You’ve created a website using WordPress (or had one created for you) and it’s looking spectacular. Your business logo is singing out from the page, your content is exceptional, and your featured images are looking sharp and right on the money.
But there’s a problem. Sometimes, for some visitors, your web pages take an unacceptably long time to load. That’s okay, though, right? After all, your website looks awesome and it loads okay on your fat business Internet pipe. Wrong!
If some people have commented that your website takes too long to load or you’ve experienced it yourself from time to time, how many more visitors could be being impacted?
The bottom line is that if you ever suspect that something could be wrong in terms of how fast your web pages are loading, you need to pay attention and implement changes to resolve the situation ASAP.
Why Is Website Page Speed So Important?
Many people (mistakenly) believe a website that offers a beautiful, immersive, multimedia experience is superior to one that’s basic, even if the former does take a significantly longer time to load.
And while immersive, engaging, beautiful websites are often one of an organization’s biggest assets, they can also be a headache at the same time. That’s because the consequences of having a website that loads slowly are numerous and well-documented.
According to this Kissmetrics infographic, 47% of consumers expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less – two seconds! Furthermore, 40% of consumers abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.
In terms of dollars, if you are an eCommerce business making $100,000 a day, a 1-second delay in page response (which can result in a 7% reduction in conversions) would cost you a staggering $2.5 million in lost sales every year.
In a nutshell, if your website takes too long to load, many of your visitors will be gone before you’ve even had a chance to wow them.
Then there are the SEO repercussions.
Google now includes page speed as a factor when ranking websites. So if you’re website is sluggish, you could find it’s been bumped down in the SERPs as a result. Not only are you losing potential customers because they aren’t willing to wait for your site to load, but you’re also potentially losing traffic because of the impact it’s having on your site’s SEO – a double whammy that no one wants!
So How Can You Check Page Loading Times?
Rather than speculate whether your website is loading in a respectable, acceptable time, it’s better to take advantage of the various tools out there which are designed to provide valuable page speed insights.
Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool is a great place to start. It analyzes your website (both mobile and desktop versions) and provides you with an optimization score out of 100. This is pretty useful in itself, but the real bonus is that Google then gives you a number of optimization suggestions to work through.
If you want to only focus on the mobile version of your website, Google has another tool that allows you to specifically Test Your Mobile Speed. You will discover how fast your website loads on a mobile device via a 3G connection. It also gives you an estimated visitor loss percentage and (towards the bottom of the result screen) a bunch of top fixes to improve your website’s mobile loading speed.
Want a second opinion in addition to what Google is telling you? Check out Pingdom’s Website Speed Test tool. The really neat thing about it is that you can select a location from which to test from. This is super useful if the majority of your website visitors tend to originate from a particular country.
For a more in-depth WordPress website analysis, use WPMU DEV’s WP Checkup tool. It not only gives you a performance score, but also an extra two scores for SEO and security. It’s a great way to obtain a more general overview of how your WordPress website is performing.
Now To Boost Your WordPress Site’s Performance
Here are 10 ways to boost the performance of your WordPress website:
- Pick The Right Web Host For The Job
First and foremost, your web hosting plays a crucial role when it comes to performance. While shared servers that are cheap and cheerful may be good enough when you first launch your site, they may not be able to cope with its growth and performance demands further down the line.
Consider shelling out a little bit more for managed hosting. It usually also includes superior support and other benefits. Migrating your website to another host in the future is an option, but not one that should be taken lightly due to the potential hiccups that can occur.
Set yourself up correctly and you’ll have hosting that will support and complement your website for years to come.
Top tip – Look for hosting providers whose servers are optimized for WordPress. They do exist and can provide additional performance benefits.
- Choose Your Theme Wisely
Some people pick a WordPress theme based solely on one particular aspect, like how the main featured image looks in relation to the rest of the site. But while aesthetics are obviously important and you want your site to look 100% right, you could end up using a theme that’s bloated and not optimized for performance.
I sometimes see blogs using eCommerce themes that contain tons of additional functionality which will never be used. This adds unnecessary pressure to every facet of your site and can reduce loading times as a result.
