We live in a world of instant everything – instant food, instant access to movies and TV shows via streaming services, instant photos on our smartphones – so it’s not really surprising that a large percentage of people don’t want to wait around for a web page to load. That’s probably why you’re looking for tips on how to speed up WordPress, right?
A slow website can cost you heavily – visitors will bounce back to the search engine if your pages don’t load quickly, especially on mobile devices, and Google ranks websites higher if they load fast on smartphones and tablets. If you don’t want to risk losing visitors to your competitors with faster-loading websites, you need to know how to make your pages load faster.
There are several ways to speed up WordPress performance. These tactics include:
- compressing images
- deactivating unnecessary plugins
- optimizing your database
- using a caching plugin
- ensuring you’re using the right hosting
By following these easy-to-implement strategies, your WordPress site should run faster than before.
Why You Can’t Risk Having a Slow-Loading Website
According to research from Portent, a website that loads in 1 second gets 3x more conversions (such as a purchase, link click, or signup) than a website that takes 5 seconds to load. Imagine that each conversion on your website earns you $100. If your website loads in 5 seconds, you get $100, but if it loads in 1 second, you get $300.
In simple terms, if you can boost the speed of your WordPress website, you can increase your earnings. But if you leave your website loading slowly, you’re losing out on potential income.
That’s without considering the number of people who click away in frustration if they’re made to wait for a page to load. To illustrate, research from Google shows that a massive 53% of mobile visitors abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load. They’ll bounce back to Google and click on the next link in the search results – likely ending up on a competitor’s site. Your slow website could actually be boosting your competitors’ profits.
A slow website also impacts your SEO – since 2018, Google has been using mobile-first indexing, meaning that websites that load fast on mobile devices will rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs). The lower you are in the search results, the less likely people are to click on your page.
Any online business depends on getting traffic to important pages, but if your website is on page 2 or 3 (or worse, not even in the top 50 search results), you’ll have to depend on other means of driving traffic to your website, such as paid ads.
Faster pages encourage visitors to stay on your site longer and increase engagement. In addition, a fast website is also better for SEO, and 70% of customers say that the speed of a website’s page determines whether or not they purchase a product or service.
Compressing and Optimizing Images to Speed Up WordPress
Compressing images helps speed up page load times on websites. Optimizing images for web use also makes them easier to view on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
There are several ways that you can compress and/or optimize the images on your website:
- By using a file format that produces smaller file sizes, such as WebP. Free online tools such as Bulk Resize Photos make it easy to convert your images to smaller formats and file sizes before you upload them to your website.
- Properly sizing your images before uploading. Even if you get your images from free sites like Unsplash or Freepik, the image dimensions are often very large (e.g., 3200x2345px). If you upload images without resizing them first, this can dramatically slow down your website, as these file sizes are generally very large. Use a tool like Bulk Resize Photos to avoid this problem.
- Use lazy loading on your website. With lazy loading, images lower down on your posts and pages don’t load until your visitors scroll down to them, meaning the initial load time for your website is shorter.
- Use an image optimization plugin. There are lots of WordPress plugins for image compression and optimization available. These plugins can automatically optimize images as you upload them, and many also allow you to bulk-optimize existing images on your WordPress website.
Top Image Optimization Plugins
WP Smush Pro is an automatic image optimization plugin that can optimize your website’s images without any manual work. This plugin will automatically compress your images using Super Smush 2x compression algorithm, resize them according to your needs, convert PNG to JPG or JPEG format, remove unnecessary data, reduce file size, optimize images for the web, and more.
- Optimize images in bulk
- Convert PNG to JPG or WebP
- Resize images up to 10 times smaller than their original size
- Remove unnecessary data
- Reduce file size
- Lazy load images
- Select media types to load
- Serve background images
- Optimize non-WordPress images
- JPEG/PNG fallback when a browser doesn’t support WebP
- Revert WebP conversion anytime
Optimole is an excellent alternative to WP Smush Pro. With this WordPress plugin, you don’t need any coding skills to create an optimized image for your site. It’s easy to set up and provides full control over your images. It uses an image CDN, meaning your site’s content loads faster than ever.
