Having a website that loads quickly is super important. Not only to people who visit your website, but to search engines such as Google who have placed increased importance on a website that is quick to load. The main causes of a slow WordPress website can typically be placed in one of the following areas:
- The theme you use
- Using large images
- Your website host
- Using too many or low quality plugins
Before you go changing your site though, it’s important to know how and where to measure site speed (aside from just waiting a long time). I typically use Google’s web.dev site. There’s a lot of great information to read and if I’m relying on search engines to send my site traffic, I want to make sure that I’m getting information from the source.
Your WordPress Theme
WordPress themes can really make an impact on how your website appears and performs. Don’t get swayed by the nice design – your WordPress theme should perform too.
When I first started using WordPress I would go theme crazy. Now I’m much more selective of the theme I use. Using a free theme opens you up to a couple of issues. The first being lack of support. A free theme is just that – a developer may release it to the public and never look at it again. When WordPress releases updates this may cause your theme to experience issues and the developer is no longer providing support for your theme. The likelihood that you need to find a new theme in this situation is really high, so why put yourself and your website through that?
The second issue is that since free themes are generally not supported long term, they could be open to hacks and exploits, or even worse, those hacks and exploits could be already built in. Be very careful where you download your themes from, and do your research. Look for high ratings and consistent support, and use the WordPress repository for your research. I use only premium themes, and since my host is WPEngine, they offer a number of high quality Genesis themes for use at no extra cost.
Using Large Images
It’s okay to have a website that is visual, but you need to make sure that the images are optimized. This means that your image files should be as small as possible for the required quality.
I thoroughly recommend EWWW Image Optimizer for compressing your WordPress images (check it out, it also does a ton of other things to help speed up your WordPress website). Whenever an image loads on a screen (without optimization), the browser has to render the image in its entirety, so if you have a 2MB image, and a user of your website is on a slow internet connection, this will slow down the load speed of your page. An image optimizer can take a 2MB image and reduce it to about 500k – a significant improvement.
Your Website Host
As I mentioned above, I use WPEngine as my host. WPEngine offers a number of extras that really make it worth the monthly cost.
As it relates to speed, WPEngine is built specifically for WordPress websites. Many hosts are more than willing to take your money and not actually offer you any value. WPEngine offers FREE CDN (content delivery network). This helps with site speed because it places static files on your site, such as images, in server locations around the world, thus closer to visitors who visit your website. WP Engine also offers free security certificates, premium themes, automated updates, and many more. Find out more about WPEngine. I now have all my websites hosted there and couldn’t be happier with the experience.
Too Many or Low Quality Plugins
Whenever I help out or advise friends who have WordPress sites the most common issue I see is the over reliance on plugins. Plugins have the capability to really enhance a website, but my rule of thumb with them is to only use them when absolutely necessary. Plus, if you have to use a plugin, do your research before installing, and download them from WordPress repositories or premium WordPress developers.
Quite often, organizations will release a plugin for free and cut corners without thinking about the plugin’s design or security, leaving your website open to significant vulnerabilities that will impact your business and potentially do devastating damage to your reputation.
Also, a couple more things to consider if your website depends on plugins to function. A lot of plugins use similar resources and therefore will often conflict with each other causing varying degrees of issues. When you’re having website issues it’s a lot easier to troubleshoot if you have fewer plugins because there’s less that can go wrong.
Keeping your plugins up-to-date should be something you do at least once a week. Plugins, both installed and not, can impact your website if you don’t pay attention to them. If they aren’t updated issues can arise which cause knock-on effects on both a website performance level and security level. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re not using a plugin, uninstall it and remove it from your WordPress site.
WordPress Site Speed
Don’t sleep on making your website as fast as possible. Think with Google, a great resource for website owners, has a number of insightful KPIs that should help you prioritize site speed for your website.
If your website doesn’t load for a visitor on a mobile device, the chances are they will get frustrated and may not revisit. What happens if they’re about to make a purchase but visit an image heavy un-optimized page? Today’s modern world is all about convenience, and the internet is no different. From helping improve your website’s performance in search engines to improving user experience, site speed isn’t something you can ignore anymore, whether you have an e-Commerce site or a blog.
Fortunately, there are lots of resources out there to help, and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to a super quick website!