When was the last time you gave some thought to your website’s speed?
I’m sure you that a slow WordPress website needs to be fixed, but looking for answers tends to end in overwhelming jargon rather than actionable steps you can take, right?
Fortunately, fixing a slow website doesn’t need to be so complex.
In this article, we’re going to look at how you can speed up your WordPress website and focus on best practices even if you aren’t technologically minded.
- 3 simple solutions to improve your website’s speed
- The right habits to follow to keep your website fast
- Exact settings to use when configuring speed plugins
How to Get a Fast Thrive Themes Website?
Did you know we refactored our entire code base to make it leaner and faster. This project is called "Project Lightspeed" and it allows our users to optimize their Thrive sites for faster load times in just one click.
Not Technical? Don't Worry!
Even if you don’t care for the technical side of speed optimization, just look out for feature boxes like this one with key takeaways that you can change on your website.
You might have heard of us talking about the 80 / 20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle. This says that “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”.
The discussion on website speed can easily waste more time than it’s worth. But we don’t want this topic to be a distraction for you, so instead of getting bogged down in overly technical junk… we’re going to look at the big wins that will have a noticeable impact on your website.
Let’s start by looking at the problem.
Do You Have a Slow Website?
When it comes to a WordPress site, there are many factors that increase or decrease loading speed. The interplay of those factors will result in the time your site takes to load.
Hosting, the theme, plugins, 3rd party scripts and resources... sounds complex already, doesn’t it?
We wish it were as easy as “use our speed-optimised software and forget about it”.
But there’s a little bit more to it than that.
The Two Reasons Why Speed Matters
When we talk about speed, often we mean the difference of a few seconds. I can hear the skeptics already, “That’s pointless! Why all the discussion over shaving off 3 seconds?”
Well, there’s a few reasons why but most of them boil down to how people feel about waiting.
1) Conversion Rates are Lower on Slow Websites
What do website visitors do if they have to wait?
Time and time again studies have seen a direct link between load time and conversion rate.
If you run a Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign, you'd better hope that each person that clicks is sticking around because those clicks cost you money.
It's hard enough to attract the right visitors in the first place. Test their patience and they won't even be there long enough to click 'buy' or 'subscribe'.
You literally have a few seconds to hook your visitors on arrival at your site. If you are wasting those precious seconds on page load, then it has a direct effect on your conversions. Just have a look at the findings in this report:
“Desktop pages that loaded in 2.7 seconds experienced a peak conversion rate of 12.8%. Pages that loaded 100 milliseconds slower - in other words, in 2.8 seconds - experienced a 2.4% decrease in conversion rate.” - Akamai Retail Report
All that time spent crafting the best headline is wasted if the visitor abandons the site before they've even had a chance to read it.
Give them a reason to stay. Quickly!
Users are more likely to leave a slow website than a fast one, and that will affect your conversion rate.
2) Load Time Affects Google Rankings
Google’s goal is clear: give the right solution to a search as quickly as possible.
The challenge is that Google won’t share their algorithm, which is how they figure out who gets the top spots in search results. Google have said that website Speed affects Search Rankings, but they haven’t revealed the extent of that effect.
What we do know, though, is that Google monitors how their users behave when they click through to a website. If they stay on the website for a few minutes, then it’s fair to say that the visitor saw something they liked. That’s a plus for you and it can improve your ranking!
But if a visitor clicks through from Google to your website and all they see is a blank browser window that takes too long to load, what will they do? They’ll hit that back button. Google will know that they spent less than a few seconds on your site before giving up.
The effect? Google might decide your site isn’t such a good fit for that search term if visitors are rejecting it quickly. Down goes your ranking.
This observation has been seen a number of times, and there is a noticeable correlation between Search Ranking and site speed: Sites that load faster rank higher.
However, it’s still just a guessing game. Perhaps websites that get the top spot just happen to have invested time and effort into site speed. It might not be because of that speed.
A faster website can improve your search ranking, though we don’t know to what extent.
The 3 Layers of a Fast WordPress Website
Now that we see the benefits, it’s time we look at how to fix your website speed issues.
This is also a great opportunity to put the spotlight on one of the Thrive Themes team members who usually lives behind the scenes: Lorant.
If you’ve used our support forum, you may have digitally met Lorant. He’s one of our technical support experts and is always happy to help. He’s helped so many of our users with issues that were related to site speed and now he’s offered his observations and expertise for this article.
I can’t take credit for the extraordinary knowledge you’re about to unpack.
Credit goes to Lorant. Insert digital applause.
Speed is important, but you should optimize for the best user experience possible, and not for speed itself. Delivering awesome stuff to your site visitors at a decent speed is far better than delivering s***, really fast."
