Slow WordPress site?
I’ll show you how to take your GTmetrix, Pingdom, and PageSpeed Insights report and use them to make WordPress-specific optimizations that improve grades/load times.
This guide combines everything I’ve done to get 100% scores on my homepage as well as other pages.
This is my score on GTMetrix
1. Use SiteGround (#1 Host In Facebook Polls)
SiteGround is used by Yoast, myself, and recommended by WordPress. They are #1 in nearly every Facebook poll and give most people significant load time improvements especially if they were using mediocre hosts: GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, InMotion, Dreamhost, EIG.
I use their semi-dedicated GoGeek plan which comes with 4x more server resources than shared hosting. Click through my pages to see how fast they load, check out my GTmetrix report, or see people who migrated and posted new load times. They also do free migrations.
DigitalOcean on Cloudways and Kinsta are also good and start at $10/month and $30/month. Cloudways is more for developers who don’t need cPanel, email hosting, or the support you get with SiteGround. Kinsta is basically what WP Engine used to be (pricey, but awesome). My entire blog is basically dedicated to helping people make their website load faster. I refuse to recommend $2/month hosting since it’s most people’s biggest regret when running a website.
They’re recommended by WordPress:
And by Ivica who runs the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group with 16,000+ members.
A few threads:
SiteGround has 3 plans:
Higher plans include more server resources (#1 factor in the WordPress optimization guide). Here’s the full comparison chart, but GrowBig gives you about 2x more server resources than StartUp, and GoGeek is semi-dedicated hosting which gives you even more.
GrowBig and up comes with a free migration, staging, advanced caching, and ability to host multiple websites. GoGeek comes with priority support. Their cloud hosting is quite the price jump at $80/month.
You can see this on their features page:
I like SiteGround because:
- Fast speed technology (PHP 7.3, NGINX, SG Optimizer, Cloudflare)
- Recommended by Yoast, WordPress, Ivica from WordPress Speed Up
- Free Let’s Encrypt SSL, easy to use cPanel, and features for eCommerce
- WordPress support is unbeatable even without GoGeek’s priority support
- GrowBig comes with staging, more storage, and more server resources (scroll down to “we allocate the resources you need” and hover over the server tab)
- GoGeek comes with even more server resources, storage, priority support
- Free migrations, migrator plugin, and a 30-day money back guarantee
- Plenty of praise on Reddit, Facebook conversations, Twitter, TrustPilot
- Tons of praise on Facebook
- Many people already migrated
People usually migrate because their speed technology can cut load times in half:
2. Upgrade To PHP 7+
Upgrading PHP versions is literally the easiest thing and can make your site 2-3x faster.
So why do most WordPress users run outdated PHP versions?
Because even though most hosts support it:
Your hosting company will not automatically upgrade you to the latest version of PHP since your theme/plugins may not be compatible (and they don’t want to break your site). This means you need to do it yourself or request help from your host. It also means if you’ve been on the same host for many years and have never done it, you’re probably still running PHP 5.
Step 1: Install the Display PHP Version plugin to check your current version.
Step 2: Run the PHP Compatibility Checker to make sure your theme/plugins are compatible.
Step 3: Upgrade to PHP 7+ by looking for a “PHP Version Manager” in your hosting account:
Some hosts are quick to release new versions (SiteGround, Cloudways, Kinsta), while others don’t make an effort to stay current in technology. Another reason to avoid EIG and GoDaddy.
*Check your website for visible errors since non-maintained plugins may not be compatible. If you do see errors, you can always revert back to an earlier PHP version.
3. Cache Plugin
There are lots of cache plugins out there, but these Facebook polls are accurate. Your cache plugin and hosting are two key factors, so splurge on WP Rocket if you have $49/year (you can get 10% off if you sign up for their email list).
Otherwise, WP Fastest Cache and Swift Performance are 2 good free choices. I’ve been using WP Rocket on my site for about 3 years.
With most other cache plugins, you would need to install about 7 extra plugins to get these features when WP Rocket has them all built-in, reducing the number of plugins on your site.
If you’re like me, you only want to use 1 plugin, otherwise you will need to research which features your cache plugins comes with, then install these plugins if it doesn’t support them.
- Database cleanup (built-in to WP Rocket, or use WP-Optimize)
- Heartbeat control (built-in to WP Rocket, or use Heartbeat Control)
- Lazy load images/videos (built-in to WP Rocket, or use WP YouTube Lyte)
- Host Google Fonts locally (built-in to WP Rocket, or use OMGF, or SHGF)
- Host Google Analytics locally (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS For Analytics)
- Prefetch DNS Requests (built-in to WP Rocket, or use Pre* Party Resource Hints)
- Integration with Cloudflare + other CDNs (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CDN Enabler)
4. Google Fonts
If you’re using Google Fonts, you will probably see these errors in GTmetrix:
This means you need to host your fonts locally using a plugin like OMGF:
Or the Self-Hosted Google Fonts plugin which automatically downloads all Google Fonts you’re using then adds them to CSS, without having to configure anything… it does it for you.
If you prefer not to use a plugin, download your fonts directly from Google Fonts (only the fonts/weights you need), use Transfonter to convert them to web fonts, then add them to CSS.
5. Specify Image Dimensions
Specify Image Dimensions – means you need to specify a width and height in the image’s HTML or CSS. This usually happens in your widgets, HTML, or CSS sections of your website since the visual editor takes care of this automatically. GTmetrix will again provide you with the correct dimensions, then you need to locate that image and specify the width + height:
6. Losslessly Compress Images
Optimize Images – losslessly compress images using Imagify or ShortPixel (both are free until you reach the monthly limit). There are other completely free plugins with unlimited compressions, but do NOT use these since they have bugs, won’t work, or can break images.
- Sign up for Imagify
- Install the Imagify Plugin
- You will be prompted with the instructions below:
- Enter your API key from your Imagify account
- Set your compression level (normal, aggressive, ultra)
- Imagif’em all (photo below) with bulk optimizes all images on your site
- Once you’ve reached your limit, pay $4.99 or wait next month to reset your limit
Once signed up, bulk optimize all images on your site.
7. Add SSL
There’s no reason not to use SSL when Let’s Encrypt SSL offers it for free in most hosting accounts. I was reluctant to change and feared a drop in traffic, but my traffic stayed the exact same. Really Simple SSL also makes configuring it very easy. If you haven’t done it, I would do it.
8. Limit Post Revisions
Add this to your wp-config file before where it says “That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging.” Perfmatters also lets you limit post revisions which accumulate over time in your database.
9. Lightweight Theme
Astra themes are lightweight (they load fast), responsive, HTML5, secure, and reliable (they won’t crap out or get discontinued like some ThemeForest themes).
They are used by over 500,000 people.
I know you don’t want to change your theme. But if your design sucks anyway, a Astra theme can be a game changer.
10. Update WordPress
Update WordPress core, theme, plugins, and framework if you use one (eg. Genesis).
Check your hosting cPanel to see if there’s an option for automatic updates:
Genesis Framework also has an option for this:
This article was written by Tom (Online Media Masters) and modified by Waisy