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How to Speed Up Your WordPress Website (and Why Speed Matters)

People are always talking about speeding up their website. Truth be told, speed matters, not only for your website visitors, but for search engines. A fast website creates a smooth user experience and also helps you rank in the search engines.

Google has officially announced that site speed is a ranking factor for search and ads. With site speed comes the importance of page speed. Simply put, page speed measures how fast your page content loads.

Improving speed in Google’s domain is one part of a multi-pronged approach to enhanced UX, dubbed “Core Web Vitals” by the search giant.

If your WordPress website loads slowly, you’re losing visitors, search engine ranking, and revenue.

A slow website increases your bounce rate

Countless studies have confirmed that slow-loading pages make visitors bounce. Ideally, your web pages should take no more than three seconds to load. If your web page takes one second too long to load, your conversion rates can drop by 70%.

Slow websites don’t get indexed fully

Websites that load slowly give search engine spiders less time to crawl your website. When your webpages don’t get crawled, they don’t get indexed in the search engines.

First things first – speed basics

The first thing you need to do is cover the basics where speed is concerned:

  • Compress images before uploading. Only upload compressed images to your media manager. If you accidentally upload an uncompressed image, be sure to delete it before uploading the compressed version.

Each uncompressed image you upload will actually multiply, since WordPress automatically creates several thumbnails for each image uploaded.

  • Minify JavaScript and CSS. Reducing the number of JavaScript and CSS calls will help increase page load times. A plugin called Autoptimize makes it easy to optimize your code.
  • Cache your content. A plugin like W3 Total Cache will speed up your site significantly. Check out WP Beginner for more information about how caching works.
  • Use minimal plugins. There’s no set number of plugins that will start slowing your site down. Each plugin has the potential to slow your site down based on how it functions. With that said, you’re better off using as few plugins as possible.
  • Disable pingbacks and trackbacks. Back in the day, these were the only way to find out when your blog was being mentioned across the internet. Today, you can find out everything you need to know from your Google Webmaster tools or similar analytics, like Matomo.

Disable both pingbacks and trackbacks to reduce server strain. Head over to your admin panel and navigate to Settings > Discussion and uncheck “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks).”

While there are many ways to increase your page speed, the rest of this article will discuss tips specific to WordPress. Keep reading to learn how to get your WordPress website running faster.

1. Delete 95% of your post revisions

A large SQL database can slow down your WordPress website. If you don’t think you have to worry about a large database because you don’t have large files, think again. It’s not just media files that get stored in your database.

Did you know that each time you edit a WordPress page or post, the new version is saved to your database without removing the previous version? In other words, after you’ve made 100 edits to your posts, your database will contain all 100 versions of those posts.

As time goes on, your database will continue collecting revisions after each edit you make. While the exact size of an optimal database is up for debate, you’ll notice your site slowing down at a certain point. It’s better to manage your database as you go instead of waiting for it to become a problem.

How your WordPress database collects numerous revisions

WordPress doesn’t automatically delete data, including revisions. In fact, WordPress has a built-in feature that provides you with one-click access to your previous revisions.

It’s convenient to have access to previous revisions when you make a mistake and need to revert back to the previous version of a page. However, that convenience comes at the price of an ever-growing database.

You probably edit your content frequently without a second thought. For instance, most people edit content each time they:

  • Find a typo
  • Discover a bad link
  • Need to make an important update
  • Want to adjust the position of an element
  • Need to change text color
  • Need to resize an image
  • Need to insert an image
  • Want to add a link to the body of the text

This is what places a growing number of revisions in your database.

You don’t need to save all of your revisions. Ideally, you should delete around 95% of your revisions to keep your database clean.

There are two ways to delete post revisions: manually and with a plugin

You can’t stop editing your content, but you can manage your post revisions with a plugin called “Optimize Database After Deleting Revisions.” Of all the plugins available, this one is the most popular and has been regularly updated for years.

This plugin will automatically optimize your database in several ways, including by deleting post revisions. You can choose exactly how many post revisions to leave and the plugin will delete the rest. The plugin can run on an automatic schedule or you can manually optimize your database with one click.

There are a couple other popular database optimization plugins you can use:

  • WP-Optimize. Similar to Optimize Database After Deleting Revisions, this plugin will optimize your WordPress database and provides you with plenty of custom options.
  • Breeze. This is a caching plugin that helps improve site performance, but it won’t give you as much control over deleting your post revisions as the other plugins.

