Is your WordPress site fast enough? With Google’s Page Experience Update in 2021, Core Web Vitals are more important than ever. Slow sites don’t just cost you money (fewer visitors equals fewer conversions) but they are bad for SEO. Google has made it clear that it’s looking for sub-one-second page load. Sites that don’t comply will soon find their search ranking damaged. That’s why it’s essential to speed up your WordPress site.
Before you can speed up your WordPress site, you need to find the source of the slowdown. There are a number of tools you can use to identify and troubleshoot issues, including Google Page Speed Insights, GTMetrix, Pingdom and the Plugin Performance Profiler WordPress plugin. Here’s how to find out what’s making your site sluggish.
One of the first tools to try is Google Page Speed Insights, which is free. Go to the page and input your URL into the on-screen box. Press the “analyze” button to start the analysis – you will see a completion bar as it goes through.
The tool generates a report that analyzes the speed and user experience on both mobile and desktop and gives recommendations about critical and recommended areas to fix. Click the link below each recommendation for more detailed advice on solving the issue.
GTMetrix is another useful free tool for identifying speed issues with your WordPress website. Go to the homepage and type in your URL to get a report. This tool uses both YSlow and Page Speed to analyze the site and gives an grade from A to F at the top of the page. It also shows each issue and recommendation in descending order of importance. You can click on each recommendation for more detail of how your site performed.
A third free tool for identifying page speed issues is Pingdom Website Speed Test. Like the others, this works by plugging in your URL to the home page, after which you get a report. This report looks better, and provides a waterfall analysis, a performance grade and a page analysis to make it easy to see which are the most important issues to fix.
While the three tools above are great for testing all sites, there’s one more tool that’s specifically for WordPress sites. Most WordPress sites use plugins, and every plugin makes additional database calls and can potentially slow your site down. Some are more resource-hungry and others, and Plugin Performance Profiler helps you to identify which they are. Install it in the usual way from the WordPress dashboard and it will run a scan, providing a handy pie chart to show which plugins are hogging your site’s resources.
Many of the tools above will identify similar issues with your WordPress site. The next step is to fix them. Here are some steps to take to speed up your website.
The fewer you have, the faster your site is. Got multiple analytics or social sharing plugins? Pick a favorite in each category and discard the rest. Or find a single plugin that does multiple things. (One example is Wordfence Security which can limit login attempts, scan for malware, block IP addresses and handle many other WordPress security needs). If one particular plugin is hogging your bandwidth, look around for a less resource-hungry alternative.
Not all WordPress themes are alike. Some themes have a lot of features built in that you might never need. This kind of bloatware can really make your site slow. And it’s not just a case of picking a premium theme over a free one – there are some needy premium themes and some super-fast, super-light free ones. You can see which theme elements are slowing your site down in the page speed reports generated by the tools we’ve recommended. The best advice? Choose a well-supported theme which is updated regularly.
Those page speed reports usually identify issues like:
You can solve these individually (usually with a plugin) or all together (see the next step).
One way to speed up your site instantly is to make sure that content that stays visually the same doesn’t have to be reloaded again for the same user. A caching plugin compresses and pre-loads pages to make your site faster. Some plugins even use server-side compression for additional speed. There are several caching plugins, but WP-Super Cache is a good starting point.
A CDN caches content in a different way, serving up your content from networks around the world for quicker local access. It often includes tools to compress images, scripts and style sheets, addressing many of the most common WordPress site slowdown issues. One free CDN is Cloudflare, which many hosts now include with hosting packages.
Over the course of time your database collects entries that you don’t actually need (such as old post revisions). Regular optimization can help with this. If you’re really tech-savvy, check out PHP My Admin in your hosting control panel and optimize manually. Otherwise, an easy option is to use a plugin such as WP-Optimize. The default settings work well for most people and you can disable it when not in use.
If you’re using shared hosting and your site uses a lot of CPU resources, your web host may throttle your site to reduce your usage, causing your site to load more slowly. Not all hosts do this – if yours does, consider switching to a new web host with more generous CPU usage limits.
No-one wants their site to be slow. Use the tools and steps listed above to make your site load like lightning.