Hosting has one of the greatest impacts on your site speed, even though you can’t control it. Apart from choosing a good website host, that is.
Each time someone loads up your website, that information is sent from your Hosting provider’s hard drive to your visitors browser, so it’s the first speed bottleneck you’ll encounter. The way the hosting company has set up their network, their actual server locations, and their infrastructure all affects the speed at which your website loads.
If you have a poor host, then it won’t matter how much additional technology you use to speed up your WordPress site, your web host can only deliver your website data at a certain speed.
Of course, the importance of host speed depends on your goals. If your website is a personal portfolio of your freelance work, then speed won’t matter as much as for an ecommerce site getting thousands of hits per day.
In my opinion choosing the right host for the job is the best investment you can make when building a WordPress website."
The best thing about WordPress is that you can build almost everything by using different bits and pieces from different developers, put them all together and make it work.
To illustrate what we’re talking about, Lorant ran a test for us.
He built a simple website with some images, a number of pages and links, and installed multiple plugins from different developers. Not all plugins play nicely together so this is a good example of an average website.
Using Pingdom, he tested that website’s speed first on a cheap shared hosting provider:
Now look at the speed difference when moving that exact same website over to a high quality hosting provider. Absolutely nothing else was changed about the website:
That brought the load time from 5.35 s down to 899 ms… simply by changing the host!
This example shows the two extremes in speed, but the takeaway is clear:
Without changing anything on the website, your speed can be vastly affected by the host you choose.
Lorant Talks About Hosts:
“There are some big players in the industry offering cheap shared hosting options, and they can be quite hit-or-miss.
GoDaddy, Hostgator and Bluehost are huge players, but they have a reputation of overselling and overall poor performance and poor support. Since they’re huge, they will have a lot of happy customers simply because many of them hardly use their sites, so they don’t run into problems and are happy to pay for these companies.
A mid-range option that gets good reputation is Siteground. They seem to be the go-to solution for people who want decent hosting without paying a lot.
Higher end solutions are properly managed hosting packages, such as our recommendation with WPX Hosting.”
Something else to be careful of is the low-price entry packages that hosts provide. For example, SiteGround’s ‘GrowBig’ account is $7.95 per month… but only for the first year. After that, it bumps up to $24.95 per month… roughly the same price as the far superior WPX hosting, anyway.
If you are budget conscious, then start with one of these entry level packages for your first year, but once you’re paying full price, look for a superior host to invest that money and move your site across.
Use high quality hosting like WPX Hosting. If you can’t afford them, use SiteGround.
2. CONTENT OPTIMIZATION
If you got the server-side configuration correct, it’s time to move on to content optimization. On an average site, the main resource drain are images and this is especially good to check since you have control over optimizing them (for a comparison, there’s little you can do to optimize embedded youtube videos)."
The Average Webpage is now 3 MB in size. That’s how much data needs to be downloaded when a visitor arrives and it includes images, fonts, text and code.
To speed up your site, you should always aim to keep your page size as small as you can, preferably below average. But sometimes a single uncompressed image can be larger than 3MB.
If you aren’t doing anything to optimize your images, then you could be making huge websites which are awfully slow to download.
There are 2 ways to fix this.
If you’re using professional stock photos, images from a designer or images you’ve taken on your own camera, you might find that the dimensions are far too large. Take this example:
4400 x 3000 pixels? Although a web browser would resize the image to suit the visitors display, it still has to download the entire file size first.
That’s like buying 300 square meters of carpet just for one small bedroom. A waste of resources.
It’s best to upload the largest version you think you’ll use. WordPress creates different versions of the image on upload. So if you plan to use an image as a full-width background, upload it at 1920px wide. If you know you’re only going to use it in a 700px content area and will use it as a featured image, upload only a 700px wide version.”
If your image file is larger than you intend to display it, resize it before uploading to WordPress.
Both Windows and Mac have a built in crop and resize feature in their default image viewers, but if you prefer more control you can use use an online service like Canva, or download free desktop software like GIMP or Paint.net.
Once you’ve uploaded an image, WordPress will create different sizes of the file. When you select that image in an editor such as Thrive Architect, choose the dimensions that closely reflect the size you intend to display.
In other words, don't use the 'full-size' if your intended use is just a thumbnail!
WordPress also has it's own resizing and cropping feature built in, though we've discovered that it can be slightly buggy.
Here's a short video Shane made that shows this WordPress resize feature in use:
If you do want to resize your images from within WordPress, make sure you follow the next step before uploading.
Resizing your images isn't the only way to reduce their file size. Another way is with Image Compression.
