Slow site loading times can sabotage your business. Social media and a constant barrage of information have reduced the human attention span, meaning users lose interest more quickly than ever before.
If your website takes too long to load, your potential customers may simply click away.
Fortunately, there are some great strategies you can use to improve your WordPress site speed. Using plugins and following best practices can make your website load faster and keep fickle users on your page.
In this guide, we’ll look at five ways you can improve your WordPress site speed. We’ll also explore what slows down your site, and why fast loading times are so critical. Let’s begin!
What Slows Down Your WordPress Website’s Speed (And Why Speed Is Crucial)
Website load time is the amount of time it takes your site to display all content fully. This content can include images, videos, and text-based components.
The elements most likely to slow down your site include:
- Slow plugins
- Lack of caching
- External scripts
- Poorly configured web hosting
Having a website with the fastest possible loading speed is crucial if you want to keep potential customers on your site. For example, Google analysis found that users are 32% more likely to bounce if the loading time is three seconds instead of one.
It penalizes slow websites and pushes them further down the list of search results, making it harder for customers to find your business.
You can use a free tool like the IsItWP speed test to check your WordPress website’s performance:
Once you know your baseline, you can start making changes to speed up the loading time. You can also use this tool to run tests during the update process, to see which methods are most effective on your site.
How to Improve Your WordPress Website’s Speed (5 Easy Ways)
Now that you know how important your WordPress website’s speed is, let’s take a look at some simple ways you can reduce your site’s loading time.
1. Choose Your Theme and Plugins Carefully
Themes and plugins are key components of WordPress websites. However, poorly designed themes and plugins could slow down your site significantly.
When selecting a new plugin or theme for your website, you’ll want to:
- Check out user ratings and reviews. This can give you a good idea for how well the plugin or theme performs for other users.
- Find out whether the plugin or theme has been recently updated. Tools that receive regular updates from their developers are more reliable and likely to be better optimized.
- Install the new plugin or theme on a staging site first. You can test the staging site’s performance before and after adding the new tool, to see if there are any significant drops.
If you’re running a members-only site, don’t forget to check out our own MemberPress plugin! It offers a lot of handy features, yet is speed-optimized to make sure your site runs smoothly.
2. Optimize Your Images
You can optimize your site’s images by decreasing their file sizes before uploading them. This compression is essential because large images can significantly slow down your site. Each one lengthens the time it takes to load your content.
To reduce your media files’ impact, you can consider using an image optimizer like the ShortPixel plugin:
This plugin integrates into your WordPress site. It enables you to optimize images of most file types, including PNG and JPEG. It is very user-friendly, and you can compress all existing pictures on your site with a single click.
You can use the ShortPixel plugin to optimize images by going to Media > Bulk ShortPixel > Start Optimizing:
This bulk optimization tool can compress all the images in your WordPress library at once.
You may also want to use “lazy loading”. This setting prevents your site from displaying images until the user scrolls down and reaches them. This helps to speed up the initial loading time.
You can enable lazy loading with a plugin like Smush:
After installing the plugin, all you need to do is navigate to Smush > Lazy Load > Activate:
Once you activate lazy loading, you can customize various settings, including media types, exclusions, and script placements. Smush is also an excellent option to compress and resize images if you don’t use ShortPixel.
3. Use a Caching Plugin (or a Host with Built-In Caching)
Caching is an essential process to make your site load quickly. It creates and stores copies of your site in a location called a cache, so the entire website doesn’t have to reload with every new user. The server can retrieve these saved site details for new users, so it takes much less time to load.
One of the easiest ways to cache your site is by using a plugin like WP Super Cache. It uses a few different methods, including simple static files for general users and “super-cached” static files for expert users:
You can use WP Super Cache to cache your website data by going to Settings > WP Super Cache > Caching On:
In this dashboard, you can also adjust your cache settings by navigating to the Advanced tab. There, you can choose which users receive cached content, how long your caches last, and whether you want to enable expert cache delivery.
Its built-in caching is the best on the market, making it literally the fastest WordPress website host out there.
WP Engine also recently released its new Site Monitoring Tool, which alerts you in real time when an issue crops up on your site.
4. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a collection of servers located around the world. Each one stores a cache of your site’s data, and when a user visits your page, they will receive the data from the CDN that is closest to them. So your website will load a lot more quickly because there is less geographical distance.
There are numerous CDN options available, including Cloudflare. You can sign up for a paid account and start using this premium CDN to deliver your site to visitors faster.
5. Use Excerpts
If your site has a blog, you will probably want to showcase your content. However, displaying the blog posts in their entirety can slow down your website’s speed. Instead, you can consider displaying excerpts of your content on your landing pages.
For example, you can see on the MemberPress blog landing page that the page doesn’t display posts in their entirety. It shows just a few sentences from each one, and enables the user to click on the heading to read the rest:
Depending on your theme, you may need to change your settings to display excerpts by navigating to Settings > Reading > For each post in a field, include > Summary:
Then, you can easily customize the excerpts of new posts by going to Posts > Add New. In this window, you can click on Post > Excerpt:
There, you can write a custom excerpt that will display instead of your entire post. You can also add excerpts to existing posts.
A slow-loading website could be disastrous for your business. If your customers click away, you could miss out on opportunities for conversions. Therefore, optimizing your WordPress site’s speed is one of the most important things you can do.
To recap, these are a few ways you can improve your WordPress performance:
- Choose speed-optimized themes and plugins like the MemberPress plugin.
- Reduce your image file sizes with the ShortPixel plugin, and consider lazy loading.
- Use the WP Super Cache plugin to reduce loading time, or switch to hosting with WP Engine.
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like Cloudflare to reduce loading time.
- Use post excerpts to speed up loading time.
Do you have any questions about how to improve your WordPress website’s speed? Let us know in the comments section below!