There’s a lot of emphasis put on WordPress speed optimization at the moment so, I wanted to do a little experiment to see exactly by how much a few free WordPress plugins can impact page loading times.
I mean, we all know that a caching plugin is almost mandatory for any blog so I am not trying to reinvent the wheel here.
What I am trying to do is see by how much.
Furthermore, I won’t be using any complicated techniques for this WordPress speed optimization experiment, just old fashioned simple ways with the help of a few easy-to-configure WordPress plugins.
I’ve recently moved my websites from shared hosting to DigitalOcean
and I’m quite impress with the speed of my blogs. Sure I had to learn a little about servers, linux and a few SSH commands
but it was all worth it.
Why Am I Not Obsessing About Site Speed?
While I do agree that website loading times are very important, I am not going to obsess over it. Period.
If my WordPress site has basic optimization with loading times of less than 2 seconds I am happy with that. I won’t go further.
My Setup(at the time of writing this post)
Before I start my WordPress speed optimization experiment, a little background information on my setup:
List off all installed plugins:
It’s always a good idea to backup your website before playing with new plugins so I am doing just that.BackWPup Free – WordPress Backup Plugin is great for this job.
If something goes wrong I can easily restore my backups.
Initial Loading Times
As I mentioned earlier, I am on a shared hosting plan from A2Hosting, I’m using TruePixel theme by Mythemeshop and I have a total of 20 plugins installed and activated.
Before I start my little WordPress speed optimization experiment, I need to know how fast my website is without any optimization.
I will be using Pingdom Website Speed Test tool to measure loading times of…
- my homepage
- a blog post page with a minimum of 1500+ words, a few images and a YouTube video.
As most organic visitors land on blog posts not on my homepage I decided to test them both.
The page I am choosing is this one: How To Design Your Own Logo In Less Than 5 Minutes For FREE
The page has:
- 1700+ total words
- 12 images
- 1 YouTube video
I will be taking 5 measurements for each page so a total of 10 tests to get accurate loading times before and after the WordPress speed optimization experiment.
Also, I will calculate the average loading time for each page so I can make an easy comparison.
I am using Pingdom Website Speed Test tool (the Dallas, Texas, USA server to test page loading times).
First Homepage Test: 1.64s
First Blog Post Page Test: 2.46s
Table Of All 10 Tests
As you can see from the table above, the loading times remain quite steady across all trials.
Also the website seems to load quite fast considering that this is shared hosting and the amount of plugins installed.
I’m quite happy with my blog’s speed so far.
But there’s still room for improvement…
Let’s Speed Up This Baby
Now that I have a clue of what the actual loading times are without any optimization, let’s see if we can make it even faster and more importantly by how much?
So, there are different ways to make a WordPress blog load faster, some are simple, some are not so simple, some are complicated and some are very complicated.
I decided I don’t want blazing fast loading times so I will stick to some basic yet powerful WordPress speed optimization tips.
WordPress Site Speed Optimization Plugins I Will Be Using
These are the 4 free plugins that I’ll be using to improve the speed of my blog: a caching plugin, a plugin to remove query strings from static resources so that they can be cached, a third one for lazy-loading images, and the fourth for optimizing and database cleanup.
Setting Up W3 Total Cache: The Best WordPress Caching Plugin
W3 Total Cache – is by far the best and most complete solution for caching web pages and minify for drastic speed improvement.
W3 Total Cache creates static HTML files to serve to your visitors thus reducing server load and increasing page loading times.
To configure W3 Total Cache, I will be using basic optimization with most of the default settings in use. No advanced settings.
I will be starting with General settings:
- Page cache: Enabled
- Minify: Enabled
- Database Cache: Enabled
- Object Cache: Enabled
- Browser Cache: Enabled
For the rest of the settings:
- Page Cache: default values
- Minify: default values
- Database cache: default values
- Object Cache: default values
For Browser cache (under general settings) I will be using:
- Set Last-Modified header: enabled
- Set expires header: enabled
- Set cache control header: enabled
- Set entity tag(eTag): enabled
- Set W3 Total Cache header: enabled
- Enable HTTP (gzip) compression: enabled
These are all the settings I will be using for W3 Total Cache.
Remove query strings from static resources
A very useful plugin that removes query strings (?” or “&”) from static resources so that they can be cached accordingly thus reducing loading times.
Installing the plugin is very simple as you don’t have to configure it in anyway, just activate it and that’s it really. Simple right?
Unveil Lazy Load
Another cool plugin I will be using in this WordPress speed optimization experiment that can significantly reduce page size by loading images only when they are seen by visitors.
This is very handy especially if you have posts with lots of images as they will get loaded immediately when the page is requested.
The images will appear only when the visitors scrolls down to where the image is.
Simplicity is key in this experiment and this plugin makes no exception as I don’t have to configure anything.
Just installing and activating the plugin is all I need to do.
This is the last plugin that I will be using to clean up my WordPress database.
It’s always a good idea to keep you WordPress database clean.The bigger the database the slower it will load.
Wp-Optimize can reduce the size of you database by deleting unnecessary post revisions, pending comments, spam comments and also optimize the database tables.
As you can see I managed to save 334.5 Kb on my database which is quite a lot.
Last but not least empty all caches
After cleaning the database is time to empty all caches and retest the pages.
Using the same Pingdom Website Speed Test tool (Dallas, Texas, USA server).
Blog Post Page: 1.66s
Before And After Table
Homepage Loading Times Decreased On Average By 27%
Blog Post Page Loading Times Decreased On Average By 36%