In the last few months, I’ve been playing with WordPress settings on most of my blogs. Since site load times are directly related to search engine rankings now, I decided to up the ante in terms of Speed, for my blogs.
Ensuring that your self hosted WordPress blog loads quickly is of paramount importance. The tips mentioned in this article are applicable especially to those site owners who have purchased their own hosting from reliable hosts like BlueHost
Most of you would be on shared hosting plans that have resources divided among multiple blogs or sites hosted on the same server, which can really slow things down as and when your traffic starts to grow.
At this point, you might be thinking why to bother with self-hosted WordPress when you can get a free WordPress.com Blog that uses a network of servers all over the world to ensure great site load times.
You should definitely look at the many advantages of WordPress just in case this question popped up in your mind.
For your convenience, this article has been divided into sections as per the table of contents below. You are free to jump to any section that you may feel is applicable to you more.
Why is my WordPress Blog so Slow?
Before we get into the nitty gritties of speeding up your WordPress Blog, you should first understand what are the reasons WordPress can seem slow and sluggish in performance.
There are three main things which will slow down your site for visitors:
- Executing PHP commands
- Pulling information from the database
Executing PHP Commands
WordPress is built on PHP.
In simple terms, PHP is the language that WordPress used to communicate with the server.
WordPress sites are mostly dynamic in nature. This means, whenever you request a page from a WordPress site or a blog, it is generated in real-time and served to your browser.
Now imagine multiple simultaneous users accessing various pages of the blog at the same time. Imagine the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure each visitor is served the latest copy of the page in the shortest possible time.
If the resources such as CPU and memory offered to you in your hosting plan are limited, naturally, your site will seem slow to your visitors. If the requests made to your site are more than what the resources allocated to it can handle, your site fails and stops responding.
Will the visitor wait for your site to start responding again? Your guess is most probably the same as mine. NO. The visitor would rather click the back button on his browser and access some other website.
You don’t want this happening right?
Pulling information from the Database
Your database is the central repository of your content and settings.
Each time any Page on your blog is requested by the visitor, WordPress executes varius PHP commands to fetch the necessary information from the Database.
This information is used to build the Page in real-time and send it to the web browser that has requested it.
Once again, imagine hundreds of visitors accessing different parts of your website at is the same time. Multiple requests for different pieces of content are made from the same database at the same time.
What happens when there isn’t enough memory available on your webserver to process so many requests?
Yup, you guessed it. Your blog takes forever to load. Will your visitor wait for you? Make a wild guess.
While writing a blog post, an experienced blogger would always want to make it as engaging as possible. You want your readers to stay on your page for a reasonable amount of time and also visit other pages in your blog, thereby increasing engagement.
In fact, Google also ranks those blogs higher in search results that tend to retain visitors longer.
Now, to make an engaging Blog post, the first thing that comes to your mind is images, graphics and sometimes video.
Including relevant images that explain your content better are one of the best ways to enhance engagement.
Images and other multimedia content may make upto 50% of your total blog content sometimes, especially if you have a niche that requires you to post more multimedia content.
Adding images and videos comes at a very steep cost – cost of bandwidth. Such content is heavy and requires more time to be fetched from the server.
Example: You have a travel Blog with lots of pictures taken with the help of your smartphone or digital camera.
If you put them on your blog as is, it might take forever to load these images on the readers web browser. This is especially true in the case of mobile visitors who maybe on limited internet plans or limited wifi access.
No one is going to wait for your posts to load if the images included in them take their own time to display on the web browser.
Once again, they would probably prefer to visit another similar website that seems lighter and faster on their devices.
These are the three main reasons why your WordPress Blog can seem sluggish to your readers.
Speeding up WordPress – Tips
Fortunately, there are ways to easily get over these issues without having any technical knowledge with you.
Here are some of the ways that I have applied on many of my own blogs and those of my clients. These methods, if implemented correctly, can show an amazing Speed boost of your website or blog thereby enhancing the user experience.
