Speeding up your WordPress site – Hosting, Caching and Compression

Vintage Speed by Pierre Boidin https://www.flickr.com/photos/d7000pb/Is your WordPress site slow? Tired of long waits for pages to load? Are your visitors leaving early? Here is a quick guide to making your WordPress site as fast as possible.

Test Your Site

I was going to leave this tip for last, but if you actually want to see your improvement you should make this one of the first things you do. The most popular right now is GTmetrix. Dotcom-Monitor is another great site with a full suite of tools designed to measure speed as well as conduct a host of other tests for your sites. Go to one of these sites right now and run a test on your domain. Take a screenshot of the score and load time so you can compare it with the changes you make to the sites.

Get High Quality Hosting

If you are trying to run WordPress on discount shared hosting, stop. Generic discount shared hosting (GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, NetworkSolutions, etc..) is built for the lowest common denominator. It’s designed to throttle sites that get too busy (or get hacked), limit memory use and just not be optimized for performance. Let’s face it, you get what you pay for.

The most basic thing you need to do to improve your site’s performance is make sure it lives on a premium hosting service that provides enough resources for WordPress to operate properly. It’s also good to be on a managed WordPress host to make sure both the WordPress code and all plugins are always up to date.

Plugins for Caching and Optimization

Caching

Caching is a process where static copies of your dynamically created pages are created and served to visitors. These cached pages are updated from time to time to make sure that they are always current. The only downside of using a caching plugin is that changes to your site may not show up immediately and may require the cache to be cleared during the development process. I won’t go into a lot of detail on the caching right now, but recommend either WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache

Optimization

Autoptimize is a plugin designed to work with the caching plugins that will minify and defer your javascript and css. It seems to work very well.

Server Modules for WordPress Performance

There are a few Apache modules that will help site performance significantly. The first is mod_deflate which allows gzip compression of a website. Apache will compress files on the server and your browser will uncompress them. Sounds complicated, but it will make your site faster, especially if you have large JS, CSS or Image files that will compress. Your server must have mod_deflate installed, so you may need to discuss this with your hosting company. Here is a great guide on enabling compression for your site once it’s available.

The second module that will help your WordPress site speed is mod_expires which allows you to add Expires headers to your pages. This tells your browser how long to cache the pages of your site. If, like most of us, your site doesn’t change on a daily basis you can set this relatively high.

The last server side improvement is in mod_headers and it’s the HTTP Keep-Alive function. Enabling the HTTP keep-alive allows a browser to use the same connection to request different files from your site.

Improving WordPress Speed is a Process

Did you complete all these updates? Run GTmetrix now and see how the site has improved. This is by no means a comprehensive list. You can use a CDN and do a few things in your theme creation to improve performance, but completing these items are quick, relatively painless and will result in significant speed improvements for your WordPress site.

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