How To Speed Up WordPress Websites: 15 Proven Methods

How fast does your WordPress site load?

If it takes more than five seconds, you risk visitors dropping off and going elsewhere. Research also shows that a site with a load speed of one second has a conversion rate 5x higher than one that takes ten seconds.

And it isn’t just user experience and conversions: slow-loading WordPress websites often tumble down Google’s search rankings, which translates to fewer potential visitors.

It all comes down to people wanting fast answers and you needing to turbo-charge and maintain your website if you want to stay on top.

Thankfully, speeding up your WordPress site isn’t as tricky as it seems, and we’re here to help.

Below, our tutorial explores what might be slowing down your website and how you can give it a much-needed kickstart. Jump ahead to our tips if you’re ready to get started!


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Why Should You Speed Up WordPress?

The speed at which your WordPress website loads that crucial first page is the all-important first impression. Make a poor impression, and it sets a poor tone.

Changes in internet user behavior (and Google algorithms) mean a website’s loading speed is just as essential as its content.

Site loading time is crucial for your technical SEO (search engine optimization) because Google prefers pages that deliver quick, relevant answers.

As it turns out, Google’s been ranking loading speeds for mobile sites since at least 2018, and for desktop pages, it’s been a ranking factor even longer. Not only that, but Google could penalize you if your loading speeds fall below expectations. You may not show up in a Google search at all if your site is too slow.

Website browsing behaviors have changed over the years thanks to the rise of mobile internet. As stated, even if it takes ten seconds for your WordPress site to load, you lose a lot of people to that dreaded “back” button!

Next, learn how to speed up a WordPress site to keep visitors’ interest on-page and away from your rivals.

How To Speed Up Your WordPress Site: 15 Top Tips

If your WordPress site is starting to lag, you’re in the right place. The 15 tips listed below can all help make browsing more efficient and engaging for prospective customers.

First, however, we recommend you check out how fast your WordPress site is – our FAQs at the end of the piece can help you find the right speed-testing tool.

Once you’ve found a speed tester you prefer, remember to keep checking your page speeds as you optimize your site. Retest your pages when you make changes for real-time results.

Now let’s dive into some actionable ways to turn your WordPress site into a lean, customer-converting machine.

15 ways to speed up WordPress performance

WordPress performance tipIn brief
Change your hosting provider, server, and packageShared WordPress hosting is cheap but slow – virtual and dedicated hosting options help pages load faster
Use fewer plugins and prioritize qualityReduce plugins needed and choose quality developers. More plugins mean more data for your website to load, slowing visitors down
Prioritize mobile speedsThe majority of website visitors use mobile, so use lightweight themes and caching plugins to improve handheld speed
Get smart on images and other mediaLarge image and video files can be unnecessarily slow to load – compress image files, host videos offsite, and use lazy loading
Use website cachingUse caching plugins to store for browser reuse, reducing server pressure and database communication
Fix 404 errorsDead ends slow users down and take up space – use optimization plugins to find and fix them
Update everything and check for compatibility issuesUpdate WordPress, plugins, themes, and your PHP version regularly to ensure optimal performance
Use less intensive themes and pluginsChoose lightweight themes and reduce memory-hungry plugins to reduce background processing
Use a CDNIf you have traffic coming from all over the world, use a CDN to split server pressure and speed up local user experiences
Minify your codingUnnecessary characters in your code make your website work harder (and slower) – use a plugin to condense it
Enable hotlink protectionStop people linking directly to images hosted on your server with a CDN or a specialized plugin
Reduce external HTTP requests and database callsCheck with a developer before starting – and use a plugin or a CDN to limit non-urgent processes
Disable pingbacks and trackbacksStop WordPress processing alerts for new comments and tags with the No Self Pings plugin
Activate GZIP compressionCompress files so they load faster via GZIP; check if your site uses this technology already, and if not, run the WP Rocket plugin
Contact an expertCall or chat with a web host representative or a StateWP expert to help make your WordPress site more efficient

1. Change your web host, server, and package

There are typically three types of WordPress web hosting – shared, VPS, and dedicated. Your hosting plan is an important distinction, as it has a major impact on how quickly your web pages load.

