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WordPress is not fast. There, we said it. It’s not the fault of the developers, but rather just how the software works. Every page on your site has to be rendered by your server before being sent to the browser. There can be anywhere from 30 to 50 different trips back and forth to the database just to create a single page. And that doesn’t even include additional trips for plugin features that you might add.
When it comes to page speed, there are a lot of things we can optimize to make your site load faster. Let’s take a look at a few improvements that can be made.
WordPress Page Caching
Setting up page caching is one of the best ways you can do to help your site load faster. Basically, caching takes a “picture” of the page code right before it sends it to your browser, after all the database work has been completed. The caching software stores this code as a static HTML file on the server.
The next time the page is requested, the caching software looks in it’s library of static cached pages and if it finds the page it pulls it from there rather than having to generate the page dynamically. That prevents the server from having to make all those trips to the database to create and assemble the page.
There are a lot of different free and premium page caching plugins available for WordPress, and we can help you install and configure caching on your site.
This takes position number two in our list of the top ways to optimize WordPress. Images take up a lot of space and hence take a lot of time to load. Since WordPress allows you to easily resize images after you insert them into your page, users often get a little lazy in optimizing the image size.
Let’s say you upload a JPEG image that you created that is 700px by 400px in size at 70% image quality, but after you insert it, you scale it down to only be 350px by 200px. The original image was 54Kb, but if you had scaled the image down BEFORE you inserted it, the image would only have been 20Kb. You could have saved 34Kb of overhead just by scaling one image. And if you have five images on your page, you could be sending an extra 150Kb on one page alone.
Modern browser now have full support for transparent PNG formats and this allows you to “knock out” the background of an image and let the background show through. The problem is, PNG images are larger because it uses a “lossless” compression as compared to JPG images.
We can take your site images and compress and optimize them and make a huge impact on page load times. We can also install a special plugin that only loads images once they appear within the browser window. The combination of image optimization and lazy loading is the best way to eliminate bottlenecks when loading sites heavy on images.
CDN File Delivery
A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, is basically “cloud caching” for your site. Popular CDNs include CloudFlare, MaxCDN, Amazon CloudFront, and Microsoft Azure CDN.
The benefit of using a CDN to serve your site files is reduced latency for your site visitors. With normal hosting, let’s say with Hostgator for example, your site would be served from either their Provo or Houston datacenter. If your site visitor is located in London, they will have an increased wait for files to be served as compared to a visitor in the U.S.
If you were using the same Hostgator account but have CloudFlare CDN enabled, you would gain an additional 76 datacenters around the world. Then when your London visitor returns, your site files would actually be served from CloudFlare’s London datacenter and would be much faster than just using Hostgator’s two default datacenters.
We can set up CDN file delivery on your site to take advantage of multiple datacenters and minimize your site’s latency for visitors.
Use a Good Web Hosting Company
Another factor that impacts the speed of your site is the web hosting company you choose to host with. There are literally thousands of companies that offer hosting with one-click WordPress installation, but there are only a handful that are really good at hosting WordPress.
The typical cheap shared hosting plans are fine for basic sites or cutting your teeth on learning WordPress. But if you anticipate any real traffic you may want to consider paying a little extra for a hosting plan that will give you some added performance and features.
A few hosts that you might want to look into are Bluehost Cloud Hosting, SiteGround, and for power users, WP Engine. There are many other good hosts out there, but do your homework and read customer opinions before you sign up.
If your current web host is suffering from extensive down time, poor support, or slow page loads, we can help you migrate your site to a new, faster server.
Optimize the WordPress Database
Over time as you add pages, posts, plugins, and comments, the WordPress database gets clogged with a lot of unneeded information that slows down database queries and adds to page load time. We recommend optimizing your database weekly for heavy traffic sites and once a month for lower traffic sites.
Cleaning and optimizing your database is like reducing the clutter in your house. It makes it easier to find things and just gives you a nice warm feeling inside. We can help you set up a database optimization plugin and schedule routine maintenance.
Choose a Lean WordPress Theme
When choosing a theme for your site, you can help speed up your page loads by choosing a lightweight theme that doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. Some themes and frameworks have a lot of extra code included for features that you may not use. We are guilty as charged in this aspect as we use the Divi theme by Elegant Themes on this site. It comes with an extensive selection of page elements like content sliders, buttons, pricing tables, icons, e-mail forms, and much more. Do we use all of these things on our site? Nope. But man, the Divi Builder is a cool way to visually build a page!
If your current theme is too “fat” and you want to change to something faster, we can install and customize any theme to meet your needs.
Optimize for Mobile Devices
Everyone has a smartphone (except my father-in-law), and everyone browses the web on their phone. Many users do not have access to high-speed cellular service, and they may be browsing on 3G speeds or slower. It’s important to design your site taking a “mobile first” approach, which means you design as if everyone was viewing your site on their phone. This includes using responsive design which scales up to larger viewports (tablets and desktop monitors), as well as serving content that is optimized for mobile devices.
A lot of designers may use CSS media queries to control how a site looks on mobile devices, but just hiding content still requires the content to load on slower cellular networks. The correct way to serve mobile content is to filter the content at the server before the page is even sent to the device. When a phone is detected, the server can choose to limit the content sent in order to preserve bandwidth on slower devices.
Optimizing WordPress for mobile devices can be accomplished by using a plugin like WP Mobile Detect. By simply wrapping content in device-specific shortcodes, you can control which content is displayed on a phone, a tablet, or a desktop computer. The content that is excluded is never sent from the server, thereby reducing the load time and improving the user experience.
If you would like to optimize your site for mobile devices, you do not necessarily need to switch your current theme. We can add a dedicated mobile theme to your current theme and allow you to send optimized content to your mobile visitors.
We can help you speed up your site and reduce visitor abandonment. The following are actual optimization projects we have completed for customers. If you would like to optimize your site, click here or if the live chat button is visible in the top menu, feel free to start a chat with a support technician.
- Eliminate render-blocking JS and CSS
- Opimize CSS and remove @import
- Set up and configure HTTPS and SSL
- Compress and optimize site images
- Combine images into CSS sprites
- Set up CDN usage
- Install and configure Open Graph meta tags
- Enable page caching and compression
- Server-side mobile optimization
- Improve Page Speed ratings
- Enable and configure browser caching
- Modify theme to be responsive
- Relocate WordPress to faster server
- Prevent image hotlinking
- Reconfigure page structure for SEO
- Optimize MySQL database
- Create optimized social sharing images
- Clean up and turn off post revisions
- Serve site images from Amazon S3
- Set up automated WordPress backups