12 tips to improve the performance of your WordPress site
This little guide was developed in the aim of helping marketing specialists and managers optimize the performance (speed and SEO) of their WordPress sites.
Hard to believe this open source software was founded in 2003. Though it’s really in the last ten years that the use of this CMS seems to have taken off.
With a ton of available themes and extensions, WordPress offers small teams a level of independence that was previously difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.
Unfortunately this flexibility can be a bit of a double-edged sword:
- Too many extensions and you can slow your site down considerably
- Neglect to update your site and you could be exposed to security breaches or gaps in functionality that put you behind your competitors
- Too many custom functions and your marketing team could become dependent on your developers
Don’t try to patch your patches
Because of this, a few bad decisions can impact how you rank in search, slow down your site and even limit your flexibility to make rapid changes.
After spending ten years working with WordPress and conducting countless technical audits, there are certain mistakes I see again and again.
Here are 12 tactics I’d recommend to anyone looking to improve their SEO and website governance.
Category: Common sense
Time needed: 10 minutes a month
A new car lets you know when you’re due for maintenance.
WordPress lets you know that it’s time to update 19 extensions and upgrade to the latest recommended version.
Don’t overlook the advantages of keeping your website up to date — not only will it be more secure, but it could also allow you to eliminate bugs and inefficient code that might be impacting your performance.
Since the arrival of WordPress 5.5, you can now enable automatic updates.
Unfortunately though, when a site is too customized, it’s hard to update it without running the risk of something breaking because of potential incompatibilities.
If that’s the situation you find yourself in, you may want to consider paring down your CMS.
Category: Very, very basic SEO
Time needed: 10 min.
If you’re familiar with WordPress, you’ve almost certainly heard of “Yoast.”
Yoast is a free, robust extension that manages the majority of significant SEO elements.
A website that’s updated regularly and uses Yoast will generally have a solid technical foundation.
Yoast manages the following elements:
- Canonical tags
- SEO tags (title/description)
- Social sharing tags
- Sitemap.xml file
- Content optimization recommendations
- Structured data for articles
- Selective indexing
- And much more!
Adviso and the majority of our clients whose sites run on WordPress use Yoast.
An alternative to Yoast
Rank Math is another SEO extension that can easily be used in place of Yoast.
This new player (est. 2018) offers extra functionalities only available in the paid version of Yoast. These include the ability to optimize a page for multiple keywords and use structured data to optimize e-commerce pages.
The learning curve is similar for both extensions, and it’s easy to import configurations and tags from one to the other.
As a bonus, Rank Math supposedly has lighter code.
lying Images configuration options
A similar, but paid option for optimizing and distributing images is Cloudimage.
After testing both options, my preference is Flying Images, which is free and has more configuration options.
Tip: Avoid lazy loading for images above the fold. This can cause Cumulative Layout Shift.
Time needed: 30 minutes
The sitemap.xml file is used to submit your pages to Google to allow the search giant to more easily crawl and index your site.
If you are using Yoast or Rank Math, your sitemap should be found here:
Too often, the index will contain empty or useless sections, like for example the attachments pages mentioned above. Use your SEO extension to remove these pages.
The more history a site has, the more likely it is that its sitemap will contain useless pages.
Time needed: A bit of thought every month
I generally recommend avoiding using extensions like these, that consume a lot of resources:
Jetpack – All-in-one extension that is generally very demanding on small servers. You’re better off finding other extensions to replace the functionality you use with Jetpack.
WPML – The most popular extension for bilingual sites is unfortunately also one of the heaviest. By far. If you’re already using WPML, you can optimize your configuration to improve load speed. If not, TranslatePress or Polylang are better choices, with licenses running at around $120 – $200 per year.
Wordfence – Security and firewall tools like Wordfence can consume a huge amount of resources in order to protect your site. Instead choose a cloud-based security solution like Cloudflare (more info in point #10).
Unfortunately, extensions that dramatically slow sites down are more common that you might realize.
Time needed: 1-2 hours of configuration
There are many extensions that can slow your site down, even on pages where they aren’t being used.
A solution like Asset Cleaner allows you to delay loading certain scripts, allowing your pages to load more rapidly.
Even more interesting is the ability to block scripts from loading for certain key sections where they aren’t needed.
For example, since I don’t have a table of contents on my home page, I choose not to load CSS or JS files that won’t be used.
WP Disable (above) and Asset Cleaner are two extensions you can use to remove potentially needless features and improve performance.
Catégorie : CDN
Difficulty : Advanced
Time needed : Variable
Mentioned a few times in this article, a Content Delivery Network can allow you to collect, optimize and better distribute your resources. The majority of CDNs also offer the ability to improve tracking, performance and security.
Cloudflare is the market leader, and the free version is very complete though it unfortunately doesn’t cover image optimization. (Psst. Use Flying Images with Cloudflare).
The more advanced features are generally accessible with a license that ranges from $20/month for a professional account to $200/month for an enterprise account.
Bunny CDN is a serious Cloudflare competitor thanks to its low cost and excellent value for money. If you’re looking for the same advanced functionalities offered by Cloudflare but have a moderate volume of users, you could save a lot of money.
Category: Common sense
Difficulty: A challenge
Time needed: Ongoing
Take the time to analyze your needs and build a robust foundation that won’t slow you or your team down in the future. What are your current irritants, what keeps you from being flexible?
Choose a theme that’s simple and gets updated regularly (Astra, Generatepress). Use Gutenberg or Elementor to replace your sliders and other obsolete extensions.
The beauty of WordPress is that there are always alternatives, as long as you know where to find them.
Category: Continuous information
Time needed: Often
Here are a few good resources to stay on top of the latest tips and trends:
- WPTavern – For all your news needs.
- WP Speed Matters – To help you optimize the speed of your website.
- WP Beginners – For all your questions and to find useful extensions.
For recommendations based on content creation and optimization I’d suggest: