How to Optimize WordPress Websites

How-to Optimize your WordPress Website

how-to-optimize-wordpress-websites
WordPress is a very powerful and great platform. However, it has a weakness in that it is usually very slow. The speed of your website will determine its success. If your website is sluggish, you will lose new visitors who will probably click the back button even before your site loads. Most webs browsers are impatient and you could end up losing your loyal customers and subscribers. The performance of your WordPress website will also affect your rankings in search engines. Google’s ranking algorithm has now incorporated site speed. As such, the speed of your website also affects your SEO. If your site is sluggish, you will not only lose customers and visitors out of impatience but also through decreased rankings in search engines. Luckily, you can fix these performance issues by speeding up your site with proper WordPress optimization techniques.

There are several best practices and techniques you can use to optimize WordPress websites. They include:

Choosing the Right Hosting Plan

Choosing the right hosting plan is the first step in optimizing your site. You are bound to fail if your server is taking a long time to process MySQL commands and HTTP requests. You may have chosen a reliable hosting company but the wrong hosting plan. A shared hosting plan may seem like the ideal plan but it comes at a price. It has regular downtime during high traffic periods and extremely slow site speeds.  Since the server is shared among other clients, their usage can affect the speed of your site. However, most hosting plans have insufficient CPU throttling and RAM. Therefore, ensure you get a hosting plan that enables your website to run smoothly. Cheaper is not always better, conversely for a low volume site you won’t need to be spending hundreds of dollars per month on dedicated hosting. Opt for a hosting plan that is able to handle traffic spikes (increased traffic) efficiently. The right hosting plan will enable you to have a nicely optimized WordPress website.

Use Content Delivery Network (CDN) Services

Your WordPress Website is hosted on a web server somewhere. If a visitor is very far from the webs server/data center, it will take a long time for your webpages to load because of the extra distance and routing the packages need to go through. Using a CDN service can really reduce the load time of your website. CDN services utilize numerous data centers around the globe to ensure they serve your website visitors from a location that is close to them. CDN services optimize WordPress websites by speeding up the searching and delivery of your theme files, Javascript and CSS files, and most importantly – your images. The cost of CDN services varies depending on the amount of bandwidth you require and the features you require.  Cloudflare is an excellent service that has levels from FREE to Enterprise.  We have found Cloudflare to be quite easy to set up and manage.  If you are considering the use of a CDN, you’ll definitely want to check them out.  Some of the other popular CDN providers include Amazon CloudFront, MaxCDN and KeyCDN. MaxCDN and KeyCDN are among the most affordable CDN providers available.

Optimize Your Images

Images are crucial elements in every website and it is vital for them to be optimized. When developing your site and choosing images to use, there are several things you should consider. Always make sure you use the proper image sizing. You should not upload large images and try to scale them using HTML. You should ensure that your images and photos are in the same actual size that you are going to use when displaying them on the website. Another way to optimize WordPress website is by smushing your images. Smushing removes unnecessary data (such as GPS coordinates, creation date, camera used to take the photo, etc) from your images. Manual smushing is time-consuming and requires a lot of effort. For this reason, you can use WP Smush It plugin and Yahoo’s Smush to automatically decrease the file size of an image without compromising its quality.

The Ultimate Managed Hosting Platform
The Ultimate Managed Hosting Platform

If you can, you should also try to use sprites for themes on your WordPress site. This is a CSS technique that utilizes a single image to illustrate numerous design elements on your webpages. As a result, instead of loading numerous small images (many small images means numerous HTTP requests every time), your website will open a single image. It is important that you consider sprites when designing your theme and thus select themes that can use sprites.

Enable Caching

Caching is an important aspect in optimizing high traffic websites. Many files on your site rarely change and are thus deemed static files. These files include your website logo and images, Javascript files, and CSS files. Browser caching reduces server load by decreasing the number of requests per page. For instance, setting the correct headers on static files allows browsers to cache these static files on the user’s computer. Browser caching enables the browser to check whether the files have been modified, instead of just requesting for them. As a result, your web server will answer more responses and load more quickly since the files do not need to be transferred again. There are several WordPress plugins to serve this purpose. They include WP Super Cache, Hyper Cache and our favorite W3 Total Cache.

You can also optimize WordPress website by using a properly configured Dynamic Caching. You can use services such as APC and Varnish for dynamic caching although they require a lot of server configuration and modification of your application to ensure they function properly.  We have found the use of a caching plugin on WordPress greatly reduces the load time on subsequent visits to a website.

Serverside Compression

Compression decreases the size of data up to 70% of its original size. gZIP compression decreases the size of CSS files, Javascript files and images that are transferred between the server and the user. Once the data reaches the other side to the user/visitor, it is decompressed and then displayed to the user. This greatly reduces the size of data transferred and hence lowers loading time of your webpages. Compressing the CSS and Javascript files will reduce the site loading time while combing both the CSS and Javascript files into a single file will lead to a reduction in the number of HTTP requests. Some of the WordPress plugins for compression include Closure Compiler, Minify Javascript, Minify CSS, CSS Compressor and WP Minify.  Caching plugins such as W3 Total Cache also contain compression and minification options.

Conclusion

With search engines placing a lot of importance on site speed, optimizing WordPress website is no longer an option, it is a requirementr. Having fast-loading webpages has become a vital aspect in the success of your website. Most people believe that only experts can optimize WordPress websites. This is not true – anybody can optimize his/her WordPress website by following the best web optimization practices and taking advantage of Content Delivery Networks (CDN) and caching. You can also take advantage of good WordPress plugins to optimize your website. Your website will load faster if you use the techniques above.

Not comfortable optimizing your WordPress website? No problem – contact us today to schedule a review of your website with our optimization experts.