15 Proven Ways To Fix and Speed Up a Slow Website (The Complete Guide)

By Lucy Manole November 13, 2021

Ever wondered how website speed affects your business?

Research by Portent reveals that the first five seconds of load time have the highest impact on conversion rates.

In fact, it establishes that a delay of one second reduces the conversion rates by an average of 4.42%.

That’s a lot of prospective buyers to miss out on!

Customers prefer sites that load instantly. If a site doesn’t load within 3-4 seconds, they’re likely to bounce and click on a competing result on the SERPs.

Hence, to generate more leads and close more deals, you must ensure your website’s load speed is optimal.

In this article, we discuss 15 ways to speed up a WordPress site.

These will help you improve your site’s user experience and thus, boost conversions.

Let’s dive in!

1. Upgrade Hosting

Most small businesses sign up for shared WordPress hosting from providers like GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator.

These providers have pocket-friendly plans that suffice basic hosting needs.

But shared hosting is often a top reason for poor website performance. It has multiple sites competing for resources like memory, bandwidth, processing power, and storage on an overloaded server.

The tussle for resources strains loading time and slows down a site.

If you are on a shared hosting plan, consider upgrading to managed Google Cloud hosting offered by Kinsta and Cloudways.

These are performance-focused hosting providers that ensure your website remains ultrafast.

Further, since they don’t offer shared hosting, your site will not compete with others for server resources.

2. Optimize Images

High-resolution images enhance the appearance of web pages. But they also negatively impact loading time.

You must optimize them by lazy-loading, changing their file format, and compressing them.

File format and compression type are two key areas to focus on. You can reduce an image’s size up to five times by determining the right combination of format and compression.

Experiment with each image to see what works best and whether lossy or lossless compression retains its quality.

There are a host of image optimization tools that both allow lazy-loading and the two compression types.

For example, with the WebP plugin, you can also change the standard JPEG, PNG, and GIF formats to WebP format.

It will help you save half of the page weight without losing its quality

3. Remove Unused CSS & JS Files

Unused CSS is an extra CSS code that plays no role in displaying pages on a site.

Though a style element, the code reduces the browsers’ ability to render a page quickly and causes an unpleasant user experience.

Deploy Google PageSpeed Insights to check the unused CSS code on your site.

Its ‘Remove Unused CSS’ section will detail files that are affecting the loading time.

You can remove them using plugins like Perfmatters and Asset CleanUp.

But getting on with the process, check your website functionality and appearance to ensure nothing is broken.

Follow these steps to remove unused CSS and JS files using Asset CleanUp:

  • Post activation, visit the plugin’s settings page and turn on the ‘Enable Test Mode’ option.
  • Visit the CSS/JS Manager page and unload extra CSS and JS files on a per-page basis.
  • Switch off the ‘Test Mode’ after removing the unused files and save the changes by clicking ‘Update All Settings.’
  • Finish the process by retesting the site on Google PageSpeed Insights.

4. Implement a CDN

A CDN is a group of servers that host and deliver a website’s static content.

These are strategically chosen data centers that minimize the distance between web browsers and your host’s servers.

The proximity between browsers and servers decreases the time involved in data transmission.

Thus, a CDN reduces network latency and maximizes site performance.

A CDN is often mistaken for hosting services. It only complements the role of a hosting provider and doesn’t replace hosting.

It’s extra leverage that you can implement to attain superior website performance. 

One great choice for the same is Bunny CDN.

It powers a website with a global CDN and optimizer service.

But there are plenty of other great CDN providers to pick from.

Implement it to strengthen the performance of your WordPress site. 

5. Use a Cache Plugin

Caching instructs a server to save copies of your site’s files on a disk or RAM. These can be retrieved quickly every time a visitor lands on the site.

This reduces the work and time involved in generating a page view for users.

The optimal use of resources reduces the strain on the server and lowers the TTFB. Hence, caching is a super effective way to power web pages.

You can cache your web pages at the server level or use caching tools like WP Rocket and LiteSpeed.

However, make sure to check with your hosting provider before installing any cache plugin.

This is because most WordPress hosting providers have their preferred caching method and set it up for users.

6. Delete Unnecessary Third-Party Scripts

Third-party scripts are hard to optimize.

You cannot control their browser caching behavior nor avoid the additional DNS resolution time they bring.

Consequently, they can be a major cause of poor website performance.

Some third-party scripts you may be using are:

  • Tracking scripts – Google Analytics and Hotjar
  • Social media – Facebook Pixel
  • Third-party ads – Media.net and Google Adsense
  • A/B testing tools – VWO and Google Optimize

All of them serve important purposes but can impact your site’s speed big time.

Therefore, carefully consider the value each script brings to your website.

