Why is speed so important? Every second of loading costs you approximately 7% loss in conversions. Even more, you will lose up to 40% of your visitors if your loading time exceeds 3 seconds. Not to mention the SEO! Yes, Google is looking into your website speed within their search algorithm.
But we still love WordPress, so what can we do about it? There are few simple tricks that can be used as a baseline for performance improvements, and we’re willing to share them with you.
A Good Hosting
Choosing WordPress hosting can’t be overestimated as it will determine the overall success of your website performance. Every next step you’ll take during your performance journey will fail badly unless you have a good server to host your site.
For a complete pro, it is a good idea to jump deep into exploring server configuration and bargain for better CPU and RAM. But for a regular business owner, there are other things you have to handle. For you, a good idea would be looking into recommended hosting services that are tailored specifically for WordPress.
It all comes down to your budgets, where you can choose from low-cost solutions, like SiteGround, or more advanced services, WPEngine. Of course, there are plenty more alternatives available and you can easily jump from one service to another.
Themes Optimized for Speed
A common mistake when choosing WordPress theme is aiming for “All-in-One” alternative. Let’s make it clear, there is low probability you will need all the fancy features. Make sure your theme vendor does take performance seriously, instead of simply adding new features to generate more sales.
The paradox is that some of the very basic free themes outscore premium themes in terms of performance. Why? Because they are keeping things simple and so should you. So-called, swiss-knifes sounds like a powerful tool, but would you use them for just carving a fish?
Upon choosing a theme, make sure to test it for performance with tools like Pingdom and compare the data.
WordPress Cache Plugins
Every time a user visits your website, there is a whole cycle performed to retrieve information. This process significantly impacts the time requested for a website to load, and more visits to your website increase this time frame.
To overcome this pitfall you have to use WordPress cache plugin. What cache plugin does is it will serve a cached (pre-prepared) version of your website to user’s browser. The downside of this process is that sometimes it takes a bit more time for website to propagate the changes.
Once it comes to the choice between cache plugins, there are plenty of them, yet we would suggest sticking to W3 Total Cacheor WP Super Cache as they have proven to be reliable tools for many of my projects.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
CDN on the other hand, allows you to use a global network to distribute those files directly to your website visitors from different sources located nearby. This will allow you to save on your own server resources and speed it up for your visitors.
We prefer MaxCDN or CloudFlare (you can even have it for free, depending on your scope) as a good alternative to a costly Amazon CloudFront (which is something to consider for a large scale project) as it works great with WordPress websites and cache plugins.
A major part of your website consists of images, as it is one of the most engaging forms of content. Although there are certain rules on how to use images on your website efficiently, there is still a place for improvement.
Whenever you are adding an image to your WordPress website, make sure to optimize it file size. Resources like Kraken.io allow you to reduce the file size of any image without loosing quality. And trust me on this one, for some images you will experience a decrease in file size for up to 70%!
Useful Plugins Only
We have talked it over already with WordPress themes, but I’ll never stop repeating it. Cut all the fat! There is no need to overwhelm your website with tons of different plugins and add-ons.
Selection of right plugins is a piece of art, apart from new features, they can offer you a better ways to get things done and boost your productivity. At the same time, you will need to think twice if you really need another bunch of code to be loaded just to have some fancy options that maybe never used by you or your visitors.
We always encourage our clients constantly review a list of their plugins and remove the ones which are not in use.
Excerpts Make Difference
By default, WordPress will load all the content from posts on your homepage and archive pages. This will make your website slow and will probably look ugly as well.
The key to success here is an excerpt, a native WordPress way to limit an amount of content displayed prior to posts on a homepage and archive pages. With less information to display your website will load faster – as simple, as that!
Optimized WordPress Database
Over time you will have a lot of unnecessary data stored in your WordPress database, like trash and revisions.
And even more, database optimization plugins can help you deal with spam comments, fake users, old draft and more.
We experience a lot of pressure from different devices to have mobile friendly websites and website performance is one of the key factors there. With conversions and SEO put at stake, we are not in the position to lose website visitors because of bad performance.
With these essential tips in your pocket, you are able to take this process into your own hands. And to finalize this tutorial, never forget to test your success by referring to page speed tools, like Google PageSpeed.