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WordPress Optimization Practices for Peak Site Performance

Written by Zach Wiesman on
Growing bar chart with an arrow and Pressable logo on green background

No one wants a website that seems like it’s loading via inflight Wi-Fi or dial-up internet. Avoid the curse of a slow site through WordPress optimization.

To achieve peak performance, you must ensure your website runs as efficiently and quickly as possible. This post reviews why WordPress optimization is essential and covers our best practices for doing it.

Why is WordPress Optimization Vital?

WordPress optimization is vital because it’s essential to improving your site’s speed and performance.

Reliability and speed of a WordPress site directly impacts:

  • User Experience. Visitors will leave if your site loads slowly or produces a bunch of errors. A positive user experience is essential for making a good first impression on potential customers.
  • Search Rankings. Slow loading sites or broken links can tank your search rankings. Search algorithms place premium values on your site’s performance, especially on a mobile device.
  • Conversion Rates. A slow or error-prone site can cause you to miss sales or leads. People won’t stay on a site that’s clunky or sluggish. They’ll abandon your landing and checkout pages before you can capture their information.

Best Practices for WordPress Optimization

WordPress optimization sets up your website for success. Your goal is to remove any barriers to a fast and flawless site. No one would expect you to run a record-breaking marathon without considerable preparation. Don’t expect your WordPress site to run at top speeds without a little work. Follow these WordPress optimization best practices to get your site in the best shape.

Pick the Best Host

Pick a high-quality host who specializes in WordPress, like Pressable. In our post on how to transfer a WordPress site to a new host, we covered the top signs your host might not be a good fit for you long term. If you think your host is part of the problem, instead of being a vital part of the solution, it’s time to switch.

Check Your Server Settings

Once you have a host you know you can trust, it’s time to fine-tune your server settings. One of the benefits of managed WordPress hosting is that the hosting provider does a lot of this optimization for you. Increasing memory limits or updating to the latest version of PHP can improve your site performance.

Stay Up-to-Date

Keeping your WordPress core, themes, and plugins updated improves site speed. Always update to the latest version of WordPress and run any other available updates. The right managed WordPress hosting plan will automate much of this work for you.

Decrease Plugin Usage

Plugins can easily overcomplicate a website’s code. Plugins load a ton of extra JavaScript and CSS for every setting or feature, even if you only use a handful of them. Limit your plugin usage when possible, and deactivate and uninstall any unused plugins.

Clean Up Your Site

Over time WordPress sites accumulate junk like drafts or trashed posts. All this clutter slows your site down. It takes up unnecessary space in your database and makes database queries take longer. Make cleaning out your site a part of your WordPress maintenance checklist.

Monitor your site for errors or any broken links. Fix them quickly before they negatively impact your site’s user experience.

Compress Images

Don’t upload full-resolution photos. Compress them and optimize them for the web before you upload them. You also could use an image optimization plugin or try the lightweight WebP format.

Decrease API Dependencies

Save API calls for essential things. Too many or unnecessary API calls for every page load can slow your site down.

Strive for Efficiency

Making too many database queries adds time to your page loading. You have to wait for the database to respond before moving on. Reducing the number or types of queries you make can improve your site’s performance.

Look for Sloppy Code

Plugins are often guilty of utilizing too many queries or using inefficient PHP. The same can be said for WordPress themes. Evaluate your themes and plugins to ensure they’re not adding milliseconds to your site’s load time.

Remove Unused JavaScript and CSS

If you run a site speed test, odds are you’ll get the suggestion to reduce render-blocking resources. Taking a look at a waterfall view of your page loading should help narrow things down:

Pressable backend page loading waterfall view showing extra JavaScript and CSS

Often you’ll find the problem is in a lot of extra JavaScript and CSS you don’t need. For example, it’s not uncommon to see three or four different stylesheets load for icon libraries. You could be loading the styles for hundreds of icons and not using one of them. Reducing the amount of JavaScript and CSS you load on each page will improve your site performance. You also can consider using asynchronous or deferred loading, where you don’t load everything at once.

Use an Optimization Plugin

If removing extraneous CSS or looking for inefficient PHP code is not your thing, consider using a WordPress optimization plugin like WP Rocket, WP Optimize, or Autoptimize. The plugins handle the heavy lifting of making some of the more technical changes to your site. You give up some of the control but don’t have to do the development work yourself.

Pressable: Where WordPress Works Best

At Pressable, we want your WordPress website to work as fast and perfectly as possible. We’ve made WordPress optimization easy by taking some of the routine tasks off your plate.

We handle updates, and you can trust that our servers are always configured for peak performance. Test out the platform today to see why WordPress users love Pressable.

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Zach Wiesman

Zach has 12+ years of experience with WordPress, from creating and maintaining client sites, to providing support and developing documentation. A knack for problem-solving and providing solutions led Zach to pursue a job with Automattic providing customer support in 2015 working with WooCommerce support, and now Zach has recently joined our team here at Pressable. Outside of work, Zach enjoys spending time with his family, playing and watching sports, and working on projects around the house.