How To Improve Your First Contentful Paint (under 1 second!)

How To Improve First Contentful Paint

FCP stands for First Contentful Paint. Without getting too deep into tech stuff, it’s the time at which the first element or piece of content on your page shows to the visitor.

We want this timing ideally at or under 1 second and on almost all sites the logo is the first element drawn on the page. While this isn’t a “core web vital”, Google wants to see this under 1.8 seconds.

Most content around the web on this topic is written by content writers who’ve never optimized a site and are just copying what everyone else is saying. In this post we’ll share our exact process we use that to get this metric under 1 second.

This is a somewhat technical topic so we’ve included an audio version below and also a short video walking through Autoptimize settings that will help improve this timing.

What Is FCP or First Contentful Paint Time?

First contentful paint (FCP) time is a period needed for the first part of a webpage to appear in the browser. In other words, it’s a time interval between the visitor opening a page and actually seeing something such as text, image, video, etc. actually appearing on the screen.

Why Is FCP Time Important?

While FCP is not a core web vital (it probably should be), FCP timing has a huge impact on the first impression your site makes because it answers the visitor’s initial question:” Is the page loading or not?”. This makes it an important speed metric.

What Should My FCP Timing Be?

Your first contentful paint time depends on the page itself and the geographical locations of both the hosting and the visitor. Ideally, this timing should be under 1 second. Google’s metrics will say that anything around 1.5 seconds or below is good FCP time, but if you follow this guide, you should be able to significantly reduce it for almost any site. 

If you have good hosting, by using the technique from this article you should cut your FCP time down to the 0.6 – 0.8 seconds range in the country your site is hosted in, and probably around 1 second internationally.

Keep in mind that first contentful paint time is going to vary from location to location, meaning that the further away the visitor is from the host location, the slower the page is going to load. Normally, it’s expected for the page-load to be between 0.5 – 1 second slower for a visitor from a different continent. The reason for this is that the international visitor’s load has to travel a long distance through cables under the ocean.

Step by Step Guide – How to Improve First Contentful Paint Time

Below, you’ll find the process we use to squeeze the FCP time under that 1 second mark.

Test FCP Before Doing Anything

Site Speed Bot
SiteSpeedBot will give you detailed, plain english site speed optimization recommendations

Before doing anything, make sure you test FCP time so you can compare the results from before and after the work is done. There are a lot of different tools that you can use to test FCP time, but we suggest you use our tool SiteSpeedBot

SiteSpeedBot allows testing from a bunch of different locations, so it will bring you a more exact indication of the issues. Google PageSpeed Insights is also useful, but keep in mind that it only tests from the US, so in case your site is hosted elsewhere, it will not give you accurate numbers of FCP time from other locations.

Another important tip here is to always run several tests because the internet kind of functions like a highway – the speed and the amount of data sent to you heavily depend on how busy the internet connection is. You will probably notice that if you run a test at 9 pm, the speed might be a little faster than during the daytime when there’s a lot more load on the internet. Different times of day and different locations are going to cause the timing to move up and down, so before making changes make sure to run a few tests and find an average result.

Step 1 – Reduce TTFB First

To fix FCP time, you will need to improve the time to first byte (TTFB). TTFB, also known as “server response time” in tools like Google Pagespeed Insights. That metric represents the time the server takes to deliver the first byte to the browser after the user makes a request.

FCP time heavily depends on the TTFB timing, because TTFB comes first. As a target, TTFB or server response time should be sitting around 0.1 – 0.2 seconds in the country where the site is hosted, and around 0.2 – 0.5 seconds internationally. 

In case your TTFB is above those ranges, you should do some work on reducing it. In the following paragraphs, we are going to list the most important factors that influence TTFB. Keep in mind that this article is mainly focused on improving WordPress performance, but the same principles apply to any other CMSs, including Shopify.

Cloudflare home page
Cloudflare can dramatically improve your site speed even on the free plan. If site speed is important we recommend at their APO service at $5/month

Use a Good DNS Host Like Cloudflare

The first step is having a good DNS host and we use Cloudflare because they’re typically the fastest DNS host in the world as per https://dnsperf.com

DNS hosting is the service responsible for translating web addresses to IP addresses. This means that each time you type an address into your browser’s URL bar, the browser first does a DNS lookup that converts a web address into an IP address, and by doing so locates the server that hosts the website.

Use Page Caching and Edge Caching

The next important feature that your site should have is called page caching. Website pages are HTML files and page caching prebuilds these HTML files in advance so they’re ready to go when the visitor hits the website.

This reduces TTFB dramatically as the pages are prebuilt. Without page caching on every visit the web hosting has to do the database lookups and PHP processing from scratch which typically takes 1-3 seconds and even longer for some pages.

The plugin we usually recommend for page caching services on WordPress sites is WP Rocket.

WP-Rocket-home-page
WPRocket is what we use and recommend for WordPress Page Caching

If you are targeting an international audience, Cloudflare’s APO service is a no-brainer too.

It provides another level of caching called edge caching. This feature stores entire HTML pages at Cloudflare’s edge nodes, on their servers around the world, so when a visitor requests to open a page, it gets served to him from the geographically nearest server. This is similar to page caching except that pre-built HTML file is sitting on Cloudflare’s infrastructure and closer to the visitor.

With site speed, geography and location matters a lot, so the shorter the distance that data has to travel is, the better the TTFB and FCP timings will be.

Because edge caching does a lot of the work it also reduces a lot of load off the web hosting which can also help improve your site’s performance. Cloudflare has its servers in more than 160 locations worldwide, and their APO service costs only $5 a month.

To learn more about improving TTFB, read our How To Reduce Server Response Times (aka TTFB) article here which goes into more detail.

Step 2 – Disable Lazy Loading On the Logo

In most cases, the logo is the first element that appears on the page, so here are a few simple techniques that will speed up its loading. 

What Is Lazy Loading

Lazy loading is a speed optimization technique that delays the loading of some images until the user scrolls down to the point of the page where those images appear. The problem with lazy loading is that when it’s turned on, it lazy loads all the images. This means that lazy loading tags will be assigned to all of the images on the page, including those at the top that are immediately visible to the user.

That creates an issue where those images “above the fold” have to waiting for the lazy load JavaScript library to execute before the images at the top of the page load. Essentially the lazyload javascript library becomes “render blocking”.

Disabling lazy loading on the logo file name or file names is an easy way to fix this problem. Keep in mind that sometimes different logos display on different devices, so you might have to disable lazy loading on multiple file names. There are different ways to exclude files from lazy loading, depending on the lazy loading plugin or method you use.

How to Disable Lazy Logo Loading

In case you are using a plugin such as WP Rocket or Autoptimize, the process is fairly easy: open the image or copy the URL, put it in the tool, and select the setting that will exclude the lazy loading of this particular image, in this case the logo. This action alone can reduce your first contentful paint time to under 1 second.

There’s another step that you can take here which will speed up your FCP even more. It’s something called a preload directive or preload browser hint.

The preload browser hint is a snippet of HTML code that go in the header section of the site to tell the browser to overwrite the default loading order of files on the page.

By implementing a preload tag that contains the logo you are instructing the browser to load the logo earlier than it normally would therefore improving the FCP even further.

The video below walks through this process in a little more detail. Although not shown in the video, right now we use Autoptimize to drive lazy loading and add the image filename into the “Exclude images” section on the images tab and also exclude the first 4 images from lazy loading which also helps LCP timings.

Step 3 – Other Speed Optimizations That Help FCP

Compress the Logo Image

Always make sure to run the logo through some sort of compression so its file size is as small as possible and adjust the dimensions so the size fits its placement on the screen.

Usually, the size of a logo is around 5-10 KB, but in some cases it can be a lot bigger. We’ve even seen logos as wide as 500-1000 pixels which then makes the filesize 100-300kb (0.1-0.3mb) which is enormous if you consider the placement on the page. Most logos are usually around 100 or 200 pixels wide.

Fix 404 Errors

Making sure there are no 404 errors on the page can also help. When a browser encounters a 404 error, such as a file that doesn’t load or doesn’t exist, it will cause a delay in rendering the page. SiteSpeedBot will help you detect any 404 errors happening under the bonnet but generally, it’s worth running an SEO audit tool on the entire website once a month and resolving all 404 errors as they’ll often occur naturally over time.

Optimize JavaScript – Defer, Delay & Move It Further Down The Page

DEFER:
Optimizing the JavaScript can also help you reduce first contentful paint timing. First, you want to make sure that you are deferring as much JavaScript as possible. Deferring JavaScript is a JS-specific optimization and using a plugin such as WP Rocket can help here.

DELAY/PAUSE JS:
Tools like WP Rocket can help you delay or pause JavaScript files, so they don’t load until the user interacts with the page which can dramatically reduce the impact of javascript on site speed. This optimization is particularly useful for live chat plugins and widgets that don’t need to load initially on the page. It usually doesn’t impact FCP timing, but it’s worth doing anyway.

MOVE IT FURTHER DOWN THE PAGE:
JavaScript code gets executed top to bottom so code higher up on the page gets loaded and executed first.

Optimize Your CSS

Optimizing the CSS can also help you reduce the FCP time, although only slightly. Typically this has more impact if your site is using an older theme with less optimized CSS. CSS optimization or settings in plugins such as WP Rocket or Autoptimize will improve things to a certain degree.

Want it done for you?

We’ve optimized over 4000 WordPress sites and can help make yours load lightning fast too! If you’re looking for someone to do this for you, complete the form on our homepage and one of the team will review your site and tell you what’s doable in terms of site speed.

The Benefits of Cloudflare & Why We Use It for WordPress

Benefits of Cloudflare

Every day, we get lots of messages from website owners and admins asking us what Cloudflare actually is, what are its benefits, and why use Cloudflare for WordPress. We’ve deployed Cloudflare on thousands of websites as part of our WordPress speed optimization service, and we continue to recommend it.  

If you’ve ever used any of our services, then you remember the part of the onboarding form where you were asked if you want to get Cloudflare and if you’d like for us to set it up for you. A great number of people ask us why we do that, and what is the benefit of Cloudflare. Others mostly just click on the “no” option, without even knowing how helpful Cloudflare can be. That’s why, in this article, we’re going to get more into the matter and provide you with more facts about Cloudflare’s services.

What Is Cloudflare

Cloudflare

Cloudflare offers many features and services that can improve the security of your website, but also increase its speed and boost its overall performance. The most notable aspects of Cloudflare include its:

  • CDN service;
  • Firewalling;
  • Website acceleration service. 

Cloudflare also offers a free plan, which is especially useful if you are running a small to medium-sized site. Paid plans also come at great prices, which are preferable for medium to large-sized sites. The difference they bring to your site speed is huge, so they are definitely worth paying for.

Cloudflare Benefits

Cloudflare can significantly improve your site’s speed, security, and overall performance. In the following paragraphs, we are going to have a more detailed look at how Cloudflare boosts each of these segments. 

It Has The Fastest DNS Host Worldwide

Domain Name System (DNS) hosting plays an extremely important part when it comes to a website’s speed. DNS is responsible for translating a site’s domain name to an IP address, so you could tell that it serves as the internet’s phonebook.

The first thing that happens when you type a domain name in your browser’s URL bar is that the browser “goes and talks” to the hosting provider. It does a DNS lookup, which translates that domain name into an IP address, so it can find the server that hosts that website on the internet. This implies that the faster your DNS hosting is, the faster the search process will be.

The speed difference between using fast and slow DNS hosting is massive. A great number of people still use the DNS host that came with their domain name or their web hosting when they purchased it. In case your DNS host is bad and slow, a lookup can last between 0.5 and 1 second, or even longer, while with a fast DNS host, such as Cloudflare, it takes only 10-20 milliseconds. That makes a huge difference in speed, which is one of the reasons why you should consider going for the Cloudflare DNS hosting.

As you can see, we strongly recommend Cloudflare because it dramatically improves website performance. 

