These days, in order for your business to survive online it has to be competitive. And that is not just in regards to pricing or quality, it’s also about the speed and usability of your website. There are a number of other factors, but the purpose of this article is to outline the pieces of your website that need your attention when you are thinking about WordPress performance, and to help you speed up the page load times and gain the advantage in a saturated market. For this guide, the solutions we provide are using W3 Total Cache with the aim to be improving your page load times and SEO game.
If you aren’t using WordPress, then this is probably not the article you are looking for. Seriously, why are you not using WordPress?
All the Speed Testing Tools – What do they mean?
There are a ton of speed testing tools out there, and you should always take their results with a grain of salt. There will always be bad routes, DNS lookups that time out and distance factors that ultimately affect the numbers. It does not matter what tool you use, here it is suggested to use the WordPress performance testing tools that best suit your needs.
Here at BoldGrid, we recommend using Speed Coach and Google’s PageSpeed Insights. At the end of the day, we are optimizing for Google’s search results, so ignoring their suggestions is never a good idea. Speed Coach’s website speed test is used best here with the scheduling feature that is available as a standalone service,, helping you to get “at a glance” notifications about your website performance on an interval you set.
Why Should I Care About PageSpeed?
Recently, the team over at Chrome announced they will soon start shaming websites that they consider slow. This can have a huge impact on your results and user base, so if your business is an online model, the speed of your website should always be on your mind.
Remember the last time you were on your phone, and waited more than 3 seconds for a website? Me neither, and that is why making sure your website optimization strategy is a strong one is such a priority. There has also been tons of research about the speed of your site having a direct correlation to your conversions, but at this point you get it and I won’t waste your time talking about why any longer. Let’s get into the basics of what you will need to know to get the most out of your WordPress caching and performance optimization strategy.
Images Have a Huge Impact on Website Performance
First, we should take some time to outline the things that have the biggest impact on page speed. That would start with images in most cases, and the more you have per page, the worse the problem becomes. That is okay though, because we have a few things we can do to help stay ahead of the game.
Lazy loading is also known as deferring offscreen images, which just makes sense. The concept is that when you load a website, you should only need to load the things that are in the viewport, leaving the resources that are more than a certain distance away from the viewport to load as needed. If you are using a WordPress website, setting up lazy loading is pretty easy to accomplish with most any WordPress performance plugin, and I would always recommend W3 Total Cache.
Compressing images is another common way to help speed up website load times. There are a ton of tools online that you can use, but if you are really looking to make a visual impact you may want to use your image editing program locally, and adjust the quality until you can see a difference, then dial it back just a little. You can also find some WordPress plugins that take care of this for you, but in my personal experience the manual approach has been the most effective.
Format, and WebP
Using Google’s proprietary WebP image format can get you instant results. According to Google:“WebP lossless images are 26% smaller in size compared to PNGs. WebP lossy images are 25-34% smaller in size compared to JPEG images at equivalent SSIM index. ”
There are a few services out there that will integrate with your WordPress website and handle the conversion for you. If you use a CDN to serve your images, then this could be easily handled for you. In most cases, I recommend W3 Total Cache with StackPath, and it is pretty easy to set up.
WordPress Page Caching
If someone asked you what 7 times 5 is, you would be able to respond without thinking about it, right? That is the concept of caching, and all you really need to know here is it is faster. To get the best performance out of your WordPress page cache, you want to use what is known as an in memory store instead of storing and serving cached files from your disk. When we are discussing the speed of hard disks we are measuring them in milliseconds, and when we talk about RAM, that discussion is had in nanoseconds.
Enabling Page Cache is going to have a positive impact on your page loads, because it caches the response given by the server in an HTML file rather than recalculating all the code and communicating with PHP and MySQL repeatedly.
Redis vs Memcached
Redis and Memcached are both storage systems for your servers RAM that can be leveraged by your website to deliver data much faster than traditional disks or SSD’s. For most sites that are running on a VPS or Cloud instance, setting up an in memory store will be easily accomplished. For those not familiar with Linux or command line, usually you can contact your host and have them set you up.
Once you have the Redis or Memcached Service installed, setting it up with your WordPress site can be done pretty quickly if you use a WordPress caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache.
An opcode cache is a system to cache the result of the PHP code compilation to bytecode, storing the result as cache to provide when a similar request is made. There are a few different opcode cache systems available, and your choice between them usually depends on the PHP version you are running. PHP-FPM has this capability built in, and is the recommended choice in most cases.
Database caching is another way to speed up the request and response process for your website’s code. When setting up your caching plugin and site, toggling database cache on and off while testing is the recommended approach, as sometimes performance can be degraded by slow queries and a number of other factors.
Object caching is another way to store database queries and when enabled it can help speed up PHP execution times, reduce the load on your database and server, and ultimately deliver content faster. This is another option that may cause performance issues if you do not have enough resources, so be sure to toggle it on and off while testing to decide what is best for your WordPress optimization strategy.
WordPress Browser Caching
Browser cache is unique because it is local to the user, and can be leveraged to really speed things up for people who visit your site frequently. When this is enabled, your webserver tells a user’s browser to keep certain files, so they can be retrieved quickly, and not have to be downloaded again.
Gzip or Brotli Compression
When someone visits your website, there is a request to the server to send the files. The bigger these files are, the longer it takes. Gzip and Brotli are types of compression that makes these files smaller, reducing the time it takes to transfer the files. In W3 Total Cache you can choose between the two if they are available on your server, and we recommend that you choose Brotli for the best results. If it is not available, you should contact your host to see what your options are.
Using a Content Delivery Network for WordPress Websites
A CDN, or Content Delivery Network is a way to serve the content from your website to people more quickly and efficiently, based on their geographic location. Using a CDN will give your users faster load times since the server providing your files will be the one closest to them. With integrations for multiple providers such as StackPath, AWS and CloudFlare, W3 Total Cache can help you get your CDN up and running faster than ever before.
Now that you have an understanding, it is time to dive in and start configuring your WordPress Performance. There are more advanced options you can configure to gain a competitive edge, such as Varnish, NGINX and much, much more. I would personally recommend you get a start now on enabling the configurations that are listed, and then slowly iterating to ensure your site stays high in the results, and moves blazing fast. Learn more about configuring W3 Total Cache on your VPS or Dedicated Server by following these simple steps.