9 Easy Ways To Speed Up Your WordPress Site

If your WordPress site is moving slower than a turtle with an ingrown toenail, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re a business owner or a freelancer working on improving a client’s page speed for SEO purposes, we have simplified the process for you. Fortunately, much of the work for increasing page speed can be done with free (or inexpensive) WordPress plugins!

Preliminary Steps

We highly recommend doing a full database and file backup prior to commencing these steps, just to be safe. In addition, we recommend running a page speed test using Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get a benchmark of your current page speed. You’ll notice that there are values for mobile speed as well as desktop speed. Jot these values down, and compare them with the results you get after performing the steps below.

1.) Website Hosting – How Fast Is Your Server?

slow wordpress site

No matter how many improvements you make to your site, your results will be limited by the performance of your website’s server. For those that are IT pros, this should be obvious. If you’re on a shared hosting environment, your website is sharing resources with many other websites. A server that is bogged down and low on resources will render all of your other efforts useless. This is not to say that your site must reside on a dedicated server, however, make sure you don’t skimp on your website hosting provider. Some good (and popular) WordPress hosting providers include:

  • GoDaddy
  • HostGator
  • BlueMountain
  • BlueHost
  • SiteGround

2.) Install A Good Caching Plugin

Caching is the process of storing data so that future requests can be processed faster. Caching can be done on the client side (browser) as well as on the server side. One excellent caching plugin for WordPress is CometCache. Simply by installing and activating CometCache you will notice quite an improvement in page speed. CometCache is free, however, there is also a premium version which is a one-time fee of $19. This version offers quite a few more options, one of which is HTML Compression. This allows you to minify and consolidate CSS & Javascript.


3.) Enable Gzip Compression

Gzip is a compression method that is executed on the server. It compresses data before sending it over to the browser, thus reducing transfer time since files are smaller. In order to enable Gzip compression, one must be able to access and modify the root .htaccess file. As specified in the CometCache instructions, enabling Gzip compression is very easy. Simply add the lines below to your root .htaccess file, and voila!

<IfModule deflate_module> 
<IfModule filter_module> 
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain text/html 
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml application/xml application/xhtml+xml application/xml-dtd 
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rdf+xml application/rss+xml application/atom+xml image/svg+xml 
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css text/javascript application/javascript application/x-javascript 
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/otf font/opentype application/font-otf application/x-font-otf 
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/ttf font/truetype application/font-ttf application/x-font-ttf 

4.) Optimize Your MySQL Database

Step 1

Over time your database accumulates a lot of data that is unnecessary and can be deleted. A lot of this data consists of page/post revisions that WordPress holds on to in the event that you ever want to revert back to previous versions.

One great (and free) plugin to optimize your database is WP-Optimize. WP-Optimize allows you to fine-tune your database by removing overhead as well as deleting old post revisions. Each time you make an update to a page/post in WordPress and save it, it creates entries in the database. Eliminating older entries and reducing the overall size of your database can have a positive impact with regards to page speed.



Step 2

After deleting plugins, often times the database tables get left behind. This could be due to two reasons:

  1. Poor coding from the plugin author
  2. They may intentionally be left behind so that if the plugin is ever reinstalled, the user options are already configured

Whatever the case, let’s examine which database tables might be candidates for deletion. Install the plugin named WPDBSpringClean. Take a look and see which database tables have been left behind and are no longer needed. If you’re certain those tables listed can be deleted, go for it!

5.) Smush Those Images!

WP-Smush, formerly knowns as WP-Smush.it, is a free plugin that will losslessly compress your images. Install WP-Smush and start compressing your images to reduce the file size. You’ll notice in your media library there is a new column called WP Smush. You can manually smush images here, or you can go to your WordPress dashboard (Media->WP Smush), and run the compression utility on all of your existing images to Smush in Bulk. Easy peasy.

6.) Test Your Current Theme

It’s possible that your theme is hogging up a lot of bandwidth. As a quick test, you can switch to one of WordPress’ default themes (i.e. 2013 or 2014), and do a quick page speed test. If you notice a significant difference in page speed, it might be worthwhile to look into upgrading to a lightweight theme. If you do upgrade to a new theme, make sure it’s a responsive theme so that the content renders nicely on mobile devices.

7.) Remove Unnecessary Plugins

Yes, after suggesting the installation of the aforementioned plugins, we still encourage you to remove any unnecessary plugins that you currently have installed. Go through your plugin list and see if each one is necessary. If you deem that certain plugins are no longer needed, deactivate and then delete them.

8.) Reduce Dependencies On Third Party Sites

If your pages take a long time to load due to waiting for content from other sites to load as well, you might want to rethink whether or not that content is necessary. For example, if you’re linking to pictures and/or videos from other sites, not only do users have to wait for your site to load, they also have to wait for media from other sites to load. This can be frustrating for the user experience.

9.) Get Rid Of Irrelevant Content

Here, we can kill two birds with one stone. If you know anything about Google’s quality guidelines, you know that they like to see useful, quality, relevant content that is helpful to users. Say you have many old blogs that are no longer relevant. It might be worthwhile getting rid of these altogether. Not only does this free up data in your database, it also helps improve the percentage of quality content on your site. However, before deleting any old blog posts from your site, follow these steps:

      1. First, see what the level of traffic is like for the page(s) in question. Take a look at Google Analytics and analyze how much traffic has been driven to that page lately. If there’s a good amount of traffic, keep the page. However, if you notice that there’s barely been any action on that page, move on to step 2.
      2. If there’s barely been any traffic to that page, make sure that there aren’t any back links pointing to that page. Back links are an important search engine ranking factor, so you’ll want to preserve this. The back links can be seen by using Google Webmaster Tools (Search Traffic -> Links To Your Site) as well as Ahrefs. If you do see back links to your page(s), you should probably keep it around.
      3. If the page barely has any traffic and doesn’t have any back links pointing to it, set up a 301 redirect from the page you want to delete to another page on your site. It can be a frustrating experience for users to attempt to visit a page, only to see that dreaded 404 (“Page not found”) error. Instead of returning a status code of 404, you can set up a redirect from the old page to a new page on your site. This can be done within the root .htaccess file. See the example below:
        redirect 301 /old/low-quality-page.htm http://www.mysite.com/high-quality-page.htm
      4. Go ahead and delete the low quality page(s).

Your Turn

If you have any other suggestions, we’d love to hear it! Let us know below.