WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems in the world, powering over 43% of all websites.

However, with great flexibility comes potential performance issues. A slow WordPress site can negatively impact user experience and search engine rankings.

Luckily, there are many ways to optimize WordPress for speed and performance. In our article, we explore tips and tricks for making your WordPress site as fast and efficient as possible.

How to Optimizing WordPress for Performance and Speed

Use a Cache Plugin

WP Rocket is a premium caching plugin with an extensive feature set.

Caching stores rendered web pages so they can be served faster on repeat visits. This avoids resource-heavy operations like database queries.

Caching is one of the most impactful optimizations you can make. There are many caching plugins available, but a few popular options include:

  • WP Rocket – A premium plugin with advanced caching features like cache preloading.
  • WP Fastest Cache – A free alternative with basic caching functionality.
  • Redis Object Cache – Uses Redis for faster external object caching.

Enable a cache plugin, configure the options for your site’s needs, and watch your load times decrease. Just remember to clear the cache when updating content.

Optimize Images

Use an image optimization plugin - like EWWW Image Optimizer.

Unoptimized images can slow down page loading. Here are some tips for improving image performance in WordPress:

  • Use an image optimization plugin – Tools like EWWW Image Optimizer or Optimole can automatically compress images and convert formats to improve loading.
  • Resize images – Don’t upload images larger than needed. Use an image editor to downsample.
  • Lazy load images – Load images only when scrolled into view. Plugins like BJ Lazy Load can handle this automatically.
  • Serve images from a CDN – Use a content delivery network to serve images from servers spread globally. WP Rocket has built-in CDN handling.
  • Convert PNGs to JPEGs – JPEG is a smaller format for photos and colorful images.

Following these tips will significantly cut down on image bloat.

Minify Resources

Use a minification plugin like Autoptimize.

Minification removes unneeded whitespace, comments, and metadata to reduce the file size of CSS, JavaScript, and HTML. To minify resources in WordPress:

  • Use a minification plugin – Options like Autoptimize or WP Rocket can automatically minify your code.
  • Enable minification in your theme – Many modern WordPress themes come with support for minification using plugins like WP Rocket. Check your theme settings.
  • Manually minify code – You can manually minify CSS, JS, and HTML code and then upload it, but this is more work.

Minification improves performance by decreasing the amount of data that has to be transferred. But beware – it makes debugging harder.

Choose a Fast Web Host

Your web hosting environment plays a big role in WordPress’s performance. Here’s what to look for in a fast, optimized host:

  • SSD storage – Solid state drives are much faster than traditional HDDs.
  • PHP 7+ – The latest PHP versions are significantly speedier.
  • HTTP/2 support – Enables faster transfer of resources.
  • Caching – Many hosts provide server-level caching options.
  • CDN integration – Optimized access to distributed content delivery networks.

Some hosts optimized for WordPress speed include WP Engine, Kinsta, and Pagely. It’s worth investing in a quality hosting provider.

Tweak Database Settings

Enable plugins like Redis Object Cache.

Your MySQL database powers much of the background functionality of WordPress. Some database optimizations include:

  • Use a persistent object cache – Caches database queries in memory to avoid disk I/O. Enable plugins like Redis Object Cache.
  • Enable MySQL query caching – Caches identical queries so results don’t have to be generated repeatedly. Can be done through phpMyAdmin.
  • Optimize database tables – Defragment and optimize database tables occasionally for better performance. Can use the WP-Optimize plugin.
  • Limit post revisions – Post revisions can clutter up your database. Set a limit on revisions per post.
  • Manage indexes intelligently – Properly indexed database tables speed up queries. But over-indexing can slow down writes.

Getting your MySQL settings right makes WordPress work faster and more efficiently overall.

