WordPress is an awesome CMS and is used by millions of businesses, governments, and educational institutions around the world. However it’s ease of use can be a negative in the hands of inexperienced users. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that just because you can do it, that you should do it.

If your WordPress website is loading slow, there could be 100 different causes including a poorly coded or old theme, bad hosting, infection and so on and so on. For the purposes of this article I’m going talk about the things you can do now, basically cancelling them out as reasons, before you have to start considering that it could be a more serious or time consuming issue to fix.

Mosts WordPress sites with slow load times generally have the same 5 issues over and over again and can be checked easily if you have access to the dashboard as an admin, and FTP access to the server.

How to speed up your WordPress Website. 

1. Update your software

The first thing I check when I log into a dashboard is the updates. 9 times out of 10 when i’m hired to see what’s wrong, the installation has updates pending. The active theme, plugins and the WordPress core. Before jumping to conclusions that something else is wrong, update your plugins.

If for some reason you cannot update your theme or certain plugins because of proprietary changes or licenses, that’s something you need to work out. You can only go so long with old versions of certain things, working alongside newer versions of everything else. Eventually that’s going to bite you in the ass.

2. You’re running too many plugins

There is no right or wrong number of plugins. It really depends on the site and it’s resources. The more plugins you have running, the higher your chance that one or more will end up causing you problems. I like to keep the number of plugins down to only what I feel is absolutely necessary. I don’t use plugins for design features or to make customizations easier. I also don’t like frameworks for the same reason. The lighter and more efficient you can run things the better off you’re going to be. Whether that’s WordPress or anything.

While I just said there’s no right or wrong number of plug ins, if you have 20 or more running on a basic website with no special functionality, you’re using too many and need to re-evaluate the importance of what you are running and why you’re running it.

3. Old Plugins

If you’re running old plugins that haven’t been updated in a while, they could be causing conflicts and slowing down your site. If it’s one that provides functionality which you cannot live without, you may need to find another way to provide that functionality. Rarely is there ever only one way to do something.

4. Use a cache plugin

Cache plugins work by compressing certain files, and serving stored pages faster than having to load everything new each time. There’s obviously more to it, but for the purpose of brevity I recommend you read up on how cache plugins work to understand more about it.
https://www.wpexplorer.com/wordpress-caching-work/

While https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/ has been my go to in most installations, it’s always best to check with your host to see what they recommend. Many will suggest a cache plugin that works best with their servers or other protocols that they already have in place.

5. Use a CDN

A content delivery network (CDN) refers to a geographically distributed group of servers which work together to provide fast delivery of Internet content. A CDN allows for the quick transfer of assets needed for loading Internet content including HTML pages, javascript files, stylesheets, images, and videos. Source

Jetpack plug in has a CDN option that works just fine for most sites and I highly recommend that you use it.

6. Host your videos on YouTube

Unless you have a VPN or dedicated server hosting account, hosting videos on your own server to play on your website can be a real drag and significantly slow down how fast your website loads. Consider hosting your videos on YouTube and simply embed them on your site and take advantage of their significant resources to serve video quickly.

7. Stop using your server for storage

One of the first things many people do once they discover that they can access the server and file directory is to start using it for storage to keep back ups, zipped files and all kinds of garbage. Even worse, they’ll store these things on the root directly because that’s usually the one they have direct access to.

Your root (the direct location of the files that make up your website) directory should be clear of any unnecessary files. Not only does using it for storage severely slow down the loading of your website, it creates an unnecessary security risk by now providing malicious hackers even more opportunities to exploit.

Zipped folders specifically are the kiss of death to the speed of your site. If you have zipped folders on your root, remove them immediately and you’ll probably see a noticeable increase in speed.

8. Bad/Cheap hosting

Just like with anything, there are a lot of bad hosting companies out there, and many middlemen who are just affiliates of hosts who try to compete on price and provide really crappy service and resources for their customers. I’ve watched small business owners spend hundreds on top of hundreds of dollars trying to compensate for bad hosting over the years. It rarely works out and they usually end up moving to a better host anyway.

If you are running a business, is the cheapest possible host really where you want to trust your most important marketing asset?  I’m not saying you need to spend hundreds a month to host a basic website, but you should be willing to pay for the resources and services that you need to make your site or web application run in a way that you expect.

9. 3rd party content

Serving 3rd party content is also one of the main culprits of a slow loading site. Importing content from social media and rss feeds means that your site is at the mercy of how fast that content loads from the source. If they’re not serving the content quickly, your site will struggle to load until it the content is completely served. This also goes for your ads.

10. Your site must be responsive

At this point in the game your website MUST be responsive/mobile friendly. If it’s not, it probably loads slowly and displays like crap on mobile devices. There’s no quick fix to a non responsive site. No code you can plop in quickly to make it so. You will spend more time and money trying to make a site or theme that was never coded to be responsive than just rebuilding the website or at the very least applying a new responsible theme and making the styling updates and organization  that are needed.

Additionally, check out the scanning tools here to see if your website has other issues that may be slowing it down, including malware and code checks. https://haroldmansfield.com/test-your-website/

Hope this helps. Feel free to post any questions in the comments.