When you're building (or maintaining) a WordPress site, one of the most important metrics to keep your eye on is page load times. How quickly your website loads can dramatically impact conversion rates, and last year, it even became an official ranking factor in the Page Experience update.

Many different factors can influence how quickly your website loads for users, and improving them can be easier or more difficult depending on your CMS. In this blog, we're going to unpack the key issues that slow down WordPress sites, and what you can do to speed yours up.

What is WordPress hosting?

To understand how to resolve the issue, you've got to know what WordPress Hosting is. WordPress hosting is a type of web hosting service, specifically designed and optimised for sites using WordPress. If you want your WordPress site to be fast, you need to choose the right host for the job. After all, you wouldn't keep your money in a safe made of cheese. Our WordPress hosting platform is purpose-built for speed, reliability, and ease of use. What's more, we support the latest versions of PHP for maximum compatibility.

Learn more: What is WordPress hosting?

What is page speed?

Page speed refers to the amount of time between your browser requesting a page, and the browser fully processing and rendering the content. This can depend on many different factors, including the size of the page, what sort of content it contains, where the servers delivering the content are, your connection speed, device, operating system, browser, and many more.

Why is page speed important?

We mentioned earlier that page speed can affect conversion rates, but by exactly how much? Well, according to a Portent study, a site that loads in just 1 second has an e-commerce conversion rate 2.5x higher than a site that loads in 5 seconds! A matter of seconds could be costing your business serious amounts of money in the long run. So it makes sense to speed your WordPress site up as much as you can.

In May 2021, Google also made page speed a ranking factor in organic search, meaning that faster sites have a better chance of ranking highly in Google, and therefore, winning more clicks. Google measures site speed using Core Web Vitals, a set of three important metrics that show how well (or poorly) your site is performing for users. You can see how you're doing in your Google Search Console, or by entering your page into Google's PageSpeed Insights tool.

Why is my WordPress site so slow?

There are a few different reasons that can explain why your WordPress site could be underperforming. The first is that you’re not staying on top of your updates. Whether that’s making sure that you’re using the latest version of PHP, or checking that each of your plugins are up to date – neglecting any updates can impact the speed of your WordPress site. Another possibility is that your WordPress doesn’t have caching enabled, which means your PHP has to work a lot harder. To combat this, there are caching plugins to help speed up the process and to make your site perform quicker.

How to speed up your WordPress site

Here are some key actions you can take to improve your WordPress site's page speed:

Optimise your images

Bulky image files are one of the most common causes of poor page speed. We'd recommend uploading them in next-gen image formats such as WebP or SVG, and resizing or further compressing any very large images.

Delete unnecessary plugins

Every plugin uses up valuable server resources, so if there are any you don’t use, it’s well worth getting rid of them. If you're unsure, why not try deactivating them first and testing your site, then deleting them once you’ve seen the results?

Mobile-first design

Since users overwhelmingly browse on mobile, Google now looks at the mobile version of your WordPress site first. It's no longer enough to be mobile-friendly, mobile experience has to be the first and central pillar of your web design.

Choose a reliable hosting service

Picking a suitable hosting provider for your WordPress site will help to keep your website running at a steady rate. To guarantee perfect performance, opt for a provider that offers WordPress Hosting which is tailored to suit your CMS.

Stay on top of updates

For a speedy WordPress site you will need to regularly update your themes and plugins. Included in your list of items to update should also be your PHP scripting language. Keeping on top of these updates will make sure that your WordPress runs smoothly day in day out.

Use the right theme

One of the simplest ways to reduce page load times on a WordPress site is choosing a lightweight, responsive theme. Ideal for businesses without big development budgets, these do the heavy lifting for you and adapt themselves to user devices.

Install a caching plugin

If your WordPress site doesn't have caching enabled, that means every time a browser requests a page from your site, PHP has to assemble an HTML file from content in your database and serve it to the browser. A caching plugin builds every HTML page on your site with PHP, and keeps it saved and ready to go when a request comes in, improving loading speed.

Clear out your database

It’s hard to move through a room full of junk, and the same applies to your database. With frequent use, old files build up and start to impact your page speed, so doing a purge of any unnecessary images and documents can help.

Don’t host large audio or video files

Video and audio files are certainly engaging to visitors, but they’re also the most resource-intensive type of file out there. There’s a simple fix for this - rather than hosting them directly in your media library, you can speed up loading by embedding a link for a third-party service like YouTube or Vimeo.

Minimise JavaScript and CSS

While CSS and JavaScript are vital in making your site more visually appealing and interactive than pure HTML, these files have to be sent from server to browser every time the site loads. Making them smaller - or even reducing the amount of CSS and JavaScript files you use altogether - will undoubtedly help to optimise your WordPress site’s page speed.

Why is speeding up your WordPress site important?

When users arrive on your site, you’ll undoubtedly want to offer them the best experience possible. And this includes a fast site and page loading speed. Customers are unlikely to stick around for long if your site is super slow. So whether you want to drive traffic to product pages, or divert users to read your blog, a slow site is likely to hinder this. Prioritise user experience by speeding up your WordPress site.

Now you're up to speed

We hope this guide has been helpful, and you now know more about speeding up your WordPress site. To learn more, read our guide to fixing slow WordPress sites, or get some insight into the range of web performance tools available. Or, if you're ready to move to a quick, secure WordPress hosting platform, talk to us. We'll even help migrate it for you.