Top 5 Underutilized Web Performance Tricks for WordPress

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Most of us know by now that speed is a ranking factor with Google. What this means is that WordPress sites that load faster will have a bigger advantage in Google over those that don’t. So it is very important that your WordPress site loads as fast as possible, especially on mobile. And besides the ranking factor, the user experience also comes into play. Many users will simply leave a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. So today we want to share with you some underutilized web performance tricks for WordPress.

1. Image Optimization

Image optimization is and always will be the #1 web performance trick you can implement. While this might sound overly familiar, a lot of website owners still don’t realize just how important this step is. A web page’s overall weight is made up of images, HTML, JS, CSS, etc. But did you know that on average over 64% of a web page’s weight is made up of images?

Image Optimization

So the #1 thing slowing down most websites is images. By simply optimizing and compressing them a lot of sites can see drastic speed increases immediately! Below are couple tips on how you can easily overcome this problem.

Use an Image Optimization Plugin

There are a lot of great WordPress plugins available that you can use to automatically compress (size down) images when they are uploaded to your media library. Depending upon your compression ratio sometimes 50-60% file size reductions are easy obtainable. Here are a few popular image compression plugins:

  • Optimus Image Optimizer (developed by the team over at KeyCDN)
  • Imagify (developed by the team over at WP Rocket)
  • ShortPixel Image Optimizer
  • Kraken
  • EWWW
StrictThemes

Size Images To Scale

When you upload images to WordPress you should always upload them at scale. What do we mean by this? Well, if you WordPress post is 600px wide, then you shouldn’t be uploading 800px wide images. What happens then is CSS has to size your images down and this creates unnecessary performance load.

If you are wanting to upload retina images then you can use a plugin like WP Retina 2x to switch between your retina and normal scale images.

Compress Images Before Uploading to WordPress

Another recommendation when you are grabbing large stock photos from around the web is to simply compress them before you upload them. For example, PhotoShop’s save for web feature allows you to easily preview and change the quality and file size before you save your image.

Compress Images

2. Take Advantage of a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Another underutilized trick in 2016 for WordPress is using a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN is basically a network of servers that cache your content (images, CSS, JS) in different places around the world. This way when someone visits your website that content is then served from the server closest to them. This drastically decreases load times and reduces latency. Typically CDN resources are loaded from a subdomain such as cdn.domain.com as shown below.

Content Delivery Network

In a case study performed by KeyCDN, latency decreased by 73% by simply adding a CDN.

Cost of CDN

A lot more people in 2016 seem to be educated now about CDNs as there is quite a bit of competition in this space now. However, a lot of WordPress site owners still aren’t taking advantage of them. CDNs are very cheap now! Even premium providers like KeyCDN offer bandwidth for as low as $0.04/GB. For a typical WordPress site this usually only costs around $3-4 a month. And there are also full proxy services like Cloudflare which have similar services for free.

Check out this CDN for dummies guide if you are beginner and needing help understanding how a CDN works with WordPress. The CDN provider can also offer you assistance in getting setup.

3. Lazy Load Comments

Comments! Almost every WordPress uses them and if they aren’t set up correctly they can drastically slow down your site. Did you know that with default WordPress comments an individual HTTP request is made for every single gravatar (avatar)? Put it simply, if you have 50 comments on a blog post, it is generating 50 calls to an external site. On popular sites this can bring your site to a crawl without you even knowing it.

There are however some easy ways to fix this! Check out some ways below to lazy load comments. And by lazy load we mean that the gravatars don’t load until you scroll down the page.

Lazy Load Disqus Comments

Lazy Load Disqus Comments

If you are using the popular Disqus comment system there is a great free plugin called Disqus Conditional Load which will lazy load Disqus. If you compare this with native WordPress comments, it can even sometimes be faster!

Lazy Load Default WordPress Comments

If you are simply using the default native WordPress comments you can download the free FV Gravatar Cache plugin. This enables caching of gravatars with a WordPress cron job.

Lazy Load Facebook Comments

Lazy Load Facebook Comments

And finally, if you are running Facebook comments there is also a free Lazy Facebook comments plugin. This is actually created and maintained by the same developer of the Disqus Conditional Load plugin above.

4. Prevent Certain Scripts From Loading Sitewide

Another very common and yet underutilized performance trick is preventing certain scripts from loading everywhere on your WordPress site. Let’s take Contact Form 7 for example. While it is a great plugin, it loads its script on every single page of your website. It really should only be loading on your contact page or wherever you are using it. Below is a quick recommendation on how to load scripts on a page/post basis.

Gonzalez Plugin

The premium Gonzalez plugin provides an easy way to disable scripts on a site wide and per post/page basis. For example, in our example below you can see we selected “Disable everywhere” on the Contact Form 7 script. This way it is disabled from loading everywhere. Then on our contact page we select it again and choose “Enable here.” This way it only loads where it should.

Gonzalez Plugin

You can walk through each one of your scripts and enable/disable them as needed. This is a great way to fine tune your WordPress site. There is also a free plugin, Plugin Organizer, which can help you achieve some of the same results.

5. Fast and Reliable WordPress Hosting

And last but not least is fast WordPress hosting!

This should be common sense in 2016, but a lot of people don’t always do the research and testing they should. Or they perhaps don’t know how. The web is scattered with thousands of affiliate reviews from bloggers trying to make a quick buck. So who can you trust? There are a few reputable 3rd party review companies out there such as ReviewSignal which do a great job. You can check out their annual 2016 WordPress performance hosting benchmarks report. One of the best recommendations is to try a couple hosts.

Shared Hosting vs Managed Hosting

It also depends on what type of WordPress site you have and the type of hosting you need. There are cheaper shared hosts and then there are higher-end managed WordPress hosts. If you are just starting your 1st website and are on a budget, then a shared host is probably the way to go. You can always upgrade later. If you run a business and rely on your site for income, then a managed WordPress host is absolutely recommended as they are responsible for your uptime, support, hacks, server updates, etc.

SiteGround is a great option for a cheaper host and scored top tier status in the <$25 category on ReviewSignals performance benchmarks. For a high-end performance managed WordPress host Kinsta offers an incredible feature set; such as Google Cloud Platform, HTTP/2, PHP 7, HHVM, and automated backups. They have also been named top tier status from ReviewSignal for 3 years in row.

Summary

Above are just a few tips to keep your WordPress site running top notch. Some of them might seem obvious, but they won’t benefit you unless you implement them! A faster website means better rankings in Google, a more user friendly site, and a chance for better conversions. Sometimes the most basic optimizations can make the most difference and set you up for long term success.

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1 Comment
  1. Alex Plotnikov Nov 7, 7:22 pm

    Thank you for sharing Brian,
    I would like to add that most of these techniques would also work for any website: Magento, OpenCart, Joomla – doesn’t matter. Some of these are also pretty universal, for example, lazy loading also works for content pages.

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