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Increase your WordPress speed: The set up


Rob Migchels
Increase your WordPress speed: The set up

Every second of loading removes 7% conversion [source], on average. Does your WooCommerce website make €1000 a day? Every second costs you about €25,550! I’ve recently managed to make this site load under 300 milliseconds. Maybe it’s because I am bored of slow websites, but I’ll gladly help you achieve faster results too.

Speedtest results

Update: Speedtest results from 11 october 2017.

In my experience, the average WordPress website loads in between 2 and 6 seconds. According to research by the Aberdeen Group, you’ve already lost about 16% of your visitors before they saw your website. Is your website even slower than 6 seconds? Don’t be surprised if your loss in visitors is over 30%. In order to increase your WordPress speed, you need to prepare. This article will be part of a series in the future.

The Preparations

It’s important to have a solid foundation for your WordPress website. In my case, these points make up the majority of my own foundation:

  • A fast and reliable hosting provider: DigitalOcean, in combination with an easy to understand, but powerful under the hood control panel: ServerPilot.
  • I use CloudFlare for DNS management, caching and a secure layer of protection.
  • A well-coded WordPress theme. You can test the speed of themes easily, use Google PageSpeed to test their page. I find a score above 70 acceptable.

Prevent your pages from containing a lot of photos or embeds (such as videos, ads, tweets..). These bog down your loading times quickly, because they often need multiple external libraries. If you need to use a lot of photos, make sure they’re optimized for web.

The Plugin

There are many WordPress plugins that promise to make your website blazing fast, but very few actually help. I’ve tried some of the plugins that do work, and found out that they’re all good in different ways. This is mostly up to your expectations and demands.

If speed is your most important aspect, and you don’t fear the technical work my suggestion is W3 Total Cache. This plugin is very comprehensive, but can be a pain in the ass to configure correctly, and every installation seems to have it’s own best config. If you prefer a plug and play solution, WP Super Cache is your plugin – there’s barely any settings and the results are still very decent!

How to deal with big photos

I’ve often seen people uploading huge photo files with sizes over 1MB. I find this unacceptable, and best practices agree with me. Whenever you upload media you should make sure it’s optimized for web usage, consider cutting down the resolution or compromise the file size. Compromising photos means you remove little details from your photos, often automatically, which results in a smaller file size with unnoticeable detail loss. I use Adobe Photoshop Essentials to achieve both, but there are plugins that can help to an extent.

I’ve used WP Smush successfully in the past, it’s free up to a certain amount of photos, after which you have to pay or wait for the next month.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) downloads a part of your website and serves the files from an external source which is optimized to serve static files. This has a multitude of benefits.

  • A CDN can store your files in multiple locations on the globe. This means that international visitors get served the files from a server close to that visitor’s physical location.
  • Websites often contain many different files which make up the page. Browsers can only download one file after the other per domain. Using multiple domains increases this limit per used domain.
  • A CDN is specialized in file delivery. This means they’re often faster at server static files compared to your own server.
  • It decreases the load on your own server, which makes it quicker to respond.

Lazy loading

Have you heard of lazy loading? It’s a technique which makes it possible to load the content as your visitor scrolls the page. Meaning only the visible parts have been loaded. This spreads the load of the website, meaning it can start with just the essential files, leaving out embeds and photos to load later. The downer is that images may take a bit longer to load compared to the speed in which your visitor scrolls down your page.

Turn off trackbacks & pingbacks

Trackbacks & Pingbacks are used to notify you whenever someone linked to an article on your website. These notifications are often spam, but do occupy your server load. Turning off this (often useless) function is easy: you can disable it from your admin dashboard under Settings > Reactions.

The conclusion

This is just the foundation of a fast website. These suggestions don’t require technical knowledge. To get the best out of your website you probably need to make code manipulations. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Has your WordPress website become any faster thanks to these steps? I’d love to hear about your results in the comments!

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