Introduction: How to Speed Up Your WordPress Website (2020)
Does your website take a long time to load?
If so, then you’re likely losing customers.
Potentially a lot of customers.
Research shows that 57% of visitors leave a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
And once people leave your site, there’s a very good chance that they’ll never return.
In fact, they’ll likely go to your competitor’s website and buy from them instead.
Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
Or a fast impression as the case may be.
So how do you speed up your WordPress website?
That’s what I’m going to show you how to do in this blog post!
PLEASE NOTE: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on one of the links and later make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. This helps support the blog and allows me to continue to make free content. I only recommend tools that I have personally used and love. Thank you for your support!
Table of Contents
My Website Speed
Before I show you how to speed up your WordPress website, I want to show you the speed test results from my website.
This is something that I’ve put a lot of work into and as you can see in the screenshot below, my website loads in about 1 second.
Not bad, huh?
Of course, the test results will vary a bit depending on device type, testing location, and other factors.
You may not be able to duplicate my exact results but don’t worry about it.
Anything that you do to speed up your WordPress website is a step in the right direction.
What to Focus on to Speed Up Your WordPress Website
When trying to speed up their WordPress website, too many people focus on the wrong metrics.
They focus on trying to get perfect scores on PageSpeed and/or YSlow.
Some people are actually obsessed with getting perfect scores (I know…I used to be one of them!).
Those scores don’t really matter though.
What matters is how fast your website actually loads!!!
If you have horrible scores on PageSpeed and/or YSlow, but your website loads fast, then don’t worry about it.
So what should you focus on to speed up your WordPress website?
Take a look at the screenshot below:
If your website is slow, then chances are your Total Page Size is too large and/or you have too many Requests.
Reduce your page size and reduce your number of requests and your website will be faster!
STEP 1: Invest in Quality Hosting
If you want to speed up your WordPress website, then it’s critical that you invest in quality hosting.
Quality website hosting is the backbone of website speed.
If you don’t have quality website hosting, then you’ll struggle to have a fast loading website.
My general rule of thumb is to invest in the best webhosting that you can afford.
Hosting definitely is NOT a place where you want to bargain shop.
Of course, other factors come into play, but if your website is slow, then you should start by looking at your website hosting.
So how do you test out your website hosting?
Follow the steps below to see if your website hosting is an issue or not.
Go to GTmetrix and Test Your Site
In order to test your webhost speed, first go to GTmetrix.
Then enter the address of your website, making sure to enter the https or http protocol, depending on which one your website uses.
Then hit the big blue button that says “Test Your Site”.
BTW, you can create a free account on GTmetrix which will allow you to change settings such as testing location, browser, and speed of connection.
Scroll Down and Look at the Waterfall Tab
Once GTmetrix has finished analyzing your website, scroll down and click on the tab that says Waterfall.
On the Waterfall Tab, Look at the Dark Purple Bar on the First Line
On the Waterfall tab, you want to look at the very first line (the one that only has a “/” under URL.
Hover over the colored bar and you’ll see a box pop up.
Scan down the box until you see the dark purple bar.
Take note of the waiting time for the dark purple time.
This will tell you how long it takes for your webhost to start delivering your website to your visitors.
You want the waiting time to be 200 milliseconds or less.
If it is, then you have a good website host.
If you see a waiting time of more than 200 milliseconds, then go to the next step.
Contact Your Webhost and/or Change Webhosts
If your waiting time in your Waterfall is greater than 200 milliseconds, then your first step should be to contact your webhosting company.
Perhaps there’s a setting that they can change that will reduce your waiting time.
If not, then you will probably need to change hosting companies, particularly if your waiting time is a LOT greater than 200 milliseconds.
If you need to change hosting companies, then the company that I can personally recommend is FastComet.
I’ve been with FastComet for about a year and my wait time as measured by GTmetricx is significantly less then 200 milliseconds.
You can check out my full review of FastComet webhosting here.
STEP 2: Invest in a Quality Caching Plugin
Caching plugins are one of the best ways to speed up your WordPress website.
In general, here’s what a caching plugin does:
So what a caching plugin does is create a static version of your web page that it delivers to your visitors. This means that when a visitor returns to your site to view it again, they will see a cached version.
This is one way that a caching plugin can speed up your WordPress website.
Many of these features will reduce your file size and therefore speed up your WordPress website.
Now you can use a free plugin for your caching if you want.
What I found on my website is that it was a LOT faster once I swtiched from a free caching plugin to a paid one (WP Rocket).
Of course, that’s easy to say.
How about a little proof?
You can also check out my full WP Rocket review here.
STEP 3: Optimize and Compress Your Images
The next step to speed up your WordPress website is to optimize and compress your images.
Images that are the wrong size or that are too big can slow down the loading of your website.
Although they both involve images, they are two completely separate issues so we will look at them one at a time.
Optimize Your Images
Often the size at which you upload your images is different than the size at which they’re displayed to your website visitors.
If so, this will slow down your website.
So here’s what you need to do to fix that issue.
First, go back to your GTmetrix report.
This time, you will click on the tab that says PageSpeed.
Then look and see if you have any messages that say “Serve Scaled Images”.
Here is an example from the AppSumo website.
