I’ve had cause to inspect quite a few WordPress websites over the past few weeks, and what I’ve noticed about many of them is that their page load speeds are just too slow. Rather than the 1.5 to 2 second load times I see as the maximum load times acceptable, many of these sites were taking up to 10 to 15 seconds to load, and that’s just not going to work. Most potential website visitors will abandon websites that take more than five seconds to load. Further, when it comes to your Google search rankings, Google rewards fast-loading websites with a higher position.
So with this in mind, I’ve put together a list of five big ticket items you can apply to your WordPress website to make it perform a whole lot better.
Install a WordPress Caching Plugin
WordPress is a database-driven website system that creates pages and their associated assets dynamically ‘on-the-fly’ when requested by visitors. This is very much different to the way web pages were delivered to users in the old days when all of the content was largely contained within a single, static HTML file.
This means that your WordPress if often very busy locating and assembling all the information and assets required to assemble a requested web page, and further, may be doing this for a great many website visitors simultaneously. This puts a great deal of load on your server and its resources, so and, inevitably slowing down its response times, and in turn, website delivery speed. This is of course not a good thing because slow loading speeds and frowned upon by both Google and your website visitors.
This is why I always make sure that the WordPress website I create for my clients have what’s known as a caching plugin installed because this can improve server performance and page load speeds anywhere from 200 percent to 500 percent, which is very worthwhile indeed. This is because caching plugins, with W3 Total Cache being a prime example, create a static version of a web pages content, and delivers this to visitors if they are returning to the page again, or if no updates have been made to the pages that require a full refresh. Very clever, very simple and very effective.
Optimize Images for Speed
Images are an essential part of any website, and of course, the array of individual pages of which it is comprised. However, if your images are too large in terms of memory size and are not optimized for online delivery, then their presence can slow down the performance of your website dramatically. In fact, poor image management is one of the most common reasons I find for poor performance when reviewing the website of new customers.
A fundamental tip in this regard is to process all images in an image editing program such as Adobe Photoshop, Fireworks or SnagIt to make sure they look really good online whilst only taking up a small amount of memory in terms of their overall size. Also make sure that you save your images in web-safe formats, primarily .JPEG and .PNG.
The .PNG format is an uncompressed image file type that displays images in higher quality and with more detail that the .JPEG format. Therefore, if the images you’re displaying need to be absolutely crystal clear, then use the .PNG format, otherwise, if this was not essential, then using the lossy .JPEG format is preferred, as it will result in smaller image file sizes, which in turn, will increase page loading speeds.
Keep Your WordPress Site Updated
One of the things I love about WordPress the most is that a huge team of dedicated developers keep it up-to-date and are constantly releasing improvements in the form of updates. As is the case with any software application, you should install updates as soon as they become available, because doing so not only means that you get access to new cool features and security updates it almost always results in improved performance as well.
If you are running your own WordPress website, then it is your responsibility to install these updates yourself, or if you have a web developer working for you, he or she usually does this son your behalf. In any event, the main point here is that you always endeavor to keep your WordPress installation, and all of its resident plugins, up-to-date at all times.
Don’t Upload Videos Directly to WordPress
This is another thing that WordPress website owners do that is really bad for performance, and that’s to upload videos directly into the media library, and then embed them into pages from viewing from that location. My advice never does this. This is because hosting your own videos will not only quickly chew up your server bandwidth quota, it will also slow down the performance of those pages dramatically, simply because the video is being loaded, rather than streamed.
Instated, always upload your videos to a video streaming service such as YouTube first, and then use the embed codes they provide to place the video as required into your web pages. Using this approach, the video is streamed to your visitor directly, rather than being served to them directly from your website. And when it comes to video streaming, always leave it to the experts, preferably either YouTube or Vimeo.
Choose a Theme Optimized For Speed
The theme you choose for your WordPress website will play a major role in its performance, especially in regard to the page load speeds your visitors will experience. So although there are countless beautiful themes out there for WordPress that range from free to up to a hundred dollars, what you really need to think about is how fast they load.
I’ve found that the paid WordPress themes produced by StudioPress and Elegant Themes to be exceptional in this regard, as they are expertly codes and are fully optimized for high-speed performance.