August 14, 2020

How can I increase wordpress website speed with or without plugins?

The website speed plays an important role for search ranking in Google and other search engines. If the search engine is unable to crawl the website fast, it will push the site pages lower in ranking for the related search terms. So how can I increase my wordpress website speed with or without plugins?

The host that the site is running on has considerable impact on the site speed. So you need to choose a high performance host that can scale smoothly as the website grows. The php code running on a wordpress page is dependent on the wordpress theme being used. So choosing a good wordpress theme can make a huge positive difference to the site speed. Loading of images on a site can take up a lot of time even when the image is somewhat compressed. So its important to have a good image optimization that will reduce the image size without negatively impacting the image quality. This can be accomplished via a wordpress plugin which can optimize the images at runtime. Caching frequently accessed content, having a CDN (content delivery network) and removing unwanted plugins will also improve the website speed.

TESTING FOR SITE SPEED

Apart from general load time when you access the site and pages, it helps to measure exactly how long the site takes to load. An important tool for this is Google Pagespeed which shows a performance score between 0 to 100 for each of the desktop and mobile accesses to the site.

I would look for at least 50 or above on mobile and 80 or above on desktop and with each change or improvement, you can come back and re-test the site for the pagespeed score. Another tool for testing pagespeed is GTmetrix though its not as popularly used as Google Pagespeed.

HOSTING PROVIDER

For the hosting providers, I would seriously suggest going with one of the WordPress recommended providers such as Siteground or Bluehost, or one of the enterprise hosting platforms such as AWS or Google Cloud. For the full list of WordPress recommended hosts, take a look here.

Google Cloud and AWS have a free trial for running a micro server instance for one year for many of the platform features and its definitely one way to try out the platform. Here is my article explaining how to get started with these free trials and for setting up WordPress on AWS or Google Cloud.

WORDPRESS THEME

I’ve tried and tested hundreds of free themes that are available in WordPress and by far, the one that performs the best everywhere is GeneratePress. To install this theme, login as an administrator user in WordPress, go to AppearanceThemes in the left side menu, then choose Add New button from the top and in the Search themes box, enter GeneratePress.

After the theme is installed and Activated, you can also choose Appearance – Customize to modify the logo, title, layout and other theme settings for your website. Though there is nothing too fancy about GeneratePress but it is clean and you can use it to create a professional website that performs superbly.

CDN/ CONTENT DELIVERY NETWORK

Cloudflare is the industry standard for CDN but if you have another preferred CDN that would also work. In my case, I like to have cloudflare setup as the CDN for all my websites. CDN stands for content delivery network and it is used to improve the performance of websites by caching content at the network level and by having these proxy servers geographically located all over the world. By doing this, the server content is located closer to where the user is and this results in faster page load speeds.

CDN in Cloudflare is very easy to setup and is available free of cost. For step-by-step details n how to setup Cloudflare on Google Cloud, checkout this OnePageZen tutorial. Note that this OnePageZen tutorial refers to GTmetrics for testing page speed but I find the Google Pagespeed to be a lot more accurate.

If you’re looking for more technical documentation on Cloudflare CDN, checkout this optional Cloudflare page which has references to almost everything about Cloudflare.

IMAGE/ CONTENT OPTIMIZATION

Upload Image Size

Most blogs and websites have images which make the site more interesting and visual. I generally use an average of 3 images per post and also have a feature image in each post as well. I diligently ensure my uploaded images are under 1MB (or 1000 kb/ kilo bytes) per image. Before uploading any image to WordPress, I quickly edit it in GIMP by reducing the image size.

Just go to Image – Scale Image and reduce the width and height of the image in pixels to about below 1000 pixels, or to any size where the image is still crisp & clear. By the way, a pixel is just like a dot on a digital screen and will work similarly in most devices or displays. Then go to File – Export As and save it as a png or jpg file.

Image Compression

Since loads of images will accumulate on a website in a period of time, it is best to further optimize and compress the images such that the image quality is not lost but just the size is further reduced. This can be accomplished using an Image compression plugin.

Here are some of my image optimization favorite plugins (only one of these plugins needs to be installed and activated):

1) ShortPixel Image Optimizer

2) Kraken Image Optimizer

3) Smush Image Compression and Optimization

WebP Image format

WebP is a new image format for he web which further compresses images while maintaining their quality and richness. WebP compression can be applied to both PNG files and JPG files and reduces the image sizes by a further 25-35%. The ShortPixel Image Optimizer has a WebP format feature which can be enabled free of cost and I’ve enabled this setting on my site. But in case you are using a different image compression plugin that does not have a WebP feature, there is another WebP Express plugin which you can install for creating WebP versions of your images at runtime.

Content Optimization

Content that changes less frequently can be cached and for this you can use either the WP Fastest Cache or WP Super Cache plugin. Also you need a way to compress and optimize all the JS (javascript), CSS and font files in your website. There are a couple of plugins I’m familiar with for optimizing the JS and CSS files:

1) WP Super Minify

2) Autoptimize

REMOVING UNWANTED PLUGINS

It is generally recommended to have no more than a handful of WordPress plugins running on a website. But in my experience, I’ve used up to about 15 plugins with no serious impact on the website performance. But in general, if you are not using a plugin, just remove it from your WordPress setup. In happens frequently that we use a plugin and later do not need it anymore but fail to uninstall it.

Having many unwanted plugins taking up the server’s limited resources can have a severe impact on the site’s performance.

CONCLUSION

This post describes all the site optimizations that can be made for improving speed which are totally free of cost. But if you used some paid options or specialized themes, there could be further speed improvements as well. In my case, with the above changes, I’ve been able to get as much as a 95 Pagespeed score in Desktop and a 72 on Mobile.