Is your WordPress blog running slow or suffering from a decrease in performance? Don't let it happen any longer! There are many steps you can take to counter this dilemma and I will go through 5 of the most effective and easiest to implement in the article below.
Method #1: Invest In WP Hosting Or A CDN
For anyone who is serious about their WordPress site and looking to take it to the next level in terms of performance and reliability should be ready to invest money into your hosting structure. There are many hosting providers who deal exclusively with WordPress-based websites and cater the platform in advanced ways that traditional hosting providers cannot match. The one I recommend using the most is called WPEngine (read our review here) and we are running this website via their hosting grid. Since switching to WPEngine, we've been able to “hands off” when it comes to tweaking performance settings while experiencing an increase in site-wide performance. This allows us to focus more on content which is well worth the increased hosting costs and it has significantly boosted productivity. Most WP Hosting providers will include a CDN within your monthly plan or charge a marginal fee per month as an add-on feature.
If you can't afford WP Hosting, but still don't have an issue investing a smaller amount of money, you should look into a CDN or Content Delivery Network. Before we switched to WP Hosting, we signed up for a “starter plan” from MaxCDN which allows you to experience the benefits of a CDN on low-medium traffic websites for under $40/year. A CDN will speed up your load times, help you save bandwidth, and can increase your SEO in the process.
Choosing one of these two solutions will cost you money, but they are two of the most effective and simple ways to speed up your WordPress website. I think of it as an investment since it strengthens the quality of our WordPress site and makes us more user-friendly.
Method #2: Install Caching & Lazy Load Plugins
Caching plugins are a must-have especially when using a standard web hosting solution as it will serve temporary copies of your websites pages to reduce bandwidth, server load, and lag times. If you are not already using a caching plugin, this should be your first step as they are free and often highly effective. I recommend looking into W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache as I have had positive experiences with both and their developers update each of them on a regular basis. Setting up your caching plugin can be a bit tricky so pay attention to the plugin documentation or do a web search for optimal settings if you get stuck.
Another great plugin is called BJ Lazy Load, which allows you to dynamically serve your images and content as your visitor scrolls down the page rather than forcing them to download all the page components as soon as they enter your site. This means you'll have faster page loads and save valuable bandwidth over time.
Method #3: Optimize Your Images
Optimizing your images by resizing and compressing them is a very necessary step that most webmaster don't realize they should be doing. First off, WordPress has the ability to resize a large image and insert a condensed version into your posts. This is a neat feature, but if you have a massive image, your users will still be required to download the largest image size before they can be served the condensed version. This is why we always resize our images to a more user-friendly size before uploading them to the site. We tend to max out our resized image sizes at 1280 x 1024, but we will make exceptions in rare cases.
Another thing you want to do to optimize your images is to run them through a service like Smush.it (owned by Yahoo) or if you're a Mac user download a free program called Image Optim. This service or client will take your existing images and strip out all the unnecessary metadata and color profiles turning them into “loseless” images. Don't worry these images will not look any different than they did before, but they will be 1-40% smaller in size!
Method #4: Remove Unnecessary Plugins
This ones pretty self-explanatory, but I'll elaborate a little anyways. Your WordPress site probably uses a bunch of 3rd party plugins and that is perfectly okay. Although it is important to keep in mind how many plugins your site uses and to remove or condense the amount of plugins when possible. If you have two plugins that do different things, but can get a single plugin that covers both features then in most cases this will be your best bet. Take the time to go through your active plugin and determine whether the potential performance decrease is worth the benefits it provides.
Method #5: Buy A New Theme Or Optimize Existing Code
If you want a fast WordPress site, you'll need to make sure your theme is properly optimized for speed and reliability. Most major theme developers will be sure to cover this, but it is important to verify your theme is optimized properly regardless. You don't want to deal with any bottlenecks from poorly written code to be the source of an under performing website.
If you find out your current theme is suffering from poor coding then I highly suggest looking into buying a better theme. You can find some great themes on ThemeForest (be sure to pay attention to the ratings, total sales, & comments) or StudioPress. A well-written, feature-packed theme will likely cost you between $30-100 though it is well worth it if you are able to use it for many years to come.