So you’re a newbie to WordPress, you just bought your first domain, and you’re eager to start making pages/posts for your WordPress site.
You’ve done your research about the right themes and what plugins to use, and you’re now trying to optimize your site to be as fast as possible.
How well you optimize your WordPress site can help it rank better in search engine rankings, as Google has been incorporating page speed on their search engine result metrics for the past decade.
A quick google search and you’ll find dozens of articles talking about it. Some are more technical than others, but overall, they all relay the same message: Fast loading websites boost user experience, thereby boosting user retention and conversions.
We’ve summarized the information from these articles into this practical guide.
Know Your Speed
If you already have a WordPress site, may it be new or you’ve had one for years, knowing how it measures up in terms of page speed will help you find the needed steps to optimize it.
There are numerous tools you can use to measure your page speed, Google’s PageSpeed Insights is one such tool. Not only does it measure the performance and speed of your WordPress site, it also gives suggestions and key insights to improve and optimize page speed and performance. You can read up more about it and other suggested tools and information by Google here.
It’s also important to test multiple key pages of your WordPress site. More often than not, website owners only test their “front page” and call it a day. Having multiple pages means having multiple ways for visitors to enter your site. Neglecting your other pages may lead to a decrease in user experience. A fast front page is meaningless if subsequent pages are not up to par.
To add, doing frequent benchmarks will help you identify performance optimizations and help improve your page score.
Choosing a Hosting Provider
A lot of hosting companies offer a plethora of packages or plans, ranging from basic domain and website hosting, to plans that offer additional security features, dedicated hosting, support and integrations to other web tools or services. Prices vary amongst these providers, especially for packages that offer similar features, so choosing the correct one that suits your needs may be tricky.
Two words, REALIBILITY and SUPPORT.
A good hosting provider should be reliable (must not have frequent maintenance or downtimes) and fast when responding to support inquiries.
A shared hosting plan may be cheap and most hosting providers offer tons of tools like a control panel, backup capabilities and security features, but just as the name implies, your website is sharing the same server and resources with hundreds or even thousands of other websites. During peak hours, you may find that navigating your WordPress site is slow or the control panel page is unresponsive. If you’re concern with your shared hosting plan affecting performance, then it is in your best interest to opt for a dedicated hosting plan.
The reliability of your WordPress site being fast and accessible shouldn’t be neglected, and picking the correct plan that balances your needs from your expenses should be handled with utmost consideration.
To add, often times you may come across problems with your WordPress site, server or both, having a fast support turnaround time helps a lot. One way to check if whether your hosting provider’s support is top notch is to look around their support forums or around social media and message boards like reddit or relevant Facebook groups.
Popular hosting providers have been known to be plagued with complaints and unsatisfactory reviews for their alleged slow support. It’s up to your discretion and research whether you believe them or not, they may help you discern which hosting provider to choose.
Lastly, be wary about the limitations of your hosting plan.
These are the limitations that you should wary about:
- Storage Limit – Hard limit on the amount of data you can store on your server. Different providers have different policies regarding the files/data that can be stored on the servers, they may suspend your plan or even your account if you’re caught storing data that goes against them.
- CPU Resource Usage – CPU usage is the amount of tasks and processes that are running on a server at any given time.
- Processes Limit – Processes are a series of actions or functions occurring on a server at any one time.
- Inodes Limit – An inode stores basic information about a regular file, directory or other file system object. The number of inodes indicates the number of files and folders you have.
- Bandwidth Limit – Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred to and from your account in one month. Every time someone downloads a 10 kB file from your WordPress site, they use 10 kB of bandwidth from your account. Also, every time someone visits your site, they are downloading the home page and use that much bandwidth.
- Backup Limit – The specific backup policy depends on what type of account/plan you have.
Caching is the process of storing copies of files in a cache, or temporary storage location, so that they can be accessed more quickly. Technically, a cache is any temporary storage location for copies of files or data, but the term is often used in reference to Internet technologies.
WordPress pages are “dynamic.” This means they’re built on the fly every time someone visits a post or page on your WordPress site. To build your pages, WordPress has to run a process to find the required information, put it all together, and then display it to your user.
This process involves a lot of steps, and it can really slow down your WordPress site when you have multiple people visiting it at once.
This should be a no-brainer, well-optimized images helps a lot in making load times short. Large image files slows down websites and too many of them on one page clogs the screen.
These are the things that you can do to optimize your images:
- Format images appropriately – This means sizing images and using aspect ratios that best suit your theme. Most themes use specific image sizes and aspect ratios to insert within page or post content. Themes like Divi use specific image sizes and aspect ratios, so reviewing your theme for these kind of information is crucial.
- Pre-compress images before uploading – Most images have this thing called metadata. Metadata is a set of data describing and providing information about rights and administration of an image. It allows information to be transported with an image file, in a way that can be understood by other software and human users. For the most part, this data is useless and just makes the file size a bit larger.
- Use a plugin – You can leverage plugins to optimize your images. Not only do these plugins offer compression and image optimization, some of them offer image conversion.
Keeping it Lightweight
As the saying goes, “less is more” and in this context, less means a faster website. Even if you leverage the above methods, they’ll be useless if the website is being bloated up by an unoptimized theme and too many plugins.
Choosing a theme optimized for speed greatly improves how well your WordPress site performs. Sometimes a simpler theme is better than a theme bloated with complex layouts, flashy animations, and other unnecessary features. You can use plugins that are optimized for specific features that you want, the only caveat is that poorly coded plugins and too many of them may slow down the website as well.
To conclude, there should be a balance between website features that you want and website performance. Even if you have the fastest website in the world, if it’s plain and stale looking, visitors might just click pass it.
- Benchmark your WordPress site’s speed and performance periodically.
- Choose a hosting provider who’s both reliable and has a decent support team.
- Leverage caching to improve performance.
- Optimize images to improve speed and load times.
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