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The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Speed & Performance

The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Speed & Performance

Do you want to speed up your WordPress site? Fast loading pages improve user experience, increase your pageviews, and help with your WordPress SEO. In this article, we will share the most useful WordPress speed optimization tips to WordPress performance and speed up your website.

We tried to cover everything from why speed is important, what slows down your WordPress site, and actionable steps that you can take to improve your WordPress speed immediately.

To make it easy, we have created a table of contents to help you navigate through our ultimate guide to speeding up your WordPress site.

Why Speed is Important for Your WordPress Site?


Studies have shown that site-loading speed of more than 2 seconds usually results in about 47 percent of visitors bouncing off the website. So, to keep about half of your visitors interested, you should speed up your WordPress. Online buyers are the most impatient lot; they expect the page to load within a second.

According to a Strange Loop case study that involved Amazon, Google, and other larger sites, a 1 second delay in page load time can lead to 7% loss in conversions, 11% fewer page views, and 16% decrease in customer satisfaction.

On top of that, Google and other search engines have already started penalizing slower websites by pushing them down in the search results which means lower traffic for slow websites.

To sum it all up, if you want more traffic, subscribers, and revenue from your website, then you must make your WordPress website FAST!

How to Check Your WordPress Website Speed?

Often beginners think that their website is OK just because it doesn’t feel slow on their computer. That’s a HUGE mistake.

Since you frequently visit your own website, modern browsers like Chrome store your website in the cache and automatically prefetch it as soon as you start typing an address. This makes your website load almost instantly.

However, a normal user who is visiting your website for the first time may not have the same experience.

In fact, users in different geographical locations will have a completely different experience.

This is why we recommend that you test your website speed using a tool like GTmetix’s  WordPress speed test.

After you run your website speed test, you might be wondering what’s a good website speed that I should aim for?

However, the faster you can make it, the better it is. A few milliseconds of improvements here and there can add up to shaving off half or even a full second from your load time.

What Slows Down Your WordPress Website?

Your speed test report will likely have multiple recommendations for improvement. However, most of that is technical jargon which is hard for beginners to understand.

Learning what slows down your website is the key to improving performance and making smarter long-term decisions.

The primary causes for a slow WordPress website are:

  • Web Hosting – When your web hosting server is not properly configured it can hurt your website speed.
  • WordPress Configuration – If your WordPress site is not serving cached pages, then it will overload your server thus causing your website to be slow or crash entirely.
  • Page Size – Mainly images that aren’t optimized for web.
  • Bad Plugins – If you’re using a poorly coded plugin, then it can significantly slow down your website.
  • External scripts – External scripts such as ads, font loaders, etc can also have a huge impact on your website performance.

Now that you know what slows down your WordPress website, let’s take a look at how to speed up your WordPress website.

Speeding Up WordPress in Easy Steps (No Coding)

We know that making changes to your website configuration can be a terrifying thought for beginners, especially if you’re not a tech-geek.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone. We have helped thousands of WordPress users improve their WordPress performance.

Install a WordPress Caching Plugin

WordPress pages are “dynamic.” This means they’re built on the fly every time someone visits a post or page on your website.

To build your pages, WordPress has to run a process to find the required information, put it all together, and then display it to your user.

This process involves a lot of steps, and it can really slow down your website when you have multiple people visiting it at once.

That’s why we recommend every WordPress site use a caching plugin. Caching can make your WordPress site anywhere from 2x to 5x faster.

Here’s how it works.

Instead of going through the whole page generation process every time, your caching plugin makes a copy of the page after the first load, and then serves that cached version to every subsequent user.

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As you can see in the graphics above, when a user visits your WordPress site, your server retrieves information from a MySQL database and your PHP files. It then puts it all together into HTML content which is served to the user.

Optimize Images for Speed

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Images bring life to your content and help boost engagement. Researchers have found that using colored visuals makes people 80% more likely to read your content.

However, if your images aren’t optimized, then they could be hurting more than helping. In fact, optimized images are one of the most common speed issues that we see on beginner websites.

In their original formats, these photos can have huge file sizes. But based on the image file format and the compression you choose in your editing software, you can decrease your image size by up to 5x.

At WPBeginner, we only use two image formats: JPEG and PNG.

Now you might be wondering: what’s the difference?

Well, PNG image format is uncompressed. When you compress an image it loses some information, so an uncompressed image will be higher quality with more detail. The downside is that it’s a larger file size, so it takes longer to load.

JPEG, on the other hand, is a compressed file format which slightly reduces image quality, but it’s significantly smaller in size.

So how do we decide which image format to choose?

  • If our photo or image has a lot of different colors, then we use JPEG.
  • If it’s a simpler image or we need a transparent image, then we use PNG.

The majority of our images are JPEGs.

Below is a comparison chart of the file sizes and different compression tool that we could have used for the StrangeLoop image used above.

Image speed chart

As you can see in the chart, the image format you use can make a HUGE difference in website performance.

WordPress Performance Optimization Best Practices

After installing a caching plugin and optimizing your images, you’ll notice your site will start loading a lot faster.

But if you really want to keep your website as fast as possible, you’ll need to use the best practices listed below.

These tips aren’t too technical, so you don’t need to know any code to implement them. But using them will prevent common problems that will slow down your website.

Keep Your WordPress Site Updated

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As a well maintained open source project, WordPress is updated frequently. Each update will not only offer new features but it will also fix security issues and bugs. Your WordPress theme and plugins may have regular updates, too.

Optimize Background Processes

Background processes in WordPress are scheduled tasks that run in the background of your WordPress site. Following are some examples of background tasks that run on a WordPress site:

  • WordPress Backup plugin tasks
  • WordPress cron jobs to publish scheduled posts
  • WordPress cron jobs to check for updates
  • Search engines and other crawlers trying to fetch content

Tasks like cron jobs for scheduled posts and updates have minimal impact on website performance.

However, other background processes like backup plugins and excessive crawling by search engines can slow down a website.

Use a Theme Optimized For Speed

Choose a theme optimized for speed

When selecting a theme for your website, it’s important to pay special attention to speed optimization. Some beautiful and impressive-looking themes are actually poorly coded and can slow your site way down.

It’s usually better to go with a simpler theme than to choose a theme that’s bloated with complex layouts, flashy animations, and other unnecessary features. You can always add those features using quality WordPress plugins.

Before you activate your new theme, see our guide on how to properly switch your WordPress theme for a smooth transition.

Optimize WordPress Database

WordPress database optimization

After using WordPress for a while, your database will have lots of information that you probably don’t need any more. For improved performance, you can optimize your database to get rid of all that unnecessary information.

This can be easily managed with the Next3 AWS plugin. It allows you to clean your WordPress database by deleting things like trashed posts, revisions, unused tags, etc. It will also optimize your database’s structure with just a click.

See our guide on how to optimize and clean up your WordPress database for improved performance.

Use Latest PHP Version

WordPress is mainly written in the PHP programming language. It is a server side language, which means it is installed and runs on your hosting server.

All good WordPress hosting companies use the most stable PHP version on their servers. However, it is possible that your hosting company is running a slightly older PHP version.

The newer PHP 7 is two times faster than its predecessors. That’s a huge performance boost that your website must take advantage of.

You can see which PHP version your site is using by installing and activating the Version Info plugin.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Written by

William Jhonson

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