Basics of WordPress Optimization or How to Accelerate Your Website

by Dimitriy T.



How to Perform WordPress Optimization, Improve SEO and Website Load Time

One of the most critical steps in SEO promotion is WordPress speed optimization of website pages. If your platform is slow and its pages need more than 3 seconds to load, your customers will leave it and might not come back. Thus, your conversion rates will deteriorate, and you will lose money.

Decreasing web page load times assists brands in attracting more new visitors to their resources, retaining their existing audience, reducing bounce rates, increasing page views, and improving rankings in SERPs.

Considering the impact WordPress optimization services have on business success, let's discuss what can cause a decrease in portal speed and how you may strengthen it. In this article, we shall also cover SEO services and how it affects website performance. This article can become a handbook and a roadmap for all online business owners on the way to better indicators.

WP Performance Optimization: Why Is It So Vital?

First of all, let's figure out the meaning of WordPress performance optimization and how business owners can use it to succeed.

It is a procedure that improves website promotion metrics through the efficiency of PHP server-side scripts, MySQL database query performance, etc. A thorough analysis of the portal will help identify the key areas of work to eliminate potential errors and find the right way to improve the performance of the platform.

If the initial WordPress site optimization is done correctly, then you only have to maintain your website's performance. Nevertheless, if the pages still take too much time to load, the following problems will occur:

  • Users leave the resource and look for alternatives. In this regard, Google conducted studies and found that more than 50% of users leave slow sites. Hence, if a web page needs more than 4 seconds to load, there's a great risk that your visitors will leave the platform and never return again;

  • A poor WordPress speed optimization service negatively affects search engine results. Just like users, search engines do not like slow websites. The system checks page waiting and closing rates, and then lowers the resource to the bottom in search results if the portal does not meet the norms.

Exceptions are when users are willing to forgive a slow page loading speed (the website is familiar or it's a government organization, social network, etc.).

How to Make Sure That Your Site Is Fast Enough?

Before getting to optimization, you should test your platform speed and find out if it needs any adjustments at all.

It often happens that website owners will estimate the speed of their resources from their computers only. In this case, the site will, of course, load much quicker as your browser saves all frequently visited websites in the cache (special storage space for temporary files). For that reason, you need tools that help see how fast your portal is for other users. Try Google PageSpeed Insights, for example. It's a free tool that helps not only identify but also eliminate any problems that slow down your resource. Thus, the tool will often recommend removing JavaScript and CSS.

WordPress Performance Optimization: Speed of a Website Loading

Let's talk about statistics and theories that will help you realize the most optimal time for loading pages so that your clients would want to use your resource. And this is where it's safe to say that a slow portal has pages that need more than 3 seconds to load. Therefore, the optimal load time is about 2 seconds.

To boost your WP website metrics, you are to use special tools designed for WordPress speed and performance optimization, as listed above. Bear in mind that experts do not recommend using a single service/tool - to get an objective website assessment, you have to apply several tools/services. These may be Pingdom Tools, WebPagetest, GTmetrix, and many others.

So what can cut your website speed? Here's a small checklist with several reasons:

  • Large and heavy files. Of course, large images or photos may look perfect on your desktop, but it's important to consider WordPress mobile optimization. It is through tablets and smartphones that users are increasingly visiting online stores. Files that weigh a lot will definitely be problematic;

  • Excessive plugins. Such modules do an excellent job of expanding the capabilities of the resource, making the work with it convenient for both users and administrators. However, too many of them may adversely affect your WP website performance. Besides, some plugins might also be incompatible with each other, which impacts negatively on your website load time;

  • Hosting problems. There may be several reasons that associate reduced speed with hosting: improper configuration or its type;

  • Excessive interactivity. Specialists that provide WordPress SEO services confirm that audio/video files help retain/attract existing/new portal users. Nonetheless, a large number of them can have a negative impact on page load time;

  • Third-party resources. You may add videos from YouTube or social networks to your website pages, but keep in mind that such actions will affect the speed of your resource;

  • Outdated tools. If your existing WordPress optimization plugin needs an update, your online store speed will be lower. Other cases include WP plugins that are incompatible with the WP version, which is another reason for reduced portal speed;

  • Overloaded database. Spam comments, drafts, and other messages will not bring any benefit to your website, let alone speed it up;

  • Excessive code. Technologies such as CSS and JavaScript simplify platform development and help build unique and fast solutions. However, if your code on WP is too long, the effect will be quite the opposite.

