How To Make Faster WordPress Sites

See now how to make faster WordPress sites! Website speed is a big deal. It has a direct influence on the chances of a good conversion rate

By Claudio Pires
Updated on July 28, 2022
How To Make Faster WordPress Sites

See now how to make your WordPress sites faster! Website speed is a big deal. It directly influences the chances of a visitor returning, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction levels. Even the options of your website ranking well in search engines like Google. In short, your website needs to be fast! How fast? Generally speaking, pages should load in less than an absolute maximum of about three seconds. But the quicker, the better (ideally more like one to two seconds).

How To Make Faster WordPress Sites

WordPress is a well-maintained and highly streamlined system. When issues do arise, they’re generally down to the fact that hardly anyone uses a vanilla WordPress installation. You’re likely using scores of plugins, custom code, or third-party themes to get the results you need. All of which have the potential to chip away at your site’s speed. In this article, we’ll go through the root causes of these decreases and look at what you can do to solve any issues and get your site up to speed.

Site Speed Factors

There are a few factors that determine the speed of a website. Here are the ones we’ll look at in more detail:

  • Ping
  • Hosting Quality
  • Code Quality
  • Website Requests

How To Make Faster WordPress Sites: Ping

The ping is essentially the time it takes for a query from your computer to get to the server. This is up in milliseconds, which may seem low, but these milliseconds add up quickly. If your website has lots of requests, even a 10ms ping could add up to a whole second or more.

You obviously can’t ask users to move closer to your servers. But you can use CDN services to lower pings on average. We’ll talk more about CDN services below.

Hosting Quality

Hosting is probably the most critical factor in your site’s speed. It not only affects the user experience by providing faster caching and more powerful servers. But with the proper infrastructure, you’ll be safe against traffic surges. At the same time, the effects of lower code quality can also be out.

Therefore, finding a good host should be a top priority. We have numerous articles and guides on hosting here at Visualmodo. Look at our Guide to the best WordPress Hosting Services and our articles on hosting. Generally, a premium hosting service is worth paying a little extra. If your business relies on your website’s speed and uptime.

Code Quality

Code quality affects site speed in numerous ways: Bad code takes longer to process. Unoptimized code may be much more memory-intensive or enormous, making faster WordPress sites require good coded features. Taking more time to download. That’s not to mention the snowball effect tied to hard-to-maintain code. As more and more developers add more and more to your code in different styles. Using various methodologies, it’ll start to degrade, compounding all the issues above.

The problem is that unless you’re a seasoned developer, it’s difficult to determine the code quality you’re using. There are a few things that are easier to control than others. Though, such as choosing reliable plugins, which we’ll look at later.

Website Requests

How To Make Faster WordPress Sites
How To Make Faster WordPress Sites

The number of requests your website makes is related to code quality. But it’s worth highlighting because you can control it to a certain extent. Whenever your site loads a resource. An image, a video, a script (a tracking code, for example), and a few other things — a request is up. Each separate request takes time, which decreases your site’s speed. But there are a few techniques to lower the number of requests your site makes — we’ll take a look at some of these below.

Measuring Loading Times

Before you learn how to lower your loading times, you’ll need to know how to measure them. GTmetrix is an excellent tool for this. Letting you measure your site’s performance and get all sorts of information and actionable items for free (a paid plan may suit if you test regularly or need more advanced options). Check out our dedicated GTmetrix guide for more information.

Other options include Pingdom, a similar service, or browser tools such as YSlow. Moreover, it can be up within the Chrome/Firefox/Safari extension libraries.

What’s a Good Loading Time?

This depends on what you’re doing, but it shouldn’t be more than three seconds. If you mainly have text with an image or two, your site should load in less than two seconds. A mid-range site with a couple of pictures and lots of text can load within 700ms if everything is ready and your host is top-notch.

Decreasing Loading Times: How To Make Faster WordPress Sites?

Some of the methods listed may be a bit more advanced than your current skill set (the more accessible tips are nearer the top) but don’t worry about that too much. So, implement anything from the list and try a new method every week. Any speed increase is valuable, so don’t fret if you don’t go through the whole list immediately.

Choosing The Best Host

Choosing The Best Host
This helps in making faster WordPress sites – Host.

I’ve already mentioned the importance of a good host. Our Guide to the Best WordPress Hosting Services should be able to help you make an informed decision. A good host offers advanced services, such as backups, site monitoring, and the easy addition of new sites. I’ve become a big fan of managed WordPress hosts recently. They have the advantage of focusing on WordPress, so they even assemble their hardware according to its needs.

The three best-managed WordPress hosting services are WP Engine, Kinsta, and Flywheel. All of these provide top-quality hosting, and I’d trust my business to anyone while they have their differences.

One thing I’d caution against would be using the managed WordPress hosting services of companies that also focus on other forms of hosting. These services are usually cheap and aren’t really WordPress specific, just a re-packaging of their existing shared or VPS plans. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong, but companies specializing in WordPress services are much better at this. A Good host makes faster WordPress sites.

