We’ve all been there — you’re trying to load a website but it feels like it’s taking forever. Maybe you ended up giving up on it and closing the browser tab or perhaps you waited it out — because 47% of people expect websites to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% will abandon a site that takes over 3 seconds to load. And if you’re not the visitor but the owner of that slow website, that’s the last thing you want. With that in mind, if your WordPress website loads slowly, how can you make your site load faster?
Remove poorly-coded plugins
It’s often thought that too many plugins will slow down a website. While it’s true that every plugin adds code for your site to load, a well-written plugin will load quickly because it doesn’t contain very much code. Some plugins, however, might contain more code that every other plugin you have combined. Needless to say, then, the primary factor that leads to slowdown isn’t the number of plugins on your site but the quality.
So how can you figure out which plugin is at fault? Unfortunately, it’s not always an easy process.
One thing you can do is test plugins one by one until you find the culprit. Deactivate a plugin, give your site a hard refresh, and see if it loads more quickly. Of course, if you have lots of plugins, you could start out by testing groups of plugins at once to help narrow it down.
You can also use analytics to check your website’s speed. The Waterfall tab on GTMetrix shows what elements on your site take the longest to load. This can give you a more detailed idea of what plugin — or image, or other element — is leading to the slowdown.
For more advice on optimizing your plugins, here are 4 more tips to help you.
Poorly-coded themes can create the same problems. Themes can be extremely lightweight but others can be bloated. If you think your theme might be slowing your site down, try temporarily switching to a different theme — the WordPress default theme, Twenty Seventeen, would be a good one to use as a test — and see if your site loads significantly faster.
If your site loads much faster with Twenty Seventeen than it did with your previous theme, assuming nothing else was changed, you’ve likely found a major contributor to your site’s slow speed.
Install a caching plugin
Essentially, when someone visits your site, WordPress will need to serve the user data obtained from several sources. It accesses your database to load the actual content, it has to load the theme and plugins, and it has to load WordPress’s core codebase. WordPress then interprets all of this code on the server side and converts it to the data it sends to your user’s browser. Even though this is an oversimplification of how this process really works, you get the idea. With all of these pieces of the puzzle that need to be assembled in real-time, there are a lot of things that can contribute to slower load times.
One way to speed up a site without changing plugins or themes is to install a caching plugin. Instead of loading all of the data in real time mentioned above, a caching plugin does this work ahead of time. A caching plugin will load all of the data and create a preview of how the final page looks and store it on the server. Then, when someone visits your site, the visitor is sent the pre-rendered code, cutting down the load time drastically.
Several caching plugins exist for WordPress — WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache, and WP Rocket are among the most popular options. They’re not without drawbacks — particularly, some of them have a cumbersome setup process and lots of options. It’s also possible if the plugin isn’t configured correctly, it might have an outdated copy of a particular post or page cached.
Change your hosting package or provider
This suggestion is more drastic than the others, but if even a lightweight theme without sluggish plugins still loads too slowly, the problem could be your hosting provider. Generally, managed hosting is fast enough to work well, but if your provider is overloaded, you might need to spring for dedicated hosting. You might also consider switching to a different hosting provider that can provide you a faster website.
For more information on hosting and for our recommendations, read our tips here.
Add support for Google AMP or Facebook Instant Articles
Facebook and Google have created their own version of cached web articles. You can install plugins to support them on your WordPress site. You’ve probably seen them before. Google search results give AMP-supported sites higher priority and Facebook boosts Instant Articles in news feeds, so both sites provide plenty of incentive to use their services. However, they’re not without drawbacks — since these pages aren’t hosted on your sites, some of your content — menus, sidebars, etc. — won’t display, so it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth it to install these services. Visitors who find your site from AMP and Instant Articles are more likely to read the one post or page they’ve found and then leave your site, but you’ll probably get more visitors if you use the services.
If you choose to support Facebook Instant Articles, consider the Instant Articles for WP plugin. Be aware that setup is somewhat cumbersome, as is most Facebook direct integration.
For Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), the AMP for WP plugin will do the trick.