Top WordPress Plugins for Speeding Up Your Website

wordpress plugins for page speed

As a content management system for websites ranging from blogs to businesses, WordPress is hard to beat. It’s fast to install, easy to use, very secure and under constant development. One thing WordPress isn’t, though, is fast — at least not on some shared hosting platforms. Companies that sell shared hosting often put as many customers as possible on the same servers to maximize their profits. For customers, though, overselling of shared hosting services often leads to websites that are slow to respond to database queries or exhibit poor performance during periods of heavy traffic. Does your website give users a poor experience because of slow speeds? No problem. The active WordPress development community has created a large selection of WordPress plugins that can resolve your website’s speed issues. These are our favorites.

W3 Total Cache

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W3 Total Cache is a plugin that saves all of your website’s posts and pages as static HTML files. Why is that important? When a user requests a post or page from your website, WordPress renders the content dynamically by pulling information from an SQL database on your server. To render a single page, WordPress may need to perform several database queries. A caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache performs the database queries once and saves the results as an HTML file. The next time a user views the same page, WordPress sends the HTML file rather than querying the database. It saves time and reduces server load. Periodically, W3 Total Cache removes old HTML files from the cache and creates new ones to ensure that any changes you make are reflected in the content that your users see.

W3 Total Cache is the most popular and most configurable caching plugin for WordPress. It has some options, though, that could potentially hurt your website’s performance with some hosting companies. If you’d like to use W3 Total Cache, check your hosting provider’s help files for a recommended configuration.

WP Super Cache

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W3 Total Cache is arguably the most powerful and flexible caching solution for WordPress, but it isn’t the easiest plugin to configure. If your hosting company doesn’t provide configuration advice for W3 Total Cache — and you’re afraid of doing something that might break your website — consider WP Super Cache instead. You’ll still enjoy a speed increase, but you’ll also get a “Simple” mode that handles all of the configuration for you.

WP Super Minify

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Each time a user loads a page from your website, he or she needs to download a significant amount of raw code. HTML code contains the structure and content of your page. CSS code determines your website’s overall design. Your website may also use JavaScript code to enable advanced functionality such as drop-down menus, featured sliders and contact forms. WP Super Minify compresses all of that code so your users can download it more quickly. The two caching plugins recommended above can also minify your website’s code. If you aren’t comfortable using a caching plugin, though, WP Super Minify is a great alternative.

WP Smush

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Unless your website hosts video or audio files, images are likely the largest individual files that your users will download. If you don’t use an image manipulation utility to compress your images before uploading them, your users probably spend too much time downloading images. Downloading the images from your website, compressing them and uploading them again is too much work — that’s why you should use WP Smush. In a single automatic batch operation, WP Smush can compress all of your website’s images for a massive reduction in download times. You can choose the level of compression; if you like, you can use light compression that doesn’t reduce image quality. You can even have WP Smush automatically reduce the dimensions of unnecessarily large images.

BJ Lazy Load

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Does your website have long posts with several images? A post with many images may have an extremely long download time — and time spent downloading images that aren’t in the viewable area of a page doesn’t benefit the user. Enabling lazy loading reduces download times by deferring image downloads until the user scrolls down to the areas in which the images should be. Since BJ Lazy Load uses placeholders for deferred images, it doesn’t alter your website’s layout. The placeholders also let users know that images will appear shortly. BJ Lazy Load uses the JQuery JavaScript library to power its functions. If your website already uses JQuery — as many WordPress websites do — BJ Lazy Load should not increase page download times on your website.

Heartbeat Control

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Do you leave the WordPress administrative interface open on your computer most of the time — even when you aren’t actively writing? Does your website have multiple users who may write and edit content simultaneously? If either of those scenarios apply to your website, Heartbeat Control can reduce the load that you and other users place on your server. By default, your browser connects to WordPress every 15 seconds to save your work, display messages from plugins and let you know when users are editing posts. If you have many users connecting to your server four times every minute, though, the combined load can become significant. Heartbeat control allows you to reduce the number of times per minute that users’ browsers connect to WordPress.

Of course, it isn’t lost on us that using too many plugins can itself cause performance issues. For this reason you should also consider code optimizations, hosting and other factors that impact site speed.

Do you have any other tips or advice on speeding up WordPress? Do you have any questions about your site performance specifically? Hit us up in the comments.