Plugin Review To Make Faster WordPress Sites

If you have a very sluggish site, reviewing your plugins could be one of the best moves you make. I recommend going over your list of plugins twice. On your first review, identify plugins you don’t use or don’t need, deactivate them and then delete them. Remember that you should never have more than one SEO plugin or caching plugin installed at once, as this will slow your site dramatically. You may not need a caching plugin if you use managed WordPress hosting. Ask your host about this to ensure.

Now you’ve weeded out any unnecessary plugins. It’s time to review what’s up to see if there’s room for improvement. Make sure each plugin is the best on offer: There are thousands of plugins in the repository, so choose the ones with high quality. As always, we have you covered — take a look at our guide to selecting plugins for some tips on getting the best.

You should aim to have as few plugins as possible: By optimizing your plugin usage, you’ll be lowering the number of requests your site makes, which increases speed even more.

Update Everything

First of all, make sure you always use the latest version of WordPress. Since version 3.7, WordPress has had automatic updates for minor releases and security updates. You’ll get a notice in the admin when a new update comes along. Don’t dismiss it as a chore for later — it takes less than a minute and will increase your website’s security and speed.

You can also configure your site to apply core updates automatically. Look at the automatic update guide in the WordPress Codex. Ensure that your plugins and themes receive updates for the least buggy, most up-to-date, most secure, and fastest versions of these products.

That takes care of WordPress, but don’t forget your servers — especially your PHP version. PHP is the base language WordPress is present. The speed difference between the latest version of PHP and the previous one is dramatic, with an increase of almost double across the board (check out the PHP performance insights to see for yourself).

High-end hosts will manage this for you, or you may be able to set which version of PHP your site is using yourself. Take a look at your website’s control panel or drop your host’s support staff a line and ask them to put you on PHP7 — it’ll make a huge difference.

Use a CDN To Make Faster WordPress Sites

Use a CDN
This helps in making faster WordPress sites – CDN.

I’ve mentioned CDN services before about lowering pings. A CDN (content delivery network) is a distributed network that serves content to your visitors from a geographically closer location. If I do an image through a CDN, viewers in the US may receive the image through a data center in Texas, while Europeans may get it through a data center in Germany.

Decreasing the distance data has to travel lowers pings and transfer times. Reducing the stress on the network, as it’s now present worldwide. Using a CDN will also make life easier should you want to transfer your website to another location, or work on it locally. Since content served from a CDN is in the cloud, you don’t need to move it when moving a site, which is a huge productivity gain!

A CDN solution usually consists of a storage location and a delivery network (the latter is the actual CDN). Amazon, for example, has a storage solution of Amazon S3, and you can tie in Amazon’s CDN solution. CloudFront — to make sure your content is distributed in its network. Setting this up is easier than you may think. For more information, look at our guide. Moving WordPress media to Amazon S3. MaxCDN and CDN77 are also great CDNs and are cheaper (often faster) than Amazon’s solutions.

Use Caching To Make Faster WordPress Sites

Use Caching
How To Make Faster WordPress Sites

When you serve a page to your viewers, the following happens: PHP code is executed and processed on the server, resulting in HTML code that’s sent to the user. The resulting HTML is often the same, but it’s still processed every time. Take a blog post, for example, It doesn’t change unless it’s updated, but the PHP code is still processed every time.

Caches save valuable server time by ‘saving’ the result of the processing operation. The code is executed and processed, and the resulting HTML is stored in the cache. The processing is skipped altogether for subsequent visitors, receiving the saved HTML version.

This speeds up your site and can significantly help with traffic surges since the server doesn’t need to process every request. Currently, there are three well-known all-in-one caching solutions for WordPress: W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and WP Rocket.

W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are free, and the former has the better reviews. WP Rocket is a newer addition to the group, and, according to studies, it has the fastest performance. However, it’s a premium plugin that will cost you money.

Before you test caching solutions, remember our advice: Never install more than one caching plugin, and ask your host if you need one. Installing more than one caching plugin is horrible, as it will likely slow or break your website. If you’re on a managed WordPress hosting plan, your host may have something built in at the server level that’s much more important for faster WordPress site creation.

Optimize Your Images

WordPress does its best to serve optimized images, but there are some things it simply can’t do. It’s best to optimize your photos before you upload them using the likes of Photoshop. All image editors allow you to choose JPEG quality, so use the lowest setting possible. You won’t notice the difference between 100% and 60% quality in many cases, but the file size could be cut by half (or more).

There are also some tools you can use to batch-optimize images. ImageOptim is an excellent tool for OSX users, while RIOT will be helpful to any Windows users out there. It’s best not to go overboard with image sizes, and here’s why: When you upload a 3000×1000 image, WordPress will save specific measures of it, defined by your theme. If your theme uses a 900×300 featured image, the large image will be downsized to those dimensions. All good so far: The appropriate embodiment will be used.

If, for any reason, the image size doesn’t exist (an error, you switched your theme), the original 3000×1000 version may be used. You probably won’t be able to see the difference, but you’ll have just added 1MB to your site’s size, thus decreasing your speed.

