Speed Optimization: the WordPress Plugins You Need

I’ve talked a lot about security over the last few weeks. This week, though, I want to talk about another important website attribute: speed.

For anyone who experienced 56k dial-up, you could be forgiven for thinking today’s super-fast broadband connections have solved the problem of website speed. After all, most websites load within a few seconds.

We’ve become accustomed to lightning-quick websites, though, and this has made us more demanding than ever before.

So let’s make this clear: speed matters.

Why is it so important? Because Google loves fast websites.

On more than a few occasions, the search engine giant has confirmed that website speed is an important ranking factor. In other words, making your website faster will improve your website’s ranking in Google.

This raises the important question: how do I make my website faster?

Good news: there’s lots of ways! Today, though, I want to focus on speed optimization plugins.

A quick warning: having too many plugins is a common cause of a sluggish website. You should only install a plugin if you absolutely need it, and you should never, ever have more than one plugin that performs the same functionality.

That said, some plugins really can make your website super-fast, and today I want to show you 14 of the best!

Caching Plugins

Let’s briefly dive into website optimization, starting with a simple yet powerful tool: caching plugins. When you visit a website, your browser needs to request information from the website’s server. Depending on the site, this process can involve a lot of back and forth, fetching various pieces of the website. Now, imagine if all that information could be packaged up and saved after the first visit so that the next time someone visits the website, they can be served the page almost instantly. That’s exactly what caching plugins do. Caching plugins serve a static version of your website to your visitors. This is far quicker than loading the dynamic version from scratch every time.

Best caching plugins:

  • WP Fastest Cache (free) [Updated]
  • W3 Total Cache (free)
  • LiteSpeed Cache (free) [Updated]
  • WP Rocket (from $49) [Price Updated]

Lazy Loading Plugins

Moving on to a concept that might sound a bit lazy but is actually quite smart: lazy loading. The traditional approach loads everything on a webpage all at once, which can lead to slower loading times, especially if there are many large images involved. Lazy loading takes a more efficient approach by ensuring that the images above the fold — the ones your visitors will see straight away — are prioritized. Images further down the page are only loaded when the visitor scrolls down, just before they appear on screen.

Best lazy loading plugins:

A3 Lazy Load (free) [Updated]

Rocket Lazy Load (free)

Lazy Load by WP Rocket (free) [Updated]

Content Delivery Network Plugins

Did you know that the physical distance between you and a web server will impact how quickly a website loads? Consider the process of mailing a letter to someone in the same city versus sending one across the globe. The latter, of course, takes longer. The same principle applies to loading website content. The farther away the server hosting the website’s data is from the user, the longer it takes for the data to travel. CDNs cleverly circumvent this issue by replicating the website’s data across multiple servers worldwide, ensuring that no matter where a user is, a server nearby can swiftly deliver the website’s content.

Best CDN Plugins:

Cloudflare (free)

Jetpack Site Accelerator (free) [Name Updated]

BunnyCDN (from $1/month) [Added and Updated]

Image Compression Plugin

High-quality images come with a cost: file size. Larger files take longer to load, which can slow down your website. Image compression plugins work by reducing the file size of your images without compromising the visual quality. This means your website can still look stunning, but load much faster.

Best image compression plugins:

  • Imagify (free, with premium plans) [Updated]
  • EWWW Image Optimizer (free)
  • ShortPixel Image Optimizer (free, with premium plans) [Updated]

Database Optimization Plugins

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by clutter in your home, you know how liberating a good clean-up can be. Well, your WordPress database feels the same way. By default, WordPress stores all sorts of unnecessary clutter in your database. Over time, this accumulates drafts, revisions, spam comments, and other digital debris that can slow down your site. Database optimization plugins sift through the clutter, removing what’s unnecessary, and organize what’s left to ensure your website runs as smoothly as possible.

Best database optimization plugins:

  • WP-Optimize (free)
  • Advanced Database Cleaner (free) [Updated]
  • WP-Sweep (free) [Added]

Final Thoughts

If you take website speed as seriously as you should, these are the plugins you need. Each plugin performs a different speed-enhancing functionality, so consider getting one from each category (most of the plugins I’ve listed are free, so go ahead and experiment).

If you want to track how much faster your website becomes, try running your website through Pingdom before and after installing the speed optimization plugins!

Moreover, always ensure to keep plugins updated and remove those that are no longer useful or needed. Staying current with your plugin versions can help mitigate security risks and keep your site running smoothly.

Do you have any speed optimization tips? Share them in the comments section below!

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