This tutorial is not intended as an in-depth guide to WordPress speed optimization. It’s rather a quick and simple solution to put your website into a higher gear and noticeable boost it’s loading speed. Since this tutorial doesn’t require advanced development skills, even unexperienced users should be able to speed up WordPress websites with ease.
Why should you speed up your WordPress website?
There are two main reasons why you should speed up your WordPress website: user experience and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If your website loads slowly there’s a high chance visitors will move on and look for information elsewhere on faster websites with better user experience. Google as well gives importance to how fast a website loads. Faster websites will often rank higher in search results than slow websites not optimized for speed. Therefore, developers should speed up their WordPress websites to guarantee the best user experience to the visitors and to assure a good position in the search results.
Optimizing website loading speed to perfection is not an easy task and it takes a lot of work, planning, coding knowledge and development experience. Fortunately, with several speed optimization plugins available, even less experienced developers can significantly speed up WordPress websites without struggle.
What does affect WordPress websites loading speed?
A clean new WordPress instalation using a well coded theme always loads very fast. Unfortunately, as we start to build up the website in both matters of content or functionality the loading speeds starts increasing. This is the very first moment when we have to start caring about loading speed and begin with speed optimization. For a succesfull loading speed optimization it’s important to know all the elements that affect it.
Here are the most important website elements that affect loading speed:
- quantity and size of images
- other multimedia files quantity and weight (audio, videos, pdfs, etc..)
- quantity and weight of fonts used
- active plugins and their own loading speed / weight
- 3rd party embeds (audio, video, maps, conent, ads…)
To achieve the best speed optimization results, website development should be planned from the beginning with all those elements perfectly optimized for best performance.
How to optimize loading speed of a WordPress website easily in 5 minutes?
For our tutorial we’ll use an example website, well optimized from the beginning keeping in mind all the elements mentioned before. Your website might not be optimized for speed at all, still this method will significantly improve it’s loading speed. Our method to easily speed up WordPress websites consists of three simple steps:
- update the system (PHP version, WordPress version, theme and plugins)
- install and configure the Autoptimize plugin
- install and configure the WP Super Cache plugin
To measure WordPress website speed we’ll use the following tools:
Before and after loading speed measurements for our example website using Pingdom Tools and Google PageSpeed Insights.
Update the WordPress System to improve website loading speed
Keeping your WordPress system up to date is a significant element of website spped optimization. Almost every new version of PHP, WP plugins and WordPress itself brings improvements in loading speed. So firstly, to speed up WordPress websites let’s make sure that the system is updated.
PHP is the programming language WordPress is based on. The active version of PHP is managed trough the hosting cPanel. To check which version of PHP you are currently using, firstly log in into your hosting cPanel. Look up for the PHP Version icon in the Software section of your cPanel or type PHP in the cPanel search field. Once inside the PHP Selector page, choose the latest version from the PHP Version dropdown. Press the Set as current button and save the changes. In most cases, there’s no need to modify the PHP options below.
To update your WordPress system, click on the Updates submenu button located under the Dashboard section of your WordPress Dashboard left-column menu. Once inside the WordPress Updates page, you will see all available system updates listed, including plugins and themes. Start with updating the version of WordPress, then move on and update the plugins you currently use. Finally update the theme your website uses. Repeat this process periodically to keep your website up-to-date and assure the highest possible WordPress loading speed.
PRO TIP:Pro Tip: Most plugins have more or less significant impact on your WordPress website loading speed. Make sure you don’t have installed plugins you don’t use or don’t really need. To speed up your WordPress website uninstall all unnecessary plugins. Usually, there are a couple of plugins available for the same purpouse. When installing a plugin try choosing the fastest one possible. In our WP Plugins section, you’ll find tests and reviews of the most popular WordPress plugins, with special emphasis on their weight an loading speed.
Increase WordPress loading speed using the Autoptimize plugin
Autoptimize by Frank Goossens is a very popular plugin used to speed up WordPress websites. It has over a million active installations, an 4.5 average vote and it’s very frequently updated. In our WordPress loading speed optimization tutorial we’ll use this plugin to achieve the following improvements:
- website code optimization (HTML, CSS, JS)
- images optimization
- fonts optimization
Upon installation we need to do some customization of the plugin preferences. Autoptimize preferences are located within the WordPress Settings in the Dashboard left column menu. The settings configuration we suggest have proven by experience to give good speed optimization results. For some websites other configurations could work better so feel free to experiment on your own. For our example website speed optimization we used the following settings:
JS, HTML & CSS Tab:
- Aggregate JS-files ✔
- Also aggregate inline JS ✔
- Optimize CSS Code ✔
- Aggregate CSS-files ✔
- Also aggregate inline CSS ✔
- Optimize HTML Code ✔
- Optimize Images ✔
- Image Optimization quality: Glossy
- Load WebP in supported browsers ✔
- Lazy-load images ✔
- Google Fonts: Combine and link in head
- Remove emojis ✔
NOTE: Other preferences not mentioned above leave in their default state (unchecked/checked).
Enable cacheing using the WP Super Cache plugin
Caching is another significant element to Speed up WordPress websites. In our example, we’ll use WP Super Cache by Automattic, one of the most popular caching plugin for WordPress. This plugin has over 2 million active instalations and an 4.5 average vote. WP Super Cache will help us achieve the following loading speed improvements:
- serve cached static HTML files instead of heavier dynamic PHP files
- compress our web pages to serve them faster
- cache HTTP headers
- preload cache for faster delivery
After sucessfully installing the plugin, we need to customize some plugin settings for best performance. Preferences are located within the WP Settings in the Dashboard left column menu. The preferences configuration we are suggesting will give decent speed optimization results in most situations. For some specific websites different configurations could perform better, so feel free to experiment with different settings. For our website speed optimization example we configured the plugin settings as follows:
- Enable Caching ✔
- Cache Delivery Method: Simple
- Disable caching for logged in visitors ✔
- Compress pages so they’re served more quickly ✔
- Cache rebuild ✔
- Cache HTTP headers with page content ✔
- 304 Browser caching ✔
- Extra homepage checks ✔
- Expiry Time: Set as you like (Optional)
- Preload mode ✔
- Refresh preloaded cache files every: 5000 minutes
NOTE: Preferences not mentioned above leave in their default state (unchecked/checked) or modify according to your website needs.
Our website speed optimization results
As we mentioned at the beginning of this tutorial, this is not a full website speed optimization guide. This tutorial is rather an introduction into speeding up WordPress websites, with decent final results. On a tipical WordPress website the process describet above should result with 50% average increase in loading speed. Depending on he website configuration loading speed increase may vary from 20% to 70%.
In our example website we used an 3rd party ad service which has a significant affect on the loading speed. Despite of that, with the process described above we increased the loading speed by 40%, reduced the page size by 20% and reduced server requests by 30%. Quite decent results for a 5 minutes speed optimization process.