Page load speed is a critical component of user experience. When someone visits your website, they want to get the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible. This is especially true in mobile environments where instant delivery of data is not only desirable but also expected. In light of this, Google is now taking the speed at which a page loads into account when determining site rankings in search results. If you want your WordPress website to perform well with visitors and search engines, you need to take steps to decrease page load times.
Choose the Right Hosting Type
You have three options when choosing a WordPress web host: shared, virtual private servers (VPS) and dedicated servers. Shared hosting distributes a small amount of resources among a large number of sites and offers little in the way of reliability when it comes to speed. VPS hosting provides more resources by splitting a physical server into several virtual server environments. Dedicated hosting gives you a server all to yourself, but these plans require more setup and maintenance than their less expensive counterparts.
For the best WordPress performance with the least amount of hassle, you may want to try managed WordPress hosting from companies such as WP Engine and Pressable. These services use frameworks designed for WordPress that offer extensive support for all of its functions. Look for services that have a high amount of processing power and bandwidth along with SSD storage for faster retrieval and delivery of data.
Clean Up the Code
When setting up or redesigning your WordPress site, avoid cumbersome themes with features that you’re never going to use. Choose a streamlined setup that offers a visually pleasing layout without a lot of bells and whistles. A minimalist theme loads much more quickly than one bogged down by unnecessary code.
Be selective about the plugins you choose to customize your site. Too many different functions running at once can slow load times significantly. Test your site when you install and activate new plugins to ensure that there are no conflicts. If a plugin isn’t running right, find an alternative or figure out a way to do without it.
Caching cuts down on the number of steps necessary to retrieve and display site content. When a visitor arrives on your site, this creates a request to view a page. The request then has to go through the server and your WordPress database before the page actually loads. Caching plugins such as W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache create static HTML files of your most-requested content and deliver these as complete pages rather than having to piece them together from the server and database. Caching also minifies JSS and CSS code by removing unnecessary characters such as white spaces. The ability to create expiration dates for cached pages updates the cache at specific points in time to allow WordPress to handle dynamic content in the same way.
Uploading only one version of an image and scaling it on your site requires a user’s browser to download the entire image file regardless of display size. Instead of resizing one large image, create thumbnail versions in the sizes that you want to use. Link to the original image to give users the option of viewing a full-size version. You can also employ lossless compression, a type of data compression that reduces file size without compromising the quality of the original image. Installing a lazy load plugin conserves resources by only displaying images that appear above the fold and loading other images as necessary when a user scrolls down the page.
Leverage Location for Content Delivery
A content delivery network (CDN) increases page load speeds by storing and retrieving site files, including large media files and scripts, from servers close to where users are located. By taking advantage of a large network of multiple data centers in various areas, a CDN can optimize site performance for each individual visitor regardless of where they’re based. Popular CDN services like MaxCDN and Amazon Cloudfront are a good choice and have plugins specifically for WordPress sites.
Test Your Page Speed
Implementing speed strategies for your website won’t do any good if you don’t get results. Tools like Google PageSpeed offer insights into page performance on different platforms. Others test various browser environments and allow you to see how location affects page load speeds. The P3 Plugin Performance Profiler tool for WordPress assesses your active plugins and reports any detrimental effects on site speed. Together, these statistics help you determine where your site still needs improvement so that you can make adjustments if needed.
Using these tactics to speed up your WordPress site delivers a better experience to both desktop and mobile users. The resulting increase in engagement and reduction in bounce rates can lead to more e-commerce sales, more social signals and greater visibility for your content across the Internet.