How to Fix a Slow WordPress Site (and get A+ scores and a load time under 430ms) – 25 WordPress Speed Optimization Tips (2019)

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So you've got a slow WordPress site and want to know how you can improve its speed and performance?

In this guide, I reveal how we reduced our website load time to just 430 milliseconds! I'll show you how to use free tools to gauge your site's performance and 25 tips to speed up WordPress.

Many of the methods in this guide a free, some are a paid solution to an important problem. If you want your WordPress site to perform well in the search engines, increase visitors and become a website you can be proud of…then read on.

Why WordPress Site Speed Matters

You only get a small window of time to capture your reader's attention before they hit the back button and are gone for good. You can have the best content in the world, but if your WordPress site loads slow and their expectations are not met, they may never get to see your website.

Visitors expect your website to load in 2 seconds or less, any longer and your bound rate starts to increase dramatically, resulting in fewer pageviews, sales, and conversions.

What's more, Google now uses site speed in it's ranking algorithm. So if you want to stand any chance of performing well in Google and attracting the right kind of audience, you need to have a site that loads fast.

Here's how to fix a slow website.

How to Speed Up WordPress – Quick Links

 


This guide is broken down into 25-easy to follow steps that will help you to improve your WordPress Site Speed in just a few hours. I have tried to place each step in the order that will deliver the biggest benefit/load time reduction.

Just remember, if you stick to the core steps in this guide you will have a website that is faster than 99% of others online. You don't need to spend all of your time chasing the elusive 100/100 score or an A+ on each tool in order to have a super optimized site.

Before we begin, there are two steps we need to take before performing any website speed optimization techniques, one of which will save you from potentially losing your website and all the hard work that's gone into it.

Get Your Benchmark Scores

The first thing we need to do is to test our website speed to get our baseline scores so that we have a starting point. For this, we will use 2 free-to-use tools that can help us do just that in a matter of seconds.

Pingdom

First up, Pingdom. Enter the root of your website into Pingdom and click “Start Test”, in a few seconds you will have your baseline scores. Take a snapshot of these or write them down so we can compare once we've finished optimizing.

Pingdom Website Speed Test Results

GTMetrix

Next up we'll head over to GTMetrix and enter our URL again. If you're running an SSL certificate (and you should be) ensure you use the correct prefix for your website's URL (https:// and not http://).

GTMextrix Site Speed Performance Report

As you can see, whilst we've got some great PageSpeed and YSlow scores, our “Fully Loaded Time” is 2.4s. This, of course, can be improved, but sometimes it comes down to speed vs usability and we like to be able to create nice looking pages with page builders and a few other tools.

So removing them would completely change the user experience. You don't have to sacrifice everything for fast load times.

How To Test For Slow Hosting

As I mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to test for slow web hosting is to look at the time to first byte (TTFB). This can be done quickly and easily using Bitcatcha (free service). The lower your TTFB the better, as you can see from the image below, this website scores on A+ with some incredibly low numbers.

Bitcatcha Time To First Byte Server Response Speed

GTMetrix Time to First Byte (TTFB)

Backup Your Website

Before we dive in and make a bunch of changes to speed up your WordPress site, you will want to create a backup of your website files and its database. There are 2 methods of doing this:

Manual Method

Manually involves logging into the cPanel of your website, zipping and download the WordPress site files and then heading over to PHPMyAdmin and downloading a zip version of your database.

If you're not familiar with the cPanel you may wish to jump to option 2 which is a quick and pain-free way to automate this process. If you like to get your hands dirty…here's what you need to do.

  • steps to take in bullet form

Automated Method

There are a number of plugins you can use to backup your WordPress site and avoid losing your data. My recommended free option is UpDraftPlus and a premium option should you require support and a few additional options is BackupBuddy.

Personally, I don't see the need to spend money on this step and if you can't or would prefer not to backup WordPress manually then I'd stick with UpDraftPlus.

UpDraftPlus Backup Restore

As you can see, UpDraftPlus keeps its user interface very simple and that can only be a good thing (it won't slow down the backend of your WP site too much).

  • All you need to do is hit the “Backup Now” button.
  • A popup will appear confirming what you wish to backup (check both the files & database boxes).
  • Optional: You can also set up your cloud storage solution via the settings page if you'd prefer (recommended).

UpDraftPlus Backup WordPress Database & Files

Extra Step – Not required – Now we've got a backup of our website safe and secure on our hard drive there is just one small extra step I like to take here, and that is to upload those 2 files to the Cloud. My preference is Google Drive, but you could also use DropBox, OneDrive, Zoho Docs or any other reliable cloud storage service.