Shared hosting has the lowest pricing, but you share a server and all its configurations with other administrators. That could lead to slow server response time and performance issues.

VPS is virtual, cloud-based hosting. You share server space but not configurations. It’s less affordable than shared hosting but provides faster website loading times.

Dedicated hosting is the most complex and expensive option. It’s a private web server, meaning all the server resources are allocated to you and there’s no one else around to slow your page speeds down.

WordPress users often sacrifice extra money and need to learn more technical jargon when they choose a speedy hosting option. However, given the importance of loading speed, these sacrifices are worth making.

Don’t be afraid to shop for a reputable hosting company, even just to speed up WordPress.

2. Use fewer plugins and prioritize quality

WordPress sites thrive on plugins. Plugins are background apps that can help you track visitor behavior or manage your technical SEO, among other things.

However, plugins can slow you down by giving your servers too much to load at once. They’re feeling pretty overwhelmed.


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To help lessen the strain, we recommend using a plugin called Query Monitor, which helps you track which other plugins are generating the slowest activities.

Simply deactivate the plugins draining the most memory, and monitor your site’s speeds.

In addition, keep an eye out for unused plugins that are using memory without bringing anything to the table. It’s all too easy to download something you think would be useful and then quickly forget about it.

We also recommend only using reputable, high-quality plugins. Stick to the WordPress plugins search engine, which you can access through your dashboard via “Plugins” in the side panel.

WordPress side menu with

Don’t be tempted by external or custom plugins. There’s no guarantee they’re top quality; you can’t always rely on developers to keep them updated.

Using custom plugins risks slowdowns and a host of security issues. For example, you expose yourself to WordPress hackers if you don’t update reputable programs.

3. Prioritize mobile speeds

Google gives ranking preference to websites that are mobile-friendly. All website developers should focus on designing for the smaller screen, and as such, there’s no excuse to push mobile speed optimization to the back of the pack.

If you ignore mobile speed tests, you’re effectively ignoring six out of ten visitors to your website, let alone the non-mobile users who won’t find you due to Google deprioritizing you.

Many of the tips below show you how to speed up a mobile site in WordPress. However, a great place to start is to look for a mobile-friendly WordPress theme by browsing the themes catalog. You can access this through your dashboard’s “Appearance” and “Theme” tabs.

We also recommend you use recognized plugins such as W3 Total Cache, which helps optimize your WordPress site for mobile by using a content delivery network or CDN.

4. Get smart on images and other media

Everyone likes visuals. Images such as infographics are ideal for sharing ideas and ensuring messages stick.

Unfortunately, your media library can use tons of memory and slow WordPress down. Slowdowns can occur due to image compression, file size, formatting, or even how many images you have to load.

Try using image formats such as WebP, JPEG, and PNG, which load faster than other formats.

Resize and compress your images, and maintain image optimization for responsive design to improve load times. A plugin such as ShortPixel can handle all of this for you. Simply review and download the plugin through the link while logged into WordPress.

Think about video embeds and other media on your WordPress site. Like images, they’re great for hooking visitors’ attention and breaking information down. But, if you host them directly on your server, you’re using up its precious resources and slowing things down.

We recommend uploading and hosting your video content externally through websites like YouTube or Vimeo, then inserting them in your WordPress pages and posts.

We also suggest using lazy loading, a behind-the-scenes trick that delays some media from loading immediately while your page boots up.

These are “non-critical,” which means they load later and don’t slow down initial visits to your website. That way, you can take advantage of the time between a visitor first exploring your homepage and then clicking on any media.

Lazy loading is easy to spot across some websites. For example, have you ever seen an article or page load an image as a blur before ‘filling out’ a few seconds later? Like this:

Consider downloading a3 Lazy Load, perhaps the best plugin to speed up a WordPress site with minimal effort. This tool helps you load visual media away from your site’s other content in a few clicks.

5. Use website caching

WordPress caching can take a lot of heat off your server. Elements such as headers and footers are copied and stored for use again at a later point, meaning they don’t need to keep reloading on every visit.

You can cache web pages through your host via server or use WordPress caching plugins such as WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache. Remember to use a speed tester while you make adjustments.

