6 Simple Steps to Speed Up Your WordPress Website

Feb 27, 2018

Hands on time: 30 min
Total time:
 ~60 min (allowing for image optimization time)
Expertise: Basic WordPress skills. 

There are plenty of reasons to want a faster website. You are most likely here because you want to speed up your site for better Google rankings, or you want to provide a better user experience for your visitors (aka potential clients). We will help you with both of those goals! Ok…if any blog post should get right into it quickly, it’s this one. Today we are all about SPEED

As a bit of a disclaimer: There are many, MANY ways you can optimize a website. Each one of the steps below could be done slightly differently, or replaced with other tools all together. This isn’t the only way to speed up your site, but is is one way that I found to work. Just remember to check your site as you go, and above all else – backup your site first!

This method will speed up most WordPress sites. The websites I have optimized using this recipe are using the most current version of WordPress, the fabulous Divi framework, and are hosted with Siteground.

What if I’m not very tech savvy?

Sometimes technical website stuff can seem overwhelming. But if you know how to log into your WordPress site and install a plugin – You can do this! I have broken it down into simple steps with screenshots showing you exactly what everything should look like. And remember, if something goes wrong, we’ve got your back. Just drop us a line on Facebook, email, call, send a postcard, whatever. Ok, let’s go…

Before You Begin

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Run Benchmark Tests

If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know if you get there?

We are going to use 4 different tests to check the performance of your wordpress site before and after we optimize it. Trust me, it is so satisfying to see your numbers drop ⤵️ and your grades go up ⤴️ after just following the 6 steps below!

Visit these free speed check sites, put your website in, and run the tests. You will get slightly different results from each, that’s why I like to do multiple tests. 

Tip: Don’t close the browser after you’ve run the tests. Take a quick screenshot of the results like you see above. If you don’t know how to take a screenshot, no problem — just pull out your phone and snap a pic! 

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BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP

This should always be the first step before making modifications to your site. Diving in to this list without a backup is like driving down the freeway without a seatbelt: Hopefully you won’t need it, but if you DO, man will you be glad it’s there! 

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Disable Cacheing

Homer Simpson: Am I Disabled

PLUGINS: Go to the Plugins page of your WordPress Dashboard. Click  in the vertical menu on the left side of the screen. If there are any cacheing plugins installed, click “Deactivate.” If you aren’t sure, look for plugins that use the word Cache in their name. 

DIVI: If you are using the Divi Theme, hover over WordPress dashboard menu: Divi Theme and click “Theme Options,” then the “Builder” tab. Make sure Static CSS File Generation is set to “Disabled” as shown here:  

Elegant Themes Divi Theme Static CSS File Generation

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Clean Up Plugins & Themes

PLUGINS: Go to the Plugins page of your WordPress Dashboard. Click  in the vertical menu on the left side of the screen. If there are plugins installed, but not activated, click “Delete.”

If there are active plugins that you know you don’t need, click “Deactivate,” then “Delete.” (Only do this if you know what you are doing!)

THEMES: Next, click WordPress Dashboard Appearance Menu Item in the dashboard menu, then “Themes.” There is no need to have a bunch of inactive themes taking up space on your site. To delete a theme, hover over it, click “Theme Details,” then click the red “Delete” text in the bottom right corner. Note: Use caution! If your active theme is a child theme, the parent theme MUST remain installed. If you are unsure, do NOT delete any themes.

 

Ok, now that we have all of the prep work out of the way…

Let’s Speed Up Your Site!

Each of the 6 steps below involve installing and configuring a plugin. To install a plugin, hover over WordPress Dashboard Plugins Menu Item in the WordPress dashboard menu and click “Add New.” On the Add Plugins screen, you can type the name of each plugin into the search box. When it appears, click “Install,” then “Activate.”

Quick Tip: Click on any image to enlarge it.

(You backed up…right??) 👍

I. Imagify

 

  1. Install the Imagify plugin.
    imagify in the WordPress Repository
  2. If you see a warning about a conflicting plugin, deactivate that plugin before continuing.
  3. Click the blue “Sign up, It’s FREE!” button. Enter your email address, then click link in email to confirm.
    Imagify sign up process
  4. Copy API from email and paste in step 2 of the prompts (see image above).
  5. Click “Go to settings” (If you closed the window and need to find this screen again, go to WordPress Dashboard Settings Menu Item Imagify in the WordPress Dashboard menu)
  6. Set settings as seen in this screenshot. Use the suggested largest size in the “Resize larger images” field.
    Screenshot of sample Imagify settings for a WordPress website by Sweet Tea
  7. Click “Save and go to Bulk Optimizer.”
  8. Choose “Aggressive” as shown in the image below, then click the “Imagif’em all!” button.

