There are many reasons why WordPress website speed is essential. The most important though has to be keeping your customers. I had to learn that lesson the hard way with my first few websites.
In the grand old tradition of new internet entrepreneurs, I decided that I would start selling "things" online. These "things" would be various instructional books from Clickbank. I would make my own megastore - the new Barnes ‘n Noble of the fledgeling internet age.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Lessons leared - and applied
While I had the ambition, drive and energy to be a success, I was missing a few key ingredients. The critical element was knowledge of how consumer behaviour was shaping up at the time.
These days everyone knows that if your website loads for more than two seconds, you will lose a customer. There are better, faster and more optimized pages that don't waste your potential customers' time. The amount of competition out there is astounding, but that is a good thing. It means that online selling works.
I built my websites from scratch (in the bad, old days before WordPress) and launched. While I managed to get a decent amount of traffic, I was barely making any sales.
"Why?" I would cry almost every day. The answer hit me like a ton of bricks one day when my sister sent me a text message asking why my site was so slow. I went to check, and it was true. I was irritated at how slowly the pages were loading compared to other shops that I used at the time - so I could only imagine how my customers felt.
WordPress Website Speed and Google Rankings
Customer irritation is not the only problem when you have a slow loading website. Google will add salt to your wounds by ranking you lower than your competitors who have a website that loads briskly.
So it's not just impatient people browsing random websites, but also Google who will punish you if your WordPress website speed is on the slow side. WordPress has been a fantastic addition to anyone looking to get their business online (or start a new one entirely), but it can get bogged down quite quickly.
That is why everyone needs these 9 hacks to improve their WordPress website performance. It's the smart thing to do.
Table of Contents
- Faster Servers enhance WordPress Website Speed
- CDNs are vital to WordPress Website Speed
- KISS Themes
- Size is important
- If you don't cache your WordPress, do it now!
- Avoid gifs like the plague
- Spring cleaning is vital
- Track, analyze and continuously improve
- Maximize the minify
Faster Servers enhance WordPress Website Speed
Server speed is a big thing that cannot be underestimated. The first website my sister made that went viral (via StumbleUpon no less) crashed very quickly thanks to using a server that could not handle the load. These days that is not so much a problem with cloud computing, but even then… various providers offer differing experiences.
Choosing the right cloud hosting platform is essential to success, and there are many from which to choose. Google Cloud Services and Amazon EC2 are enterprise-level services that might be a little difficult to set up on your own but do offer the best performance. Siteground, Cloudways and DigitalOcean are all fantastic cloud hosts that are much easier to set up.
The best option would be to get used to running everything yourself (and going with Amazon or Google), but the other three offer a great middle-ground between ease of use and performance.
CDNs are vital to WordPress Website Speed
CDNs (or better known as content delivery networks) are a must these days if you are looking to increase your WordPress website performance.
They are not hosts, rather caching services that allow geographic distribution of your data. Basically, they gather all your larger, most commonly used files and back them up to various locations.
A good example would be hosting your website on a server in New York. Your customers in New York will download the files much quicker than someone in Los Angeles. However, with a Californian CDN, people in LA will be able to download at the same speeds.
The term KISS (Keep It Small and Simple) is a design principle developed in the 60s by the US Navy. It has quickly been taken over by business and creative design all over the world.
A smaller, simpler theme will guarantee faster-loading webpages. Simple doesn't need to mean ugly. It is usually the opposite where more straightforward websites are easier to use and become a lot more popular than their competitors. Look at how Facebook triumphed over MySpace, or how Google beat out Yahoo. Simplicity is key to improving WordPress website speed.
Size is important
Your images should always be optimized as much as possible. Keep the file size down to 300kb per image, and use them sparingly - helping with the load times, as well as keeping your layout simple. Two design musts with a single blow - a perfect combo.
If you don't cache your WordPress, do it now!
One of the oldest tricks for speeding up WordPress is caching. The example used before, of my sister's website that went viral, is proof perfect that caching is indispensable. We managed to get everything up and running quickly, but we also had some luck.
Someone from tech support recommended we cache our popular pages so that WordPress would use fewer resources. This advice helped in the medium term until we were able to upgrade our package (at the time, there wasn't much choice in hosting) and finally run a stable WordPress website without too many issues.
Caching popular pages using a WordPress website speed plugin is still one of the best ways to increase WordPress website performance.
Avoid gifs like the plague
While gifs may be an excellent way to get a point across, as well as adding an element of interactivity and humour to a website, they will hit your performance. It doesn't matter if you load gifs directly from a CDN powered by a significant gif repository… the result is still the same.
There is a good reason why serious websites that rely on speed never use gifs, and that is because gifs are a drain on resources. Avoid at all costs.
Spring cleaning is vital
Spring cleaning is fantastic for everything, and not just in your home. Spring cleaning allows you to clean up all the accumulated gunk that your website might have accumulated and toss it out - leaving it airy, super-quick and straightforward.
A few things to keep in mind when spring cleaning:
Keeping up with the latest version of your software, where it be PHP or WordPress. The latest versions will almost always be faster and more optimized than earlier versions, and every little bit helps.
Clean up your WordPress database. There is nothing worse than a Database that runs slow, and since WordPress relies on a database to run, it can have a significant impact on WordPress website speed. There are plugins that will help you, or just follow this nifty guide on how to do it manually.
Cut the fat with regards to plugins. Sometimes plugins seem to be needed right now and then are hardly ever used. Go through all of them to see which ones you are not using regularly. Those you aren't should be deleted as they take up valuable resources on your server and in the browsers of your customers.
Following these cleaning up tactics will help boost your WordPress website speed significantly while also helping you keep an eye out on what to improve, which leads us to one of the most critical factors of your website's performance.
Track, analyze and continuously improve
The best websites aren't at the top because they were made well. They are at the top because they continue looking for avenues to improve every day. If all your pages are loading smoothly, check which ones are the slowest and work on those. Once you fix those, you can look at the next 3, 4 or 5 slowest pages and work on those.
There are numerous tools available to check the speed and performance of your webpages, so use them to full effect. Pingdom, Google Webmaster Tool and GTMetrix should be intimately familiar to you if you are doing anything online, so don't shy away from using them often.
Maximize the minify
Minifying something is making it leaner. The tools mentioned above? They will all tell you, at one point or another, to make your JS and CSS files smaller. The fewer calls you have in those files, the faster your website will load. The faster your website loads, the happier your customers will be. The more satisfied Google will be. That all leads to you being much happier as a result.
Masking sure you minify everything, not just JS and CSS, is crucial. Remember what we said earlier. Simple, Small. Make that your mantra. Make everything smaller. Make everything simpler.
Following these simple hacks will keep your WordPress website performance in top shape, ensuring your customers never go to a competitor due to technical reasons.