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11 Ways to Speed Up Your WordPress Blog

by Scott Chow | June 20, 2014

speedWordPress is one of the world’s most popular content management systems, and this is thanks largely to its excellent versatility and the vast amount of fully customizable themes and plugins available for it. However, a lot of websites which use WordPress do not maximize its potential. Given the typically short attention span of Web users, a website which does not perform up to scratch will end up turning visitors away in droves, and if you rely on your WordPress site for marketing purposes or e-commerce, this can end up costing your business a great deal in lost revenue. This in-depth guide takes a look at some of the most effective tried and tested ways to supercharge your WordPress site.

Before you begin, you should test your website’s performance so that you can get a better idea of what you need to change and how far you need to go to tweak its performance. One place to test your website’s speed for free is webhostinghero.com/speed. All you need to do is enter your website’s URL, and this tool will provide you with a performance grade along with some useful reports to help you speed up your website.

1 – Choose a Good Hosting Company

By far the most influential factor with regards to website performance in most cases is the hosting company itself. A poor Web hosting service which uses outdated hardware will slow down your website no matter what you do to speed it up. Particularly if you rely on your WordPress site for business purposes, trying to save a few extra dollars and compromise on service quality in the process is just not worth it. Some of the most popular hosting companies include BlueHost, Hostgator, Siteground and InMotion Hosting. All of these are good choices, but my personal recommendation for your WordPress site is BlueHost.

2 – Install WP Super Cache

Because the WordPress platform uses dynamic PHP scripting, it must execute all queries whenever a page is loaded in someone’s browser, and this can slow things down significantly, particularly when the server load is high. WP Super Cache is a free plug-in which converts your completed posts into static HTML files so that these PHP queries do not have to be executed every time someone visits your website. Download and install the plug-in through the WordPress Administrator dashboard. A new option will then appear in the Settings menu entitled ‘WP Super Cache’. You will also need to turn caching on, as shown in the screenshot below:

3 – Clean Up Your Homepage

By default, WordPress will usually display the full last ten posts on the front page of your blog, and this can greatly decrease loading speeds, particularly if your posts contain a large number of images. Fortunately, you can easily customize the front page of your blog by navigating to Settings > Reading in the administrator dashboard.

As you can see from the options shown in the screenshot above, you can choose either a static page or limit blog posts on your homepage to displaying summaries only. Doing so will greatly decrease server load when someone visits your website.

4 – Optimize Your Database

Optimizing your WordPress database can significantly reduce loading times, and there are a number of ways of doing this. You can optimize the database manually through phpMyAdmin, although by far the easiest way to do it is to use the Optimize DB plug-in instead. Download and install the plug-in through the administrator dashboard, and a new menu entitled ‘Optimize DB’ will appear in the Tools section of the dashboard. Simply click ‘Optimize Now’ as shown in the screenshot below to optimize all of the tables in your database.

5 – Reduce Your Image Sizes

Images can take up a great deal of bandwidth, particularly if they are not properly optimized and displayed in the right place. They will also make your website take much longer to load up. Particularly if bandwidth is limited with your chosen hosting package, you may want to consider hosting your images off-site on a free image hosting platform such as Flickr. Flickr also integrates well with WordPress, especially if you use a plug-in such as Flickr Shortcode Importer. You should also use thumbnail previews for your images, particularly if you have a lot of images on one page. Another option is to use WP Smush.it, a plug-in which reduces the sizes of your images as much as possible without noticeably sacrificing quality.

6 – Remove Unnecessary Plug-ins

Generally speaking, the more plug-ins your WordPress site has, the slower it will be. Firstly, you should remove all inactive plug-ins which you no longer use. You can always reinstall them again later. While going through your list, take a look at your active plug-ins as well. Particularly if you have more than around twenty plug-ins installed, you should get rid of any ones which you don’t absolutely require. You should also uninstall any themes which you don’t require, and while this won’t impact the performance of your blog, it will help to reduce disk space usage and keep your administrator dashboard better organized.

7 – Split Your Comments Section

If you have some pages on your blog which became extremely popular and generated hundreds of comments, you should consider splitting up the comments section into multiple pages, as doing so will significantly reduce bandwidth consumption when anyone visits the pages in question. You can find necessary options in the Settings > Discussion section of the administrator dashboard as shown in the screenshot below:

8 – Enable GZIP Compression

GZIP compression is one of the most popular and effective ways to reduce the loading time of your WordPress website or any other website for that matter. GZIP offers on the fly compression in which the webpage is compressed before it is sent to the browser, and in many cases, it can greatly reduce the size of the data being sent out. Some hosting companies enable GZIP compression by default in order to reduce bandwidth. If not, there are a number of plug-ins for WordPress which allow you to enable compression. The most popular plug-in for this purpose is W3 Total Cache, a tool which also provides many other performance enhancing features.

Be aware that W3 Total Cache is not compatible with WP Super Cache. You can find the setting to enable GZIP compression on the Performance > Browser Cache section of your administrator dashboard, as shown in the screenshot below:

9 – Update WordPress and Your Plug-ins

Both for the sake of performance and security, you should always keep the WordPress platform up-to-date. New versions are released quite regularly, and they present a whole raft of bug fixes, tweaks and other enhancements. When an update for WordPress is available, a notice will appear at the top of the administrator dashboard, and updating is just a click away. At the same time, ensure that your plug-ins are all up-to-date by navigating to the plug-ins page and choosing ‘Update’ from the Bulk Actions dropdown menu as shown in the screenshot below:

10 – Prevent Image Hotlinking

Hotlinking is a direct link to one of the images on your website from elsewhere on the Web. If the image is hosted on your website and there is a hotlink to it on another website, it will be your site’s bandwidth which is consumed. In the same way, services like Flickr allow you to host images and hotlink them to your website so that you use their bandwidth instead of yours. However, if images hosted on your website are being linked to by numerous other websites via direct links, your website can slow down significantly while also consuming your bandwidth. To disable image hotlinking, you’ll need to paste the following code into the .htaccess file in the root directory of your Web server:

 

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)example.com/.*$ [NC]

RewriteRule \.(gif|jpg|jpeg|bmp)$ – [F]

 

Edit the third line to include your own website address. If you want to allow any other domains to hotlink to your content, repeat the third line using the addresses of the allowed domains. You can also add other file types, such as MP3 or AVI to the fourth line by specifying their file extension and separating them with a vertical bar.

11 – Use a Content Delivery Network

Websites which receive a great deal of traffic may benefit significantly by using a content delivery network which copies your content to multiple servers so that visitors to your website will receive the content from the server which is nearest to them geographically. Some content delivery networks will only cache your media files and other bandwidth-intensive content on other servers around the world, while others cache all of your content. One of the most popular content delivery networks is Cloudflare.

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