So without further ado, let’s dig into the details.
Tip 1: Remove unused plugins
Keeping unwanted plugins on your WordPress sites will add a tremendous amount of junk to your web files.
Moreover, it will also increase the size of your backup. This will put an unmanageable amount of load on your server resources while backup files are being generated, which can bring your server to its knees.
Some unused plugins still load each time your blog is requested by the visitor. This causes further strain on the server and wasted requests from the web browser.
The best way to ensure your allocated resources do not get overloaded due to plugins is to remove all unused plugins from your WordPress installation.
Make sure only the plugins that are absolutely essential for website are in the active state. Remove the rest.
Tip 2: Use a lightweight theme only
The more scripts your theme loads, the more load it places on your webserver.
You need to use a theme that is light on resources, looks good and is snappy and responsive on all devices.
GeneratePress Premium is one theme I would highly recommend for speeding up your blog. It is extremely lightweight, clean, works on all devices, and uses minimum resources on your webserver.
A good theme doesn’t load too many external resources and scripts.
Tip 3: Choose a Good Web Host
A reliable web host like BlueHost will always be preconfigured for better performance as compared to other hosting providers.
Since WordPress is so popular and used to power 30% of blogs worldwide, a good web host would usually have a shared or managed hosting plan tailored specially for WordPress.
BlueHost provides WordPress specific shared and managed hosting services with their own performance enhancements.
When you start getting more traffic, you can later upgrade to a more powerful hosting solution such as cloud hosting. For most people, shared hosting from the above mentioned web hosts should be enough.
Tip 4: Optimize Images for better performance
Most beginner bloggers don’t employ the power of images for their blogs. Images enhance engagement rates of every post and help retain your reader for an extended period of time.
Unoptimized images, however, can degrade your site performance and thereby negatively affect end user reading experience. The result? Your readers end up abandoning your blog.
If you don’t reduce image size before uploading to your blog, the load time of your site increases drastically.
You should convert all images to JPEG or PNG compressed compressed formats before using them.
Newer formats such as WebP are even more useful in enhancing reader experience of your blog, thereby speeding up WordPress.
You can also use a plugin such as Wp-Smush that automatically compresses your images the moment you upload them to your blog, saving you the hassle of doing it yourself.
Tip 5: Update WordPress Regularly
The core of WordPress undergoes regular updates from time to time.
Keeping your WordPress updated to the latest version boosts performance of your blog. Each update fixes bugs and many major updates introduce new features or extend existing ones.
Each time WordPress releases an update, a notification is shown in your dashboard area. One click and you are automatically upgraded to the latest version immediately.
Reliable and well-known hosts like BlueHost and HostGator may even do this in the background without your intervention while you focus on what you do best – create great content!
Tip 6: Use a Caching Plugin
A good caching plugin such as WP-Rocket can dramatically speed up your site WordPress blog.
A caching plugin also reduces the number of requests made to the web server. This helps reduce server load tremendously, thereby giving a solid boost to your site performance.
Instead of going through the whole page generation process every time, your caching plugin makes a copy of the page after the first load, and then serves that cached version to every subsequent user.
When the cached version is served to every visitor, there is no real time generation of the page for every request.
Naturally, since a static page is being served for each request, your server is free from the load of generating each page for every request.
BlueHost also provides it’s own cache implementation free with its WordPress hosting plan which can be enough for first time users to get started.
Tip 7: Never upload Video Files directly to your WordPress Host
Uploading video content directly to your wordpress blog is one of the most harmful practices to be followed while blogging.
Videos are very large in size and come with a very steep bandwidth cost each time they are served directly from your hosting provider.
If your plan has limited disk space and monthly bandwidth, you might exhaust your allocated resources very fast.
What you should do is upload your video content to sites like YouTube or Vimeo first. Then, embed the video into your post.
Sites like YouTube already have the massive infrastructure required to serve video content worldwide without degrading performance.
An embedded video is loaded from YouTube directly without any extra bandwidth cost to you.
