WordPress optimization is important to increasing your website loading speed which in turn will create a better experience for your website visitors and help you in your Google ranking. This list was made to help you start optimizing your WordPress website. If there is anything on this list that is confusing then please consider contacting me. Even doing a few of the items on this list should improve the performance of your website.
*Always backup your website before making any changes to it.
Before starting on this list go run an analysis to see what optimizations you could apply . I recommend using GTmetrix, or Pingdom for this. Once you have scanned your website you will see a list of recommendations ranked by priority.
Do not worry about getting the perfect letter or number score, focus on the load time. I recommend aiming for a 1-2 second load time, but the faster the website loads the better.
1. Choose the Right Hosting Company
Make sure the place where your website lives is a healthy one. Choose a good hosting company that cares about performance and stays up to date. If your server response time is slow it may be time to switch to another hosting company.
2. Update Your Server PHP to 7.0 or Greater
WordPress runs off of a server side programming and scripting language called PHP.
Upgrading your PHP version can decrease the loading time of your website.
“Sites can see a 30% increase in performance (or more) by making this change.” – wordpress.org
WordPress.org encourages everyone to update their PHP to PHP 7.2.
Contact your hosting provider to upgrade your PHP version but be warned that upgrading can sometimes break your website due to compatibility issues.
Make sure you backup your website before upgrading your PHP and if you are not sure what version of PHP your WordPress website is running use the plugin Display PHP Version to check.
You can also use the PHP Compatibility Checker plugin to make sure the plugins you are currently using will work with a different version of PHP.
3. Use a Fast and Well Coded WordPress Theme / Page Builder
Try and find a theme that is lightweight, loads fast, updated, and has good recent reviews. Avoid “bloated themes” that offer everything but the kitchen sink in them. These “premium themes” are there to sell to everyone and might not have optimization in mind.
Another culprit is page builders. Page builders are used with your theme so you can design a website with little to no coding knowledge. The problem is most page builders use something called a “shortcode”* to generate code for you. Shortcodes add extra code to run on your website and thus adds to the loading time.
For page builders I recommend *Beaver Builder (the page builder) there is a free and pro version. Beaver Builder does not use shortcodes instead it creates its own CSS* file which loads faster than shortcodes.
*Shortcodes are bits of code that can look like this:
[video] or this: [video src="video-source.mp4"] that allows you to run background code on your website without needing to code anything yourself.
*CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets which is a file of code that controls how your website looks in a browser. It controls things like color, size, and placement of your page layouts.
4. Use Only the Plugins You Need
Plugins are fantastic for extending the functionality of your WordPress website. The downside to some plugins is they could take up a lot of resources, are slow to load, and could be poorly coded. Some plugins also use shortcodes *see above
Disable plugins one by one to see which one(s) are slowing down your website. Decide if you need those plugins or find a better alternative. Bottom line is only use the plugins you need and cut out the rest.
5. Optimize Your Images For Web
The low hanging fruit of WordPress optimization, they are easy to optimize but often overlooked.
The goal is to shrink the image file size as much as possible without loosing quality. I like to call it the “sweet spot” also know as lossless compression.
Re-size your photos to only the dimensions you need before uploading them to your website. Use programs like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP to re-size your images. The lower you can get the file size while retaining it’s quality the better.
Another tool I use and recommend is a website called tinypng
If you have a lot of large photos already on your website then install a plugin such as WP Smush , Imagify
or TinyPNG. These plugins will bulk compress pre-uploaded photos on your website. The other great feature they provide is auto-compressing future images on upload. But keep in mind it is still better to optimize your photos before upload, especially if they are over 1 MB in size.
I hope these 5 tips help you in your quest to optimizing your WordPress website.
These are just some of the ways you can optimize your website, I will be sharing more optimization tips in the future. Remember speed is the goal not a letter or number score and to always be safe by first backing up your website.
Learn more optimization tips in my post “8 Ways to Speed up Your WordPress Website”
If you would like help with your website I offer WordPress optimization assessments for $99 , please contact me to learn more.
*Disclaimer, any link with the * uses my affiliate link.