If not enough to justify the performance hit, delete it.

A better alternative is to host some scripts locally. This will let you exercise greater control over them and optimize for loading time.

7. Install a Light WordPress Theme

It’s tempting to try a dynamic theme with lots of interactive features.

But it will inevitably cause the hosting server to respond slowly.

Hence, it is crucial to pick a theme with the right mix of design and features.

Install a light WordPress theme that is built for your needs. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on the interactive elements completely.

You can choose a dynamic theme but it should allow disabling unnecessary features.

GeneratePress, OceanWP, and Astra are a few well-known options.

While all of them are compatible with WooCommerce, WPML, and BuddyPress, GeneratePress deserves special mention.

Among other benefits, it stands out for its responsiveness on mobile devices and SEO-focused design.

Both are crucial for a superior UX which ultimately impacts the conversion rates.

8. Block Bad Bots

Bad bots scrape data from sites without permission in order to reuse it (e.g., pricing, inventory levels) and gain a competitive edge.

Imperva’s 7th Annual Bad Bot Report reveals that bad bot traffic rose to an unprecedented 24.1% in 2019.

The image below puts this data alongside the share of human and good bots activity for the same year.

Check it out!

A slow site is often a sign of bad bots’ activity. But bad bots can damage your site in other ways too.

They can launch brute force attacks and gain unauthorized access to your website.

That means your SEO, website security, and sensitive information all come under serious risk.

While WordPress admins diagnose this problem pretty well, they fail to correctly troubleshoot it. They block the country-wise source of bot traffic or the bad IPs.

Another way they debug brute force login attacks is by hiding the login page. This diagnosis overlooks the fact that bad bots can still gain access via XML-RPC requests.

Hence, these are imprecise solutions that do not help in the long run.

The protection from bad bots needs to happen in real-time to be effective. The requests shouldn’t impact website servers or slow down the website.

That’s where Wordfence and Sucuri help. They carefully analyze requests to detect harmful bot activity in real-time.

Hence, make sure to block bad bots using these solutions.

9. Optimize Google Fonts

Google has an extensive library of fonts on Google Fonts. But it is not the most efficient tool for lightning-fast site speed.

The reason is exactly what makes it so loved in the first place.

A different server!

Since your server has to make HTTP requests to Google’s, download a CSS file and the font from the specified location, it wastes a lot of time.

You can instead install the Swap Google Fonts Display plugin to automatically optimize your Google Fonts requests. To do it manually, follow these best practices:

  • Pre-load the Google Fonts to boost site speed.
  •  Download the fonts file on a local system. The file won’t need an extra plugin but it will also prevent auto-updates.
  • Remember to update the fonts, whenever necessary.
  • Use fewer front variants to save time on downloads.

10. Lazy-load Images and Videos

Multimedia content uses significant server resources, leading to a heavy delay in loading time.

Lazy-loading boosts site speed by delaying the loading of multimedia content.

It loads images and videos only after the user reaches them on the page, thus avoiding stress on the server. 

Image lazy-loading is active by default for WordPress 5.5+. But not for videos.

Fix it by installing the Lazy Load for Videos plugin. If you are not WP 5.5+, you will need to lazy load the images too.

There are a host of plugins for this purpose. Below are a couple of great options you must check out:

  • a3 Lazy Load: It has a strong rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. The plugin is especially famous for leaving the default WordPress behavior intact.
  • Lazy Load: This plugin works for thumbnails, images in posts and widget texts, smilies, and avatars. It doesn’t need JS libraries like jQuery and the script weighs under 10KB.

11. Enable Preload, Prefetch, and Preconnect

Preload, prefetch, and preconnect are three key resource hints that tell browsers how to fetch and download resources.

They prepare a site for customer interaction before it happens to ensure users have everything they need on time.

Together, they ensure that a site is proactive and user-centric.

Here’s how: 

Preload defines vital elements to help browsers prioritize their loading. Suppose there’s a code hierarchy with a JS file at the top and a CSS one later.

Without preload attributes, the browser will prioritize the JS code over the critical CSS file. That’s not ideal for site performance!

A preload attribute helps you fix this. By editing the code to add the following line, you can signal to browsers to prioritize the CSS file, in spite of the hierarchy:

<link rel=”preload” href=”/style.css” as=”style”>

The process is a bit complicated for a beginner. Unless you have sound coding skills, it’s best to hire a dedicated WordPress developer to avoid technical issues.

  • Prefetch doesn’t make anything critical happen faster. Instead, it predicts the user’s actions and prepares the site by fetching the necessary content like scripts and images.
  • Preconnect tells the browser that a page intends to establish connections with an external resource.
    • It hastens this process by removing costly round trips from the request path, reducing the request latency by thousands of milliseconds.

