Did you know that site speed is one of the most important factors in determining your conversion rate? A study done by KISSmetrics analytics determined that if your website has not loaded within 4 seconds, you are already losing one in four of your potential converting visitors. In fact, you not only lose visitors by having a slow loading website, but you also sacrifice your search engine rankings as Google and most other search engines use page speed as a ranking factor.
Firstly, before you even get started on optimizing your website, you should check out your current page speed and then decide whether or not you need to optimize. It’s helpful to compare your page speed to your competitors to determine whether or not speeding up your website would ultimately be worth it to increase rankings or visitor retention.
Tips to Speed Up WordPress
- Remove unnecessary plugins
Many people use the thousands of available WordPress plugins to dress up their websites and add extended functionality. What most people don’t realize however is that extensive plugin usage only degrades your site’s performance and thus it is important to only utilize plugins that are absolutely necessary for your website. When deciding on which plugins to keep and which ones to delete, just ask yourself whether that plugin is ultimately benefiting your conversion rate; if its not, then deactivate/delete it.
There are several plugins that make calls to external websites which can drastically slow down your site’s performance — try to avoid these plugins as much as possible and remove all other unnecessary plugins as well. This does not mean that the usage of any plugin is bad for your website; it just goes to say that using a ton of useless plugins that don’t really benefit you in anyway or contribute to your goals should be removed to help improve page speed.
- Use a WordPress cache plugin
Caching is the process of storing any static parts of your website so that they only need to load once instead of on every single page load. Since most WordPress sites are mostly static, using a cache plugin can help drastically improve performance. When it comes to picking a cache plugin for WordPress, you have the option to choose between:
- W3 Total cache
W3 Total Cache is meant for more advanced users due to its extensive number of available options but is also good for the beginner who wants to employ its basic functionality. There are plenty of guides available online to help you use the plugin to optimize your website; be careful however as incorrect settings can actually break your website.
- WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache is an easy to use plugin that can be setup within a few seconds after installation. Simply install the plugin and turn caching on — or modify more advanced settings if you feel comfortable.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Content delivery networks use server nodes nearest to the location of your visitor to serve your website — ultimately making your site load much faster. CloudFlare is an extremely well performing CDN that is available absolutely free of charge with any of WireNine’s hosting plans and can be activated from within cPanel. If you are not hosted with WireNine, you can also manually sign up to CloudFlare on their website and follow their simple step-by-step instructions to set up your website on a CDN.
Optimize your WordPress database
When you write new posts and save them as drafts or uninstall plugins, all that data is saved within your database. Having a large database can drastically slow down your website, especially if you are on a shared web hosting plan. Fortunately, there’s a plugin to help you optimize your database; use WP-DBManager to optimize & repair your WordPress database.
Compress images on your website
Images are usually the slowest loading aspect of any website (depending on image size), and if your website is jam packed full of images it only makes sense that your website will load slowly. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to optimize your images and make them load faster — however, you should first remove any images that are not necessary for your blog.
Sometimes however, when your whole website is based around images (such as galleries), all you can do to increase your page speed is to optimize your images; use the tips below to speed up your image load time:
- Use the best image format
Two of the best image formats to use online are JPEG and PNG. JPEG images will usually lose quality upon size reduction (compression) whereas PNG is considered a lossless compression format but can’t be reduced to the same degree as JPEG images.
The image quality is dependent on the format; sometimes you may be able to produce a JPEG duplicate of a PNG image that is actually smaller in size and vice-versa. If you’re ever in doubt, just save your image in both formats and compare them side by side for quality loss.
- Use WP smush.it to decrease image size
The WP smush.it plugin uses Yahoo’s smush.it service to reduce image size without compromising quality — and it can reduce the size anywhere from 5% to 50%.
- Use Lazy Load for your images
The lazy load plugin essentially loads only the images visible in the user’s browser window (above the fold) and will load the remaining images on the page as the user scrolls down. This is especially helpful for websites that have galleries embedded within their posts as WordPress will not load all images at once but only a few at a time (using jQuery) to improve your visitor’s experience and the page load time as well.
- Use image sprites instead of regular images
Image sprites are only intended to be used by advanced users as they require complex CSS modifications to function correctly. Sprites essentially allow you to display multiple images on your website from a single image by defining co-ordinates on an imaginary axis of your single image. This can drastically improve page speed as your website will now be loading a single image rather than multiple separate images.
If you follow the above tips, you can drastically speed up your WordPress installation and not only improve your overall conversion rate, but even your search engine rankings which will consequently bring in more traffic to your website. Keep in mind that you want to host your website with a reliable hosting provider to ensure your host is not affecting your page speed — a lot of low quality hosting companies will pack their servers full of customers severely degrading the shared hosting experience.
If you have any questions or suggestions, share them by commenting below!