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Website Speed Optimization Manual for WordPress

You have to make a decision right now: Are you going to be in the slow lane or fast lane? If you don’t make that decision and follow these steps to make your site faster, you probably never will. So, make the right choice and choose the fast lane!

Let’s be honest: everyone knows there are tons of things you can do to make your site faster, but we are going to focus on 3 easy things that don’t take much time and will have the biggest impact on your website’s load time.

fast highway

Credit: Alex Green Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/101703978@N02/15460912518/

Yes, these 3 things are going to cost a little bit of money, but they are the best, quickest things you can do to improve your site’s loading speed. You could spend more time and perform speed load optimizations for free, but those few extra hours could probably be spent more productively elsewhere in your business and make you more money.

Compress Your Images with Kraken.io

One of the easiest things you can do is compress your images, but you have to do it the right way. The first thing you want to do is make sure you use Kraken.io. It is the best image optimization tool on the market, PERIOD.

For the first month, you can sign up for the Basic Plan for $9 a month which allows you to compress 2 gigabytes of images. After the first month, downgrading to the Micro Plan for $5 a month will save you money, while still allowing you to compress 500 megabytes of images each month.

Kraken.io has a WordPress plugin you can use to compress all of the existing images in your media library. Currently, it does not have the feature to compress all of your images with one click, but it is a feature currently in development. Any images that you upload in the future will be compressed automatically.

Once you have signed up for the Basic Plan and installed the plugin, you need to activate the plugin.

Step-by-step instructions to use Kraken.io to optimize images on your website

  1. Go to Settings and Media
  2. Enter your API key and secret (found within your Kraken.io account)
  3. Choose the Lossy optimization mode
  4. Click Save Changes

If you are more of a visual person, the screenshot below should help.

wordpress speed optimization

Original Image Courtesy of Kraken.io – https://wordpress.org/plugins/kraken-image-optimizer/screenshots/

Next, compress all of the existing images in your media library.

Follow these instructions:

  1. Go to Media and Library
  2. Select the icon that looks like bullet points with straight lines
  3. Click on Screen Options (top right hand corner) and change the Media items to 100 and click on Apply. Now there will be 100 images per page instead of 20, which will make the process go faster.
  4. Click within the white box right below Bulk Actions which will select all of the images
  5. Select the dropdown menu for Bulk Actions and click Krak ‘em all and click Apply.
  6. Now wait until all the images have been compressed, and repeat this process for all of the pages until all of the images in your media library have been compressed.

kraken image optimization tool

Credit: Kraken.io

Spring Cleaning Time with WP Optimize

You probably know that you should be deleting things as you go along with your site, but do you?

One of the most common times to do this is with redesigns of a website, which happens every 12-24 months for most sites. However, even then, you probably don’t do a complete spring cleaning – if you do it at all.

Today, I encourage you to go through and delete everything that you don’t need, particularly old comments. Whether they are in pending, spam, trackbacks, or pingbacks, approve or delete them. Due to their spammy nature and the little value they provide, it is smart to delete all existing trackbacks and pingbacks on your site. Also, disable them so you don’t get any spammy ones in the future. An easy way to delete all of the trackbacks and pingbacks on your site is to use the plugin WP Optimize.

All of the posts and pages that have been sitting in the drafts folder for a few months are probably safe to delete as well.

What about the old themes on your site that you aren’t using and are deactivated? Out they go!

The big one, though, is all of your plugins! For some reason, most sites have a large number of activated, unused plugins that are adding requests (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files) and slowing those sites down. If you aren’t using a plugin on a regular basis, deactivate it and delete it.

The last area you should go through is all of the files on your server, either in file manager or FTP. Go through the root folder of your site and the whole /wp-content/ folder and delete everything you don’t need.

Warning: if you aren’t very technical and aren’t familiar with the site you are doing this to, don’t do it! You might want to hire a consultant to do this for you instead.

