WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) around, but some of the tools that make it so powerful can also slow its performance to a crawl. Most web-optimization experts will tell you that you may have only a few seconds (if that) to capture your site visitor’s interest, so a sluggish site is sure to cost you. But, with a few relatively simple tweaks, you can gain a sizable uptick in performance.
Why Worry So Much About Site Speed Performance?
It may be tempting to go for a form-over-function approach when building a website. Lots of companies, even really big ones that should know better, fall into this trap. These sites load their pages with ads, photos, videos, widgets, applets, text, cookies, and so many other elements that it can take literally a minute or longer to load over some connections. Add to this the effect of distance on page load times, and you will find that a site that is sluggish near that site’s server in the US (say, on the East Coast, for example) may be glacial on the other side of the country, let alone overseas. This can drive away visitors who quickly grow impatient waiting for the site to load.
Page speed affects search engine rankings, as well. Search engines will actually lower the overall search ranking of sites that take too long to load. While search giant Google intentionally keeps the details of its ranking algorithm a bit vague to prevent people from gaming the system, it has become clear that faster speeds equate to higher search rankings.
Trusted 5 Ways to Improve WordPress Site Performance:
1. Use a WordPress Optimized Hosting Solution
The easiest and most logical first step is to ensure that you are running your site on a server that has been professionally optimized for you. Hosting has WordPress optimized servers for Shared, VPS, and Dedicated hosting solutions. These servers use solid state drives (SSDs), the latest version of PHP, an array of caching plugins, and other tweaks to provide a proper foundation for a fully optimized WordPress experience.
2. Improve Your Core Technology
Whether or not you run your site on a WordPress optimized server, you can still see substantial boosts in performance by operating on a machine that is up to the challenges your site presents. As your content and site visitors grow, you should move to larger and more capable hosting solutions.
3. Keep Your Software Up-to-Date
Now that we have the hardware out of the way, we have to consider the stuff actually on your site. It may be tempting to adopt a “set it and forget it” mentality when it comes to designing and upgrading elements of your WordPress site. After all, if it is not broken, why fix it (and potentially break it in the process)? The reason is performance.
Updates to WordPress itself are critical for security and speed improvements. Failing to update regularly may leave vulnerabilities open to attack. Not only could someone take over your site, change your content, steal confidential information, and engage in other mischief, but they may inject malicious code into your site, adversely affecting performance and security for you and your visitors. Moreover, each iteration of WordPress tends to improve how it performs, optimizing the very framework on which you have built your site.
Better code usually equals better performance, even if there is a small risk of breaking something with your upgrade. Of course, if you are afraid of that happening, you should be running backups of your site that you can revert to in case of a problem.
The same is true of the plugins on your site. As you upgrade WordPress, you will need to update your plugins to ensure optimal compatibility and performance. Plugins can also create vulnerabilities, so keeping these up-to-date can also improve security.
Of course, you should not expect an enormous jump in performance and security if you are making incremental upgrades from one release to the next. But, if you have not upgraded for a version or two of either WordPress or your plugins, you may be stunned by the improvement in speed an upgrade will create.
4. Reduce the Load on Your Server’s CPU
Every script on your site must send a request to your server’s processors when they execute. That ties up resources, even if only for a fraction of a second, and enough of those piled on top of one another can really make a dent in performance. To reduce this load, identify things that may be running on your site that you either no longer need, or only need every once in a while. For example, there are many plugins that are immensely helpful for building your site, but completely unnecessary once it is completed. Consider deactivating and/or deleting plugins that you either do not use or use only rarely.
The actual design of your site may also occupy a lot of time and space on your server. Some themes have elements that can chew up a lot of resources. The same is true of media, such as photos, music, animations, and videos. Choose a more efficient theme, optimize all files for use on the web, limit the amount of media on each page, and test all of these elements to ensure they are not overly burdensome.
5. Use a CDN and Caching Tools
Finally, there are two tools almost every WordPress site should use, but many do not know about: CDNs and caching tools. A CDN (Content Delivery Network) puts your content in the cloud (a vast network of servers all over the world). The CDN ties to your site, and whenever a visitor reaches a page with content on the CDN, it sends that data to the site visitor from the closest servers in its cloud network. This both reduces bandwidth coming from your server, since content is also being sent from their servers, and it also speeds delivery by distributing the process over more than one connection, one or more of which may be geographically closer to the user than your own server. There are a number of free and affordable CDNs on the market, so do some research before choosing one that is right for your needs.
Another impressive optimization tool is caching. There are dozens of caching plugins for WordPress, which, in essence, save a copy of different elements of your website to deliver at a later time, reducing the processing usually required to render these from scratch. There are a number of fine tweaks to make when using caching plugins, so getting maximum performance boosts may require a little research and testing. Nevertheless, caching is still one of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest ways to speed up your site’s performance almost instantly.