Low TTL

Besides being the world’s fastest DNS host, Cloudflare has other qualities as well, such as extremely low time to live (TTL). TTL is a value which tells the network router if the data packet has been in the network for too long and should be deleted. This process prevents error packets from circulating around the internet forever so they don’t get stuck and cause the network to slow down. Cloudflare’s TTL is usually around 3-5 minutes. With other DNS hosts it can be around 5-6 hours, or even a whole day, so the difference in the quality of service is obvious here.

Sometimes, however, you can’t use Cloudflare because of some technical reasons. If that’s the case, you should still look for DNS hosting as an important part of speed optimization work. As an alternative option, we usually suggest DigitalOcean DNS hosting, which also provides good quality, and is typically among the five fastest hosts in the world. 

It’s a CDN Service

Cloudflare is a content delivery network (CDN) service, which is a huge plus from a speed optimization perspective. CDN is a group of servers that hosts parts of a website or a whole website. So you have your web hosting and a network of CDN servers around the world that reduce the load of the hosting, while typically being located geographically closer to the visitors. This means that if you were, for example, in Australia, and you wanted to access a site in the US, without a CDN service, your browser would have to travel to the US and download the site from that server. Simply because of geography, the website would be around 1 second slower for you than for someone located in the US.

On the other hand, with a CDN service, your browser would use one of the local CDN servers located in Australia and download most of the website from the closest one. And this is what makes a CDN service the most needed site speed optimization. A CDN service reduces the impact of geography on the speed, while also easing a lot of the load of your web hosting.

It’s apparent that a CDN service is a must-have in 2021. Cloudflare has its CDN servers in more than 160 locations worldwide, so this is another reason why we recommend using Cloudflare.

It Has a Built-In Firewall Service

Cloudflare is also very useful when it comes to your website’s security. It comes with a basic firewall service built-in. Their paid plans also include a web application firewall, which allows a user to easily put up some mighty rules that will protect their key web applications from malicious attacks.

Even with the free plan, Cloudflare allows you to implement some firewall rules and do things that will block particular types of traffic, or block traffic from accessing certain parts of the website. Showing a captcha page on the WordPress login is also an option. If you want to learn more about Cloudflare’s rules for filtering brute force logins, click here

Paid Cloudflare Services We Recommend

1. Automatic Platform Optimization (APO) service is a type of edge caching that Cloudflare charges only $5 a month. Entire pages of your website will be hosted on their servers, which means that the visitors’ browsers will load them much faster, which is why this service will take your website’s performance to the next level. Without APO service, their servers will only store images, Javascript, and CSS files, but with APO they will store the entire pages.

From the speed perspective, the APO service further reduces the impact of geography and therefore increases your site’s speed. It also reduces the load on the hosting dramatically, which is another boost for your site’s performance. This $5/month plan is particularly a great choice if your site is targeting an international audience. 

2. A level up from there, costing $20 a month, is a plan which involves APO service, web application firewall, as well as some additional optimizations. We especially recommend a web application firewall to users who run a site that has to do anything with WooCommerce, payments in general, or simply has a lot of crawlers, scrapers, or garbage traffic.

The $20/month package is also a great choice if you have a bigger site because unwanted stuff are all over the web, so the full firewall will cut a lot of that rubbish out and stop it from hitting your site.

This plan also brings some additional speed optimizations including image optimization. If you, for any reason, can’t use an image optimization plugin on your website, or your site has thousands of pages with a lot of images, the image optimization feature Cloudflare offers will speed up your WordPress significantly.

Final Words

This concludes our post on why use Cloudflare. Hopefully, we helped you find out everything you wanted to know about Cloudflare’s services. We understand that the article is a bit technical, so here’s an audio version of it. In case you still have any questions about the topic or you would like to go deeper in detail, post in the comments, and we will be happy to answer.

How to Reduce Server Response Time or TTFB (Time to First Byte)

How To Reduce Server Response Times (aka TTFB)

To be blunt, most articles on the web written about reducing TTFB are complete garbage and written by content writers who have no technical or speed optimization experience and are simply parroting what everyone else says online.

In this article we’ll share the troubleshooting steps and recommendations we’ve created after optimizing 4000+ WordPress sites.

This article is quite technical and as is the case with these sorts of articles we’ve also included an audio version which might be a bit easier to digest.

Download by clicking on the following links – Part 1 and Part 2 or click play on the player below.

What Is Server Response Time?

Server response time is a broad measure of how responsive a server is. It represents the period between the user’s request and the first byte that the web browser receives from the server (time to the first byte).

Most blogs and web articles state that TTFB doesn’t really matter, but it does. Lower server response time improves website performance, and therefore allows for a better user experience. Lower TTFB is always better.

What Is a Good TTFB?

Server response time highly depends on geography – for a WordPress site, we expect to see a good TTFB sit in the 0.1-0.2 second range for visitors in the country or continent the site is hosted in and 0.2-0.5 seconds internationally.

Google guidelines note that anything in the 200-600 ms range means good TTFB, but honestly, if it’s higher than 500 ms that indicates there’s some work to do.

Site Speed Bot

As a starting point it’s worth testing your TTFB – our tool SiteSpeedBot will test for TTFB timings as well as other metrics and elements that impact it such as DNS hosting speed and HTTP2 protocol support.

The result will be changed each time you run a test, which is normal since site speed varies all the time, so ideally run a few tests from a few different locations (US, Europe, Asia, Australia).  Keep in mind that the further away the testing location or the visitor is, the higher the TTFB gets.

We don’t recommend the Google Page Insight tool given that, in most cases, it checks the speed only from the US, which will give you inconsistent speed averages.

Troubleshooting and Reducing TTFB

Use Fast DNS Hosting

Cloudflare's landing page

The speed and quality of your DNS hosting has a huge impact on your TTFB. Fast DNS hosting can help you reduce server response times. 

We typically recommend Cloudflare as your DNS host. Cloudflare is usually one of the top 3 fastest DNS hosts worldwide, ranked by dnsperf.com

If you can’t use Cloudflare, our next suggestion is the DigitalOcean DNS hosting. It’s also fast, reliable and has a simple to use interface.

If you’re DIYing a DNS hosting move be mindful that it’s absolutely critical that every single DNS record is copied from the source of the original DNS host and moved across to the new host. Missing even one record can potentially break your IT infrastructure.

Use Page Caching in WordPress

You pretty much can’t run a WordPress site without Page Caching. With Page Caching in place, pages are pre-built before the visitor hits the website.

All the PHP processing and database lookups required to generate the HTML file are all done in advance and stored in the page cache. When the visitor hits the website the server provides the HTML file immediately so the user experiences a faster site and the load on the server is dramatically reduced.

Typically it’ll take 1-4 seconds to generate a page from scratch whereas a cached page is available in a few hundred milliseconds (0.2-0.5 seconds). Without some form of page caching the TTFB will roughly match the page generation time so you’ll see the TTFB sit in that 1-4 second range.

WP-Rocket-home-page

WP Rocket is one of the best caching plugins on the market. It includes lots of excellent speed optimization features and is the plugin we use and recommend.

Note that some hosts come with built-in caching features. In some cases, caching features are installed but they’re either not working or are simply not enabled. If you’re using a managed WordPress host then this is worth looking at as a troubleshooting step.

Object caching is another type of caching that will help improve the TTFB of busy sites or database heavy sites too.

Use Good Hosting Close to Your Visitors

Ideally you want your hosting as close to the bulk of your visitors as possible. For most small businesses we’ll typically recommend Cloudways or Siteground but there are several other hosts we recommend on our Fastest WordPress Hosting page.

Use Edge Caching

Edge caching can reduce most of the impact of geography on site speed and TTFB and if you’re serving a global audience we recommend using it.

With edge aching in place, let’s say you are hosting your site in the US, and someone from Australia visits it. Most of the site will be loaded from the CDN server. Entire pages are cached on the CDN server called edge node. 

We typically recommend Cloudflare’s APO service, which is available for $5/month. 

Cloudflare’s Argo service can help reduce TTFB even further.

Troubleshoot Other Possible Issues

Here’s some other troubleshooting steps that will help troubleshoot and diagnose more complex TTFB problems.

Is that High TTFB Only on the Homepage or on All Pages?

Check if the TTFB issues are only present on the homepage or all pages. You can do this by testing the homepage and other pages on the site from different locations a few times. Make sure that you’re testing the correct URL. Sometimes the problem is simply the use of a wrong variation of the URL. It might be missing “www” at the front, or it’s testing HTTP instead of HTTPS and it’s the redirect causing a high TTFB.

If only the homepage is problematic, the issue might be caused by some plugin, or something else running on that page that slows it down. 

Make Sure You Are Using HTTPS

HTTP2 protocol was released in 2015, but some hosts still don’t support it. HTTP2 speeds up the communication between the browser and the hosting server dramatically. 

Run your website through our site speed test tool SiteSpeedBot, and it will tell you if your host supports HTTP2. 

Make Sure There Are No Issues in Cloudflare With Your SSL Certificate

If you’re using Cloudflare, and you have an SSL certificate, make sure that the encryption setting is set to FULL under the SSL settings. Having it set to flexible will cause poor TTFB timing.

When you’re in Cloudflare, another thing to make sure is that you’re using A records in the DNS hosting settings instead of CNAME or Alias records. Using a CNAME or ALIAS record will result in the DNS system having to do a second lookup to find the IP address. Sometimes it happens that the DNS hosting is pointing to an old IP address that still works, but is routed to a new IP address. So, it’s a good call to double-check the IP address to ensure it’s correct too.

Check the .htaccess File For Stuff That Shouldn’t Be There

Duplicate and excessive code in your htaccess file can absolutely cause a high time to first byte.

Often when someone manually adds speed optimization code to the htaccess file AND then installs a caching plugin (such as WP Rocket) on top of that there will end up being duplicate caching code in htaccess. 

This will inevitably cause issues with TTFB and overall site speed.

Also, if your htaccess file includes some weird rules or you have hundreds of thousands of lines in there that can be a problem. In a scenario where you have thousands of redirects, it’s worth looking at moving those into a redirect plugin which will eliminate the impact on TTFB. NOTE that these redirects might work slower if they are in the plugin since they would be processed by PHP and not the htaccess file.

Check the Server Load and the Storage Space on the Server

Another factor that might be increasing your TTFB and bringing your site speed down is a lack of storage space on your hosting plan or server. Not having enough space to curate stuff such as log files or caching files will cause things to slow down. 

There are some memory issues related to that as well because if your site is using a reasonable amount of RAM and overflowing into virtual memory, lack of free space can break how virtual memory works. 

General server load can be an issue too so make sure your hosting has some CPU buffer and isn’t working at 100% load all the time.

Jetpack’s Site Accelerator Plugin (Formerly Photon)

Some optimization features, particularly the image optimization plugin called Site Accelerator by Jetpack (former Photon), definitely cause TTFB issues. We urge you to disable it and then run a few speed tests and find out if this was your issue. 

There’s better image optimization plugins than Jetpack – we typically recommend ShortPixel and Cloudflare, because the combination of these two should be way faster than Jetpack’s Site Accelerator. This article breaks down how we use Shortpixel.

Make Sure That Page Caching Is Actually Working

Sometimes, page caching might not be working because of permission issues on the caching folder. The folder might also contain old corrupt data and garbage that could be causing problems. Deleting the cache folder is an easy way to fix this. 

You’ll find the caching folder under /wp-content/cache

Simply delete the /cache folder 

**MAKE SURE you DO NOT delete the WP content folder itself.

Query Monitor

The /cache folder is autocreated by caching plugins so you should see it reappear almost immediately after deleting it.

Run Query Monitor to Identify Any Errors

Query Monitor is a plugin that can help identify errors and other issues such as long database lookups that hurt your TTFB.

Install the plugin and navigate to the homepage while logged in as a WordPress admin and it’ll show red or yellow in the admin toolbar if there are errors happening under the bonnet.

