- People are impatient. You only have a couple of seconds to hook a visitor and get them to stay on your site. You better make each second count.
- Google’s Chrome browser is starting to identify slow loading sites and will warn potential visitors about them.
- Page speed is one of the factors in Google’s search algorithm. A fast site can help you rank higher and get more visitors from search engines.
- The lighter your site is, the less data is transmitted to each visitor and the less electricity is used. If you only serve the content that matters, your site will be emitting less carbon.
- Third-party connections are one of the main reasons for slow sites. By reducing the number of tracking scripts, your site will be more ethical and human-friendly.
Here’s how to speed up your WordPress site, get the top score on Google’s PageSpeed Insights and help us move towards a faster, greener, more ethical and more environmentally friendly web.
- Take a speed test to see why your site is slow
- Elements that affect the site speed
- Choose a green, eco-friendly host
- Use a lightweight WordPress design theme
- Compress and resize your images
- Implement lazy loading for images and videos
- Activate a caching plugin
- Enable GZip compression (optional)
- Leverage browser caching (optional)
- Use a CDN (optional)
- Choose more efficient versions of plugins you use
- Keep WordPress, plugins and themes updated
- Optimize the WordPress database
Take a speed test to see why your site is slow
You may be wondering why is WordPress so slow. WordPress is actually one of the lightest and fastest of the big content management systems out of the box.
Brand new WordPress install with the default theme, no content and no plugins has a page weight of 40KB and scores 98 out of 100 on Google’s PageSpeed Insights. That’s very fast. It’s what we do with it that can make it slow.
Let’s check your current page load time and performance. Run the WordPress speed tests below to see how fast or slow your site loads right now.
These tools analyze the performance of your site, and provide useful advice on things you can do to optimize the loading time:
PageSpeed Insights: Created by Google. Provides optimized versions of your files too. Tests both the regular version and mobile version.
GTmetrix: Gives you a “waterfall” view of what files are loading and what requests are being made when a user visits your site.
Pingdom: Allows you to test the page speed of your WordPress site from Europe, Asia, North America, South America or Australia.
WebPagetest: Allows you to test from multiple locations and various devices. Provides first byte time scores too.
Test your site using all four of these and screenshot the results. Do the test for your home page and for one of your posts too as these normally make different calls.
Now you have an overview of the current performance of your WordPress site. This will be useful to benchmark against after we make all the improvements.
Here’s my top score on Google’s PageSpeed Insights. My site also scores high on Website Carbon, the carbon emission calculator, too.
Elements that affect the site speed
There are many factors that impact the page weight and the load time. Use an optimized design on a speedy host, don’t add too many images, videos and scripts and your site will load fast.
Here’s my site’s summary on GTMetrix. Notice the six requests and the total page size being 166KB.
Use a lightweight WordPress design theme
All WordPress themes are not equal:
- Some have more features than you’ll ever need.
- Some have bad, bloated, old and inefficient code.
All these contribute unnecessary load to your site even before you add your own customization and your content.
You should choose a light and clean coded WordPress theme with a right balance between the looks, functionality and speed. You will see significant improvement immediately.
5 fastest WordPress themes
I’ve handpicked these minimalist, lightweight and mobile responsive options for you to consider.
Several of these lightweight WordPress themes I’ve used for an extended period of time in the real world action on this site itself. I use Twenty Twenty right now.
Compress and resize your images
High-resolution images are an integral part of web content. They brand your site, and they keep your visitors interested in your posts. But images that are not optimized can be huge in size and will dramatically impact the loading time.
Your photos should be big enough to make an impact, but not so large that the file size prevents a quick page loading time. Here’s what you can do:
- Resize the images to the exact dimensions that you need in your content. Don’t upload the pictures in the size that they are produced in your camera.
- Compress the images without losing image quality. This reduces their size but they still look the same to the human eye.
Here are three options that can help you optimize your images:
- Offline: ImageOptim is a free, open-source app available for Mac, Linux and Windows. You can compress your images using it before you upload them to WordPress.
- Browser: Squoosh is a free browser app created by Google. You can resize and compress images individually before uploading them to WordPress.
- WordPress: ShortPixel freemium plugin. It optimizes your existing images in bulk. It also compresses images as you upload to WordPress. 100 images per month are free and that should cover most sites. If you have a huge archive you want to optimize, you can make a one-time purchase of 10,000 image credits for $9.99. That’s what I’ve done and the credits never expire. It’s a much more affordable option compared to a monthly subscription that alternative providers offer.
Implement lazy loading for images and videos
Lazy loading only loads images and videos that are in the browser’s view (i.e. above the fold). It loads the rest only as the visitor scrolls down the page.
It makes your page size smaller and reduces the number of calls.
As an alternative, Jetpack plugin comes with lazy loading feature too. Under “Performance & speed” within Jetpack settings, you should select “enable lazy loading for images”.
Activate a caching plugin
Cache plugins speed up WordPress by generating static files and serving those instead of the WordPress default dynamic files.
This means that with a caching plugin enabled your files don’t need to be refreshed every time they are viewed.
Install and activate a cache plugin and you will immediately see an improvement in your website’s speed.
There are many WordPress cache plugins that are used my millions of sites. I recommend Litespeed Cache as it’s simple to use and it works out of the box. Just activate it and do another speed test.
Minification reduces the size of your resources by removing unnecessary or redundant data and characters without affecting the functionality.