How to speed up your WordPress website

Since May 2021, Google have decided to give websites a performance score ranking based on its Core Web Vitals, or overall user experience including how fast the website loads. Your website’s core web vitals score subsequently determines how high your website shows up in their search engine. Therefore, it is more important than ever that your site is optimised for speed and performance.

Below we have listed 9 recommendations that you can use today to start boosting your page speed scores.

1. Use an optimal lightweight theme

If you want your WordPress website to load quickly and hit those Google core web vitals scores, it is important to choose a theme that is lightweight, i.e. has minimalistic code that’s designed for performance, looks great and loads fast on mobile. Fortunately, there are a handful of theme developers that really care about their load times as well as delivering a good-looking product. Here are a few WordPress themes that we use and highly recommend for our clients’ websites.

Blocksy

Blocksy is a great theme and one we are using for a lot client sites. Not only does the theme have strong page loading performance, it includes out of the box performance-enhancing features such as image lazy loading and the ability to load cascading style sheets inline for that little extra speed up.

In addition to being lightweight, it also has a nice drag-and-drop builder which makes adding headers and footers less painful.

The pro version costs $59 USD for one-site, or $99 for unlimited sites. The upgrade allows you to use local Google fonts which helps reduce website requests and also makes your site more GDPR friendly.

GeneratePress

GeneratePress is probably the most lightweight theme on the market. The theme is only a tiny 7.5kb in page size and the developer is heavily focused on speed and performance. The theme comes with a small selection of blocks for laying out websites. Combined with the right host, you can easily achieve 95+ Google page speed scores.

The reason we prefer Blocksy over this theme is that GeneratePress lacks the header and footer builder and the free version is more limited. However, the pro version is only $59.00 USD and can be used on 500 sites which makes it a great option for agencies and developers.

Kadence theme

Kadence theme is another lightweight and fast-performing theme. The features of this theme are almost identical to Blocksy, but seems less Javascript-heavy and slightly faster. It also has a nice header and footer builder and the pro version of the theme can be used on unlimited sites for just $59.00 USD.

Overall, there isn’t much difference between this theme and the Blocksy theme apart from being slightly cheaper for the Pro version on multiple sites.

2. Choose a reliable hosting provider

There are thousands of WordPress hosting providers out there with some offering very attractive pricing; however, it is important to consider a host that provides a good caching and compression solution.

Caching basically means that a static version of your page is kept in memory on the server so that data doesn’t need to be re-fetched every time the page is loaded. This speeds up sites dramatically as pages loaded from memory is much faster.

The fastest caching is probably done on the server via NGINX and Redis Object Caching.

Website compression is when the host will package your content into smaller sizes before delivery, this is often called gzip compression or brotli compression. Smaller content is faster to deliver which gives a massive performance boost to your site and increases your Core Web Vitals score.

Here are a few WordPress hosts that we think deliver strong performances at a good price.

EasyWP by Namecheap

EasyWP offer a simple one-click setup and provide their own built-in Redis Object Caching solution. They also offer a free SSL certificate, lots of space and 200,000 visitors per month.

It has a $3.88 USD monthly package, but it’s important to note that it does not include the SSL certificate which in our opinion is a minimum requirement for any production site. Therefore, we would only recommend that you pay the $7.88 USD package to get the SSL certificate.

They don’t allow 3rd party caching plugins to be installed, so WP Rocket can’t be installed on this host – not a huge setback as their free caching solutions work well.

They also don’t allow you to select server locations, which means your site could be hosted in Europe or the USA; however, for the low price it’s probably one of the best deals out there for a fast host.

WP Engine

WP Engine is probably one of the best WordPress hosts out there, but it is also one of the more expensive hosts with packages starting at $30.00 USD per month. They have amazing support and use a mixture of Varnish Cache and Redis Object Cache to make sites extremely fast.

Cloudways

Cloudways is a service that lets you pick your own cloud hosting provider such as Digital Ocean, Google Cloud and Amazon, then ads their technology stack and caching solution to the host. This makes managing a server easier as you don’t have to be a server admin expert to get great performance out of your server.

