WordPress Speed Optimization Guide

WordPress speed optimization doesn’t have to be hard. You can improve the performance of WordPress dramatically, by getting the essentials right. In this short best practices guide, I’ll show you exactly how to optimize WordPress speed, quickly and without much effort.

1. Use the Fastest WordPress Hosting Provider

Website speed is tied to a number of things. These are the number of HTTP request the browser makes to the web server, response times, and the size of the code, scripts, and content that’s fetched. Logically, the speed at which the webserver can process those requests also depends on the hardware and the physical distance between the web browser and the server.

How to set up High Performance WordPress through Cloudways

Note: the internet is riddled with articles and guides about (supposedly) the ‘fastest WordPress hosting’. Understand that most of those posts will just list a top 10 list of ‘best WordPress hosting providers’, based on how much commission they can get from a sale.

The performance of your WordPress website depends on many things, including hardware specifications, location of your server in relation to the audience you’re trying to reach, the number of CPUs and memory (of your webserver), and a plethora of other things

For example, in most articles fail to mention from which locations they were ‘testing’, how heavy the loaded images are, which plugin was installed, which PHP version is used, what web server (Nginx or Apache) is serving your pages, how many database calls were made (and I could go on).

Do not be fooled by those ‘best WordPress Hosting provider’ top 10 lists, where almost none of the points mentioned earlier are discussed. I can definitely recommend going with a fast VPS cloud provider, that allows you to scale up your hardware if more performance is needed. That way, you don’t pay for what you don’t need.

2. Get the Fastest WordPress Theme – Astra Pro

Using a speedy theme for your site is essential. A professionally coded, lightweight theme, can reduce load times dramatically. It’s important to choose a theme, which makes it easy to build a professional-looking WordPress site while sacrificing as little as possible in performance.

I use Astra Pro for all my client’s web sites, as well as my own projects. It’s know to be the fastest theme for WordPress. Astra theme comes in two flavors, namely the free version and a Pro version. Where the free version is limited, the Pro version offers options for customization, such as page design, header design, and custom layouts.

Note: a number of WordPress themes claim to be the ‘fastest WordPress theme’. In the end, no single WordPress theme can honestly claim this fact. The reason is that the speed of your WordPress site depends on all of the factors (listed in this article) put together. You could have the fastest WordPress theme ever installed, yet, it’s easy to destroy performance by neglecting all other important points.

3. Always use a Caching Plugin

4. Take advantage of a CDN

A content delivery network is a service that will store your content on their servers in order to serve it to your visitors. These servers can be located anywhere in the world. This is similar to regular caching. The difference is that visitors can be served content from a server that is closer to their own geographical location. This relieves stress on your web hosting server and can hugely improve load times.

There are a number of good CDN services available, which is why choosing can be difficult. If you have a website that receives a lot of traffic, I recommend going with a paid service like StackPath (formerly MaxCDN). They have servers around the world and support is phenomenal. If you have a smaller website, or you’re on a budget, you can definitely get away with a free CDN service such as Cloudflare.

5. Implement Selective Asset Loading

Another effective optimization technique I use is loading scripts only on the pages that need them. If you take a look in the chrome developers console (ctrl + shift + i), under the ‘network tab’, you can see which scripts are loaded on a web page (hit refresh if you don’t see anything). The waterfall also shows you how long it took for those scripts to be loaded. If you don’t need that particular script on that specific page, it means that it’s slowing it down for no reason.

I use the Asset Cleanup plugin in order to selectively load scripts on specific pages. This way you can decide that specific scripts that you don’t want to be loaded on certain pages of your website, won’t be requested. This can drastically improve the load times. Be sure, however, to not disable scripts that are necessary for the functionality of your pages.

6. Use Image Compression

Images are usually the heaviest pieces of the loaded content. More than often I see that the use of heavy images is the reason for slow loading times. By using compression, the requested images are reduced in size, without sacrificing too much quality. This, in turn, reduces strain on your web server and improves load times.

