Speed up WordPress: Is your WordPress site fast enough? Find out how to speed up WordPress make your site’s pages load super fast and get SEO improvements and more conversions.
Google has introduced the so-called Page Experience Update, although the effects will begin to be visible towards the end of August
But what is the page Experience Update and why is it important from an SEO perspective? In practice, various signals relating to the quality of the experience on the pages of a site, including the famous Essential Web Signals (Core Web Vitals), will be considered as ranking factors, i.e. positioning on the search engine results pages.
Recently, Google has also introduced a new section within Google Search Console entitled ” Experience with pages “, which reports the percentage of pages of the site in question that offers a positive experience.
age loading speed is only one of the important factors in improving the visitor experience with site pages. For this reason, in the Core Web Vitals, Google considers indicators such as the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), the First Input Delay (FID), and the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP).
Speed up WordPress: Speed and quality of experience doesn’t just matter to Google
The fact that Google considers the speed of a site more or less important is just one of the reasons why we should aim to improve the efficiency of our sites and speed up WordPress.
In fact, how many times has it happened to you to return to the Google results page or to close the browser window simply because a Web page was loaded too slowly? Nobody likes a slow site, regardless of whether Google considers speeding a useful ranking factor.
A slow site also means lower conversion rates. In fact, slow-loading pages inevitably put a strain on the patience of even the most willing people. Each extra second required to fully load a page on your site inevitably translates into fewer conversions:
- fewer purchases made on your site;
- fewer contact requests or quotes received;
- fewer subscriptions to your newsletter.
If you use WordPress, you may have wondered what is the best way to improve the speed up WordPress of your site and make sure that visitors have the best possible experience when accessing your content.
As you probably already know, multiple factors determine the loading time of a web page. The quality of the hosting, the WordPress theme you have chosen, the various plugins you have installed, and finally also the content you have inserted on the pages of your site.
speed up WordPress can be achieved by paying attention to all these aspects, it is not enough to simply install a plugin to fix everything.
Often the first thing WordPress users do is install a cache manager plugin. But is this the right way and above all what is this blessed cache?
What is the cache for?
In simple terms, the cache is a sort of memory area in which recently used data is stored, to make it more easily and quickly available for subsequent requests.
Given that WordPress dynamically generates all pages, having to connect and query a database to retrieve all the data necessary to create the page, a caching system makes sure that this work is not necessary when the requested information has not been modified concerning the previous request. It is a bit as if instead of having to go and look every time for the answer in the database, he had it ready simply because a few minutes before he was asked the same question.
It’s like someone asking you to solve a complicated arithmetic operation in your head. It would probably take you several seconds to do the math to provide an answer. However, if the same question were asked again after a few seconds, you would be able to answer immediately with the result.
The cache works more or less like this. Most of the work is done during the first request for a page, so it doesn’t need to be repeated for subsequent requests.
The cache basically consists in creating a static copy of a page to avoid the server having to continually repeat the same job to generate the same content.
Having said this, the advantages of a caching system immediately appear:
- the static version of a page is generally faster to load than the dynamically generated one;
- the cache also reduces the workload of the server, since it has to perform fewer operations.
In reality, however, caching systems are more complex and involve both client-side cache (the browser you use to visit web pages) and different types of server-side caches (page caching, database cache, object-based cache, opcode cache … ), which in some cases are not even so simple to explain;)
Fortunately, for WordPress, there are numerous solutions to implement a caching system on your site, although first of all I always recommend paying maximum attention to the choice of hosting provider.
In fact, there is no miraculous plugin that can solve the problems of low-quality hosting.
For example, if your new WordPress site is slow even when you are the only visitor, then hardly a cache plugin can solve this problem. Better to intervene on aspects such as the theme and the plugin used and evaluate if the images you have inserted in the pages have been optimized or not to speed up WordPress.
Here you will find some tips on how to optimize images for your WordPress site and in this article, I report some useful tips for choosing a WordPress theme.
If even after these precautions the site is very slow to load, then it is likely that the server used by the hosting provider is particularly poor or excessively overloaded.
Also consider that a hosting plan that may be suitable for a blog may be insufficient if you also have e-commerce, a membership area, an LMS to manage courses, or other such plugins on the same site. In these cases, it is better to consider a hosting service like CloudWays which allows you to obtain better performance and dedicated resources, at a price level similar to that of many shared hosting.
When the cache is not needed
I have often seen situations in which installing a cache plugin on WordPress did not bring any real benefit, but rather slowed down the loading of pages.
In fact, it should be considered that the main benefit of the cache is to avoid an excessive workload on the server to provide the same content. However, it is clear that if the number of requests for such content is extremely low, a cache system does not bring any benefit. In fact, what sense does it make to keep in memory the pages that are rarely requested?
