I used to build WordPress websites thinking content is king.
If my content is good, it will get noticed. People will like my website and they'll come back to see more of my articles.
Seems logical, right?
But it doesn't work that way. Not exactly.
People are always in search of high-quality content, but they want it fast.
If your site has amazingly written, well-articulated articles but takes more than 5 seconds to load, it's invisible. Not just to Google (because they care about speed, too), but also to the regular web surfer.
The world will never see your hard work because waiting for a website causes friction and the higher the friction, the quicker people will lose interest and click away.
It's a frustrating thing to grapple with, but what kind of article would this be if there wasn't a silver lining?
The good news is this: there are plenty of tried-and-true ways to speed up your WordPress site, and you absolutely don't need to be a tech wiz to set it all up.
Here are 7 of my favorites.
1. Choose A Fast Hosting Provider
I say it a lot on this blog, but only because it's hugely important:
Fast and reliable hosting is the foundation for your blog's speed and overall performance.
If you want to be able to deliver your content quickly and prepare your website for viral posts, random traffic spikes, and keep it secure against hackers or malicious bots, you need strong hosting.
I wrote a number of articles talking about the hosting providers I do recommend, but for now, here's the most important read.
When deciding on a hosting provider, it's important to remember that everything about your blog's performance stems from that decision.
No matter how many plugins you install or speed experts you hire, it can't make up for bad hosting.
That's why I always recommend beginner and advanced bloggers alike opt for similar hosting plans.
Why start with a slow beginner hosting plan if you're trying to grow your online presence and be taken seriously?
For me, the choice is simple: invest time and energy into hosting from the get-go and save yourself the headache of annoying website migrations in the future.
2. Set Up A Caching Plugin
Caching sounds like this super complex techy thing, but it's a pretty simple concept at the core.
With caching, a snapshot of all of your blog posts and webpages are created – these are your cached pages and they can be served to your readers at lightning-fast speeds.
Without caching, your website has to work much harder to load up your blog posts every time someone comes to your website.
WordPress blogs, especially, stand to benefit from caching a lot because of how much dynamic content they have.
What's Dynamic Content?
To get the most out of caching, it's always a good idea to set up a caching plugin.
In reality, there are a ton of WordPress caching plugins out there and a lot of them are difficult to configure or have settings that offer no real value to most bloggers.
Believe me, I've tried most of them.
Bloggers need a plugin that works well, doesn't take a lot of time to configure, and can actually boost speeds.
My go-to caching (the one that runs this blog right now) is called Flying Press, and I have nothing but great things to say about it.
The set-up process is smooth, the user interface is incredibly well-designed and minimal, and most importantly: the settings make sense and actually provide real value and speed improvements.
Definitely read the post I linked above if you're interested, it goes in-depth into all the configurations and settings you'll need to have your blog loading fast.
3. Opimitze Your Images And Media
Images are crucial to bloggers, but are also a huge pain point for loading speeds.
Compared to text, images are incredibly heavy resources that use up a lot of computing power.
If your blog posts have multiple images, maybe even an embedded MP4 file or something similar, this can double or even triple load times.
Unless you optimize your media.
In general, there are several tried-and-true ways optimize your media for WordPress:
- Load any images in the proper size that's needed (mobile pictures are smaller than those for the desktop version, for example)
- Defer loading of any images that aren't immediately visible when a page loads (i.e. lazy loading)
- Serve media from a content delivery network (we'll talk about that one later)
Let's address the first two points:
Load images in the right size, and make sure images that aren't immediately visible are loaded later on (when they're needed).
In most cases, the best way to handle these problems is with a plugin.
Remember how we talked about Flying Press as a caching plugin in the previous point? Guess what, it also optimizes media too:
Here's a quick snapshot of my Flying Press dashboard, with all the media optimizations we talked about properly configured.
With the Add Width And Height Attributes option, we know our images are specified to the right dimension.
The Lazy Load Images setting gives us the option to use the browser's lazy loading mechanism (this is recommended), and even specify images that should be excluded based on keywords.
If you'd rather use a separate plugin for image optimization, that's a solid option, too.
EWWW Image Optimizer was my plugin of choice for a while, and it always performed really well. It even has a setting called EasyIO, which takes care of pretty much everything for you.
Their pricing isn't exactly cheap, though. Plans start at $7/month for one site (for the EasyIO services).
Still, with EWWW Image Optimizer media loads blazing fast and the set up is painless – in most cases, it just works out of the box.
4. Reduce Plugin Bloat
Plugins are great for adding extra functionality to your WordPress blog, but they can be a major speed bottleneck if you're not careful.
Here are some popular plugins that most WordPress speed experts recommend you avoid:
- Thrive Architect
- Divi Builder
- WP Bakery
- Backup Buddy
- Uber Menu
- Beaver Builder
And plenty of others.
