Speed is everything. According to research from Kissmetrics, “40 percent of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load, and a one second delay in page response can result in a seven percent reduction in conversions.”
If your WordPress site is sluggish, it’s going to increase your bounce rate and lower the average time that users stick around – both of which will squander the traffic you’ve generated, leaving visitors unlikely to ever return.
Fortunately, there are several ways to optimize your site’s performance by making some basic changes to your WordPress settings. Here are 10 changes in particular you’ll want to make make right now:
1. Choose a Theme
Let’s start from the top. The WordPress theme you choose is vitally important. Not only does it determine the aesthetics and user experience, it impacts the speed of your site as well.
One mistake that many newer WordPress users make is choosing a flashy theme that’s overly complex with needless features. This is problematic because it can weigh your site down and hurt its performance.
Ideally, you’d go for a theme that looks great, but that’s simple at the same time is simple (the word “minimalist” comes to mind).
In most cases, you don’t need all of the bells and whistles that are out there, and keeping it simple should enhance your site’s overall performance. Check out this resource from Colorlib for a list of 20 themes that are specifically optimized for speed.
2. Keep Plugins Up-to-Date
WordPress developers are continually updating and refreshing their plugins. Unfortunately, out-of-date plugins can create performance issues, so you’ll want to periodically check for updates.
Doing so is simple. From your WordPress dashboard, look at the “Plugins” section. If you see a number beside it, this means that there are updates for at least one of your plugins.
Click the “Update Now” link to trigger an automatic update. This is a simple way to improve the functionality of your site and ensure that it’s operating at its best.
3. Check for Better Plugins
That said, it’s worth reassessing periodically whether or not you’re using the right plugins for your needs.
There are thousands upon thousands of plugins available on WordPress, which is a big reason for the platform’s popularity and widespread usage. Since new entries are added every day, it’s a good idea to browse through the plugin library from time to time to see if there are any better options that could replace your existing plugins.
Here are some criteria to look for when selecting a new plugin:
- A four star rating or higher
- Optimized for your current version of WordPress
- A sizable number of active installs (at least 10,000)
Together, these three factors suggest that the coding of your chosen plugin was done correctly and that there are no problems with performance.
4. Install the W3 Total Cache Plugin
A caching plugin is designed to make your site more efficient and ultimately quicken its load time. It does this in several different ways:
- Caches database objects
- Caches fragments in memory
This allows your site to operate like a well-oiled machine. Although there are multiple caching plugins available, one of the best is the W3 Total Cache Plugin, which boasts more than a million active installs and a 4.5 star rating.
According to the developers, users will experience “at least 10x improvement in overall site performance when fully configured and up to 80 percent bandwidth savings.” If you want results but have very limited technical knowledge, this is a great plugin to use.
Here’s a comparison of a site before using the W3 Total Cache Plugin and after, demonstrating great load time gains.
5. Eliminate Unnecessary Plugins
Plugins are great and allow you to fully customize your WordPress site. However, you should be selective when deciding which plugins to keep, as having too many can potentially inhibit your site’s performance.
According to WPBeginner, “Most plugins make an HTTP request to load assets like scripts, CSS and images. Each request increases your site’s page load time.”
The bottom line is that keeping unnecessary plugins you’re not really using could slow down your site. Go ahead and eliminate anything that’s not legitimately contributing to your site’s functionality or the overall user experience.
6. Clean Up Your Database
Over time, your WordPress database can get clogged up with things like spam comments, post revisions, and items in your trash. If left unchecked, this can inevitably diminish your site’s performance.
This is why it’s a good idea to clean up your database every once in awhile. You can do this manually by deleting spam comments, emptying your trash, etc., but this can be fairly time consuming.
Fortunately, much of it can be automated with the WP-Optimize plugin, which “removes all unnecessary data (e.g. trashed/unapproved/spam comments, stale data) plus pingbacks, trackbacks, and expired transient options.”
It also performs automatic cleanups and optimizations to keep your WordPress database spick and span.
7. Display Article Summaries
When it comes to your blog posts, you have two choices in terms of what is displayed. You can display the entire post, or you can simply display a summary.
A summary tends to be the better choice, because visitors can see a brief snippet and click on the specific post they’re interested in. This option is also quicker, as your site will load more seamlessly when it’s simply displaying summaries instead of entire articles.
Going this route is especially important if you create long-form content that exceeds 1,000 words in length.
To switch from displaying full content to just the summary, hover your cursor over “Settings” from your dashboard.
This box will pop out on the righthand side. Click on “Reading.”
Scroll down until you see “For each article in a feed, show.” Then, click on “Summary.”
Finally, click on “Save Changes” at the very bottom.
This should make your site load just a little bit quicker, as well as make it easier for visitors to browse through your blog posts.
8. Display Fewer Blog Posts
The fewer blog posts you display on your homepage, the quicker it will load – and vice versa. As a result, displaying five blog posts would be better than displaying 10 or 15. Keep this in mind when adjusting your site’s settings.
Switch them by going to the “Reading” section of your settings, as you did in the previous point. From there, go to “Blog pages show at most” and trim back if necessary. Five posts tends to be a good number to shoot for.
Don’t forget to save your changes!
9. Paginate Comments
Of course you want comments, as they show that visitors are engaging with your content and that it’s resonating with your audience. But there is one downside…
Receiving a large volume of comments can hurt your site’s performance and cause it to load more slowly. Fortunately, WordPress has a solution to this problem, and that’s to “paginate” your comments. This just means that you’re breaking them down into pages so that your site’s speed isn’t adversely affected.
Here’s what you do. From your dashboard, hover over “Settings.”
Then click on “Discussion.”
Scroll down to “Other comment settings,” and you’ll see a section that says “Break comments into pages with…”
All you have to do is select the number of comments that you want on each page and your display preferences. The default setting is 50 comments, but you may want to trim it back to 20 or less to give your site a slight performance boost.
Again, be sure to save your changes when you’re done.
10. Paginate Your Posts
Finally, just as you can break your comments down into multiple pages, you can do the same with your posts. While this probably won’t be necessary for shorter posts, it’s not a bad idea if you consistently create long-form content.
Long-form content has actually become very popular, because many readers prefer in-depth, detailed content rather than “thin” content that offers minimal value. It’s also a key ranking factor when Google determines page rankings. In fact, research from Backlinko found, “The average word count of a Google first page result is 1,890 words.”
So if you had a 2,000-word post, you might want to break it down into four different pages of 500-words each so that it loads quicker. To do so, simply add the following code to wherever you want one page to end and another to begin.
This should work flawlessly for most well-coded WordPress themes. However, if you happen to encounter any issues, check out this tutorial to learn more.
Optimizing Your WordPress Settings
WordPress is one of the most widely used platforms for building websites on the planet. As of December 2016, 75 million sites used WordPress. It’s intuitive, highly functional, and totally customizable.
But you want to ensure that your site is performing at its best and visitors are experiencing a quick and painless load time. Making the changes described above to your settings will address several key elements that impact performance and help your site operate at a consistently high level. This will keep your visitors happy, improve their experience, and keep them on your site longer.
Have any other ideas for optimizing your WordPress site’s performance? Please share your suggestions by leaving us a note below or read more about the best managed WordPress hosting from Bluehost.