Speed is a critical factor in the success of a website. The faster your website is, the more satisfied your visitors will be, which will lead to higher customer retention rates. Moreover, speed is one the most important metrics for your website’s ranking in Google’s SERPs. All in all, you can’t avoid the fact that speed plays a crucial role in the development and success of your website.
In my early days, I was having a lot of trouble improving my page speed. I wasn’t a pro and I didn’t trust a freelancer with all the hard work I put in. Plus, there were also financial issues, because I wasn’t really in the position to hire a really high-quality developer to optimize the speed of my website.
So, I understand how it is and I know all the difficulties you’re facing with your website speed, which is why I decided to write this guide. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to speed up my site and I want to provide you with all the information you need to save you time and money.
This is a simple but very effective tutorial to increase your WordPress website’s speed. And the best part is that you don’t need to have any serious technical knowledge to understand this tutorial.
Step 1: Test your website speed using any third-party online tool like pingdom.com or Gemtrix.
Step 2: You should always start with your web hosting company.
This is the single most important factor that affects your website speed. Your website files are hosted on the hosting company’s server, and if their hardware is outdated or of low quality, it can affect the speed of your website.
How can a web hosting company increase your site speed?
- They can use SSDs (Solid State Drive) instead of traditional HDDs (Hard Disk Drive) to store your data. SDDs are faster and far more reliable than HDDs.
- More server locations. High quality hosting companies have data centers in more than one location to reduce latency for your visitors coming from different parts of the world.
- They provide server-level caching solutions to increase site speed.
- Web hosting companies nowadays tend to be more flexible on resource usage. Resource usage can be changed according to demand at different times.
Now, you know what role a web hosting company plays in determining your site’s speed and what they can do to improve it.
But, which hosting company should you choose?
After years of reviewing hosting providers, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best option is SiteGround. It’s also the company I use, which just goes to show how great I think they are. Not only do they provide excellent performance, reliability, and speed, but they also have great support. In terms of pricing, they are relatively cheap for the first billing cycle, but the renewal price is pretty expensive. That’s why you should consider the 3-year billing term to get the best deal.
Also Read: Is SiteGround better than Bluehost?
Having SiteGround as your web hosting company is a very important component of this tutorial as it’s the only way to achieve maximum speed for your website.
Why having SiteGround as your hosting provider is important for better speed?
- They have a high uptime (the amount of time your website will be available) of 99.99% guaranteed.
- They offer proprietary server-level caching called SiteGround Supercacher to increase site speed.
- They offer Cloudflare CDN (I’ll explain what a CDN is and its importance in a little while) for free.
- They use the latest server-level software. For example, their servers are equipped with the latest version of PHP. Having the latest version of any software helps to increase speed and security.
SiteGround also provides free website transfer from your old hosting account and it’s a very fast service. So, you don’t have to worry about the transfer process.
SiteGround also has an inbuilt WordPress plugin called SG Optimizer, which is very important for the process of increasing your website’s speed.
However, if you already have a hosting account with another company and are hesitant to transfer your existing site, don’t worry because I’ve provided an alternative below.
Alternative Step 1: Install the WP Rocket plugin on your existing WordPress site.
It’s a premium plugin which costs $30 for a lifetime license. It’s a one-time investment that you won’t regret.
Here’s what you should do after installing this plugin.
Create a backup of your site as there is a slight chance it might break down during this process. Though the risk is minimal, it’s always good to be on the safe side.
1. Go to the WP Rocket Plugin settings page and click on the File Optimization setting. Now, make the following changes:
- Combine Google Fonts Files
Your theme might be using a number of Google fonts. Each font will send a single request, but they’ll add up. However, you can combine all your font CSS files into one single file to reduce the number of requests.
- Remove query strings from static resources
- Minify CSS Files
Minify means removing white spaces and comments in your CSS file to reduce the file size.
- Combine CSS Files
You can combine multiple CSS files into one CSS file to reduce the number of requests.
2. Go to Go to the media section and select the following options.
- Lazy Load > Enable for Images > Enable for iframes and videos
This will load the images only as they enter the view point. This will reduce the initial load time of your webpage because the images only load when someone scrolls down and they need to appear on the screen. It still provides a smooth experience, but with a far faster initial load time.
- Emoji > Disable Emoji
- Embeds > Disable WordPress Embeds.
3. Activate all the options in the Database section.
These are the recommended WP Rocket settings to achieve maximum speed.
If you don’t use SiteGround, skip to Step 3. Otherwise, continue with Step 2.
Step 2: Install a plugin called SiteGround Optimizer.
Go to the SiteGround Optimizer plugin settings and click on the Super Cacher setting. Enable the following options:
- Static Cache
- Database Cache
Next, go to Environment Optimization and enable the following options:
- Switch to Recommended PHP Version
- GZIP Compression
- Browser Caching
Once done, go to Frontend Optimization settings and enable all the options you can see on the screen:
Next, go to Image Optimization and activate all the options you can see on the screen.
