Search engines now take into account the loading speed of websites when they compile search results, giving fast loading sites a little boost in the rankings.

Page load time also has a noticeable impact on conversion rates – in layman’s terms this is the rate that a website “converts” casual visitors into customers, subscribers or fans (depending on your goals).

I’ve put together an extensive list of speed optimisations that I use or recommend for WordPress websites. If you have a standard website filled with content I would expect your page load times to drop by 75% – 95% if you follow all these recommendations.

Optimised server

Optimising web hosting for site speed

  1. Choose hosting geographically located close to most of your users. In the UK I recommend Krystal.
  2. Use hosting running LiteSpeed. For most hosting applications LiteSpeed kicks ass compared to Apache and Nginx, and its configuration is exactly the same as Apache so I’ve always found migrating websites from Apache to LiteSpeed to be a doddle.
  3. Use the latest version of PHP compatible with your plugins and theme, definitely something in the PHP 7 series.
  4. Newer versions of MySQL modules like MySQL Native Driver (nd_pdo_mysql) may give a smidge of a performance improvement to older versions [ source ]. Just make sure you don’t have conflicting MySQL modules active together. You can usually activate PHP modules in the same place you set the current version of PHP.
  5. Check with your hosting provider but I suggest setting the PHP memory limit to 256mb
  6. Compress content so it’s delivered with gzip, brotli or something similar. Here’s a free website compression checking tool.
  7. Add .htaccess expires headers to tell browsers how long to cache your site content for faster future visits
WordPress logo over code

WordPress website speed optimisations

  1. Keep WordPress, plugins and themes up to date, as updates sometimes include optimisations and innovations that help site speed. It’s also crucial for site security.
  2. In the admin dashboard check the health status of your website under the Tools menu. That’ll flag up any configuration issues including missing PHP modules.
  3. Cut down the number of plugins in use and prefer more lightweight plugins where you have a choice. For example don’t use a plugin with 100 features just for one of them when there’s another plugin available that does just that one thing equally well. Jetpack is commonly misused in this way.
  4. Use a lightweight theme. I often use Divi which isn’t known for being lightweight, but making use of other optimisations in this list it can still load pretty rapidly. Some speedy themes you can try are Astra, GeneratePress, OceanWP and Schema.
  5. Optimise your database every now and then. ALWAYS back up your website first and only use reputable plugins for this – WP-Optimize is good.
Plugins that help with site speed:
  1. LiteSpeed Cache – though this is only worth using on servers running LiteSpeed. Otherwise I’d recommend WP Super Cache, and I’ve heard good things about WP Rocket. A caching plugin should ideally also:
    • Handle minification of files. If it doesn’t then Autoptimize is your friend.
    • Allow you to set up DNS prefetching for commonly loaded external scripts or files.
    • Allow lazy loading of images. If not then try Flying Images (this plugin also offers a free image CDN and WebP conversion).
  2. Use Asset CleanUp to remove code from pages where it’s not needed. This cut 20% of the page load time on this website.
  3. If your site has a blog consider serving the posts using an Accelerated Mobile Pages plugin
  4. Flying Analytics – this loads Google Analytics code (if you need it) from your local hosting rather than making browsers establish a separate connection to get the code from Google’s servers.
  5. Flying Pages – this makes the browser preload pages linked to from the current page before users click links. Your caching plugin may be able to do this though. I’ve found this plugin works better than the LiteSpeed Cache preloader with Divi.
Site content:
  1. Make sure your website images have as small filesizes as possible. Some tips:
    • Scale them no larger then the sizes they’ll be displayed at. For images that will be displayed across the full width of the browser I find a width 1200px – 1500px is usually adequate, depending on how much detail they contain.
    • Save images in a sensible file format. JPG for photos, SVG for logos and other line based details or PNG for applications where SVG doesn’t work perfectly. To upload SVGs to a WordPress website use something like the Safe SVG plugin.
    • Compress images before uploading. Photoshop has a great feature for this called ‘save to web’.
    • After uploading images in one of those formats deliver them in WebP format to browsers that support it (not all do yet). Here’s how to serve WebP in WordPress websites running LiteSpeed.
  2. Reuse large images like header images if you can as browsers will only load each image once in a session, so the loads of subsequent pages using the same image will use a version of the image previously downloaded by the browser, making it appear much sooner.
  3. Prefer to load resources like fonts and analytics code from your local hosting if possible. However, large video files are usually best handled by specialist video hosts like YouTube, Vimeo, Metacafe, Dailymotion, Veoh or others. Small background videos shouldn’t be such a problem but hosting large video files will eat up your hosting bandwidth.
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All of this is included as standard with our WordPress optimised web hosting

Our hosting is UK based, committed to great customer service and eco-friendly. We’ll keep your website running lean and mean.

Other optimisations to consider

  1. Use a VPS hosting service. VPS hosting means each website is on its own unique server hardware,  not shared with other websites, so more of the processing resources are available for the website. This may be necessary if your site gets a lot of traffic.
  2. If it’s important for visitors all around the world to be able to load your website super fast then set up a CDN. CloudFlare is a popular solution for site speed and security or your current host may already offer it.
  3. If you really want to push the envelope export your site as a static website using a service like Hardypress or WP2Static.
  4. Don’t use Google reCAPTCHA! I know it’s popular but removing it from this website cut down page load times by 0.7 seconds. Use alternative spam protection – my preferred solution is Contact Form 7 with custom quiz fields and a couple of Akismet hooks.
  5. Don’t use too many fonts. Always remember to KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Author: Aidan Ashby

Aidan is a web and branding designer living in Northampton, UK. He’s a cautious optimist and is loathe to discuss himself in the third person. He loves pancakes and has a perpetual desire to just be sat in the woods with his feet up in front of a bonfire.

Connect with Aidan on LinkedIn.

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