In sites with very low traffic, it makes more sense to pay attention to the quality of the hosting and carry out optimization measures rather than simply resorting to the cache thinking that it is the solution to all the problems.
Which plugins to speed up WordPress site?
I tested with the main plugins designed to reduce page load times on WordPress. I conducted the tests on a site with version 4.9.7 of WordPress installed on SiteGround hosting (GoGeek plan) with HTTPS and HTTP / 2 protocol enabled, using a theme based on Genesis Framework.
The first basic test I did with the SiteGround cache was disabled and with only two plugins activated: “Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights” and “Yoast SEO”. Here is the Pingdom result:
and that of GTMetrix:
Already by simply activating the SiteGround cache, here are the first improvements on Pingdom:
and on GTMetrix:
In the tests carried out with the various plugins, I repeated every single test 3 times considering the best result.
Among the main plugins to speed up WordPress sites, WP Rocket is my favorite, especially for its efficiency and extreme ease of configuration. In fact, despite being a paid plugin, the money spent is definitely well invested considering the time it allows to save and the results it allows to obtain. It is also very well supported by other plugins and major hosting services.
It is a very feature-rich plugin, constantly updated and always up to date with the latest news that can make the pages of your WordPress site load faster and faster.
WP Rocket’s interface is very clear, clean and the settings are easily understood. It takes only a few seconds to configure the plugin.
WP Rocket also deals with the optimization of the database, the removal of query strings from files from static resources (JS and CSS), and also allows you to activate the LazyLoad function, to allow the loading of images and multimedia content only when they must be actually viewed by the user while scrolling the page.
A plugin like WP Rocket also supports the use of a Content Delivery Network, which is commonly abbreviated to CDN. This plugin is compatible with CDN like Amazon Cloudfront, KeyCDN, MaxCDN, BunnyCDN.
WP Rocket is also compatible with WordPress Multisite installations and with the main multilingual management plugins, such as WPML.
Here are the results obtained with WP Rocket on Pingdom:
and on GTMetrix:
Among the functions introduced in the latest versions of WP Rocket, there is also, currently in beta, the ability to remove unused CSS code from the various pages. This is a feature that needs to be tested carefully, as it may produce unwanted results.
Thanks to this plugin it is easier to improve the different factors that contribute to making pages load faster. However, it will hardly work wonders if you use a theme that loads 8 billion scripts or if you use WooCommerce with 200 plugins on a € 20 per year hosting;)
Beyond the jokes and exaggerations, each WordPress site has different needs and levels of complexity. If a site is a monument to heaviness and inefficiency, it is not possible to make it perfectly optimized simply by installing a plugin.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular plugins for optimizing the performance of a WordPress site. It has been available for many years and has always been famous for its complexity of configuration. The plugin available is made up of numerous configuration pages that often risk confusing those who are not particularly familiar with the more technical aspects of managing a site.
It will relieve you though that you don’t have to go through every single item of settings to use the plugin. In fact, it can limit you to activate only the default settings. However, it is a plugin suitable above all for slightly more experienced users.
The complexity of W3 Total Cache also makes it overwhelming and oversized for most small to medium-sized WordPress sites.
Here are the results with W3 Total Cache having enabled: Page Cache, Minify, Opcode Cache, Database Cache, Object Cache, Browser Cache on Pingdom:
and on GTMetrix:
WP Super Cache
This plugin, edited and developed by Automattic (the company that deals with WordPress.com, Jetpack, WooCommerce…) represents a free and rather simple solution to enable a caching system on a WordPress site. Basically, this plugin generates static HTML pages from the contents (articles and pages) of your site.
WP Super Cache is a plugin that hardly creates problems and is, therefore, suitable even for less experienced users.
Here are the results with WP Super Cache with all recommended settings enabled on Pingdom:
and on GTMetrix:
WP Fastest Cache
This plugin is available in both a free version and a paid Premium version. Like other plugins, WP Fastest cache also takes care of:
- minimize the size of HTML and CSS files (for example by reducing spaces and eliminating comments);
- enable Gzip compression to reduce the weight of the files;
- enable browser side cache;
WP Fastest Cache, if used on SiteGround hosting asks to disable the SG Optimizer plugin to be used.
Here are the results conducted with the free version of the plugin on Pingdom:
and those with GTMetrix:
Comet Cache, available in both a free and a paid Pro version, is a plugin that generates a static copy of each page, article, category of a WordPress site. During the normal navigation of the site by users, Comet Cache evaluates, depending on the case, whether to provide the version stored in the cache or the page generated dynamically in real-time.
The plugin has an administration interface that is not very much in line with the WordPress style, but it is sufficiently rich in explanations that illustrate the various features.
Here are the results of Comet Cache with Pingdom:
and with GTMetrix:
The results are not particularly brilliant and the scores obtained are also lower than those of other plugins.
