How to improve your WordPress site’s speed by 50 percent

Your WordPress site is getting more and more killer content, you are happy with the theme you’ve installed, you have all the necessary plugins to make it do everything you want and need to do, your traffic reports are positive – all seems perfect. But you are still concerned about one thing. Your site is just not fast enough! I’d like to share my experience with you and show you how to improve your Wordpress site’s speed by 50 percent.

Why you should care about your site’s speed

We all agree on one thing – it is all about your visitor’s experience. You spend a lot of time developing your blog or your website, creating content, sizing images and graphics, promoting your site through various channels. All those efforts need to pay off when your audience arrives on your site. If a page takes forever to load – that’s it, that visitor is gone!

Criteria that affects how fast a page loads

There are many things that will impact your site’s speed. Here are just a few that even beginners should be familiar with:

  • Image sizes and dimensions.
  • Your actual theme itself. Not all themes are created equal and there are definitively themes that will load faster than others.
  • The number and types of plugins you have installed.
  • Your server; hence the importance of using a great hosting company.
  • Web caching. In other words, a web cache is the temporary storage of web documents, such as your pages, your images, etc. in order to reduce server load and bandwidth usage.

How do you test your site?

There are multiple online services available that offer free testing. I use GTmetrix because the service is great and if you want to get down to all the little details about what has a negative impact on your site’s speed and what you can do to improve its performance, they display it all for you. It can definitively be overwhelming at the beginning, however the information provided is extremely valuable.

Improving the performance of your site

If your pages load fast enough then you should not be too concerned. However if you are experiencing a slow loading site, then it is time to start looking into how you can solve the issues and improve your visitor’s experience.

Here are a couple of things that are easy to check and correct

  • Your images: Look at their dimensions and sizes and see if any of them could be adjusted. (Check this article: Basic photo trick that will increase your site’s speed)
  • Your plugins: Do you have plugins installed that are not activated? Then they should be removed.
  • Your theme: Same as plugins – there is no need to keep multiple themes installed.
  • Run a test on GTmetrix and analyze the results.
  • If you need further help, do not hesitate to contact a web designer.
  • No matter what you do, always remember to back up your site during the process.

How I improved my site’s speed by 58% in less than 2 minutes

As I was looking into my site’s security, I started making adjustments to my plugins. One of the plugins I have installed and love is Wordfence Security. It is a security plugin that offers both a free and a premium monthly package. On top of monitoring your site (which will be the content for another post), it incorporates a Caching enhancements function with 3 options:

  • Disable all performance enhancements
  • Basic Caching
  • Wordfence Falcon Engine

The Basic Caching claims a 2 to 3 times speed increase and this is how I had it enabled initially.

The Falcon Engine Caching claims a 30 to 50 times speed increase. However, in order to activate Falcon Engine, Wordfence needs to make changes to the .htaccess file, so when I first installed it I did not choose that option. Prior to making the changes to your .htaccss file, Wordfence will save a copy of your current .htaccess file. If something goes wrong you can always revert to the previous version.

Here are the results using GTmetrix.

I ran a test before and after changing to Falcon Engine.

  • Page load time before: 3.6 seconds
  • Page load time after: 1.5 seconds (test done 2 minutes later)

That’s a 58 % increase, not bad.

gtmetrix-before gtmetrix-after

Why had I not done this before? I don’t know! But clearly it is a very beneficial improvement that everyone should be aware of.

8 easy steps to increase your WordPress site’s speed

  1. First run a speed test with GTmetrix or any other service you are familiar with to determine your current loading speed.
  2. LOGIN to your WordPress dashboard.
  3. Select PLUGINS and search Wordfence Security.
  4. INSTALL and ACTIVATE the plugin.
  5. Under the Wordfence menu, select PERFORMANCE SETUP then ENABLE WORDFENCE FALCON ENGINE.
  6. Click SAVE CHANGES TO THE TYPE OF CACHING ENABLED ABOVE. You will be prompted to save and download your current .htaccess file.
  7. Continue – you will be prompted to reload the page.
  8. Then run another speed test and compare.

Note: check your site afterwards and make sure it is running properly. If for any reason you are not satisfied with the result, you can always uninstall the plugin and look at other options.

A final word on improving your WordPress site’s speed.

There are lots of parameters that affect the performance of a site, and it is usually a good practice to check at different intervals during the development process to be sure that changes you make don’t impact your site in a negative way. If it takes too long for your pages to load, you definitively want to look into available options to make improvements. Wordfence Security plugin’s Caching might just be that option.

Please leave a comment and share your experience.

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