When it comes to making your WordPress site load faster, there are 5 principles. Checking your loading speeds, image optimisation, streamlining plugins, optimising your database and caching and minification.
What are we waiting for? Lets’s get stuck and get your WordPress site loading faster.
Checking Site Speed
Before you do anything to help make your WordPress site load faster, you need to know the extent of the problem. Just how slow is your blog, and what are the problem areas?
You’ve got a few options when it comes to checking your loading speeds. Pingdom, Google Page Speed Insights or GTmetrix. I go into each of these website speed tests in greater detail in this blog post, so be sure to check it out to help you decide which one to use.
The beauty about each of these website speed tests is that not only do they give you an overall score but they also identify what the cause of your blog speed woes are. Things like images not properly optimised, or caching not being used. So by checking your score up front you’ll be able to prioritise areas to improve.
Optimising your images
9 times out of 10 images are the biggest cause of slow loading WordPress sites.
We all want our sites to look good which includes beautiful images. Either we take them with our fancy cameras or we use them from stock image sites like Shutterstock or Pixabay. And there’s nothing wrong with this at all, as long as you optimise your images when the time comes to add them to your blog post.
The default image download size (for a landscape image) from Pixabay is around 1920 px x 1280 px. But most of the time, our WordPress themes don’t actually need pictures that big. So what happens is that when the browser loads your page, it spends time downloading a picture that’s too big, and then it has to spend time resizing it on screen to be the right size.
Obviously this process happens in the blink of an eye, but if you have several pictures on a page coupled with other elements, those blinks of an eye start to add up.
So if you want to make your WordPress site load faster, optimising your images is a good place to focus.
How to optimise your images
Firstly, you need to work out just how big they need to be. So what’s the maximum size that your WordPress theme uses for featured images?
Unfortunately there’s no generic way to work out the maximum dimensions for images on a WordPress theme. If you’ve bought a premium theme from somewhere like Pipdig, get in touch with them and ask.
Otherwise you might need to do a spot of Googling to find out, or try to get hold of whoever created your theme.
For X-Theme users, check out this article, which is how I worked out my own maximum featured image size.
Streamlining your plugins
I think people think I’m a bit harsh when it comes to plugins. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good plugin. It’s one of the most appealing features of WordPress – there are literally plugins to do anything you can think of.
But, we can get a bit carried away. For example, the best way to check for broken links is to use an online broken link checker and do it periodically. It doesn’t effect your site speed and if you do it often it’s a 5 minute job. But there are plugins that do it too. They take all the hassle out of it, but at the cost of blog loading speeds.
If you take nothing else away from this today, do yourself a plugin audit. List every single plugin installed on your WordPress site (delete the ones that aren’t activated) and think about whether you really need them. Are they essential to the day to day running of your blog or just nice to haves?
Look, I’m not saying you should only have essential plugins installed, just that you need to be picky with the nice to haves. Make sure they really bring something to the table.
Social media widgets are my pet hate. I don’t think they add anything to a website other than slowing it down and drawing your readers’ attention away from your site when you worked so hard to get them there in the first place.
If you insist on having them add just a follow button rather than displaying a feed. It won’t have such an impact on the page loading speed.
Caching and minification
Caching, where websites are concerned, is when your browser saves a copy of the files it needs to show a page, so that next time you go to the same page it won’t need to download those same files again. This helps increase page loading times.
Minification is when a file is stripped of anything unnecessary. Usually this is spaces or line breaks but can go much deeper. I won’t bore you with the details.
For me it’s essential to have a caching and minification plugin to make your WordPress site load faster. My preference is for the Swift Performance plugin. It’s a caching plugin with minification and other functionality built in.
Yes it’s a paid for plugin, but in my view, worth every penny.
Did you know that WordPress automatically saves revisions of your posts as you write? This is in addition to the ones you save manually.
Each one of those revisions is stored separately in your database. So depending on how often you write, that could mean a lot of space being taken up on your host and more importantly, more information for your blog to search through.
There are a couple of plugins you can use to cleanup these extra revisions. WP-Optimize, is your free option. It’s a great option to cleanup your database but you need to make sure you do it regularly.
If you want to automate your database cleanup, you could go for Swift Performance which will also look after your caching needs too.
Making your WordPress site load faster – verdict
As I’ve talked about in this post there are a handful of things you can do to make your WordPress site load faster.
We’ve looked at testing your speed, caching and minification, optimising your images and database and auditing your plugins. These are the key areas to look at to increase your blog loading speeds.