Don’t Let a Slow WordPress Site Kill Your Traffic

In his 1995 song “Too Much Fun,” country singer Daryle Singletary waxes philosophical about things that are impossible, such as having too much money or a car too fast, or being too lucky, or (of course) having too much fun. They don’t exactly fit in a country song, but a couple more items for this list would include:

  • Too much bandwidth
  • A website that loads too fast

Both of these related factors—bandwidth and site loading speeds—influence your ability to attract and retain visitors. You can’t do much about this first one; your hosting service probably already has as much bandwidth as they can get, and you can’t buy extra bandwidth for all your site visitors. That leaves site loading speed. Yep, it’s time once again to talk about slow websites and what you can do about them.

Tips for Speeding Up WordPress Sites

In case you missed the memo, slow websites drive away visitors. A sad irony is that as broadband becomes more widely available, users’ expectations increase, making them even less patient with slow-loading sites. So if you want to keep your visitors around long enough to make paying customers of them, it behooves you to optimize your site for page loading speed. The same advice for websites in general is applicable to WordPress sites, but there are some additional things you can do in WordPress to give your site’s loading speed a boost.

  • Add-in management: There are zillions of plug-ins, widgets, utilities, and other stuff you can add to your WordPress site. Some are essential, some others are just “cool,” and the rest are useless. The trouble with all these add-ins is that they add to the data that has to be sent to the site visitor’s browser with every page load. And that means longer loading times. Loading speed is influenced not only by the sheer number of plug-ins, but their quality: Some are better designed than others, and a poorly designed plug-in can really hurt your loading speed. The two takeaways here are: Decide which plug-in functionality you actually need (read: adds value to your site), and select the best-designed ones that fill those needs without sacrificing loading speed.
  • Software updates: Among the objectives of the WordPress development community is making the base WordPress software more efficient, so keeping your site up to date with the latest WordPress software is a key task for enhancing site loading speed. As an extra added benefit, you also get bug fixes and security enhancements and bug fixes, so keeping your site up to date is a win-win for everyone involved. It is a bit of work, and you need to make sure your site still behaves as expected (in a test environment) with the new software version, but if you choose your plug-ins wisely, there should be few, if any, issues.
  • Content delivery network: If your site has a good deal of large-size content (such as graphics, audio, and video files), consider enlisting the aid of a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN is a service that distributes your content on servers to various data centers around the world and automagically serves that content from the nearest data center to each user. This frees your site’s web server from being bogged down with delivering heavy content to all visitors.
  • Other tweaks: Other things you can do include showing excerpts of blog posts on your blog page, rather than full blog articles; including social media sharing widgets only on blog pages (not every site page); implementing “lazy loading,” which loads additional content only as the visitor scrolls down the page; and more. Many of these tweaks are readily available as WordPress plug-ins.
  • If all else fails: If you’ve tried everything and your site still loads slowly, the problem may be your web server. Consider migrating to a hosting provider that is optimized for WordPress, such as WP Engine.

It may be impossible to have a site that loads to fast, but it should load fast enough to keep your visitors engaged. Try these tips and get your WordPress site—to paraphrase another country song—on the road again.