When you hit the gas to merge onto a freeway, you need to be able to trust your car’s engine is up to the challenge. Similarly, when managing WordPress for large-scale sites, you need to know your system can handle the traffic and data.
No one wants their car to die in the middle of the fast lane. You also don’t want your website to crash under the weight of Black Friday shopping or a viral blog post.
Just like using premium gas and doing routine maintenance can optimize your car for peak performance, you can do things to prepare your website for speed and scalability.
When managing WordPress for large-scale sites, you need to know:
- Is WordPress scalable?
- Potential limits and issues
- How to fine-tune your website
Is WordPress Scalable?
WordPress is extremely scalable, but not all WordPress sites are scalable. Confused? Let’s dig in.
The WordPress codebase powers some of the largest websites on the internet, so yes, it’s scalable. But unless you’ve done the work to make your site scalable, you could run into issues. Back to our car example, professional race cars are specially engineered to handle the demands of racing. You wouldn’t race in the Daytona 500 with a used Toyota Prius.
The question is, do you need a Prius or a race car? Large-scale sites are difficult to define. The term “large-scale” is based on the volume of traffic and transactions a website handles. If your website gets thousands of visitors at once or processes hundreds of transactions an hour, you have a large-scale site. It could benefit from optimization.
Understand Your Limitations
When your site experiences a huge spike in traffic, you could end up with a bottleneck. More visitors are making database requests than your server can handle.
To avoid a bottleneck, make sure you:
- Have Enough Resources. Ensure you’re using a host that can handle high-volume sites. You might also consider upgrading your hosting plan to get more bandwidth and memory.
- Don’t Overload Your Options Table. The Options table (wp_options) is a frequent culprit of slow-loading sites. Even if you’ve uninstalled a plugin, the ghosts of the plugin’s settings may remain in your options table. Evaluate the table as a part of your efforts to clean up your WordPress database.
- Storage Capacity. You need more than RAM. Just like when your personal hard drive fills up and slows down your computer, when your available disk storage is low, it’s time to upgrade your hosting plan.
Maximize WordPress for Large-Scale Sites
So what can large-scale sites do to maximize their speed? Follow these best practices to keep your WordPress site performing flawlessly.
Pick a Quality Host
Start by ensuring your host is up to the job. In our guide to the types of WordPress hosting, we talked about how cheap, entry-level shared hosting plans tend to perform poorly as your site grows. Look at the signs it’s time to find a new host. If any of them sound familiar, consider finding a host better suited to dealing with large-scale sites.
Select Your Theme Carefully
Not all themes are equal. Look for a lightweight theme that will scale well for a high-traffic site. Avoid themes that are poorly coded or overloaded with features. If you’re not using most of the features and options in your theme, you’re loading tons of extra data and CSS for every page.
Use Cache and a CDN
Caching creates temporary copies of files, so the server can utilize the copy instead of making a fresh request. It minimizes the number of server requests happening at once. A content delivery network extends that functionality by caching files in several locations physically closest to the visitor. It’s like keeping small copies of your website in data centers across the globe.
Follow all the WordPress security best practices. Attackers and malicious bots can slow down your site. Look for a host and security plugins that will block suspicious activity.
Don’t overload our site with video, images, and interactive elements. Make sure you optimize all media, especially images, for the web. Use an image optimization plugin or utilize the newer WebP format to reduce image sizes.
Take Out the Trash
Got a bunch of draft pages, trashed-but-not-deleted posts, and other WordPress clutter? It’s time to Marie Kondo that junk. Make like Elsa and let it go. Extraneous data makes it more difficult and time-consuming to find the data your site needs.
Clean Up Your Code
Plugins are the top cause of bloated code on a website. Select your plugins carefully and delete and uninstall any you aren’t using.
Keep Your Site Updated
Always keep your WordPress core files, plugins, and themes up to date. If not, you could miss vital security updates, feature enhancements, and performance-boosting improvements.
Using WordPress for Large-Scale Sites with Pressable
Whether you’re running a viral blog or a WooCommerce store with millions of visitors a month, Pressable offers the scalability and reliability you need to use WordPress for a large-scale site.
Pressable offers a redundant architecture, scalable plans, industry-leading security, and 24/7 expert support. Schedule a demo today to learn more about why large-scale sites trust our enterprise-grade hosting.
Jessica serves as the Director of Operations for Pressable and spends her days focused on creating the best managed WordPress hosting experience possible. She's been using WordPress since 2008 and has been serving in WordPress-focused roles since 2010. When she's not working, you can find her spending time with her family, serving in her community, watching hilarious dog videos online, or brewing a pitcher of iced tea.