- View all your compressed image files in one place
- Easily adjust image quality settings.
- Customize image size, quality, lazy loading, etc.
- Automatically add a watermark to your images
- The free plan supports up to 5,000 visits per day.
- Paid plans start at $19 per month when billed annually and support up to 25 thousand daily visits.
ShortPixel is another popular image compression and optimization plugin. It has lots of advanced features and lets you choose between different image compression types. Once activated, it automatically starts compressing your photos and saves them in a separate folder. The free plan allows you to optimize up to 100 images per month, while premium plans start at $3.99/month for 7,000 images. You can also buy image credit packs.
- Automatically convert PNG to JPG
- Convert to WebP and AVIF
- Automatic retina image compression
- Exclude images based on filename, path, and size, or use regex exclusions
- Scaling options to resize images automatically
- Use on multiple websites with a single API key
- Compatible with WP Engine and all major hosting providers
- Compatible with gallery plugins like NextGEN gallery and Foo Gallery
- Works with the WP Offload Media plugin
- Compatible with watermarking plugins
- No credits are used for the images that are optimized less than 5%
- Direct integration with Cloudflare by using a Cloudflare Token
Imagify is an image compression plugin recommended by WP Rocket that helps you easily reduce the size of your images without losing their quality. Imagify also converts your images to WebP format, making your website faster.
- Free to optimize up to 20MB (up to 200 images) per month
- Optimize unlimited images for $9.99 a month
- Use on multiple websites
- Automatic image optimization on upload
- Retina image optimization as standard
- Bulk-optimize your media library
- Easily revert to the original file if there are quality issues
- Different compression settings that you can experiment with
- Advanced compressing algorithm to reduce image filesizes without sacrificing their quality
Deactivate Unnecessary Plugins to Boost WordPress Speed
In order to determine if a plugin is slowing down your website, try deactivating it temporarily. After doing so, you should see an improvement in your website’s loading times. You can also use a tool like Query Monitor to determine which plugins are slowing your website down.
As well as slowing down your website, unnecessary plugins may also be adding more vulnerability points to your website. Getting rid of plugins that you don’t need is good for your website’s performance and security!
If you find that a particular plugin is slowing down your website, there’s a good chance that there’s another plugin available that does the same job but more efficiently. You could also look for plugins that combine the features of different plugins – using one plugin instead of three will naturally improve your page loading speeds!
Optimizing Your Database to Speed Up WordPress
Optimizing your WordPress database can speed up WordPress page loading times by reducing the load on the server. Your WordPress database stores the contents of your website, as well as settings and plugins. If your website is updated frequently, its database will grow large.
For example, every time you update a blog post, a copy of the previous version is stored – and by default, WordPress doesn’t limit the number of versions stored in your database. This will affect the overall performance of your site. Hence, optimizing your database size is essential. In addition, this method will also help you improve the structure of your database.
The first step in the optimization process is reducing the size of the database. Using a free tool like WP-Optimize can help you accomplish this goal. It can remove unnecessary data and restore lost space. Once installed, WP-Optimize allows you to perform multiple optimization tasks on your website. Each optimization task is run separately.
WP Rocket also includes a WordPress database optimization option – I use it to optimize the database on WP Web Whizz and other sites I run.
Make a backup of your database before optimizing it. You should back up your entire site using your hosting account’s cPanel or using an automatic backup service if your host provides it. It’s worth paying a few dollars each month for automatic backups to avoid losing all your website data if something catastrophic happens to the web server!
Use a Caching Plugin
To understand the benefit of a caching plugin in WordPress, you need to understand what happens every time someone visits one of your web pages. For your site to work, there’s an initial back-scene process of sending requests to and from the database, which involves querying the database to get information about what needs to be displayed on the screen.
Specifically, there are queries sent to the server’s database in a PHP language. Information is retrieved from the database and used to create an HTML page which is later returned to the website for viewing.
