Speeding up any WordPress site can be a challenge to shave off as much loading time as possible. Experts with WordPress website optimization are often paid top dollar if they have a proven track record of speeding up complex WordPress sites, but often worth every penny. WordPress performance optimization is not a one size fits all but that each site is different and needs to be optimized accordingly. This list of items will help to make sure all is consider when looking to optimize any WordPress site for speed.
Each checklist item below is numbered in correspondence with the Master Checklist with a short summary and a link to more detailed information if available.
Master Checklist Table of Contents
- WordPress Website Analytics Setup Checklist
- WordPress Website Security Audit Checklist
- WordPress Performance Site Speed Optimization Audit Checklist [you are here]
- WordPress SEO Audit Checklist
WordPress Site Speed Checklist
3.1 Test the site with https://gtmetrix.com
There are lots of tools to test WordPress website speed, but GTmetrix is a popular solution among WordPress developers. You should be using multiple tools for measuring site speed and making sure you are not putting all your eggs in one basket as many tools discover items others miss. GTmetrix’s free solution offers a benchmark for you to begin optimizing your WordPress website speed.
3.2 Test the site with https://tools.pingdom.com/
Another great performance optimization tool that has a free website performance benchmarking tool trusted by developers. Use this tool in combination with other performance optimization scanners to evaluate your WordPress website’s performance. This tool will provide
3.3 Test the site with http://www.webpagetest.org
Use WPT as another free tool to investigate a WordPress website’s performance. Each tool helps highlight anything that might be hindering website performance that you can resolved and know it’s not hurting you even if it doesn’t help.
3.4 Test the site with https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights
Another great free tool from Google to make a WordPress site fast on all devices. It should be a goal to satisfy Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool as much as you are able, but perfect 100 scores can sometimes take a lot to achieve depending on how your site is built and where it is hosted.
3.5 Utilize a caching plugin.
Caching a WordPress websites is one of the best ways to speed it up and often most effective. There are many trusted solutions for caching solutions both free and premium. Caching a site can result in issues if not managed or setup properly but it’s worth the trouble when your site is properly cached and performing best.
3.6 Confirm your caching plugin is professionally setup as per the specific requirements of the website and server.
Some are more simple and some are more complex when it comes to setup and configuration and often the best results can be achieved hiring a specialist to configure settings for a particular WordPress site on a particular sever. Every website is different and so are the server configurations they live on and it’s a pretty steep learning curve and sometimes best to find a reputable professional, otherwise be prepared for a lot of trial and error testing.
3.7 Utilize a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
Have WordPress use a CDN to serve website files and content from the nearest server to the site visitor geographically. This not only massively speeds up the website for the visitor but also frees up the burden on the server to constantly be serving all the assets. Particularly useful for WordPress sites with a global audience and a CDN also has security benefits that prevent vulnerabilities.
3.8 Confirm the CDN is professionally setup as per the specific requirements of your website and server.
You can typically setup a basic CDN setup yourself even if you are not a professional. That said, this is another item that a professional can help fine tune and really optimize for you. Lots of variables to considers as to what CDN you use and what gets served from the CDN and what comes from your server directly. This gets more complicated with eCommerce sites as well.
3.9 Ensure ALL your images are properly compressed and optimized for web and devices.
By default WordPress does not compress or optimize your uploaded media like images. Jetpack plugin can help with this, or a number of other free and premium image optimization solutions are available. Make sure you optimize all the images on your site pages and blogs and serve them in the proper formats and no larger than they need to be.
3.10 Use an image optimization plugin to ensure future images uploaded are optimized.
Once you’ve optimize all the images on a WordPress site you need to make sure that newly uploaded or updated images also get properly optimized as time goes on. There are many free and premium solutions to handle this available to WordPress site managers. Images are often to blame for the majority of what slows down a WordPress site since they are often the largest asset your website needs to serve.
3.11 Audit your plugins to make sure all active plugins are still required and removed depreciated.
It’s common for WordPress sites to have active plugins that are not needed. Audit and take inventory of your plugins and deactivate and delete those that are not needed. This can often speed up a WordPress site, or remove something unneeded that was slowing it down previously. A professional WordPress developer can help you take inventory of WordPress plugins on any site if you are not sure.
3.12 Jetpack users make sure to deactivate unused modules in settings.
The Jetpack WordPress plugin is very robust and contains a lot of features for WordPress that are not available out of the box without the plugin in WordPress. In Jetpack settings you can disable features offered by the plugin that are not needed on a given WordPress site. Keep this in mind for other plugins, and themes as well and only load what you use.
3.13 Implement minification where possible, often part of caching setup.
Minification combines files together so your server or CDN only need the least amount of files possible while eliminating duplicate code. Minification has the potential to easily break the functionality of a WordPress site so this should be handled with extra care, ideally in the hands of a professionally with WordPress speed optimization expertise.
3.14 Optimize the WordPress database if the site is aged.
Years and years of development on a WordPress site can leave its mark with bloated databases, that contain unnecessary large and unneeded tables. There are free and premium plugins that can clean up and optimize a WordPress database but this is extremely risky if you do not know what you are doing. Be sure to have multiple database backups in place before any optimization and consider hiring a professional.
3.15 Ensure hosting company is the fastest option within budget.
Not every WordPress site requires a high power server or expensive hosting plan. And not all WordPress websites need to be the fastest site possible, rather just fast enough. Ensure that your host is delivering the value you need in terms of site speed and be willing to re-consider your host loyalty in favor of another host who puts priority of ensuring WordPress websites run fast on their servers.
3.16 Themes, plugins and WordPress are all running latest versions.
Outdated themes, plugins or WordPress core can cause conflicts or have bugs that slow down a WordPress website. Often updates include performance enhancements that you’ll want when released as typically they’ll only help your WordPress site perform better. Developers are constantly finding better ways to code the same thing and you want to reap those benefits they include in those sometimes pesky updates.
3.17 Use a ‘Waterfall’ tool to analyze each important page for slow loading elements.
Many of the tools and solution for benchmarking a WordPress website’s speed provide a “waterfall” view of how the site loads. These are very helpful visualization for determining and investigating where improvements can be made or where bottlenecks might be. Many internet browsers like Chrome and Firefox also offer tools for analyzing a websites waterfall loading.
3.18 You’ve implemented lazy loading to minimize requests on initial page load.
Lazy loading is just like it sounds, only loading what is needed to see the content currently on the screen. Such that as you scroll down those images and content can be loaded as you get to them instead of slowing down the initial page load. Lazy loading is built into many performance based themes & plugins and should be utilized so long as it does not negatively effect the website visitor’s experience.
3.19 Any embedded videos are served quickly with little or no loading time.
Take inventory of how videos are loaded or are loading on any WordPress site. Making sure they are not self-hosted in the WordPress media library which does not handle video well because they are such high bandwidth. It’s often best to use a 3rd party service to host and embed videos on a WordPress site and even then you’ll want to ensure you are using the most current embed code.
Got a WordPress website speed optimization checklist item that we didn’t cover here? Please leave a reply in the comments below.
Make sure to download the master checklist and audit all the other areas of any WordPress website.