If you’ve been following my posts about improving WordPress load times then your starting to realize there is a lot of work that needs to get done behind the scenes to make it all work. From optimizing WordPress, to using CDN services such as CloudFlare and MaxCDN, and finally the Plugins used. The combination of all of these are used together to help speed up load times. Take a look at the list below for the plugins I recommend using to speed up your WordPress load times.
How Much of a Speed Increase Will I Get?
This is a valid question I’ve been receiving lately. As I’ve been going through other people’s websites attempting to optimize them to get them to load faster. I’ve found out a few issues that I never ran into – even on the dreaded HostGator.
Hosting – Your Biggest Potential Stumbling Block
Your Host is going to be your most limiting factor. If you are on a cheap shared hosting plan? Don’t expect these plugins to get you down to the magic 2 second load times. Another issue I’ve found with hosts such as GoDaddy, Site Ground, and WP Engine? Plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache won’t work since they have their web servers configured differently.
Make sure to do your research before investing in a host to see if they allow these types of plugins to run on their web servers. It will save you a lot of headaches.
What About If I’m Using a CDN?
You can still benefit from using the plugins listed below. If your using MaxCDN? They have online tutorials which will walk you through setting up popular Cache plugins. If you are using CloudFlare? It might get a bit more complicated. They are more of a “hybrid” CDN service. You will need to play around with their configuration if you plan on using the plugins below.
Tip: After installing the plugins listed below. Make sure to clear the cache on both WordPress AND the CDN Service your using. Then give it a few minutes for the CDN to re-populate (catch up) before testing.
All I’m trying to say here is this: Plugins aren’t going to fix issues related to the Server your on or the Network. These are out of WordPress’s control. So the short version is this:
Warning: Your Results May Vary
2. BJ Lazy Load
This plugin will load a transparent gif when the page first loads. It will load the images in the background allowing the text of the post display first. Then as a visitor scrolls down through the content the images will appear as needed. Getting your content to the visitor quickly is the name of the game.
Of course if you have a ton of images and little text? This might not be a plugin you wish to use. Also I have noticed that the main image of the post is delayed as well so people might think the page isn’t loading… even though it is. So some things to consider before using this one.
I use WP Super Cache because its simple to use. It doesn’t have as many features as W3 Total Cache. That and it is recommended that you use it if your on Host Gator. Its a simple Cache plugin that will allow you to pre-load static content and add the necessary bits to your .htaccess file as well. This way your site should load up a lot quicker then not using a cache plugin like this. You can also use it to hook into Content Delivery Networks such as MaxCDN as well.
Update: I’ve since changed hosts away from HostGator (read the article above) and I’m now using W3 Total Cache again. By the time you read this? I might have moved to yet another method – as I’m always finding different ways to try and speed up the website.
5. WP Smush.it
WP Smush.it hooks into Yahoo’s Smush.it server and allows you to optimize your image sizes by compressing them further. This is a good thing as your site will end up with a smaller footprint (file size) when someone loads your pages.
Warning: I’ve been told though that it could fubar your images. So I don’t suggest using the Bulk Smush.it option. Nor would I use the “Use Smush.it on upload?” option as it will take forever to upload images.
To turn off the feature you will need to go to your WP Admin and click on Settings -> Media and make sure to un check the box “Automatically Process Images Upon Upload”. This will also prevent issues where your images might take a long time before they show up due tot he servers being overloaded or down.
6. WP Optimize
This is a basic WordPress Database cleaner plugin. It will go through and remove the Post Revisions, Auto Drafts, Spam, Unapproved Comments, and try and Optimize your database tables. It also has some “Red” options that I would be careful to click and use. Its simple to install and use, and I recommend it to those I work with.
Note: Make sure you have regular backups of your website. Although I’ve been using it for the past 2 years and never had an issue? You just never know – so better to be cautious and have it never go wrong vs. not having the backup and having things go south on you.
If you have these setup and running properly they will definitely help the load times for your website. I’m even running on a shared baby plan on Host Gator and I was able to squeeze out the speed (Albeit inconsistently…). Just make sure to take the time and do the research before rushing off to install them. Otherwise weird things could happen. If you want to learn more about how to speed up and troubleshoot your WordPress website? I strongly suggest reading this article:
What About You? Leave a Comment!
What plugins do you use (or not use) to help you get the speed you need from your own site? Or if you have any questions please leave a comment below. I’ll do my best to answer your questions – or I will point you in the direction to someone who will!
Image credit: mechanik / 123RF Stock Photo