Test your site first to see what the speed is
There are many free tools to test your site but often they only let you test from one location. I recommend gtmetrix.com because it allows you to test from a particular country. Obviously, you want to test from the country that your website serves its customers in.
How to use gtmetrix.com
- Signup for a free account.
- Then log in and choose your location/country.
- Add your URL.
- Then click > Analyze.
- Check your results and go from there.
- You can also send this screenshot to your host or developer and see if they can help with any of the issues.
- If not follow my tips below.
- Then keep re-testing until you get around 2-3 seconds.
Check out my results
I could improve this slightly. It’s saying my images a slightly too big. So I could definitely improve my speed even more.
Tip 1 – Plugins
WordPress is amazing software and has 1000’s of free plugins to choose from. Some web developers or website owners go overboard with plugins and install way too many. This can have a major effect on the speed of your website.
They use all sorts of code that can use up a lot of resources on your server.
I would recommend having 10 and under. The less the better.
Some plugins you may not be able to do without are:
- A backup plugin
- Social Media
That’s already 4 plugins.
Then if you have a shop. You may need the following:
- A shop plugin – Woocommerce
- Additional payment options
- Additional shipping options
As you can see they add up quickly.
Here’s some tips for installing plugins to help with speed
- Make sure the plugin has been updated in the last 6 months.
- If they haven’t it may mean the developer will no longer be making this plugin.
- Therefore the plugin files DO NOT match the WordPress core files.
- As a result, this can slow down the site.
- Eventually can even break the website completely.
- Hence, the best thing to do is, remove this plugin and find a replacement immediately.
Tip 2 – The WordPress Theme
WordPress themes can play a big part in WordPress speed issues. Themes can be coded poorly and contribute to slow speed.
Here are my top tips when buying or installing a theme.
- Don’t ever use a free WordPress theme from Google.
- They most likely will be coded badly or can even have malicious code in them.
- If you choose a free theme, make sure you download it from the WordPress.org website.
- If you want to purchase a theme.
- Always buy a theme from a reputable website.
- Check the reviews for the theme.
- Either on the developer’s website or on Google.
- Type something like this – “divi theme reviews”
- I recommend themeforest.net (affiliate link) to buy WordPress themes or plugins.
- But still, make sure you read the comments.
- If the theme is not a good one, usually the comments will let you know.
- Customised themes are another issue.
- If you a paying someone to build a site for you.
- Make sure they use a theme that is popular and one that has regular updates.
- If a developer customises a theme usually they are the only people who can update it.
- If you decide to stop using their services you will be stuck with a theme that can’t be updated.
- This again can cause major WordPress speed issues.
- Tell them you want a theme that can always be updated!
Tip 3 – Bad Hosting
Now, this is a sensitive subject as I can’t really name companies. But the hosting company you use can also have a big effect on the speed of the site.
A hosting company is someone you pay to store your website files and often emails. When someone visits your site, the time that it takes to load the information from the hosting server back to the browser can be greatly affected by the host. Therefore choosing the right host is crucial.
Here are some tips for choosing the right host
- Research the company first.
- Pick a hosting company that is local to the country that your website serves.
- For example, if you are an Australian business, and serve only Australian clients.
- Only use a hosting company that stores the website files in Australia or close by.
- Make sure they have good reviews.
- Go to google and type in ” the company name reviews”
- I can’t stress this enough!
- You also want to make sure they have 99% uptime and 24/7 support.
- Consequently, if your website goes down, you can sort out the issue straight away.
An Australian hosting company we recommend (Ad)
Tip 4 – Keep your Site Updated
Another really important tip is keeping your site up to date! Just like any software you use online. WordPress MUST be kept updated. Not only to help with speed but also to keep it safe from being hacked. Because WordPress is so popular it is targeted more.
How does this affect your speed?
Keeping the WordPress version, the plugins and your theme will ensure that everything works together how it should.
- Plugins and the theme need to be updated to match the WordPress code files.
