HOW TO GET YOUR WP BLOG RUNNING AT WARP SPEED
By Terry Kyle
Chief Dog Lover/CEO, WPX Hosting
If you’re not a very technical person and you’re probably not if you’re reading this, speeding up a painfully slow WordPress site can seem difficult to say the least.
So I’m going to lay out – in NON-techy language – the simplest ways to massively accelerate your WordPress website, based on 5 key areas.
#1 – THE FORCE IS STRONG WITH FAST HOSTING
One of the main reasons I co-founded WPX Hosting back in 2013 was that I was totally fed up with the slow speed, lousy support and deceptive marketing of hosting companies back then.
Things aren’t massively better in the Web hosting industry today, as you can see from how the so-called ‘big names’ in hosting are currently reviewed by their real customers here.
And one of the biggest misconceptions about web hosting is that ‘cheap hosting’ e.g. a few bucks a month for ‘unlimited this’ and ‘unmetered that’ is fine because the site seems fast enough to the customer when they are on the site.
However, apart from usually awful support, that type of hosting usually goes down under much of a traffic load, such as from an email promotion or launch, or you find that the ‘unlimited bandwidth’ promise was basically a scam and your site visitors see this, usually during an important moment for you or your client:
That’s because buried DEEPLY in the Terms of Service of hosting companies seemingly offering ‘unmetered’ or ‘unlimited’ bandwidth or data transfer are statements like this:
For example, let’s check on Matthew Woodward’s recent speed test results with a seemingly cheap host like Hostgator and their ‘managed WordPress hosting’ service (if you pay monthly, it’s actually more expensive than WPX Hosting).
Here we can see how Hostgator – a company with a TERRIBLE reputation on Trustpilot.com – performed around the world in terms of speed – measured on GTMetrix.com – compared to the main players in WordPress hosting today, including WPX.
Here’s the Dallas, USA result:
and Vancouver, Canada:
and now moving OUTSIDE North America to London, UK:
Hong Kong, China:
And finally Sao Paulo, Brazil:
And here’s how the same WPX test site performed on speed for Pingdom Tools, if that’s your preferred gauge (London location here):
and how does this blog page that you’re reading now do on Pingdom Tools?
Matt Woodward’s test results above show how much of a difference hosting makes to the speed of your WordPress blog.
If you’re not with WPX, is your current host getting anywhere near the speed of WPX?
And Matt not only saw our superfast site speed in action but also our SUPPORT SPEED where Live Chat Inc, our live chat software provider, has independently verified that WPX Hosting AVERAGES 32 seconds response time AND fixes any site-threatening technical issue for you, for free:
FACT: On Trustpilot.com, arguably the world’s largest customer website, WPX Hosting is ranked at #1 out of 202 hosting companies.
#2 – GRAB YOURSELF A FANCY ‘CONTENT DELIVERY NETWORK’ CONTRAPTION
If you’re not familiar with exactly what on earth a ‘Content Delivery Network’ is, think of it as a network of computers across the world copying your website content to each machine.
Why this matters is pure SPEED.
For instance, let’s say that you’re a marketing software entrepreneur with your main website hosted in WPX Chicago where we use the world’s largest datacenter.
In this case, your site will load very quickly in North America
visitors – potential customers! – to your site from Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa will see much sloooooooooooooweeeer load times as your site content has to be pulled from Chicago to wherever those far-away visitors are looking at your site from.
You are using a high quality Content Delivery Network and your visitors outside the US are seeing content loading from servers near their location.
In the case of WPX’s own custom, high-speed CDN, the ‘WPX Cloud‘, we have heavily optimized our global CDN to run with our own technology stack and WordPress specifically and that’s why WPX crushed other (often much more expensive) hosting services, even those using CDN’s like Cloudflare, Stackpath/MaxCDN and KeyCDN:
So if you care about the viewing experience for visitors to your website from around the world – IF relevant for your online business – and you probably invested a LOT in time, paid ads and/or SEO to get people to your website in the first place, why wouldn’t you make sure your blog is running on [a] superfast hosting, with [b] a good quality Content Delivery Network.
We still have more to do IF your site isn’t running insanely fast, namely auditing your installed and active PLUGINS.
#3 – STOP DRAGGIN’ ROUND ROGUE WP PLUGINS
Plugins are extra bits of software you can add to your WordPress site to get different extra functions e.g.
While that sounds great because flexibility is one of the best things about WordPress, in reality it’s more complex.
That’s because many well-meaning software coders and developers making their WordPress plugins have little to no idea about the impact of their code on hosting servers or other plugins, some of which can be devastating in terms of resource usage.
One of our (super expensive and slower) competitors, WP Engine, even outright ban about 70 plugins and remove them from customers’ sites when detected:
So how do you know which WP plugins are killing your loading speed and which ones are fine?