Image Compression is the process of cleverly storing the visual data in an image. There’s some pretty smart software out there that can dramatically reduce the file size of an image and barely affect how it looks.
At Thrive Themes, we always use Kraken.io for our image compression. And yes, every single image you see in this article has been compressed or ‘Krakened’, as we call it.
Kraken has a free website interface you can use, and it’s incredibly simple. Once you’ve resized your images, you can drag and drop them into Kraken.io and it will apply their image compression to the files. Then you download these compressed images before uploading them into your website.
Here is an example with 6 of the images used in this very article being compressed through Kraken's website interface. Take note of the last line, a summary of the results on all 6 images.
Originally, these 6 images came to 279KB, but Kraken reduced them by 70.33% down to just 82KB! And I’ve seen some files reduced by even more!
Now consider how much smaller this makes your website to download… every kilobyte saved is speeding up the time it takes for your website to load.
Kraken isn’t the only option out there. There are plugins like ShortPixel and WP Smush that allow you to compress files from inside your website. While each image compressor is good, they don't all work the same way for every image and you might find some tools give better results in certain conditions.
Rather than stressing over which one is best, it's more important that you use some kind of compression than none at all.
Here’s what Lorant has to say about his preference:
I prefer kraken.io instead of WP Smush or Shortpixel because it’s a hosted solution that doesn’t depend on my server and I have full control over the images before I upload them to my site. ”
Always resize your images to the largest dimensions you intend to display on your site. And for excellent and simple image compression, use Kraken.io’s drag and drop web interface before uploading the images to your site.
3. CACHING & MINIFICATION
Oh boy. Here we go.
This aspect of speed already sounds scary, right? Don’t worry, our goal is to give you the exact solutions you should try. This means: no excessive information that doesn’t matter.
The first thing to note is that you need to be careful with these tools, because the incorrect settings can cause a headache. But used correctly it really makes a difference. We’ll show you how.
Let’s keep this easy:
When someone opens your website, your host needs to figure out what they should be seeing and then send all of that information to them, bit by bit until the page fully loads. This means your host has to do some thinking, and dig into your WordPress database to pull up the right stuff to send. That takes time.
But you aren’t changing the content on your website every minute of every day. So your host shouldn’t need to spend that time figuring out what information each user needs every single time, right?
Instead, you can save time by telling your host "send the exactly the same thing you sent the last visitor". This cuts out the thinking stage.
That’s what Caching does.
Caching means that so long as nothing on your website has changed recently, there is a version of all the information for a web page stored in a neat package. When a visitor arrives as your site, your host sends them the whole package in one go, rather than thinking about each bit first.
Lorant noted that there are 4 types of caching we encounter:
- Server side. “Many hosts, especially those who claim to offer WordPress hosting provide some type of server side caching. The user may or may not have options to configure these.”
- Caching plugin. “A plugin that you install on your site to handle caching for you. User has full control over the caching options. W3 Total Cache, Autoptimize, WP Fastest Cache, WP Super Cache, WP Rocket are popular ones.”
- Caching from CDN (Content Delivery Network). “We usually encounter only Cloudflare as a CDN, but it does come with its own caching”
- Local, browser cache. “Modern browsers also try to cache pages in order to improve speed.”
Unless you really know what you’re doing and how to combine the different caching layers, it’s recommended to use either server-side, a plugin or CDN… don’t combine multiple caching types.
In a moment we’ll give you our specific recommendations, step by step for caching.
Isn’t the word ‘Code’ intimidating? Yeah, we agree… which is why all of our plugins and our Visual Editor Thrive Architect are there to give you full WordPress functionality without touching a line of code.
But behind the scenes, what you don’t see is that there is lots of code. And it might be worth optimizing that code with a process known as ‘minification’.
According to Wikipedia, Minification “is the process of removing all unnecessary characters from source code without changing its functionality”.
It makes your website leaner, cleaner and faster. We’ve already gone to great lengths to ensure that our plugins are fast, but with the right configurations, you can enable Minification and speed up your WordPress website even more.
Because Thrive Architect is creating lines of code behind each action you take, it’s incredibly important that you disable minification for logged in users! Minification can clash with any plugin, not just ours!
Our Suggestion for Caching & Minification
Ok, we promised to keep this easy for you. So here is our suggestion to bring the speed boost of both Caching and Minification to your website in one go.
Use the free WordPress Plugin W3 Total Cache. But use the right settings!
Lorant has been so kind as to show the exact settings you should use for W3 Total Cache. Here’s the video (no audio):
And here is the direct link if you want to look more closely.
Regarding these setting, Lorant also adds:
I left out Object Cache and Browser Cache on purpose. Those 2 options can use a lot of server resources and can actually slow down sites hosted on shared servers.
