guide to wordpress website optimisation

Picture the scene: you're browsing a website but it's taking an age to load the pages and the site is generally unresponsive and clunky. What are the odds that you'll go to another website and use their services instead? We're willing to bet those odds are pretty good.

Slow websites aren't only annoying, they can lose you customers in multiple ways. In addition to the frustration that slow websites create, page speed is a factor in determining your site's SEO.

This is why WordPress optimisation is so important. A huge 36.2 per cent of all websites run on WordPress, yet only a few of these users understand the key tenets of WordPress speed optimisation.

We're experts in web design and know how to improve your website to help improve the visitor experience. If you're sick of your site being slow, unresponsive or just not up to speed in 2020, then we can help you.

In this article, we're going to give you some crucial tips on how to improve WordPress performance. Are you ready to help your website reach its full potential? Then keep reading!

Change Your WordPress Theme

Some WordPress themes focus heavily on aesthetics at the expense of performance. Those themes with a bunch of different widgets, buttons, sliders, social elements, and whatnot look nice, sure. Yet each of those different elements takes up more bandwidth, which means loading speeds are lengthened.

They also increase page sizes, which means an increased server load. Instead, opt for one of the more lightweight, minimalist themes, like we use across all our sites. They may not look as eye-catching, but with a little bit of work, you can make them as interesting as their more heavyweight brethren.

If you are prepared to handle some elements of the web design process yourself or have us do it for you, these minimalist themes can help reduce server load dramatically.

Choose the Right Host

Lift Strategies offers hosting solutions that can give your website the resources that it needs.

It can be tempting to choose one of the cheaper options, such as shared hosting, for your website but these are a false economy. Shared hosting tends to offer bandwidth figures that look good on the surface. Yet that which makes it cheap also causes problems.

You have to share a server with many other websites. This means that at peak times when a large number of people are accessing sites on that server, that your performance drops.

You can set up a dedicated cloud server yourself but this is far from an easy task. Your best bet is to have us do that for you. We offer ongoing services as part of our VPS hosting, including:

  • Increased security
  • Priority support
  • Cloud backups
  • Uptime monitoring
  • A monthly website report

Reduce Image Size

One of the most important aspects of the WordPress optimisation process is taking a look at the images used on your website. Images are important for websites as they attract clicks and keep users engaged with your site. Yet if you're serving up full-sized images to every visitor, your WordPress performance is going to suffer.

Full-sized images can be multiple megabytes in size. Adding this strain to your bandwidth is going to slow your site down with no advantages. On most screens, you won't be able to tell the difference between a full-sized image and one that has been scaled down.

Full-sized images wreak extensive chaos on mobile browsers, as mobile devices have less processing power than desktops and laptops. As Google now use mobile-first indexing, which puts particular importance on how sites behave on mobile, you can't afford to have this issue.

For this bit of WordPress speed optimisation, consider cutting images down to a large size but not full size. You can also make sure that your WordPress settings are set to serve up downscaled versions of the images. There is a multitude of plugins that can losslessly compress images to keep their sizes down.

This is key on mobile devices in particular. Across all our sites, we use Imagify to optimize your images.

Install a Caching Plugin to Boost WordPress Optimisation

WordPress websites are dynamic. When a visitor requests a page, that page is built from its disparate elements by WordPress before serving it to the user. This does have its advantages, but it's not best for speed. That's where a caching plugin comes in.

These plugins save a copy of the page when it is first served and then loads it up and serves it on following visits. The cached copy is put together as HTML and displayed to the visitor, instead of having to query a MySQL database every single time. The plugin WP Rocket, which we use on our customers' sites, is an example of such a plugin.

Prune Your Plugins

There are a whole host of WordPress plugins available. Some of these can be very useful, others not so much. Yet if you disable these plugins rather than removing them, you open up your website to many problems.

Keeping old disabled plugins on your site can introduce security holes to your site, for a start. These plugins aren't updated but remain present in your system, which is an open invitation to hackers.

They also clog up your WordPress site and detract from WordPress' performance. They bulk up your backup size, which means when backups are made, more of a strain is put on your server, decreasing site speed.

Go through all of your plugins with a critical eye. If there's anything you can automate that you don't need, remove it. If there's anything you've disabled that you never use, uninstall it.

Take Advantage of Lazy Loading

Lazy loading is where elements of your page aren't loaded until they're needed. For example, you could use a placeholder image instead of a full-sized image or video. When the user scrolls down to view the image, the full-sized one is loaded in.

Cut Down the Number of Scripts Per Page

Having too many scripts on your page increases loading times and makes your site slower. There are some external scripts that you may need, like Disqus for comments or Google Analytics for tracking, but try to keep the number as low as possible.

These add a large chunk of data to your server load each time they're loaded. Keep your page free of all but the essentials.

Use Gzip Compression

There's no reason not to use HTTP compression on your site to improve WordPress optimisation. You can set up Gzip compression on your server. What it does, in essence, is to compress the files on your site, which means each visitor is less of a strain on the server.

We offer Gzip compression as part of our hosting and maintenance services.

Update WordPress Software

You must keep WordPress updated. If you don't, you could open up security holes on your site and also make it slow and unreliable. It can also play havoc with your plugins.

As part of our website maintenance services, we will keep WordPress and your plugins updated for you.

Update PHP Versions

WordPress runs on PHP. If you're using a less reputable hosting service, it's possible that you aren't running the latest version of PHP. Why does this matter?

Using old versions of PHP can severely hamper your website's speed. PHP 7 is twice as fast as PHP 6, so this can make a monumental difference to your site's speed and functionality.

Updating PHP can be a complicated endeavour. As such, you'll be happy to hear that it's something we can do as part of your maintenance and hosting service.

Employ the Help of a CDN

If all of your content is coming from one server, visitors on the other side of the world are going to find their experience marred by long load times. A content delivery network, or CDN, uses a network of servers to ensure that media is served to one close to the visitor's location.

This distributed content delivery method means that load times will be cut, no matter where your visitors are from. Use our services, and you'll gain access to our CDN, helping you help your visitors!

How We Can Improve Your WordPress Performance

WordPress optimisation is not something for the faint of heart. That's where we come in. We're experts in helping people make their sites the best they can be.

We know how to build and maintain snappy, responsive websites that can help you appear higher up Google's search results. We can host and maintain your site for you long-term, giving you one less thing to worry about. If you're experiencing issues with your site, we also offer a website auditing service to diagnose and fix any problems.

Take a look at some previous examples of our work! If you've got any questions about us or our services, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Owen is a specialist business consultant with a professional background in policy, corporate affairs, strategy, marketing, engagement, trade and investment spanning two decades. Lift Strategies focuses Owen’s passion for understanding business hurdles and creating with clients their optimal strategy, marketing and engagement for market positioning and growth. He holds an MBA, Master of Business, Bachelor of Business and Diploma of Investor Relations.

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