5 Must-Have Site Speed Boosting Plugins for WordPress Blogs

Last updated on June 2, 2020  ∙ by Edwin Contreras8 comments
How to speed up your WordPress blog

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Slow loading sites are a pain! Your users don’t like it and Google doesn’t either. If you want to improve your WordPress site speed, you're in the right place.

Why your site speed matters

There are two reasons why your new blog needs to load fast.

  • User experience

First and most importantly, user experience. You will lose a lot of traffic because people just don't want to wait longer than 2 seconds for any page to load.

Here is a graph (source) to illustrate how the bounce rate (people leaving) jumps up at the 2 second mark and continues to increase after that.

How site speed affects bounce rates.
  • SEO

The speed of your blog is a ranking factor (among many other SEO ranking factors) in Google search results. We've known this since 2010 when it was first announced by Google (source).

Then in 2018, another site speed update for mobile sites was announced (source).

And to serve as proof Google uses site speed as a ranking factor, Neil Patel analyzed the data on 143,827 URLs to see if site speed really matters.

In the chart below, we see how the pages at the top of the search results load faster than the others. (source).

Site speed test results data

So, it is imperative to have a fast-loading blog because slow sites just won't get their share of valuable Google search traffic.

How to test your website speed

When you run a test, use a blog post (not the homepage) to test your site speed - since those will be the major entry points into your website.

How does your blog stack up? Here are a few tools to test your site speed. 

Use these tools for what they are: tools to help you identify problems with your site speed. Don't waste your time trying to get a good letter grade score.

You can really lose days of productivity trying to get a better score (while not really improving site speed).

While keeping total page load time is important, pay special attention to these two other metrics: First Contentful Paint (FCP) and Time to Interactive (TTI).

These two are visual metrics that are important to providing a good user experience.

Why your WordPress blog is so slow

So, how did your site fare? If your blog is slow, we need to identify the problem first and then fix it.

Your blog could be slow for a few different reasons. Each of them will need to be addressed if you want to have a fast loading blog.​

Here are the most common causes of a slow WordPress blog.

  • 1. Your host sucks

If you are using a host that overloads their shared servers with too many sites, your blog is going to be slow.

To correct this, you can contact your host and ask to be placed on another server. If it still doesn't help, you can switch from a shared host like BlueHost to a faster host like WPXHosting.

While WPXHosting is still shared hosting, they keep far less websites on each server to ensure your site is fast. As of 2020, they are who I use.

I put together a list of the best hosts for blogs here if you want to take a look.

  • 2. You have too many plugins.

If you have too many resource-heavy WordPress plugins that are not well optimized, your blog speed is going to suffer.

Only use plugins you actually need an make sure they are highly rated and recently updated.

I put together my list of the best WordPress plugins for blogs here (that won't slow down your site).

  • 3. It's your WordPress theme

Many free WordPress themes are not properly coded. For example, there may be too may PHP calls and sloppy code which slows down your site.

The solution is to get a WordPress theme that is optimized for speed.

Unfortunately, this means paying for a blog theme, instead of using a free theme.

When you pay for a theme, you are paying for the developers to constantly improve both the speed and features of the theme.

Here are the blog themes I recommend for improved site speed:

- Divi (visual blog builder)
- Thrive Theme Builder (This is who I use)
- Astra (Lightweight theme)

The reason I chose these 3 themes is because they are updated often and have made strides to improve site speed.

For example:

- Divi recently rolled up some performance improvements that improved site speed by 50% (source).

- Thrive Theme Builder has an entire Site Speed section with custom speed optimization settings to use with their theme (source).

- Astra is fast because it isn't a visual builder, but rather a very lightweight theme, with load times clocking in at 0.5 seconds (source).

  • 4. You don't compress your images.

Uploaded full size images to your blog is only going to cause the weight of your pages to be heavy.

One of the biggest ways you can improve your site speed is by displaying optimized images.

To optimize your images, use Skitch (from Evernote) or an online tool like BeFunky to crop and resize your images.

The next step is to use a tool like ShortPixel for compression and for creating and serving lightweight Webp images.

Best plugins to speed up your WordPress blog

While choosing a fast web host and blog theme are important, there are further optimizations you can do to improve site speed.

I've compiled a list of the best WordPress plugins (many of which I use) to speed up your website.

Shortpixel Image Optimizer | 1 of 12 Best WordPress Plugins

The faster your images load, the faster your website will load. The answer isn't having small, bad quality images but rather having images that are well optimized.

With the ShortPixel WordPress plugin your images will be reduced in size anywhere by 40-80% from the original while maintaining the visual quality of the image.