Don't use multiple types of Caching. Instead, just use the free W3 Total Cache plugin for WordPress and configure it just as Lorant suggests in the above video.
And make sure you disable minification for logged in users!
What About CDNs?
We don’t recommend you use CDNs until you have a website that is getting a lot of traffic.
But so that we do justice to the topic of speed, we’ll quickly mention what they are:
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. It’s a way of moving your website content physically closer to your visitors to increase speed. Even if your website is fast, a visitor in Australia connecting to a website hosted in England has to wait for that data to travel around the world.
By using a CDN, you can store packets of website data on a network spread out around the world, allowing website visitors to download from the server closest to them.
Don’t worry about CDNs for now. Just know that one day when you’re ready to take your speed to the next level, you might want to consider CDN services.
Speed Up Your WordPress Wesbite - The Checklist
With just these 3 changes alone, you’ll start to see a noticeable impact on your site speed and as a result hopefully a small improvement in your website conversions. So here’s your checklist:
- Use a good host! We recommend WPX for the higher end, and if you can’t afford it, then SiteGround.
- Optimize your images! Resize them to the maximum size you intend to display them, and use kraken.io to compress them before upload
- Set up Caching & Minification! Use the W3 Total Cache plugin with the settings above.
There’s much more that can be done if your WordPress site is slow, but if you follow these 3 steps in this article then you’re sure you're covering the 20% of changes that will bring 80% of improvement.
And if you do run into any technical problems, commenting here isn’t the right place. Instead, head into our support forums for some assistance from our team. They know more about this than I do.
You might even get a reply from Lorant himself!
Let us know what you thought of this article by leaving a comment below.
Very useful article. Off to fix some of my slowcoach sites.
You’re welcome, Bruce
I use “WP Rocket” for me and my clients. Can you (or Thrive Support) also make a video with the right settings for WP Rocket in combination with the Thrive products (Thrive Architect, Thrive Leads, Thrive Themes …)?
That would be very useful!!!
Me too. I would appreciate insights on the combined WP Rocket with Cloudfare settings for use with the Thrive products. If you need a case study, I had someone implement speed optimization processes for my endtheproblem.com site. The site load time is now 2.59 seconds in the USA, with Australia and Sweden showing 5.30 seconds. I am located in New Zealand, my target markets are the USA and UK. Thanks 🙂
WP Rocket is a paid caching plugin, yes? I’d recommend getting in touch with their support team since I’m sure they understand their own plugin more than we do. Same with CloudFlare. There are no specific demands on a website with our themes/ plugins except for making sure you disable caching for logged in users.
WP Rocket is a paid service, right? From the looks of their website, they have a support team that I’d recommend you get in touch with. Only because they’ll know their own software inside and out, better than we do.
But to point you in the right direction, there are no specific requirements for a site using our Themes and Plugins over any other except that you must disable caching/ minification for logged in users, or it messes with Architect. Aside from that, WP’s suggestions should be fine.
Hope that helps!
That video with the exact settings for W3 Cache was very helpful. Thanks a lot!
I agree! Thanks to Lorant for giving us the quick and easy settings
Great article. Please, can you provide a better link to the video? I can’t make my screen large enough to view it easily. I imagine getting all those settings right is important. Thanks.
Here’s a direct link
Was just speeding up a website today. thought I was a genius by enabling cache via plug in and cloudflare.
And it was slow!
Luckely you guys made this post. Disabled cloudflare cache and speed bumped with 2 sec whoop whoop!
All by the click of a button! What a difference the right settings make. Thanks for the comment, Fabian!
Interesting article, but I have to note that the two worst offenders for speed according to Pingdom are the “Remove query strings from static resources” and the “Serve static content from a cookieless domain” items, both of which are caused by the coding within Thrive Themes. Any chance of making change to these items internally?
Developers (in general, not just Thrive Themes) add query strings to add the version number to resources, for example style.css would load as style.css?ver=4.6 so when you update to style.css?ver=4.7 the server knows it was changed and will serve the right file without the need to clear your cache. If query strings are removed and you only load style.css then if you have caching active, after each update the site would only know to refresh the data if you cleared the cache
If you’re concerned about this, you can remove query strings but you have to keep in mind to ALWAYS clear the cache after ANY update to your site. This would only make sense if you don’t update your themes and plugins regularly (which we don’t recommend).
The second thing is just Pingdom being silly. If you have a WordPress website, you will have cookies to make your website run smoothly. Serving static content from a cookieless domain is not something that we (Thrive Themes) can control. You would have to set up a new domain, configer name servers and web servers and so on.
This is exactly the type of things Brad was referring to with “There’s a lot you can do to speed optimize but we’ll show you the 80/20.”
