How to Speed Up WordPress – The Flick Digital Guide (2017 ed.)

fast as a cheetah

The Ultimate WordPress Site Speed Optimisation Guide

Let’s face it – slow websites suck. They are terrible to work with, they are horrible for clients, they make you look bad, Google doesn’t like them, and your visitors leave before the good stuff even loads.

After years of working with WordPress without a clue how much could be done to speed up the sites I was building, I realised that there were people out there building some of the fastest sites on the internet – using WordPress. So I hunted them down, paid them to teach me everything I need to know, and here it is laid out for you.

While some of this can seem pretty technical, I am not a very techy person, but that hasn’t stopped me from building a 6-figure digital marketing agency, ranking sites on the top page of Google and doing this kind of technical optimisation – so don’t freak out, we’ve got this.

This tutorial is actually done using the site you are currently viewing, while writing the post you are currently reading. So if screenshots seem familiar, there’s a reason.

It’s broken up into steps so if you can’t put aside a block of time (2-3 hours) to focus on this you can do it a step at a time.

1. Do a baseline test

If you don’t know how fast your site is currently loading, no amount of tweaking is going to help.

I recommend you do a few tests and either save the results as screenshots or record the results as you go.

There are a few different resources you can use. In general I use just one – as you’ll see below – but to make sure we cover things well I will introduce the big 3 below.

Google PageSpeed Insights
This gives “points”, not actual speed, but since Google is one of the big guys we’re trying to please, it makes sense to run things through their PageSpeed Insights tool. Click the link, put the full URL in, click “Analyze” and in a few seconds you’ll have a basic report showing what has passed and giving recommendations, with separate tabs for desktop and mobile.

We are just getting info together right now, so don’t worry too much about what it actually says.

flick digital google page speed insights - mobile
flick digital google page speed insights - desktop

Pingdom
To be honest I haven’t used Pingdom a lot, but it’s very clean and gives some good data including performance insights, requests by content type and more. You have a few choices of server location as well.

flick digital page speed from pingdom

GT Metrix
This tends to be my go-to tool when doing speed optimisation, mostly because I am used to it and I like using one tool to be consistent. I like that in one place you can see PageSpeed, Y-Slow and Fully Loaded Time. That said I always do baseline checks before and after with Google and Pingdom as well.

Anyway, same as the other tools, go to the GT Metrix Website, enter the URL you wish to test, push “Analyze” and away it goes.

flick digital page speed from gt metrix

2. Add Expires Headers

The first thing we’ll do actually feels pretty technical, so it’s a good way to start getting your hands dirty. It can make a huge difference, and though this may be set already it is definitely worth checking.

The code that we will use is here:


<IfModule mod_expires.c>
# Enable expirations
ExpiresActive On 
# Default directive
ExpiresDefault "access plus 1 month"
# My favicon
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 year"
# Images
ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 year"
# CSS
ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 1 month"
# Javascript
ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 1 year"
</IfModule>
and we’ll be adding it to the .htaccess file in the root of this site. We can edit it either by logging into cPanel or through ftp.

2. Add Expires Headers

“If you want to be first, you have to be fast.”

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