You have a WordPress website; you’re writing amazing content, building quality backlinks, and getting social shares. Yet, your website isn’t performing well enough. What should you do? Simple – speed up your WordPress website.
In this post, you will learn how to speed up your WordPress website in 2021.
Page speed is a measurement of how fast the content on your page loads.
Truth is, since 2010, Google has used page speed as an important ranking factor.
In 2018, Google ramped up the importance of page speed with the Speed Update.
What does this mean?
At the core, a slow-loading website can significantly hurt your Google rankings.
A slow page speed means that search engines like Google can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, and this could negatively affect your indexation.
With this, one question quickly comes to mind: how does Google determine how fast your site loads?
Google hasn’t made any official statements about it yet. Based on the metrics it provides through its PageSpeed Insights tool, Google probably combines different page speed measurements to determine your site’s loading speed.
A slow-loading website goes way beyond hurting your Google rankings.
Amazon did a study and found that every second delayed their website loads, they lose 1% of their revenue. That’s a lot of money.
Of course, you won’t lose as much money as Amazon, but it’s roughly the same for you.
For every second your website takes longer to load, you’re going to lose more revenue.
A 2017 Akamai study also shows that every 100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7% – that is a significant drop in sales.
In 2018, Google shared the following infographic on mobile page load industry benchmarks:
Page speed is also important to user experience. Pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates and lower average time on page.
This is why you need your website to load fast. But how do you speed up your WordPress website in 2021?
How to speed up your WordPress website
Test your page speed
Before you speed up your WordPress website, it’s important to know how fast or how slow your site loads. So, the first thing you need to do is to use Google PageSpeed.
This is a tool by Google and it will show you what’s causing your website to load slow.
You just put in your URL, it will analyze it, and give you a score. If you have an amazing score, then great. You’re doing a good job. If you have a terrible score, it will even show you what you need to fix to improve your site’s speed.
Google PageSpeed scans your page’s code for problems and any potential problems your site might have:
It also shows you opportunities you can take advantage of to increase your site’s speed.
There are a ton of helpful insights in this tool. And I recommend implementing as many as you can if you want to speed up your WordPress website.
Use the Google AMP framework
These days, a lot of people coming to your website are going to be on mobile devices. Whether it’s a mobile phone or tablet device, mobile devices are extremely popular, so much so that many people are using Google on their mobile devices than on desktop computers.
What’s more, mobile devices in many cases will make up the majority of your site’s traffic. So, why not make your website load super fast for mobile users?
And the way you can do this is by using the Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) framework.
The Google AMP framework ensures your website loads extremely fast on mobile devices.
If you have a WordPress blog or website, there are a ton of plugins that make your website AMP-compatible. A really good one to start with is a simple plugin like AMP and you can get it from WordPress itself here.
The AMP plugin renders your mobile page more quickly by cutting back on the HTML code tag manager aspect and rendering only the ones that are suitable for mobile users.
By eliminating certain HTML code tag manager aspects that would otherwise slow down the page, AMP plugins are able to make your pages load faster.
AMP and bounce rate also have a thing together. When your site bounce rate reduces and onsite experience increases, Google will reward your site. You shouldn’t be surprised to find AMP-compatible websites ranking higher than non-AMP sites. See the two versions:
Implement a CDN to speed up your WordPress website
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is one of the easiest ways to boost your site’s loading speed. CDNs work by taking your website and putting it all over the globe. They figure out where your visitor is physically located and then serve up your site’s resources from a server close to them.
So, let’s say someone is visiting your website from Canada, even though your website is hosted in the US, a content delivery network will replicate your site and put it on a server in Canada. So that way, everyone in Canada can see your site right away.
There are dozens of CDN options to choose from. Pick the one that works seamlessly with your hosting provider. One company that offers CDN solutions is Akamai. It’s expensive to use Akamai but its CDN solution is really good.
People will visit your website from all over the world. By having your content on servers all over the world, your site will load faster as your site will be closer in proximity to their location.
Leverage browser caching
Using WordPress plugins, you can cache your site so it loads fast. Every time someone visits your site, they will see a cached version which will improve their experience.
If you have a WordPress blog or website, this is really simple. You can use a plugin called W3 Total Cache. If you don’t have a WordPress blog or site, reach out to your developer or your server hosting company and they will show you how you can cache your website.
Alternatively, there’s one other powerful plugin no one tells you about — NitroPack. It’s a powerful performance optimization service for both WordPress and non-WordPress websites that improves performance and loading speeds.
The beauty of NitroPack is, it’s light and comes with a free starter version and you’re able to improve your Google page speed score up to 100% both on mobile and desktop devices in just a few clicks without spending a single dollar. This plugin does all the heavy lifting for you. You just install the plugin on your WordPress website, connect an account on NitroPack, and watch as it does the magic.
Here’s a detailed, step-by-step tutorial that will show you how to use NitroPack to speed up your WordPress website:
I recently connected NitroPack to my WordPress website, Digital Hama, and these were the results I got after running it on GTmetrix.
