Speed up WordPress like a Rocket powered Tortoise!

This post was written in 2014 however the tips are still 100% relevant to ANY website.

I hate arriving at a slow website. You click the link land and you’re ready to read some useful content but instead you star at a blank screen for a few minutes.

While I’m a patient guy, I can’t help but turn back around and forget about that website.  So is website speed important?

Did you know that 40% of people will simply bounce if your page doesn’t load in 3 seconds!  4&% of people expect a page to load in two seconds! 64% will simply go elsewhere if the site is slow. (thanks to the Akamai Study for those stats!)

Google also takes site load time into consideration when ranking your website in it’s search engine.

After a few experiences like that (quite some time ago), I decided I should keep track of the loading time of my WordPress websites. That’s when I decided to speed audit a website that seemed to be packed with features that were more superficial than functional.

The first time I did a speed test on one of my WordPress sites it came back at a high 19 seconds load time for the home page!


Straight away, I knew a lot of these ‘features’ were making this website waaay too slow. So I took a step by step crack at cutting that speed right down. So here’s what I did:

Note: I have since created a more comprehensive list on speeding up WordPress here.

Removed Social Widgets – down to 10 seconds

I’m not suggesting I removed all of my social media buttons, but I did remove anything that loaded off site.

That means the Facebook ‘Like Box’ or the Twitter box – these plugins load information from the Facebook and Twitter servers which means that not only does the person visiting your website need to connect to your server, but other servers at the same time to load even more information.

Facebook Like Box - Slowing Down my Website...

Facebook Like Box was slowing down my website…

The Solution?

Use images that link to your social media profiles or keep things more compact with a simple ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ button that requires a lot less information to load.  I also use the ‘Social Share Starter’ WordPress plugin, which is also more lightweight and has less of an effect on load time – speeding up your website.

Removed all Unnecessary Plugins – down to 4 seconds

At the end of the day, someone who visits your website is there for information or a specific purpose.  Having little slide in animations, lightbox popups for images, and anything that takes away from that core delivery of content or function will slow down your website.

So I asked myself when I looked at every plugin – does this contribute to the function of my website?

If yes – it stays.  If no – goodbye!

Even the Disqus commenting system was cut and I used a captcha on the WordPress commenting system, before eventually making a few tweaks so I no longer needed the captcha – and minimized spam through a few settings under options.

So I’m down to 4 seconds loading time, I figured that wasn’t bad considering the start.  So what was my next step?

I Upgraded to Thesis Theme, Installed W3 Total Cache – down to 2 seconds.

I went from using a free and crummy theme to a premium, SEO enhanced theme – I went for the Thesis Theme. Since I am pretty cluey with website design and WordPress, I was able to customize to get the exact look I was after.

So my theme framework become more light weight but kept the design the same – plus the images I used were already optimized so I didn’t need to work any further on that aspect.

Once my design was complete and live, I installed the Free W3 Total Cache Plugin – which optimiizes your entire site making it faster loading and decreasing the load on your server. After that, I was in under 2 seconds (using the Quick Sprout Site Analyzer):

Load Time

You can go Further to Speed up WordPress…

I used the above ways to speed up my WordPress install, but there’s much more you can do…

You can use a Content Delivery Network to make your images more readily available at different locations around the world, I personally could have switched from a simple cloud hosting account to a dedicated server but I didn’t have to nor would the expense be justified.

Ultimately, You may only need these few simple steps that I outlined above, you don’t have to complete a 100 item checklist to get the desired effect.

Either way, there are endless ways to speed up your WordPress website, but these are the first places I look.  Keep checking back as I will be revealing even more ways to speed up your website, but for now, try out the steps above and let me know how you go!

For a more detailed list, check out my more recent post on speeding up WordPress Here or Mike Wallagher’s post Speeding up WordPress load from 4.23s to 1.33s [Case Study].