Now that you have cleaned everything up, make a full backup of your database. If you don’t have a backup solution already, you can use phpMyAdmin or the plugin WP Database Backup. Make sure you have a full, locally-stored backup of your database or one stored in a safe external spot before proceeding.

With that full backup completed, use the plugin WP Optimize to optimize your database.

wp rocket cache tool

Credit: http://wp-rocket.me/

Caching your WordPress Website with WP Rocket

The two most recommended plugins for WordPress performance optimization are W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. However, if you want the best solution and don’t want to spend all day configuring it, WP Rocket is the way to go.

WP Rocket’s single site license costs $39, but it is very easy to set up and the best caching plugin on the market. W3 Total Cache has been overloaded with options over the years, requiring at least several hours for each site you optimize to find the best performance-tuned configuration for that site. WP Super Cache is easier to set up than W3 Total Cache, but is still more complicated than WP Rocket to configure and doesn’t come with nearly as many features.

Once you have purchased your license, install and activate the plugin on your site.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Configure WP Rocket

  1. Go to Settings and WP Rocket
  2. Under the Basic Options tab, check the box for “Enable lazy loading images and Enable Caching for Mobile Devices.”
  3. Change the Clear Cache Lifespan to 1 day. If you don’t make many changes to your site, you could make this as high as 8 days, but you should start off at 1 day. In the future, you can always increase the amount of time.
  4. Click Save Changes.
  5. Go to the Tools tab, click on the Clear Cache button and then the Preload Cache button.

You are now done configuring the easiest and quickest options of the plugin with the most results.

Two other recommended options are the minification and concatenation section under the Basic options tab along with the content delivery network (CDN) tab. If you do configure the minification and concatenation section, make sure you configure the JavaScript section under the Advance Tab for all of the JavaScript files that are currently loading in the footer of your site.

And, just like that: with three small, easy-to-implement changes to your site, you can enjoy faster load times without losing your mind!

Which one of these 3 things helped with your site’s load time the most? Let us know in the comments below!

19 replies
    • Caleb Lane
      Caleb Lane says:

      Thanks for the comment!

      WP-Optimize is helpful for sure.

      Here a few suggestions for your site:

      1. Improve time to first byte (1.5 seconds – should be closer to between 200 and 400 MS)

      I see you are using CloudFlare and there time to first byte is normally in that range ALWAYS. Just in the last few days have there been issues across a lot of sites I track on CloudFlare. Looking into it deeper now…

      2. Cache things longer than 24 hours through Maxcdn.

      3. Spread out requests over multiple subdomains through Maxcdn.

      4. Instead of using WP Super Minify use Autoptimize. Combines the files better than WP Super Minify which will reduce the amount of requests for you by quite a bit.

      Cheers,
      Caleb Lane

      Reply
  1. Harshajyoti Das
    Harshajyoti Das says:

    Amazing Caleb, in fact I was searching for a plugin that would compress my existing images. I optimize all my images using imageoptimizer.net but was struggling with existing images.

    Kraken will specifically be useful for a couple of auto blogs that I run. Thanks Matt for inviting Caleb this time.

    Got another question for you Caleb. I use ‘W3 Total Cache’ for page cache. Apart from the installation and crazy tweaking part is WP Rocket any better?

    Cheers!
    Harsh

    Reply
    • Caleb Lane
      Caleb Lane says:

      Thanks for the reply. It won’t compress your existing images automatically, but you can use the bulk option in the media library which makes it a pretty fast and easy process.

      For most sites, I am seeing better results from WP Rocket over W3TC. Plus as you mentioned the configuration part is a lot easier.

      Reply
  2. Ryan Biddulph
    Ryan Biddulph says:

    Hi Caleb,

    Awesome tutorial here on speeding things up. My developer just did a total overhaul of my blog. It was a big, big project because I had speed issues. Now I’m running things at a quicker clip, I’m seeing more traffic and things are flowing smoothly. I know my designer did many of the same things you advise above. It’s funny; just getting the knowledge and putting it into use makes all the difference in the world. Be open, and the teacher will appear. You Caleb, are a speed demon lol.

