Ultimate Guide to Speed Up WordPress Load Time
WordPress is the most popular blogging platform and hence used by millions of website owners and bloggers around the globe. As per the WordPress Stats infographic available on Yoast.com website, by March 2012, more than 72 million websites are proudly using WordPress as their CMS. Today WordPress is used for creating personal and professional blogs and fully functional professional websites.
And if you want to know why we need to speed up WordPress blogs, below are some solid reasons which will convince you about the same.
Table of Contents
- Why We Need to Speed Up WordPress Blogs?
- How to Test Website Speed
- Ways to Speed Up WordPress Loading Time
Why We Need to Speed Up WordPress Blogs?
There can be lots of issues that are slowing down your WordPress blogs. You need to speed up your WordPress blogs and the reasons for doing so are mentioned below. These reasons will apply to all standard websites along with WordPress blogs.
Speed As a Ranking Factor on Google
Sometime back, Google included page speed as one of rankings factor in its search ranking algorithms. So if you have faster loading website, you will have an edge over your competitors who are not putting much effort in improving their website speed.
For Better User Experience
No one loves to visit a website that takes more than 10 seconds in loading. People will immediately leave your website if they are experiencing a slow loading website. You have few seconds to convert a visitor into your potential customer or subscriber. If you are unable to deliver your website content in less than 10 seconds or even lesser, you are losing lots of money making opportunities. Since lots of your website readers will be leaving your website immediately, it will have negative impact on your website engagement metrics.
By improving your website speed, you are making your website readers and Google happy and which will result in more traffic and business for you.
How to Test Website Speed
Before you start looking at ways to improving your website speed, you need to find out the exact speed of your website like how much time your website is take in loading. There is some website speed testing tools shared below that you can use to keep an eye on your website current speed:
Web Page Test
WebPagetest.org was originally developed by AOL and you can use this tool to test the performance of any website including WordPress blogs. Apart from speed, this tool also suggests you compete performance optimization checklist that you can apply to improve website speed further. When I run web page test on Bloggers Passion blog, it was showing first view load time as 5.746s and repeat view as 4.477s. Here is a screenshot showing the same:
Google Webmaster Tools Account
You can also determine the speed for your website by logging into your website Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) account. Site Performance Stats are available under Labs in your GWT account. This section will inform you about the average load time in seconds for your website and your website speed comparison with the rest of websites on internet like your website is slower than or faster than the xx% of websites on internet. Here is a screenshot showing performance overview for one of my website as per the data available in my GWT account. According to this data, my website is taking 2.9 seconds to load on average and it’s faster than 50% of websites on internet.
Page Speed Insights from Google Developers
Google Page Speed insights from Google Developers will give a page speed score out of 100 to a website. You can use this tool to test your website speed. When I tried page speed insights tool for BloggersPassion.com blog, it gives me a page speed score of 86 out of 100 (i.e. 86/100) as shown in the screen. Apart from page speed score, you will get an exact idea about the things that you need to work on in order to improve your website score further. You should try to bring your website page speed score to as close you can towards 100 mark.
Here is an interesting video which will help you improve your website performance with Google page Speed Tool:
You can also test your website performance with Pingdom tool. When I tested this tool to analyze the performance of Bloggers Passion blog, it gave a 78/100 perf. grade, load time as 2.88s and my website is faster than 53% of all tested websites on Pingdom tool as shown in the image below.
GTmetrix Speed Tool
GTmetrix website can also be used to analyze the load time performance of a website. GTmetrix tool has given a page speed grade of 73% and YSlow grade as 69% to Bloggers Passion blog. Average load time for Bloggerspassion.com is 4.96s and total page size being 588KB as per the data available from GTmetrix performance tool.
You need to analyze the loading time of your website. Whatever time it takes, your ultimate goal should be bringing your website load time to less than 5 seconds.
Ways to Speed Up WordPress Loading Time
By now you must have clear idea about why we need to speed up WordPress blogs and how can we test our website speed. Now let’s move to the most important part and it’s about suggesting ways to speed up your WordPress blog load time. There are lots of things we can actually do to improve the speed of our WordPress blogs like using certain plugins, themes, hosting, CDN etc.
