Is your WordPress blog is slow? – and how can you improve performance without any programming experience. A clarifcation of these two questions is the main objectives for this post.
I have to admit that I’m obsessed with website speed and there is a few very obvious reasons…
- A fast loading site is a great start on a site visit from a user experience perspective
- A fast loading site improves important KPI’s like conversion rate, exit% and time spend on the site
- Google loves fast loading sites and gives SEO benefits to fast loading sites
So the need for speed is pretty obvious in my mind.
However the nature of WordPress with many different plugins of various quality and dynamic rendered content can be problematic from a speed perspective.
The good news is that there are many well performing and simple tricks that can compensate for the default WordPress setup.
Is my WordPress site slow?
Before digging too deep into the many different tools for improving WordPress performance, it’s a good idea to start with a quick analysis of the current performance of your site, so you have a benchmark before the optimization, and you get a feeling of how drastic tools you need to implement to get a decent performance.
You can’t find any exact definition of how many seconds loading time your site needs to be classified as a fast site. My recommendation is to to run the below speed test at your own site and pick a few of your most important competitors and run the same tests on their sites to get a reference.
General speed test with WebPagetest
WebPagetest is a great tool for getting information on the general load time of your website.
With webpagetest you can see the total loading time of your page, and the loading time of the individual components. It’s recommended to run the test a couple of times to see if if it’s the same components that slows down your site.
Google Pagespeed Insights
Another great tool for diagnosing the general condition of your site is Google Pagespeed Insights. Google Pagespeed Insights gives a quick analysis of your blog, and specific tips on how to improve the performance.
The PageSpeed report gives your site a score from 1 to 100, and a clear suggestion on which things to prioritize from a performance standpoint.
WordPress Plugin Performance Profiler
WebPagetest and Google Pagespeed are general tool that can be used for any website or platform. For WordPress based sites, the Performance Profiler plugin can be very helpful to take a deep dive into the performance of the components in your blog.
When analyzing tips4php.net, 1 plugin out of 17 active plugins took 75% of the total loading time for all plugins. This is a great insight which inspired me to look for alternative and better performing plugins, but also made me reflect on how important this plugin is.
Tools for improving slow WordPress blogs
Now that you have a understanding on how your site performance is, it’s time to introduce a toolbox that can help you improve the performance.
W3 Total Cache
If you don’t use any kind of caching in your wordpress blob – installing W3 Total Cache is a no brainer.
The more plugins and advanced WordPress functionality you’re using on your blog, the bigger is the risk that your blog is gettign slow. W3 Total Cache does a great job speding up wordPress. It delivers great performance out of the box, but you can tweak it further to get a massive performance improvement.
Parallel loading plugin
A browser normally uses 2 parallel connections to the same server. If your blog contains many images or other elements that requires a individual server conncetion load times can be significantly effected.
Parallel loading plugin can improve the performance by service your content from up to 5 different subdomains => up to 12 parallel connections instead of 2!
If the physical distance between the server that hosts your blog, and your blog readers is getting too big, your readers can experience very slow loading. A quick way to determine the distance is looking at the Vistitor report in Google Analytics. Using a CDN system like MAX CDM replicates the bandwidth consuming content like images and scripts to servers around the world, thereby dramatically reducing the distiance from your server to your readers.
As a bonus, MAX CDM integrates very smoothly with W3 Total Cache
If you’re really passionate about WordPress speed optimization, HTML compression can also increase site performance by reducing file sizes.
This plugin works by shortening URLs and removing standard comments and whitespace; including new lines, carriage returns, tabs and excess spaces
However instead of doing this manually the WP Minify plugin can automatically combine js and css files.
Changing the load order of plugins can improve the time it takes before the first parts of a new page is displayed to the user. Reordering the load sequence of plugin doesn’t speed up your site, but it give the user a feeling that your site is faster than it actually is.
BJ Lazy Load
Lazy loading means that images are only loaded if the user scrolls down to the location on the page where the image is located.
I hope you found the speed measuring tools and optimization tools in this post useful. My experience from testing my own projects is that there is a big risk that a WordPress site gets slow over time as you introduce more and more plugins and tools. I’m going to rune tests on the installed plugins on my sites on a regular basis to test for performance, and benchmark against alternative plugins.