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How to Speed Up Your WordPress Site

Over 40.0% of the web is now powered by WordPress. While this is awesome, it also means there are thousands of different themes, plugins, and technologies all having to coexist. For the everyday WordPress user, this can quickly turn into a nightmare when their site starts to bottleneck and they don’t know why or even where to start troubleshooting.

In our previous guide on page speed, we went over a lot of the fundamentals of performance and how it can have a huge impact on the success of your business. But today we’ll be diving into applicable steps you can take right now to see improvements on your own WordPress sites. We’ll also share some resources that have been invaluable to us.

Choose High-Performance WordPress Hosting

A WordPress host is a company that stores all of your website’s data. You sign up for a plan and all your images, content, videos, etc., reside on a server sitting in the host’s data center. The WordPress host gives you an easy way to access the data, manage it, and route it to your visitors. Pretty simple right? Well, not quite.

There are three very different types of WordPress hosts you’ll encounter around the web. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each. It’s important you choose the right one from the beginning, otherwise, you’ll simply cause yourself headaches and wasted time down the road.

Shared WordPress Hosting

The first and most popular type of WordPress hosting is what we call “shared hosting.” These include the largest hosts in the industry such as EIG companies like Bluehost GoolHost and HostGator as well as providers like Siteground, GoDaddy, Media Temple, OVH, GreenGeeks and InMotion Hosting. They typically utilize cPanel, and the average customer usually pays between $3 to $25 a month.

Anyone using this type of hosting will at some point experience slowness, it’s just a matter of time. Why? Because shared hosts tend to overcrowd their servers, which in turn can impact the performance of your site. Site suspensions or seeing frequent 500 errors are common things you’ll experience as they have to place limits on everything and consolidate resources to survive. Or even worse, website downtime. Even though you don’t know it, your WordPress site is most likely sitting on the same server as 200+ other people. Any issues that pop up with other sites can trickle over into your site.

Managed WordPress Hosting

The third type of hosting is what we offer at Kinsta and that is managed WordPress hosting. These types of hosts handle all the back-end server related tasks for you, along with providing support when you need it. They are typically fine-tuned to work with WordPress and usually include features such as one-click staging environments and automatic backups. Their support teams will be more knowledgeable when it comes to knowing their way around the CMS as they are focused on one platform on a daily basis.

If you want to save time, managed WordPress hosting is the way to go!

Plans for managed WordPress hosting typically range anywhere from $25 to $150 a month or more depending on the size of your site and needs. Large companies like jQuery, Intuit, Plesk, Dyn, Nginx, and even The White House are all using WordPress to host their website. Some popular managed WordPress hosts you are probably familiar with, or maybe also are currently using include WP Engine, Flywheel, Pressable, Media Temple, Pressidium, and Pagely.

PHP 7 or Higher for the Best Performance

PHP is an open-source, server-side scripting and programming language that’s primarily used for web development. The bulk of the core WordPress software is written in PHP, along with your plugins and themes, which makes PHP a very important language for the WordPress community. You should ensure your WordPress host offers at least PHP 7 or higher.

There are different versions of PHP that your host will provide you on your server, with the newer PHP 7.3 offering huge performance improvements.

In fact, in our recent PHP benchmarks, if you compare PHP 7.3 to PHP 5.6, it can handle 3x as many requests (transactions) per second! PHP 7.3 is also on average 9% faster than PHP 7.2. This can also impact your WordPress admin dashboard responsiveness.

Your WordPress Theme Matters

Everybody loves a brand new WordPress theme, but be careful before you go out and grab the one with all the new shiny features. First, you should check out our article on the differences when it comes to free vs. paid themes. In regards to performance, every element you see in a theme has some impact on the overall speed of your website. And unfortunately, with thousands of themes out in the wild, there are both good ones and bad ones.

So how are you supposed to know which one to choose? We recommend going with one of the following two options:
A fast lightweight WordPress theme that is built with only the features you need, nothing more.
A more feature-rich WordPress theme, but you can disable features that aren’t in use.

Things such as Google Fonts, Font Awesome icons, sliders, galleries, video and parallax scripts, etc. These are just a few of the many things that you should be able to turn off if you aren’t using them. You don’t want to be trying to tweak these manually after the fact. And we aren’t going to show you 50 different ways to strip things out. Instead, you should start or switch to a WordPress theme that is either lightweight from the beginning or gives you these options.

Image Optimization Is a Must

Image optimization is another straightforward thing you can do which has a significant impact on your overall page load times. This isn’t optional; every site should be doing this!

Large images slow down your web pages which creates a less than optimal user experience. Optimizing images is the process of decreasing their file size, using either a plugin or script, which in turn speeds up the load time of the page. Lossy and lossless compression are two methods commonly used.

According to HTTP Archive, as of August 2019, images make up on average of 34% of a total webpage’s weight. So after videos, which are much harder to optimize, images by far are the first place you should start! It’s more important than JavaScript, CSS, and Fonts. And ironically, a good image optimization workflow is one of the easiest things to implement, yet a lot of website owners overlook this.

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