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January 05, 2023

From SEO to conversions, to user experience and beyond, page speed has a direct correlation to the success of every website. Improving your WordPress speed optimization techniques can expand reach, increase click throughs, and ultimately lead to more revenue for your business. As you can see, having a fast loading website is pretty important.

To improve your WordPress site's speed and front-end loading, you first need to test site load time to see the assets loading in the waterfall of results. You can do this by using site testing tools such as WebPageTest or GTmetrix.

Once you test your site speed, use this guide on how to speed up WordPress and make your website load faster. Fix problem areas and use these best practices to ensure you have a fast loading website.

Keep reading to learn how to make your WordPress website load faster so you can provide better experiences to your site visitors.

9 WordPress speed optimization tips to try

Once you have assessed your page load time with WebPageTest or GTmetrix, you may find areas to improve. If you’re unsure of how to increase website speed, here are a number of steps you can take.

How to make your WordPress website load faster:

1. Backup your WordPress site

Before you go about implementing the following page speed optimization tips, you’ll need to backup your WordPress site. Any time you plan on making changes to your site that might impact site images, visual look, or site functions, then it is important to create an on-demand backup in the portal of your site.

2. Create a staging site

When learning how to make a website load faster, you don’t want to break anything on your site accidentally. That’s where a staging site comes in.

A staging site is the ideal environment to test site optimization changes without impacting your live site. Disabling site assets from plugin assets on selective pages and testing out the minification of CSS and JavaScript is also ideally tested on a staging site. Once you know that the changes you make do not break the site visually or disable a feature from working correctly, the same changes can be made to the live site.

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3. Remove unnecessary and unused plugins

Next, review your site’s plugins and check which plugins are inactive. Remove duplicative functionality in plugins. For example, you don’t need to use multiple form plugins or security plugins. Pick which plugin solution works best for your site’s needs and keep that plugin active. If you have many inactive plugins that are no longer used on the site and data has been migrated over, then uninstall those plugins.

4. Optimize site images

If you’re wondering how to make your website load faster, be sure to examine the images on your site. The types of images you have impact front-end site size and load time. Optimizing images by bulk site optimization, as well as whenever new images are uploaded to a site, will reduce disk usage in the uploads folder on your site's server.

Optimized images will also reduce the site size and improve your site's load time. Recommended plugins with services include TinyPNG, ShortPixel Image Optimizer, and EWWW Image Optimizer.

Here at Nexcess, we recommend our integrated Nexcess Page Cache or the W3 Total Cache plugin as full-page caching solutions. The W3 Total Cache plugin also includes minification and CDN integration features built-in, so it reduces the number of extra plugins you need to use.

5. Try object caching using Redis

In addition to full-page caching, also consider using an object caching solution to ensure a fast loading website.

Here at Nexcess, all managed WordPress and managed WooCommerce plans come with an Object Cache Pro plugin solution for Redis — at no additional cost. Redis object caching works with your full-page solution, since they cover different but complementary caching types.

6. Disable unneeded assets (CSS and JavaScript) from loading

Using the test results from either GTmetrix or WebPageTest, look at the waterfall. It will show you the site assets loading on your site. From there, take a look at the slowest assets.

Plugins can end up loading their assets on every page and post on your site rather than to a specific page. That means you can end up with many unneeded CSS and JavaScript files across your site.

For example, if you are running a WooCommerce store, then the payment gateway plugin could be loading its assets on every site page when they should only be loading on the cart of the checkout page.

When reviewing your waterfall results, pay special attention to POST admin-ajax.php requests. Admin-ajax.php requests loading on the front-end of your site increase PHP worker usage and bypass all caching in place on the site.

You can find the plugin that is using that request by looking at the response and then tracking the action back to a plugin. Some common plugin types causing that slow request would be a popup plugin or an email opt-in plugin.

Check how many third-party analytics or tracking scripts load on your site. Externally hosted scripts can be slower to load depending on how fast they are to serve site visitors. It is possible to serve web fonts and analytics from the server, which means you get the gains of browser caching and serve those assets from a CDN.

7. Enable browser caching

Nexcess uses NGNIX with Apache as part of the server stack. This means that you get the gains of NGNIX being used as a reverse proxy along with NGNIX micro-caching of site assets, and you can still use the .htaccess file that Apache reads.

Browser caching using expires should be set by the full-page caching plugin solution you are using. However, if not they can easily be added to the .htaccess file on the site's server.

8. Update the PHP version used

It is not recommended to use a PHP version that has gone EOL (end-of-life). Security updates for it will no longer be produced and the PHP version will no longer be supported. Using newer PHP versions will also improve the performance of your site. The minimum version of PHP that is recommended to use is PHP 8.0. WordPress is working to improve PHP 8.1 support in core.

9. Use a CDN provider

If you have site visitors across different geographical regions, it is recommended to use a CDN. The integrated CDN solution from Nexcess works with many plugins such as WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache, or a basic plugin such as CDN Enabler.

Site assets being served from the Nexcess CDN can be purged in the site's portal and from the site's admin bar. Other recommended third party CDN solutions include Cloudflare, BunnyCDN, or StackPath.

A number of third party CDN solutions support on-the-fly image conversion, which means that site images will be served to site users using next-gen image formats such as WebP or AVIF if their browser supports it.

Bottom line: WordPress speed optimization

Now you know how to make your website load faster with these expert WordPress speed optimization tips.

Taking all of these steps can help you work toward having a fast loading website, which will improve organic ranking, conversions and revenue, and more. Site speed is important for site users and having an optimized site will lead to fewer performance issues during high-traffic times.

If you’re not a Nexcess customer yet, check out our fully managed WordPress and WooCommerce hosting plans, which come with a lightning fast CDN, Object Cache Pro, automatic backups, plugin monitoring, and more.

Check out our plans to get started today.

Luke Cavanagh
Luke Cavanagh


Product Operations Manager at Nexcess. A devoted husband and tween wrangler. Synthwave enthusiast. Jerry Goldsmith fan. Doctor Who fan and related gubbins.