A friend of mine recently contacted me asking how to speed up your WordPress site, and if I could do it for him, so I was like: “Mate, it’s so easy to do it yourself. Just do A, B, and C, and you’ll see a huge boost in your website’s speed and performance.”
A few days later, he called me to say “Those tips you gave me were amazing and really worked well. My site is flying now. I owe you a beer.”
So in this article, I’m going to show you how to speed up your WordPress site with the same three quick, easy & simple steps to make your site speed jump up and load lightning fast.
Google has used site speed as a ranking signal for desktop searches since 2010, and as of 2018, page speed became a ranking factor for mobile searches too.
Now even though speed improvements will only affect a small percentage of slow websites, faster page load times lead to better user experience and ultimately, more revenue.
In fact, a study by Google shows that as page load time goes up, bounce rate rises with it. Now, there are numerous reasons why your website might be loading slowly, but the most common reasons are due to slow connectivity, caching, page size, and sometimes more technical reasons like render-blocking JS.
But if you’re anything like my buddy Mike, who’s not exactly the most technically minded person in the World, then the three steps below will show you how to speed up your WordPress website.
Now before we get started, it’s very important to note that the things we do for this site won’t necessarily translate perfectly to your site, as there are a ton of things to consider when it comes to WordPress site speed like your theme’s code, specific plugins you might be using, server configuration, image file sizes, and much more.
So as we go through this free SEO tutorial on how to speed up your WordPress website, we’ll try and explain the more technical reasons behind the poor performance, so you can hopefully diagnose further issues yourself.
Alright, so first a bit of background on the website we’ll be optimising and we’ll start with some benchmark speeds. The site we’ll be using as an example is a brand new affiliate site built on WordPress using the free WP Astra Theme.
We’ve activated seven plugins, many of which will contribute to page load time in big and small ways. Now, to keep things simple, we ran a single post, which has text, images, and a video through three page-speed tools.
PageSpeed Insights shows a mobile score of 45 and a desktop score of 79. Pingdom shows a load time of 1.72 seconds, page size of 1.7mb, and 63 requests. And GTMetrix, fully loaded in 4.3 seconds with a page size of 1.55 megabytes and 61 requests.
Now, since these tools only allow you to view one page at a time, we also ran a full crawl using Ahrefs’ Site Audit tool. And if we look in Page Explorer, there were a total of 23 pages with a load time of 1 second or longer, which is basically all of the site’s pages.
So there’s definitely some room for improvements. Want to know how to speed up your WordPress website? Well, the first thing to do is switch DNS providers to Cloudflare’s free DNS service. Now, in order to understand why we used Cloudflare, you need to understand how the web works, at least at an elementary level.
Websites are just files on a computer that are made accessible through the Internet, with each device that’s connected to the Internet has an IP address, including the server that hosts your website.
So if your server is located in Las Vegas and your visitor is in London, these two IP addresses need to create a connection in order to download the file contents to the device. Now, IP addresses are tough to memorise and I doubt many people would key in a complicated IP address to visit your site. That’s where DNS comes into play.
DNS stands for Domain Name System, and it’s often referred to as the “phone book of the world wide web.”In short, DNS maps domain names to IP addresses so people can type in a domain name to visit a website, but the thing with this is that when someone types in the domain name in their browser, a DNS lookup occurs to find the IP address of the server. And that takes time.
Free DNS providers from your domain registrar are usually slow to respond, creating slower page load times. Cloudflare’s DNS on the other hand is pretty fast, considering it’s also free, but again, your mileage may vary depending on the DNS provider, you’re currently using.
So to set this up, sign up for a Cloudflare account and then click Add a site. Enter your domain name, select and confirm your plan, and after a few seconds, Cloudflare will give you a chance to review your DNS records. Click Continue and you’ll be asked to change your nameservers, which is something you’d need to do with your domain registrar.
And that’s the first speed tip done and dusted. The next thing we did for this how to speed up your WordPress site tutorial was purchase and install the WP Rocket plugin. WP Rocket is an all-in-one site speed optimisation plugin for WordPress, and they make it super-simple to make technical optimisations even if you have no clue what you’re doing.
The plugin handles common page-speed optimisations like caching, preloading, compression, and lazy loads images to name but a few. After activating the plugin, you can access the WP Rocket settings from the top navigation bar.
So let’s first go through some of the important settings starting with caching. If you’re unfamiliar with caching, it’s basically a way to temporarily store copies of files, so they can be delivered to visitors in a more efficient way.
And because this site is a basic blog that’s responsive, we enabled caching for mobile devices. Next is ‘file optimisation’, which is where you’ll spend the majority of your time.
For the Basic Settings, we chose to minify HTML and optimise Google Fonts. Minification just removes whitespace and comments from code, which will reduce file size. And smaller files load faster than larger ones. We also chose to optimise Google Fonts since the theme uses them.
The next section is about optimising CSS files. Again, we minified CSS files and also chose to combine them. You already understand the benefits of minification, so let’s touch on ‘combining files’. WordPress sites often include multiple CSS files. Some will be for themes, others for plugins, and you might have added some custom ones too.
Now, whether you choose to activate this option or not will mostly depend on how your server delivers the files.
Generally speaking, your files will be loaded either using HTTP 1.1 or HTTP 2. With 1.1, your files will be loaded consecutively, meaning, one file needs to fully load before the next one starts loading. So combining your CSS scripts can help reduce the load time because fewer CSS files will need to be loaded.
Now, with HTTP 2, the files can load concurrently, meaning, if you have multiple CSS files, they can begin loading at the same time, so combining them won’t necessarily have the same impact. To see if your site uses HTTP 2, you can use Key CDN’s tester and key in your URL.