Cut Your Site Speed in Half: Make WordPress Load Fast


People don't have enough patience for waiting for websites to load. Impatience of users often cause of high bounce rate. Find out how to cut your site speed in half and provide the best user experience for your visitors.

WordPress is currently being used to power more than 31% of all sites on the web. The secret behind its popularity is the fact that it enables individuals without much technical knowledge to get a website up and running in record time. And with the wealth of customization options available, it's easy to create a website that stands out from the crowd.

Unfortunately, WordPress users sometimes tend to go a bit too far with their customizations, which often results in websites that are slow to load. This is problematic for two reasons. One, long loading times will directly impact your site’s search engine rank, as site load speed is a confirmed ranking factor. Two, long waiting times will impoverish your user experience, leading to higher bounce rates, lower average time on page, and reduced conversions. It is therefore imperative to take the appropriate measures for making your WordPress site load as fast as possible.
Since there are already plenty of articles on the web on the topic of improving site load speed, we will instead focus on how your choice of WordPress plugins can affect loading speed.

Caching Plugins


The purpose of a caching plugin is to cache your WordPress posts and pages as static files. These static files are then served to users, thus reducing server processing load. Using caching plugins can provide substantial performance gains if your website contains mostly static pages. Popular caching plugins include:
  • W3 Super Cache, a user-friendly plugin with a straightforward setup process
  • W3 Total Cache, a more advanced plugin with numerous customization options
  • W3 Rocket, a premium plugin used by best web development companies for its stellar performance on relevant speed benchmarks

Minification Plugins


Minification is the process of removing unnecessary characters like whitespaces and newlines from the source code of a website without changing its functionality. Minification plugins reduce the filesize of your HTML, CSS and JavaScript files, which can improve page load speed by a couple of percents. Popular minification plugins include:
  • Autoptimize, a popular free plugin with numerous customization features, and optional premium support
  • Merge + Minify + Refresh, a plugin that automatically combines, compresses and keeps your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files up to date
  • WP Super Minify, an easy to use the plugin with no frills attached

Image Compression Plugins


Images file size is a major contributor to slow loading speeds, especially for content-heavy WordPress websites. The solution to this problem is to utilize an image compression plugin. These add-ons work by converting images into 'lossy' formats with smaller file sizes while trying to maintain the same level of quality. Examples of image compression plugins include:
  • Smush Image Compression and Optimization, a popular compression plugin based on Yahoo's Smush.it service
  • EWWW Image Optimizer, another popular compression plugin with features such as free image backup, and round the clock customer support
  • ShortPixel Image Optimizer, a freemium plugin designed to work in tandem with other image-related plugins

Database Optimization Plugins


Cluttered databases are a common cause of slow website load speed. Over time, databases tend to get bogged down by storing unnecessary files, which increases the time needed to find and fetch relevant ones. WordPress supports a number of plugins for database cleanup and maintenance, including the following:
  • WB-Optimize, an optimization plugin that automatically keeps your databases in top working condition
  • Advanced Database Cleaner, a more advanced plugin that offers a number of premium features for deep database cleaning
  • Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions, a simple plugin for automatically deleting past revisions of your content

General Performance Tips
Apart from plugin-based speed optimizations, there are also a number of platform-agnostic strategies which you can implement to further reduce page load speed. These practices work equally well for content management systems other than WordPress, including Joomla, Drupal, and Magento.
  • Your choice of hosting service can have a significant impact on website load speed. If you are using shared hosting, your site might experience unexpected slowdowns depending on how much traffic your server co-renters are generating. Switching to dedicated or server, or opting for cloud hosting are common ways to mitigate this issue.
  • Each time a page on your website redirects to another page, the visitor will have to wait for the HTTP request-response cycle to complete, which can significantly lower page load speed. To avoid this issue, make sure that your site has a few redirects as possible.
  • Hotlinking is the practice of using URLs that point to content such as images on other websites, instead of serving from your own server. Hotlinking can slow down your site whether you are the one using it, or if your content is being used by other sites. Hotlinking can be stopped by adding a few lines of code to your .htaccess file, or by enabling hotlinking protection through a CDN like Cloudflare
  • If a site visitors requests multiple files from your web server, it will download each file individually, closing and reopening the connection each time, creating unnecessary delays. To prevent this from happening, you can enable HTTP keep-alive, a feature that enables you to use one connection to fulfill multiple requests.

Other Plugins


Site load speed can also be improved by implementing various small-scale optimizations. The impact of these optimizations is usually negligible when they are applied in isolation, but they can be quite effective when paired up with each other. Most of them can be implemented through the use of appropriate plugins, such as:
  • BJ Lazy Load, a plugin that replaces all your below the fold images with placeholders, until the user scrolls down to them
  • Perfmatters, a plugin that allows you to disable unneeded WordPress components and plugins through an easy to use interface
  • CDN Enabler, a plugin for integrating WordPress sites with content delivery networks such as Cloudflare

Conclusion


Speed is one of the most important factors for the success of any website. Fortunately, by using the right WordPress plugins, you can significantly improve your page load times, earning you the favor of both search engines and your audience.


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