Be warned: WordPress caching may not be available via your host if you have a shared server setup. You usually need a VPS or dedicated host, so move over if you can; if not, head to the next step below.

6. Fix 404 errors

Pesky 404 errors occur when pages don’t exist or can’t be found. Often, visitors find these on your website when you’ve failed to keep a page or link up to date. Ours looks like this:

However, dead links to 404 pages across your website slow down your visitors’ experience. Imagine they’ve clicked on a page link only to find a dead end – they then have to click back and search elsewhere on your website, and that’s if they stick around.

You must check that all the pages in your sitemap lead to the correct destination.

Plugins such as 404 to 301 for WordPress can help find areas of your website that lead to dead ends and notify you when it’s time to clean up.

7. Update everything and check for compatibility issues

By updating everything, we mean your plugins, theme, web firewall, PHP version, and even WordPress itself. The newer the software version you run, the more optimized your site is for speed and performance.

Start by making sure you’re running the latest version of WordPress. Look for an update by checking a message or a number next to “Updates” in the top-left corner of your dashboard.

Clicking this option brings up a new screen that tells you when you last checked for WordPress updates and if there are any updates due for your plugins and themes:

If there’s an update due, a button with the phrase “Update to version XXX” will be present. Click this button and wait for the update to complete.

It’s just as vital to update plugins and themes through this page. Older, outdated plugins that are no longer compatible with later versions of WordPress could cause critical errors, leave you susceptible to hacking, drain memory from your site, and slow you down.

You can set plugins to update automatically from the Plugins screen, with a link to “Enable auto-updates” next to each plugin installed.

Doing this ensures you don’t have to update plugins manually every time you need a speed boost.

Finally, updating your PHP version helps to keep your WordPress site optimized for speed. Your PHP is your hypertext processor, a programming language used within WordPress. Without it, your website is barely functional.

It’s worth checking that you’re running the latest version of PHP applicable to your WordPress site. Ideally, you should run PHP version 7.4 or above if you have WordPress version 5.3 or above.

To check your PHP version, head to “Tools” on your dashboard and then “Site Health.”

Scroll down to “Server,” click it, and your PHP version is listed.

We recommend you run a few further checks and potentially use a staging site to test a PHP update before running it live. If you believe your PHP version is still dragging your site speed down, read our guide on how to update your PHP in WordPress.

On a side note, there are plenty of other reasons why you need to update your website, regardless of its speed – check out the linked guide after you’ve run through these remaining speed checks.

8. Use less intensive themes and plugins

Did your WordPress theme automatically come with Google Fonts, even though you don’t use it?

Memory-heavy plugins and themes seriously drain your server, bringing your WordPress site loading speeds to a crawl.

We recommend you look for a lightweight theme with optimized code. Look for a theme that’s light on image elements and heavy on clear navigational tools, such as collapsible menus and sidebars.

Now, onto plugins. As mentioned, you can use Query Monitor to check which plugins use the most memory on your server and drive down speeds.

However, let’s focus specifically on backup solutions, such as plugins like Jetpack and UpdraftPlus. If you run automated backups for WordPress regularly, you risk adding to your website’s background processes.

Therefore, consider adjusting how often you run your backup plugin. Do you back up your website daily but only post weekly updates? Time to scale it back.

How you adjust your backup regularity depends on the plugin you’re running. Try running automated backups, as you never know when you might need them – but keep it to a minimum.

9. Use a CDN

As mentioned earlier, a CDN is a content delivery network. It’s a system that uses multiple servers to deliver online content to visitors instead of relying on one or two.

CDNs help to speed up global traffic. For example, visitors to your website from Brazil might find your WordPress site loads much slower compared to those users in the US.

A CDN with servers based in South America, therefore, helps speed up pages for Brazilian visitors.

The fastest and easiest way to install and use a CDN is to look for a plugin. You can use services such as W3 Total Cache, as suggested, or a dedicated CDN service such as Sucuri.

Several web hosts recommend Sucuri, as it demonstrably boosts WordPress speeds and helps to protect your website against malicious attacks.