Use the Highest Version of PHP the Site Supports

WP engine

Each new version of PHP is faster than the one before it. Version 8 of PHP has just been released in March of 2021. Most hosts don’t support it yet, but versions 7.4 and 7.3 are available. 

Using the highest version of PHP your site supports will help your site speed. If you’re running a really old version like 5.6 this will likely hurt your TTFB.

There’s a plugin called WP Engine that serves as a compatibility checker for PHP server support. You simply install it and run the test. If something fails the test, you manually look up that plugin or theme or whatever it is and see if its developer supports PHP 7. In most cases it does, so it’s worth checking.

Make Sure You Don’t Have 404s on the Page

Sometimes, 404 errors can cause TTFB issues downstream especially if the file is referenced high up in the HTML or CSS. Checking and resolving 404 errors *might* in some cases fix a TTFB problem.

Disable Javascript and CSS Minification Combining

Content around the web almost always tells you to minify and combine CSS and JS to fix TTFB issues – this is 100% wrong and does absolutely zero for TTFB. On the contrary, combining those tools or minifying them with a plugin can even cause an increase in server response times. 

We recommend that if you have CSS minified or combined with JS, try disabling them and run a speed test. In some cases, JS and CSS minification and combining can cause a TTFB problem especially if there is a 404 related to one of those files.

Database Size and Storage Engines

A lot of people online will tell you to optimize your database . If your database is too big, that’s an issue, but realistically speaking, most WordPress databases are not bigger than a few hundred MB. Databases as big as 5, 10, or 20 GB, are considered huge and indeed problematic. But let’s focus on what matters here, and that’s choosing the right storage engine for your database. WordPress uses a MySQL database, and there are two storage engines available: InnoDB and MyISAM. 

To illustrate the difference between the two, we should imagine your database as a Google or Excel spreadsheet. MyISAM protocol would only enable editing of one of those sheets or tabs at a time, which means that that tab is locked while being edited. So from the database perspective: users are visiting the site and WordPress is trying to write things to the database. One of these operations has to be put on hold because only one can go on at the time. This means that the table is locked, operations start to queue up, and it all results in things slowing down. 

On the other hand, InnoDB doesn’t lock tabs. Locking can only happen on a row-level, so only one person can edit a row on the sheet or table at once. This is rarely a problem since it’s not very common that multiple rows are being edited at the same time.

There are different ways to convert from MyISAM to InnoDB, but we use a plugin from ServeBolt optimizer, which changes the storage engine on all database tables.

Check the Server Logs- Apache & PHP

If you are still troubleshooting, then you should probably start looking at the log files and realize what’s happening under the bonnet. Query Monitor should help you solve most of the errors, but still there might be some things happening at the lower level of the hosting and causing issues. 

What Doesn’t Work

As we said before, minifying or combining will not bring any improvement to your TTFB or site performance in general. Also, remember not to listen to nonsense tips that tell you to mess with WordPress heartbeat, because that doesn’t do anything. In fact, it can break things. We also noted before that cleaning the database will not do anything either, so just check storage engines instead.

How To Speed Up & Optimize WordPress Database Queries

In this post, we’re going to break down and share how we optimize the WordPress database and database queries when working on site speed.

I’ve included an audio version of the article too as it can be quite technical. We find that some of these more technical posts can be better explained in audio format in conjunction with text and images.

How To Speed Up & Optimize WordPress Database Queries

A slow WordPress database or slow queries will typically manifest in areas in WordPress that aren’t cached like the WordPress backend, checkout pages in WooCommerce, or membership pages on a membership site.

There’s no magic when it comes to site speed optimization and speeding up the database end of WordPress is the same. Ultimately, the way in which you can speed up WordPress data queries could be summarized as:

  1. Use better hosting;
  2. Use object caching powered by Redis or Memcached (memory based database caching);
  3. Reduce the load on the site and database;
  4. Configure the database in a best practices fashion.

How to Speed Up WordPress Database Queries

The recommendations below can be a bit technical, so if you have a question or need anything clarified, please post in the comments.

1. Use a Good Host That Ideally Has Memcached or Redis Caching

Having a high quality, reliable hosting provider that supports Memcached or Redis caching is of crucial importance. Memcached and Redis are types of memory caches that can be used for Object Caching – basically WordPress database caching.

Redis is *probably* faster in most cases but Memcached is generally more widely available. These are applications installed on the server or hosting itself.

Cloudways' home page

If you have a VPS that you’re in control of you should be able to install one of these apps on it.

If you have a site that is heavy on database queries it’s worth looking at a host with object caching capability. Here’s three we regularly recommend that check this box:

  • Siteground – Siteground is a solid mid range host and they support Memcached and have a tutorial on how to configure it.
  • Cloudways – has its VPS servers located in more than 60 places worldwide. These guys offer truly affordable hosting plans starting at $10/month. Cloudways supports both Memcached and Redis. 
  • *Kinsta – is a managed WordPress host and offers Redis as an addon option.

2. Use Object Caching

Object caching is a type of database caching that can dramatically speed up sites that have database heavy operations. Woocommerce checkout and cart operations, order management on the backend and almost everything that happens behind the logon on a membership site are all database heavy operations that will benefit from Object Caching.

Redis home page

The object cache sits in front of the database and can answer previous database queries (if in the cache) without talking to the database.

Your host will need to support Redis or Memcached in order to use object caching and we typically use the Redis Object Cache plugin from Till Kruss inside WordPress to power the caching.

Broadly the steps to get this up and running are:

  1. Install Redis or Memcached or check with your host whether they support it;
  2. Add a cache salt key in wpconfig.php (important because without this caches may jump between sites);
  3. Install and enable the Redis Object Cache plugin.

3. Use the Highest Version of PHP the Site Supports

PHP is the programming language WordPress is built on. New versions of PHP get released regularly (every 6-12 months) and each version typically is 10-30% faster than the previous version. 

Using the highest version of PHP that your site supports can dramatically speed up database related operations.

4. Reduce the Load by Using Page Caching

WP-Rocket-home-page

You pretty much can’t run a WordPress site without Page Caching. With Page Caching in place, pages are pre-built before the visitor hits the website, which is a great way to speed up WordPress data queries.

All the PHP processing and database lookups required to generate the HTML file are all done in advance and stored in the page cache. When the visitor hits the website the server provides the HTML file immediately so the user experiences a faster site and the load on the server is dramatically reduced. Typically it’ll take 1-4 seconds to generate a page from scratch whereas a cached page is available in a few hundred milliseconds (0.2-0.5 seconds)

WP Rocket is one of the best caching plugins on the market. It includes lots of great features, so it stands out as the plugin we highly recommend to everyone who wants to speed up WordPress data queries and improve their website’s performance.

5. Reduce the Load by Using Cloudflare CDN

Even if you are using a low-quality host, Cloudflare can greatly decrease your site’s load times even on the free plan.

Cloudflare offers a number of speed optimizations and speed benefits such as:

Cloudflare home page
  • Fast DNS (Domain Name System) hosting – Cloudflare is typically one of the fastest DNS hosts in the world, see https://dnsperf.com for real time rankings
  • Security & Firewall even on the free plan Cloudflare can filter a lot of the garbage traffic hitting your site. There’s some custom rules we typically add to boost speed further, see this article
  • The $5/month plan includes Cloudflare’s APO service that does edge caching. With edge caching, entire pages from your site are stored on Cloudflare’s servers (aka “edge”) which removes most of the impact of geography on site speed AND can increase the volume of traffic your site can handle from 2-50x
  • On the $20/month plan (which we recommend for bigger sites) Cloudflare also provides a full firewall, image optimization and bunch of other site speed optimizations.

If you can’t use Cloudflare, at least use a CDN service (one that has image optimization built-in like Bunny CDN). CDN is very useful in speeding up the response of static assets such as CSS, JS, images, and fonts. 

6. Make Sure Your Database Is Using the Innodb Storage Engine for All Tables

InnoDB and MyISAM are “storage engines” used by MySQL – essentially the format the database stores its database. MyISAM was a default table type until MySQL 5.5.5 was introduced in 2010. Innodb tables are faster than MyISAM so ensuring the tables are using the Innodb storage engine can dramatically speed up queries.

MyISAM Table

There are several differences between the two but in simple terms, MyISAM tables will lock a database table while it’s being written to. This means that on a busy site these database write operations start to queue and cause delays in processing which manifest as slower loading to the user.

Think of the database table as an Excel spreadsheet where if one person has it open, another person can’t make any edits.

Innodb tables only lock the row in the database table that’s being written to, so there’s little to no database queuing. It’s like using a shared Google Sheet that multiple users can work on at once.

Converting from MyIsam tables to Innodb tables can give you a solid speed boost particularly in the backend and on higher traffic sites.

InnoDB Table

For most affiliate sites, the database will be a few hundred megabytes at most, so we use a plugin called Servebolt Optimizer (https://wordpress.org/plugins/servebolt-optimizer/ ) to do the conversion. If your database is over 1 GB in size, you might need to run the convert operation a couple of times.

If the database is big, e.g. several GB, don’t do this during peak times, and probably not a good idea to do the conversion using this plugin as you’ll wind up knocking over the server for a reasonably long period of time. Better to do this at the database level itself in PHPMyAdmin and probably wise to get a developer to do this for you.

7. Disable Any Plugins and Tools You’re Not Using

Unused plugins and tools might be another reason for slow WordPress database queries, especially when it comes to older websites. Go through all plugins and tools your site uses, and delete or disable those that are no longer used. 

From a speed point of view, cutting the number of plugins should improve your site’s performance. 

8. Delete Expired Transients for Your Database

The transients API in WordPress makes way for developers to store temporary information in the WordPress database and assign it an expiration time, after which it will be deleted. This eases server load and improves WordPress performance. 

Sometimes, transients expire or disappear before their set timeframe, or don’t have the expiring time. Old and expired transients can increase the site load and negatively influence its performance. There’s a number of different plugins that can delete expired transients, like WP Rocket as well as WP Optimize.

Query monitor home page

9. Use the Query Monitor Plugin to Identify Database Hogs

Query Monitor is a WordPress plugin that allows debugging WordPress’ slow database queries, hooks and actions, PHP errors, editor blocks, HTTP API calls, enqueued scripts and stylesheets, and more. It also helps you to efficiently find out if plugins, themes, or functions perform poorly. Query Monitor comes with some advanced features that are extremely useful with debugging Ajax calls, REST API calls, and user capability checks.

Installing the Query Monitor plugin and performing operations on the frontend and backend of the site will identify slow pages, large database queries and memory hogs.

Query Monitor is free – https://wordpress.org/plugins/query-monitor/ 

10. Update All Plugins to the Latest Versions

This is yet another way to speed up WordPress data queries. Quite often older plugins have minor incompatibilities with the current WordPress version or PHP version being used. Usually these issues will appear in Query Monitor but occasionally not. Making sure all plugins are up to date can eliminate these problems. 

Pay special attention here to paid plugins that come from Themeforest/Envato or a third party where there may be several updates available but the plugin itself does not show any updates available.

11. Analyze Server Logs to Identify Any Resources Getting Hammered

Sometimes looking at server log files can help identify particular resources that are getting hammered or errors happening under the bonnet.

Again the Query Monitor plugin will usually unearth errors that would show up in the server log but occasionally not.

Often we find SEO crawlers hammer Woocommerce sites adding and removing thing to the cart and wishlist rapidly over the course of a few seconds chewing up a huge volume of server resources so blocking these crawlers can be useful. Likewise brute-force attacks on the WordPress backend login screen can have a similar effect. 

We shared some simple Cloudflare rules in this post that you might find useful https://www.wpspeedfix.com/cloudflare-rules-wordpress/ 

12. Reduce Load Further by Using Wordfence or Another Security Tool

As per the previous point, using security tools can help reduce the volume of scrapers, crawlers and otherwise nefarious visitors chewing up server resources.

