We’ve previously looked at some of the ways you can improve page load times. You have a wide variety of options to optimise your website’s performance, but sometimes these depend on the content management system you’re using. With the huge popularity of WordPress, it makes sense to dig a bit deeper and highlight some CMS-specific tips for pushing your site even harder.

A big part of WordPress’s appeal is the range of free and relatively easy-to-use plugins available, and the diverse customisation and functionality they provide. You can use plugins together with other free tools to boost the speed of your site and give visitors a smoother experience. The ultimate goal is happier users who are more likely to stick around, and potentially a higher spot in the Google rankings. Let’s break it down into five steps:

1. Optimising image size

Images that aren’t properly optimised can negatively impact site performance. Compressing images is a simple way to speed up WordPress, since it has a direct effect on how quickly your site loads.

While you can optimise images yourself using editing software, this takes time and effort. The good news is that with WordPress plugins, you have access to a number of free tools that make the job a lot easier and provide extra benefits:

  • WP Smush is seen as the leader in image optimisation plugins. It performs lossless compression by trimming unnecessary data from images. It also includes other features, such as ‘Lazy Loader’, which only loads images on the page as the user scrolls to them.
  • Imagify makes it easier to keep your images smaller, as it will automatically optimise them as you upload them to your site. It also has three different levels of compression to choose from, so you can decide how much quality is lost.
  • ShortPixel will update all of your previous images, and any that you add to your site, to the file type that results in the smallest size. This method results in little or no loss in image quality.

2. Minimising CSS and JavaScript

Another way to speed up WordPress is reducing the CSS code and JavaScript on your site by removing blank space and unrequired instructions. You may also be able to condense multiple files to decrease the number of HTTP requests.

Some useful tools for code optimisation:

  • Autoptimize gives you a range of different small optimisations, including compressing CSS code and HTML and optimising Google Fonts. Its API lets you customise the plugin to your liking.
  • Fast Velocity Minify improves speed by merging CSS code and JavaScript files into groups, while using as few files as possible. This plugin also includes options for developers and advanced users to tailor their experience.

3. Caching to reduce load times

WordPress retrieves database content every time a page is viewed – a process which is a big contributor to overall loading times.

Caching plugins enable you to create a static version of your site to make loading much faster:

  • Cache Enabler can combine with other plugins, such as Autoptimize above, to efficiently cache pages and store them on the server. Delivering only the static page avoids the resource-hungry backend processes.
  • Comet Cache can be configured to your needs, and caches each page. It then recognises when the cached pages should be shown to users, for example if the user is not logged in.
  • Simple Cache is a lightweight caching plugin, geared towards non-technical users. It’s easy to enable and disable, and contains minimal settings to avoid complicating the process.

4. Clearing out your database

The bigger your database, the longer it takes queries to get back to the user. WordPress sites often have automatic backups which save unwanted items (such as drafts, spam and deleted posts) alongside useful information in the database.

This means you should give your database a regular clear-out, either manually or with the help of handy plugins like these:

  • Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions automatically deletes redundant posts, pages and other items.
  • WP-Optimize is an ‘extensive WordPress database cleanup tool’ that can clean and optimise database tables without phpMyAdmin.
  • Advanced Database Cleaner is another option for cleaning up old revisions and drafts. It also has a premium version which contains more advanced features for professional users.

5. Cutting down on plugins

Ironically for a blog article on how plugins can speed up WordPress, our final tip is… reduce plugins. But more specifically, plugins that are rarely used or not particularly relevant.

Too many plugins can bloat your website and give users a more sluggish experience, so it’s worth confirming which ones are actually pulling their weight. It may even be the case that there are more lightweight alternatives to plugins you already have. By weeding out the WordPress plugins you don’t need or use, you can make your site, lean, mean and fighting fit.

However you optimise your WordPress site, you’ll need reliable and high-performance hosting to ensure it always loads quickly for your visitors and potential customers. Our WordPress Hosting packages let you instantly set up your WordPress install, ready for any plugins you might want. They feature smart SSD storage and dynamic load balancing to guarantee the best possible user experience.