WordPress Optimization Guide

A step-by-step guide on how to optimize your WordPress installation.

Overview

Many users run WordPress either as a CMS or blog platform. With a lot of great plugins available, it’s easy to create a full-featured website with a lot of neat functionality. These plugins however, can insert additional CSS and JavaScript files into your header which can hurt your site’s performance.

Note: The plugins mentioned in this guide address mainly front-end optimization issues only. If your site still takes a long time to load, an improved server is what will make a real difference. View our Pro WordPress Hosting Service.

Perform a Speed Test

Before you optimize your WordPress website, it’s best to know your current website score. You can perform this test at GTMetrix. After your run your website speed test at GTMetrix, they will present you a letter grade and Page Load Time. You will use this information when comparing your optimized website, to your original website speed score.

1) Go to GTMetrix.com

2) Enter your website url and hit “Test You Site”

3) Notate your PageSpeed Letter Score and your Page Load Time

Install All-In-One WP Migration

Install All-In-One WP Migration

It’s critical that you backup your WordPress installation before optimization (and on a regular basis!). All-In-One WP Migration is the easiest and most reliable backup option for WordPress. It provides a simple and effective way to backup your entire WordPress install, including your database, plugins, themes, uploads, and more.

1) Next, smush all of the images in your Media Library by clicking on “Bulk Smush 50 Attachments” (The free version of the plugin is limited to bulk smushing 50 attachments at a time. You’ll need to revisit this page and bulk smush the next 50 attachments).

2) That’s it for WP Smush!

Install WP Smush

Install WP Smush

Under the “Media” section in your WordPress sidebar, you’ll have access to a new menu option called “WP Smush”. In this section, ensure that the “Auto-Smush Images on upload” feature is checked. The plugin will now optimize every image you upload henceforth since you activated it.

Next, smush all of the images in your Media Library by clicking on “Bulk Smush 50 Attachments” (The free version of the plugin is limited to bulk smushing 50 attachments at a time. You’ll need to revisit this page and bulk smush the next 50 attachments).

That’s it for WP Smush!

Install WP Fastest Cache

Install WP Fastest Cache

On the sidebar, you’ll notice a new option called “WP Fastest Cache.”

1) Enable the following settings:

  • Cache System
    • Enable caching for faster delivery of pages.
  • Preload
    • Upon clicking this, you’ll get a popup telling you which pages to cache.
    • Check all of them and leave the “pages per minute” at 4 – click “OK”.
    • You may need to reduce this number if your hosting service complains.
  • Logged-in Users
    • Ensures that if you’ve logged in, you see the actual state of your pages, not the cached versions.
  • Minify HTML*
    • Compresses HTML and reduces file size.
  • Minify CSS*
    • Compresses CSS and reduces file size.
  • Combine CSS*
    • Joins your CSS files into a single CSS resource, reducing number of HTTP requests.
  • Combine JS*
    • Joins your JavaScript files into a single JS resource, reducing number of HTTP requests.
  • Gzip
    • Further compress your pages to be smaller in file size and faster to download.
  • Browser Caching
  • Click “Submit” when you’re done.That’s it for the WP Fastest Cache settings!
  • WP Fastest Cache will automatically preload the cache again after you’ve deleted it. New content like posts or pages do not require you to delete the cache.

Important notes

Minification and Combining
Minifying and combining HTML/CSS/JavaScript can break functionality in your website. Minification essentially goes through your scripts are removes extraneous data like comments, formatting, whitespace and other things that computers don’t need to read. Combining takes the contents of each individual script and aggregates them all into a single script.

Because these processes modify data, they sometimes break functionality due to coding typos, syntax errors, duplicate function names, etc.

Make sure to check your site functionality after enabling the minification/combining features. If you find things are broken, disable all minification/combining features, and re-enable them one-by-one to find which feature is causing the issue.

If your hosting environment supports HTTP/2, combination of scripts is not needed, as the HTTP/2 protocol supports multiplexing – essentially allowing multiple downloads using a single TCP connection (as to only 6 parallel connections in HTTP/1.x.)
Page Caching
Whenever you make major changes to the site, like adding a plugin or modifying the CSS/theme, its recommended to delete the cache and preload it again to ensure you’re serving the latest version of the site. You can find the option to delete the cache in WP Fastest Cache in the “Delete Cache” tab.

Your mileage may vary! Due to the varying nature of WordPress installations, plugin usage and hosting environments, you may not be able to considerably affect all of the above metrics. Things like third-party resources (Facebook widgets, YouTube embeds, etc) and ads can still heavily affect your score.

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