8 Proven Ways to Boost Your Website Speed

When we have figured out the need for WordPress performance optimization and the problems that lead to slow pages, let's dive into the methods you can use to raise your website performance and speed.

The following methods and tools can become quite helpful:

  • Pagespeed and GTmetrix performance testing;

  • Plugins for WordPress optimization;

  • Image optimization, compressing, and lazy loading;

  • Database and SQL optimization;

  • Heartbeat optimization;

  • Caching;

  • Using CDN (Content Delivery Network);

  • Updating WordPress, PHP, and plugin versions.

1. PageSpeed and GTmetrix Performance Testing

Website speed affects the ranking of pages in search engines and, consequently, determines what kind of profit the business will have in the future. Before getting to speed optimization, you are to test your website, which can be accomplished via the special tools mentioned earlier.

The test results will depend on the chosen tool, as each of them has its own methodology of verification. Therefore, for proper analysis, you should use several tools. That said, GTmetrix offers free testing with WordPress page speed optimization analysis and provides a fairly detailed report with scores and ratings. The only nuance lies in the limitations on the number of tests per day.

The PageSpeed tool or PageSpeed Insights can also be used for free. It will allow you not only to test your web pages but also to get useful recommendations for improvements. Unlike GTmetrix, PageSpeed Insights does not suggest any setting changes, e.g. location or screen resolution.

2. Plugins for WordPress Optimization

These plugins may offer smooth website operation and excellent portal speed results for simple and complex resources.

WP plugins provide minification or, in other words, are responsible for removing unwanted characters from the code. They are able to minify your site's HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Some plugins are also used to clean databases, defragment MySQL tables, for WordPress database optimization, etc.

In addition, there are many other tools to help strengthen the resource. As such, SEO plugins that evaluate and enhance website content for search engines.

However, you are to be careful with plugins if you are going to install a few of them at once. Some of them are incompatible and, therefore, may not function correctly.

3. Image Optimization, Compressing, and Lazy Loading

Large images slow down the portal speed. This fact leaves you with far fewer visitors and customers than you could ever have.

Online marketplace photos allow one to view products and visualize services, which greatly encourages visitors to make a buying decision. Therefore, such images have to be of high quality. In case your pictures on the website are slow to load, your customers will probably be quick to leave and never come back.

WordPress image optimization offers rational solutions that will help compress an image without sacrificing its quality and, therefore, boost overall site speed. The same goes for SEO images.

Experts recommend using WordPress image optimization plugins that help compress large photos. Some of them also have the ability to convert various images.

4. Database Design and SQL Optimization

A poorly designed database can affect SQL query, hence the overall performance of the portal. Dealing with structured query language (SQL) can be challenging because even the smallest change can affect the overall condition of the website. Database design optimization can be performed manually or with the help of WordPress database plugins.

In the case of manual optimization, it can be done in the four stages:

  • Thorough analysis (database index check and identification of problems via tools for analyzing the response time);

  • Action plan (roadmap development for adjusting the database);

  • Optimization (SQL query optimization, SQL code optimization, and database index management);

  • Monitoring (initial and actual performance indicators comparison).

WordPress uses MySQL software as a database management system. With WordPress MySQL optimization, all information becomes more organized, which frees up more memory space. Besides, the technology can augment the user experience and overall performance of the resource.

5. Heartbeat

The WordPress Heartbeat optimization plugin is used to perform routine tasks of providing information in real time. The Heartbeat API allows web browsers to communicate with the WP application when you're logged into your admin panel. Moreover, it provides instant synchronization of data on the server and dashboard.

