- Jun 04, 2019
- by Brad Litwin
There’s a lot to keep in mind when you’re running a website, no matter how large or small it might be. It can be easy to get caught up in building your audience and creating content, while forgetting to attend to more fundamental (but equally important) tasks.
For example, it’s vital to always keep a close eye on your site’s performance. Fast loading speeds can play a significant role in your visitors’ experience, and determine how many page views and conversions you get. The good news is that keeping your WordPress website running quickly doesn’t have to be a challenge.
In this post, we’ll look at five ways to maintain excellent performance on your WordPress site. Let’s get to work!
Why Your Site’s Performance Should Be a Priority
Many factors shape the way people experience your site, such as its design and content. However, performance may be the single most important element in that equation.
By ‘performance’, we’re talking about how quickly your site’s pages load, and how well it holds up under a lot of simultaneous traffic. Slow and unreliable sites tend to drive visitors away out of frustration. The slower your site is, the higher your ‘bounce rate’ (the number of people who leave after briefly viewing a single page) is likely to be.
If slow page speeds are scaring your audience off, your website’s design and content won’t matter. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that your site performs well at all times, whether it’s being viewed by one person or a hundred. Fortunately, you don’t have to be tech-savvy to make that happen.
5 Ways to Maintain Your WordPress Site’s Performance
In the past, we’ve looked at some general ways to maintain your WordPress website. Now, we’ll focus in on the best techniques for keeping its performance high. Keep in mind that while we’ll be focusing on WordPress-specific tools, many of the following strategies apply just as well to sites built on any platform.
The first thing you’ll want to do is test your site, to see where its current performance is at. With that information in hand, you can start taking steps to shorten its loading times.
1. Keep Your Version of WordPress Up-to-Date
We’ve placed this particular technique first for a reason. All the performance-boosting tips in the world won’t help if your site’s underlying architecture is holding it back.
WordPress’ developers release frequent updates for the platform, and it’s vital to keep your site on the latest version. This is important for security reasons, but it also helps to maintain your site’s performance. Many updates release tweaks and optimizations that are key to ensuring smooth loading times.
What’s more, an out-of-date WordPress installation is more likely to conflict with visitors’ browsers, as well as newer versions of plugins and themes. This can slow your site down, and even break various features.
Updating WordPress is simple, and your dashboard will display a notification whenever a new version is ready:
Taking this one small step can make a huge difference in your site’s performance and stability over time.
2. Optimize Your Website’s Images
Various types of content and features can slow your site down. However, few elements have as much of an impact as images and other media. Image files tend to be large and ‘heavy’, which means they’ll take longer to render – slowing down the entire page loading process.
This is especially relevant if you have a lot of images on your site, and if those images are big or high-quality. That said, you’re probably using all that media for a reason. Including lots of imagery in your content is an excellent way to grab visitors’ attention and increase engagement.
To get the best of both worlds, you can optimize all of your site’s images. This reduces their file sizes without a significant reduction in quality. There are lots of WordPress plugins that can help you do this, such as the very popular EWWW Image Optimizer:
Plugins like this can even automate the process, optimizing each new image you upload. This can save you a lot of time, and keep your media from slowing your pages down to a crawl.
3. Implement a Caching Solution
When someone visits one of your site’s pages, a number of things need to happen. First, their browser sends a request to your site’s server. Then, the server sends along the necessary data required to build the page. When all of that information arrives, the page can be displayed to the visitor.
Sometimes, this process is so quick that it’s imperceptible. If your page is complex or the user is located far away from your server, however, it can take a few seconds. ‘Caching’ is a way to cut down on loading time by saving versions of your site that browsers can access more quickly.
Caching can be a complex topic, and it comes in various forms. However, it can be easily implemented by using plugins, without any technical setup required. For this, WordPress users may want to turn to WP Super Cache:
This plugin creates static versions of your site’s pages, which are much faster to display for visitors. It can be set up to run automatically in just a few minutes, or customized to meet your precise needs.
4. Connect Your Site to a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Technically, this technique is an extension of the last one. A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a large-scale way to cache your website, and can be extremely effective.
A CDN is a network of servers, usually spread out across the world. Copies of your site will be stored on each server. When a visitor accesses one of its pages, the necessary data will be transferred from the server that’s located closest to them geographically.
This can cut down on loading times a great deal, because your site’s information doesn’t have to travel as far. Plus, many CDNs offer additional performance-boosting features. Cloudflare is a perfect (and popular) example:
It has 180 data centers located all over the globe, which gives your website a massive reach, and it provides plenty of performance and security options. Plus, setting it up on your site is simple.
5. Upgrade Your Hosting Plan as Needed
It’s possible that you may try all the strategies listed above, but still see lower page speeds than you’d like. This is especially common if your site has grown a lot lately and is bigger in scale, or receiving more visitors than it used to.
In that scenario, consistent performance issues may simply indicate that you’ve outgrown your current hosting plan. If you choose your hosting provider carefully, you should find maintaining fast loading speeds a lot simpler. However, lower-tier plans sometimes don’t provide the resources your site needs to run smoothly.
If like many website owners you started out on a basic shared hosting plan, you may want to consider upgrading to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting plan:
This will provide you with more resources and a more scalable architecture – both of which help to maintain top-notch performance. You can also consider a managed WordPress hosting plan, which costs a bit more but means that your provider will handle a lot of crucial performance-related tasks for you.
Performance is something you’ll need to stay aware of throughout your site’s entire lifespan. A site that loads speedily one day may become sluggish over time, as it grows and gets more popular. Therefore, it’s crucial to test your site’s performance regularly, and do everything you can to maintain fast loading speeds.
Five of the best ways for WordPress users to do that include:
- Keeping your version of WordPress up-to-date.
- Optimizing your website’s images.
- Implementing a caching solution.
- Connecting your site to a CDN.
- Upgrading your hosting plan as needed.
Image credit: Pixabay.