In today’s age, awesome online experiences are a crucial element to building a loyal fanbase. While a positive digital experience can lead to brand advocacy, one that fails to meet expectations on things like site speed can lead a prospect running in the other direction. In fact, Google engineers have discovered the blink of an eye — 400 milliseconds — is too long and causes people to search less.

Not only that, but page speed also affects SEO. Google takes the user experience into consideration with its page ranking algorithm. Since a slow loading site detracts from the user experience, this can damage SEO rankings.

To help you deliver the best experience online possible (and help improve your SEO efforts), we’ve provided this list of tips to help enhance the performance of your WordPress site. Whether it be page size, slow plugins, or some other culprit, read on for some useful tips to help boost page speed times and improve your site’s overall performance.

#1. Your Theme is Important!

Behind every WordPress site, there is a theme or framework and along with that can sometimes come bloat. Every theme is coded differently and because of that there are those that are better than others. The default WordPress themes such as Twenty Fifteen is actually quite fast because it is very lightweight.

Be careful when purchasing themes on popular marketplaces such as ThemeForest and Creative Market. While there are a lot of great themes on there, you also need to realize that developers sometimes just keep adding features to generate more sales. It is more about finding the right developers. The Total WordPress theme from the devs over at WPExplorer is a great example of a multi-purpose theme that still takes performance into consideration. Even many of their demos, which are packed full of content, load in under 800ms.

#2. Use Caching

Caching is another important factor when it comes to speeding up WordPress. Caching stores your pages and posts as static files which are then served to your visitors, reducing the processing load on your server.

You can utilize caching by using WordPress caching plugins, implementing browser caching, and server-side caching. You can use W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, Cache Enabler, and WP Rocket. We use W3 Total Cache here.

#3. Configure CDN

No matter a user’s location, your content should be delivered blazing fast. Sometimes this isn’t always feasible, though…that is, if your site isn’t on an infrastructure that contains data centers in other parts of the world. Distance can mean lag in content delivery, which is where a content delivery network (CDN) becomes handy.

A CDN leads to faster page load times because when configured, your website will use an optimized server that’s closest to your site visitor. The data center will store static content and files, and then deliver them to users based on their location. This can help reduce external HTTP requests because the static content is already ready to go instead of requesting tons of HTTP at once.

Choosing a CDN depends on the popularity and needs of your site. Some WordPress CDN solutions include MaxCDN, Cloudflare, or CacheFly. (WP Engine’s MaxCDN solution can be configured through the User Portal.)

#4. Optimize Your WordPress Database

WordPress has a tendency to start slowing down if you don’t keep your database optimized. There are ways to keep your database clean by disabling and or limiting post revisions, deleting old revisions, and being aware of the 100 page WordPress limitation. You can use WP-Optimize plugin to clean all post revisions, clean auto draft post, remove spam comments, unapproved comments, transient options, pingbacks, and trackbacks. In the newest version of WP-Optimize, you can also enable auto-cleanup on a predetermined schedule.

#5. Using Gzip Compression

Gzip is another form of compression which compresses web pages, CSS, and javascript at the server level before sending them over to the browser. You can check if your WordPress site is already compressed by using Check GZIP Compression.

GZIP compression saves 50% to 80% bandwidth and will therefore significantly increase the website’s loading speed. – Check GZIP compression

#6. Remove Unused Plugins

A common reason for WordPress slowing down is that people have too many plugins running, creating too much overhead for their webserver to handle. Keeping the number of plugins you have installed to a minimum is very important. Before simply deleting plugins there are a couple ways you can determine which ones are slowing down your site. Then after analyzing the impact on load times, ask yourself if the plugin is something you really need or perhaps you could accomplish the same thing a different way.

You can check plugin that utilize high resources by installed P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler).  

P3 is a free WordPress plugin created by GoDaddy to help you see which plugins are slowing down your site. With this plugin you can see the following:

  • Runtime by plugin
  • Total active plugins and page load time
  • Plugin impact of page load time
  • Number of MySQL queries (page-level)
  • Historical comparison of scans

#7. Upgrade to latest PHP version

Making the switch from PHP 5 to PHP 7 can make a tremendous impact on site speed. In fact, PHP 7 can handle uncached hits two to three times faster than on PHP 5.5 and can result in 30-50 percent improvements in memory consumption.

Before making the switch, do know that PHP 7 is not backward compatible. This means once you upgrade, you cannot go back to legacy systems. That’s why it’s recommended to test your site first with the PHP Compatibility Checker plugin to detect if your theme or any plugins might present any incompatibility issues.

#8. Optimize Images

Images are imperative to keeping a site visitor engaged. While your site may contain a ton of beautiful imagery, it’s a good idea to optimize these images to achieve fast page load times. When directly uploaded to your site, images contain metadata that take up unneeded space. Too large of a file can hog up bandwidth and cause a page to lag in load times.

A plugin like Smush Image Compression and Optimization or ShortPixel Image Optimization will take the work off your back by automatically stripping an image of unnecessary data upon upload (without sacrificing image quality).

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