Typically we recommend using the $20/month version of Cloudflare which has true stateful firewall built into it so it can intelligently block traffic as well as the free version of Wordfence which will help reduce brute force attacks and anything that slips through Cloudflare.

Further help….

I hope you found this post useful. If you need further help with your site speed then it’d be worth running some tests in our free tool at https://sitespeedbot.com – often it’ll uncover site speed optimization opportunities other tools don’t.

If you’re looking for help specifically with high database load, our Consult Service (https://www.wpspeedfix.com/order-speed-consult/) is probably the service that can help you. If you’re unsure, head to the homepage and submit a free site speed audit request.

How To Optimize WordPress Speed WITHOUT Plugins

Speed optimization without plugins

We get asked about how to optimize WordPress speed without plugins more often than you’d expect. And there are valid reasons why some site admins want to do WordPress speed optimization without plugins – some sites are on a complex multisite installation, or have extremely high traffic and more plugins mean more complexity.

Below you’ll find our key recommendations for speeding up a WordPress website, or any other site for that matter, without using plugins. Using these steps, you’ll be able to get your WordPress website to load extremely fast BUT probably not as fast as it could if you were using plugins to do things like page caching and image optimization, so please keep that in mind.

Common Misconceptions

From what we see daily, there’s a frequent misconception that more plugins are ALWAYS worse when it comes to speed. However, that’s not the case, so if you’re avoiding plugins simply because of this, we urge you to rethink your position as there are some fantastic site speed plugins like WP Rocket out there that will make a world of difference to how fast your site runs.

Site Speed Bot

Identify The Root Cause So You Don’t Waste Time 

One very common mistake we see people make when working on their site speed is randomly testing tools and tactics without identifying the root cause for the slow loading speed of their site. Before doing anything, we’d strongly suggest you run a site speed test beforehand to identify the low-hanging fruit.

Our speed test tool SiteSpeedBot is 100% FREE and will give you detailed recommendations on what to do in under 60 seconds!

How to Optimize WordPress Speed Without Plugins

Some recommendations below are a bit technical, so if you have questions or need anything clarified, please leave a comment below.

1. Use a Good Host

Web hosting is of huge importance for everything you do online, whether for your SEO, Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, or the inquiries, calls, and emails your website generates. Better hosting means better user experience, and a better user experience will increase your conversion rate. 

This being said, it’s clear that having reliable, fast hosting will shortly pay off. A quality host is one of the key factors in WordPress speed optimization without plugins. A good hosting provider uses a solid state drive (SSD) that operates way faster than the standard hard drive (HDD), and so allows shorter page load times and better overall performance. Some hosts also offer the newer NVME disks which are even faster again than standard SSD drives. Good providers come with larger bandwidth and RAM, which also implies better speed and more power to your website. 

Another important factor to consider are server locations. In most cases, websites will perform 1+ second slower outside of the country where the server is located. That’s why it’s important to use a server located in the country or continent where most of your visitors come from. 

Surprisingly, in 2021, the price difference between high-quality hosts and garbage hosts is almost insignificant, so here’s a list of hosts we usually recommend:

Cloudways
  • Cloudways offers cheap hosting packages starting at $10/month. These guys use VPS servers on a speed-optimized server stack to provide high speed while offering 60+ locations around the globe.
  • Siteground stands out as one of the most affordable options, and still provides satisfactory site speed, which makes it a way better choice than other cheap hosts. 
  • WPX Hosting is a dedicated WordPress host that does edge caching with its WPX cloud, and offers an amazing cost/speed ratio, with its data centers being located in the US and UK.
  • Kinsta is pricier, but it’s one of the best choices for websites that have a lot of traffic. These guys do page caching at the server level without a plugin and so does WPengine.

2. Use HTTPS

Running a site in HTTPS mode allows the browser to use the newer HTTP2 protocol, which speeds up how quickly the browser can download the site versus the older HTTP 1.1 protocol. Keep in mind that many cheap providers don’t support HTTP2 so if your host is lacking this support it’s an indication that their infrastructure is old or not upto scratch.

3. Use the Highest Version of PHP the Site Supports

PHP is the programming language or framework that WordPress is built on. Overall load speed typically increases 10-20% with each new version of PHP. In March of 2021, the newest 8.0.3. version of PHP was released. Most themes and plugins won’t support this version yet BUT it’s worth checking the version of PHP that you site can support and switching to that – version 7.4 is the version prior to v8 and most sites should support it.

WPEngine has a free plugin that can test your site for PHP compatibility on any host. Often you’ll have a couple of plugins that fail their automated testing but more often than not if you check with the plugin vendor and confirm what is the version of PHP their plugin can support.

4. Use Cloudflare

Even with the worst hosting providers, Cloudflare can shorten your load times drastically. Even if you go for a free plan, it will make a huge difference in load speed. Here are the services Cloudflare offers to boost your site’s performance:

Cloudflare
  • DNS hosting is a service that brings your website to the user who typed its address into the URL bar. Cheap providers often have slow DNS hosting which results in failed or slow hookups, further causing a load time increase. Cloudflare is amongst the 10 fastest DNS hosts in the world (see https://dnsperf.com for rankings). In most cases, Cloudflare’s DNS hosting will speed up your site significantly
  • Cloudflare also provides firewall and security features giving better protection for your site, reduces the load on the hosting as it filters some of the garbage crawlers and scrapers hitting the site which helps increase the site’s speed. This article details some of the rules we use to boost security and performance using Cloudflare.
  • The $5/month APO service effectively does page caching at the edge. Edge caching essentially means entire pages are cached on Cloudflare’s server reducing the load on your hosting and putting the entire site closer to the visitor.
  • The $20/month plan offers some additional features like a full web application firewall (WAF), better image optimization and a handful more website acceleration features.

If you can’t use Cloudflare, at least use a CDN service (one that has image optimization built-in, like Bunny CDN). 

5. Turn on-Site Speed Optimizations in Your Theme

Many WordPress themes come with speed optimization features, such as lazy loading,  which means that images don’t load until the viewer gets to that part of the page, or combining CSS and JavaScript, which decreases the number of network requests a browser has to make. 

A large number of themes also have more up-to-date optimizations, like just in time preloading, which preloads the page just before a user clicks on it (see https://instant.page for an example).

It’s worth checking your theme for these settings to ensure they’re enabled as well as turning off any theme features you aren’t using as many features load additional javascript and CSS.

6. Compress Images Before You Upload Them

Compressing images before uploading them to your website can decrease the loading time of your page for precious 1-2 seconds, and so boost the site’s performance.

It’s important that you use lossless compression, which can cut image size by 20-50%, and leave the image quality unchanged.

Lossy compression can squeeze more from your images but does reduce the quality slightly so use it with caution. Imageoptim is a great tool for image compression. If you still want to use a plugin, check out our post on how to compress and insert web images in WordPress.

7. Make Sure Your Database Is Using the Innodb Storage Engine for All Tables

servebolt

MySQL uses two storage engines for it’s database tables InnoDB and MyISAM. Innodb is faster for WordPress sites but many older sites will be using MyISAM. Converting these tables to Innodb will improve speed substantially for database heavy sites like Woocommerce.

You can do this conversion in PHPMyAdmin at the database level but we generally use a plugin called Servebolt Optimizer which allows you to do this with a few clicks in the WP backend.

**Make sure you backup your database before messing with this.

8. Disable Any Plugins and Tools You’re Not Using

This tip is especially important for older websites. Check the list of plugins and tools your site uses, and make sure you delete or disable the ones that are no longer in use. From a speed point of view, fewer plugins mean better performance. Pay attention to plugins that load elements from other sites, because they might bring your site’s speed down. Other plugins that can heavily decrease a site’s speed are ones that implement tracking, live chat, or remarketing codes. 

Moving these tracking codes to Google Tag Manager and using the Window Loaded trigger OR pausing them with the Delay JS function in WP Rocket can speed these up substantially.

9. Use Google Tag Manager

You’re probably already familiar with Google Tag Manager. Moving code like Google Analytics and Google Adwords tracking code to GTM and firing this code with a Window Loaded Trigger can significantly reduce their impact on load times.

With this trigger the tag is fired once the entire content of the page has been fully loaded, including any embedded resources (images, scripts, etc.). You can find this trigger by going to Triggers (in GTM interface) > New > Window Loaded. GTM allows managing when the tag fires – the later the tag gets fired, the lesser impact it has on page loading speed.

10. Move Code to the Footer 

Moving as much JS code to the footer of the site as possible (for code in the <head> section, move it as close to the closing </head> as possible) loads the code later in the render process allowing the device to do more of the HTML processing up front. Often code is inserted at the very start of the <head> tag which can immediately slow down the render process and a simple change of moving this to the end of the </head> section can make a huge difference.

11. Fix 404 Errors! 404 Errors Are Terrible for Speed!

Frustrated customers are not the only result of broken links. Site’s speed and overall performance also suffer. The problem is that the page may be listed in search results, making search engines continue trying to crawl that non-existent URL instead of spending time and resources crawling real pages, which is why you should focus on fixing this. 

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools

Site speed is crucial for a good user experience. Given that slow site speeds can frustrate and deter potential return visitors, as well as negatively affect your Google ranking score, site speed is something you shouldn’t overlook.

Regardless of the otherwise top-notch services or products that you might be offering, the most important factor for any website’s success is always going to be the overall request, processing, and loading speeds.

The easiest way to ensure that your site runs at the optimal level is to use a few WordPress speed optimization plugins that can easily be added to your site, and significantly improve your site’s performance.

wordpress speed optimization plugins

1. Caching

Caching is the process of storing data on a separate layer on the site, otherwise known as cache. This process ensures that the necessary information from a page is sent to the visitor much more quickly when they send the same request again.

The caching plugins themselves are very different and offer some pretty unique features that can each help improve your site speeds in one way or another. The plugins that we’ve selected are some of the best that WordPress has to offer, so let’s briefly review each.

W3 Total Cache – FREE but complex

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 1
W3 Total Cache is a fantastic free caching plugin

Most WordPress plugins offer web and browser caching options, which are simple but effective methods of reducing data size and improving site speeds. W3 Total Cache is a free plugin but can we quite complex to configure. It’s a great option if you’re technical and understand all the various options or have a specific site configuration that needs caching configured in a particular way.

W3TC can provide you with access to more advanced methods like object and database caching. These methods are very important for high-traffic eCommerce sites because they can cache information on a page-by-page basis, ensuring that all of the product and customer data is secure.


WP Rocket

WP Rocket's landing page
Right now WP-Rockett is the best general purpose speed optimization plugin for WordPress, if we had to recommend

WP Rocket is the most user-friendly caching plugin on our list. This means that all of the caching parameters are easy to learn and set up. This allows you to select from multiple pre-programmed options that will handle the entire process for you.

This accessibility allows even the less experienced administrators to decide which caching method they might like to choose, without having to worry about messing something up on their site. However, due to the less technical nature of this plugin, it’s limited to being used for simpler sites that only require page caching. This means that while it can be used on multiple sites, it’ll have limited flexibility in terms of the data that can be effectively cached.


Swift Performance

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 2

While W3 is a more WooCommerce focused plugin, and WP Rocket is more geared towards less tech-savvy users, Swift would fall somewhere in the middle between the two since a lot of the features this plugin comes with allow for more versatility.

Swift comes with a few advanced caching options such as HTTP2 push and certain image optimization functionalities. The plugin also comes with Whitelabel capabilities, as well as functionalities that ensure your site gets better Lighthouse and Google Pagespeed insights scores.


Redis Object Caching

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 3

As we mentioned before, object caching is considered to be a more advanced method of data caching. As such, Redis comes with a lot of developer-level options that a more knowledgeable user can make the most of and really fine-tune the site speeds to their utmost levels.

