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Optimizing WordPress Website Speed for Faster Load Time

WordPress Web Technologies

WordPress websites require several website technologies to work together behind the scenes. Without optimization, site responsiveness can fluctuate depending on many factors:

  • Plug-ins
  • MySQL Database
  • Third Party Servers like JetPack
  • Cookies
  • Widget Servers
  • Hosting Server Files

This document provides some suggestions for improving site speed.

Performance Hosting Options

Here are three performance hosting options to consider:

  • Dedicated Server. To optimize the above components you can pay about $100 per month for a dedicated server. That would at least reduce performance hits from problems caused by others on the same server.
  • Optimized Hosting. You could pay for Optimized Managed WordPress Hosting for about $30 per month. If you pay for managed optimized hosting, you’ll get a simple turnkey solution but fewer customization options. You also don’t need to worry about keeping your website plugins and technologies updated, other than minimal oversight.
  • DIY Optimization. You could pay about $12 per month for standard shared hosting and then optimize in these other ways.

DIY WordPress Optimization

Below are seven WordPress optimization methods you can do on your own with a low-cost but reliable shared hosting service.

  • Caching. You can install a caching plugin like WP Super Cache. This will reduce the burden on the MySQL server to serve up pages and content. The plug-in will prepare pages so they are ready for viewing prior to being requested.
  • CDN. You can use a content delivery network like Cloudflare to cache your site content on servers around the world. So, even if some of the above web technologies are slow or failing, your static site content can continue to be delivered to site visitors. The free CND service should be adequate for most sites. NOTE: If you use Cloudflare, be sure to NOT accept the default Proxied setting for your mail services. Instead, switch them to DNS only. This is explained in a support video that clarifies, Cloudflare does not offer Proxied (cached) services for email, but the default email is configured that way. So, most people will lose email service after getting setup if they don’t know to choose DNS only instead of Proxied.
  • Google Libraries. The Use Google Libraries helps speed up your site by delivering some web technologies faster. This plugin allows your WordPress site to use the content distribution network side of Google’s AJAX Library API, rather than serving these files from your WordPress install directly.
  • Minify Code. Website code is generally not delivered in an organized optimized way. Plugins or CDN services can minify your site code to help ensure it can be delivered and loaded faster by site visitors.
  • MySQL. If you’ve signed up for a basic Linux hosting package with CPANEL or another interface to manage your hosting, you should have some control over your WordPress MySQL database. Ensure that it is running the latest stable version of MySQL. Some people believe v5.6 is a good version to run, although other versions are now available up to v8 but may introduce instability or other issues. You can explore available versions [View], but your hosting company will be responsible for keeping your MySQL updated.
  • PHP. WordPress relies heavily on PHP. The current version is 7.4.x and previous versions may introduce performance and security issues for your website. Your hosting package should allow you to adjust what version of PHP you are using with your site. If you need help with this, utilize your hosting support options to get assistance.
  • Set Expirations. Site content usually has an expiration set so browsers will retain that content and not reload it. If content does not have an expiration, then it will get loaded every time a visitor refreshes a page by transferring that content over the internet again. Add the following to the .htaccess file found in your top level (root) folder of your hosting account directory. You’ll use a text editor to add this at the bottom of the file above the # END WordPress statement.
<IfModule mod_expires.c>
ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/png "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType text/css "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType text/html "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access 1 week"
# END WordPres

GTMetrix Site Speed Analysis

Before getting started with the above enhancements you might want to run a site analysis using GTMetrix services. This will help you see what areas of your site performance need improving. You can also implement performance solutions from above, individually, and then test the site each time to see how each optimization method improves your score.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com

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