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Over the years and by helping numerous bloggers and business owners with their websites I’ve come to find a few things that are notorious for slowing down a WordPress website.
The first place to look is your hosting and plugins and move on from there. Be mindful of the size and quantity of the images you’re uploading and what external scripts (I’m talking ads!) that you put on your website.
Today I don’t take on speed optimization projects anymore. It’s not something I ever really enjoyed and I’m certainly no expert at getting the greatest speeds, but I do know some great tips to improving speed and finding out what is slowing down your site.
1. Your (terrible) web host
This should be the very first place you look. From my experience, GoDaddy is the slowest web host around followed by the popular BlueHost. Most other shared hosts like HostGator and Dreamhost will probably be about average.
The hosting I recommend to all my clients (and use myself) is SiteGround. They have several levels of caching built right in but overall their servers are just really well optimized. Most people see a significant boost in speed when switching over.
There are several reasons why I love SiteGround, like the great support, free SSL and migrations, caching and speed, and the great up-time. There’s a reason why everyone recommends them!
If you’re interested in managed WordPress hosting then Kinsta is a great choice. While it’s a bit pricey, you’re going to need some heavy-duty stuff if you are getting lots of traffic and need your website performing at its best.
Recommended Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Web Host
2. Your PHP Version
It’s pretty shocking that so many sites still run on an old version of PHP, which is just a coding language that WordPress uses.
If your website is on version 5.6 or earlier then you’re at risk for security vulnerabilities, plugin incompatibilities, and you guessed it – slow speeds.
You can easily check your PHP version using a plugin like WP Health Check. It’ll also check some other important things that can affect your speed as well.
I recommend version 7.1 of PHP at least. If you find your site has an outdated version you can easily change it in your web hosting Cpanel (for most hosts). Or you can always get in touch with your hosting support and ask them to change it.
Make sure everything is updated and none of your plugins have been abandoned, otherwise you could run into issues when you upgrade versions. If all else fails, you can always switch back until you find the issue.
3. Jetpack plugin for WordPress
It’s a very common plugin and WordPress almost wants you to install it. On top of that, most users coming from WordPress.com are accustomed to using Jetpack on their sites. But it’s humongous and bloated.
Unless you’re using multiple features of it and absolutely must have it on your website, then delete it! There are plugins specifically built for social share buttons, related posts, and opt-in forms that outperform Jetpack.
4. Huge and unoptimized images
Another big thing I see on client websites are full-sized images being scaled down. This can be necessary in some cases but it almost always triggers a warning on a speed test. When an image is inserted at full-size but then scaled down through code, the full-size is still be loaded.
So this means you could have a 1200×1200 sized image but it only appears as 600×600 on your website. Although we’re only seeing the 600px sized image the server and visitor still have to load the image that’s twice the size!
That’s why it’s best to upload the image in the size you plan on displaying it. Luckily most speed tests will tell you exactly which images are being scaled so you can replace them or update the code.
Speaking of images, don’t upload ginormous pictures!
I try to keep my file size at or below 400kb and don’t upload images larger than the width of my website (because they’ll just be shrunk). Optimize your images before uploading for the best results then use a plugin like EWWW Image Optimizer to get the most out of your media files.
Speed it up
If you want all my best tips for speeding up your WordPress website then check out my ebook, Uplevel Your WP. I also teach you how to keep your website running smoothly and make sure it stays safe and protected.
If you’d rather just someone come in and work their magic on your website, then I totally recommend Alexei at WP Speed Guru. For a super affordable price he can come in and make some tweaks to your website so that it loads faster and runs better. He also offers DIY and consulting services if you’re more hands on.