The caching also works well in tandem with the latest versions of PHP and supports the use of replication, sharding, and even clustering. It also provides you access to cache prefetching and analytics options, on top of being WordPress API compliant.

2. Uptime Monitoring

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 4

Site data needs to be carefully analyzed in order for you to be able to get an accurate reading of the current situation and where improvements can be made. Enter UptimeRobot.

UptimeRobot is our tool of choice when it comes to providing users with accurate statistics on their sites. The software itself is remarkably easy to use and can help monitor the lags, drops, and downtime that you experience on a daily basis. All of this data is at your disposal and you can use it for reference when you speak to your hosting service about any issues that you might be having.

3. High Quality, High-Performance Hosting

Speaking of hosting. You can run all of the best WordPress speed optimization plugins, tools, and resources that you can find, but it’ll all be for nothing if your hosting service is lack-luster. If you aren’t provided with enough bandwidth, if your allowed daily visitor number is too low, or if you’re experiencing constant drops in site speed, then it might be time to consider switching services.

Some of the better services that you can choose to use are:

SiteGround

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 5

SiteGround is probably the most well-known name in the realm of hosting services, and for good reason. The service comes with a multitude of useful features that would prove beneficial for just about any sort of site.

Among the more notable features that SiteGround comes with, the three that spring immediately to mind are the unrestricted bandwidth that comes with each plan, the WordPress auto-updates, and the free migration.

You also gain access to free email, SSL, and CDN services, as well as daily backups, and automatic updates to all of your WordPress features and plugins.

Servebolt

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 6

Servebolt puts a lot of emphasis on the simplicity of their offer. The service promises to provide the users with fast and reliable internet speeds. The plans also list the maximum number of sites that can be hosted as 3 and the maximum storage as 4 GB.

Servebolt provides WooCommerce functionality, however, the limited storage capacity isn’t really well suited for any site that has a lot of assets such as product descriptions and an abundance of image files or videos.

In essence, this is a hosting service for anyone that draws a particular emphasis on speed, with very little need for anything else.

WPX Hosting

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 7

WPX comes with 3 different plans for you to choose from. The plans offer at least 5 and at most 35 sites that you can host, between 10 and 40 GB of storage, and either 100 GB, 200 GB, or unlimited bandwidth.

You also get an option for unlimited site migrations, access to staging areas, a daily malware scanning and removal feature, and even DDoS protection.

WPX is surprisingly affordable for the speeds that it provides to its users. While the main servers are located in the US and UK, the service also provides access to a Cloud CDN service with each plan, allowing you to host your site on different servers throughout the world.

Cloudflare

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 8

While we’re on the subject of CDN services, Cloudflare might be a service that you want to avail yourself of. Cloudflare is to the CDN market what SiteGround is to the hosting market – one of the most rightfully well-renowned players in the field.

A CDN can help you improve your site speeds by allowing you to host part of your site on servers that are located at the nearest distance to the visitor that sends in a request on your site. This allows you to circumvent slow page loading times that come as a result of the physical server locations of your host.

Cloudflare in particular has a wide net of proxy server locations throughout the globe, all of which can help you reach new potential markets by providing your visitors with good connection speeds, regardless of their location.

4. Backup

Backup plugins are some of the most important WordPress speed optimization plugins. While initially, you might not see the correlation between speed optimization plugins and data storage plugins, we have an explanation. 

Your site can break down as a result of caching issues, whether due to hacking attempts, or just because you made a mistake in the most recent update that you tried to perform. Any one of these issues can result in potentially catastrophic damage to your site and cause it to be shut down for the duration of the repair period.

You might now see why we think that a backup plugin can potentially save you a lot of time, and if you see eye-to-eye with us on that, you might also trust us when we recommend the use of BlogVault as that backup plugin of choice.

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 9

Blogvault is our plugin of choice for two reasons. Firstly, the real-time backup capability means that any changes that occur on your website are being backed up as they happen. Secondly – the plugin outlines which files could and could not be backed up, thereby ensuring that you don’t get any nasty surprises if certain data was skipped.

Both of these reasons are already pretty impressive, especially considering that most backup plugins don’t really offer them. However, include the general reliability of the service and you’ll get a pretty good idea as to why it’s our plugin of choice.

5. Image Compression & Optimization

Image files are the bane of product-focused sites. The images themselves take up an unimaginable amount of space, and unless you have an overabundance of free disc-space, they’ll dramatically reduce your loading times by forcing your site to load these massive files. The biggest victims of large image files are eCommerce sites that need to add a picture (or several) to each item description.

The easiest solution to this issue is using a plugin like Shortpixel and its image compression functions in order to dramatically reduce the size of the files. Shortpixel is quick and reliable, which is really all you need from a compression tool.

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 10

The plugin also comes with the option to compress the images as webp files. Webp files are different from both jpeg and png files.

Png files are lossless, meaning that their size doesn’t get reduced drastically in the compression process, but they retain their visual quality upon decompression.

Jpeg files are lossy, so their size will be significantly affected in the compression process, but they’ll lose most of their data and have their image quality reduced as a result.

Webp files are quite simply a middle ground. They allow for greater size reduction while keeping the image quality intact.

6. Site Speed Testing Tools

Before getting any WordPress speed optimization plugins, it’s highly recommended that you find out the baseline of your site. Testing your page speeds with some available tools is a good way to recognize which aspects of your site are lacking and where you should focus your efforts.

We should, however, mention that a lot of testing tools aren’t that accurate, and while they can provide some useful info on your site, the findings shouldn’t be taken as gospel.

Some of the best speed testing tools that we can recommend are:

GTMetrix.com

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 11

This tool has been around for quite a long time now, which means that it’s tried and tested and can really provide you with accurate information on the exact status of your site. It allows you to track the performance of your site and measure its pulse as it were, and it even notifies you if you start to lose speed for whatever reason.

The issue that this tool has is that a few of the parameters that it tests are outdated and no longer relevant to the way the site ranking system works today.

Tools.pingdom.com

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 12

We used to use this particular tool for WPSpeedFix.com in the past, so while we don’t believe that we’re unbiased on this matter, we should be upfront with the fact that we have quite a bit of experience with Pingdom.

Having said that, because of our history with this tool, we can safely say that it can provide some pretty spot-on results when it comes to gauging your site performance. This comes as a result of the large number of different factors that are tested in order to get an accurate reading.

However, due to the lack of any recent updates, the accuracy of the findings from this tool have slipped quite a bit since the time we used it.

Google PageSpeed Insights

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 13

This is probably the most frequently consulted speed testing tool that you can find online. The site itself is reasonably accurate when it comes to accessing the basic standing of your website. The end result of the findings will also give you a somewhat solid picture of how your site can be ranked based on a few different factors.

The most notable issues with this tool are the fact that it doesn’t factor in certain limitations of the site’s coding and design, and it almost completely ignores the geographic location of the site.

SiteSpeedBot

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 14

This particular site speed testing tool is the one that we prefer out of all. The initial input is easy to use, containing nothing more than a URL address bar and a drop down menu that contains the location that you would like to run the test from.

The diagnostic will take somewhere between a minute or two, and you’ll receive a full rundown on every aspect of the site that you’re testing. Some of the parameters that this tool tests are the number of received requests, the fully loaded time, the cumulative layout shift, the total blocking time, and more.

The biggest drawback of this site is the same that’s present on every other speed testing tool – the results are reliable up to a point, but they shouldn’t be taken as gospel.

Again, we should stress that these tools can all provide you with decently accurate info that can help you improve your site in a few ways. However, don’t trust the accuracy of the findings from just one tool, and make sure to get a second or third reading in order to make sure that there actually is an issue that you need to fix.

7. Database Optimization

WP Optimize's landing page

WP-Optimize is a WordPress speed optimization plugin that can help reduce the bloat that naturally collects in your site database. This bloat comes as a result of the overall size of the database expanding over time, even though the disc space isn’t actually being used for anything.

This plugin allows you to run a SQL data optimization procedure inside the WordPress backend console that can help reduce the collected bloat and return the storage space capacity to its proper value.

8. Security

The protection of the general site data is definitely going to be on the top of every site administrator’s priority list. More importantly, if your site has a login or payment feature that contains personal details from your site visitors, you need to make sure that you’re running the Fort Knox of internet firewalls.

While complete protection against hacker attacks or malware is virtually impossible, there are measures that can be undertaken in order to ensure that the most common routes of attack are as secure as possible.

Perfmatters.io

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 15

WordPress isn’t as well optimized as a lot of people would like to believe it to be. A major issue that gets brought up constantly is the presence of a lot of outdated features that are still within the code, which have very little use nowadays. The only use that these archaic features actually have is to serve as potential weak points that hackers can exploit in order to gain backdoor access to your site.

Protection against these attacks wastes a lot of CPU power that can otherwise be used to improve the page loading times. Therefore, the purpose of Permatters.io isn’t to protect these old features, but rather to disable them. This is the easiest way to ensure that the site stays safe and the CPU power is used more efficiently.

Wordfence

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Wordfence is a much more common sort of protection software. It includes a powerful firewall and malware scanners that can help reduce the risk to your site by running daily checks for any potential threats.

You also gain access to some very useful features like the country blocking option that allows you to have your site be unreachable for certain countries. The two-factor authentication feature is also useful thanks to the fact that it prevents brute force attacks by adding an extra layer of security to the login information.

9. Lazy Loading

Lazy loading is the process of loading an image or video, but only once the site visitor has scrolled down far enough for the majority of the asset to be visible. The lazy loading process essentially consists of setting the limit as to how large of a portion of the item that needs to be displayed should be present on screen before it needs to be fully loaded.

Lazy loading makes the initial page load go much more smoothly by minimizing the number of assets that need to be displayed all at once. As the visitor scrolls down the page, certain items will load in as others load out. This allows the CPU usage to remain consistent and improve the overall loading times for each page that uses lazy loading.

Lazy Load is most people’s go-to plugin when it comes to using the lazy loading function on their website.

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 17

The plugin itself is free, but the largest advantage that it has over other similar plugins is the simplicity in design. Lazy load is designed to lazy load images, videos, or other assets on a page, and nothing else.

The plugin does exactly what it needs to do without any issues and it’s updated on a regular basis in order to ensure that it works well with the current version of the WordPress functions.

10. Miscellaneous

The final group of plugins that we’d like to include on our best WordPress speed optimization plugins list is a sort of a weird lineup. These plugins don’t really have a unifying feature but are too useful to not be included on a best features rundown.

Instant.page

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Instant.page increases the page loading speeds by using a method that they call “just-in-time-preloading”. As the name suggests, the process involves the page being preloaded right before a site visitor clicks on the link.

The way that this works is that the page will preload any asset that the page visitor was hovering over for a certain amount of time without them having to actually press anything. This also works on mobile when the visitor presses a link and the preloading process has already started before they even take their finger off of the screen.

WP Asset CleanUp Pro, Autoptimize, and Nitropack

The Best WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins & Tools 19

We realize that it might be a bit strange to group three plugins into one section, but these are really a bit too similar in function to be able to separate them in any significant manner. These three are pretty much the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to WordPress plugins. They can all be used for lazy loading images, caching functionalities, code minification, image compression, and pretty much every other task that was previously mentioned on our list.

Because of this diversity in function, the plugins themselves don’t have as many available options as the other more focused plugins that we mentioned. This means that they can be a very useful tool if you want to accomplish the bare minimum and not have to install a lot of different tools. However, you’re going to get a lot more versatility out of any of the other more focused plugins and the more advanced features that they can provide.

Conclusion

You don’t need to use all of the plugins that we mentioned on our list. In fact, certain plugins don’t work that well together. For example, both WP Rocket and Swift have a built-in database optimization tool, meaning that if you already have one of them installed, there’s no reason to use the other one.

On the whole, though, all of these plugins can prove to be very useful for optimizing your WordPress site, as long as you know what you need and choose the right tools for the job.