28 Tips for Improving WordPress Site Speed & Performance

1. Assessing Your Hosting Company

The number one factor when it comes to speeding up WordPress is the hosting provider you use. You can fix all of the on-site issues you may have, but if your host has slow servers, outdated technology and their time to first byte is high, you'll never hit those fast site speeds.

Which Hosting Companies to Avoid

There is one HUGE player in this area, which you should avoid and that is EIG (Endurance International Group). This company operates some of the largest providers you may have come across, namely Bluehost & HostGator.

With over 60 registered brands, EIG's have grown their business primarily through acquisitions of other brands and as such is not the best choice when it comes to web hosting.

The others are GoDaddy and 1&1 Ionos, who both have a big marketing budget and from personal experience, I wouldn't choose them again. Also, evidence (below) suggests to avoid them too.

 

2. The Best Hosting For WordPress Site Speed

SiteGround

My first choice when it comes to web hosting for a WordPress website is SiteGround, I will go into my reasons for this being my #1 choice below, but for now I will leave you with a few examples of why the industry also thing SiteGround is the go-to option for fast hosting options for your website.


Click Here For My Recommended Web Hosting – SiteGround

Special Discount for BitsFromBytes readers with SiteGround – my trusted hosting provider for over 7-years.

They offer incredible speeds, 24/7 support and will transfer your website for you.


For full transparency, in this guide I will be using affiliate links, however, any products I recommend will have been used by me and our team AND are backed up by external 3rd party sources.

 

As you can see, with so many people recommending them across the most popular and active Facebook Groups for improving website performance, it's hard to look past this evidence of a great company offering a stellar service and most of all, paying attention to what it's users (you and I) actually want.

Siteground Hosting Plans & Pricing

SiteGround offer 3 primary hosting plans (we like simple!). Choose the one that's right for your needs, which will be based on a few factors, such as:

  • The number of websites you need to host
  • Your monthly/annual hosting budget
  • Number of monthly visitors
  • Web space required

SiteGround Hosting Choose Plan

All 3-options suit a wide range of budgets and requirements and it's easy to upgrade at any time.

  • Startup – $3.95 /mon – Designed for new and start WordPress websites with up to 10,000 visitors each month and a total of 10 GB of Web Space. There is the space to hold just a single domain name, so if you only have one website, blog or business then this is suitable for you.
  • GrowBig – $5.95 /mon – If you have an established website and are looking to grow your blog or business then the GrowBig plan offers the space to do that. You can add unlimited domains/websites to this package, which is perfect if you're looking to create more than one website. The monthly visitor volume and web space are doubled on this plan to 25,000 visitors and 20 GB Web Space.
  • GoGeek – $11.95 /mon – The GoGeek is “Crafted for Real WordPress Geeks” to quote SiteGround themselves. With a whopping 30 GB web space and up to 100,000 visitors per month

SiteGround Hosting Features – Why SiteGround Is My Preferred Choice

1. Free WordPress Website Transfer

If you have an existing website with another host, SiteGround will transfer your website over to your new hosting package completely free. This not only saves you time but many potential headaches down the line.

I've transferred MANY websites from host-to-host in my day and there is always one thing that creeps up and causes panic! Nowadays I always opt to have them do it for me to free up my time to work on my business or blog without worry.

2. Fast Setup

If you're completely new to WordPress or you're looking to get started with a fresh install, then the “WordPress Launch” feature of SiteGround is just what you need.

You can install WP at the click of a button and the additional launch features mean you can have a website up and running within minutes.

3. Actively Managed Security & Updates

If there is one thing to be concerned about with a website, then it's cybersecurity. Having a website with the latest theme & plugin updates is a must these days as bugs and security-loopholes are found and plugged almost on a daily basis.

Thankfully you don't have to keep up-to-date all by yourself, with SiteGround you get a service which will manage the security of both your website and the servers they're hosted on.

By running patch fixed and automatically updating your website to the latest software versions, means you're website will always be one step ahead of the competition.

4. Customer Care & Support

From time to time you will no doubt need to speak to someone for a little tech help, and with their 24/7 support service available via live chat, phone or support ticket, you're never far away from a helping hand.

Their support staff have excellent knowledge of WordPress so when it comes to speeding up your website, they're a great resource to use too.

5. Website Backups

There are a few ways to backup your WordPress website, one of which I mentioned right at the start of this guide, which is UpDraftPlus. This is something you have to manually set up and run yourself but it does add to the growing list of tasks us website owners have.