- If they are not updated, it means they might not work properly.
- Thus, can slow down your site.
- If plugins or the theme can’t be updated. Then as discussed above you need to replace them with ones that can be.
- When updating the site. Make sure you BACKUP first!
- Always update WordPress first, then the theme and plugins.
- If your site has never been updated. Please do not attempt this yourself as you could break your entire site.
- Contact us for WordPress support.
Tip 5 – Update the PHP
PHP is the code that WordPress runs on. As well as plugins and themes. So if the PHP version is not up to date this can slow down the site tremendously.
Check this article by WordPress.org – https://wordpress.org/support/update-php/.
Not only does updating your PHP help with the speed of your site, but it also helps prevent your site from being hacked. As well as making sure your plugins and theme keep working as they should.
How do you update your PHP levels?
- You could simply ask your host to do this.
- It’s probably the safest option.
- But if you are confident enough to do this yourself.
- Log in to your host’s control panel.
- Go to the PHP version icon.
- Select the latest version.
- Wait a few minutes then check your site to make sure it still works properly.
- If it’s broken simply put the old PHP version back.
- Then I would recommend asking the host to do this for you.
- Sometimes there are a few more settings that need to be applied before it works. And your host will about know this.
Tip 6 – Optimise Images
Optimising images means making the file size smaller, so the image downloads quicker. Image file sizes can be a big issue as most website owners are unaware that this affects the speed of their website.
Photos straight from a camera are not web friendly and are usually massive in size. They can anywhere from 1mb to 5mb or more.
Tips for optimising images
- If you have an image around 1000 pixels wide for a standard page.
- The file size should be around 100kb (kilobytes).
- There are lots of free online tools out there to help reduce the file size.
- The one I use is called – reduceimages.com
- Watch the video below on how to do this.
- Once you optimise your images you can safely add them to your website knowing they will load fast.
- This will not only give a better user experience but will help make your site faster.
Tip 7 – Add a WordPress Caching Plugin
In layman’s terms, a caching plugin helps speed up your site by reducing the number of requests back and forth from the server to the user. It also combines codes used in plugins and the theme to make the pages load quicker.
If you are having speed issues this could be a simple fix. The only problem with setting up a caching plugin is you need to be careful with some of the settings. As it can sometimes cause issues.
Tips for setting up a caching plugins
- Make sure you backup your site first before setting up your chosen caching plugin.
- This plugin below is great for backing up and it also has the option to restore the site to a previous backup.
- Click here to view – UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin
- Install UpdrattPlus plugin then choose BACKUP NOW. Select both the database and files.
- When setting up the caching plugin. Only select one option at a time.
- Then check your website is still displaying properly.
- If something goes wrong, restore your site using the Updraft backup you just did.
Here’s my list of caching plugins you could try
- W3 Total Cache (free one from your WordPress plugins) – click below for a beginners tutorial on how to set this up.
- WP Super Cache – (free one from your WordPress plugins)
- WP Rocket – (paid one) – click below for a beginners tutorial.
To sum up
The speed your site loads is a major factor that determines where Google will index or list your site. And this also applies to other search engines. If you apply the above tips to your site then this can help make your site load quicker for the user. Which inevitably will help boost your site’s rankings.
Test your site every month.
If you need help with WordPress speed issues, visit our WordPress support page.
Written by Jodi Allbon 2019.
Web Designer/Trainer – Adv Dip, Dip, TAE
Jodi is a qualified WordPress Trainer and Designer with an Advanced Diploma in Digital Media (2D And 3D Animation, Web Development) and a Diploma in Web Development. She has been a Website Trainer at the Northern Beaches Community College since 2008 and a WordPress Tutor for NSW TAFE since 2016.
Jodi has developed several web design courses including, a WordPress Beginners Course and Build your own WordPress Website for small businesses. These courses will teach you how to update and manage your website ongoing. Giving website owners more control over their website, thus helping to keep costs down.
View her credentials here.