How to Speed Up WordPress

You know it yourself, a slow website experience sucks!

You already know yourself that site speed and page load times are a key component of a good website experience and critical to the success of a WordPress site.

It doesn’t matter what sort of service or product you have or how well-designed your site is – if your visitors get frustrated by a slow website they’re not likely to be back.

We’ve speed optimized 4000+ WordPress sites and in this post we’ll explain why your WordPress site is slow AND how to fix it.

We’re specialists in WordPress Speed Optimization and we can handle all these steps for you. A good starting point if you’re interested in our services is our free site speed audit – submit your site with some details on your speed goals and target country and one of the team members will get back to you.

How to speed up WordPress

Why Is Your WordPress Site So Slow?

Contrary to a lot of what you read online, site speed is not magic, it’s simply the result of good technical best practices. We’ve worked on thousands of websites through our speed optimization services and there’s literally only a handful of reasons why a WordPress site is slow, we’ve summarized below. We’ll also explain how to fix each one in this post

  • Your hosting is cheap, poor quality, in a completely different country to the one you’re targeting
  • Your hosting is badly configured or the plan is a mismatch for your needs
  • Your WordPress site doesn’t have page caching in place
  • You have no content delivery network (CDN)
  • Your page sizes (aka page weight) are too big
  • No image compression in place – this is usually the cause of big pages
  • You’re not using HTTPS (secure mode) which means you’re not getting the benefit of the faster HTTP2 protocol, this protocol speeds up how quickly the site downloads often by 2-3x or more
  • You’re using an old, slower version of PHP, the programming language WordPress runs on.
  • You have too many plugins, plugin conflicts or errors
  • You’ve got 404 file not found errors on your page or a sitewide 404

How To Speed Up WordPress in Detail:

Here’s a quick action step before we dig into the points in detail: Our site speed test tool, SiteSpeedBot will probe your site for most of these site speed issues and give you a detailed audit in approximately 60 seconds and will give you a good idea of where to start on this list. The tool is completely FREE, no opt-ins or other sneaky-ness and you can use it as many times as you like – try it at SiteSpeedBot.com

Use High Quality Web Hosting & Host In The Same Country As Your Customers

Without a doubt, the easiest way to speed up WordPress is to switch to a hosting service that can guarantee fast loading times. If the service you currently use limits the number of visitors on your site at any one time, the CPU power that the servers can dedicate to your site, and the bandwidth, it’s time that you get a better hosting.

In particular, the bandwidth is the most vital component that any hosting service can provide to its customers. The speed at which the site visitor sends in a request and receives the data will have a significant effect on their loading times and the subsequent experience they have when clicking on your site.

The data speed is also affected by the compression rate and the locations of the hosting servers, but we’ll get into that a bit further on. For now, we’ll stick to the main entity that’s responsible for the amount of bandwidth that each visitor receives, which is the web hosting service itself and the resources that it has available.

Our recommendation

There really is no reason why anyone should stick with a web host that can’t keep up with the needs of the company. While you might not have any particular problem with the hosting service you’re currently using, you still might want to ask yourself if you’re getting everything that you need from it, especially if you’re growing your business.

If they aren’t capable of maintaining your growing site and the influx of a larger number of visitors, then you’re better off choosing another service rather than having your site and company suffer.

Additionally, most of the best hosting services available come with ridiculous price tags. They’re obviously more costly plans out there, but the initial plans that most services usually come with will cost you about as much as a sandwich.

Our recommendations for the best Web hosting services that you might want to consider are the following:

  1. SiteGround
Siteground's landing page

The unmetered traffic is one of the most appealing aspects of this particular hosting service, with the free SSL, email, and migration options coming in as the cherries on the cake. You also gain access to daily backups, an unlimited number of databases, and even a 30-day money-back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied with the service.

The prices for this service start at $7.28 a month for the “StartUp” plan, go to $12.15 a month for the “GrowBig” plan and finish at $17 a month for the “GoGeek” plan. These plans come with 10 GB of web space with 10,000 monthly visitors, 20 GB of web space with 25,000 monthly visitors, and 40 GB of web space and 100,000 monthly visitors respectively. The second and third plans also come with unlimited websites.

  1. CloudWays
Cloudway's landing page

This only serves to prove that the service has a plan that would be ideal for just about any company, regardless of size or geographic location. CloudWays can provide you with some really useful features, like the CDN add-on, the SSH and SFTP access, the auto-healing servers, and even the staging environments. Additionally, you also get automated backups and regular security patching.

CloudWays is a bit more tricky to price. The service comes with a staggering 30 plans that you can choose from (60 if you count the ones that are priced per hour). Depending on the data centers that you choose, as well as the storage capacity and processing power that you think you might need, the price can range from between $10 and $700 a month.

  1. Kinsta
kKinsta's landing page

Kinsta can provide a few very useful benefits with its plans, including the staging areas for development, effective security protocols, more than 24 available data centers, and more. Kinsta also allows you to upgrade or downgrade to the version that you choose, ensuring that you’re working with what suits you the most. Not to mention that you also gain access to DDoS detection software, uptime monitoring features, and even SSL support.

Kinsta has 4 pricing plans on offer – The “Starter” at $30 a month, the “Pro” at $60 a month, the “Business 1” at $100 a month, and the “Business 2” at $200 a month. These plans will provide you with anywhere between 25,000 and 3 million-plus visitors, from 10 to 200 plus GB of disc space, as well as free SSL and automatic daily backups.

Why Is VPS Hosting Better?

At the end of this section on the importance of good hosting services, we’d also like to mention VPS hosting and the benefits that it carries with it.

A virtual private server simply by the name implies that it’s going to more directly cater to the needs of each customer that chooses this particular hosting option. The truth is that yes, you do get more CPU power dedicated to your site in choosing this hosting method, but that still doesn’t provide you with as significant of a boost as some believe.

If you want to receive a noticeable increase in your site performance, then you’re also going to need to properly configure your server with optimal speeds in mind. Regardless of how much more processors you have working for you, the end result will be negligible if they aren’t set to do their job properly.

Take for example the more lower-tier hosting services like Bluehost, Hostinggator, or GoDaddy. You can choose to pick up a VPS hosting option from any of these services, but the end result will still be disappointing. The biggest reason for this is the fact that despite the additional CPU power that you’re getting, you’re still on a relatively slow and badly optimized network with a lot of users that need to share the processing power.

On the other hand, services like Cloudways can provide you with the additional CPU power that you need to push your site speeds into overdrive, along with the proper configurations that you’ll need in order to use that extra power correctly.

Plugin Management

This is a pretty simple one – disable or delete any of the plugins that you aren’t using. The fewer apps and features that you have running at once, the less CPU power is dedicated to unnecessary background processes.

Naturally, we aren’t saying that you should turn off all of the plugins that you have in order to help speed up WordPress, but evaluate which plugins are essential and worth keeping and which are just clutter that’s taking up precious space.

Hold on to the essential tools that you might have installed. These include items like caching features (which we’ll also cover a bit later on), any and all WooCommerce functionality boosters that you might have, and any plugins that load data from third-party sites.

Feel free to consider all of the plugins that don’t fall in any of these categories as disposable. Again, the decision is yours, and getting rid of even slightly useful plugins in order to speed up your site isn’t usually worth it. However, it is a smart move to look through your plugins every once in a while and really analyze which are essential to your site and which are just a waste of space.

Use the Latest Version of PHP

PHP is the skeleton that all WordPress sites are built on. As the default programming language for all WordPress sites, it’s pretty important to keep up with any changes that alter PHP. These changes come in the form of some minor or major updates to the language itself.

The easiest way to keep up with all of these changes is simply to update your PHP to the latest version. At the time of writing, that latest version is PHP 8, which came out on the 26th of November 2020.

The latest version of PHP comes with certain type changes and additions, syntax changes, the addition of the match expression, improvements to the overall load speeds, and much more.

Each update comes with a plethora of different alterations to the language, but the one thing that they all have in common is the additional speed boost that comes with each improvement to the code.

Make sure to keep up to date on the latest version of PHP that’s coming out and update it as soon as possible.

Upgrade to HTTPS

On the surface level, the main difference between HTTP and HTTPS is the fact that the latter has additional encryptions that ensure each site that uses HTTPS has that little bit of extra protection against data leaks or cyber-attacks.

This is great news for WooCommerce sites since they need to pay special attention to the security of their customer information. However, while it is a welcome upgrade, the benefits that it provides don’t seem to be worth the hassle of the alteration, especially since a lot of hosting services aren’t compatible with HTTPS.

That’s what a lot of people believe, at least. The truth is that converting to HTTPS will allow you to use the HTTP2 protocol, which provides an enormous boost to site speed when compared to the HTTP 1.1 protocol.

As for the compatibility issue, If you aren’t sure that your host can support HTTPS, then simply go to Sitespeedbot and enter your site URL in order to check for HTTP2 support, along with reading on your loading times, uploads, site size, and so on.

If your host can support the migration, then don’t wait any longer than you have to and make the change immediately. If your host doesn’t support the migration, then that’s one more reason as to why you might want to reconsider switching to any of the three hosting services we mentioned earlier.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A content delivery network is exactly what it sounds like – a web of servers from around the world that can help you speed up WordPress by delivering your site data to your visitors more quickly and efficiently.

The physical location of the server has a massive impact on the speed of the data transfer. For example, when a site visitor sends in a request, that request is then sent to and processed by a server, after which the requested data is sent back to the site visitor. The time it takes for this to be completed is dependent on the distance between the visitor and the closest servers. The closer the server is to the visitor, the faster the data will be transferred

If a hosting service doesn’t have a lot of server locations around the globe, then the CDN is the best solution to the particular problem that arises with the geographic distance.

Our recommendation

Most high-end hosting services, like the ones we recommended previously, have built-in CDN features. However, if you aren’t subscribed to the services we mentioned or any service that has the CDN option available, then Cloudflare is your next best option.

Cloudflare's landing page

As you might have guessed, Cloudflare is a CDN and a particularly good one at that. Touted as one of the fastest hosting providers in the world, the service can provide you with anything from an easy way to transfer your data globally with as little latency as possible, to a more all-encompassing service that includes heightened security and better support options.

Image Compression

Image files generally take up the most space on the disc. This is particularly troubling for WooCommerce or more product-oriented sites in general since they usually have an image next to each item that they have on offer.

This usually results in hundreds or thousands of images clogging up your site and causing the pages to load more slowly due to the necessary CPU power required to read all of the data on display.

An image compression tool like ShortPixel is a good way to reduce wasted space and CPU power. In essence, ShortPixel simply compresses the image in order to maintain only the absolutely necessary data so that it can still load in properly on the site while reducing the size in storage.

Regardless of which compression tool you use, just remember to use lossless compression rather than lossy. Lossless maintains all of the image data even while it’s compressed, while lossy removes a large chunk of it.

The lossy method can compress the image into smaller files, but at the cost of reducing the image quality after the decompression. The lossless method, on the other hand, can’t compress images to such a high degree, but the quality is retained regardless of the number of times the files are compressed and decompressed.

Caching Plugins

The basis behind caching is that you use a plugin in order to pre-built each individual page on your site by storing a specific subset of information in a different layer on your site. In essence, this simply means that a certain amount of data will automatically be served to the site visitor as soon as they send in the request.

Caching is one of the most reliable ways to speed up WordPress sites, so obtaining a reliable plugin can really make all of the difference when it comes to loading times. For this reason, we’d recommend going for WP Rocket or W3 Total Cache as your caching plugins of choice.

WP Rocket's landing page

WP Rocket is simple to set up and easy to use. This makes it an ideal choice for less experienced users that aren’t really all that knowledgeable when it comes to caching procedures or using any such caching plugins. The choices you’re provided with are pretty clear cut and the plugin essentially handless the entire procedure for you.

