With over 74 million active sites, WordPress is by far the most widely supported Content Management System on the web today. The notorious CMS has one of the best communities on the web, offering an expansive level of support to anyone who seeks assistance. However, with power comes great responsibility – WordPress can also be one of the worst at bloating and page load issues if you aren’t careful.

Page load speed is of upmost importance these days. A slow page can drive away users, and negatively affect your search engine rankings.

We highly recommend visiting a page load speed tool to check your current loading time (Google Pageload Insights and Pingdom are two of our favorites). Then, review our 9 tips below for optimizing your site. As always, we’re here to help!

1) Hosting

The most important step in optimizing your site starts with its foundation: your web hosting account. You’re setting yourself and your site up for failure if the hosting package does not match your site’s needs right off the bat. It’s highly important to ensure your site is on a plan that can handle the demand from your visitors. 

Hosting companies tend to offer shared packages, which cram hundreds of sites onto the same server. This may be fine for non-database driven sites, however this could be the #1 bottleneck if your site is running WordPress. Invest in a hosting plan that can support your site; it’s well worth the price tag.

2) Plugins

WordPress has TONS of plugins for almost anything you can imagine. That doesn’t necessarily mean the plugins are efficiently coded, though. Before installing any plugin, do a fair amount of research and digging to see what users think about it. You may save yourself a headache down the road.

Once your plugins are installed, make sure that they remain updated. Plugin maintenance will help with site optimization, but it’s also a great security practice, making sure your site is secure from any vulnerabilities.

3) Optimize Images

Image optimization could be the simplest change that has a massive role in page load speed. The images you upload to your site are one of the heaviest elements, outside of video, that can be optimized. For all images, you should specify the maximum images for all thumbnails, medium- and large-sized images. If an image you upload is being displayed at 120px wide, but the original image is 1024px, the image will be scaled down with CSS. This may feel like a handy trick, however this method loads the original size, then scales it down.

The second thing that helps is optimizing images at their original size before uploading them. This can be done manually or via a WordPress plugin. The goal of this step is to reduce image file sizes without effecting quality.

Plugin suggestions: Optimus

4) Enable GZIP

GZip is a file format used for file compression and decompression. This format allows for your site to be transferred at up to 70% of its original file size. Most web hosts have this enabled automatically, so all that’s needed to be configured is in the setting of WordPress.

5) Minify

Minifying is a very important step in providing the users browser with the requested files to build your site. Each call to a CSS, JS, PHP or HTML file is an HTTP request, which can add up very quickly. The more requests there are, the longer it will take for your pages to load. Minify helps to greatly reduce this. Minify will concatenate CSS files together, remove all white space and create a single file, greatly reducing HTTP requests for CSS. Minify also works for JavaScript and HTML.

Plugin suggestions: Autoptimize

6) Browser Caching

When a caching plugin is installed on your site, it will cache (store) copies of your pages. This may sound redundant with having multiple copies, but the handy side of caching is that it only requires a single call to the database.  If a user frequents your site, on the initial page load they will make a number of database calls, HTTP and PHP requests.  Caching the pages will make their request immediately available to them next time they revisit.

Plugin suggestions: w3 total cache

7) Reduce and Delete Spam

Everyone knows this happens with WordPress – the notorious spam comments. These bots will find your site and fill up the comment section on all your pages with special offers on all sorts of products. Unfortunately, these can cause more harm than just being an eyesore. Each comment will need to be pulled from a database, adding to HTTP requests. If you have comments that are not contributing to an article, get rid of them.  

8) Optimize Your Database

Maintaining an optimized database is like greasing the bearings on your WordPress skateboard. Plugins like WP-Optimize and WP-DBManager are capable of performing maintenance throughout the WP dashboard. They will assist with things like removing pending spam comments, trashed posts, autosave drafts and post revisions. If you are not familiar with PHPMyAdmin, these plugins will also perform general MySQL database optimization queries without you having to log in and do it manually.

Plugin suggestions: WP-Optimize and WP-DBManager

9) CDN

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a super handy tool to optimizing your site globally. These networks allow for your to offload resources like images, scripts, and CSS files to easily be accessed from multiple locations. Most CDNs will have access points across the globe. A traditional host will have a user virtually visit their datacenter for their requests. A CDN allows for a user to visit a datacenter MUCH closer to them, reducing the load time greatly.