything is customizable using Elementor. OceanWP (paid version) also has a lot of options and works better with Elementor than Astra (because in OceanWP almost everything is configurable with Elementor). That being said, if you ask me, I would recommend purchasing Elementor Pro and not individual paid themes.

      2) We don’t use templates for our builds and build everything from scratch for each client using Elementor. We are proficient and do this every day so it doesn’t take us a lot of time. We do reuse some elements and code from previous projects to speed up the development time.

      3) This is where Elementor Pro and Hello Elementor come in handy because you can customize both and make templates for both the WooCommerce piece as well as the blog posts. Another option (if you don’t want to buy Elementor Pro) is to purchase OceanWP premium which has a lot of customization options.

  2. GoWebP is a free service that optimises your images as you upload them to WordPress. Images are usually the largest part of a website, so optimisation is important to ensure your pages load quickly.

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