The technology helps diminish the load on the website. However, it may sometimes lead to unfavorable consequences related to the CPU usage on the server, i.e. its reboot. In this case, there's no need to completely stop using WordPress Heartbeat - it's enough to limit its impact. You can do this with the Heartbeat Control plugin.

6. Caching

Caching is a process of storing data in a cache, i.e. a temporary storage area. According to the process, website elements and its pages are not generated anew for every visitor. As a result, the load on the server is reduced, and the information stored in the cache is delivered to the user much faster.

In terms of WordPress speed optimization, caching allows you to increase the page load time for users, save server resources, improve your website's search position in Google, etc.

For caching, special services, with functions aimed not only at data storage in a cache but also at improving SEO results, CSS, and JS-code optimization, are used.

7. Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A content delivery network (CDN) is a geographically distributed network infrastructure that provides fast delivery of content to users of web services and websites. CDN servers are geographically dispersed to make response time for users of the portal/service as short as possible. It allows you to manage traffic by more rapid processing of user requests. CDN is especially useful when a B2B or B2C website has a user database outside the geography of the business. The technology helps achieve optimal page speed and improves the user experience and competitiveness of the business.

The main advantage of a CDN is that organizations do not need to bear the cost of deploying and operating their own infrastructure, software, and high-performance communication channels to store and quickly provide large amounts of content to a large number of users simultaneously. Especially, since the cost of maintaining such infrastructures steadily increases as they age.

There are quite a few CDN providers on the market. One of them is Cloudflare, a secure CDN that utilizes proxy servers and an advanced computing architecture to provide data and content in the fastest and safest way from the cloud. Through Cloudflare WordPress optimization, static content is automatically cached, and dynamic content is quickly delivered. The service also allows you to monitor and block suspicious traffic.

8. Updating WordPress, PHP, and Plugin Versions

Updating your WordPress website should not be a matter of discussion but rather a compulsory procedure under any circumstances, even if it seems everything is fine and you have all the functionality you need. WP updates increase security, give you more tools and features, and improve your website's load time. The same can be said about PHP and WP plugin updates.

Mobile Optimization: Which WordPress Performance Optimization Plugin Is Better?

Businesses use mobile versions of websites to meet the needs of their users and target audience. To maintain their normal performance and speed, mobile resources also require attention. For this, a special WordPress page speed optimization service, i.e. a plugin, can be used.

If you still have doubts about whether you need a mobile-optimized website or not, you should analyze your TA (again) and find out what devices your audience uses most often. Or, you can simply trust this article and believe that more than 50% of traffic comes from mobile devices, and the figure is growing every year.

Once the process of mobile WordPress optimization is over, you can count on the user interface, higher rankings in search engines, and enhanced brand credibility. You can achieve all this by using the best WordPress plugins for mobile optimization, including the following options:

  • WPTouch;

  • Smush;

  • AMP;

  • EWWW Image Optimizer;

  • Mobile Smart;

  • WordPress Mobile Pack;

  • Lazy Loader.

In addition to the above plugins, you shouldn't forget about image optimization. Thus, all your website photos and images should automatically adjust according to the orientation, from portrait view to landscape view and vice versa.

The previously mentioned EWWW Image Optimizer and Smush plugin will help with WordPress image optimization for different sizes and formats. The Lazy Loader plugin helps minimize data transfer and reduce portal load time.

What Is WordPress Search Engine Optimization?

Before getting to the question of how website speed affects SEO, let's define what SEO is and why the process of optimization plays an important role in website development.

SEO or search engine optimization is a set of actions focused on improving the position of the website in search engines. Before talking about WordPress SEO optimization, let's find out if WP-based websites are looking friendly towards the optimization process at all.

Even at the stage of WP CMS development, the developers tried to simplify the use of the platform for average users and search engines. And they succeeded. Today websites are perfectly indexed by search engines. Consequently, it’s easy to achieve success in the WordPress performance optimization process and get the resource both in the top 10 and top 3.