This multi-step process consumes a lot of processing power, which is why your web pages can load slowly – especially if there’s a lot of content on your pages. Caching is a means of reducing the amount of processing power needed. It is simply the idea of storing important information in an accessible place so that it can be accessed faster and easier whenever needed. Caching is the process of creating static copies of your content and eliminating the need to retrieve all of that information every single time someone visits your site.
Caching plugins are vital for performance optimization. They store static content like images or CSS files, so they don’t need to be downloaded every single page load. They also help reduce server requests, which reduces bandwidth usage. A good cache plugin will automatically expire cached content after a certain amount of time. Still, you may want to manually delete old caches if you’re experiencing slow loading times (often referred to as purging the cache.)
There is a range of caching plugins available in WordPress – most are free to install, although you get better performance when upgrading to premium versions. One exception is WP Rocket, which doesn’t have a free version, but it’s still the best caching and optimization plugin I’ve used so far.
Recommended Caching Plugins for WordPress
- W3 Total Cache. This caching plugin offers an extensive array of features, including support for minification, opcode caching, database caching, browser caching, object caching, fragment caching, CDN integration, and much more. However, configuring W3 Total Cache can be quite complex, especially if you’re new to caching.
- WP Rocket. This is the only premium cache plugin that I recommend. Its features include minification options, database optimization, CDN integration, preload mode, and lazy loading of images. WP Rocket is the only caching plugin that Kinsta supports. It has excellent support and is ideal for non-technical users.
- WP Super Cache. This plugin is free to use and was created by the team behind WordPress itself (Automattic). There’s no premium version, and support is very limited, but the plugin does all the essential things you need a caching plugin to do – but it doesn’t offer database optimization.
- Hummingbird. Developed by WPMU DEV, this plugin has a free version that’s packed with features, in addition to the more advanced premium version. It includes a scan and fix tool that scans your website and offers you recommendations on the settings you need to implement to boost your page loading speed and site performance.
All of the caching plugins on this list will boost the page loading speed of your website. Still, it’s important to note that some settings may ‘break’ some themes or affect the way your content is displayed. Some web hosts (mainly managed web hosting providers like Flywheel and WPEngine) also disallow some caching plugins’ use.
|Plugin||Disallowed or unsupported by|
|W3 Total Cache||Flywheel, Kinsta, GoDaddy, Pressable, and WP Engine|
|WP Fastest Cache||GoDaddy, Pressable, Kinsta|
|WP Super Cache||Flywheel, Kinsta, GoDaddy, Pressable, and WP Engine|
|LiteSpeed Cache||Kinsta, Flywheel|
It’s always best to use caution when using caching plugins and always back up your website before changing any settings.
Boost Your Page Loading Speeds With Your Hosting
Deactivating unnecessary plugins, optimizing images, and using caching plugins will boost your WordPress website page loading speeds to a certain extent. Still, your hosting may be limiting their ability to deliver the fastest loading times.
Using Cloud Hosting
Cloud hosting can make a big difference when trying to speed up your WordPress site. Cloud hosting can handle more traffic than a shared server, which can reduce your overall site speed.
Cloud hosting offers many advantages over traditional shared hosting services. It allows you to scale up or down based on demand, so there are no limits on how much traffic you can handle. You also get access to a wide range of tools for monitoring and managing your website.
Choosing cloud hosting will help your WordPress websites run faster and handle a lot of traffic.
While a shared hosting plan will do the job when you’re getting started, cloud hosting can significantly improve the speed of your WordPress website.
One of the biggest benefits of cloud hosting is that you’re not sharing resources in the same way. Shared hosting requires you to share resources with many other customers, and often hosts will oversell their servers, causing downtime and slow-loading websites. Cloud hosting still shares server resources, but each account has its own container, so other websites don’t impact the performance of your website.
Using Features Built-In to Your Hosting Plan
If you’re using managed WordPress hosting, the chances are that your hosting provider already offers features that will boost your page loading speeds. You may need to turn these on to benefit from them or change some settings to get the best results.