The preferred and automated option is to have your host do it for you. SiteGround offers daily backups of your website files and database for 30-days. So if you make a mistake, your site is attacked or a plugin or line of code breaks your website – you have 30 backup points to choose from.

You can simply redeploy your website back to its former glory as if nothing ever happened.

7. Staging Environment

Unfortunately, when working with websites, themes, and plugins, errors do occur, even with a robust CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress. Which is why it's always a good idea to create a separate version of your website when you make changes and try out new things.

This is what is known as a staging environment and have been used by developers for years to great effect. However, you no longer need to be a programmer to take advantage of this time and website-saving technique.

By deploying a staging environment right from your SiteGround dashboard, you get an exact replica of your website to try things before you implement them on the live version.

Then, once happy, you can simply push those changes over to the live version of your website.

8. SSL Certificates

This is an important step in having your website trusted by the search engines. An SSL certificate is a must in 2019 and beyond and any website without one will suffer in their website ranking positions in the SERP's through a lack of trust.

An SSL certificate, which, put simply, adds an “s” to your domain prefix, changing it from “http” to “https” and means that the user's connection is secure).

These certificates cost anywhere from $5 to hundreds of dollar per year. However, with SiteGround, you get a free SSL certificate that can be set up in one-click by using the LetsEncrypt service.

SiteGround Free SSL LetsEncrypt


Click Here For My Recommended Web Hosting – SiteGround

Special Discount for BitsFromBytes readers with SiteGround – my trusted hosting provider for over 7-years.

They offer incredible speeds, 24/7 support and will transfer your website for you.


WPX HostingWPX Hosting

WPX is my 2nd option when it comes to hosting as they offer a few extra features and are designed for high-traffic or websites with a large database.

This very website is hosted with WPX due to its size and monthly traffic numbers, however, our humble beginnings started with SiteGround and their packages were more than suitable for a long time and we still have side projects for which we use SiteGround.

WPX Package & Pricing

As I mentioned above, you do get more for your money with WPX being a premium WordPress focused web host. Which is why their pricing is higher but comparable with other services out there.

They offer 3 packages, each offering something a little different depending on your needs:

WPX Hosting Plans

Business – $20.83 /mon

  • 5-Websites
  • 10GB Storage
  • 100GB Bandwidth
  • WPX Cloud CDN

Professional- $41.85 /mon

  • 15-Websites
  • 20GB Storage
  • 200GB Bandwidth
  • WPX Cloud CDN

Elite- $83.25 /mon

  • 35-Websites
  • 40GB Storage
  • Unlimited Bandwidth
  • WPX Cloud CDN

 

WPX Features – What Makes Them Great?

You get a lot for your money when it comes to the WPX WordPress Hosting Packages. below are 5 of the main reasons why we chose to upgrade our hosting solution with them.

1. Ridiculously Fast Support

If there is one thing WPX are known for and I see mentioned time and time again it's their customer support and response times. They boast “30-second support” on their sales page and it's not a lie. Many times we've submitted support tickets and their response has been almost immediate.

2. Integrated CDN

Late in 2018 WPXHosting released their very own Content Delivery Network (CDN), which is another step in improving the website sped and performance for all customers. This was developed and implemented at no extra cost…another things WPX is well-known for.

3. Free Website Migration Service

As with SiteGround, WPX offers a completely free service to migrate your existing website(s) over to their servers. Even if you have multiple websites and databases, simply provide them the details in the support ticket once you sign up and they will take it from there.

This all happens with 24-hours so you're set up and running in no time.

4. Free SSL's

With each plan comes unlimited FREE SSL certificates, so no matter how many domain names you have or websites you host, it will not cost you any extra.

5. Malware Scanning & Removal

WPX are so confident that the steps they have implemented to secure their servers and your website will be more than sufficient, they are offering free Malware Removal if your site is hacked. This is on top of the DDoS Protection, Malware scans, firewalls, and spam protection to name a few of the measures they've taken.

3. Use latest PHP version (7.3)

PHP is simply a language that was designed specifically for web development. Whilst you don't need to understand PHP or how it works, you should know that WordPress uses PHP as it's ‘language' of choice.

The hosting company you choose should offer the very latest version of PHP. There are a number of reasons why some companies will use an outdated version, namely the cost to implement and ensuring that all websites hosted on the server will support the newest version. Currently, SiteGround is currently running the latest PHP version of 7.3.

SiteGroundCpanel PHP Version

4. Setting Up a Cache Plugin

A Cache plugin may sound like a scary thing to set up, especially if you're new to WordPress speed optimization or simply not that tech-savvy. However, fear not, there is a plugin you can use that simply many of the steps we need to take and I will provide you with the exact setting you need to make your website blazing fast.

