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Mobile speed is more important than ever for ranking. Google has been saying for a while that websites should have a mobile version that loads in a reasonable amount of time. Simply, speed matters. Whether you’re a business owner or a hobby blogger, you probably care about having your website rank.

A lot of people avoid upgrading their website speed as they have little technical knowledge and/or they’re afraid of breaking it, however this is the time to upgrade your website. I will be walking you through common “fixes” to improve your website speed, some easy recommendations for improving your website speed, and easy-to-install plug-ins to speed up your website that are both free and paid depending on your budget.

I’m not currently an affiliate for any of these plug-ins. Before you do anything, I recommend backing up your website (I use UpdraftPlus to back-up my website regularly before making ANY changes or adding any new plug-ins.

In general, hiring an expert (through your host) is a great way to speed up your website if you don’t know your way around your dashboard/CPanel.  Consider having a conversation with your host!

Majority of people want a website to load in three seconds or less. Beyond that, they might leave your website. This post is meant to help you pare down your website to help you speed up your website, so that you don’t have users leaving due to frustration! I walk you through ten easy ways to speed up your website (and why they matter) along with five free plugins for WordPress websites.

Looking to increase your website speed? No BS guide to speeding up your website with exact steps telling you what you need to do to speed up your WordPress website with tips for the best free plug-ins to improve your website speed to help you rank better. #wordpress
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Before we begin, I recommend running your website through Google’s Pagespeed Calculator

Although Google’s Pagespeed Calculator feels quite harsh (and still a bit experimental), it is a good starting point for your journey of speeding up your website.

I loved being able to see my website go from a score of 8 (out of 100!) on mobile with loading in 30+ seconds to a score of 75+ on some of my most image-heavy posts with ads. This website also improved dramatically after a small amount of work to 80+ on mobile.

Changing to a theme that loads fast on mobile

One of the hardest things for a lot of people who have time and resources into their website is admitting that their theme isn’t as fast as it could be. It took me a while to admit that the flashy cool features that came with my previous theme were loading additional images that didn’t need to be loaded and adding extra time to the loading process via cool animations.

I recommend following some of the other steps prior to scrapping your theme to get an idea of how fast you can get your theme without scrapping it.

I used to be on Divi on my main website, which is a great flexible theme that can be heavy. This website is built on Divi, however if you have ads on your website, Divi isn’t well equipped to handle this and it is worth the change. My website has almost doubled in speed since then!

Recently, a lot of new themes have been built on the Genesis Framework platform, one of the fastest platforms for WordPress at time of writing. This lightweight framework is the basis of many themes. I ended up switching to the minimalistic Foodie Pro theme.

A website with a Foodie Pro theme, which is built on a Genesis Framework.  Getting a faster theme can help you speed up your website!

The themes from StudioPress are really well optimized for speed although a bit more plain. I also considered the beautiful feminine themes from HelloYou Designs. Elementor is a Genesis-based theme that provides much of the flexibility of Divi where you can create almost unlimited possibilities as well as pay for prepaid templates. Similarly, Solo Pine themes came highly recommended to me as a beautiful lightweight alternative for website owners looking for a more minimalistic feel.

Lazy Loading Images

Not everyone will read the entirety of your website. If you love beautiful images, that’s fine, however if you have 30+ photos on a page and someone decides to stop reading your page after five, you can imagine that your website will move more slowly if a user has to load all thirty photos as soon as they arrive on their website.

The idea behind lazy loading images is that you only load the images that you need to show the end-user. The plug-ins that help with this ask make it far quicker to pull up your website on mobile, even if you have a lot of images! There are a number of plugins for this task, but my favorite by far is WP Rocket (paid) although the free version (Lazy Load by WP Rocket) is pretty good too. You can also do this with Jetpack for free!

If you have ads, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t have lazy loading for iframes and videos (although it can help) as it can impact your loading speed/ads as most ad networks have their own system independent from website owners.

Minify your HTML/CSS/Javascript

This might shock you, however any spaces in your HTML, Javascript, CSS might be making your website load slower. For the less technical of us, you have quite a bit going behind the scenes and before people can see your website and read your contents, it needs to be rendered for the screen.

A lot of people have a mess behind the scenes given that they have many plug-ins and their themes have multiple files. A good plug-in can help you prioritize what needs to load first, minimize the number of times that the server needs to ask for additional requests (e.g. data to load), and make your website seem faster to the end-user. Appearances matter! 😉

WP Rocket does this for you in their full version, however Autoptimize is a great free alternative if you’re on a budget.

Effective Caching / Preloading

Unless your website is constantly changing, you probably have content that is generally the same as well as the same images that appear in most posts. The idea behind caching is that when someone comes to your website, it already has a clear idea of what needs to go on that page for the next user. This means that your website becomes much faster although occasionally you need to clear out the cache.

Just be careful with caching plugins as some of the free ones do not update that often, which might result in serving people versions of pages that have not been fully updated yet! As a premium plug-in, I love WP Rocket for their smart caching, butWP Super Cache works well enough as a free alternative.

Effective Image Compression

One of the easiest ways to speed up your website through plug-ins is to enable an image compression plug-in. There are a number of image compression plugins although I recently switched to the free Imagify plug-in, which includes the ability to go back and compress your entire image library with the click of a button. I’m also a fan of Smush, which is less extreme.

