Faster is better. True words no matter whether you’re running on a WordPress site or another platform. And why is speed so important? Consider this: when a visitor first lands on your page you have a severely limited amount of time—seconds really—to grab their attention and encourage them towards further exploration. Indeed, according to Internet giant Microsoft having even a two-second longer delay in page load time cripples user ratings, click-throughs and—most importantly for those running a money-generating site—lost revenue by nearly five percent across the board.
Simply put, if your page loads to slowly, people have the strong tendency to move on to another site. And if that’s not scary enough, Google now contains within its algorithm a ranking factor based on site speed, meaning if you site is too slow your ranking in search results can plummet.
So how do you fix a slow-loading WordPress site? Thankfully there are lots of solutions, and most of them are quick and easy.
To begin, consider your site host. Are you on a shared server? If so, it might seem great due to the low price, but it can also stiffle your site’s speed, especially during high traffic times. So spend a few extra bucks on a host such as WP Engine, which is, by all accounts, super fast, easy to use as an administrator and comes with a solid support system. Second, grab yourself a good caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache, a freebie that efficiently archives your data and content and is easy to install and manage.
Next, consider installing an image optimizer if your site has lots of photos, graphs, artwork etc. They work by reducing the file size of an image without sacrificing its quality. And it does so automatically (imagine having to optimize each image on your site manually and you’ll quickly see the benefit) while you’re uploading them, taking nearly all the legwork out of the process. And think about only having images “above the fold” (to borrow a term of print copy parlance) appear instantly; when only the images visible to a user’s browser window appear, rather than every image on the entire page, you increase page load efficiency. You also save on bandwidth as less data needs to load for those visitors who aren’t going to scroll down the page, and those who do will see images load as they come into view.
Also, consider this: your homepage is the first place visitors to your site see, so it should absolutely be the page that loads the fastest. By showing excerpts of posts rather than the full content; reducing the number of posts appearing on your homepage; and ditching arbitrary widgets that aren’t necessary here you can seriously amp up the rate at which your most important page loads.
Lastly—and this the best WordPress experts agree on wholeheartedly—turn off any “pingback” or “trackback” services. WordPress communicates with other sites on the platform in ways you might not be aware of: when another site mentions yours a notification goes out which updates a specific post or part of your site. This automatically-generated response requires that your site to do a lot a work for the update, which can further stress load and response times.