If you have a LOT of images that need optimized, you may hit the limit of the free Imagify account. You can sign up for a one-time block of optimization which should cost you $10 or less. Totally worth it. Otherwise you will have to wait a month to be able to optimize the rest of your images. If you add images to your site frequently and don’t optimize them prior to uploading, I highly recommend a monthly plan. The “Lite” plan will cover 1GB of images for 5 bucks a month. (I’m not affiliated, btw. Just a fan!)

II. WP Fastest Cache

  1. Install the WP Fastest Cache plugin.
    WP Fastest Cache Plugin in the WordPress Repository
  2. Click WordPress Dashboard WP Fastest Cache Menu Item in the vertical WordPress menu on the left side of the dashboard. This will open the “Settings” tab of the WP Fastest Cache Options area. See screenshots for recommended settings. Additional boxes will pop-up for four of the options as you proceed. Screenshots of their settings are included below, as well.
    • Main Settings Tab
      WP Fastest Cache Settings screenshot
    • Preload
      WP Fastest Cache Preload options
    • New Post
      WP Fastest Cache new post dialog
    • Update Post
      WP Fastest Cache Update Post dialog
    • You can try ticking the “Combine Js” box, but be sure to check your site to make sure everything functions properly.(See #4 below.) This one caused some issues for me, so I left it unchecked. 
  3. Click on the “Cache Timeout Rule” Tab near the top of the screen, and add a new rule as shown here:
    WP Fastest Cache - Cache Timeout Wizard dialog
  4. After all of these settings have been saved, open up your website in a new tab and make sure everything appears to be functioning correctly. If images are missing, or the layout looks wonky, go back and uncheck the following one at a time to see if they are causing the issue: Combine CSS, Minify CSS, Minify HTML, and Combine Js, if you enabled it in Step #2. When you discover the culprit, simply leave that option unchecked. 

    If that troubleshooting doesn’t work, go to your WordPress Dashboard Plugins Menu Item page and disable WP Fastest Cache. If your site returns to normal with WPFC disabled, you have a conflict with this plugin and should delete it and move on to the next step. 

III. Autoptimize

  1. Install the Autoptimize plugin.
    Autoptimize in the WordPress Repository
  2. Go to WordPress Dashboard Settings Menu Item -> Autoptimize. Click the “Show Advanced Settings” button.
    Autoptimize - click to show advanced settings
  3. Under the “Main” tab, set all settings as shown here:
    Autoptimize advanced settings part 1
    Autoptimize advanced settings part 2 
  4. Click the blue “Save Changes and Empty Cache” button.
  5. Select the gray “Extra” tab at the top of the screen and configure the settings according to this screenshot:
  6. Click the blue “Save Changes” button.
  7. Hover over the WP Fastest Cache menu in the top black bar and click “Delete Cache and Minified CSS/JS,” open/refresh your website in a new tab and make sure everything looks A-OK. 
    WP Fastest Cache Clear Cache menu options

IV. Antispam Bee

  1. Install the Antispam Bee plugin.
    Antispam Bee Plugin in the WordPress Repository
  2. That’s it! The default settings should work just fine. Hover over the WP Fastest Cache menu in the top black bar and click “Delete Cache and Minified CSS/JS,” open/refresh your website in a new tab and make sure everything looks A-OK. 
    WP Fastest Cache Clear Cache menu options

V. BJ Lazy Load

  1. Install BJ Lazy Load plugin.
    BJ Lazy Load in the WordPress Repository
  2. That’s it! The default settings should work just fine. Hover over the WP Fastest Cache menu in the top black bar and click “Delete Cache and Minified CSS/JS,” open/refresh your website in a new tab and make sure everything looks A-OK. 
    WP Fastest Cache Clear Cache menu options

VI. WP-Optimize

  1. Install the WP-Optimize plugin.
    wp optimize plugin in the WordPress Repository
  2. Configure the settings as seen here:
    WP Optimize - recommended settings
  3. Hover over the WP Fastest Cache menu in the top black bar and click “Delete Cache and Minified CSS/JS,” open/refresh your website in a new tab and make sure everything looks A-OK. 
    WP Fastest Cache Clear Cache menu options
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Let's See How We Did!

Remember those benchmark rankings you took a little while ago? It’s time to run the speed tests again to see the fruits of your labor! Hop back over to the same four performance testing sites and run your website again. 

Don’t forget to take screenshots of your new super fast speeds! Post the before and after pics on the Sweet Tea Facebook page – we can’t wait to see the results!