WP Rocket

WP-Rocket Caching Plugin for WordPress

WP-Rocket is my #1 choice when it comes to cache plugins for a number of reasons. The primary reason being is that it does the job of 3-4 plugins you would otherwise need, saving you from a bloated WordPress plugin portfolio.

This plugin had the 2nd largest impact on improving my site speed (after getting better hosting) and works with minimal configuration right out of the box.

What makes WP Rocket stand out from the crowd is their excellent user interface, where each setting is displayed clearly and with helpful tips to ensure you know just what each setting does.

If you can afford the $49 for WP Rocket then it is well worth it just for the amount of time you will save having to manually perform improvements to your website files. WP Rocket will solve speed issues it would take at least 3-4 other plugins to fix alone.

In addition, if you've used a cache plugin before, you are no doubt aware of how complicated they can be. Many fans of W3 Total Cache have made the switch over to WP Rocket for the simplicity of the setup and the improved performance it delivers for their websites.

Here are some recent Facebook Polls so you can see what other experts think about WP Rocket.

 

W3TotalCache

This is the free alternative (although they do have a premium version if you'd prefer the more advanced options). It can integrate with a CDN and perform many of the tasks that are needed to give your WordPress site a speed boost.

5. Setting Up A CDN (Content Delivery Network)

A CDN or Content Delivery Network will take your website and store cached versions of each file (page, images, CSS etc) and distribute them across their entire network of servers.

Then, when a user visits your website, the closest server to them in terms of Geo-location will serve them the required files. Since the distance the data must travel has been shortened and the file versions are cached (smaller), the user gets a much better experience as they get a website that loads much, much faster.

Using a CDN is a no-brainer when it comes to speeding up your website. There are two options when it comes to a CDN, Free and Paid.

As with most things tech, the paid option usually comes with more features, however, in this case, the free option if more than suitable and you should only really consider the paid version if you absolutely need additional control and features and if your website demands it.

CloudFlare (Free)

CloudFlare Content Delivery Network CDN

CloudFlare is the go-to for most people looking for a free way to speed up their websites.

CloudFlare Speed Settings

There are a few settings we can enable to get even more from CloudFlare, and they're all free. Head to the “Speed” tab to find these settings.

First up we have the Auto Minify options for JavaScript, CSS, and HTML.

cloudflare speed auto minify

 

Next, we can enable Accelerated Mobile Links, which is designed to enhance mobile visitor’s experience.

cloudflare-speed-accelerated-mobile-links

 

Finally, we have Rocket Loader™, which is another CloudFlare tool to improve page load time and performance that contain JavaScript.

Be sure to check that your website is fully functioning if using this setting. We had to disable it due to a clash with the page builder we use.

cloudflare-rocket-loader

Cloudflare Hotlink Protection

Hotlink protection prevents other webmasters from taking ‘hotlinking' to your images. This means that when we choose to use one of your images you have uploaded to your website, they cannot display that image on their website and have you host that image. They will have to take the time to download the image and then upload it to their own server.

Which then brings up the copyright issue…which we will leave for another day!

From your CloudFlare dashboard, head to the far right icon in the navigation menu named “Scrape Shield” and activate this setting.

CloudFlare Hotlink Protection

6. Use a Lightweight Theme

Ah themes, I love nothing more than trying out new WordPress themes, seeing how to look and feel to work with. There is a never ending supply of themes both on the WordPress Marketplace or from 3rd party sources such as ThemeForest, StudioPress and XXX.

Theme developers have taken to bundling up many of the features you previously had to install additional plugins for. Things such as custom CSS styling, 1001 fonts, fancy sliders, and integrated social sharing options.

The trouble comes when you use a theme with so many ‘bells and whistles' that it can actually increase your websites load time dramatically.

So what's the best option for a fast & lightweight WordPress theme?

GeneratePress

GeneratePres Llightweight Responsive WordPress Theme

To get the fastest possible website speeds, we opted to run the GeneratePress theme on this website, due to its flexibility, lightning-fast load speeds and because it's so easy to customize.

GenratePress is a great framework to use as a basis for your website. Out of the box, it loads extremely fast and from there you can build out any type of website you desire. From a simple blog to a membership site, a forum or even a full e-commerce site.

GeneratePress is relatively new to the scene when compared to other, more established products, however, they have made a name for themselves by having a tight focus on speed, an excellent support forum and actually listening to customers problems and coming up with solutions.