My choice for WordPress Image compression is Optimole. I recommend this service because they’re a one-stop solution, meaning there’s not set up hassle. The plugin is very easy to set up and you can start experiencing better performance instantly. Optimole also serves your images through a CDN, which improves speed even more.

7. Minimize Installed Plugins

Every plugin uses resources. Think about CPU processing power for HTTP requests, database calls or reading files from the SSD. Again, this comes at a cost, namely performance. Through some plugins are more lightweight than others, it’s best practice to remove the ones you don’t need. Not only will this free up resources and make WordPress Faster, but also decrease potential incompatibilities.

How do you know which plugins are negatively affecting performance? Very simple. You can switch off the plugins that are installed one by one and test performance with, and without the plugin activated. In order to asses performance, you can use the tools provided at the end of this article. Finally, you decide if the plugin is important enough to keep, or that you will search for a better alternative.

Note: even the ‘best WordPress plugins’, like for example WooCommerce (yes, you’ll also find many ‘best WordPress Plugins’lists on the web) will affect your web site performance. There’s no such thing as the ‘best WordPress plugin’.

8. Always use the best PHP / MySQL versions

PHP 7.x is at least twice as fast as PHP 5.x. If you want WordPress to be fast, it’s important to use the latest version. Web hosting providers will allow you to select your preferred versions for PHP and MySQL in the admin panel (cPanel, or whatever they are using). Always make sure to select the latest (but stable) versions. Also, remember to first check used plugins to support the selected version.

9. Keep your WordPress Database Optimized

The WordPress database can get clogged with information that’s unnecessary and reduces performance. I’m talking about unused post revisions, spam comments, orphaned metadata and so on. These pieces of data are not needed and can be removed safely using a database optimization plugin.

I use WP-Sweep to optimize my WordPress databases. It allows me to clean up the database from unwanted data with just 1 click. This, in turn, reduces the size and increases the performance. From all database cleaning plugins, I’ve found WP-Sweep to be the most effective.

How to Check Site Performance

Always check the performance of your site, before and after making an optimization. I use a number of tools for this, namely GTmetrix, Pingdom, and Pagespeed insights. Don’t get too concerned with all the information you are served. In the end, the most important metric is the one that tells you how long it takes to load the site.

Lex Gabrees

Digital Marketing Strategist
I build cutting edge digital marketing strategies that seamlessly align with your business goals.

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Privacy

This Privacy Policy describes how your personal information is collected, used, and shared when you visit or make a purchase from this website. It is policy to respect your privacy regarding any information that might be collected while operating this website.

Summary

  • We do not store any privacy-sensitive data about you unless you give consent to do so. For example: if you subscribe to one of our email newsletters.
  • We do not collect any personally identifying data in web server logs.  Actually, we don’t hold any logs at all, meaning we do not store your IP address on our server(s).
  • Whenever we work with partners who store IP addresses, we make sure they comply with EU privacy law.
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  • We use analytics tools, tracking services and advertising services, which are compliant with the EU privacy law and are registered with the US-EU privacy shield. We select our partners to be of the highest quality in regard to their service as well as their privacy and security policies.
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Personal information that’s collected

When you visit the Site, we automatically collect certain information about your device, including information about your web browser, (anonymized) IP address, time zone, and some of the cookies that are installed on your device. Additionally, as you browse the site, we collect information about the individual web pages you view, which links you click, what websites or search terms referred you to the site and information about how you interact with the site.

From this point on we will refer to this automatically-collected information as “Device Information.”

Our purpose in device information is to better understand how our visitors use this website so that we can make better choices about the content we serve our audience(s) and optimize our advertising message(s). For example: if we notice that a certain topic (or article) on the site is more popular than others, we might serve our audience more similar content. In regard to advertising messaging, we make choices based on device information in order to make our message(s) more interesting for new audiences and more relevant to existing audiences.

We collect Device Information using the following technologies:

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  • “Email subscription forms” – these are used in order to collect your name and email address when you decide to sign up for one of our newsletters.  We use EU privacy law compliant forms and store the information with compliant and trusted partners.

