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Your WordPress site is slow, and you’re losing page views and revenue because of it. But you’re also busy – I get it. Here’s seven speed tips you could have a crack at on your lunch break – they’re so simple and easy.

Optimize Images

This is a two-parter. The first thing is to equip yourself with the knowledge of using the best format for the job. When we talk about images used on the web, it’s generally restricted to either a JPG or PNG. PNG is a lossless format, best suited to simple images and illustrations, or screenshots. JPG is a lossy format suitable for photographs – it can retain the detail at varying levels of quality. If you’re uploading photographs in PNG format, you probably have images that are up to ten times as big as they would be if you used JPG. Just bear in mind that JPG loses a little detail and clarity each time modifications are made and it’s saved – so always export from your originals.

  • Use JPG for photos, but only export once.
  • Use PNG for illustrations and screenshots

Second – even if you are using the the correct image format, chances are you could still be making savings by compressing and optimizing those images. EWWW Image Optimizer is a simple plugin that will do this for automatically as you upload them to WordPress. You can also run the optimizer over all your existing images, potentially shaving up to 95% with no noticeable loss in quality; and even convert to and from PNG and JPG if you did choose the wrong format. That alone will make a huge difference to loading time for the end user. What are you waiting for?

ewww-optimizr

Pay for a CDN

A CDN will supercharge your static files – JavaScript, CSS, and images – by sending them to the user from a closer location at speeds you can only dream of. You’ll need w3 Total Cache installed to make use of one though – here’s how to set it up How To Boost Your Website's Performance With W3 Total Cache And A CDN How To Boost Your Website's Performance With W3 Total Cache And A CDN Getting judged by Google as a low-quality site because your pages load too slow will hurt you in the long run. Take time off to boost your site speed and enhance user experience. Read More . CDNs aren’t free, but can cost as little as $10/month for small-medium sites.

cdn-edge-locations

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Enable CloudFlare

Instant rocket fuel for any website: CloudFlare is a hybrid cache, CDN, DDoS protection and firewall. It sits at the DNS level intercepting incoming traffic, rejects the bad stuff and optimises the good stuff.

Cloudflare Stats

If you’re hosting on MediaTemple, it’s a one click install. Just add the free service to your account, then toggle it on for each domain. They’ll take of the necessary DNS configuration changes so your traffic is first filtered through CloudFlare. If you’re not hosting with MediaTemple, it’s still free and easy for a basic account, but you’ll need to make the DNS changes yourself with your domain provider.

Turn on Caching

Caching is a bit of a dark art and particular care needs to be taken if you have user sessions, an eCommerce setup, or a heavily dynamic page – but for many websites enabling caching will be a one-click job. After installing w3 Total Cache, choose Disk enhanced caching from the General Settings -> Page Cache section to have pages generated then served statically from disk.

enable-caching

If you’re just looking for page caching and not the additional CDN tools, WP-SuperCache may be a better choice.

Voila: instant speed boost. Note that neither of these tools will server cached files to you if you’re logged in as admin, so don’t be alarmed if you personally can’t see a difference! Try using a PageSpeed analyser tool PageSpeed Insights: Check How Fast Your Website Is & Get Tips To Make It Faster [Chrome] PageSpeed Insights: Check How Fast Your Website Is & Get Tips To Make It Faster [Chrome] Read More to check instead.

Enable GZIP

GZIP compresses your page before sending it to the user, significantly reducing the total file size that needs to be sent. If you’ve installed w3 Total Cache, you’ll find the option on the Browser settings -> Enable HTTP gzip compression, but if not – and assuming your server supports it – try adding the following to your .htaccess file:


<ifmodule mod_deflate.c>
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/gif image/png image/jpeg image/x-icon application/pdf application/javascript application/x-javascript text/plain text/html text/css text/x-component text/xml application/json
</ifmodule>

Call in the Pros

Owning your own Virtual Private Server (several different types of hosting The Various Forms Of Website Hosting Explained [Technology Explained] The Various Forms Of Website Hosting Explained [Technology Explained] Read More are available) is great for those who like to tinker, but you need to remember that out of the box it’s like buying a new graphics card and only using default VGA drivers – they rarely come configured for optimal WordPress performance. I recently dealt with a client whose WordPress eCommerce site was experiencing a lot of fatal errors traceable only to lack of memory. Server configuration is out of my league, so we had MediaTemple CloudTech investigate. For a one-off fee of $80, they optimised NGINX and Apache – with shockingly good results – more than 10 times increase in requests per second that the server could handle. The investigative part is free, so you need only pay if they find problems and think they could help.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/78294301

Slim Down Your Theme

Your choice of whizz-bang widgets for your sidebar may be a considerable factor in a slow load time. We all love adding the latest widget, but each typically comes with it’s own JavaScript library, CSS file, and possibly third-party API call – all of which pile on the virtual pounds. Consider if you really need that Latest Tweets plugin or if it could be removed. Advertisements may also be a problem – particularly if you have them being served from multiple networks and long chains of fallbacks. Personally, I only serve static ads from BuySellAds network and they load fast.