Click here to see GeneratePress in action

StudioPress

The next and very popular option is the Genesis Framework from StudioPress. They have honed their skills over many years to become one of, if not the most recognized WordPress theme framework.

There are a few options to getting set up with Genesis. The first of which is their Free Framework. From there you can either go all out and purchase their entire theme collections so you can swap and change until you find a design that suits your needs.

Alternatively, you can use their theme finder to locate a specific theme and purchase a single theme license.

If you have multiple websites then the package deal gives you the best bang for your buck, for single site users, I would opt for a single theme license.

Spotted a design you like?

If you've found a website you believe to be running WordPress, there is a neat way of finding out what theme they are using so you can pick it up for yourself. WhatWPThemeIsThat.com is a quick way to check first of all if they are indeed running on the WordPress CMS (over 30% of all websites now use WordPress so it's a high possibility!).

This tool will also tell you which theme it has detected and also which plugins are being used. This is a great way to get ideas and see what your competitors are doing, so you can do the same or avoid their pitfalls should they have a slow loading website.

Click here to see Genesis Framework in action

7. Optimize Images

Images are HUGE when it comes to reducing website load time, get this bit right and you will be up there with the fastest websites online.

Many people think that you can just upload an image to WordPress and be done with it…however, there are many steps you can take to ensure you only upload optimized images that load correctly, are the correct size and file format so that your readers get the best possible experience and the fastest loading websites they're ever seen!

There are a number of steps to optimizing your images for speed, once you have this process down it will become second nature.

Saving Images In The Correct Format

First up we have image file formats, which will typically be .png, .jpg, .jpeg and .svg. Each serves its own purpose, some are better than others and knowing which to use when is important.

Your logo will typically be a .png (Portable Network Graphics) image which allows for a transparent background and a nice look to your branding. a .svg file format can also be used which can reduce the file size, however, .png files are pretty small anyway and making this change can be done once you've mastered all of the other steps on this guide.

For the bulk of your images, you're going to want to use the .jpg file format. This format offers the small file size and they compress down with lossless compression very easily (as explained shortly).

That's it, remember these two rules and your image size issues will start to become a thing of the past.

Serving Correctly Scaled Images

Uploading images of 2,000px wide is a surefire way to wreak havoc on your site speed. When your browser has to load an image that is twice a large as it will ever be displayed on your website, it's no wonder user experience will suffer.

So image dimensions play a big part in the whole ‘image-optimization' process.

WordPress has built-in settings to create multiple file sizes whenever you upload an image. This helps to display the correct size when required, however, I prefer to resize my images to the maximum size I will need. This avoids using up excess server space and having to upload larger than required file sizes.

I use PicResize.com (free) to upload my images and set the required dimensions, make the changes and download the image before compression (see below).

Specify Image Dimensions

Images on your website can have their height and width specified to help servers read and understand them better, which results in faster load time. GTMetrix will advise which images are missing these image dimensions so you can fix them.

Compress Images

Compressing your images is a step that should be a part of your publication routine. Each image you include in your posts/pages should be optimized BEFORE uploading to WordPress, and there are a number of ways to achieve this.

First is WPSmush a WordPress plugin with free and paid options, next we have Optimzilla and the third option is compressor.io, both of these are free to use tools that will compress the size of your images. You can choose 2 types of compression, Lossless or Lossy. Lossy will slightly reduce the final image quality but results in smaller file size and lossless will maintain quality but still reduce the file size, albeit with a larger file size…it's your call.

8. Lazy Load all Images/Videos/Iframes

Lazy loading means to only show/load your images on a webpage as the user requires them. For instance, if you have 10 images on a page, as the user scrolls down to read your content each image will load as it is needed. This saves a huge amount of time as images and videos are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to a slow WordPress website.

WP Rocket can take care of the lazy loading for you by checking just 3-boxes:

WP-Rocket Lazy Load Images Videos

Be sure to test your site in incognito mode after making these changes to make sure that all elements do load and that you're happy with the user experience.

There is also the Lazy-Load-For-Videos plugin you can use to achieve the same results.

9. Minify your JavaScript and CSS files

A word of caution on this one, performing this step can temporarily mess up your website frontend. If this happens you can simply revert back or undo your previous changes. I recommend you change/enable one element at a time and see how your website looks.

Just remember to use an incognito session, or clear your cache and history so you get the very latest version of your website.

If you're using WP Rocket as recommended above, then the steps are quite simple

WP-Rocket Minify CSS JavaScript

If you're using another caching plugin and need additional plugins to make these changes I recommend the following:

I stated above, WP Rocket removed the need for all 3 of the above plugins, hence why it's a better choice for those serious about speeding up WordPress and of course if you can afford the $49 price tag.

