WordPress is the most popular website CMS, or content management system in the world. With over 28 million websites currently built on the platform, and 2nd place going to Wix at 4.5 million websites on that platform, it’s safe to say that most websites are built on WordPress.
Web designers, digital marketers, and business owners alike have been thinking about website site speed due to Google’s incoming Page Experience Update, which you can learn more about HERE. Geek Powered Studios is no exception, as we’ve been testing the best and most efficient ways to improve our client’s WordPress website speed since the Page Experience Update was first announced in 2020.
In this Part 2 to our Preparing For Google’s Page Experience blog post, we’d like to share with you some of the things we’ve been doing to improve site speed on the world’s most popular CMS, WordPress.
Why Do Some WordPress Websites Load Slowly?
Before we look at some ways to fix a slow WordPress website, it’s a good idea to understand exactly what slows down WordPress websites. Understanding why your website is loading slowly will help you narrow down the steps you need to take to fix it. Most often, WordPress sites load slowly because:
- Slow, low quality hosting that doesn’t meet the needs of the website. Oftentimes, too much traffic or larger website elements can simply outpace the hosting providers offerings.
- No caching, or caching plugins installed on your WordPress website. Caching allows users to efficiently reuse previously retrieved content on your website.
- Content delivery networks, also known as CDNs can reduce the load on your website’s hosting. If your website doesn’t have a CDN, it can lead to slow load times.
- Large images on a website can take a long time to load, especially on mobile devices that aren’t connected to the Internet. If your large images aren’t compressed or in next-generation formats, this can lead to long load times on your WordPress website.
- Outdated PHP code, plugins, or WordPress versions can lead to bugs that increase load time. Additionally, excessive code and unused plugins can also contribute to a website taking a long time to load.
Now that you know some of the potential issues that are causing your WordPress site to load slowly, we’ll walk you through some ways to improve WordPress site speed.
Fix 1: Improve Your Website Hosting
If you don’t know who your website hosting provider is, then you probably need to improve your website hosting plan. Often, your website hosting will come from the same place you purchased your domain or one of the major hosting providers, like BlueHost, Hostgator, or GoDaddy. These hosting providers are notorious for being slow and incapable of supporting websites with high amounts of traffic, as well as having questionable customer service.
Look into WordPress hosting platforms that are built for the platform specifically. Siteground, Cloudways, WPX Hosting, and Kinsta are all great options, but here at Geek Powered Studios, we use WP Engine.
When you choose to build a new website with Geek Powered Studios, you won’t have to worry about your hosting whatsoever. We’ll get you set up on the fastest and most efficient hosting provider for your WordPress website.
Fix 2: Install A Caching Plugin
One of the best ways to get your WordPress website running fast is to utilize caching. Caching prebuilds each page of your website so all of the processing is done in the background, before the page is even requested from the user. WordPress website owners should look at plugins like WP Rocket, which is paid, but efficient in getting the job done. WP Rocket is by far the easiest caching plugin to set up yourself. On the other hand, for those that are more tech savvy, W3 Total Cache is a great free alternative to WP Rocket.
Many hosting providers, including WP Engine, have caching built into their hosting services, which is one of the factors that make these hosting providers so fast. Plugins like WP Rocket include additional benefits like image and text compression, so it’s probably a good idea to use the plugins instead of your hosting provider’s built-in caching program.
Keep in mind, installing multiple caching plugins can lead to big visual and database issues for your website. At Geek Powered Studios, we set up each of our websites with the best caching programs on the market. That way, business owners don’t have to worry about any issues popping up on their website as a result of a faulty caching tool plugin setup.
Fix 3: Configure Cloudflare Or Another CDN
For most websites, Cloudflare is all you need in terms of a content delivery network, or CDN. Content delivery networks are composed of multiple servers around the world that host copies of websites. CDNs are critical for sites that serve an international audience, as CDN servers will pull code from servers that are closest to the user. For instance, if your business is based in Texas, and you serve customers in Germany, a CDN will serve your website from a server in Europe as opposed to one in Texas, which is closer to the user. This is a surefire way to increase your site speed.
Cloudflare is the easiest to set up out of any CDN, is the fastest CDN in the world, and for most websites, the free plan will be all you need. If you have a larger website with certain security restrictions, Cloudflare might not be the best choice for you. That’s why Geek Powered Studios recommends choosing an experienced digital marketing company like ourselves to help you establish a content delivery network for your WordPress website. CDNs can be a complicated part of your website, and to avoid misconfiguration, it’s best to leave that job to the professionals.
Fix 4: Compress Images Or Serve Them In Next-Gen Formats
Compressed images, or images served in next generation formats are one of the things that Google looks for specifically in their PageSpeed Insights report. Luckily for WordPress users, there are a number of plugins that can compress your images easily. WP Rocket is one of those plugins, and the one that we’ve been using for the most part. We take it to another level by serving images in WebP format, which provides entirely lossless compression for images, and is one of the formats that Google specifically lists as an alternative to JPEGs and PNGs in their PageSpeed Insights report. Compressing images and serving them in next gen formats can easily take entire seconds off of a website’s load time.
Fix 5: Ensure PHP, WordPress Versions Are Up To Date & Remove Unused Plugins
Finally, the last easy step you can take to speed up your WordPress website is to ensure your PHP and WordPress versions are up to date, and there are no unused plugins causing code bloat on the website. “Code bloat” is when there is unused code on a website that is loaded by servers and CDNs which can increase load times unnecessarily.
Additionally, it’s estimated that each version of PHP is 10-20% faster than the previous version. For example, if your site is still on PHP version 5.6, it could be 20-40% faster by simply updating to PHP 7.4, which is the latest version as of this writing.
Unused plugins are the most common reason a WordPress website experiences code bloat. WordPress Websites with unused themes are also susceptible to code bloat.
For those trying to DIY speed improvements on a WordPress website, it can be a little daunting to make these updates or code removals as they’re unsure what will or will not break. Before doing it yourself, make sure you have your website backed up on your hosting provider so you can restore it in the event it breaks.
Alternatively, you can let the experts at Geek Powered Studios assist you in updating your WordPress website and removing unnecessary code. We ensure that your site will be faster than ever, with your favorite elements in place once we’re done speeding it up.
Is Your Website Still Slow & Not Passing The PageSpeed Insights Assessment? Let The Geeks Handle It!
These 5 fixes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to speeding up a WordPress website. We selected these 5 fixes to share with our readers as they are some of the easiest to deploy for those that are inexperienced with web development. If you tried these fixes, and your website is still slow and failing the PageSpeed Insights assessment, let the Geeks take a swing at it. We’ve been working on improving the site speed of our clients for over a year, and we ask you to take a look at our PageSpeed Insights Report here to see what we’ve been able to do for our own WordPress website. If you’re looking to improve your WordPress website speed, let the Geeks at Geek Powered Studios get the job done.