Here’s my best advice:
- Open up your plugins page on your WP Admin page
- Consider whether you actually even use or need each plugin there (most likely you are hoarding a bunch of plugins that you have long since forgotten about, we all do it)
- Deactivate and remove the unwanted/unused/unneeded plugins
- Now deactivate all the remaining plugins, yep, switch them ALL off
- Then, using Pingdom Tools, GTmetrix OR your own favorite speed testing tool, test how fast your page reportedly loads (read more on that below), with the plugins gradually turned on, one at a time, then speed test again, activate another plugin, speed test again etc, until all are activated
- This should show you which boat anchor is masquerading as a WordPress plugin
- When you have identified the nasty bugger, look for alternatives in Google e.g. ‘alternative to PLUGIN NAME’
Auditing plugins periodically is good practice in future too.
#4 – GET CONTROL OF GODZILLA IMAGE FILES
We should all be using high quality images on our websites these days BUT good images can be huge files and that can slow down your website while they load.
And even though good CDNs use caching (storing) files to avoid pointlessly reloading the same file each time for different site visitors, some image optimization is good practice for your site speed, ideally done when you are first creating new Posts or Pages in WordPress.
For example, here is a recent UNoptimized image of a beautiful shelter dog, Liska, that I ALMOST adopted this last Christmas (though going from 3 to 4 dogs at home + 5 cats would have been pretty crazy – he has a great home in Germany now – you can read about WPX’s work with homeless/shelter dogs here), this file is NOT optimized and weighs in at hefty 1.8 Mb:
1.8 Mb is a LOT for just ONE image on a blog that could have many images and with a few small optimizations, made with the excellent free Paint.net tool, the file size shrunk down to 135 Kb – can you actually see any quality difference between the 2 images?
And all I did in Paint.net was:
- Change the image format from .png to .jpeg
- Reduced the JPEG quality from 100% to 80% (this is usually fine though some photos need higher quality, depending on their composition)
- Reduced the image size to the column width of this blog, namely 1070 pixels (anything bigger than your blog width is stoopid and wasteful)
With those three changes, the file size decreased from 1.8 Mb to 135 Kb!
Here you can see the drastic file size difference:
That’s a super easy speed fix.
#5 – MISREADING SPEED TOOLS
At the time of writing, the main website speed testing tools are:
However, each one has a certain way of working that can be confusing when it comes to accurately measuring site speed.
And I struggle to see the value of Google’s Page Speed Insights tool in its current form when Google’s own mass-traffic websites get scores like this, but load INSTANTLY when I visit sites like Youtube.com on mobile:
If we look at Youtube.com’s load speed on Pingdom Tools:
we see similar weirdness.
How can it be that one of the world’s busiest websites, owned by Google, has a much much slower REPORTED load time than this blog page that you are reading right now?
The main reason why these sites load almost instantly to your human eye but have slow to very slow reported loading times in Google’s own tool, Pingdom Tools and GTMetrix is that these tools measure the TOTAL load time for every single element on the page to finish loading (in the background), even though the main content of the page appears instantly for human visitors, like you and me.
What do I mean by these elements ‘loading in the background’?
Webpages can contain a lot of elements that have to be pulled from other servers, apart from your main Web hosting server.
Such elements include things like:
- Google Fonts
- Ad network content
- Gravatars for blog comments
- Google Analytics
- Facebook widgets
These types of elements are notoriously slow and your Web host can’t do anything about that as those servers belong to other companies.
In the Pingdom Tools so-called ‘waterfall’, we can see this type of content adding to the REPORTED loading time of the Youtube homepage, even if that page loads instantly for us when we visit there to watch the latest funny raccoon videos, which are totally awesome, by the way:
So which tool should we believe and trust?
Well, these tools DO have value but we have to be careful how we interpret the info they give.
For example, if your site loads pretty quickly for you BUT you see a crazy slow load time on Pingdom Tools or GT Metrix from all of the 7 testing locations around the world (run the scans 3x for the most accurate results) then follow the advice above on checking the load times of content coming from 3rd party servers ‘loading in the background’, like from Google or Facebook.
And don’t forget that plugin audit we also talked about!
If the reported slowness in the speed tools is only from Google or Facebook or some ad network, then you’re probably fine as that doesn’t normally impact how quickly a real person sees your website load.
you should also run a free test on this service with 25 ‘virtual people’ on your website at once to see what happens to the page loading time and if it blows out badly or not when you have some traffic.
WPX Hosting offers free speed optimization advice for its customers and that way, we can identify the speed bottlenecks for you while you get on with running your online business.
Just contact us via the live chat widget on your screen now.
That’s how we do things at WPX.
Always here to help
Chief Dog Lover/CEO