Unfortunalty many “speed test websites” will scare people with bad grades about these “issues”, while the loading time of their page or site is actually really good (which it should be after following the suggested changes in the article above).
Great article! I’m thinking of changing hosts. I have 3 sites on a VPS but it is unmanaged and I can’t get help from the host. Time to first byte is anywhere from 3 to 6 seconds and it’s killing me. The host says it is due to WordPress, but how can that affect the Wait time? I was thinking of switching to A2, but will look at WPX. It’s tough to jump into the unknown, but the known isn’t doing anything for me or my business…
Fortunately, most hosts have some kind of trial period or a satisfaction guarantee. And a high quality host will have excellent support and help you move your wordpress site onto their server for you. 6 seconds TTFB is awful… Perhaps give a quality host a shot and see if it makes a difference? Good luck, John!
I never heard about WPX hosting and it looks very interesting.
By the way: When are you planning to launch a new Thrive theme?
No date yet, Luke. When we have a date, we’ll be sure to notify those on our mailing list first, but for now we have a teaser of the new theme over here: https://thrivethemes.com/theme-first-look/
Best and most practical article you’ve had in a long time. Easy to understand. Thanks Lorant!
I’ll make sure he sees this, Marlene 🙂
Really true on images.
I ran a quick test.
The image was 511 x 510 46.4 KB I ran Kraken Io and it reduced to 24.2 kb.
I use Microsoft paint that comes with windows. Yes I know in the 1990s people really complained about how bad Microsoft paint was, but have been using it since I bought my first computer in 1987.
I used Microsoft paint to resize the image to 250 X 250 came out 24.1 kb.
Uploaded the image to a trial post on one of my sites. I have the Focus thrive theme with Kraken lossey active. The resized image came out 20 KB. Using Kraken.io before uploading and not using Kraken.IO did not make any difference. Both images that I resized to 250 X 250 came out 20.0 KB after uploading to the site.
A huge help on images was studying the courses Thrive has on images.
One thing that is always pointed out is do not use a huge image, resize it to the size you are going to use on your site. I have been doing that every since.
Thrive has a lot of courses that are great. I have learned a lot from them.
You are either continually gaining in knowledge or you are slowly buy surely losing out.
Glad to hear you’ve been learning lots from us, Frank! Yes, our themes have Kraken compression built in but I decided not to mention it since we no longer sell those themes. Remember, what’s important is any compression rather than which compression.
One of the best investments I ever made was joining Thrive Themes. I am one of your first members.
I created my own themes for my sites from scratch. When Mobile friendly started to generate awareness, the themes I built always had the widths and everything set to percentages. Nothing fixed.
Several years ago I had a problem with mobile responsiveness on one site. 2/3 of the pages checked out responsive, about 10 pages checked out as not mobile friendly.
I ran a quick test. I uploaded the Thrive Focus theme. I made absolutely no changes except I changed the active theme from the theme I created to the Focus theme. Did not change any parameters or anything. Just clicked activate Focus theme.
Rechecked the same pages for mobile responsiveness, (I had a program that I could load all of a sites pages into and run a Mobile check) every last page, I mean every single page checked out Mobile friendly.
I had belonged to Thrive Themes for some time. However, I believed the themes I created were the best. I could create a theme for about any platform. So I had never changed to using a Thrive Theme on my sites, after I become a member.
I did run the heck out of Thrive Builder, now Thrive Architecture.
Loaded in the P3 plugin. Ran a scan. It is incredible how fast, milliseconds, the Thrive products are.
The Thrive Focus Theme checked out really optimized for Mobile. The load was in tiny Milliseconds.
Shane says he is all about speed, quick loading sites and that is true. It really shows up in your products loads. Extremely quick super fast loads.
I like thrive, because if you are not actively looking for new tutorials, new information, new ways, keeping fresh, your are going backwards at a quick rate and might as well quit what ever it is you are doing.
Thrive gives me access to new information, new ways of doing things.
We absolutely love hearing stories like this, Frank. A lot of work goes into our products to make them exceptional, so it’s very rewarding for us to hear that it makes a difference. Thanks for your comment!
Isn’t Thrive Themes optimizing / compressing images already ? (Themes, not Architect)
That’s correct, but since we’re not selling our Themes any more, I decided not to mention it.
One question about images.
I resize my images using Gimp, and then I export them as JPEGs at 75% quality and 72 dpm. Would it do me any good to send those exported images on to Kraken? Or have I already done what it is going to do?
It sounds like you’re doing most of the compressing inside of Gimp anyway, Bruce. If that’s your workflow, it probably isn’t necessary to run it through Kraken. But as a test, I’d suggest you export an image from Gimp at 100% quality then put it through Kraken and see what the file size is compared to a 75% export.