There are some downsides to running a CDN compared to plugins. They can be costly to run if you want substantial bandwidth, and if your visitors usually browse from one or two territories, the split server benefits aren’t necessarily as advantageous.

Before you proceed with a CDN, contact your web host or a WordPress developer for advice.

10. Minify your coding

Minification is the process of cleaning up and shortening clunky or unnecessary code that slows your website down. You can minify HTML, Javascript, and CSS files.

Minifying can be as simple as taking unnecessary characters, comments, and spaces out of code that can slow it down. Minified code works the same as the original, but it loads faster.

If you need more confidence with coding behind the scenes, there are some plugins you can use to help.

Free options such as Autoptimize can cache your scripts and delay loading, while others such as Merge+Minify+Refresh keep your scripts updated when you change important files.

11. Enable hotlink protection

Hotlinking is where someone links to an image or piece of media from your website and relies on your server to keep hosting it. That drains your server’s memory, meaning your site gets slower.

In the worst-case scenario, your host might suspend your account because you exceed memory limits.

Look for a host that values high performance and offers lots of flexibility. Then, enable hotlink protection for your WordPress site and stop memory leechers.

You can frequently use CDNs to switch hotlinking on, such as through Cloudflare and its Scrape Shield function. This prevents your images from appearing on Google searches and some social media networks.

The easiest non-CDN option for hotlink protection is, of course, to use a WordPress plugin. We suggest trying All-In-One Security, or AIOS.

For thorough protection against hotlinking, we recommend using a CDN and editing your .htaccess file, which helps configure WordPress.

Start by downloading an FTP (file transfer protocol) program such as FileZilla to access this file and ask your web host for FTP login details.

Log into your FTP and look for .htaccess in your root folder (typically called “public_html”).

Right-click the file and save a copy to your drive to back it up. Then, open the file and add the following code at the bottom:

/* Prevent image hotlinking in WordPress */
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?pinterest.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?twitter.com [NC]
RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [F]

 

Save the file. You’re now protected against people hotlinking your images on Pinterest, Google, and X/Twitter. You can add other websites you want to block hotlinking from by adding an extra line like this (replace Facebook with a site of your choice):

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?facebook.com [NC]

 

Make sure to add this line after the initial “​​RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$.”

12. Reduce external HTTP requests and database calls

It’s common for WordPress plugins to use external resources from other sites to run smoothly. They might borrow scripts or media from social networks, search engines, or even Google Analytics.

Provided you use reputable, high-quality plugins available through WordPress’s plugin search engine, there’s no need to worry too much about these HTTP requests.

However, if you’re really concerned about external scripts driving down WordPress’s speed, you can disable those you don’t need.

As explored above, a caching plugin and a CDN are great for reducing HTTP memory drainage as a starting point. However, you can also disable plugin stylesheets and JavaScripts by editing your functions.php file.

Before doing this, we advise you to consult a WordPress developer, such as a StateWP advisor or your web host.

Disabling stylesheets and JavaScripts can cause plugins to develop faults and sometimes stop working altogether. It’s a risky move that’s only worth taking if you know what you’re doing.

Database calls, too, can limit WordPress performance. These occur when a theme requests your WordPress database to operate properly. Sometimes, it can make excessive requests.

Themes make database calls to ensure the correct scripting language displays elements. It’s often a necessary evil.

However, you can edit “child” themes to prevent database calls by redirecting requests toward specific information about your site.

Again, much like reducing HTTP requests, this means a little technical editing, and mistakes can lead to theme development faults.

To avoid all confusion and concern, reach out to an expert in the first instance.

13. Disable pingbacks and trackbacks

Pingbacks and trackbacks are useful for tracing which blogs link to your WordPress site. However, each pingback creates a new comment, which, after a while, builds up spam and wastes resources.

Disable pingbacks from external sites by heading to “Settings” and then “Discussion” on your WordPress dashboard.

On the “Discussion Settings” page, under “Default article settings,” uncheck the box that’s marked “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new articles.”

You can also pingback yourself and not realize it. Downloading the No Self Pings plugin is a quick and easy way to prevent these from stacking up. Follow our link to download it to your WordPress.