    Great post!

    Tweeting now.

    Ryan

    Reply
    • Caleb Lane
      Caleb Lane says:

      Thanks for the reply and tweeting it Ryan. I really do appreciate it.

      It really isn’t that hard, but there are still a lot of slow sites out there.

      I’m glad you took the time to speed up your site and it sounds like you are seeing the results.

      If you ever have any questions contact me and I will do everything I can to help.

      Reply
    • Phillip Dews
      Phillip Dews says:

      Hahaha, I just left a comment below RB, talking about all these things as well!
      It sure was a huge overhaul!

      Did you notice also that you uploaded a load of pics and images to the root directory of the site dude! Anyway I spent a few hours moving those bad boys to the Uploads Folder, where they should of been in the first place. May be worth going though them at some stage and get rid of the on’s that are not in use on the site.

      Thanks for the vote of confidence once again RB.
      – PD

      Reply
  3. Timothy Torrents
    Timothy Torrents says:

    Great tips on how to speed a website up! I’m new to blogging and I use a simple theme with WP Super Cache and everything seems to be fine. In the future, I’ll set up some of these plug-ins. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Caleb Lane
      Caleb Lane says:

      WP Super Cache is pretty good. I’m glad you plan to try a few of these things out in the future. If you have questions let me know on Twitter or through email.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  4. Hamza Sheikh
    Hamza Sheikh says:

    No doubts, these are awesome tips. I am one of those who spend hours on fixing code and settings just to avoid any other millisecond in loading the WordPress blog.

    I have been using W3TC with my custom preference to improve the load speed of website. I have never heard about the krakern.io, but I am thinking to give it a try. Thanks man!

    Reply
  5. Phillip Dews
    Phillip Dews says:

    Hi Matthew & of course Caleb,

    Just thought it about time that I should pay a visit the the great Search Decoder seeing as were both on RB’s list!

    Speed as well as security is one of my obsessions when it comes to WordPress and of course custom sites for that matter! This past decade I have gleaned a lot of knoledge on these subjects that is currently stored in my noggin. There is also plenty of space left in there though to learn more on the many subjects related to Web Dev.

    Have looked at Kraken and it looks awesome so will prob try it out, what is $9 a month these days hey, I sure can afford that. Been using WP Smush it up untill now that and thats pretty good for people who who dont want to spend the $9 / $5 p/m (Skinflints hey).

    Another thing I would recommend is PNG Gauntlett by Benjamin Hollis. This is an awesome download that I use everyday (infact it attached to my toolbar permanently) and is also Free which as we all know is great especially for Web Devs like myself. The download itself combines PNGOUT, OpiPNG & DelfOpt to create tiny file size png’s. I use it mainly when I am designing and developing .

    I love WP Optimize, I use it on all of mine and my clients sites! Have to agree with you about deleting all the old themes! As you well know I recently overhaled RB’s Blogging from Paradise. In Fact the theme was just the start as I did a load more to it than just design build and install! RB now has just 1 theme on there and that 1 Is mine. One thing I was adamant about is using code over images. why use a png for a layout when a little css code can do the same exact job!

    I am also brutal when deleting old and dated plugins! Once deleted I usually go into PHPMyAdmin and find the tables that the plugin installed on there and Drop those badboys like a hot brick, This is not for the faint-hearted though and I always export a back up of that DB first, just good practice to adopt in my opinion.

    Top Tip Always think about if you really do need a plugin before installing it, will it make a difference to your blog or site. If in doubt don’t install it! I have come across people who think that the more plugins the better and the faster the site will go! Not the case people.