The process of SEO optimization begins with the choice of theme, and it must comply with all the rules of promotion. Therefore, it's important to consider the following things:

  • HTML and CSS standards;

  • Header tags and heading elements;

  • Page load time (less than 3 seconds);

  • Adaptability, and more.

SEO WP consists of the following main stages: technical page optimization, internal optimization, and external optimization. Proper implementation of every stage will raise the website in search engine rankings.

WordPress SEO optimization plugins are important tools as they are designed to optimize the promotion strategy. These include services such as Yoast SEO, SEOPress, W3 Total Cache, All in One SEO Pack, Broken Link Checker, SEOquake, Rank Math, and many others.

The main purpose of such plugins is to perform in-depth SEO analysis, which helps follow all the parameters of web optimization. However, despite all their effectiveness and relevance, you shouldn't forget that the abuse of WP plugins can lead to negative consequences related to website performance.

How Does WordPress Speed Optimization Affect SEO?

Your website may look perfect, with SEO experts doing a great job on keywords and content, you can update it regularly, and still not see the expected results in search results. Often the problem lies in the performance and speed of the website, as Google has its own requirements for page speed optimization WordPress. And if the website does not meet the standards, it goes down to the bottom.

The logic behind all this is that a slow website equates to a negative user experience, and, therefore, cannot be promoted.

To check how fast your resource is, you can use Google PageSpeed Insights (GPSI), which will evaluate your project from 0 to 100 points and, if necessary, provide recommendations on WordPress SEO optimization and error correction. The GPSI metric helps identify the following factors:

  • Initial content load time;

  • Speed Index (SI);

  • Time to Interactive (TTI) Score;

  • Page load time;

  • Approximate input lag time;

  • Page response time.

Keep in mind that metrics, specified in the tool, will be different for desktop and mobile versions.

Best WordPress Speed Optimization Services

WP offers quite a few plugins that can help you reduce your website load time and, consequently, simplify the promotion process. You can use dozens of such tools, but you will end up facing security, compatibility, and speed issues. Therefore, it's also important to know how to choose the right plugins, so as not to complicate it all.

Here are a few WP tools that you should consider:

  • WP Super Cache is a popular and fairly simple caching plugin that not only can boost your website but also reduce the load on the server;

  • W3 Total Cache can be used to conduct WordPress performance optimization. The tool contains quite a few options for caching (page cache, object cache, compression, and more). The only disadvantage is that the plugin can be difficult to master for some users;

  • Sucuri is mainly responsible for website security. However, one of its main advantages is the ability to provide content before the request from the user reaches the resource;

  • Perfmatters is a plugin that increases website load time by reducing HTTP requests and disabling unnecessary plugins. In addition, it's able to remove unused CSS and optimize the database;

  • WP Rocket is a versatile WordPress performance optimization plugin with some useful features including CSS Minification, Remove Unused CSS, Delay JavaScript Execution, etc.


Website speed determines the profitability of your business. Therefore, you should by no means neglect WordPress speed and performance optimization. In addition, there are enough opportunities and solutions that can help you create an ecosystem for the efficient operation of the resource in just a few clicks.

In this article, not only basic concepts and problems, which often become the reason for website speed reduction, are described but also the ways and means of solving them.

May your website be fast and help you reach new heights.


Why speed is important for your WordPress site?

Website load time hugely affects its rankings in SERPs, as well as the probability of purchase, user experience, and brand reputation. That's why businesses are looking to improve their website's performance and speed metrics.

How to check your WordPress website load time?

Website speed can be assessed with special software tools, many of which will not only tell you page load time but also determine what slows down your website. You can try PageSpeed Insights from Google.

What plugins should I choose for my WP website?

There are over 55 thousand different plugins for WP, including plugins for backups, WordPress optimization, SEO, social media, and so on. You can find the most suitable one by analyzing your website performance and identifying problems that need to be solved.

Can I optimize my WordPress website on my own?

Yes, you can. However, there are a few nuances often faced by those who plan to optimize the WP-based websites for the first time. If you are one of them, then Google Page Speed and GTmetrix plugins can help you do everything right. They are easy to use and provide valuable tips on how you can properly optimize your website.

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