Time is money, seriously.
Page load times are a BIG DEAL.
If anything, page load speed should be at the top of your list when it comes to optimizing your website.
Studies show that the longer your page takes to load, the more likely your new visitor is to abandon it.
And rightly so! I mean think about it; when you click a URL, how long do you wait for the page to load? A couple of seconds? 5 seconds max?
For numbers and statistics, check out this infographic from KissMetrics.
But personally, I’m extremely impatient when it comes to loading screens.
And I know for a fact, that if that if the link I just clicked isn’t in front of my face pronto, I’m going to click that back button faster than you can say “bounce rate”.
It’s safe to say that by having a slow site you’re losing potential customers.
Because guess what? New customers are leaving your slow ass page, and going off in search of a more speedy solution.
You only get so many chances at a first impression in the internet world, make sure that yours isn’t just a white screen and a loading bar.
So, if your page load times are longer than a few “Mississippis” then you’re going to need to do something about it – and quick.
Luckily for you, I’ve put together 5 of my top tips for improving your WordPress page load times.
1. Good Hosting
If your WordPress site was a car, your host would be the engine.
The hosting engine probably delivers your “site-car” from A (your WordPress back end) to B (your visitors) just fine right now.
But your visitors want it to get there faster.
They have a need.
A need… for speed.
There are many “bolt-on” parts you can add to make your car go faster, and reach the full potential of the engine.
BUT if the engine is an unreliable piece of crap in the first place, then it’s probably quicker and easier to just swap it out.
This is the approach you should take with your hosting provider.
You need speed and reliability, and if your current provider isn’t “providing” you need to change it up.
2. Theme Choice
When choosing a theme (if you’re using a CMS like WordPress), you’re generally going to go for one that looks the best and has the best functionality.
And let’s be honest, a lot of people don’t obsess about how fast (or not) their new theme is going to be.
Most people opt for popular, multi-purpose themes. The problem with those is, they. are. slow.
The reason why most multi-purpose themes are slow, is because they have extra code to accommodate all of the different variations and options included.
Imagine it takes 1 second to to load 50 lines of code. Imagine that all your site needs is 50 lines of code.
Great – it would only take a second to load the whole page!
BUT, in multi-purpose themes with “bloated” code, there can be thousands of lines of extra code, that aren’t even being used, just because of the extra settings.
If you’re one of those affected, you have a few choices;
Check with the theme developers for solutions.
Most theme developers know that their themes can be slow.
Fortunately, they also know how to speed them up.
For example, one multipurpose theme we’ve used before is called “BeTheme” and the developers already know that there are some loading time issues with the basic theme.
So they wrote a quick guide and a workaround to reduce the amount of code that’s needed.
If you use a premium theme, it’s most likely that if you contact the developers they will already have solutions for you.
Manually fix it yourself.
Now, you might know just as much about coding as you do about quantum mechanics, but that doesn’t mean you can’t speed elements of your site up yourself.
The easiest way to do it is by replacing any widgets, images or anything else generated by plugins and shortcodes with simple HTML.
You see, every time you use one the above on your site, you’re basically telling WordPress “This thing goes here, but I’m too lazy to put it there, so can you just go and find it and put it there for me please?”
WordPress is almost as lazy as me, and if you have too much of this going on you can significantly slow your site speed down.
To insert HTML in the place of PHP and so on, right click the object on your site and click “view page source” – then find the code for whatever you want to convert to HTML.
Then simply copy and paste it as HTML code wherever you want it.
It’s a little drastic, but if neither of the 2 options above are a possibility, you may just have to cut your losses and fork out for a new theme.
3. Reduce Image Sizes
Images are such a memory hog.
Most web pages are only 1-3mb in size, yet most images are easily that big on their own.
To put those greedy images on a diet, all you need to do is install an image compression tool such as WP Smush.
Installation is easy, just set it up and click “GO”.
It’ll reduce your image file sizes by around half, thus, in theory, doubling their load speed.
You’ll need to “bulk process” when you first set it up so that it processes all your existing images, but after that it’s a “set and forget” plugin that automatically optimizes images as you upload them. More on image sizes right here.
The next thing you should check, is that you’re not using excessive plugins.
You’ve probably realized this by now, but the easiest way to improve your site speed is by reducing the amount of information that needs to load. It’s that simple.
So, if you’re a WordPress plugin hoarder, it’s time to break the habit and have a spring clean.
Deleting some of the plugins which aren’t 100% necessary will immediately improve your page load times.
Not all plugins are bad though…
While most plugins slow your site down, there are some that will actually speed it up.
These are my 2 favorite plugins when it comes to site speed:
This plugin works by “caching” files i.e. saving them so that your visitors don’t need to reload them.
Be very careful and try to follow a guide when setting up this plugin. We use it on pretty much every site we launch, and can tell you from experience that if you misconfigure it, you will have problems loading your site.
I’d suggest starting with the “default” options and then experimenting with the other settings to get the most out of the plugin.
This plugin works by optimizing your WordPress databases.
It cleans up data tables you don’t need and any excess clutter in the database.
Less information in the database means less to scan through and less time to find – and less time for your site to load.
5. Other Tools
There are a whole bunch of tools out there to make your site speed pack more punch.
Specifically, I’m talking about external caching tools and CDNs.
My tool of choice is CloudFlare
It’s very easy to set up and just requires you verifying your site, changing your nameservers (easy if you’ve already set up your own domain) and then picking your settings inside the app.
The best part is that it’s FREE.
Some of the features are limited in the free version, but I feel that it still adds enough juice to justify taking the steps to set it up.
If you have the money/capacity to use the paid version, then you should go for it.
Lastly, how are you going to know if any of this is going to make a difference?
You need to be able to test your site, and for that I use the Pingdom speed test.
Simply type your URL into the box and let it do it’s thing.
It’ll let you know how big your page is, and more importantly how long it takes to load.
It also lets you know how your site shapes up against the rest of the world!
They have 6 test servers (at time of writing) around the world that you can test with – obviously the one nearest your website host is going to be quickest.
I suggest just testing with one of their servers at a time to get meaningful results.
The other great thing about this tool is that is breaks down the loading process by element. That means that if a plugin or particular page element is taking a long time to load, you can focus on that part specifically or get rid of it completely if it’s not necessary.
And that’s pretty much it, fairly simple, right?
Questions? Let me know in the comments.