14. Activate GZIP compression

In addition to caching your WordPress site, you can condense its files before visitors see them by using GZIP compression. It’s another way to reduce load pressure.

There’s a chance your web host is already using GZIP by default. You can either check directly with an advisor or use GiftOfSpeed’s GZIP compression checker online.

To activate GZIP compression, we recommend using a plugin such as WP Rocket, which adds the code to your WordPress site as standard.

If you’d prefer to avoid using a plugin, contact your host or a developer for advice on a workaround.

15. Contact an expert

Speeding up a website to its full potential takes a lot of background work and some coding knowledge, so it isn’t easy for beginners.

While it’s possible to make some of the tweaks and changes on your own, a professional web maintenance team can keep a closer eye on how you’re performing and what’s necessary to build faster pages.

Start by contacting your web host. If you have managed WordPress hosting, you can quickly log into their user portal or dashboard and reach out via live chat, email, or phone.

However, remember that hosts can’t fix all your speed issues. What’s more, it might take a while for you to get a response – especially if you email a busy host.

In this case, it’s time to reach out to the best WordPress teams, like our devs at StateWP.

Through our WordPress management system, Proto, you can monitor your website’s performance and raise service requests with our team 24 hours a day.

Simply fill out a service request through Proto, submit it, and track its progress. We aim to get back to you with resolutions to most WordPress issues within a day of your request.

Hiring an expert also saves you from the highly time-consuming task of having to monitor and maintain your website and online store on your own. Our web devs are always on hand to analyze web pages, automate updates, and make tweaks when needed.

Speed Up WordPress and Boost Your Bottom Line

Website loading speeds make or break that crucial first connection with prospective customers and clients.

If your website takes longer than three seconds to load, you could:

  • Lose your visitors to a rival
  • Start seeing revenue drop
  • Lose favor with Google and slide down the rankings

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to speed up WordPress and improve your site’s performance. It all starts with a quick speed test – then checking your host’s credentials, using fewer memory-hungry resources, and installing plugins to cache and protect your site.

Remember, you don’t have to carry out these checks alone. A developer can monitor speeds and boost performance for you; just contact a StateWP expert to get started!


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In the meantime, while optimizing your site’s speed, keep our guide to common WordPress errors in your bookmarks just in case. 💼

And, if you’d like to know more about how web hosting works in practice, take a look at our layman’s guide for tips and tricks.

Speeding Up WordPress FAQs

Now that you know how to speed up WordPress, let’s run through a few final questions.

How do I check my WordPress website's loading speed?
You can use any of the following tools to get a website speed test on Google Chrome:

  • Google PageSpeed Insights
  • Pingdom
  • GTmetrix
  • Performance Budget Calculator
  • YSlow
  • WhichLoadsFaster

We recommend using GTmetrix, but you need to register your email address to see the results.

Ready to speed up your site? Then jump to our 15 tips!

How is website speed measured?
Your page loading speed is the time it takes (in seconds) for your website to load fully.

That’s from the moment that someone visits to the moment when all the content on the page finishes loading.

What is a good page load time?
Your web pages should ideally load in less than three seconds. However, three seconds isn’t necessarily the working average across the web. A study by Tooltester, which examined more than four billion individual web pages, found the average load speed to be 2.5 seconds on desktop and around 8.6 seconds on mobile.

Most users, though, will be accustomed to the quicker speeds of the most popular websites, which they will use as their frames of reference.

What slows down a WordPress website?
Your WordPress page loading speed is affected by:

  • Images
  • Stylesheets
  • Video content
  • Your website’s HTML
  • Your choice of server
  • Javascript problems

When learning how to improve website loading speed, start by reducing the number of media files, such as images and videos, your WordPress site has to load. Then, focus on caching and condensing your content so it loads faster with plugins such as WP Rocket.

How can I optimize my WordPress site’s speed without plugins?
Start by using a web host that prioritizes performance, and avoid using low-quality shared servers. Then, keep WordPress, its PHP, and your plugins and themes updated.

We also recommend using a CDN to lighten the load on your web server – consider signing up with Cloudflare or Sucuri, both recognized as great for boosting speeds.

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