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How to Optimize Your WordPress Site for Speed

Site speed is critical to providing an optimal user experience and Google rankings.

WordPress is an optimal platform for websites because of its flexibility. About 33% of all websites are built on it.

Because of its popularity, there are a variety of technologies, frameworks and plugins available to site owners. While the flexibility is great, it also provides an overwhelming number of choices.

When sites start experiencing performance bottlenecks, it can be difficult to pinpoint the issue.

Here are some important considerations for WordPress site owners, as well as suggestions for helping identify and improve performance problems.

Table of Contents
  1. Start With a Good Hosting Service
  2. Invest in Premium DNS
  3. Choose Your Theme Carefully
  4. Use Plugins Sparingly
  5. How to Identify Bottlenecks in WordPress Site Performance
  6. Add Real User Data to Your Site Performance Monitoring

Start With a Good Hosting Service

Many website owners use price as their primary consideration for choosing a web host. But you get what you pay for.

Not all web hosting services are created equal. There are four types of services to choose from:

  • Shared Hosts: Several websites reside on one server. These can get overcrowded. Even if your site is optimized for speed, other sites residing on the same server can cause issues with yours. Best for new or low-traffic websites.
  • Virtual Private Servers (VPS): Though you’re still sharing a server with other sites, you get your own “space” on the server and aren’t sharing resources. Unmanaged plans require more technical knowledge on your part, while managed plans require less configuration but cost a little more. Best for sites with medium traffic and faster than shared hosting.
  • Cloud Hosting Plans: Similar to VPS, but more stable. Instead of sharing space on one server, your resources are spread on multiple servers. Great for scaling sites. A relatively new type of hosting that works different than others. Bridges the gap between VPS and dedicated hosting.
  • Dedicated Hosting: The most expensive hosting plan. Best for sites with over 100k visits per month. As the name implies, your site gets its own physical server. Highly customizable, but your team needs to have advanced technical knowledge.

Besides choosing the right type of host, other considerations include the hosting service’s network, PHP version and server type. Reliable web hosting services allow PHP 7 or higher, usually run on privately managed networks versus public ISPs, and use NGINX instead of Apache servers.

Invest in Premium DNS

While buying a DNS service isn’t a necessity, sites with an international audience will benefit.

Premium DNS services distribute your name server information throughout the world. Website visitors are connected via the closest server, which improves loading speed.

Another advantage of premium DNS is security. Since you’re using the DNS provider’s IP address range, your actual server IP address is masked from attackers.

Choose Your Theme Carefully

Themes and images tend to add a lot of weight to your WordPress page. Since bloated code can seriously impact page load time, choose your theme with this in mind.

There are over 3,000 free themes in the WordPress directory. Theme development company ThemeForest offers over 8,000 paid versions.

With such a vast amount of themes available, how do you know which ones to choose?

Here are a few suggestions from WP hosting company Kinsta:

  • Use a lightweight theme that only has the features you want
  • Choose a theme that allows you to turn features off

It’s popular to use a theme with a page builder option. These allow you to create pages without code. The problem with page builders is that often add significant weight to your page.

Use Plugins Sparingly

It’s common knowledge that WordPress plugins often wreak havoc on site speed. While the general advice is to use as few plugins as possible, not all plugins have the same effect on site speed.

Quality of plugins is just as important as quantity. Some plugins to improve page performance often aren’t needed because these features are already provided by your host. Caching, database management and backups are often available on CPanel for shared hosting customers.

Other plugins don’t work with newer installations of WordPress and should be removed.

Your hosting service usually maintains a list of banned or blacklisted plugins. Compare your site against the list and remove any included. They usually won’t work anyway.

How to Identify Bottlenecks in WordPress Site Performance

To uncover performance issues with your website, start by running a Speed Test.

The test evaluates your site loading time and determines where the problems are. You’ll receive personalized recommendations to improve your performance.

Once you’ve made improvements to your site, retest until you’re satisfied with the results. You can test different configurations and themes to see which one runs the fastest. Choose the highest performers.

Add Real User Data to Your Website Performance Monitoring

In addition to running periodic speed tests to check your site’s performance, RUM (real user monitoring) reports allow you see how your site is performing based on location, device or a combination of factors.

Continually monitoring your site for performance issues allows you to react quickly when problems occur. In addition to uptime performance monitoring, allows you to check for website availability, mail server issues and more. Start monitoring today.

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Sharon McElwee is's former content manager.

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