Choose Fast Plugins

WordPress plugins provide tons of functionality for your website, but poorly coded or bloated plugins can bog down your site. When selecting plugins:

  • Check plugin ratings – Choose well-reviewed plugins maintained by experienced developers.
  • Avoid excessive plugins – Limit yourself to essential plugins, and remove ones you don’t need.
  • Check compatibility – Ensure the plugin works with your WordPress version and adheres to coding standards.
  • Watch file size – Lighter plugins have less impact on load times. Avoid massive plugins.
  • Choose “Lite” versions – If available, use the basic lite version over the full-featured premium version.

With a little research, you can build your plugin stack with speed in mind rather than just features.

Configure Caching & Performance Plugins

Caching and other performance-focused plugins are only effective if configured properly. Here are some key settings to check:

WP Rocket Settings

  • Enable caching – Turn on basic caching functionality.
  • Leverage browser caching – Set expiration times for resources to enhance browser caching.
  • Lazy load images – Delay image loading until they become visible during scrolling.
  • Optimize CSS delivery – Combine CSS files and defer CSS loading.
  • async JS – Load JavaScript files asynchronously to improve script execution.

W3 Total Cache Settings

  • Enable page, database, and object caching – Activate all available cache types.
  • Configure CDN – Add a content delivery network to serve static files.
  • Enable minification – Minify HTML, CSS, and JS for lighter files.
  • Use Memcached – Interface with a Memcached server for faster object caching.

Autoptimize Settings

  • Optimize HTML, CSS & JS – Clean up code and combine files for faster loading.
  • Add critical CSS – Inline critical CSS for faster rendering of above-the-fold content.
  • Defer non-critical JS – Delay non-essential JavaScript from blocking page load.
  • Async JavaScript loading – Load scripts asynchronously using async and defer.
  • Optimize Google Fonts – Combine font requests and use local copies.

Properly configuring your performance plugins makes them dramatically more effective. Don’t just install them and forget them!

Review Server Stack

WordPress performance is also dependent on your underlying server stack – the interplay of server software like the operating system, web server, PHP engine, and database. Here are some areas to examine:

Linux Operating System

  • Use Ubuntu 18.04+ or CentOS 7+ for optimal WordPress performance on Linux servers. Older versions lack improvements.

Nginx Web Server

  • Nginx is faster than Apache in many instances. Utilize it if possible either directly or via reverse proxy.

PHP 7.2 or 7.3

  • PHP 7.x is a major jump in speed over earlier iterations. PHP 5.x is now extremely outdated.

MariaDB or MySQL Database

  • MariaDB is a drop-in replacement for MySQL that is faster and more optimized by default.

HHVM or PHP Accelerators

  • HHVM is an alternative PHP engine created by Facebook. PHP accelerators like OPcache speed up PHP execution.

Don’t neglect your underlying server environment. An optimized technology stack powers WordPress more effectively.

Debounce Database Writes

When a user updates content in WordPress, changes are written to the database almost instantly. For sites undergoing bulk updates, this can overload the database with write queries.

Introducing a small delay or “debounce” on write actions can improve performance. This bundles multiple updates executed within a timeframe into one query.

Some ways to debounce database writes:

  • Use a debounce plugin like WP Debounce
  • Add a delay to hooks like save_post using sleep() or usleep()
  • Enable delayed sync mode in object cache plugins like Redis
  • Configure a queue with database write buffering like RabbitMQ

Review Error Logging Settings

  • Set WP_DEBUG to false in wp-config.php to disable debug logging.
  • Add define( ‘WP_DISABLE_FATAL_ERROR_HANDLER’, true ); to wp-config.php to disable fatal error logging.
  • Set error_reporting in php.ini to only log critical errors.
  • Disable full log file paths in error messages for security.
  • Limit the number of log files that are kept. Rotate logs to avoid bloat.
  • If using SFTP logging, reduce verbosity and use file size limits.
  • For cloud environments like AWS, funnel PHP errors to stdout/stderr instead of log files.

Saner error logging settings reduce the I/O and disk space overhead of recording errors that you may never look at anyway.

Enable GZIP Compression

Install a GZIP Plugin like WP-Optimize.