But I also love using Google’s PageInsights tool to test my site’s speed. Here’s my score before I used NitroPack:
And after connecting my website to NitroPack:
Unfortunately, this won’t help your page load any faster for first-time visitors. But it’s great for improving your loading speed for people who have visited your site before.
Compress images on your website
Images usually take up 50-90% of a page’s size.
For most beginners, their biggest mistake is using images with very large file sizes.
The problem with such images is that they’re heavy and can really slow your website down.
So, you want to be sure that your images are no larger than they need to be, that they are in the right file format (PNGs are generally better for graphics with fewer than 16 colors while JPEGs are generally better for photographs), and that they are compressed for the web.
The more that you can compress your images, the faster your page will load.
If your site runs on WordPress, then I highly recommend a plugin called WP Smush.
This plugin automatically compresses any image you upload to your WordPress media library, reducing your image file size by 14.2%.
Not using WordPress? Or perhaps, you’re cutting down on using too many plugins on your site because they reduce your site’s speed (as you’d see in the next point)? Consider using other image compression options like tinyjpg.com.
You can go ahead and upload images to this website and it will shrink it down by at least 50%.
Unlike back in the day, most compression tools and plugins now either use lossless compression or only reduce image quality to a point that’s barely noticeable.
This will help you save a lot of space on your website and save load time by not making users wait for images to load before rendering your site.
Prevent hotlinking on your website
Nothing is worse than someone else stealing your bandwidth. That’s how bad hotlinking is. But first…
What is hotlinking?
Hotlinking occurs when other people link to your files (images, videos, infographics) from their own websites. This practice doesn’t only steal your bandwidth but it also slows down your website. Think of it as embedding YouTube videos on your website instead of manually uploading them. If, for instance, you have some beautiful infographics, images, or videos on your site, you may find that a lot of websites are linking to those files and slowing down your website as a result.
So, how do you prevent others from hotlinking to files on your website? I’ll show you in a bit…
First, you need to check if your files (images, videos, infographics) have been hotlinked. There’s an easy way you can find out.
Type in url:example.com -site:example.com in Google and click on images.
Replace example.com with your domain name. For instance, to check hotlinked images of afrohustler.com, you should search Google with the following command:
This will show you all images which are hosted on your site but present on other ones.
Now that you know your files have been hotlinked, how do you prevent people from hotlinking to them?
There are a few easy ways to do this:
Use a CDN with hotlinking protection
Some CDN providers have a pre-built image hotlink protection system. Services like KeyCDN and Cloudflare have great built-in hotlink protection for free that you can enable easily. If you are using any of such CDNs, check whether you have hotlink protection system in them. Enable hotlink protection if your CDN has this feature.
Disable right-click in WordPress
Another thing you can do is to disable the right-click functionality on your website. This is not a bulletproof way to prevent hotlinking but it can ensure that users aren’t copying your images and linking to them on your site. A free light-weight plugin called Prevent Content Theft will help you to disable right-clicking on not just your images but also for the entire page. You can download this plugin from your WordPress repository, install it, and you’re good to go–no settings to configure.
Rename your hotlinked files
So, you checked and discovered there’s this particular image that a high-traffic site or multiple sites are hotlinking to. Simply rename the file on your site and the images on your hotlinkers’ websites will now display 404 errors. This method only works as a quick fix. You can’t use it against large-scale hotlinking.
If you suddenly discover a high traffic site or multiple sources hotlinking to a single image a simple method you have at your disposal is to simply rename the file. Change the link on your own site and let the hotlinkers stew in anger as their images become 404 errors. While handy, this method is more of a quick-fix, it’s a bit unwieldy to use against large-scale hotlinking.
Use the cPanel hotlink protection tool
If your host uses cPanel on your website’s server, you can use their hotlink protection tool to disable hotlinking. Go to your cPanel and scroll down to Hotlink Protection and click on it. Then, take a look at the cPanel documentation to know how to enable hotlink protection in the settings.
There are also countless WordPress plugins that can do the job for you as well as some advanced methods like using an FTP client. or by writing a simple code snippet in your Apache webserver. However, these will require that you at least have some knowledge of coding.
Now, you know how to prevent hotlinking on your WordPress website and increase its loading speed. Choose which option works best for you and keep on protecting your WordPress website from hotlinkers.
Minify JS and CSS files on your website
Bonus tip: Delete unnecessary plugins to speed up your WordPress website
I know you love plugins because most of them are free and they add a lot of functionalities to your website.
But the downside of having too many plugins is that it will slow down your website. Go into your WordPress dashboard, navigate to plugins, and delete or deactivate any unnecessary plugins.
Speed is an integral part of designing web pages. Data from KISSmetrics shows that about 40% of people will abandon a web page that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
And you don’t want your website to make it to this group.
If you do these things, your site is going to load faster and you’re going to climb in the rankings and grow your sales because when people come to your site, they won’t get frustrated anymore.
Before you leave, I have a question for you: Are you speeding up your WordPress website? If not, what’s stopping you?