Secrets of WordPress Speed Optimization

There are a lot of different people and different plugins giving different ways of purportedly delivering speed in WordPress. Which of them are actually necessary? Which give the most benefit?

If you’re running a WordPress site, and wanting to optimize it to make it the fastest it can be, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve done the testing and benchmarking, and found what we think will be best for most websites. There are a number of things that can help the speed of your WordPress site, some of which can have a greater impact than others. We’ll give you them in order of most benefit first, and include items you can get for free or come with your hosting service (at least on AccelerHosting they do).

Measuring Performance

One great way to measure the performance of your site is Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Since Google is the most popular search engine, and they now base part of their search rank on page speed, we think it’s best to use their tools to do the testing. You may want to test your site now, to see how it performs before applying any optimization.

PageSpeed Insights tool

Plugins for File Minification, Consolidation, and Caching

There are a lot of WordPress Plugins promising speed increases. We’ve done a lot of testing, and ultimately found the fastest speeds come down to two essential WordPress plugins. We tried many different caching plugins, and saw good benefits from them, but ultimately we found the best pair was Autoptimize and Cache Enabler. These beat all the others and were the fastest by quite a large margin! You don’t have to just take our word for it though, as others have come found the same results.

Autooptimize and Cache Enabler WordPress plugins for speed
Autoptimize and Cache Enabler plugins. The perfect pair!

The combination of these two plugins basically is able to minify your external files and then combine them into 1 file so it will make less requests to the server, and then caches the content so that it can be returned without much CPU usage or database calls. These two plugins will most likely work on any server, but AccelerHosting‘s servers are highly optimized for caching with WordPress in this manner. This results in ultra fast response times.

Recommended Autoptimize Settings

For Autoptimize we recommend clicking the checkbox for “Optimize JavaScript Code” and “Optimize CSS Code” for most sites. With the other settings you may find mixed results. You can experiment with the other settings, and see how they affect your content.

Image optimization

Images can be a large part of the download that is required when a user visits your site. You’ll want to make sure that you’re not delivering images that are too large in resolution and are appropriately compressed for the web.

Modern image formats

One of the things that Google’s PageSpeed Insights often recommends is to “use modern image formats.” We’ve found the most pain free way to accomplish this is to use a WordPress plugin called WebP Express. This plugin, when configured will compress your images into a super compressed format called WebP which is used by modern browsers like Chrome. This allows for the same image to be transferred in a much smaller file size, but only if the user’s browser supports it. Otherwise it will fall back to regular image formats.

Cloud powered CDN

The last thing we’d recommend, though it’s not WordPress specific, is using a CDN (Content Delivery Network). We’ll cover more on this later in a separate article, but this can especially have a big impact on the speed of your site when you start getting a lot of traffic. It basically uses multiple different web servers across the world to deliver your content to the users in the closest and fastest way possible. AccelerHosting offers this capability built right into the your accelerated cPanel with a button called “CloudFlare”, where you’ll be able get your site flying in the clouds fast!

Results

So what kind of results can you get when you combine all these techniques? We’ll give your the results of our site’s home page as an example, which is currently being run on WordPress. On Google’s PageSpeed Insights it currently gives us a perfect score of 100 out of 100 score, which is better than any other hosting company that we’re aware of! Have a look at these screenshots and see for yourself.

Here is the score for mobile:

AccelerHosting PageSpeed score 100 for mobile
AccelerHosting PageSpeed scores a perfect 100 for mobile.

And here is the score for desktop:

AccelerHosting PageSpeed scores 100 for desktop
AccelerHosting PageSpeed scores a perfect 100 for desktop.

This might not seem so impressive if you don’t have context. How does this compare to other sites you might ask?

We decided to benchmark one of the most premium WordPress web hosts around (who charge an expensive price to go with it), and found that they got a dismal 22 out of 100 on Google’s PageSpeed score. A 22/100 would be a failing grade, and Google indeed reports highlights it with a red warning:

Results from a competitor.
Competitor fails Google’s PageSpeed test with 22 out of 100.

But don’t just take our word for it. Have a look at Google’s PageSpeed Insights and run the speed test on some sites, and judge for yourself.

Choose a Fast Theme

Some themes are faster than others. Some themes have a bunch of CSS and JavaScript that might be rather inefficient. If you want to get your WP instance going as fast as possible, it will be good to choose a fast theme.

Remove Plugin Bloat

While it’s true that every plugin you add has the potential to slow down your site, some will do it much more than others, especially those that add CSS and JavaScript files. Try testing your site with Google Page Speed Insights to see how fast it is, then try disabling some plugins to see if they affect page speed.

Conclusion

If you’ve got a WordPress site already, try all the above mentioned steps, especially adding and activating the Autoptimize and Cache Enabler plugins, and see how far they get you. If it’s still not fast enough, you might consider switching your site to a faster hosting service such as AccelerHosting. By some third party metrics, we’re the #1 fastest web host!

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