Speed Up WordPress Plugins List
Now first of all, let’s discuss about the plugins that will help in improving the load time speed of your WordPress blog:
Use a Page Caching Plugin
If your blog is getting large amount of traffic, you should use a page caching plugin. Page caching plugin will convert dynamic pages into static HTML pages and this will reduce the load on your server. If your blog is getting huge amount of traffic, you may notice frequent downtime and your server will also become very slow. I would suggest you use WP Super Cache plugin. You can also give a try to W3 Total Cache plugin from here which is used on Mashable.com type of popular websites.
Optimize Images Sizes
Yahoo has an image optimizer known as Smush.it, which used to reduce the file size of an image without compromising with its quality. It will become hectic and time consuming if we are optimizing size of every image manually. Luckily there is a plugin called as WP Smush.It in WordPress plugin directory which uses Yahoo API for reducing the image size. Good thing about this plugin is that it will lower down the file size of images that you are uploading in background while you are working on an existing or new blog post on your blog.
Optimize Your WordPress Databases
You can optimize your WordPress databases with WP Optimize plugin. This plugin will clean up your databases and you don’t need to be a technician for using this plugin. This plugin can also automatically clean up previous post revisions, posts in draft and comments sitting in spam folder. You also give a try to WP DB Manager for optimizing your WordPress Database.
Get Rid of Extra Plugins
You can also speed up WordPress blog by getting rid of extra plugins. You should review all active as well as inactive plugins and see if you really need them at all. You can use the Performance Profiler Plugin to keep track of loading time of your active plugins. You should remove those plugins that are you are no more using and those that are taking too much time as per the loading report given by Performance Profiler Plugin. You should be using the latest version of WordPress and active plugins.
Other Important Things for Improving WordPress Speed
Apart from plugins, there are lots of other things you can actually do to improve the performance of your WordPress site:
Select a Good Host
While making decision about your web hosting; you should go for a reliable web hosting company like Hostgator, DreamHost or BlueHost. If you are buying web space for hosting a WordPress blog, you should make sure that web host is fulfilling all requirements that are mentioned here. I have created a WordPress Web hosts comparison table here that you can use to select the best web host for your WordPress blog.
Use Faster Loading WordPress Theme
If you ask me whether I should go for free or premium theme, my obvious choice will be premium theme. Simple reason being free WordPress Theme developers will never spend much time in optimizing its speed. So if you are using a free WordPress theme, you may experience a buggy and slow loading website. We can customize and optimize premium themes with a basic knowledge of designing. From my own experience, I would say Thesis Theme Framework is quite fast and comes with lots SEO features. I have been using thesis theme on some of my niche blogs including BloggersPassion.com and I never experience speed issues with any of my websites so far.
Optimize Your Blog Home Page
It’s your blog home page which is served more often when compared with other pages from your blog. So you should look at ways to improve the speed of your blog home page. You should show post excerpts instead of full posts on home page. You should limit the number of maximum posts on home page to 6 to 7 only. You should keep the use of images, banners and widgets on your blog home page to minimum. Get rid of the widgets that are not clicked much by your blog readers. You can keep track of clicks on different sections of your website by using the In-Page Analytics feature from your Google Analytics account. In-Page Analytics feature will give you the Click percentage and numbers for all links that are placed on your website for a defined date range.
Optimizing Gravatar Images
If you used to get lots of comments on your blog, you can save some extra space by showing blank instead of default Gravatar image for those users who haven’t signed up for Gravatar.com so far. Some blog owners used to show Mystery Man as the default Gravatar Avatar. You can make changes into Gravatar default icon from Discussion section Under Settings as shown in the screen below:
Surely CDN can help in improving the speed of your WordPress bog to extent at least. But all popular CDN will come with a price tag. CDN are currently used by very high traffic blogs like Mashable.com, TechCrunch.com, CopyBlogger.com and TheNextWeb.com etc. So you can ignore this step for now if your traffic is not matching with these high profile blogs. Among paid CDN, you can go for MAX CDN. Apart from this, there are some free CDN also available. But personally I haven’t tested them so far. You can give a try to Coral CDN.
If you have any questions or want to share any additional resource that can help us to speed up our WordPress blog, share in the comments section. Also share your experience about using this WordPress Load Time Guide.