Not just that, embedding a video instead of uploading directly to your host ensures your site loads with minimum delay from your server’s end.
Tip 8: Database Optimization
After using WordPress for a while, your database will have lots of information that you probably don’t need any more.
To speed up WordPress for improved performance, you can optimize your database to get rid of all that unnecessary information.
This can be easily executed with the WP-Sweep plugin.
It enables you to tidy up your WordPress database by erasing things like trashed posts, revisions, unused tags, etc. It will also optimize your database’s structure with only a single click.
This reduces database bloat and hence makes your site easier to manage.
This is also especially helpful in reducing your backup size. When you take a backup if your site, you would naturally want to include your database in the backup.
Unnecessary bloat present in your database would lead to increase in backup size, delays in backup completion and severe load on resources during the backup process.
If your database isn’t optimized, the backup process can bring your server to it’s knees and seriously hamper site performance. Therefore, make it a point to optimize your database from time to time.
Tip 9: Utilize the Power of Lazy Loading Images
Lazy loading of content is a new and very powerful technique for speeding up WordPress.
What it simply means is: parts of your website are loaded only when the visitor navigates or scrolls to that particular section of the Page.
Most blogs including this one utilize the power of lazy loading of images.
You’ll notice that the images attached to this blog post tend to load only when you scroll to their section. Whereas the text content of this post is fully loaded the moment the Page loads in your browser.
Lazy loading of images defers requests to the server thereby reducing the instant load placed on it when you first access the page. In case you go away from the Page without reading it fully, the images that are yet to load do not load at all, saving precious bandwidth and reducing load.
Many caching plugins like WP-ROCKET come with the option of lazy loading of images to help you further Speed up your WordPress Blog.
Tip 10: Use a CDN
A CDN stands for content delivery network. It can do wonders to speed up your WordPress Blog performance.
A CDN basically is a network of servers spread across the globe. How it helps can be explained with a short example.
Example: let us say you are using BlueHost and your webserver is located in the United States.
Readers accessing your blog from the United States will find its load time to be lesser. This is because they are located closer to your web server and hence your content can be transmitted to them faster.
Now, if a user from India tries to access your website, the load time for him would be significantly greater. This is because your content has to be sent to a far greater distance to be displayed on the web browser of the person accessing it.
A content delivery network solves this problem by saving a copy of your website in all of their servers spread worldwide.
When you use a CDN, the same user accessing your website from India would find the load time to be pretty much the same as the user accessing from the United States.
This is because the Indian visitor is served your website from the server of the CDN located in India.
CDN effortlessly provides a consistent experience to your entire target audience spread across the globe.
Many CDNs such as Cloudflare have their own caching mechanisms built-in which can further boost the performance of your blog worldwide.
GoodyBlogger.in uses cloudflare technology to deliver a consistent experience to all our readers.
Tip 11: Use the latest PHP version
WordPress is mainly written in the PHP programming language. It is a server side language, which means it is installed and runs on your web hosting server.
All good WordPress hosting companies like BlueHost use the most stable PHP version on their servers.
However, it is possible that your hosting company is running a slightly older PHP version.
If this is the case with your hosting, so send them an email or raise a support ticket asking them to upgrade the PHP version at the server side.
Any reliable host would be happy to do it without any extra cost. If not, you know what to do!
The newer PHP 7 is two times faster than its predecessors. That is an enormous performance boost that your WordPress blog needs to take advantage of.
Modern WordPress themes use CSS to present your content in a visually appealing manner to the end user.
An efficiently coded theme like this one can really help you Speed up your blog in no time.
We have listed some of the most effective tips to Speed up your self hosted WordPress Blog in this post.
As you can see, you don’t have to be a technical person to implement most of these tips on your blog. Some involve simply installing a plug-in and letting it do its job.
Remember, a blog that loads fast always ranks better in Google searches. Google gives a lot of priority to user experience while ranking your website in search results.
Have something to discuss? Do share in the comments section below and we’ll be right on it.