One advantage of using a service like Cloudways is that they keep your cloud servers updated, making it more secure.

The downside to this is you are paying an extra fee on top of the cloud provider. Packages start at $10 USD per month.

3. Utilise image lazy loading

Image lazy loading is a feature that will only load and display the images on your site when they are in the browser view. For example, if you have a gallery page on your site and it consists of 50 images it will only load the 2-3 images that are on view when the page loads. This is really useful for increasing page speed times as images take a lot of time for the full page to load.

Some themes like Blocksy include image lazy loading features out of the box, but there are also plugins which add this functionality such as WP Rocket.

4. Avoid uploading large images

Uploading large images is often overlooked and is a huge problem in page loading sizes. There’s a misconception that websites need the highest resolution images for a quality look, and these days most images are very large especially if taken with an expensive camera or even a modern mobile device like an iPhone. What results is a large image that takes forever to load.

A simple fix for this is either resizing the image in a software editing package such as photoshop and saving the image as jpg, or using a plugin such as Imagify or ShortPixel which assists in the resizing directly in the WordPress dashboard.

A good rule of thumb is is try to keep files less than 100kb of size and no larger than the theme needs. 1024 pixels wide would be more than enough in most cases as themes often have a maximum width of 1200 pixels.

5. Use image compression

In addition to reducing your images’ sizes, you can also compress the images. There are some great tools for doing this task. One of our favourite offline tools is ImageOptim and is free to use. Imagify and ShortPixel can also do this if you are looking for a painless WordPress plugin solution and both plugins have free plans.

6. Minify CSS and Javascript

Cascading style sheets (CSS) and Javascript reduce website speeds. Minifying means taking the CSS and Javascript on your website and compressing it so that all whitespace and unwanted characters are removed. It is less important if you are already using a good http/2 hosting provider, but it will improve your Core Web Vitals scores.

7. Minimise the use of Google fonts

Using Google fonts makes your site look great but overusing comes at a cost of slowing down your site. A good rule of thumb is to use just 1 Google font with a couple of weights such as a bold and regular. A font like Open Sans or Roboto looks great for most modern websites.

For extra performance you could also use the system default stack fonts which take zero overhead and are supported by all modern browsers out of the box.

8. Defer Javascript execution

Often your website will have a lot of Javascript, code that makes your website interactive — forms, animations and lots of plugins use Javascript. Deferring allows the Javascript to load behind the scenes and after the page’s visual content has fully loaded. This makes your website load faster and also increases your page scores dramatically.

9. Utilise a content delivery network (CDN)

A content delivery network (CDN) is particularly useful if your site is aimed at a global audience. CDNs store a large copy of your most used files on servers all over the globe. When a user connects to your site from another country it will serve the files from that country first, so time taken to serve those files is quicker.

We list out a couple of really great CDN providers below.

BunnyCDN

Bunny CDN is one of the best content delivery networks and is also cost effective with prices from just $0.01 per GB. Bunny CDN powers over 800,000 sites including sites such as Hyundai.

Cloudflare Automatic Platform Optimization

Cloudflare’s APO is another amazing CDN platform designed to speedup WordPress sites. At a cost of $5.00 USD per month, you get a lot of features out of the box such as DDoS protection, firewall and DNS management. If you are looking for a quick website speed-up fix, then this is a good place to start.

10. Cleaning up your WordPress database

When you make changes to your WordPress content it will create a revision and store these changes in the database, this allows you to revert back to old versions of your content. However with every change and revision your database will become larger. This takes up unnecessary database storage and will eventually start to slow down your website.

To keep your database clean and optimised I recommend a plugin called WP-Sweep. This plugin removes all the unwanted data from your database that is not required. The plugin is also completely free.

Conclusion

There is a huge advantage to improving the page speed of your website. Your visitors will have a better browsing experience because the content and images are loading faster, which in turn may translate into more leads and sales. It will also improve your Google search rankings due to a better core web vitals score which can bring more traffic to your website.

If you would like professional help in optimising your website please contact us today.

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