WordPress is one of the best content management systems (CMS) out today, but it’s not perfect. With thousands of plugins and an easy-to-use interface, it’s not uncommon to see some websites running slow. Slow websites aren’t just a minor inconvenience for users, either. Just one second of delayed loading time can reduce visitor satisfaction, repeat visits, and increase your bounce rate. With Google now using website speed and core vital metrics as a ranking factor, it can also negatively impact your SEO.
Website speed must be taken into consideration both, when developing and maintaining your existing or new WordPress website. Here are 8 simple steps that every WordPress administrator or business owner needs to take in order to keep your website running fast.
Use High-Quality VPS Hosting
A good-quality host and hosting plan may be one of the most important ways to improve your WordPress speed optimization score. Ideally, your hosting provider should offer a Virtual Private Server (VPS). This means that although you are sharing the same physical server as other users, resources are allocated (more or less) equally. This means that one or two busy (or poorly optimized) websites won’t slow down others on the same server.
Contrast VPS with “shared hosting”. On shared hosting, you may have the same 100s or 1000s of people on a single server, but without the guarantee of equally shared resources. This means that one or two websites can hog the server’s CPU and RAM, slowing down all the other websites on that same server.
For most websites, a VPS is the best balance of cost and performance. Shared hosting may be okay if you aren’t expecting much traffic or you have lots of websites. Dedicated hosting is pricey, and not worth the cost unless you have a very high-traffic site. AJS Web hosts numerous websites on a few VPS servers that we monitor daily. If hosting seems to be slowing you down, please contact us for a hosting quote today!
When It Comes to WordPress Themes – Simpler is Better
While themes with a lot of bells and whistles can be appealing, try to pick a theme with the least complexity as a baseline. Features and large graphical elements can be great, but many times these add-ons can slow down your website even if you don’t use them!
On the other hand, simple themes can always be expanded and customized by the thousands of available WordPress plugins. While the best theme is a personal decision, the best starting point is to have a custom WordPress theme developed. AJS Web creates lightweight themes that are built for performance and contain SEO enhancements. These themes give your website the best chance at maximizing SEO rankings and remaining fast throughout its life.
Caching, Compression, and Minification – Oh My!
Once your website is built, we can use newer web technologies called caching, compression, and minification to further improve WordPress speed optimization.
Caching takes the raw data of your website and creates static HTML files, which is then delivered to your visitors. These static HTML files are quicker to send than requiring the server to process scripts for every visitor. Technical stuff, I know!
Compression is a way to compress files by locating long patterns in code and replacing them with short strings. Most CSS and HTML files have multiple areas of repeating text, and compression can have a drastic effect on these file sizes.
Minification makes the files themselves smaller, by stripping out unnecessary text before sending. The unnecessary text includes things like comments, indentations, and spaces, which computers don’t need.
All three of these methods attempt to reduce the amount of processing time that the server needs to send to your visitor’s web browser. While some plugins only perform one or two of these tasks, make sure you have all three covered.
Plugins and Widgets – Less is More
One of the greatest features of WordPress is the enormous breadth of plugins and extensions available. Unfortunately, plugins and unused files associated to plugins can cause coding errors and other issues that slow websites down considerably. With this in mind, make sure to deactivate plugins that you are not using. Keeping a minimum number of plugins on your website is a standard practice in maintaining a high WordPress speed optimization score.
Use A Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of computer servers that take static content (images, CSS files, etc.) and deliver it to users. CDN servers are located around the world so that a user will generally receive content from the server closest to them. Without a CDN, they would receive all the data from your main host which may be several countries or continents away from the user. Our VPS hosting services come standard with a CDN network called Cloudflare. If you are searching for a CDN or new hosting environment, reach out to us today!
Make sure to have a solution in place to compress your images. Depending upon the initial image and file type, compressing an image can result in file sizes more than 50% smaller! This can have a massive impact on your website speed especially if your images are being shot with a high-res camera or if you are large photos from purchased stock photography. Another image-related performance boost comes from using the correct image sizes. There are many different image sizes used in the average WordPress website and grabbing the correct size is important.
By delaying the loading of images that are located “below the fold” you can speed up the perceived loading of your website. These images will be downloaded once the user scrolls down for them to be visible. This can also help mobile users since they will download less data if they don’t scroll down your page.
Keep Your Database Slim and Trim
The database for a WordPress website can, over the course of a few years (or even months with lots of users or posts), accumulate junk. Cleaning out this junk data can not only speed up your website, but it will also shrink the size of your database. This can be handy if you are getting ready to change hosts or migrate your website! Plugins like WP-DBManager and WP-Optim can do this optimization automatically, but it’s also possible to do it manually if you desire.
Another database optimizing tactic is to remove unnecessary revisions from your posts and pages. While it’s a good idea to keep one or two as a backup, by default WordPress saves every revision of a document, which can, over time, slow things down.
Keep Animations to a Minimum
While animated menus, expanding images, and sliders can make for nice-looking websites, make sure to put your users first. If any of these animations slow down your repeat visitors from getting to where they need to go, they are doing more harm than good.
Give Us The Keys to Increase Performance
The AJS Web team has designed and developed WordPress websites for nearly two decades. Speed is our second nature. Depending on how your website was developed, page speed may be impacting your search engine rankings. AJS Web offers a premium WordPress speed optimization service that will help your website reach its full ranking potential and keep visitors on your website longer. Contact us today!