Even if you have a gorgeous website packed with engaging content, you likely won’t get many visitors if your pages are slow to load. Web users are not patient, and poor performance can result in them looking elsewhere for what they need.
If your traffic numbers aren’t what you think they should be, it may be time to speed up your WordPress website. Fortunately, there are several easy ways you can get your site into the fast lane. This can also have beneficial effects on your site’s User Experience (UX) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
In this post, we’ll go over why speed is essential to the success of your website. Next, we’ll show you how to test your current performance. Then we’ll share five ways on how to have a faster website. Let’s get started!
Why Speed Matters on Your WordPress Website
Speed has a lot to do with the ultimate success or failure of your website. That’s because most people won’t wait around for a slow site to load. Even once visitors are on your site, poor performance can negatively affect UX, and you may begin seeing a higher bounce rate (visitors who leave quickly after arriving).
Your conversion rate may also be affected by sub-par speeds. If you own an e-commerce, for example, there are typically several steps to get from product selection to checkout. You could potentially lose sales at every step of the process if shoppers have to wait too long.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is another area that can be hindered by poor site performance. Since fast websites deliver a better overall UX, they’re typically ranked higher by Google. If your site is exceedingly slow, Google may not rank it at all.
How to Test Your Website’s Speed
Even if your site seems fine when you load it, that may not be the case for all of your users. Before making any improvements, it’s a smart idea to get a baseline for its current performance.
You can use Pingdom Tools to test your site’s speed:
It’s best to run each test a few times and take an average of the results. You may also want to test several different locations, since where a user is located geographically can affect performance.
A decent loading time is under two seconds. However, faster is always better. So even if you’re already hitting that benchmark, it’s still worth trying to improve.
How to Speed Up Your WordPress Site (5 Ways)
So, exactly how do you go about speeding up your site? There are a lot of strategies that can help, and many require little time or technical know-how to implement. Let’s look at five of the best techniques you can use to improve your site’s performance right now.
1. Choose the Right Host
When you want to boost speed, your hosting provider is an excellent place to start. If your website’s server is slow, other optimization efforts probably won’t make much of an impact.
What’s more, if your server is the culprit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your hosting provider is lacking. It could be time to upgrade your plan to one that offers additional resources, especially if you’ve been getting more traffic.
Bluehost offers several tiers of service, for example, making it easy to find one that suits your needs:
If you’re not getting a ton of traffic right now, you should be okay with Bluehost’s shared hosting. As your audience grows, however, you may want to upgrade to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) plan.
2. Pick a Fast Theme
A theme that’s poorly coded can slow your entire website down. Even if it looks great, that doesn’t mean it’s optimized for speed under the hood. In fact, if you see a lot of elaborate animations and sliders included, you may want to keep shopping.
It’s better to choose a theme that doesn’t have a lot of features you don’t need. Tons of options can bloat a theme and slow it down. You can always add more functionality using plugins if you find you need it later on.
At LyraThemes, we offer an array of gorgeous themes that won’t drag down your site’s speed. All of our themes are expertly coded, and offer key customization features without overloading you with unnecessary bells and whistles:
Once you’ve selected a theme, be sure to keep it up to date. Outdated themes are also known to affect site performance (and can open you up to security threats).
3. Set Up Caching
When a visitor lands on your site, WordPress has to work with your server to build the page before they can interact with it. If you have caching set up, however, the platform no longer has to create your page from scratch every time. Instead, it will create a static cached version that it can provide to your visitor on subsequent visits.
This process is much quicker. You can think about it this way: If someone asks you what your cat looks like, you can draw them a picture. However, it’s much faster to show them a photo. Caching enables WordPress to take a snapshot of your website that’s quicker to load.
There are plenty of plugins that can set up caching on your site. WP Super Cache is a free and easy-to-use option:
This tool is incredibly flexible, and you can configure it in a variety of ways. However, it also has a ‘simple’ mode that should still give your performance a significant boost.
If you’re using Bluehost, it’s worth noting that a plugin isn’t necessary. You can turn on caching right from your control panel.
4. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a collection of servers distributed over a wide geographical area. Each one stores a cached version of your website. When a visitor tries to load your site, the request will be routed to the server closest to their location, speeding up the process considerably.
What’s more, a CDN won’t just improve your site’s speed. It can also enhance site security by helping to mitigate certain types of attacks. Having more than one server contributes to increased uptime as well. If one server goes down, there’s another one to take over the load.
If you’re interested in trying out a CDN, Cloudflare is an excellent choice. It provides you with more speed and added security. Plus, for most WordPress sites, the free plan is enough:
Connecting Cloudflare to your website is easy, even if you don’t have much technical experience. Once it’s set up, you can handle most tasks through your admin dashboard, thanks to this CDN’s free WordPress plugin.
5. Optimize Your Images
Images that aren’t optimized can really drag down your site’s performance. This is especially true of media-heavy websites. Optimizing images can be time-consuming, so you may want to use a plugin like ShortPixel to speed up your website and workflow:
If you already have a backlog of un-optimized media on your site, never fear. ShortPixel includes a bulk optimization tool that you can use to compress your existing images. The plugin will also automatically compress new photos as you upload them, so they won’t bog down your performance.
A slow website can have a negative impact on your traffic and conversion rates, as well as your UX and SEO. However, by implementing a few simple fixes, you can make significant improvements to your site.
To recap, here are five ways to improve your WordPress website’s speed:
- Choose the right host.
- Pick a fast theme.
- Set up caching.
- Use a CDN.
- Optimize your images.
Do you have any questions about the methods we discussed today? Ask us in the comments section below!