Part of the power of WordPress is its flexibility. You can know nothing about HTML or CSS and you can build powerful, beautiful pages. A big part of this is because WordPress uses plug-ins and another coding to create the page that you want. The downside of this means that every time someone requests a webpage, WordPress needs to assemble the parts of the page. Of course, it can do this quickly, but it takes time to assemble the page, load the images and run any programming. This all takes time and can slow a site down. You can help this by using one of the best WordPress Speed Plugins. These plugins help address that. It can help to understand why these are important. There are two big reasons.
Users Leave Sites That Are Too Slow
We’ve all seen it – the site takes too long and so we leave and go somewhere else. We’ve all developed the attention span of a goldfish and just don’t have the patience to wait for a site to load. The fancy term for this is abandonment. We abandon the site if it takes too long. To give you an idea, one study says that over half of users abandon a mobile site that takes too long to load. For a good user experience, your users don’t want to have to wait to see the content that they are looking for.
SEO Penalties for Slow Sites.
Google penalizes sites that are too slow. That’s right if your site is too slow, Google will show it lower down in the results. Google is always looking for ways for your site to be more relevant to users. Page speed is an important component of that. Google, following their mobile-first philosophy, measures your page speed as a mobile device. You can see how Google ranks your page speed by looking at their Google Page Speed Insights page.
How Website Speed Plugins Work
Website speed plugins work to combat the downsides of WordPress by using some combination of a number of strategies. Some of these can be pretty technical. Unfortunately, they don’t just sound technical but some of the settings in some plugins can make these features pretty intimidating.
Here are some of the features that are available in WordPress Speed Plugins.
- Caching – This is why you will often hear these called “caching plugins”. The problem with that term is that many do other things, some don’t cache at all. When a system caches, it saves a copy of the assembled site on the server. Then, when a user requests a copy, it sends them the saved copy instead of putting the page together. Caching is a powerful part of improving website speed. Some pages, like pages that change can’t be cached without problems. For example, you don’t want to save a shopping cart page. Most of the caching plugins are smart enough to know the most common pages that should not be cached.
Features To Look for in WordPress Speed Plugins
- Image Optimization – If you upload an amazing picture from your phone but show it on a small window on your page, your user doesn’t benefit from the extra resolution because the web browser only shows the image at the size that fits in that spot on the screen. Often, webmasters upload images that are much too big for what they need. This means that the browser has to download a big file, adding time, but most of that is wasted space. The best strategy is to only upload an image at the size you need. Many of these plug-ins will also optimize the size of photos to take up less space by changing formats and shrinking them where they can.
- Lazy Loading – Normally, your browser tries to load most of the page at one time. However, this includes the portion of the page that you can’t see. Some of them implement a function called lazy-loading. WIth lazy-loading, some of the images load later, after the reader is already reading the page.
Implementing WordPress Speed Plugins
When you implement a WordPress speed plugin, you may have to do some experimentation. Some sites and some functions don’t work well. Also, be careful about combining different plugins whether they’re on this list or not. Here are a few guidelines on implementing WordPress Speed Plugins.
- Don’t use more than one caching plugin – Caching plugins will conflict and could have unexpected results.
- Carefully Check Your Site – When you implement a speed plugin carefully check your site for functionality, formatting and responsiveness. Once you think everything is good, give it a day or two and carefully go over it again. If something is off, change the settings. Sometimes, things like minification or even caching can have unexpected results.
The Best WordPress Plugins for Website Speed
NitroPack is our favorite WordPress Speed Plugins. It offers all of the features discussed above, is very easy to implement and manage. It consistently produces a really impressive speed improvement on most sites. The free plan can give you a good idea of the performance improvement but the real power is in the paid plan.
- Easy to configure
- Very effective at improving site speed
- Integrated CDN
- Strong caching
- Image optimization with lazy loading
Perfmatters is a WordPress plugin to speed up your website and increase traffic to your site. It has a different approach to increase the loading time of the page. Perfmatters plugin consists of boosting features like DNS prefetch, preconnect, local Google Analytics script hosting, and more.
- Can reset API control.
- Disables WordPress options that are slowing your site down.
- Works with your existing caching plugin.
- Supports DNS prefetch and preconnect.
WP Fastest Cache
WP Fastest Cache is a very popular WordPress Speed Plugins. It is a free version. It creates a static HTML file (caches the HTML). This plugin is used by nearly 200,000 WordPress websites. It is very easy to install and very easy to use.
- Has CDN integration but you need to set-up the CDN separately
- There is also a premium version with extra features.
- Reasonably easy setup.
WP Rocket is a fairly good WordPress Speed Plugins. There are a bunch of features you can find in this plugin. It consists of lazy loading images, CDN support, DNS pre-fetching, minification, and more. To get a full feature set, you need to pay for a subscription. If you’re going to do that, we have seen better results from NitroPack.
- Includes Google Analytics integration to load the code from your server
- Has a user-friendly interface
- Comes with advanced caching rules
- Includes a rollback version
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is another popular WordPress Speed Plugins. It is also known as a comprehensive WordPress caching plugin. It consists of page cache, object cache, gzips compression, limited minification support, CDN support, and more. The free version is fairly capable.
- Has Cloudflare and other CDN services. This is separate.
- Robust browser caching.
- Has object caching.
- Includes Minifying.
WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache is one of the plugins recommended by top WordPress hosting companies. It is the most widely used plugin. The settings are sometimes difficult to setup.
- Serves static HTML files.
- Consists of CDN support with a separate subscription.
- Supports multiple caching types.
- Consists of many advanced features.
Check your host for WordPress Speed Options
Some hosts have optimization options included with your hosting. For these, it usually doesn’t make sense to use a separate plugin. Siteground and WP Engine both have caching that works really well. So, you don’t need a separate one of these plugins. A2 Hosting comes with caching and with a CDN, though the setup is a bit complicated with several steps.
Other common hosts typically do not have caching which is one of many reasons we recommend these hosts over others.
Improving Your WordPress Website Speed
Speed is important for user experience and for SEO. There are several good options for the best WordPress Speed Plugins. We have found the NitroPack provides great results on many sites. There are a few free options as well that may not perform as well but may give you enough extra performance. Some hosts will provide you with options for performance.
Regardless of what you choose, it’s worth knowing the site speed of your site and finding your options for improving it when you can.