10. Update To The Latest Version of WordPress

One of the main benefits of WordPress is that it is actively maintained and constantly improved and updated. Hardly a few weeks will go by without seeing the “WordPress Update” message at the top of your WP-Admin Dashboard.

WordPress Update Dashboard Message

By updating your site to the latest version you will ensure that your site is free from known security bugs that can be exploited by hackers, and also supports most plugins & themes available on the market.

Since technology advances at such a pace these days, having the latest version of WordPress is an absolute must. Recent WordPress released the Gutenberg update, which was a huge change in how the post/page interface operated. It was met by some backlash from the community.

Once you've got the latest version installed, if you don't like how it functions and want to go back to the standard interface, there is a free plugin you can install aptly called Disable Gutenberg. Install this and you're all set.

11. Make Fewer HTTP Requests

You will likely notice that Pingdom suggests that you should “Make fewer HTTP requests”. When I first started with the speed optimization of our website we score an “F”…for FAIL!

When it comes to HTTP requests, the fewer the better. Things that can affect the number of requests that have to be made to render the page are multiple CSS files, JS (JavaScript) files, and external fonts etc.

We can combine CSS & JS files using WPRocket, Autoptimize or CloudFlare. The first 2 options have built-in settings to reduce the number of files required by the server, with CloudFlare you can check out this article to see how to do it.

12. Database Cleanup

This used to be a tricky step since your database is something you will never see unless you like to get your hands dirty with PHP and SQL. Your database is the engine of the website and must have regular checkups, just like a car.

Whenever you make a change in your WordPress dashboard, such as create or deleting a page or post, installing a plugin, creating or deleting user accounts etc, the database creates new lines of data to record those actions.

Over time, the database gets clogged up with entries that are simply no longer required. So the next step we will take is to cleanse our database (engine) and have it humming along like a brand new vehicle.

If you're using WP-Rocket then head over to the “Database” tab. From there we can perform the following steps with ease. You can also install a plugin called WPOptimize which can do the same thing, however, that is one additional plugin we don't really need.

WP Rocket Database Cleanup

  1. Post Revisions – These are regular backups of your WordPress posts that are saved to prevent you from losing any changes you've made should your connection hang or your website goes offline.
  2. Auto-Drafts – WordPress will auto-save your post/page as you are editing. If you don't hit the publish/update button, then the post will be saved as an auto-draft.
  3. Trashed Posts – these are simply posts/pages where you've sent them to the trash. Clean these up as they are no longer needed as use up valuable space.
  4. Spam & Trashed Comments – Another thing we can remove from the database since we hate Spam and no longer require any comments sent to trash.
  5. Transients – These are temporary settings saved in the database by WordPress and the plugins you use. They're auto-regenerated as needed so old ones can be safely removed.

I recommend setting up either WP-Rocket or WPOptimize to automatically run a database clean up regularly. By ensuring that your hosting company offers free backups, you can set this up safely and not risk losing any data.

WP-Rocket Automatic Database Backups

13. Avoid using sliders for better speed and conversions

Sliders are so very last year. In recent years gone by, the WordPress Theme market was inundated with “Magazine” style themes that had fancy homepage builders built in.

You could have a website that looked just as good as some of the huge news and media outlets, for a fraction of the price. The downside was having an incredibly slow website that's to sliders and fancy image CSS that simply isn't needed.

Not only are sliders outdated and slow down your website, but they can also affect CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) as this study reveals. So if you're using them, I'd highly recommend switching to a simpler theme such as GeneratePress and bringing your site up-to-date in 2019.

14. Disable WordPress features with WP Disable

If you're experiencing a slow WordPress admin dashboard then this section could fix that. There are many features that come packaged with your WordPress install that goes unused by most. By using a tool like WPDisable, you can remove these features and speed up the front and backend of WordPress.

Here are my recommended settings, however, feel free to keep some of the features you like of your site:

Requests Tab

WPDisable Requests Option Settings

Enable the following:

  • Disable Emojis
  • Remove Querystrings
  • Disable Google Maps
  • Disable Referral Spam
  • Minimize requests and load Google Fonts asynchronous
  • Minimize requests and load Font Awesome asynchronous
  • Disable WordPress password strength meter js on non-related pages
  • Disable Dashicons when user disables admin toolbar when viewing site

Tags Tab

WPDisable Tags Option Settings

Enable the following:

  • Remove RSD (Really Simple Discovery) tag
  • Remove Shortlink Tag
  • Remove WordPress API from header
  • Remove Windows Live Writer tag
  • Remove WordPress Generator Tag

