A good website should never compromise on the users experience. Speed Up WordPress SiteAs web publisher, you should invest some time and resources to learn everything possible about optimizing your website for speed. Who would stay on to browse through a sluggish slow loading website? Most visitors lose interest leave the site, if this is the case. More over, Google started considering Website speed as a factor in their search engine ranking logarithm. This guide will help you in reducing your website server load and making your site faster.

Remember speeding up and optimizing your WordPress site is not an easy process, it takes a bit of time to make the changes properly and safely. But its worth if you could spend the time. The time taken to implement the optimizations would depend upon your expertise with WordPress. Before making the following changes my sites were taking around 11 – 15 seconds to load.  After implementing these changes the site takes less than 5 seconds to load.

Before starting with any thing, first take a complete back up of your theme files and your WordPress database. Now go to http://tools.pingdom.com and enter your site url and do  a speed test to see how long does it take for your website to load (You do speed test at last, after implementing the changes in this guide to know the speed gain you have obtained). Our aim is to reduce the load time and server load to a much lesser value.

So lets start the Guide To Make Your Website Super Fast

1) Remove Unnecessary PHP Queries and Database Access

Almost all WordPress themes are made in a way that there should be minimal user effort in configuring them. Most themes comes with some generic php codes, which can be easily replaced after we install it in our blog. Removing these avoidable php code will lessen the number of queries to your server and thus makes your site faster.

For this first open the header.php files located in your current themes folder. You can do this by two ways, either by going to Appearence > Editor from wp dashboard or by accessing the file directly using a FTP client and opening in Notepad or Notepad++.

You’ll find some thing like this in the header file.

<title><?php bloginfo(‘name’); ?> <?php bloginfo(‘description’);?></title>

<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” media=”screen” href=”<?php bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’); ?>“/>

<link rel=”shorcut icon” type=”image/png” href=”&lt?php bloginfo(‘template_url’); ?>/favicon.jpg” />

<link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”RSS Feed” href=”<?php bloginfo(‘rss_url’); ?>” />

The text in bold is the php code. These five php commands are executed each time, when your website gets loaded in the browser. Since we don’t want the theme to be portable anymore, we could replace these php queries by their corresponding html code. That’s about 20 Times Faster Speed.

To do this, open your site in any browser for eg in chrome and press Ctrl + U or select View Source From the menu. With reference to the above code, you will see the source code of the site as below (eg.)

<title>Computing Unleashed</title>

<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” media=”screen” href=”http://www.computingunleashed.com/wp-content/themes/amalroy/style.css”/>

<link rel=”shortcut icon” href=”http://www.computingunleashed.com/wp-content/themes/amalroy/favicon.png” type=”image/png” />

<link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”RSS Feed” href=”www.computingunleashed.com/feed/rss/” />

Now you might have got an idea about this. Now just copy these codes and replace it in header.php file and save the file and you are done. You can now check for similar queries in footer.php, sidebar.php etc. and replace them accordingly. [credits: The 3 Easiest Ways to Speed Up WordPress]

2) Remove Inactive Plugins

Its very likely that we might test out various plugin and deactivate them if we are not happy with the results. There is a tendency for us to leave those deactivated plugins in the plugin directory. But its better to remove all those inactive plugins that you don’t require at all. Also check for any plugins that you have activated but not using, these could eat up resources. So make sure you maintain the plugin directory clean and tidy. If you feel that you might want to use those deactivated plugin at a later time, make a text document in the plugin directory with the list of plugins you need and you could safely delete those plugins which are in no need as of now.

3) Using a  FREE CDN (Content Delivery Network)

Content Delivery Network To Speed up Your SiteA content delivery network is used by almost all popular websites like google, twitter, facebook etc. A CDN is a collection of web servers distributed across multiple locations to deliver content more efficiently to users. The user’s proximity to your web server has an impact on response times. Deploying your content across multiple, geographically dispersed servers will make your pages load faster from the user’s perspective.

Using a CDN network will improve your website response time to a great extend. But normal users find it difficult to afford a CDN service. But there is a free alternative.

CoralCDN allows you to take full advantage of a powerful CDN without spending a dime. How to use it? Well, basically, just append `.nyud.net` to the hostname of any URL, and that URL will be handled by Coral.

Content Delivery Network To Speed up WordPress

With the Free CDN plugin for WordPress, this job can be implemented easily. All you need to do is just install the plugin and activate it. It will rewrite the JavaScripts, CSS, images etc. for you automatically. Plus, it also comes with an option to exclude or include the files your specify which could be either JavaScript’s, CSS or specific pages.

4) Keep Your WordPress Version Up To Date

With the release of new versions, WordPress keeps on improving on the whole. On each update wordpress developers put their effort in making wordpress faster and safer. So its very necessary that you need to upgrade to the latest wordpress version to get the performance improvements and new features.

5) Compress the CSS Code

Compressing your CSS Code will make it’s size small and your browser can render it faster and that results in faster page load times. Compressing the CSS can be done in two ways. Either by doing it manually by using the service CSS Drive. You have to manually copy-paste your css code from the style.css file in their website and you will get the compressed version of it which you can paste back on the style.css file.

CSS Compress to Speed Up Site

But if you make changes to your css code at times, then its better to use the WP CSS plugin. Wp css plugin will automatically remove the white spaces and compress your css files. Plus you will also have other options to set expiry time for the files.

