Fix that SLOW WordPress Website with these Optimization Tips

Faster WordPress Websites

Your website speed matters more than you may think. If your website is slow, there’s a good chance the person will leave your site before they even visit it. 

What good is web traffic if they don’t even stick around long enough to browse your website?

Website loading times are so important, that Google uses page loading speed as a ranking factor. It’s important to keep your website loading time as low as possible.

Learn How to Fix a Slow WordPress Site

Today I’m going to show you how to fix a slow WordPress site.

I’ll show you how to test your WordPress website speed and provide tips on how to properly read a speed test. By following this information, you’ll have a fast WordPress website.

Optimizing a WordPress website follows a standard process for most websites.

If your website is more than a few pages, a WordPress caching plugin will make your site faster. For smaller websites, you may not even need a plugin to improve your website speed.

If your WordPress website was well designed, it may not need any further optimization. When we design WordPress websites for our clients, we include speed optimization as part of the core package.

How to Use Third-Party Tools to Fix a Slow WordPress Site

There are many ways to figure out how fast your website loads. The easiest way to do this is to visit your own website after clearing your browser cache of course.  

When we optimize WordPress websites, we rely on a few industry website testing tools to get the job done.

Pingdom Tools

Pingdom Tools lets you select from a list of test locations.

It’s always best to use a test server that is closest to where your customers are.

How to fix a slow WordPress site with Pingdom Tools

When you run a test on Pingdom Tools, you get a summary card with a score, total size, loading time, and a number of requests. Your primary focus should be on the load time and page size.

Load time impacts the user experience. Total page size impacts the amount of server resources necessary to load the page, along with the data transfer to the visitor’s device.

With more and more people using mobile devices, page size becomes an important metric, so you aren’t wasting your visitor’s data.

Pingdom Tools PageSpeed

After you scan your website on Pingdom Tools, scroll down the page for more details. Scroll to the section seen below, and use the filter to sort the contents by largest file size. This lets you spot the problem files quickly.

It’s not uncommon to find large images or a few oversized scripts after doing this and from there, you can come up with a solution.

Pingdom Tools PageSpeed

GTmetrix

To get the most out of GTmetrix, sign up for a free account.

When you do this, you’re given more tools and access to finer data points. 

GTmetrix speed test

When you reach the results card, focus on a few key metrics: Fully Loaded Time and Total Page Size.

How to check and fix a slow WordPress site with GT Metrix

GTmetrix gives you scores for different factors. This website is already well optimized but has some problems relating to the images.

GTmetrix speed test

You can expand the results to learn more about it. For the image results, we can actually see what their exact recommendations are.

A word of caution – Use your own eyes when optimizing images.

It’s common for these websites to recommend over-compressing your images because they can’t actually see the image. Don’t over compress your images just to receive a higher “score” on a speed test

GTmetrix speed test

If you’re logged into an account on GTmetrix, you can click on the Timings tab for a much better loading time explanation. It’s also recommended to take notice of the Contentful Paint time. This closely represents the user experience loading time.

GTmetrix speed test

Like Pingdom Tools, GTmetrix offers a waterfall chart which details your files in the order they loaded, and how long it takes to load them.

You can spot 404s and other errors here that may be slowing your site down.

GTmetrix speed test

Google PageSpeed

Google Pagespeed Tool

Google’s Pagespeed tool recommends best practices, but doesn’t provide a breakdown of details like the other test sites do.

We’ve found that using GTmetrix and Pingdom Tools for resolving website loading issues is sufficient. We only included it in this post due to the number of business owners who look to Google for help.

What is a WordPress website's speed based on?

Your website’s speed will vary based on a few factors, many of which change on a daily, or hourly basis. It’s important to be mindful of your location, your server’s location, and any website speed testing tool locations. Many website speed testing tools allow you to select a test location. Select a location closest to your target website’s demographic to see how it might load for them.