So why did these plugins get on the no-fly list but others made the cut?
More often than not, plugins that slow down your website do so because they have a lot of unnecessary or bloated code to run properly.
JetPack is a prime example of this. It has so many features that most people wouldn't even want on their blog, but it's an all-or-none package: even if you only want to use Jetpack for one thing, you have to download the whole plugin.
And that's why I recommend avoiding it – it's not worth the benefit to download such a huge plugin for only a handful of features.
Here's how to take action: check how many plugins you have in your WordPress backend and really consider which are essential versus which are expendable.
Try to be as selective as possible with your plugins and pick a few good ones that offer lots of functionality you need, rather than installing a bunch of large plugins for small fixes.
5. Pick Your Theme Wisely
Themes are one of the main reasons why WordPress is so popular for beginner and advanced bloggers alike.
We have access to a marketplace of virtually infinite choices and can design websites quickly because the theme providers do most of the heavy lifting getting everything set up.
Sadly, this isn't ideal for page loading speeds.
Most modern theme shops try to create products that cater to a wide variety of potential customers: designers, agencies, bloggers, e-commerce shops, and so on.
But most people (myself included) only use their themes for one website. This means the majority of the settings, code, and files in those all-in-one themes go unused and can add a lot of unnecessary weight to your site.
So, what's the alternative?
Pick themes that don't cater to a lot of use cases, or buy a premium theme that is built with high coding standards and performance in mind.
The theme running this blog, Blocksy Pro, is a perfect example of this:
The attention to detail and quality is incredible, and after being on Team Blocksy for a little while now, I can't imagine switching back to any other theme.
That being said, I understand that Blocksy's aesthetic might not be for everyone.
It's also a relatively new theme on the marketplace with a handful of available starter sites, so it's not ideal unless you're open to designing a site from scratch or with the few demo options availble.
For more variety, I'd recommend checking out a premium theme marketplace, like StudioPress:
StudioPress is an industry favorite for WordPress themes. They're known to be highly performant, well-designed, and easily customizable (for both developers and non-techies, alike).
If you're in the market for a theme, keep these in mind and your future self will thank you. Your theme should just work, and definitely shouldn't hamper your site's loading times.
6. Deliver Your Content With A CDN
Let's first look at what a CDN is and then we can understand how to set it up for WordPress.
In technical terms, here's how a CDN works:
Here's what this means for you:
CDNs offload content delivery from your host's server, minimizing bandwidth costs, improving load times, and even offering additional security benefits.
Although they can't fully replace your hosting provider, CDNs are often used as a complement to strong hosting and can take your website's performance to the next level.
I always recommend bloggers set up Cloudflare for their WordPress site – not only is it free, but it's also the fastest CDN and most established network out of all the options available.
Lucky for you, I wrote a quick-start guide that goes over everything you need to know:
If you have 20 minutes and an internet connection, you can set up Cloudflare.
It runs Happy Healthy Techie (plus 25 million other websites) and was one of the best decisions I made for my blog to date.
7. Keep Your Website's Backend Updated
A bunch of things keep WordPress blogs running in the background, but for now we only care about two: your PHP version and your WordPress core.
PHP is the programming language that WordPress is built on and usually goes through changes every once in a while as developers release new features or bug fixes.
Occasionally, large PHP version updates can bring speed and performance enhancements, so it's always a good idea to be running the latest stable version of PHP on your website.
There are several ways to update your PHP version, but it really depends on your hosting provider's situation. If you have access to CPanel, you can change any necessary settings there (here's a tutorial article).
Otherwise, for most managed hosting providers there should be a place in your dashboard to change PHP. Here's how it looks in mine:
As far as WordPress core updates, those you'll be able to do right from your website's dashboard.
Given how integral it is for most admin-related processes, the WordPress core undergoes pretty regular updates for speed and security and is just as important as which PHP version you're running.
When you see a notification for updates, it'll appear in your WordPress admin like so:
There's a dedicated section right at the top specifically for WordPress version updates, so be sure to check there regularly.
The Bottom Line
The internet is an increasingly competitive jungle, with speed being one of the primary factors for success and recognition.
Blogs with similar content are competing for a limited amount of attention, and it's no surprise that people naturally favor those that are easy to browse.
This means well-designed blogs with snappy response times consistently outperform slow and bloated ones.
But speed optimization can be a daunting task, especially if everything sounds techy and unfamiliar.
To get the most bang for your buck, I recommend focusing on the following things:
- Upgrade to stronger hosting – guide here
- Install a caching plugin – guide here
- Set up a CDN service – guide here
These first three steps are the most essential by far. Once those are in place, be sure to check out the other tips in this post and your site will be blazing fast in no time.
Have questions about anything on this list? Let me know in the comments below – I respond within a day and would be happy to help!