W3 is a bit more technical, so a bit more in-depth knowledge is recommended before subscribing to this particular plugin. it’s very likely that you’ll be able to get the hang of it pretty easily after a few attempts, however, if you really don’t know what you’re doing then you can do some serious damage to your site.

Summary

To recap – these are the following changes that you can make in order to help speed up WordPress:

  1. If the web hosting service that you’re using can’t keep up with your site growth and the larger amount of visitors that you’re getting, then it might be time for a change;
  2. Turn off or remove any plugins that aren’t doing anything;
  3. Make sure that the PHP that you’re using is the latest version and keep an eye on any new updates;
  4. Switch to the more efficient HTTP2 protocol;
  5. Subscribe to Cloudflare or make sure that your web host of choice can provide you with a CDN option;
  6. Use lossless compression on your images and keep your data storage as empty as possible;
  7. Use a caching plugin in order to ensure that your visitors will receive the data more efficiently.

The FASTEST Shopify Themes

Speed Is Really Important for Ecommerce Conversion Rate

In This Post We Share The FASTEST Shopify Themes & Why We
Recommend Them

The Best Shopify Themes for Conversion, Speed & Fast Load Times

Theme Name

Why Recommended?

Website Link

The FASTEST Shopify Themes 20

The Turbo Theme from Out Of The Sandbox is generally accepted as the fastest Shopify theme all round. It was designed from the ground up to be lightning fast.

The FASTEST Shopify Themes 20

A game-changer, as they call it, the Flex theme was released at the end of 2019 from the Out Of The Sandbox team and is in some ways a followup or sequel to Turbo Theme.

The FASTEST Shopify Themes 22

Shoptimized is another one of those themes built with a focus on conversion rate optimization and as part of that mission speed optimization is built into the theme.

The FASTEST Shopify Themes 23

Boostertheme isn’t as mature as some of the Out of the Sandbox themes but it’s still lightning fast.

The FASTEST Shopify Themes 24

Shella is a multipurpose Shopify theme that’s super-fast and highly responsive, sporting some premium features for a really solid price.

The FASTEST Shopify Themes 25

Well, we just had to include Shopify’s best seller for 2019! Yes, Fastor is the one. It’s a great, cutting edge Shopify theme that’s super fast and offers plenty of features that’ll make your head spin!

The FASTEST Shopify Themes 26

Debutify is a Shopify theme optimized for all niches and designed to boost the conversions and overall performance of your website or online store. It’s, in fact, considered the highest converting Shopify theme that you can get for free and that’s also suitable for all types of products and industries.

Why are Some Themes Fast, and Some Slow?

Faster themes have a handful of characteristics that give them an advantage over slower ones: 

  • They contain less code, which means they get processed faster on the server. 
  • Their file size is smaller, which makes them easier to download. 
  • They don’t rely on jQuery JavaScript library.
  • They have cleaner CSS and inline CSS so the site can render faster.

All of these characteristics enable the server to download and render the site faster from the server, also taking the load off the browser so it can assemble the page easily and in less time. 

Slower themes usually need to download more JavaScript and frequently use off-shelf libraries and APIs, not necessarily optimized for speed such as Google Maps APIs and Google Fonts. 

When setting up your Shopify store, one of the first decisions you need to make is choosing your theme. Of course, the theme of your choice should be customizable, have a beautiful and responsive design, and simple navigation, among other things, but one feature that’s often overlooked is theme speed

Did you know that a site’s bounce rate worsens with each second the page takes to load? 

The average bounce rate of pages that take 2 seconds to load is 9%, whereas the average bounce rate of pages that take 5 seconds to load is 38%. Let’s give you some more eye-opening statistics related to page speed. 79% of online consumers won’t return to a slow-loading site, 46% of mobile users say that slow load time is what they dislike the most when browsing the web, and even a 100-millisecond delay in load time lowers conversion rates by 7%! 

Given that page-speed is a crucial part of user experience and an important ranking factor, you need a fast and reliable theme for your online store. This is why we chose and reviewed the 8 fastest Shopify themes that can give you a better spot in search results but also bring you more conversions and revenue.

What Should I Consider When Choosing a Shopify Theme?

Before we go over the themes one by one, let’s see the key features that the best and fastest Shopify themes should include.

Website Speed

As we already mentioned, site speed influences your Google rankings, and with that, your visibility, conversation rates, and user experience. The faster your site is, the better ranking it will have and the more customers it will bring.

This is why in this article we included only the fastest Shopify themes available in 2021, while also paying attention to design and flexibility.

Design and Flexibility

Speed is not the only precondition for a successful online store, as the store’s design is another important factor. That is why in our quest for the fastest Shopify themes, we were looking for those with appealing designs that online consumers will appreciate. And not only that, but we also ensured that the themes are flexible and customizable so you can show your creativity and create the online store just as you’ve envisioned it.

What Makes a Theme Fast?

Well, a fast theme is a small theme. A fast theme has a clean CSS and fewer CSS files that are easily downloadable when the page loads. There is also less pressure from the javascript of the browser which makes the page display much faster.

A fast theme essentially has a fast rendering speed. Shopify, as one of the fastest e-commerce platforms, also offers hosting services with good infrastructure that contributes to the speed of your online store. That is why the fastest Shopify themes are quick to download and render very fast.

Turbo

Turbo's landing page

We can’t mention Flex without mentioning Turbo, its more affordable counterpart. Turbo is another super popular theme choice created by the award-winning team of developers called Out of the Sandbox.

Why is it so popular, you might ask? Well, the name of the theme says it all! Turbo offers amazing speed and performance power for your Shopify online store. As feature-packed as it is, this theme is perfect for online stores of all sizes. If you have a shop with a huge inventory, you will feel the benefits of the super-fast loading speed and caching functionality that will dramatically improve your user experience.

Sport and Ludicrous Speed Modes

How about a Shopify theme that comes in two-speed modes? Well, Turbo is built and optimized for speed, but when it comes to the performance setting, it enables you to choose between two options: Sport and Ludicrous.

In Ludicrous mode, the page preloading uses advanced methods to attempt to predict the next page the user visits and starts loading that page in the background. However, certain third-party apps might crash with this mode, which is why you can also choose Sport. This mode offers all the performance capabilities of the Turbo Shopify theme, without the preloading page technology but with seamless integration with third-party apps.

Features

Turbo comes in six urban and beautiful designs named by some extraordinary cities like Portland, Florence, Dubai, Seoul, Tennessee, and Chicago. These designs are packed with useful features that can be operated with intuition and simplicity, leaving you to showcase your creative and selling capabilities.

  • Product sliders
  • Mega menus
  • Interactive mini cart
  • Infinite scrolling,
  • Customizable page templates
  • Predictive (live) search
  • Custom contact form
  • Quick shop options
  • Support for Shopify’s new Product Media

Verdict

How can you not enjoy something that’s created by the award-winning team at Out of the Sandbox? When it comes to fast and reliable Shopify themes for your online shop, this team knows their craft. Turbo loads pages very fast and is the perfect theme for a shop that has a lot of products to sell. It comes in two speeds, its functionalities are excellent, and the features are top of the class. We say YEY to Turbo! Go ahead, try it and see for yourself!

Click here to visit site for Turbo Theme

The Fastest Shopify Theme in 2020 9


Flex

The Fastest Shopify Theme in 2020 10

Flex is a game-changing theme for Shopify that’s beautifully designed and gives you ultimate control with its many features. You can configure it in several ways given that Flex has multiple layouts, excellent control of settings, and easy addition of custom CSS, which enables you to configure this theme in several ways. How about that for theme flexibility! No wonder that this fast Shopify theme is called Flex!

Flex helps digital agencies and developers showcase their creativity and realize their ability to create something that their clients will appreciate. It also helps those with no coding experience to create the online store of their dreams. Flex is suitable even for merchants with small businesses who want to display their products online and continue to grow their brand.

Flex offers 13 template styles suitable for every industry. You can showcase the beauty of your products no matter the industry you’re in – fashion, food, cosmetics, technology, oils, plants, etc.

Features

Flex is packed with features that give you more control over your online store.

  • Multiple Layout Options.

You can customize this theme to your heart’s content and let your creativity shine.

  • Advanced CSS.

With Flex, you will be able to add CSS to sections directly within the theme editor. You can also apply styles to elements within a section without even having to go on another page.

  • Icons + Elements.

How about adding visuals throughout your website with the beautifully designed varieties of icons? You can add these icons to different elements including the announcement bar, featured promotions, texts, and columns.

Flex offers additional features for extra flexibility and control. Here are just some of them.

  • Four header and footer styles
  • Three product page layouts
  • Mega Menus and dropdowns
  • Control over margins
  • Width settings
  • Background gradients
  • Button styles
  • Testimonials
  • Text columns
  • Sticky bottom bar

Verdict

If what you’re looking for in a Shopify theme is flexibility and design options in addition to speed, Flex is the theme for you. As you can see, it’s packed with multiple features that offer great functionality and it’s made by Turbo’s creative developer team who takes into account their users’ suggestions. On top of everything, this top-notch e-commerce theme offers excellent 24/7 customer support, which is why we highly recommend it!

Click here to visit site for Flex Theme

The Fastest Shopify Theme in 2020 11


Shoptimized

How about a theme that focuses on optimizing conversion rates and engagement?

Shoptimized embraces the well-known marketing principles of influence and persuasion by allowing you to provide social proof for your products by showcasing your best customer reviews and positive customer experiences.

You can also create urgency by showcasing scarcity of the stock and including a countdown timer for your discounts. Moreover, you can showcase your achievements like awards, certificates, number of Facebook followers, likes, and more.

The Shoptimized theme uses the best practices for optimizing conversion rates. This theme has extraordinary checkout, homepage, search, and product lists, and is optimized for mobile devices, making it user-friendly and extremely functional. Anybody, no matter the industry they’re a part of or the size of their company can switch to Shoptimized and enjoy the benefits this theme offers.

Features

Most of the features that Shoptimized offers are intended to boost your conversation rates.

  • Create urgency with countdown timer
  • Display scarcity of remaining stock
  • GEO-IP recognition, recognize which country the customer is visiting from
  • Currency switcher
  • Get-it-By timer, providing estimation delivery to customers
  • Email Pop-Up
  • Marketing integration with third-party apps
  • Risk-reversal
  • Value proposition
  • Video embedding
  • Personalized products
  • Conversion-optimized header area
  • Cross-sell pop-up

Verdict

If you have an online store and you want to boost your conversation rates, this fairly priced theme is the right option for you. Shoptimized uses advanced marketing techniques, so it’s great if you want an increase in your conversion engagement and some extra help with your marketing.

Click here to visit Shoptimized.net

The Fastest Shopify Theme in 2020 12


Booster

Booster is yet another lightning-fast and conversion-boosting theme. Even though it’s newer and not as popular as the previous three, it has a lot to offer. Booster has a clean design and user-friendly tools that will help you not only increase sales and boost the speed of your store, but also save money on purchasing apps or investing in more expensive Spotify themes.

This theme is translated into 10 languages, so if you want to sell in Spanish, German, Japanese, Portuguese, etc, they got you covered. The excellent 24/7 customer support is another one of Booster’s perks.

This theme is easy to set up, you don’t need any coding experience, and you can install it in a matter of minutes. When you purchase a license for Booster, you will get all the necessary updates and support for a year. After that year expires, you can keep on using Booster forever, however, you will not have the privilege to get the newest updates and enjoy their functionality unless you extend your license.

Features

  • Social proof sales
  • Upsell and cross-sell functions
  • Once you buy a license the theme is yours
  • Megamenu functionality
  • GEO IP currency converter
  • Available in 10 languages
  • Conversion-optimized card and checkout
  • Related products function for CRO
  • Pop-ups

Verdict

This theme has excellent functionalities and saves you money on purchasing third-party ecommerce CRO apps. You can find several available demo sites on their homepage that will allow you to feel the opportunities that Booster provides.