Using plugins to manage your database is easy, but there is a downside.

The downside? Plugins can be a liability

While database management plugins are ideal in terms of usability, they can be a security liability. Even when you keep your plugins updated, a Zero Day exploit is always a possibility.

In a Zero Day exploit, a hacker finds a new vulnerability that developers don’t know about. When this happens, there is no available fix and your database will remain vulnerable until the developer releases a patch.

Unfortunately, WordPress plugins frequently get hit by Zero Day exploits. For example, in 2020, a previously unknown ThemeREX plugin vulnerability allowed hackers to create rogue administrator accounts. At the same time, a ThemeGrill plugin vulnerability was also being exploited. These are just two examples of exploits that happen all the time.

Manually optimizing your WordPress database is safer

If you prefer to manage your post revisions manually, you’ll need to get acquainted with PHP MyAdmin and learn your way around your WordPress database and running SQL queries.

If you follow this tutorial, you’ll learn how to optimize your database manually.

Always save a fresh copy of your database before attempting to optimize or repair your database. Anything you delete directly from your database, even on accident, can’t be recovered.

2. Avoid using heavy visual editing plugins

A massive and slow-loading visual editor won’t affect your visitors, but it will drive you crazy when you’re trying to edit content.

Visual editing plugins are wonderful, but they don’t need to be so complex. There are some intricate visual editors out there that are clearly well-made and take every detail into account. These editors make it possible to customize nearly every pixel of your website.

The downside is they take forever to load and some are so complex they have a steep learning curve.

To speed up your website on the back end, in your admin panel, avoid heavy visual editors. If your website is so complex that you need to edit fine details without HTML knowledge, you should probably hire a developer.

3. Don’t rely on your redirect plugin

Redirect plugins are amazing. You can always set redirects in your control panel, but if you’re not tech savvy, that can be daunting. A WordPress redirect plugin makes managing redirects simple and easy right from the admin panel.

This all sounds great, but there’s a dark side to redirect plugins.

Once you realize how easy it is to set redirects with a plugin, you might not think twice about changing your URLs. After all, redirects are honored by the search engines and shouldn’t affect ranking. What’s wrong with changing your URLs when you can just add another redirect?

While it’s true that search engines will honor redirects, each redirect adds time to the user experience. It’s bad enough to have one redirect per page, but a chain of redirects will certainly kill your sales.

Redirects aren’t bad, but they should be used sparingly

You can’t avoid all redirects. At some point, everyone has to create at least a couple of redirects. The key is to be conscious enough not to create the need for redirects if you can help it.

For instance, be intentional with your page and post titles. WordPress automatically creates your URLs from your titles, so check each URL for typos before you publish the page or post.

When you catch URL typos fast, you can edit the URL without consequence. If you carelessly create your URLs and don’t discover typos for months, you’ll need to create redirects.

4. Delete demo content

When you get a new WordPress theme, you usually get demo content. Installing the demo content is a good way to start with a template based on the design you liked best.

In lightweight themes like Twenty Twenty, you won’t get much demo content. Maybe a page, a post, and a comment. However, with heavyweight themes, you’ll get an enormous amount of demo content that includes multiple pages, multiple posts, comments, images, and even videos.

If your demo package installed enough content to fill out your site and make it look like a completed site, it’s taking up valuable resources and needs to be deleted.

If you had to change your PHP settings to be able to import your demo content, you definitely need to delete it all.

5. Empty the trash

Your WordPress trash will fill up faster than you realize. If you have never emptied your page and post trash, it’s time to hit delete. You might only have a few old posts in there, but if you’ve been running your website for years you could have hundreds.

Need help speeding up your WordPress website? We’ll do it for you

Does optimizing your WordPress website seem like an impossible task? Would you rather do something else, like spend time with your family or go see a movie?

If you’re not an aspiring website developer, you probably don’t want to waste your time learning optimization techniques. It’s just not fun if you don’t have a passion for development.

Our developers do have a passion for design and we love optimizing WordPress websites. At Website.Design, our team of professional website designers and developers love helping clients achieve their optimization goals.

Whether you already have a website or you need one built from scratch, we’ll get you up and running. Connect with our developers today for a free consultation.

Ryan Nead

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