I use https://tinyjpg.com/ to compress my images. Just did a test with the same image against Kraken and TinyJPG. TinyJPG image was half the size of Kraken’s.
Tiny Jpg looks good, David, another strong option. The problem is that each compressor responds slightly differently to each image. So although your test might come out with TinyJPG making them smaller, you might find it the other way around on other images.
It’s more important to use any kind of compression than it is to use a specific one.
Awesome post. I use Cloudflare for my DNS and as a side result use CF caching. I decided to test the loading time and check the differences between Cloudflare caching on and off.
I tested with pingdom.
With Cloudflare caching on, the loading time is: 5.35 sec.
With Cloudflare caching disabled, the loading time is: 2.56 sec.
That’s right. Almost 3 seconds faster when the Cloudflare cache is bypassed.
That’s insane. And I’m not even using W3 Total Cache yet. 9But I have a pretty powerful dedicated server. So I’ll try what W3TC will do…
To disable the Cloudflare cache, I set the cache to ‘Development mode’. But this is a temporary solution. It enables the cache automatically again after 3 hours.
So the question is … How do I disable it PERMANENTLY in Cloudflare. Any suggestions?
You must be with a good host, Mike. Some of our technical team have observed that CloudFlare will improve a site hosted on shared hosting, but it can actually slow it down if you have fast hosting! I’ve never personally used Cloudflare, so I’m not sure.
I found the same – cloudflare slows many of my sites down. I only use it now if I have a controversial site which may be prone to a DdOS attack. It’s good for that. 🙂
You can disable the Cloudflare cache and use it only for DNS. In the DNS settings, click on the orange cloud icon. After that, it becomes gray and is it DNS only without cache and protection.
Another great article thank you so much. A quick question do pages that are not displayed on my site but are located in my WordPress pages load in the background?
Fortunately, Jule – No they don’t. A visitor will only download the specific page on your website that they are seeing. Doesn’t matter if you have a thousand pages, if they only visit one- they’ll only download one. So make as many pages as you’d like! Just make sure the front facing ones are optimized
Thanks Bradley for confirming that. It really was such a great article. You made it so easy to put everything into action. I implemented all your suggestions and managed to cut 3 seconds off my load time. Amazing!!! Something else that wasn’t covered in the article if I have another domain name that is linked to my main site will that add to the loading times. Thanks once again I really appreciated the way you structured the article for a non techie like me.
If by ‘linked’ you mean your own website has external links pointing to a page on another domain, then no- that won’t have any effect on the speed of either your website or the other domain, since none of the information beyond that link is downloaded until it’s clicked. Hope that helps!
Great article But 3 small things. 🙂
1st, caching is not the only reason to use a CDN, not even the best reason – the reverse proxy use of CloudFlare and it’s firewall cut our hacking traffic by 83%, which also cut the performance drain on our dedicated server.
2nd, even while also using our Comet Cache plugin, Cloudflare caching, when set correctly, improved our page speed – especially their edge caching, which improved our speed in places like Europe as much as 70% (you have to use a page speed tester that tracks speed from sites all over the world to see the effects). I am working on a few things with Cloudflare that should reduce load time even more.
and last, kracken is excellant but so is Photoshop (or gimp) 🙂 The point made is true – use something to compress!
You’re right, there are other reasons for a CDN like CloudFlare but for small scale business websites, those reasons mightn’t be so important. It depends.
Sounds like you know your way around CDNs + Caching, which can be such a recipe for disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing. Glad it’s working for you, Joe
Thanks – 25+ years as a Software Engineer and network admin (AT&T, NASA, Intel, etc.) does help 🙂
I believe strongly that all sites should use a CDN like Cloudflare or Securi, because even small sites are being hit these days. Hackers are attacking all size sites with the idea of making money. Coins, in fact. They are using automated tools to sneak background code on these sites to use as processors for bitcoin mining. Making the page faster, will not help you much if your performance is drained by coin mining! We handle a lot of small sites – over 100. This year, so far, 78% have been attacked, most more than once. But so far, knock on wood, no hackers are getting rich off of us. 🙂
Bottom line: we see making site caching and CDN work together as critical as page speed.
Once again, I think it depends on the user. I’m sure there are lots of awful things happening to site owners, but I don’t like to open my wallet out of fear. Most fear-based marketing is preying on a lack of information and by understanding the size and impact of a threat, people can make a rational decision about what’s right for them. The insurance industry is worth billions because of fear mixed with lack of information.
In other words, I don’t think anyone scared by the word ‘hackers’ or ‘sneaking background code for bitcoin marketing’ should suddenly run to CDNs as a solution. Instead, they should seek to understand what all of this really means before throwing money at it.