How your personal information is used

We use the information which we collect to make a better choice about the type of content we serve our audience. This means that we analyze the aggregated information we collect and determine which articles, videos, email articles, product offers and so forth, our audience(s) are most engaged with. Based on the conclusions we draw from this information this we decide which new content to add to the site.

Additionally, we use the device information that we collect to help improve and optimize the functioning of our Site. For example, by generating analytics about how our customers browse and interact with the site, we can redesign the user experience to better suit the needs of our visitors (think about better and more clear navigation to certain parts of the site).

We also use the information we collect from cookies to assess the success of our marketing and advertising campaigns. In some cases, we use the information in the cookies in order to set up advertising and where applicable retargeting campaigns. Retargeting campaigns are advertising campaigns that allow us to serve you relevant and personalized advertisements or commercial messages on other sites.

Cookies and tracking technologies

We use tracking technologies, such as cookies and pixel tags on this site.

Cookies are small pieces of text that are placed on your computer. They hold simple information for various different reasons. Cookies can be deleted at any time. There are different types of cookies, for different tools and they all have different functions. These cookies have a specific lifetime set to them. This means that after this time passes, the Cookie deletes itself.

We place cookies because the bits of information that the cookie holds make it possible for us to:

  • improve the way the site works,
  • serve you better content, because it’s more relevant to your interest(s),
  • increase our reach by using targeted advertising and retargeting advertising. This means that if we run advertising through one of our trusted partners, you might see advertising messages that are relevant to your interests, instead of irrelevant ads on other sites. In this case, the messages will be relevant to your interests. If you opt-out of cookies, you will still see advertising on other sites, however, the chances are bigger that the ads will be irrelevant to your interests.

You can read about cookies and the different types of cookies we place in our cookie policy.

Sharing and transferring your personal information

We share your personal information with EU privacy law compliant partner to help us use your Personal Information, as described in the paragraphs above. Whenever our partners are not located in the EU, we make sure that our partners are registered members of the US-EU Privacy Shield, to ensure the security of your personal information.

As described above, we use your Personal Information to provide you with targeted advertisements or marketing communications we believe may be of interest to you. For more information about how targeted advertising works, you can visit the Network Advertising Initiative (“NAI”) educational page.

Finally, we may also share your Personal Information to comply with applicable laws and regulations, to respond to a subpoena, search warrant, or other lawful requests for information we receive, or to otherwise protect our rights.

Opting out of targeted advertising

We use targeted advertising technologies in order to improve the relevance of the advertisement message for our audience and in order to increase our reach. You can opt-out of the cookies that make this possible in several ways, however, you this does not mean that you will suddenly not see ads. It means that you will not see our advertisements messages, which are tailored to your interest, and might see relevant messages from other companies that use the same advertising services as we do.

You can read how to opt-out of cookies that make the above possible in our cookie policy.

Do not track

Please note that we do not alter our Site’s data collection and use practices when we see a Do Not Track signal from your browser.

Your rights as an EU citizen

As noted above, we do not keep any web server logs. However, our partners such as email list hosts, analytics services, and some tracking services do. As stated, we work with EU privacy law compliant partners and the data retention time they adhere to is listed in their policies. You can find a list of all our partners and links to their policies in our cookie policy.

Retaining, modifying, and erasing your information

If you are a European resident, you have the right to access personal information we hold about you and to ask that your personal information be corrected, updated, or deleted. If you would like to exercise this right, please contact us through the form on the contact page.

Additionally, if you are a European resident we note that we are processing your information in order to fulfill contracts we might have with you (for example if you make an order through the site), or otherwise to pursue our legitimate business interests listed above. Additionally, please note that your information will be transferred outside of Europe, including Canada and the United States to our trusted partners.

Changes to this policy

We may update this privacy policy from time to time in order to reflect, for example, changes to our practices or for other operational, legal or regulatory reasons.

Contact me

For more information about our privacy practices, if you have questions, or if you would like to make a complaint, please contact me email through the form on this page.