Top tip – Some WordPress themes are optimized for speed out the box. Have a good look around before taking the plunge.
- Keep Everything Updated
Another important factor for improving your WordPress website loading time is making sure you keep everything up to date, and that includes the underlying web technologies your site is running on.
New versions of HTML, PHP and other web technologies are released to improve their effectiveness, add new features and, often, improve speed. A good web hosting company will keep these files up to date as a matter of course (it’s likely to be out of your hands), but there’s no harm in checking periodically.
The same goes for all your core WordPress files. Every new version of the CMS includes improvements (security, functionality, speed) and this is a job you can do yourself providing you feel confident enough. Just be sure to make a backup before you start.
- Uninstall/Disable Any Unnecessary Plugins
Chances are you installed a myriad of plugins when you were tinkering and setting up your website. But did you remember to uninstall all the ones you didn’t end up using?
It may be the case that you’ve got some plugins you use very infrequently and don’t really want to delete. That’s fine! Just be sure to disable them when they’re not being used to ensure they don’t have a detrimental impact on your site performance.
- Enable Caching
Even though it’s halfway down this list, enabling caching is probably the single biggest and simplest way to boost the performance of your WordPress website.
However, there are a lot to choose from and you may find yourself a little overwhelmed when searching. Indeed, a Google search (at time of writing) for ‘best WordPress caching plugins’ returns over 400,000 results!
There’s a great, up to date roundup of 7 Best WordPress Caching Plugins on the isitwp website, which I suggest you check out to familiarize yourself with what’s available.
- Optimize Your Images
Did you know that you can probably compress your images by as much as 30%-80% without noticeably altering their quality to the naked eye?
Optimizing images is good practice and it helps speed up the loading times of your pages.
If you don’t want to spend hours reducing the size of your images manually using software or utilizing services like smush.it, you can use a plugin instead. You can’t go far wrong with the free WP-SmushIt plugin. It works by automatically optimizing your images as you upload them, saving you huge amounts of time and effort.
- Decrease Server Requests
Reducing the number of server requests a browser makes when loading your website is a simple way to improve page speed. Files like style sheets, scripts, and images are all often requested from the server when a site is loading. The more server requests, the slower your site performance.
- Reducing the number of blog posts shown on your homepage/show only excerpts
- Splitting longer posts into several pages
- Splitting comments into several pages
- Take Advantage Of A CDN
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) help to increase website loading times by reducing the physical distance between the website server and the person accessing the website (the visitor).
They work because they consist of numerous servers situated in different locations around the world. When a visitor accesses your website all of the content is pulled from the CDN server closest to them. This reduces the time taken to download and, in turn, makes your site load faster.
Note: Some hosts offer a CDN as part of their managed WordPress hosting packages. Check for this when deciding where to house your site.
- Never Upload Videos Directly To Your Site
Even though WordPress is perfectly capable of hosting and playing videos, I suggest you utilize a video service instead. That’s because uploading videos directly to your website not only significantly increases the amount of bandwidth you use, but also impacts the experience for visitors as they will likely have to wait while the video loads.
You’re very unlikely to have the infrastructure or resources of services like YouTube or Vimeo at your disposal, so don’t bother trying to reinvent the wheel. Embrace video-hosting services and simply embed the uploaded video into a page on your website. Use up YouTube’s bandwidth, not your own.
- Perform Regular Maintenance
My final piece of advice is to stay on top of things. Just because your WordPress website is performing well today doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same tomorrow. That’s why you need to keep on top of maintenance and keep one eye always on your site’s performance.
It’s inevitable that your website will get cluttered and bogged down with performance-draining crap over time. The good news, though, is that as with many aspects of WordPress, there are various plugins to help you with this.
I’m a full-time freelance writer and Managing Editor at Creative Mindscape who is lucky enough to call the tropical paradise that is the Philippines my adopted home. In my spare time, I love to dabble in cryptocurrencies and play with my three young children. One’s a stressful, non-stop rollercoaster ride; the other is cryptocurrencies.