6) Optimize the WordPress Database

Just like the hard disks the WordPress database also gets fragmented. So optimizing the wordpress database too can speed up your site.

optimizing the wodpress database to make it faster

  • For optimizing the WordPress database of your site, visit the cpanel of your hosting provider.
  • Use phpMyAdmin to optimize your database: Log in to phpMyAdmin, select all the tables, and then click on optimize.

7) Compress & Combine Javascript Files

Like the CSS files the javascripts in your template is also a major reason for speed loss.

Try to reduce the javascripts as much as possible.

Javascript Compression Services

8 ) Reduce Image Sizes

Posts become lively when images are added. But using high resolution images on your website will put a high load on the server and this is one of the reasons why some sites go down when a digg front page is reached.

The images could be compressed to a level without much loss of quality

image optimization using smushit to speed up wordpress

You may use the WP Smush.it plugin for WordPress to compress the images. It will compress the images to a good extend and your site will load faster now.

9) Disable Hot Linking

Stealing our websites bandwidth can be referred to as Hot linking. This happens when others link your sites images in their articles and this puts load on your server. This not a big issue if one or two websites directly link your images, but when multiple sites uses this then it might steal your bandwidth drastically.

using hotlink protection to save bandwidth and speed up

Offenders could be easily avoided by implementing a small code in the .htaccess file.

#disable hotlinking of images with forbidden or custom image option

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www.)?computingunleashed.com [NC]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www.)?google.com [NC]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www.)?feeds2.feedburner.com/PersonalComputingUnleashed[NC]

RewriteRule .(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [NC,F,L]

Copy-paste the above code in your .htaccess file in the wordpress root directory and then save it. !Important – Replace my sites url and feed with yours.

10) Caching Pages for Faster Delivery and Response

The super cache plugin is a must have plugin that cache’s the mostly visited pages on your website and makes it available to the next visitor immediately. The plugin generates html files which are served without ever invoking a single line of PHP code.

Speed up WordPress site using Super Cache Plugin

Download WordPress Super Cache Plugin

But if you have good experience with plugins and WordPress then I’d recommend the w3 Total Cache Plugin which tops any of the cache plugin and is my personal favorite. If you could properly configure the w3 total cache plugin then its the best. It has much better compression and caching options than the super cache plugin and definitely save your websites bandwidth and improve your sites speed. Whats more it has even got cdn support. This will help you avoid other plugins if you’ve got a  cdn account or an amazon s3 account. This plugin also has separate caching options for shared hosting and (vps, dedicated hostings). This makes it so special.

w3 total cache plugin to speed up wordpress

Download W3Total Cache Plugin

11) Combining Javascripts and CSS Files with PHP Speedy

As said earlier, minimizing the HTTP requests can speed up the site greatly and the php speedy plugin will help you further by combining all the javascripts into one single file and all css files into a single one. Therefore in total the there will only be two files that are being requested.

Download PHP Speedy Plugin For WordPress

12) Preloading the Page Contents

This is some thing that doesn’t give much of a performance benefit , but rather enhances the page load by loading the page progressively. The problem with putting up style sheets near the bottom of the document is that it prohibits progressive rendering in many browsers, including Internet Explorer. These browsers block rendering to avoid having to redraw elements of the page if their styles change. The user is stuck viewing a blank white page.

So here’s what you have to do. Move the Style Sheets to the header file.

<title>Computing Unleashed</title>

<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” media=”screen” href=”http://www.computingunleashed.com/wp-content/themes/amalroy/style.css”/>

Move the css file link near the title in the header.php file.

13) Flushing the buffer

When users request a page in your site, it can takes around 200 – 500 milliseconds for the backend server to put together the HTML page. During this time the browser remains idle. The flush() function in php help you in loading the partially ready html response to the browser and it can start fetching the components, while the backend server is busy with the rest of the contents.

To inset the flush() function in your wordpress site, Open up the header.php file and find the </head> tag and insert the <?php flush(); ?> function right after it. You may see the eg below.


<?php flush(); ?>


14) Using CSS Sprites Technique

It simply means combining all the images in the site into a single big image containing all of them and the browser loads the single big image and display the different images by using background-position.

Using CSS sprites to combine images and speed up wordpress site

If you are using a lot of static images in your site then it is definitely worth to try the CSS sprites technique. It not only speed up your site, but also reduce the http requests. You may check the complete CSS Sprites and its implementation in here.

15) Use jQuery Image Lazy Load

The  jQuery Image Lazy Load plugin for WordPress helps to reduce the page load time drastically especially when you have pages with images as its prominent content. It delays the loading of images below the fold and loads only when the user scrolls up to the destination.

Download jQuery Image Lazy Load 

16) DB Cache Reloaded Plugin

The DB cache plugin works differently from the super cache plugin by optimizing your database alone. It caches WordPress MySQL queries to a file. This results in less space being used for caching and faster performance from the WordPress blog. If you are using the Db-Cache option in W3 Total cache plugin, this is no longer needed.

Caching WordPress Database To Speed up Site

Download DB Cache Reloaded Plugin For WordPress

Apart from all these criteria, website speed also depend upon other factors such as the hosting, the number of java-scripts and CSS files you use etc. VPS hosting will have more speed and performance over shared hosting that many of the WordPress blogs use.

If you are able to implement these steps properly you might definitely notice a huge performance gain by now. Still there are more ways to further improve the website load time. Don’t forget to add your valuable suggestions and ideas on how you speed up your website.

Amal Roy is the Founder-Editor of Computing Unleashed. A Technology Enthusiast, Windows Adept and a Proud Geek!