It was reported by Search Engine Land that Google officially counts the loading speed of your website as a ranking factor – and of course we all want to rank better so what next?
Speed is not just important for search engines however, it is just as important for user experience.
Ensuring that the user experience of visitors to your website is as good as possible should be the motivation behind improving your websites loading time.
For example, a study by tagman.com revealed that a one second delay in your website loading could potentially cause a loss of 7% in conversions.
Further statistics from econsultancy.com reinforce the importance of optimising the loading speed of your website. For example:
- 47% of people expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less
- 40% of visitors will navigate away from a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load
- 52% of people state that quick page loads are important for their loyalty to a site
Those of us that use WordPress are in a unique position as there are developers out there that have taken the hard work out of optimising WordPress and bundled up their hard work into easy install plugins so even the not so tech savvy amongst us can speed up our websites.
We have pulled together our favourites in a list for you below and what makes these even better is that they are all free!
WP Fastest Cache
WP Fastest Cache has a great set of features balanced with real ease of use.
The developers have managed to find the difficult to find middle ground between being too basic and being too advanced.
Simply install and activate the plugin, run through the well explained settings and then hit save. That’s it – you’re ready to go.
With over 300,000 installs with fantastic reviews we are not the only ones who like this plugin.
- Easy setup
- One click to clear cache and /or minified CSS etc.
- Minify HTML and CSS
- Exclude posts/pages (some like admin area excluded by default)
- Set expiration times for all posts/pages or certain URL strings
- CDN integration
- Premium version available with extra features
The team at KeyCDN have developed a great light-weight caching plugin that takes minutes to setup.
It’s sparse on features but that is the point of the plugin however you do have minification options and the ability to set cache expiry time.
They also provide an excellent sister plugin called CDN Enable for those of you who require a CDN. The same principles apply to this plugin too – light-weight and easy to setup.
- Simple setup
- One click to clear cache
- Set cache behaviour
- Minification feature
- Exclude posts from cache
- Set expiration times
WP Super Cache
Straight from Automattic (the guys behind WordPress) this is probably the most widely used caching plugin.
With over 1 million active installs it must be doing something right!
It works straight out of the box with its easy setup but it also has some settings and features for more advanced users to tweak and play with to get more performance from the plugin.
- Support for multiple caching types (Mod_Rewrite, PHP and Legacy)
- Serve static html files
- Cache preload
- CDN support
W3 Total Cache
This is another of the “big boys” of the caching plugin playground with over 1 million installs. It goes beyond just a simple caching plugin however, it’s a complete framework.
There are a huge array of options available and advanced support for CDN services such as CloudFlare and MaxCDN.
All these features whilst very powerful are not the easiest to setup and if you are not entirely sure of what you can break something. This is definitely one that should be left to advanced users.
- CDN Support
- Browser caching
- Database caching
- Object caching
- And lots more
WP Super Minify
Whilst on the face of it these types of plugins are very easy to use you do need to be careful as they can cause conflicts with particular themes and plugins. The Enfold and Avada themes are ones that spring to mind.
- Very straight forward and easy to use.
Better WordPress Minify
This plugin has an advantage over other minifying plugins as it uses something called the ‘enqueueing system’ within WordPress.
- Complete control over the minification process
- Customise minify strings
- Available in multiple languages
Image optimisation is essential when considering webpage loading times. Many people upload images to WordPress at high resolutions which are not suitable for being loaded over the internet.
This plugin uses optimises your images by removing unnecessary bytes from images using something called a lossless format. The lossless format can make a significant difference in file size but you will not be able to notice any difference in the image quality.
- Strips unnecessary bytes from images
- Strips meta data from JPEG’s (this isn’t needed anyway)
- Optimizing JPEG compression
- Integrates with the Smush.it API
BJ Lazy Load
When someone visits your website their browser will try to load the entire page i.e. parts of the page that below the fold and are not visible until the visitor scrolls down.
If you website has lots of images this can be a big issue with loading times.
In reality your browser doesn’t need to load the whole page and this plugin implements the idea of ‘lazy loading’
Lazy loading is the process of only loading specific elements as and when they are needed and it can have a significant impact on loading times.
- Replaces post images, Gravatar images and post thumbnails
- Replaces content iframes with a placeholder until content needs to load
- Plugin uses jQuery to operate
- Serves scaled down images with responsive designs
P3 Plugin Profiler
The extendable nature of WordPress through plugins is not only one of its key benefits it can also be one of its key hindrances.
There is a plugin for virtually anything you can think of and even this blog is telling you to install more plugins but all these plugins can have an impact on the loading times of your website.
The P3 Plugin Profiler is probably the best thing that GoDaddy has ever come up with (this is the one and only time we will praise GoDaddy).
It shows you in graphical form the impact all your installed plugins and theme are having on your load times and allows you to pinpoint the ones that are making you website run slowly.
- View a full profile of the impact your plugins and theme have on your site
- Option to use your IP address
- Debug mode in case you run into any issues
- Various visualisations and charts
- Detailed timeline view
- Optional feature allows the report to be emailed
If you have been struggling with website loading times installing just a few of these plugins should show you a dramatic improvement.
We do need to stress however that you shouldn’t just install all the plugins on the list and expect a superfast website. You are more likely to actually crash your website!
You should remember that less is more when it comes to WordPress plugins and just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
We would love to hear your feedback on this list and of course if you think we have missed any let us know!