GZIP compresses text-based files like CSS, JavaScript, and HTML before sending them over the network. This reduces payload size with minimal CPU cost. To enable GZIP in WordPress:

  • Install a GZIP Plugin like WP-Optimize or similar.
  • Add ob_start(‘ob_gzhandler’); to your theme’s functions.php file.
  • Configure GZIP compression in your .htaccess file.
  • Enable mod_deflate if using the Apache web server.
  • Confirm GZIP is active with a tool like GZIP Test.

GZIP typically reduces payload sizes by 70-90% and improves performance, especially for mobile users on slower connections.

Go Easy on JavaScript

While JavaScript powers much of the web’s interactivity, overuse of JavaScript can choke page loading. Some tips:

  • Eliminate unnecessary scripts – Audit your theme and plugins, removing extraneous JS.
  • Lazy load JS – Use async to load non-critical JS after page load.
  • Defer offscreen JS – Use defers to delay JS execution until page parsing completes.
  • Minify scripts – Minification removes whitespace and compresses code to optimize JS payload sizes.
  • Bundle JS files – Concatenating JS files means fewer HTTP requests.
  • Leverage browser caching – Set future expires headers on JS files so browsers cache them locally.

Keep your JavaScript lean, clean, and efficient for a lighter site.

Balance Third-Party Embeds

Use a3 Lazy Load to load embeds.

Embedded widgets like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc can bog down your site with unnecessary JavaScript, CSS, and HTML loaded from external domains. Consider:

  • Limit embeds per page – Don’t go overboard with social widgets and embedded media.
  • Use embed code sparingly – Embed widgets only on key pages rather than globally.
  • Defer offscreen embeds – Use a3 Lazy Load to load embeds only when scrolled into view.
  • Avoid slow external APIs – Some third-party APIs like embedded maps can be especially slow.
  • Cache embeds – Some performance plugins can cache embedded widget HTML after the initial load.

Embeds provide engagement and functionality but restrain them to keep pages light.

Upgrade Outdated Site Elements

As WordPress and its ecosystem evolve, outdated plugins, themes, and PHP libraries can become performance bottlenecks. Here are some areas to keep updated:

Themes

  • Use the latest default themes like Twenty Twenty-Three for faster code.
  • Switch from an outdated theme to a modern, optimized one.

Plugins

  • Eliminate abandoned plugins that are no longer updated.
  • Upgrade old plugin versions to benefit from speed improvements.

PHP

  • Upgrade from PHP 5.x to PHP 7.x for better performance.
  • Stop using deprecated PHP code like the MySQL extension.

Updating your site’s components eliminates unnecessary performance drags caused by old, unoptimized code.

Configure a Performance Monitoring Tool

You can use performance monitoring tools like SpeedCurve.

To stay on top of WordPress performance, use a monitoring tool to track metrics like:

  • Page load times – quantifies user experience.
  • Time to first byte – key web server metric.
  • Requests per second – measures server load capacity.
  • Page size – impacts load times and bandwidth usage.
  • CDN usage – verifies distributed delivery.
  • Failed requests – identifies broken links or errors.

Popular performance monitoring tools include New Relic, Datadog, and SpeedCurve. Use the data to optimize your site proactively.

Conclusion

Optimizing WordPress for speed doesn’t require expensive solutions. Strategic caching, optimizing images, using a modern web host, selecting efficient plugins, and monitoring performance can make a dramatic difference. With some effort, tips, and tricks, WordPress can be highly performant.

For help optimizing your WordPress site, contact a WordPress Development Company. They utilize the latest techniques to optimize WordPress installs for maximum speed and performance. With their expert team, they can assess your WordPress site and implement customized solutions to make it as fast and efficient as possible.

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About the Author

WP Webify

WP Webify

Editorial Staff at WP Webify is a team of WordPress experts led by Peter Nilsson. Peter Nilsson is the founder of WP Webify. He is a big fan of WordPress and loves to write about WordPress.

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