Therefore, make sure to enable preload, prefetch, and preconnect to boost your site speed.

12. Use Latest PHP Version

The release of PHP 8 proves that PHP gets powerful with every update.

Yet, websites continue to use outdated or unsupported PHP installations.

Developers are either unaware of the best practices or fear compatibility issues with themes and plugins on the new version.

A survey by W3Techs reveals that nearly 29.8 sites are on PHP 6 or lower!

While sites on WordPress fare relatively well, they need to do better to compete online.

Check out the below chart on the PHP version stats for WordPress sites. It reveals that only 21% of them use PHP 7.4 or higher.

An outdated PHP does not only impact website performance but also security. Hence, the latest PHP is a must to keep your site secure, fast, and super responsive.

Implement PHP 7.4 or higher to leverage the full range of new features for enhanced site performance.  

13. Use Premium DNS

Security is paramount for winning customer trust. And that is what a premium DNS helps you to achieve.

It is faster as well as securer than its free counterpart. It guards sites against large-scale DDoS attacks, thus offering a vital safety net.

If you don’t switch to a premium DNS, it risks your website’s security, customer data, and brand reputation.

Hence, make sure to partner with a reputed premium DNS service provider.

One great option is DNS Made Easy.

It’s especially helpful for businesses that serve visitors in the United States.

However, remember to update nameservers after migration. Contact your domain registrar and inform them about the change in the DNS network.

14. Limit Post Revisions

Post revisions create multiple copies of the same post on WordPress.

Though meant to help users quickly access the old versions, the feature adds to the database size and creates performance issues.

You can either use a WP Revisions Control plugin to manage your posts or take any of the three manual actions:

  • Limit Post Revision: This will limit the post revisions to a set number. Just add the below code to your site’s wp-config.php file. You can also change the number ‘5’ as per requirements:
  1. define (‘WP_POST_REVISIONS’, 5);
  • Disable Post Revision: Experts do not recommend disabling post revisions entirely. This action will make it hard to revert to the original draft post later. If you still want to go ahead, add this code:
  1. define (‘WP_POST_REVISIONS’, false); 
  • Increase Autosave Internal: The action allows you to set the frequency for autosaving a post. Make this change to the file to save a post every 5 minutes rather than the default 60 seconds on WordPress:
  1. define(‘AUTOSAVE_INTERVAL’, 300 ); // seconds

15.  Pick a Host That Uses Nginx

Nginx is the favorite web server for most high-traffic platforms on the web.

Research shows that it powers 33.8% of sites, including NASA, Netflix, and WordPress! Part of what drives its appeal is a strong focus on performance optimization at scale.

Other popular web servers like Apache cannot match Nginx’s efficiency with benchmark tests.

Particularly those involving high concurrent requests or static content.  

Nginx can handle a high volume of connections. Consequently, it makes for the perfect reverse proxy and load balance. Hence, choose a host with expertise in this web server.

It will make it easy to manage incoming traffic and distribute it to slower upstream servers.

Summary

Here are some key takeaways from the article:

Website speed drives revenue. A superfast site retains traffic and increases conversion rates.

To speed up your WordPress site, you can deploy these 15 foolproof tactics:

  • Upgrade hosting
  • Optimize images
  • Remove unused CSS and JS files
  • Implement a CDN
  • Use a cache plugin
  • Delete unnecessary third-party scripts
  • Install a light WordPress theme
  • Block bad bots
  • Optimize Google Fonts
  • Lazy-load images and videos
  • Enable preload, prefetch, and preconnect
  • Use the latest PHP version
  • Use premium DNS
  • Limit post revisions
  • Pick a host that uses Nginx

What techniques do you currently use to optimize your WordPress site’s performance?

Which ones of the above do you plan to implement?

Let us know in the comments section below.

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Lucy Manole

Lucy Manole is a creative content writer and strategist at Marketing Digest, She specializes in writing about digital marketing, technology, entrepreneurship, and education. When she is not writing or editing, she spends time reading books, cooking and traveling.

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Comments

  1. Hi Lucy,

    Amazing Post! It was really an in-depth guide, and it will help a lot of readers out there. I noticed that you had a section about CDN, and I wanted to ask if it is mandatory to implement one? I know it can provide extra leverage, but do you think you can optimize a website without a CDN? And if I am to use a CDN, which one will you suggest to me, considering I am a new user? I would love to know your thoughts on this.

    • Bill Acholla says

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment.

      With the recent update from Google about core web vital, its highly advised you use a CDN. For starters I’d advise Cloudflare but if you want to scale your website speed I’d go with Fastly.

      Let me know in case if you have any question.

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