These tips really shouldn’t take too long to implement, so if you haven’t already done them then you’re throwing away potential revenue. Do you have any other quick tips for a speed boost?

  1. Raazan M
    April 23, 2014 at 7:30 am

    I am using WP Fastest Cache plugin (blog is on shared hosting so don't want to use Total cache or Super cache) and free Cloudflare. Enabled GZip and using EWWW image optimizer too. Tried suggestions from different sites about leverage browser caching, minify java and css, expire headers, etc but blog speed is not improving and Gtmetrix is displaying same suggestions again and again.

    • James Bruce
      April 23, 2014 at 10:11 am

      "shared hosting". Honestly, that's your problem. Shared hosting can be great (checkout MT Grid), or it can be abysmally slow (ahem, Godaddy). Unfortunately, all the caching in the world isn't going to help a shared host thats just slow.

    • Raazan M
      April 23, 2014 at 10:27 am

      My blog is new and doesn't have much traffic, that's why I am on shared hosting. Apart from the hosting side, is there anything I can do to improve my page load speed and/or solve the issues shown in Gtmetrix? Thanks.

    • James Bruce
      April 23, 2014 at 10:30 am

      Difficult. Remove any advertisements and remove heavy plugins (gallery, e-commerce, gd-ratings?) would be some other ideas. Otherwise, it really doesn't matter - as soon as you have enough traffic to afford decent hosting, you can switch. How slow are we talking? Up to 5 second for a small blog would be acceptable, for me at least.

    • Raazan M
      April 23, 2014 at 10:41 am

      Gtmetrix shows 12 secs. If you'd like to check, my blog is workmoneyfun dot com.

    • James Bruce
      April 23, 2014 at 11:27 am

      It loads in less than a second for me, so take GTmetrix with a grain of salt. That said, your site is full of ads and just looks like spam to me. Your sidebar is almost entirely ads. Why are you trying to monetise something with no traffic? If you can't afford $20/month from that many ads, you should remove them all entirely until you DO have at least 1000/pageviews/day - you're just putting off visitors.

    • Raazan M
      April 23, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      Trying to monetize from ads but not much success. It has around 100-200 visitors only so will have to think about your suggestion. Thanks for everything James.

  2. pceasies
    April 11, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Setting up Varnish can yield some pretty big improvements. It's basically a proxy that serves requests for pages out of its cache before passing them to the regular server software to handle. You'll need a VPS/account where you can install software, but hopefully you have this if you're serious about improving website load times. Companies like Digital Ocean offer a $5/mon plan you could setup a blog on

    • James B
      April 12, 2014 at 7:53 am

      Good advice; we used to run Varnish here, not sure if we do anymore as we switched to scaleable cloud hosting, but it served us well for a while on dedicated host. Along with NGINX, its quite complex to set up though, I thought.

  3. Vinayaga M
    April 11, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    Yeah I have done all those steps except the paid CDN. My blog is still slow due to the google ads and its interrupting with my site scripts . even the asynchronous doesn't work. Is there any way to make the google ads to load at the end after my site gets loaded. And by the way a very good article !!!

    • James B
      April 12, 2014 at 7:52 am

      Its very unlikely that its Google Ads slowing your site down , at least if you're using current code. Paste your URL and perhaps I can tell you exactly whats so slow...

  4. Mark Gavalda (@MarkGavalda)
    April 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Excellent article James, I like that you're promoting "the faster web" too! :) Two additions: modern WP hosting companies (Pagely, WPEngine, Synthesis, etc. and our Kinsta too) use a somewhat custom caching system that makes plugins like W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache not just obsolete but downright harmful (in regards to speed).

    Also there's an increasing trend (but very few large hosting companies provide it to the masses unfortunately) of using Google's PageSpeed module to do a lot of the optimizations like JS and CSS concatenation and minification, image optimization, etc. That's really, really helpful with most websites that are full of images and not-the-best plugins and/or themes!

    • James B
      April 12, 2014 at 7:56 am

      Thanks for commenting Mark - I only recently discovered the joys of perfectly-optimized WordPress specific hosting over at MediaTemple, but I imagine all these services are much of the same - thy actually ban the w3 plugin so you can't install it even if you wanted. It's really refreshing to be able to offload the caching to professionals ;)

      PageSpeed - absolutely. Even with defaults, the effects are stunning. We really ought to use it here, but our server admin is against it. Perhaps its still a little too "beta" for some people.

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