Admin Tab

WPDisable Admin Option Settings

Enable the following:

  • Posts revisions number (set to 5)
  • Disable admin notices
  • Disable author pages
  • Heartbeat frequency (set to 60 seconds) – optional
  • Heartbeat locations (Disable Everywhere) – optional

SEO Tab

WPDisable SEO Option Settings

Enable the following:

  • Remove Yoast SEO comment from head section
  • Remove duplicate names in breadcrumbs WP SEO by Yoast
  • Disable pingbacks and trackbacks
  • Disable XML-RPC
  • Enable spam comments cleaner
  • Delete spam comments (set to once weekly)

15. Reduce The Number of Plugins

This one is pretty straight forward if you don't use a plugin or you can install a single plugin to do the job of 2 or more then do it. Fewer plugins make for a faster WordPress website.

For example, WordPress comes pre-loaded with a couple of plugins, these can go straight away. Then there are those plugins you installed as they looked cool, but do you actually use them? Can you replace their functionality with a simple tweak to your custom functions.php file?

Really trimming the number of plugins down will help you towards your goal of a blazing fast website.

16. Plugins to Avoid

Some plugins are known to have high CPU usage and cause an unnecessary drain on your server. Some hosting providers even struggle with the demand some of these plugins require. This is sometimes down to poorly optimized code, and other times they offer more features than we need (JetPack for example). Avoid these WordPress plugins if you can for a slicker WP dashboard and front end.

  • AddThis
  • Backup Buddy
  • Broken Link Checker
  • Beaver Builder
  • Contact Form 7
  • Divi Builder
  • Dynamic Related Posts
  • Essential Grid
  • Google XML Sitemaps
  • Jetpack
  • LayerSlider
  • NextGEN Gallery
  • Revolution Slider
  • S2Member
  • ShareThis
  • Similar Posts
  • SumoMe
  • VaultPress
  • WP Bakey
  • WPML (WordPress Multilingual Plugin)
  • WP Statistics
  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

17. Disable Comments

This is an optional tip as 50% of you reading this will have websites where pages/posts get zero comments and others may rely on them to engage with your readers and immerse yourself in the community.

If the latter if you, you can move on to the next step. For those of you who don't really care for or need comments on your content, implementing this step can remove the unnecessary drag on your page's performance.

  1. First head to settings –> discussion from your WordPress Dashboard
  2. Make the changes show in the image below to disable comments on each new page/post created
  3. For existing posts/pages, you will need to use the “Quick Edit” function to turn comments off
  4. You can override individual posts/pages the same way using the “Quick Edit” link
  5. If you are turning off comments, you should also disable avatars too from the same page located at settings –> discussion

WordPress-Disable-Comments

18. Gravatars – To Use or Not To Use?

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous step of disabling comments. I don't really see the need for Gravatars on most websites. They ‘re an attempt to bring a ‘social' element to websites but with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram etc, do we really need it? Isn't a name enough to identify who is commenting?

By tuning off Avatars you will save time on your load speed, especially if your site has a lot of comments. The following are a few steps you can take to speed up your site when it comes to Gravatars.

19. Disable Google Maps

Google Maps will typically be used on local services websites or on your business website. The common way to use them is to have a small map load in the website footer on every page.

Despite this only being a small map, they are known to cause delays in load time, so it's best to completely remove the maps or just display one on your Contact/About Us page where it makes sense. You can always keep your address in the footer in text format.

If you followed step XX and installed WPDisable, you can turn off Google Maps in WordPress via the “Requests” tab. You can also add individual pages where you'd like to enable Google Maps (e.g the contact or about pages).

20. Disable Emojis

Let your smartphone handle the emojis, not your website, they take time to render and are not essential. There are two ways to remove emoticons, the first is manual:

Option1 – Manually – Place the code below inside your functions.php file. If you do not have one of these, you should look to create a child theme and set up a new functions.php file where you can add custom code to improve performance. I would advise against placing any code within your core theme functions.php file, as the next time there is a theme update from the developer, you will lose any changes you have made to those core files.

Option 2 – WPDisable – As mention in site speed tips #14 above, you can use the WPDisable plugin to remove emojis easily via the “Requests” tab.

21. Defer Parsing Of JavaScript

Each script your website loads will add to your load speed. By reducing the number of scripts required AND having them load at the very end of the process, you can massively reduce load time.

By deferring the parsing of JavaScript files, you delay them until the end at the bottom of the website, only to be used when they are needed…after all of the other vital elements have loaded.