It is a relatively young plugin that, as already seen for other plugins, allows you to create a static HTML copy of the various pages to avoid WordPress having to generate these pages dynamically. It is also the easiest to set up, as it has only one page with a few settings:
Here are the results obtained with Cache Enabler on Pingdom:
and those on GTMetrix;
Also in this case, such as for Comet Cache and WP Super Cache, the plugin is mainly limited to the caching functions without making any particular optimizations to the site.
I consider it, together with WP Rocket, among the best plugins to manage the cache and speed up WordPress loading of pages.
It has a large number of possible settings, but without being complicated to set up as W3 Total Cache.
Already the free version of this plugin allows you to achieve incredible results.
By the way, Swift Performance also includes the “Plugin Organizer” feature which allows you to disable some plugins on certain pages or perhaps for mobile or desktop users. This allows you to avoid loading unnecessary scripts in certain sections of your site.
Upload scripts and CSS only when needed
Apart from the obvious rule of deactivating and deleting all unnecessary plugins, what to do for those plugins that only serve some pages of the site, but load their scripts on all pages?
For example, if you exploit the functionality of a certain plugin on only 2 pages of your site, why should you load all its assets on all other pages as well? However, thanks to some WordPress plugins you can significantly reduce the weight and the number of resources loaded on the various pages of your WordPress site, by deactivating these scripts where they are not needed.
The plugins I recommend are:
- Perfmatters (for a fee)
- Gonzales (for a fee)
- Asset CleanUp: Page Speed Booster (available in both free and paid versions)
I state that the paid versions of these plugins do not have excessive costs. Asset CleanUp: Page Speed Booster offers a fair number of features already in the free version. If you want more control over the settings, you can purchase the paid version.
Asset CleanUp: Page Speed Booster allows you to optimize your site even without having to deactivate plugins that are necessary but that you use only on certain pages, such as those for contact forms, or comments, or social sharing.
Asset CleanUp is my favorite plugin. It allows you to contribute, and a lot, to the improvement of the Core Web Vitals of your site, but must be used with care. It is in fact necessary to know what to disable and on which pages it is possible to do it without problems. Otherwise, the risk is to start seeing errors in the pages of your site or wrong page layouts.
I had the opportunity to try the Gonzales plugin, but in some situations, it gave me problems not allowing me to save the settings. I could not understand why, but it is a behavior that I have only detected in a few cases.
Perfmatters, on the other hand, is another excellent plugin because, in addition to allowing the management of the loading of scripts and plugins on the various pages, it also offers the possibility of deactivating many of the scripts and features present in a standard WordPress installation. Always to speed up WordPress loading of pages. Not all of them have a big impact on improving your site’s performance, but Perfmatters lets you choose which ones to turn off.
This plugin also allows you to enable the use of a local copy of the Google Analytics script. This allows to reduce the number of calls to Google servers and consequently speeds up the loading of pages. Perfmatters is a good solution, but I personally prefer to use Asset CleanUp: Page Speed Booster to speed up WordPress.
IMPORTANT: be careful to disable plugins, scripts, and CSS, as this can cause problems and “break” the functionality on your site.
Google Analytics and Google Font locally
These are 2 plugins created, which allow both the Google Analytics script and the Google fonts to be hosted locally on the server, thus reducing calls to Google’s servers to download these components.
This also allows you to make more use of the browser cache. These are not particularly complicated plugins, but they are still aimed at people who have a clear idea of what they are doing from a technical point of view.
Cloudflare is a solution that is often suggested to improve the loading speed of the site. This is not a plugin to be installed on WordPress but a service that is placed between the visitor and the server that hosts your site. In practice, the traffic destined for your site, before reaching your hosting, passes through Cloudflare. This allows Cloudflare to filters out potentially threatening traffic and speeds up page loading by leveraging Cloudflare’s cache and their large network of servers spread across the globe.
It is a solution that requires some technical skills to be implemented correctly. For example, a fundamental requirement is to know what DNS records are and how to modify them. This is because you need to manage your domain’s DNS records on Cloudflare to use their services.
Speed up WordPress with SiteGround’s SG Optimizer plugin
If your WordPress site is hosted on SiteGround and you don’t want to go crazy with the choice and configuration of a cache plugin, you can take advantage of the SG Optimizer plugin, created by SiteGround.
For most situations, SiteGround’s SG Optimizer plugin, properly configured, can guarantee excellent results in terms of page loading speed.
The new version of the plugin makes it very easy to activate Gzip compression and take advantage of the browser cache, by inserting the appropriate rules in the .htaccess file of the site:
In addition, another fundamental aspect, a function has been added to optimize the images loaded on the server and also that to activate the Lazy Load. The latter is a technique that involves loading images only when they enter the visible portion of the browser window. I don’t really like this technique, but if you want to activate it, just select this option in the plugin.
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