What do you do on a website that takes forever to load?
Right, you leave.
If the site that takes forever to load is YOURS & you happen to sell a product, or service, you’re missing out on a massive chunk of money.
Why Speed is Important for Your WordPress Site?
Speeding up your WordPress site isn’t something you do on a rainy weekend when you have nothing else to do – instead, it should be your number #1 priority when looking to optimize your WordPress site.
The fact is, fast loading time is crucial.
Faster loading means higher conversion rates, which equals more money in your pockets.
How to Check Your WordPress Website Speed?
There are a number of free tools available to check the loading time of your WordPress site. Keep in mind, depending on where you host your site it might take longer for some visitors to load your site.
Here’s what I mean:
If you host your WordPress site in the U.S., domestic visitors will usually enjoy faster loading times then those from foreign countries.
What Slows Down Your WordPress Website?
Knowing which things can cause your WordPress site to slow down will also tell you where to start the journey of optimizing loading times.
If you google ‘how to speed up WordPress‘, you will find guides containing more than a dozen tips on how to improve the performance of your site.
In my opinion, most of these tips are not worth the time they take to be implemented – the improvements you’ll see will be minuscule.
Unless you receive millions of visitors every month, a tiny 0.001% faster WordPress site doesn’t effect your bottom line.
The 20% that make 80% of the difference:
- Upgrade Your WordPress Hosting
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Install a WordPress Caching Plugin
- Use a Theme Optimized For Speed
- Compress Images
- Optimize WordPress Database
Fortunately, most optimizations are free.
Upgrading to better hosting will cost you money but it’s well worth the investment because that’s where you’ll see the biggest improvements.
The money spent on upgrading your WordPress hosting and using a CDN will generate the biggest ROI by means of increasing the conversion rates of your site.
WordPress Performance Optimization Best Practices
Let’s walk through each of the changes to speed up your WP site.
Some of these performance tips (Hosting, using a CDN) can be used on any website – regardless of whether you are using WordPress or not. However, most of the best optimizations are very WordPress-specific.
1. Upgrade Your WordPress Hosting
Before thinking about which WordPress hosting to use, whether or not you should upgrade your current one, I’d like to share my approach:
If you’re in this to make money (selling products, or services), then it’s essential to shift your attitude towards spending money.
The biggest mistake I see people make is opting for the cheapest hosting, trying to pinch pennies everywhere. This saves you money in the short-term, in the long run it will lead to slower loading times = lower conversion = missing out on revenue.
Spend Money To Make Money
Upgrading your hosting will give you the biggest return on your investment.
Upgrading from $5/month to $30/month hosting might seem like a big jump, but the increase is sales will be x-fold.
I recommend you start with a professional hosting package right away – otherwise you’ll run into a lot of issues at a later stage when you receive more visitors or require certain security features to sell products on your website.
I recommend the WPEngine Personal plan – it comes with a 60 day money back guarantee & enough storage for all your images, videos and other files.
Should you need extra speed or more storage, you can upgrade at any time with a simple click …
Most importantly, WPengine offers 24/7 support, which – especially if you’re just starting out – justifies the higher price (compared to competitors).
The last thing you want is having trouble with your site, missing out on potential sales and dealing with an unreliable customer support.
Once you have your WPengine account, you simply log in and are able to contact support with any of your questions.
2. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
How fast your WordPress site loads will vary for every visitor – depending on his physical proximity to where you host your content.
Here’s another way of explaining why using a CDN is so important.
Imagine there’s only one Walmart store in the US and it’s located in New York City. Everyone living in New York can visit the store in just a few minutes. People living elsewhere will take longer to get there – the further away they live, the more time they need.
What if instead of having only one Walmart in the US, you put one Walmart in every city. Now everybody is able to reach the store within a few minutes.
Replace Walmart with your website and the same principle applies.
A Content Delivery Network replicates your WordPress site to many locations around the world – each visitor is served the version that is in proximity to him.
It’s simple …
Closer Proximity = Faster Site = Higher Conversion Rate
While it might sound very technical, adding a CDN to your hosting package is a matter of a few clicks.
- Start by logging into your WPengine account.
- On the left sidebar, click on the installation name that you want the CDN set up for.
- Under the installation name, click ”CDN”
- Click the checkboxes under CDN enabled
- Click the “Save” button
Using a CDN (as is the case with hosting) would be one of those upgrades that fall under the category: “Spend money to make money.”
3. Install a WordPress Caching Plugin
This change is super easy to implement & it’s free. I’m using the “WP Super Cache” plugin on all of my WordPress site.
Navigate to the “Plugins” – “Add New” and search for “WP Super Cache”.
Once the plugin is installed, you simply go to Settings > WP Super Cache and turn on caching.
4. Use a Theme Optimized For Speed
When it comes to the WordPress theme of your site, you don’t want to waste your time messing around in the code section of WordPress, trying to merge or minify various scripts.
Why not? Because there are themes that are already optimized for speed.
Switching to a different WordPress theme is easy & only takes a few minutes.
When you’re deciding which WordPress theme to select, keep the following criteria in mind:
- It should be Lightweight, Simplistic Design
- Avoid Flashy Animations
- Keep It Basic (Avoid features with no purpose.)
- Use a WordPress theme that is regularly updated.
That last criteria is key – regular updates.
You don’t want to grab a WordPress theme that is outdated a year from now.
While beautiful, fast & lightweight themes are available for free, they are rarely updated.
Investing in a Premium WordPress theme costs money, but what you get is a theme that is always up to current best practices & standards.
Here are Premium WordPress themes I use & recommend:
5. Compress Images
Depending on which types of images you use on your WordPress site, they can significantly increase loading times. This can easily be avoided …
Always compress images BEFORE uploading!
Don’t worry, software will do the compression for you – taking your original image and reducing it’s size to a minimum – without sacrificing much quality.
I regularly use Kraken.io – you simply upload your original image, let the tool do the magic and then you download the compressed image.
The compressed image is the image you then upload to and use on your WordPress site.
6. Optimize WordPress Database
Over time, your WordPress database will accumulate a lot of data that doesn’t serve any purpose – that data will increase the size of your database, effectively slowing down your entire site.
Every version of a WordPress post you’ve ever saved is stored in there, while in practice you’d only need the latest version.
To optimize a bloated WordPress database, I used a plugin called “WP-Optimize”. You don’t need to be an expert to optimize your database, this plugin does all the work for you.
Install, active, click “Run all selected optimizations”.
Speed Up WordPress FAQs
How Fast Should A Website Load?
The idea of an optimal loading time, a gold standard is complete nonsense for the simple reason that every site is different.
Some contain text only, others images and videos.
Instead, approach this issue with common sense.
What’s the primary goal of your website?
I’m guessing to make money.
If so, the path is pretty obvious …
Aim for the fastest possible loading time without sacrificing conversions. If you’re unsure whether or not you should remove a feature/functionality from your site to improve loading time, see how making those changes impacts your bottom line.
If removing features & thereby speeding up the site leads to a loss of revenue, then you undo the changes.
How Do I Know It’s Time To Switch WordPress Hosting?
Depends on what issues you experience with your current hosting provider on a regular basis.
If there are regular downtimes, customer support is not on point and you experience slow page speed – I say, make the move!
It’s the loss of (potential) revenue that you should factor in when deciding to move/not move. The more revenue you’re potentially missing out on, the sooner you should upgrade to faster, more reliable WordPress hosting.