Plus, good Hosts can usually identify suspicious behaviour and put an end to it without much hassle.
Oh, and one other thing – WordPress is written in php. Making sure your hosting is using php 7.0 or 7.2 instead of any version prior to that, makes a BIG difference in the speed of your site overall. When we upgraded, php execution improved by about 78%. That can be very significant.
Ok, I’l quit now. 🙂
Oh yes, absolutely, Joe! Lorant pointed out the speed differences of php 7+. Hopefully before long all hosts will have php 7+ and we won’t need to check for it.
Definitely. And since PHP 7.3 is also here, this content should be updated to reflect it. When my web hosting (https://www.cloudways.com/en/php-cloud-hosting.php ) switched to PHP 7.3 and MySQL 5.7, I saw an improvement of 58% on my website. There are few other things that can applied, like Redis and Varnish cache servers that can further improve the load time. With these settings, my php website, which is a small business site with a portal has 2.5 seconds of load time. Of course, I am using CDN as well.
As always awesome content guys.
Thanks for the clear video on W3 Total Cache Settings . Just one question. At opcode cache, you leave it on “not available” and you don’t check enable. In my website it is on “opcode: zend opcode” and enable is checked. I can’t seem to change it and uncheck it. Is that normal and does it matter? Thanks in advance!
I know almost nothing about Opcode Cache, except that when it’s used and used properly, it’s a very good thing for a speed boost. Perhaps hop into the W3 Support Section and see if anyone else knows more about this: https://wordpress.org/support/plugin/w3-total-cache
When I want to install, my WP dashboard says the W3 Total Cache plugin is not available due to performance, security and compatibility concerns….. ?????
Sounds like it could be a plugin conflict. Perhaps search W3’s wordpress support forum to see if anyone has seen something similar
Hi, I seem to be the only one but I have these questions/issues: 1) browser caching on or off – text says one thing, the video shows the other, 2) I do not get the option for disabling minification for logged-in users and I also do not get the HTML and CSS options… any ideas as to why that might be??? BTW, thanks a lot for the awesome content (as always! 🙂
Lorant suggests: “I left out Object Cache and Browser Cache on purpose. Those 2 options can use a lot of server resources and can actually slow down sites hosted on shared servers.”
As for the others, just want to check that you looked under the ‘Minify’ settings of W3, found in the WordPress Column once the plugin is selected? If it’s not there, perhaps update all plugins and look again. Otherwise, I’m not sure what it could be.
So….OFF for Browser Cache? The text says “left out” but the video clearly shows that browser cache is checked Enabled.
Correct. Lorant says this: “I left out Object Cache and Browser Cache on purpose. Those 2 options can use a lot of server resources and can actually slow down sites hosted on shared servers.” So depending on the type of hosting you have, you may or may not want to use this. You could try both and run speed tests to see what work for you. Hope that helps, David!
Good article. I have been using WPX for some time and have been happy with them. One thing I think needs adding about a good hosting service is the benefit of tech support. If you have issues with slow running sites they can help and pinpoint and even fix some issues as part of the service.
Very true. Especially for the non-technically minded. The price of hosting is also paying for their team to iron out the problems
I don’t like this post :s
You promote your host but there are other good host like ovh. I suppose there are some other good host but you don’t speak about them.
You don’t speak too about theme that can slow down a website. What is the best theme for you (Apart from your themes) ?
Also, your plugin need to have a very good host plan because those are very heavy.
Sorry you feel this way.
This is not a post to promote “our host” at all… We simply tested A LOT of services and we give you our honest opinion about their performances.
If you’re happy with OVH no need to change. There might be other reasons to stay with a hosting service (such as support in your language, which I believe is one of the main reasons French speakers like OVH).
And you’re right, our plugins are complex which makes them bigger than let’s say a social media plugin, but nothing a decent hosting service can’t handle.
Because of the 80/20 idea, we did not research specific themes. A fast loading theme on a slow host will still be slow… But it might be something we look into in the future.
This is a great post and cuts through the mess of information on page speed out there for thrive theme users. Thank you. Even though this is exactly what I am doing. It’s going to cut the time you spend trying to work out how to get good page speed.
I just wanted to throw my experience of using Siteground (Grow Big) and WPX hosting in the UK.
I test on gtmetrix (london) and pingdom (stockholm).
Siteground started out fast, but over the year I’ve been with them the speed has dropped steadily by about 3 seconds. Starting out at 2 and dropping to about 5 on average with GT metrix. Pingdom 1.5 to 4 seconds.