As you can see, they have three images on their website that were uploaded at 900 x 600 pixels, but that are being displayed at 299 x 200 pixels.
So if you have this problem, how can you fix it?
You have to take that image and re-size it to the exact dimensions that GTmetrix tells you.
Once you have the image sized to the correct dimensions, just upload it to WordPress and use it to replace the original image.
You can then re-run GTmetrix on your website to verify that you no longer see that Serve Scaled Images issue.
Compress Your Images
Once you’ve optimized your images, the next step is to compress the file size of the image.
In other words, to make the file size smaller.
You can either do this before you upload the images to WordPress or after you upload them.
If you want to compress your images before you upload them to WordPress, then search Google for “Online Image Compressor” or something similar.
(please note: There are plenty of free online programs for compressing images. There’s no need to pay for this service).
With some of the online image compressors, you’ll have some choices as to how strong you want the compression to be.
You will lose image quality the stronger you compress your images.
However, in most cases, loss of image quality will be undetectable to your website viewers.
For example. take a look at my list of recommended tools.
All of the images on that page were manually compressed, using the strongest compression possible.
Take a look for yourself, but in my opinion, any drop in image quality is undetectable.
If you’re a professional photographer displaying your images online, then you should be concerned with loss of image quality.
But for the vast majority of other people, this is not an issue to worry about.
If you prefer to compress your images after you upload them to WordPress, then there are a variety of plugins that can help you with this.
This is a good method to use if you have a lot of images and don’t want to compress them one by one.
However, depending on how many images you have, you may need to pay a minimal free to compress your images.
I am currently using Webcraftic Robin Image Optimizer, a 100% free plugin, to compress the images on my website.
Another option that many people like is ShortPixel, which is free for up to 100 images a month.
STEP 4: Minimize the Impact of External Files
External files are one of the biggest factors that slow down websites.
External files are files that are displayed on your website but that aren’t actually hosted on WordPress.
Instead these files are hosted elsewhere.
Which means that when someone visits your website, those files have to be pulled from the external source in order to display your website properly.
Here are some examples of external files that you might be slowing down your website:
These are just a few examples.
There are lots of other external files that can slow down your website.
So how can you tell which external files are loading on your website?
Go back to your GTmetrx report and take a look at your Waterfall.
Look at the 3rd column labeled “Domain”.
That column should tell you where you should start looking for external files that are slowing down your website.
But the question is this:
What can you do about those external files that are slowing down your website?
You basically have three options.
Get rid of anything that you don't absolutely need
Take a look at your website.
And be honest about what is essential and what is only “nice to have”.
Some files that slow down your website add value and are worth keeping.
For example, a chat plugin may slow down your website.
But it may also increase your number of leads and/or sales.
In that case, it makes sense to accept that your website will load a little slower.
Other files that slow down your website are less essential.
For example, do you really need all those icons slowing down your website?
And what about Google Fonts? Yes, they look nice, but they also slow down your website.
Those are just two examples but you get the idea.
So look at your Waterfall and see what is slowing down your website.
Then decide which of those are worth keeping because they add value to your business.
And which to remove because they don’t add sufficent value to your business.
Find an alternative that has a smaller impact
Let’s say that you find that your chat plugin is slowing down your website.
But a chat plugin is also essential to your business.
One option is to find a chat plugin that has a smaller impact on your website load time.
You can do this with all the various external elements that are slowing down your website, replacing them with better performing options.
Reduce the impact of the external files
The last option for dealing with external files is to minimize their impact as best as you can.
You may not be able to do this with all of the external files that slow down your website.
But any impact that you can mimimize will help speed up your WordPress website.
For example, WP Rocket has free add-ons that you use to improve the browser caching for Google Analytics and the Facebook Pixel.
Here are some additional tools that you can use to minimize the impact of external files:
For handing Google fonts, my go-to-option is a free plugin called Optimzie My Google Fonts (OMGF).
OMGF downloads the fonts you want to your WordPress contents folder and generate a stylesheet for it.
This removes any requests to external Google Fonts.
Asset Cleanup is a free plugin that allows you to turn off components on pages where you don’t need them.
These are just two examples.
There are other tools that you can use to minimize the impact of external files.
But OMGF and Asset Cleanup are two that I personally use and can recommend.
STEP 5: Eliminate Unnecessary WordPress Files
The final step you can take to speed up your WordPress website is to eliminate unnecessary files.
First a question though:
Did you know that WordPress loads a lots of unnecessary files on your website?
And that those files can slow down your website?
I’ve been using WordPress for years and only recently found out abou this issue.
So there’s a good chance that you didn’t know about it either.
So what can you do about this?
The easiest solution that I’ve found is to use a plugin called Webcraftic Clearfy.
It’s an easy to set-up plugin with lots of one-click settings.
Plus there are more advanced options for those who are interested in fine-tuning things.
Recommended Tools to Speed Up Your WordPress Website
Below is a list of the various tools mentioned in this blog post.
Image Optimization and Compression
I really hope you found value in my suggestions to speed up your WordPress website.
And now I’d like to hear from you.
Which step from this blog post are you going to try first?
Or do you have other tips, tools, or suggestions to speed up a WordPress website?
Either way, let me know by leaving a quick comment below.