Common speed optimization features included by your web host might include:
- Built-in caching. Premium hosts like Kinsta and WPEngine have built-in optimization and caching that are automatically configured as part of your hosting package. If you think that settings are impacting your page loading speeds, you can always reach out to the support team to see if any settings can be adjusted to give better results.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN) integration. A CDN boosts page loading speeds by saving copies of static resources (such as images and pages) on servers around the world. When someone visits your website, the resources are served from a server closest to them. Your web hosting provider may have a built-in CDN of its own or offer integrations with popular CDNs like Cloudflare or RocketCDN.
Optimize Your Content
Longer content (1500 words+) is better for SEO, but long blog posts (especially ones with many images) can impact your page loading speeds. It’s a catch-22 situation – you need long-form content and a fast website to rank well in search engine results.
There are a couple of ways to get around this problem. Which one you choose is up to you – either way, you should see a benefit in page loading speeds.
- Use multiple posts and hyperlink them from a hub page. If you have a huge page covering many sub-topics, it can be a good idea to create new posts for each sub-topic. You can then replace that content on the main page with a shorter summary of each sub-topic and add links to the new posts.
- Paginate posts. Instead of covering everything in one post, you can split it into parts, with each part having its own post. As long as you publish the parts in the correct order, you can add pagination to your blog to allow your readers to navigate easily to the next post in the series.
The good news is that WordPress comes with built-in functionality to split posts. Simply add the <!––nextpage––> tag in your article where you want to split it. If you’re using Gutenberg, there’s a ‘read more’ block that you can use to split posts into multiple pages, too.
Plugins such as WP-Paginate offer various configuration options for paginating posts and pages, giving you more control over how pagination works on your website.
Limit the Number of Posts Displayed – and Display Excerpts Instead of Full Posts
The more posts you display on your homepage or blog page, the more significant the impact on page loading speed. I won’t get into the technical reasons behind that, but the solution is to display fewer posts and use pagination rather than the ‘load more’ option. You should also set your website to display excerpts rather than entire blog posts on the blog and category pages to improve performance.
It’s easy to limit the number of posts displayed and to set display preferences to excerpts. Simply navigate to Settings >> Reading and change the settings there.
Use a Range of Techniques to Boost Your Page Loading Speed in WordPress
There’s no single way to improve your WordPress website’s performance and page loading speed. Because various factors contribute to page loading speeds, you’ll need to try several methods I’ve outlined in this post to get the best performance out of your website.
I recommend starting with optimizing your images and using caching features (either with a plugin or using your hosting provider’s caching tools) before looking to more advanced options like database optimization.
It’s important to remember, however, that ultimately the performance of your website is limited by the performance of your web hosting provider. If you’ve tried all these tips to speed up WordPress performance and are still experiencing slow speeds, then it may be time to upgrade your hosting to cloud hosting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I resize images before uploading them?
Yes, absolutely! While you can use plugins to optimize images as you upload them automatically, it’s better to resize them prior to uploading them, as this will reduce the amount of space images take up in your WordPress database. Often when you download images from places like Unsplash, the default image size is very large (e.g., in excess of 3200 pixels wide), while you want images to be a maximum of 1920 pixels wide. The ideal image size for featured images in WordPress is 1200×600 pixels.
Does a slow website affect SEO rankings?
Yes, it does. There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest reason is that a slow website is bad for the user experience (UX), meaning a high bounce rate, which indicates to Google that your visitors don’t find your website useful.
How can I speed up WordPress page loading times?
There are various things you can do to boost your page loading times. Using image optimization plugins and caching tools are the best options. Still, things like choosing a fast theme, optimizing your content, and using a content delivery network (CDN) are also beneficial for page loading speeds.
What causes slow page load times?
Lots of things can contribute to slow page load times in WordPress. Having large, unoptimized media files and not having effective caching on your website are two of the biggest culprits. Slow, shared hosting plans (rather than cloud hosting plans) also heavily contribute to slow websites – as well as using too many plugins on your site.