When I switched over to WPX everything became simpler. I consistently get 1.7/1.5 seconds with GTmetrix and 800ms with pingdom. Even without cloudflare.
The main difference being Siteground is shared hosting and WPX is dedicated. Siteground support staff also varied in their response. One time, I spent 7 days complaining that my website was down and they kept telling me it wasn’t, until a senior person realised that a server had broken. He was honest at least. But it was a disappointing experience.
Actually, that’s not correct. Siteground can be shared (which what most people use) or dedicated (where the whole server is yours, and it starts at $250/$300 per month). And there’s only one kind of WPX, which is shared. It’s more expensive than shared plans from other companies because they don’t overload the same box with too many sites, and that’s the main reason it’s so fast and why it costs a bit more.
Yes, that’s true. WPX is technically shared, but in a way that prioritises speed… unlike most of the cheaper hosts.
Thanks Edward! It helps to show that we aren’t the only ones recommending these steps
W3 total cache can create issues with Thrive Ultimatum?
I remember I had to deactivate it to let Ultimatum works…
Good question. I spoke with our support guys about this, and it looks like you should be fine if you use the settings as Lorant suggested in the video. But in case you’ve modified anything, here are the 3 settings under W3’s ‘Page Cache’ that you should look out for: https://www.screencast.com/t/ImhvlHyqymw
Checking these just means that it won’t cache if ultimatum recognises them
Thank you, Brad & Lorant, for sharing your knowledge.
Here´s my setup, in case someone would like to try it out:
1- Hosting: WPX Hosting. And I have to say that they actually have the best customer service I have ever experienced. I changed from fastdomain.com to Bluehost; they are simply no good. Then, I took Shane´s advice and tried WPX Hosting; one of the best decisions for my online business (which is still under construction).
2- Cache: W3 Total Cache. WPX Hosting makes the setup for you.
3- WP Theme: I´m using Studio Press.
4- Image Optimizer: ShortPixel Image Optimizer.
5- Additional plugins: All the Thrive Themes suite, plus easy social share buttons from Evanto Market. This is one of the social plugins reviewed by Shane on ActiveGrowth.com
I hope this helps.
How are you finding ShortPixel, Luis? I haven’t tried it myself, curious to know if you recommend it
So far, so good. I do recommend it. For the premium version, you end up paying a small fee for a specific amount of photos you can compress, but it´s like $10 for 1,000 pictures or so. Totally worth it, in my opinion.
Back at the end of 2015, I picked up on your recommendation for WPX (then called Traffic Planet) and launched my new business with them as host for my new site. I have to say it was the best business decision I made. Their service standard is exceptional.
They ported my other business site onto their servers at no cost. All I did was give them some login data and after a few ours my old site was up on their servers exactly the same, and twice as fast.
They too recommend W3.
Such a smooth transfer, and that’s how it should be when working with an excellent host. It’s good to hear that you approve of WPX as much as we do
For me, the biggest problem is reducing the number of requests and combining internal/external stylesheets and .js into one. Sometimes it’s really tough to deferr/async all .js files and keep everything working like it’s supposed to.
It’s at that point that it looks like you’re moving into the 20% of perfection that takes 80% of your time to get right- almost the reverse of Pareto’s law. Hope it works out for you, Jacob
Thanks. I just cut my homepage loading time by 40%. Image size was the big offender for me too, especially the one hidden in my lightbox. I did not realise this tinny image was actually a 1.6 Mb file. Pingdom is a great tool to test.
40%? What a difference an image can make
great article – quick wins that made a big difference to my site speed.
hi Brad, what a brilliant post – have leapt into action and alarmed by the load speeds on my website just setting up new hosting and working on image sizes right this minute!
I have a question on image sizes. Is there a definitive guide on images for logos, background images, headers, feature images etc. How do I know what the size of a content box is to optimise the image size for it? Would be really helpful to have this as a reference.
Interesting question, Sally.
The answer is: It depends. Most WordPress themes will come with recommended image sizes, but they differ from Theme to Theme. For example, if you’re using our old Themes, we have articles in the knowledge base telling you the ideal pixel size for Blog images, Feature images, etc. for that specific theme.
I’d encourage you to find out those details for whichever theme you are using. They should have the info somewhere.
As for on-page content, well you can control the size however you like! But we did make this article on Design Width to help. It shows how you can choose a common width for images and content boxes.
Hope that helps!
Great article, Bradley. Detailed, to the point and helpful for lots of website owners.
As part of the WPX team, it is great to read the positive feedback we are getting from long-time customers. We will continue to do our best to handle all the tech so you can focus on developing your business.
For anyone looking to join WPX, don’t forget to mention if you are an active Thrive customer and there would be a nice bonus for you 🙂