You can use this code to defer JS files in your custom functions.php we discussed above in step #15.

function defer_parsing_of_js ( $url ) {
if ( FALSE === strpos( $url, '.js' ) ) return $url;
if ( strpos( $url, 'jquery.js' ) ) return $url;
return "$url' defer ";
}
add_filter( 'clean_url', 'defer_parsing_of_js', 11, 1 );

If you prefer to use a plugin (not recommended) then you could use WP Deferred JavaScript or Async JavaScript to achieve the same result.

22. Adding Expires Headers

By adding expires headers to your .htaccess file, files such as CSS, JS, and images etc become cache-able, meaning they can be recalled much quicker rather than loading anew each time they are requested by a website visitor.

If you have WP Rocket installed then the hard work has already been done for you, just activating this plugin will add the necessary code to your .htaccess file automatically.

If you're not using WP Rocket you can add expires headers manually following this guide on GTMetrix.

23. Remove Query Strings From Static Resources

Static resources such as JS and CSS files are often assigned a version ID via themes & plugins, these are prefixed by a “?” question mark which is what GTMetrix is referring too by “query strings”.

Luckily for us, there are a few easy solutions to remove them. WPRocket, W3TotalCache, and WPDisable all have built-in features you can use to remove the query strings from static resources on your site. Be sure to re-run your speed tests afterward and you should see a reduction in load time, the number of HTTP requests and the above score should have jumped up to at least an A or B rating.

24. Minimize Redirects

Redirects occur when a URL is directed to an alternative URL. This often happens when you upgrade to an SSL certificate (HTTP) but have images or files that are using the non-SSL URL path (HTTP). You can quickly fix this by adding the additional “S” into the URL.

Sometimes, there could be an issue in your .htaccess file, especially if you are pushing all www. traffic to the non-www version of your site. Also, if you have any 301 redirects in your .htaccess file, ensure that you are not sending the same URL to multiple variations. These are also called landing page redirects.

E.g https://mydomain.com/old-page/ should only point to /new-page/ and nowhere else. Having too many redirects will slow down WordPress and could result in a never-ending loop if you're not careful.

25. Find Your Slowest Loading Pages

Some pages will load slower than others, things such as the number of words, images, videos, and iFrames etc can all result in a page which loads well above the desired 3-seconds.

To identify these pages we can use our Google Analytics, or a free 3rd party software called ScreamingFrog. Personally, I prefer the latter as I've found a large difference in what Google Analytics provides and I prefer the ScreamingFrog interface.

Either way you choose is fine, the idea is to get an idea for which individual pages are causing an issue and to fix them by running them through our 3-tools (GTMetrix, Pingdom and PageSpeed Insights from Google). From there you can begin to implement fixes as recommended in this guide.

FAQ's – Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find some of the most asked questions we get when it comes to WordPress Speed Optimization

Why is WordPress so slow?

Quick Answer – Web hosting, theme, plugins, and image sizes are the basics reasons why your WordPress site is so slow. There are many other aspects (covered in this guide) that will help you to speed up your website and optimize its performance.

Start your 25-step journey to a faster WordPress website.

What is the best WordPress caching plugin?

In Step 6 of this WordPress speed optimization guide, we revealed our recommended cache plugin for slow loading WordPress sites WP-Rocket.

The alternative is W3TotalCache who offer both a free and paid version of their plugin.

Which is the best hosting for WordPress?

We cover this in length in step 2 of this guide, however, we recommend 2 web hosting companies based on our experience and the overall sentiment of the WordPress community.

SiteGround – For fast and reliable web hosting recommended by WordPress themselves and the wider community.

WPXHosting – For a managed WordPress hosting package with additional features such as built-in CDN, excellent customer support and additional websites.

Can I speed up my WordPress site without a plugin?

The short answer to this is Yes. You can speed up WordPress without using any plugins, however, it will require some technical skill and knowledge.

If you have experience create WordPress child themes and working with custom functions.php files, then you should definitely be able to optimize the website by placing a few pieces of code in the right places.

The main issue comes down to time. Plugins make our jobs easier and much, much quicker. Whilst our team does have some great technical expertise, we often seek out a ready-made plugin to see if we can get the job done in 1/10th of the time, before we go digging with code.

If you're comfortable with PHP and are looking to get your hands dirty then steps 9, 12, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 of the guide above are just some of the tasks you can do manually with a bit of coding knowledge.

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully, by now you've managed to figure out why is WordPress so slow and fix those issues your website had. I'd love to hear about your successes (and failures) in the comments section below, I'm here to help anyone who is struggling or has a specific question not covered in this guide.