Do you need a plug-in for that?

This is pretty simple, but most website users have plug-ins that they don’t utilize. Sometimes, these plug-ins are deactivated and/or do the same task as another plug-in. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and trim your plug-ins. Twenty is plenty.

Avoid heavy header images

One of the most common mistakes in terms of fast loading speeds on mobile websites that I see is that people want to have a beautiful header image on every page. This is completely understandable, however I’ve seen header images that were 500kb+ as they were so high quality.

High quality images are great, but you’ll want to compress your image, size it to the right specifications (ideally sized for screens), strip it of metadata (TinyPNG) and possibly convert it into a PNG file. Click for my image-focused SEO tips.

Removing unnecessary Youtube and Instagram embeds

This is not relevant to everyone, but it’s very popular right now to include embeds of your Instagram profile on your website. Both Youtube and Instagram embeds can slow things down. It’s better to just host these images on your website or include a link. It’s amazing how much faster your website will load.

Resizing your images

I discuss proper image sizes elsewhere, but majority of people will not view on your website on a monitor that is wider than 1200 pixels. Most are looking at your website on their phone, so resize your images to be a smaller size as they’ll be viewed on the screen.

I generally recommend 800px maximum. Never upload an image larger than you need it to be as it takes up unnecessary space. If you’re lazy, Imagify includes an option for auto resizing if your image exceeds 1024 pixels if you rather not think about it.

Disable avators and emojis

Usually when you look in the comment section, you’ll see cool images with avator images sometimes showing people’s faces. You can disable this using WP Rocket as well as a number of other plugins.

Similarly, you might have certain emojis that came with your computer or phone (e.g. Mac or Apple). Instead of forcing the user to download your emoji, you can have it default to their user default for emojis, which speeds things up. This is typically hidden in the advance tab of Autoptimize or WP Rocket.

A lightweight sharing plug-in

Screenshot of the Social Pug plugin, a lightweight sharing toolbar for websites!

One of the heaviest scripts on both my websites was the sharing plugin that I was using. I used to use Shareaholic regularly, however it’s quite heavy in terms of scripts. I recently switched the free plug-in Social Pug for both of my websites although I also considered Monarch.

In general, it’s best to disable share counts whenever possible as it further slows down your website as the script will automatically check the latest share count as soon as the page is loaded. You will be able to view these numbers privately, no worries!

Cloudflare* (Expert-level and more costly)

Last but not least, you might want to consider enable Cloudflare if you have 100,000+ readers monthly. This is typically done through your host and/or done by someone hired specifically to do this. Check with your host!

If you’re loading a page for a website based in Tokyo, Japan while you’re in New York, Cloudflare looks for the nearest server near you so that you can get the page to load faster. Similarly, it also screens visitors to check whether a visitor is a robot or it’s a malicious attack, which saves you bandwidth. Simply, it’s both a way of speeding up your website as well as protecting it.

The best free plug-ins for speeding up your websiste on WordPress

Autoptimize

This plug-in is great for minifying your HTML and CSS. Autoptimize is very quick to enable. Just check the boxes then save. You’ll be on your way to a faster loading website!

Imagify

Imagify, a free plugin for image compression at work compressing images to help WordPress users speed up their website on mobile!

Technically Imagify is free. This image compression plugin has several settings and can compress up to 30% beyond what I’ve seen with my previous compression plug-ins. The only cost is a little quality, but it’s barely noticeable.

WP Super Cache

Caching is a good way to speed up your website. This free cacheing plug-in will help your website pages load faster. All you need to do is check “Caching on” prior to pressing Update Status after installing WP Super Cache.

Lazy Load by WP Rocket

For those not wanting to spring for the full WP Rocket package, the Lazy Load by WP Rocket plug-in is a good alternative to enable lazy loading for your images (and videos if you choose). It’s free and only requires three checks to work.

Social Pug

I recently switched to Social Pug for fast loading social buttons. I wanted to make it easy for people to share without weighing down my websites. Social Pug was incredibly easy to set-up although the free version includes fewer options in terms of social networks. You can choose from an inline sharing plug-in as well as a floating plug-in.

Jetpack

Jetpack has several useful features, including lazy loading. I’m personally not a fan, but it’s a favorite of many WordPress users for a reason!

The best premium plug-ins for speeding up your website on WordPress

WP Rocket

Screenshot of WP Rocket, one of the best WordPress plugins to improve your website speed!

I love WP Rocket. Although I tried out so many free plugins, including those mentioned previously, it was worth the $39 to speed up my website as it took care of the caching, lazy loading, and minifying. It’s your all-in-one speed solution.

Imagify

For about $30, you can pay for a one-time upgrade with Imagify as your memory is typically limited in terms of how many images you can do in a month (enough that you won’t run out with normal use). That said, I loved the one-click option to optimize my entire image gallery.

Monarch

If you love Elegant Themes, it’s free to use this with relevant themes (e.g. Divi). This lightweight and beautiful social share plug-in is one of the most flexible options if you’re looking for an attractive sharing toolbar that is also fast. There is a much wider selection in terms of social networks, so if you need the full gambit of social networks, check Monarch.

Any questions about improving the speed of your website on mobile?