When you sign up using this link, you can optimize an additional 100 images per month on their free plan (on top of the 100 per month you already get).

Cloudflare CDN plugin to speed up your WordPress blog.

Cloudflare is a free Content Delivery Network (CDN). This means they have a geographically distributed group of servers which work together to provide faster delivery of websites.

So basically, if a user in the east coast goes on your blog (and your server is on the west coast), they can be routed to Cloudflare's east coast server. This alone makes your page load faster (source).

They also have additional features like blocking spammers and bad bots from entering your blog in the first place.

Bottom line, use Cloudflare and your blog loads faster.

When we talk about page speed, we're really talking about the time it takes for meaningful content to appear on the screen. The overall time it takes for the entire page to load is less important.

So to get that "above the fold" section to load faster, there's a few optimizations that are needed.

Here are a few optimizations this plugin can perform:

  • Combining multiple scripts into one file to decrease the number of calls to the server.
  • Lazy loading images, so they are only loaded when the user scrolls down the page.
  • Defers and moves scripts to the footer, allowing your content to load first.
  • Minifies scripts, styles and HTML code to decrease their file size.
W3 Total Cache WordPress plugin to speed up your blog.

The W3 Total Cache plugin has been installed in over a million WordPress blogs. It's popular because it works.

The plugin generates static html files of your blog posts, which are PHP heavy. This lightweight html is then served to your visitors. Loading a static html page rather than a dynamic PHP page reduces calls to the server and instead spits out your content incredibly fast.

If you use (and implement fully) the features of this plugin, you may not need many of the others on this list since this app does a lot of the same things.

We've talked a lot about optimizing your images and files in order to improve your WordPress blog speed.

But what about the database?

Your WordPress blog calls on the database to display your posts, comments and your theme's settings, to name a few. Is your database fully optimized?

With this plugin your database will be automatically cleaned so that it runs at maximum efficiency. Cleaning consists of removing unnecessary data such as trashed and spam comments, pingbacks and trackbacks.

This plugin also cleans up post revisions. When you edit your blog posts, revisions are created as you continue writing your post, sometimes dozens of them!

I currently have 50 revisions of this blog post as I continue to add/remove/update plugins from this list. Trimming just the revisions alone can remove thousands of entries from your database.

My site speed results

Website Speed Test Results

This is the result of this very blog post on Google Pagespeed Insights.

I achieved this with only the following:

WordPress blog speed: The bottom line

Don't go crazy trying to score an A grade on any website speed test!

While having a fast blog is important, there are better uses of your time than trying to shave off a few milliseconds of your page load time.

Optimizing your blog for speed can be a set it and forget it type of thing. Take the time to set up your blog for maximum efficiency right now - then let the plugins do their job after that.

Which of these plugins do you use? Are there any I missed that should be included in the list? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,
Edwin, DoSixFigures.com

just a little > about me

About edwin

Edwin Contreras is the professional blogger behind Cash The Checks and Do Six Figures. Over the last 17 years, he has started over 100 profitable blogs on his way to a six-figure income as a full-time blogger. He is now obsessed with helping people just like you escape the 9 to 5 and make serious money online. You in?

learn more > earn more

continue > the conversation

  • Winnie Xu says:

    Thanks for the insight! The list of plugins are definitely very useful and I’ll be sure to check it out.

  • Vicky Etherington says:

    Hi Edwin, thanks for this amazing list of plugins. Reading it was quite helpful.

    • Thanks for your comment Vicky. Glad you found it helpful. 👍🏻

  • Great share, Edwin. Website speed and user experience is one of the most important SEO factors in 2019 and every blogger should start focusing on it.

    Thanks for sharing the list of amazing plugins.

    • Yes it is! It’s no coincidence the sites at the top of any Google search result all load extremely fast.

  • Francis Nwokike says:

    Hi Edwin, thanks for sharing this piece. I’ve been working on my site to decrease the page load time. I have WP Optimize, use a cache and also WP Smush (free) to optimize images. I don’t see any significant difference in image optimization so I use an online tool be an smetool site to reduce image size before uploading. Do you think Shortpixel will do a better work in terms of image size reduction?

    • I’d mess around with the settings on wp smush or shortpixel to see how much you can optimize before the image starts looking fuzzy.

      Honestly, if you already have your images under 100KB already I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

      • Francis Nwokike says:

        Ow, that’s great cos the online tool I use is able to reduce most images to below 100kb. Searching online, I saw EWWW Image Optimizer. I’ll give it a try. Will let you know what I discover after comparing. You can visit my site to review some pages and let me know what you think. Cheers

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