When you change your theme, your image sizes will be all over the place: Your new piece may call for a 300×100 featured image, which simply won’t exist. Your best bet is to regenerate your image sizes when you switch your theme, using a plugin such as Regenerate Thumbnails. It may take a while if you have thousands of images, but it’ll speed up your site considerably and makes a faster WordPress load.

Hire A Good Coder To Make Faster WordPress Sites

I can’t stress this one enough. Hiring a good developer and consistently working with him or she is akin to paying a little extra for better hosting. You may not feel the effects in the short term, but you’ll curse yourself for choosing the cheap option in the long run.

The truth is that WordPress is easy to code for. PHP isn’t a complex language, and WordPress has so much documentation that you can learn how to make an essential plugin in a couple of weeks. This is great in many ways, but it can also mean that many people offer their services before they’re ready to do quality work.

In development, if the cost seems too good to be true, it probably is, and the quality of work will suffer. An experienced developer doesn’t just know how to implement the things you need — they know how to implement them in an optimized, future-proofed way. Paying $50 to $100 an hour may seem like a lot, but I guarantee that you’ll pay more in the long run if you get someone subpar to work on your site, a faster WordPress site it’s really important.

Educate Yourself

Another great way to increase your website’s performance (not just speed-wise) is to learn about your technologies. There are guides, tutorials, videos, articles, and forums on every topic imaginable. From tracking your website with Google Analytics to using WooCommerce. So you should find everything you need.

Learning as much as possible helps you manage your website better and communicate more effectively with developers and designers.

Development Tasks To Make Faster WordPress Sites

As a website owner/user, there’s only so much you can do to that helps in make faster WordPress sites. Many fundamental sins are committed in the code, and there’s not much you can do about that — unless you’re willing to get your hands dirty! Without getting into the nitty-gritty, here are the most common issues you’ll encounter — and how to solve them.

Loading scripts takes up valuable requests and bandwidth. While some need to be loaded in the header (the part of the website that loads first), most will work fine if loaded in the footer — the part of the site that loads last. By the time the browser loads the footer of your website, it’ll have loaded your content, so the viewer can start reading while the scripts in the footer are loaded.

The solution is to move as much as you can to the footer. In WordPress, you can do this using the wp_enqueue_script() function — look at the linked documentation for more details. This helps a lot in making faster WordPress sites.

Load Important Content First

The same logic can be applied to how your content’s structured. If your sidebar’s loaded before your content and something goes awry, it’ll hold up the whole site. If it’s packed with your content, it may still cause the place to hang, but by that time, the main content will have loaded.

Structure your code in a way that allows your primary content to load as soon as possible, so if anything goes wrong, users have something to look at — and they may not even notice the issues.

Concatenating And Minifying Files

Concatenating (merging) files helps reduce the number of requests a site makes. If your site contains 10 JavaScript and 10 CSS files, you’re making 20 requests. If you merge all your JavaScript files into a single file, though (and do the same for your stylesheets), you’ll reduce your submissions to two, saving you a lot of loading time.

Concatenating can be done manually with the terminal or command prompt but is more commonly done using build tools such as Gulp or Grunt — both have concatenation extensions. You can also use GUI tools such as CodeKit or Prepros.

Minifying files is a handy way of reducing their size. A code is written to be read by humans, but machines don’t need all that extra spacing and readable variable names. Minification removes everything that’s required only for readability, such as spaces, line breaks, and comments. Even better: the tools used are the same as above!

Optimize Your Database

With time, any database will deteriorate. The worse your code, the faster this will happen. Luckily, MySQL has some great tools built in to repair these problems. Large databases consume more RAM and slow down queries, leading to longer processing times, which can add up to 10 seconds of load time!

SiteGround has a short tutorial on optimizing a MySQL database using SQL queries and one on using phpMyAdmin to optimize a database.

Enable Gzip Compression

The size of web pages can contribute to download speeds considerably. By using gzip to compress the website (this is much like using zip archives), you can decrease the size of your page, and the time it takes to retrieve it. To get it to work, you’ll need to edit your .htaccess files — GTmetrix has an excellent overview of how this can be done. This helps in making faster WordPress sites.

Final thoughts

As you can see, there’s a lot you can do to speed up your website! Some methods are for developers (or the more adventurous), but there are a bunch of easy tweaks you can perform as a regular user to increase your site’s speed.

One of the most brilliant things you can do is research the plugins and themes you use and be consistent with your decisions. This will help make your website faster — and keep it that way!

Claudio Pires

Claudio Pires is the co-founder of Visualmodo, a renowned company in web development and design. With over 15 years of experience, Claudio has honed his skills in content creation, web development support, and senior web designer. A trilingual expert fluent in English, Portuguese, and Spanish, he brings a global perspective to his work. Beyond his professional endeavors, Claudio is an active YouTuber, sharing his insights and expertise with a broader audience. Based in Brazil, Claudio continues to push the boundaries of web design and digital content, making him a pivotal figure in the industry.