    Not heared of WP Rocket before, will have to check that out! After loads of practice though I am very adept and configuring W3 now and use that on all the sites I develop! I also use both Cloudflair and MaxCDN which again is not for the faint-hearted but a little time googleing and patience anyone with a couple of noggin cells to rub together can get a grasp of these.

    One last thing I would recommend is getting the best possible host for your £, seems to me everyone raves about HostGator and other top names but some of the smaller guys can do a much better job! Take mine and RB’s host for instance, their rates start at £3.something a month and we get 3 free daily backups that are free to download (compaired to HG’s 1 weekly that you have pay for, well I did when I was with them). SSD disks now as standard. 24/7 ex-MOD security staff and server located 25 meters underground.

    Hope I left you guys some food for thought anyway! Have an excellent and productive day gentlemen.
    – PD

    Reply
    • Matthew Capala
      Matthew Capala says:

      Hey Phillip thanks for the awesome comment, it really blew my mind!

      Let me know what you think of Kraken, it’s really cool and low cost, Caleb installed it on my site and it went from slow to fast real quick

      What are you working on these days?

      Reply
      • Phillip Dews
        Phillip Dews says:

        Hi Matthew,

        Apologies for the lateness of the reply. At the mo I’m juggling 5 websites for clients and have just launched my redsign, plus been working on a (not so) secret side project of mine. Just busy earning pennies for our trip to NYC later in the year as were both hitting the big 4-0 (that’s Lou and I) and will be meetin up with RB and Kelli so looking forward to that.

        Quite a busy bee though but still keeping my weekends free to work on my own projects! What about you? Anyway going to add kraken seeing as I just launched my new redesign!

        Enjoy the rest of your weekend Matthew!
        – PD

        Reply
    • Caleb Lane
      Caleb Lane says:

      Hi Phillip,

      Kraken.io just compresses images so much more than WP Smush It you can’t not use it. If you have sites that you don’t want to spend that monthly price on, go with Compress JPEG and PNG Images (https://wordpress.org/plugins/tiny-compress-images/). It allows you to compress the first 500 images per month free. It also compresses images about the same amount as Kraken.io.

      Thanks for recommending PNG Gauntlett. I haven’t heard of it before. I will have to check it out.

      A lot of developers use images over CSS. I agree with you that CSS is the far better option.

      For the bigger sites, I use CloudFlare and Sucuri Cloudproxy. I very rarely see a need for CloudFlare and another CDN like Maxcdn for example. Why do you use both?

      With W3TC you can sometimes get better results than WP Rocket, but for most people the options in W3TC are hard to understand and WP Rocket is far more effective in terms of making the configuration process 10 times faster and easier.

      Yes, most people just live with having a bad host across all things not just performance.

      Thanks for the comment and have a good one!

      Cheers,
      Caleb

      Reply
      • Phillip Dews
        Phillip Dews says:

        Hi Caleb,

        Once again apologies on the lateness of the reply! as I said to Matthew above I been rather busy of late! Cannot really answer that though as not sure why am using both, read a lot of posts that recommended that.

        Totally agree on W3TC as it does take a lot of patience, was thinking of upgrading to the pro version, have your tried it at all? Have never hear’d of Sucuri before, I assume that’s a hosting company!

        Have you tried the PNG Gauntlet yet? Thoughts?
        Anyway Caleb enjoy the rest of your weekend!
        – PD

        Reply
  6. Caleb Lane
    Caleb Lane says:

    Hi Phillip,

    No worries. Okay, I was curious if you had any data to backup using both helped, but it sounds more of a intuition thing.

    Yes, I have used the pro version of W3TC. W3TC provides advantages on dedicated hosting environments and multiple servers, but other than that I have been using WP Rocket mainly. W3TC outperforms WP Rocket on some VPS servers, but rarely.

    After looking into it, I really didn’t see any advantages it provided over Kraken.io and it can only compress PNG images so that is annoying as well.

    Cheers,
    Caleb

    Reply

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