An easy way to test your website speed, without the use of a testing tool, is to visit your website from a browser that hasn’t cached your pages yet.

What does this mean?

If you use Google Chrome to browse the web, install Firefox, and visit your website. This gives the same user experience as someone who visited your website or the first time.

A few things to watch for while doing a fresh browser test:

  • How fast is the initial page load?
  • During that initial page load, did your website
  • Visit another page on your site, how fast was that page load? Faster? It should be.

How to Fix a Slow WordPress Site Using a WordPress Caching Plugin

We currently use a plugin called WP Rocket for optimizing WordPress websites.

We started using WP Rocket in 2016. Before using WP Rocket, we had been using W3 Total Cache or WP-SuperCache for optimizing loading times on WordPress websites.

These are still good options, but if you don’t mind spending a few dollars, WP Rocket is superior in many ways.

It’s simple to use and still offers optimization methods like:

  • Minification of HTML/JS/CSS
  • Combining of JS and CSS files
  • Automated database optimization
  • Google Analytics script caching
  • Built-in CDN support
  • Lazyloading of images and iframes
  • Improved YouTube and Vimeo loading techniques
  • Deferring JS files
  • DNS pre-fetching
  • Blacklists for files you don’t want it optimizing.

Depending on your website’s size, content, and web host, you might be able to fix a slow WordPress site with that alone.

If your web host happens to be SiteGround, their server-side caching tool (SuperCacher) does a fantastic job by itself. It’s compatible with WP Rocket, but you may find it unnecessary.

You can add this code to your website’s .htaccess file to improve how fast your website loads. If you are not comfortable with editing your .htaccess file, do NOT do it. Breaking this file can make your website unreachable.

Optimizing Your Website Images

If you’re on a computer with a photo editing software like Photoshop, Photopea, or Paint, you already have the tools to get the job done!

It’s important to resize your images based on how you plan to use the image. If it’s going to be a full-width background on your website, you may want the image to be 2000 pixels wide. If the picture is a headshot for an about page, you don’t need it to be larger than 1000 pixels in width.

Resizing your images before adding them to your server will cut down on unnecessary page load sizes, and cut down on the need for lots of storage space.

Once your images have been scaled down to the appropriate size, you want to save it in a compressed format. When saving the image for your website, make sure you’re saving in RGB mode, and not CMYK mode. CMYK file sizes will be much larger than RGB.

Dynamic Drive Image Optimizer

Our favorite online tool for compressing images is Dynamic Drive’s Image Optimizer.

It only lets you compress a single image at a time, but it gives you upwards of ten different copies of that same image. This lets you pick the one that “smallest, best looking” version of your image.

Online Image Optimizer- GIF, JPG, and PNG

Now That You Know How to Fix a Slow WordPress Site, It's Time For One Final Step...

Now that you’ve learned how to fix a slow WordPress site, you’re almost finished. There’s just one last remaining step.

Test!

Make sure you haven’t broken any features on your website or broken how it looks. Visit your website in a browser (clear your cache!), and pay attention to how fast the page loads, and how it looks. Is anything off? Missing? Non-functioning?

When optimizing your WordPress website with a plugin, you sometimes have to do a bit of trial and error to learn which configuration delivers the best results.

If everything is still working fine, re-visit the test websites from earlier, and run new tests. It’s important to make sure your test location (for Pingdom and GTmetrix) is the same as the initial test, to get a more accurate set of data.

If you followed the advice in this post, you should have seen a significant improvement to your website loading speed, while seeing a reduction in total website size. Your scores most likely improved too, but in some cases, scores may actually go down, when speed is improved, and that is OK! This is one of the few times you can say “test scores don’t matter” – website speed does.

Dan Bochichio

Dan Bochichio

Dan Bochichio is a founding partner of Bocain Designs and a web designer with over twenty years of experience creating websites. Dan helps businesses improve their online presence by designing and building WordPress websites.

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