Step 4: Activate the Asset Cleanup Pro (2019) plugin.
This is a very important step as it will have a great impact on your site speed.
What Is the Functionality of This Plugin?
Having lots of WordPress plugin will slow down your site. Each plugin has its own files, which will be loaded every time a web page is loaded. This can increase the number of requests your web page makes, further increasing the load time.
A plugin might be only used for one page, however, due to bad coding, those plugins will often appear on every page, even if it’s not being used. This leads to additional and unnecessary requests that slow your site down.
The Asset Cleanup Pro plugin compiles a list of unused plugin files that are being loaded on each of your site’s pages. You can then disable the plugin files in those areas where they aren’t needed. This is a very important step because when I did it, it led to a significant increase in speed.
How to Clean Your Webpage Of Unwanted Plugins?
- Download the plugin Asset Cleanup Pro (2019) and activate it.
- Once you activate the plugin, go to the post editor of any post on your website. Scroll down until you find a section called Asset Cleanup Pro and click on it.
Make the following changes:
- Click on Remove Rule and save the changes.
- Try accessing your web page and see if everything is working properly. If you notice something isn’t working right, just go back and click on Keep Rule and save the changes.
- If everything works fine after clicking Remove Rule, then save the changes.
- Now do the same thing for all the unused files Asset Cleanup Pro shows you in its list.
From my experience, you can use the Remove rule on 75% of the unused files on a webpage without breaking the site. Of course, this varies from one site to another, which is why you need to test every file.
Once you Remove rules for all unused files, you should probably check the speed of your website using the same tool from step one. You might be surprised to see that the number of requests dropped drastically and your site is now loading faster than before.
Step 5(Optional): Lazy load comments.
If your blog happens to be popular and receives 100’s of comments to your posts, then these comments can impact your initial server response time. To minimize this effect, you can lazy load comments using a plugin called Lazy Load comments.
How to use Lazy Load comments?
- Install and activate the plugin called Lazy load comments.
- Go to WordPress setting and click on Discussion.
- Under Lazy load, choose between load comment on scroll or on click based on your preference.
- That’s it. It’s that simple.
Step 6: Use webP image format using Jetpack Photon.
WebP is an image file format created by the web performance team at Google, developed as a replacement for JPEG, PNG, and GIF. This format reduces image size by 30% compared to JPEG, PNG without losing any quality. With images typically accounting for around 60% of webpage size, this will ensure some increase in your site speed.
Here’s an example below from Google’s image gallery, that tells the differences in the size of both image format with no loss in quality.
How to enable webP for your WordPress blog?
As of now, WordPress doesn’t support uploading images in webP format.
However, there is still a way to do so using a plugin called Jetpack. Here’s how you can do it.
- Activate Jetpack
- Go to Settings
- Select performance
- Enable site accelerator from there.
That’s it, your site will now serve all your images in webP format. You will now notice some decrease in webpage size and also a slight increase in site speed.
Step 7: Use a CDN.
What Is a CDN?
Each time you access your website, you send a request to the server where your website files are hosted. If you are accessing your website from the UK and your hosting server is located in the US, this means your website files have to travel all that distance physically to reach your browser.
This increases latency and that further increases the load time of your website. This problem can be solved using a CDN, or a Content Distribution Network.
A CDN stores a copy of your website on different servers around the world. Each time a visitor accesses your website, they will be served with a copy of your website copy from the nearest server, resulting in reduced latency and increased speed.
Is It Hard to Setup a CDN for Your Website?
Not really. In fact, it’s very easy and only takes 5-10 minutes to setup a CDN for your website. Moreover, you don’t need to have any technical knowledge to set up a CDN for your website.
Having a hosting account with SiteGround gives you free access to a third-party CDN network called Cloudflare. Cloudflare is a quality CDN provider, however you need to subscribe to their Plus plan to see a major difference in speed. The free plan that you get with SiteGround has a limited number of data center networks. The Plus plan will cost you an additional $10 per month.
If you are looking for a more personalized CDN solution, I would recommend using MAX CDN (now known as Stackpath) over cloudflare for an extra cost of $10 per month. They offer a great service and have a great support team.
Once you purchase their plan, their support team will set up the CDN for your website in less than 10 minutes. You don’t need to do anything other than sit back and watch your site’s speed go up.
Contact their support once you purchase their subscription and they will set it up for you in no time. However, you can do it yourself if you are hesitant to share your website credentials with people you don’t know. They have a great tutorial on how to set up CDN for WordPress websites.
If you follow the steps in this tutorial, you will also see an increase in your Google Page Speed Score.
Moreover, if you hire a freelancer to do this job, it can cost you between $700 to $1,000, depending on the size of your website. However, if you follow this tutorial, you won’t have to spend more than $100 total.