WordPress is the most dominant CMS, powering over 40% of websites across the web, according to W3Techs. Catering to the diverse needs of the digital population, it supports thousands of different themes and plugins. While having such a huge array of choices to pick from when creating your website on WordPress is great, it also means that thousands of different technologies will have to work seamlessly together. As you may imagine, bottlenecks are bound to appear somewhere and make your WordPress website so slow that it starts to affect the number as well as the engagement of your visitors.
Your site speed is one of the most important SEO ranking factors. Every second means more traffic and more conversions when it comes to loading times. The longer your visitors wait for your website to load, the more likely they are to bounce. A higher bounce rate means lower rankings, fewer leads, and more hardship in an effort to spread your message across the web. If you are a fan of statistics, here are some numbers that illustrate just how important website speed really is:
- For every second of increase in loading time, your conversions decrease by 7%
- Websites that load within 5 seconds experience 70% longer user sessions and 35% lower bounce rates
- 83% of internet visitors expect a website to load in 3 seconds or less
- 53% of users will bounce if it takes over 3 seconds for a website to load
Why is your WordPress website so slow?
Many things can affect the speed of your website. Some of the most common are:
- Slow web hosting service provider (Utilize Google Cloud Platform empowered hosting for best performance)
- Your caching system is not set up via a plugin or content delivery network (CDN)
- Web pages and files lack optimization
- Too many external sources
- Your Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) is out of date
- Slow or code-heavy themes or plugins
- Cluttered database
How to speed up your website?
Here are some of the steps you can take to increase the loading time of your website.
Check the speed of your website
First and foremost, you need to measure the speed of your website accurately. Try to decrease your loading time to under 3 seconds. There are many online tools that you can use to check your speed, as well as some suggested steps to improve it. Here are our 3 top choices:
- PageSpeed Insights – This tool can be accessed directly from the browser. It grades webpage performance on a scale from 1 to 100 and offers a report on suggested optimizations, divided into three categories (high, medium, and low priorities), as well as suggests overall ideas on how to speed up your website.
- GTmetrix – Here, you can find a wide range of suggestions on how to optimize your website. You can find out how fast your page currently is, how it looks on different devices, which plugins are slowing you down, or which images lack optimization.
- Pingdom – This is a great tool for you to check your loading time and monitor many other aspects of your website, such as user experience. You can also see a list of recommendations on how to increase your website’s loading speed.
All you need to do is input your URL into one of these tools, and you will get data according to 10 criteria, including server response time, page redirects, optimized images, and more.
Get a faster web hosting service provider
Even after you follow all the optimization tips suggested by these tools, if you have a slow provider, your WordPress website will remain so slow that all your efforts will practically be in vain. Web hosting can make or break your site speed. The higher rank on Google’s SERP and lower bounce rates that come with faster loading time are more than reason enough to invest in a good hosting provider. Getting more leads, conversions, and sales will quickly make for a positive return on investment. Here are some of the internet hosting providers that our digital marketing agency Chicago suggests:
- WPX Hosting
Keep in mind that when it comes to hosting, you usually get what you pay for. Do a bit of research and find the one that best fits your budget and business aspirations. Also, here is a list of hosts to avoid since they are too slow and bound to generate more problems:
- Hosts that are part of EIG
- Melbourne IT
Here is another valuable piece of advice. Make sure to host your website in the country where the majority of your visitors are. This will shorten your loading times by 1 second.
Cache your website information
WordPress loads the pages of your website dynamically. This means that it finds the code for your website and rebuilds the page upon every request. Since this process involves several steps, your WordPress website can become slow. This is especially true if your website has many visitors at the same time or if they are located in different countries.
Cache servers can decrease your loading time up to five times. Here is how the process works:
- The first time your page is loaded, WordPress runs its usual process
- A static HTML copy of your pages and files is then stored on a server
- Each time users request your page, a copy from a server is shown
There are two ways you can create caches for your WordPress website:
- Install a WordPress caching plugin – Plugins will store your cache on your server’s memory. Avoid having more than one caching plugin, or else you could break your website. These plugins usually offer additional services like image compression, database cleanup, or hosting. You can also get these services via additional plugins, so we recommend doing some research first in order to find one that fits your needs as well as your budget. Here are some caching plugins we found useful:
- WP Fastest Cache
- Swift Performance
- WP Rocket
- Pick your content delivery network (CDN) – A CDN uses multiple servers around the globe to store your WordPress website’s cache. Each time a different user requests your page, the cache is loaded from the server nearest to that particular user. As opposed to caching plugins, using more than one CDN is a good idea, especially for websites with high traffic. You can also use CDNs along with caching plugins. Here are a couple of content delivery networks we recommend trying:
Optimize your page size
Your WordPress website can be so slow if your pages contain large elements such as images, GIFs, or videos. Images often have much bigger file sizes than necessary and therefore need more time to load. If you fail to compress them, they can cause a slowdown as well as a poor user experience.
