We’ve all used a website that took seemingly forever to load. And what we considered fast just five to ten years ago feels like a snail’s pace today. You know that feeling, and it’s not one you want to share with your customers. Site speed directly affects your search ranking, as well. Google says, “here at Google we’re obsessed with speed.” That means you should get obsessed with it, too!
Minimize bounces, increase conversions, and boost your SEO by making your site load as fast as possible. Follow these tips to optimize your WordPress site speed for faster loading on all devices.
Choose the Right Theme
You probably chose your theme based on how it looks or what features it offers. Perhaps you didn’t consider how well it’s coded. Good coding translates to fast loading. If you’re still in the early stages of planning your site, or you are willing to change themes, you might be able to better optimize your WordPress site with this choice.
Choose a theme that optimizes your site for all devices. Adaptability not only improves load times but helps your search engine ranking. Then, check the overall size of the theme. Large graphics files, for instance, could weigh it down. Finally, make sure you get your theme from a trusted source. Read reviews and research the developer’s other work. A less experienced developer might write bloated, awkward code.
Use Only the Plugins You Need
Plugins allow your WordPress site to perform a wide range of functions. If you imagine something you would like your website to do, chances are there’s a plugin for that. Just don’t go overboard. To optimize your site, keep your list of plugins tidy and up-to-date. (Outdated plugins are a major risk factor for getting hacked, too.)
Just as some themes are written better than others, so it goes for plugins. Choose well-rated ones from reputable sources. Also, check to see how much CPU your plugins use. Ironically, there’s a plugin for that, too. One example, WP Server Stats boasts a 4.9 star rating, albeit for a fairly small number of installs at the time of this writing.
Additionally, make sure all the plugins you use work with your hosting platform. Check your host’s list of disallowed plugins to confirm. As an example, here is GoDaddy’s list.
Watch Image File Sizes
Before you add any images to your site, check the resolution and actual size. Set the resolution to 72dpi and make the size the maximum it would need to appear on any screen. An image larger than that wastes space.
Also optimize metadata in your image files. Certain pieces of information, like tags and captions, help your search ranking. However, this only works if you use them correctly. [link to image optimization post] Otherwise they’re dead weight. Remove any unnecessary metadata and optimize what you keep.
Take Out the Trash
WordPress hangs onto any files you trash for 30 days, by default. Those files take up valuable space. In your wp-config.php file, there’s a line of code that looks like this:
Change the number “30” to a lower one, or even to zero, to reduce the amount of time you hang onto old files.
First, streamline the script. Eliminate unnecessary breaks, spaces, and anything else that wastes space. Do it manually or use a minifier like Google Closure Compiler.
Reconsider Social Sharing Buttons
Social sharing buttons make it easier — and therefore more likely — that your users will share your content on social channels. However, these prescripted sharing buttons use a lot of juice. Consider eliminating them altogether in favor of icons, with hyperlinks, that you store in your local image library.
If you choose to use social buttons, use only the ones you need. Check your analytics and other market research available to you to learn what social channels your customers actually use. If none of them use Google+, for instance, don’t bother with a button. For the buttons you do use, make sure they say something useful — such as the headline of a blog post — rather than just a page title or hyperlink. Also, make sure they include your own username for the relevant social platform to maximize impact.
Take Advantage of Browser Caching
If a user visits your site repeatedly, caching can save valuable time. Optimize your WordPress site to allow the user’s browser to cache certain files. That way, they won’t have to load these elements every time.
Add ## EXPIRES CACHING ## code to your .htaccess file. Within the code, set expiration dates for each type of file your site contains. That way, if you tend to update certain things on a regular schedule, you avoid caching outdated elements. The blog Winning WP offers step-by-step instructions on how to update this code.
If All Else Fails, Change Hosts
There are many factors that go into choosing a hosting platform, and cost can be chief among them. However, you sometimes get what you pay for. If you’re already locked into a contract with a hosting service, changing might seem like a headache. But a different host can mean faster loading times. Check out this list of Fastest Hosting Companies (2017) or this one or conduct your own research. You may need to balance speed with your company’s other needs in a website.
Remember, your WordPress site speed can make or break the user experience. Many of the changes listed above can be completed easily and quickly. Take steps now to optimize and speed up your WordPress site and start improving your customer experience.