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Speeding up your WordPress website

Think of how many times you gave up on trying to reach a website because it loaded too slowly. And if you have to wait for a slow website to load, say it’s for work, your impression of that company and how it handles its business, just starts to sink when their site doesn’t load.

A slow website sucks and it just doesn’t have to be that way for any site running WordPress.

Here are six simple things you can do to speed up your WordPress website:

Hosting

There is a misconception that if you throw more money at your hosting provider, your site will go faster. Hosting is important as a foundation and starting point for a fast website, but certainly not the most important factor.  Also, when most hosting providers are leveraging  AWS and Google Cloud vs. building their own data centers, “what’s under the hood” matters less than, “who’s behind the wheel.” Our preferred hosting partner is SiteGround. Their hosting platform is built on one of the world’s fastest networks, Google Cloud, excellent customer service, easy to use site tools and cost effective.

WordPress Theme and Page Builder

There are a lot of choices in both Themes and Page Builders for WordPress, but not all Themes and Page Builders are built for speed. What I have found to deliver consistently fast websites is the combination of Elementor page builder and the extremely light weight Hello Theme by Elementor. This is a proven combination developed to work hand-in-hand to provide consistently fast websites.

Caching Plugin

Choosing the right caching plugin for your WordPress site is crucial to optimizing your site for speed. There are many available, including SiteGround’s own SG Optimizer plugin, offered for free to SiteGround customers. That said, there is one caching plugin that has consistently stood out – WP Rocket. Out of the box, this plugin delivers significant improvement on load times. It also helps tackle one of the biggest speed killers on business sites – external resources. Some examples are Google Analytics, Google Fonts, Facebook Pixel, HubSpot, Chatbot, etc. – if not loaded properly they can dramatically slow down your website.

Optimize Images & Video

This easily can be one of the most common causes of a slow website and the good news is that it’s one of the easiest to fix! Here are some common mistakes and how to fix them:

  1. Sizing Images: Be sure that your image dimensions match how they will be displayed on desktop, tablet and mobile.
  2. File Format: stop using PNG images on your site – they are way too big and JPG are just as good at 1/3 the file size. If you feel like you need a PNG because its a graphic or illustration, read on about SVG files.
  3. Compressing Images: Once you have your images resized and are using the right format, it’s time to compress your images to insure the smallest possible file size while maintaining a high-quality image. As a best practice, we work to optimize image file sizes before we start building your site, but there are a number of plugins that will do this automatically when you upload an image to your website. Just be sure to save the original, high-resolution version of your image.
  4. WebP Images: This next generation image file type will reduce the size of your images significantly without any noticeable effect on image quality. There are a number of ways to generate WebP images from your existing Media Library. One free tool is a plugin called EWWW Image Optimizer. This will compress your images and generate WebP version of your images. Again, just be sure to save the original version of all of your images on your computer as this process will overwrite your original images.
  5. SVG files: For your logo, any illustration or graphics that don’t use a photo, converting these files to SVG format is a must. Not only will this result in an extremely small file size (i.e. 4KB vs. 120KB), these are vector files that can scaled to any size without losing quality – and you who doesn’t love a nice, crisp logo? One final thought here – DO NOT USE a website to convert your images to SVG. It is very easy to put harmful code into an SVG file and its simply not worth the risk. Use Photoshop or Illustrator.

 

CDN (Content Delivery Network)

Imagine if Starbucks only had one location in Seattle and expected you to travel there each time you wanted to have a cup of coffee. Wouldn’t make sense, right? Part of Starbucks success is based on providing fast, convenient access to their product all their customers – regardless of their location.

That’s the same principle at work with CDNs or Content Delivery Networks. Instead of serving your website from one location, a CDN allows you to create multiple copies of your website on a network of servers around the world. The CDN will intelligently serve your website to visitors based on the server that is the closest to their location. The end result is an increase in site speed because your site visitors don’t have to travel as far (digitally) to access your site.

I recommend the leading provider in this space, Cloudflare CDN. In addition to speeding up your website, they offer a number of security features to protect your website from attacks. Though they offer a free CDN service, I highly recommend their Pro service that is just $20 per month, which includes Automatic Platform Optimization for WordPress. This new feature released in late 2020, offers one of those rare one click steps you can take to significantly improve the speed of your site.

Test & Monitor

As you go through the process of speed optimizing your website, its important to track you progress and measure you gains. To that end, an essential tool for speed optimizing your WordPress website is GTMetrix. This combines a number of speed testing tools including Google Page Speed Insights and allows you (with paid account) to monitor your website by running daily tests.

Hire a Pro

Going back to how I started this post, anything that can impact your brand and turn off new potential customers should be a priority. If you need help, let’s talk.

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