Most desktop screens are 1920px wide, and mobile screens are rarely wider than 700px, so there is no need for you to publish images larger than this. Also, while your images may be the right width and height, make sure to check their file size. A DPI (dots per inch) of 300 is good if you wish to print out images; it is way too large for web publication, especially for mobile websites. A DPI of 72 is a golden standard that will optimize the loading time of your images.
You can use ShortPixel to check whether or not your images need further compression as well as compress them using its image optimizer called WP plugin. You can also compress your images via these websites:
Lazy load is another trick you can use to increase the loading time of your site. This means that the files that don’t appear on the screen immediately upon loading won’t load right away. Instead, they will load moments before they appear as a user scrolls the screen. If you use YouTube videos on your website, WP YouTube Lyte is the right plugin for you. It replaces the video on your page with an image that looks like the video player and loads a video only if someone clicks on it. Also, some caching plugins support lazy loading. One such plugin is WP Rocket.
To further increase loading time, consider showing only excerpts or summaries of your content like blog posts and adding a Read More button below.
Limit external resources
External resources pull information from other websites to your own. This can dramatically increase your loading time. If you have a chance, it is best to try and host these locally. If not, then you can add common domains to your WordPress caching plugin’s preload setting if available or do it manually. This practice is known as prefetching. Prefetching makes your site anticipate what it needs to load beforehand so your loading time wouldn’t suffer.
Another way to limit external resources is to upload videos to YouTube or any other hosting website of your preference instead of hosting them on WordPress. WordPress provides the option to embed videos when you paste the URL automatically.
Make sure your WordPress is up to date
Your WordPress website won’t be so slow if you update it to the latest version. You have to do this manually since your hosting provider will not do this for you automatically. If you didn’t do this recently, you would probably need to update from PHP5.6 to PHP7.3. Once the updating is done, you are good to go, at least until December of 2022.
It is imperative to back up your website before you perform any updates. The main reason to do this is that upgrading can sometimes break your website due to incompatible themes or plugins. Also, first, check if your web host supports the latest version. Use Display PHP Version to check your current WordPress version and PHP Compatibility Checker to check plugin and theme compatibility. After reviewing these, it is all downstream with PHP Version Manager in your hosting account.
Check your themes and plugins
Always use themes and plugins that are optimized for speed and size. Lightweight themes and plugins will dramatically decrease your website’s loading time. We recommend using the Sage WordPress theme.
Sage is by far the fastest WordPress theme that will also make your website mobile-friendly. Most themes clutter your website with a ton of megabytes of unnecessary code. Sage Framework doesn’t ship huge amounts of unnecessary components.
It provides structured semantic code with a streamlined development process. As a result, you get full responsiveness and less load time for your website across all devices. And, as we have already said, site speed has an enormous effect on your conversion rates.
When it comes to plugins, make sure to use only those necessary for your site to run correctly. You probably have some left-out plugins that were used on just a couple of posts. If you are not using them anymore, don’t let them slow you down and uninstall them.
Clean your database
You need to do a database cleanup every once in a while. Doing it every couple of weeks is just fine. Check these items and delete everything that you won’t be needing but takes up valuable space:
- Spam comments
- Trash posts and comments
- Post revisions
- Post drafts
- Unused database tables
- Expired transient options
In case your caching plugin doesn’t include database cleanup, we recommend using the WP-Optimize plugin. This plugin also provides caching, so you should disable the feature if you already use another caching plugin.
At this point, we have covered all of the possible reasons why your WordPress website is so slow. We hope to have helped with those laggy response times. Everyone loves visiting and spending time on fast and responsive websites. Now that your website is lightning-fast, it is only a matter of time before you see the boost in rankings, improved conversion rates and crawlability for search engines, more time on site, and lower bounce rates.