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Making Your WordPress Site Faster

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re looking for a performance boost. And that’s no surprise. A slow site can cost you dearly. In fact, over 50% of web surfers will ditch your site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

According to this NY Times article, “People will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth of a second).”

So – what are some things you can do to speed up your WordPress site?

1. Check out the tips below for the DIY kind of stuff. We’ve got a short list of how we make WordPress sites speedy. And now you can too.
2. If you don’t have the in house knowledge, let us know! We’d be glad to do it for you :-).

Make sure you’re on a good great host

A great host can make all the difference. If your site is running on a slow server or bad host, it doesn’t matter what you do. Your site’s still gonna crawl.
Case in point – we recently migrated FuseCorps.org from their old host to WP Engine. We used Pingdom tools to test the speed of fusecorps.org before and after the migration.

Before the migration, the site took 6.25 seconds to load on their old host.

fusecorps-before
FuseCorps.org – Before The Migration

After? The load time was 1.86 seconds. That’s more than 3x faster.

FuseCorps.org Performance on WP Engine
FuseCorps.org Performance on WP Engine

The migration alone shaved nearly 5 seconds off the load time. And the site went from being slower than 76% of all sites on the web to Faster than 73% of all tested websites, according to Pingdom.

Again – all we did was migrate the site to WP Engine. And this gave them a huge performance boost. Win!

Setup a CDN

cloudflare-logo
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) will make sure static files (things like images) are delivered from a nearby server. So if your site’s visitor is checking out your content in Maine, your images will be delivered from a server close to Maine. There are many CDN’s out there – personally, we love CloudFlare. And it’s free. We tend to use WP Engine’s CDN for our clients. But if you’re not on WP Engine (yet), Cloudflare is a great option to get going.

For more info on CDN’s, check out WP Beginner’s “Why You Need a CDN.”

The Plugin Route

WordPress has loads of plugins to optimize your site. One of the most popular is W3 Total Cache. It’s a technical plugin and takes time to setup. But the performance boost is massive. Here’s a great video on how to get it setup :

Aside from W3 Total Cache, I’d recommend installing P3 by GoDaddy. This plugin will tell all sorts of things to help you identify what’s slowing down your site.

A few other plugins to check out include :

One note : your host may not allow certain plugins (like W3 Total Cache) to run on their servers. This can be a good thing. It means they are savvy enough to take care of things for you!

Use Varnish Cache

varnish

Whenever you visit a website, your web browser caches the content, the images, and other web files. Next time you visit the site on the same browser, it’ll be much faster to load.

Just like your browser, your server can also have a cache enabled. Varnish Cache works in a similar way as your browser’s – except it’s the cache for your web server. And since WordPress uses a database for so many things, the server cache can store a large amount of database lookups, saving you and your visitors lots of time.

Varnish Cache is typically setup by your hosting company or a sysAdmin. So – either ask your host or sysAdmin what they can do to setup Varnish. Or migrate to a host that already uses Varnish (are you getting the subtle hint to migrate to WP Engine yet?).

Other Resources

For even more details on optimizing your WordPress, check out :

Chris Coyier put together a great presentation on speeding up your site.

Iliya Polihronov delivered a great talk at WordCamp SF, 2012 on “High Performance WordPress” – definitely worth a watch.

Tuning your site is an ongoing process. This article is meant to get you going on specific things you can do today.

Did we miss something? Have a suggestion on making this article better? Want to hire us to do this for you? Let us know in the comments!

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