Being fast is not their only attribute. Booster offers conversion optimization functionalities that are crucial for every online store, which makes it a winner in our eyes.

Click here to visit site for Booster Theme

The Fastest Shopify Theme in 2020 13


Shella

How about a multipurpose Shopify theme that’s fast, fresh, dynamically developed, and has a solid price? We introduce Shella!

Even though this is another theme that’s suitable for various industries, because of its elegant and minimal design, it’s usually more popular in the fashion industry, which is why it’s used by online stores that sell shoes, accessories, cosmetics, and clothes. Shella is a flexible theme that offers 11 skins and 5 styles for your product page. It’s translated into 6 languages and has a variety of features that’ll help you optimize your site and increase your sales.

Features

Shella offers more features than your average ecommerce theme. All these features are essential for boosting your sales and improving your customer experience.

  • Mega menu builder
  • Builder section for homepage
  • True filter
  • Dynamic checkout buttons
  • Headers and footers
  • Infinite scroll on collection page
  • AJAX shop, AJAX search
  • Size guide pop-up and page
  • Popups for newsletters, coupons, promo, cookies policy, and purchase notification
  • Option for subscription
  • Custom product tabs
  • Quick view and wishlist
  • Revolutionary slides
  • SEO-optimized
  • Mobile-optimized

Layouts and Product Display

The extraordinary features for layouts and product display are where this theme goes the extra mile. Shella gives you the option for full-screen sliders and video players where you can showcase your products. The varieties of templates that Shella offers will enable you to display and customize the individual product pages but also the product category pages.

RTL Support

When it comes to language support, Shella supports Arabic, Hebrew Persian, and Urdu, enabling you to sell worldwide.

Verdict

Shella is a great Shopify theme that will leave your customers satisfied and coming back for more. Maybe it’s not the fastest theme on the list, but what Shella lacks in speed, it makes up for in extra features, functionality, and optimization. Using Shella will not just increase your customer satisfaction, but it will also improve your search engine optimization, which is a big plus for us.

Click here to visit site for Shella Theme

The Fastest Shopify Theme in 2020 14



Fastor

It’s always a pleasure to recommend the best selling Shopify theme for 2019! Fastor is still a cutting edge theme with super fast loading times and features that will satisfy even the most demanding entrepreneurs.

It’s suitable for every industry, which is why it’s used by plenty of different businesses. This theme has 86 pre-made demos for you to use, 11 product page layouts, a growing number of available skins, and a supporting team that’s always ready to answer your questions.

Features

Whether you choose some of the general or more specific features Fastor offers, we promise that you will have the most wonderful experience.

  • Design

Unlimited colors, fonts, pre-made skins, hover effect, etc.

  • Layout

Spacing between columns, custom layout width, responsiveness, layout type on each element

  • Category

Sale, new badges, product number per row, product images, quick view, display elements on hover, default view.

  • Product page

Auto-updated prices, image zoom, image size, image position, product social share, previous/next product.

  • Header

Quick search auto-suggest, various header types, advanced headers, vertical Mega menu.

  • Custom Footer

Contact, about us, Facebook, Instagram, custom tab.

  • Custom blocks

Contact page, product page.

  • Widgets
  • Age verification
  • Facebook chat
  • Multiple currencies

Full Oberlo Compatibility

With Fastor, you can import hundreds of products to your store in minutes. Oberlo will help you find products, add them to your store, or ship them directly to your customers. This dropshipping option gives you extra options for increased revenue.

Best Marketing Automation Platform for E-commerce Business

Fastor enables the user to display countdown cards to increase the number of orders, display a cookie notification bar, integrate Google translate, add a favicon with the number of card items in realtime, and much more.

Clean Design and Speed Optimized Code

Fastor has a compressed code that’s specifically designed to make your site load in seconds. That is why Fastor is considered one of the fastest Shopify themes on the market nowadays.

Verdict

What can you say about a versatile theme, that has a super-fast loading speed and features that make your head spin? We say yes! Go ahead and try it! This compact Shopify theme will give your customers great user experience, so get ready for a boost in sales and conversation rates.

Click here to visit site for Fastor Theme

The Fastest Shopify Theme in 2020 16


Debutify

Debutify is one of the best Shopify themes that you can get for free. The free version comes with several basic features that are enough for a beginner to set up an online store and enter the online market. You get an easy-to-use dashboard, default layout design that’s easy to navigate and edit, and the possibility to change colors and make your online store aligned with the colors of your brand.

This Shopify theme is suitable for all industries and optimized for mobile devices. You’ll get a clean design that’ll give you the opportunity to showcase your products to their best advantage.

Features

The Premium plan of Debutify comes with the following features and add-ons.

  • Add-to-cart animation
  • Cart countdown
  • Cart discount
  • Cart goal
  • Chat box
  • Collection add to cart
  • Colour swatches
  • Cookie box
  • Delivery time
  • Discount saved
  • Inventory quantity
  • Linked options
  • Live view
  • Mega menu
  • Product tabs
  • Quick view
  • Sales countdown

Verdict

Are you a newbie in the e-commerce world? Then this theme is definitely for you! Debutify will show you how it’s like to run an online store, and if you are willing to continue, it will provide you with the premium features that come with the premium plans. But Debutify is not only suitable for beginners. This theme is powerful enough to satisfy everyone’s needs, especially with its premium plans.

Debutify is optimized for dropshipping, print on demand, and brand stores. It’s easy to install and only requires your Shopify URL. If you are in the market for something free, easy to use, and functional, we recommend you try Debutify.

Click here to visit Debutify.com

The Fastest Shopify Theme in 2020 17


Final Words

Choosing the fastest Shopify theme can get a bit confusing, but hopefully, we managed to make it easier for you and shorten your searching time.

All the Shopify themes that we have reviewed are super-fast and provide valuable features, functionalities, and the optimization options essential for setting up and managing a successful online store. The most suitable theme for you will, of course, depend on your unique needs, but no matter which one you decide to go for, you won’t be disappointed.


Frequently Asked Questions

What else is important when it comes to site speed?

Theme speed is pretty important when it comes to improving the overall site speed, but of course, it’s not the only factor. Other important factors in this equation are: 

  • Hosting provider (hosting quality);
  • Hosting location;
  • The use of CDN (Content Delivery Network);
  • The overall size of the page – page weight in MB.

How do I test my site speed?

You can try our free speed testing tool SiteSpeedBot.com. Once you put your site in there, it will give you a more detailed overview of what you need to improve and provide you with advice on how to make your site load faster. 

Does theme speed impact SEO?

The answer is a definitive yes. Site speed is considered a ranking factor for SEO and the theme speed has a big impact on the site speed. 

In our years of experience optimizing sites for speed, we’ve come to the conclusion that the size of each page in megabytes (or the page weight) is a key factor here. So, a site that has a lot of pages, especially ones that go over the 3-5mb limit, will most likely not rank well. 

Some of the techniques you can implement for making your pages weigh less are: 

  • Image optimization;
  • Use of lazy loading;
  • Use of next gen webp file formats.

3 Cloudflare Rules to Improve WordPress Site Speed & Security

3 Cloudflare Rules to Improve WordPress Site Speed & Security 27

We’re massive fans of Cloudflare and deploy it as part of our speed optimization services.

Cloudflare has an amazing range of features and options and a lot of the features go unused or under leveraged. In this post we’ll share three Cloudflare that will both help improve the security or your WordPress site and at the same time also reduce the load on your site and help speed it up.

These are really easy to setup and if you’re moderately tech savvy will take you maybe 10-15 minutes. Click the images to enlarge.

How to add Cloudflare Firewall rules

Firewall rules can be added under the Firewall menu->Firewall Rules tab in Cloudflare. The free plan gives you up to 5 rules so these can be added at no cost.

Once you add a rule it takes effect almost immediately.

How to add Cloudflare Firewall rules
Add rules under Firewall->Firewall Rules (click to enlarge)

1. Block access to XMLRPC.php

This is an older WordPress API interface that is very rarely used but is a vector for many attacks.

Hammering this file with requests can very quickly chew up a lot of CPU cycles and on a shared host or host with low CPU or resources available it may start throwing 502 and 504 errors.

Block XMLRPC using Cloudflare
Blocking the XMLRPC interface in Cloudflare can significantly reduce CPU load particularly on slower hosts or shared hosting (click to enlarge)

2. Block SEO Bots & Crawlers

With this rule we block traffic from Ahrefs, Semrush and Opensite explorer (SEO Moz bot) SEO bots.

These are extremely aggressive crawlers and particularly on Woocommerce they’ll rapidly add and remove things from the cart multiple times per second again chewing a lot of CPU resources.

In addition, allowing them to crawl the site will also divulge some SEO information that competitors using these SEO tools may find useful.

Block SEO bots and crawlers using Cloudflare
SEO crawlers can be super aggressive and also divulge information about your site you probably don’t want to share with competitors. This blocks the three most aggressive bots we see. (click to enlarge)

3. Show a captcha message on the WordPress logon page

The typical WordPress site we see can get anywhere from 1000-10000 brute force logon attempts a day.

Adding a rule to show a captcha message to visitors hitting this page OR visitors hitting this page outside the home country of the site can dramatically reduce brute force password attempts and reduce a lot of load on the hosting.

3 Cloudflare Rules to Improve WordPress Site Speed & Security 28
The WordPress logon page attracts a huge number of brute force password attempts, showing a captcha message before visitors can see this page will filter 99.99% of brute force attempts (click to enlarge)

Related Posts & Resources

SiteSpeedBot Website Speed Test Tool

The Best WordPress Hosting for Speed

The Fastest Woocommerce Themes

Low Score in Google PageSpeed Insights or Lighthouse Mobile Test?

We get emails every day from website owners telling us their site is fast but slow on mobile. Nine time out of ten they’ve tested their site on Google PageSpeed Insights (PSI) and the mobile score is low.

Long story short, a low PageSpeed Score in mobile does not mean your site is slow on a mobile device. Pagespeed Insights is not real speed test – it’s a technical checklist test. There are some important things to understand and keep in mind when it comes to Mobile Pagespeed Score we’ve explained below.

If you’re into tech stuff, there’s a great discussion on Github here about the credibility of Lighthouse/PSI mobile score.

If you’re working on your site speed make sure you give our speed test tool a try at https://app.wpspeedfix.com – we’ve built it specifically to address important optimization opportunities such as DNS hosting speed, HTTP2 protocol, HTTP2 push support and hosting provider quality that other site speed tests completely ignore.

1. They’re testing your site on a speed limited, CPU limited connection

Mobile PageSpeed simulates at 1.6mb/second connection – that is REALLY slow in modern internet speed terms. A moderately sized page of say 1.5-2mb is going to score low on this test simply because of the amount of time that data takes to download.

The CPU limiting they do also causes sites that have even moderate amounts of javascript to be marked down heavily. The modern web runs on javascript and many WordPress themes require a javascript library called Jquery in order to render which means they automatically score lower.

They of course don’t tell you this anywhere on the report itself, it’s hidden deep in the technical documents.

This video walks you through how to emulate a mid tier mobile device in Google Chrome to give you a better feel for how PSI is seeing your site:

2. Pagespeed Insights Isn’t a Speed Test, It’s a Technical Checklist

Pagespeed Insights is more concerned with measuring your site against a technical checklist that correlates with speed rather that the raw speed of the site itself.

The latest version of Pagespeed Insights does take into account some speed elements but it’s still largely concerned with checking boxes.

3. Geography & Location Is Ignored

PSI completely ignores geography and doesn’t take into account where your visitors are located and where your hosting is. This means it’s speed test is not necessarily true to real world. If your hosting is in Australia and your customers are in Australia but the speed test elements of PSI are performed from the US then it’s not a true to life test.

4. Website Speed Is Not Just Your Homepage

This is something 99.9% of webmasters running speed tests completely miss – website speed is not just your homepage. Every page on your site is important when it comes to speed and testing the homepage is useful but is a bit of a 1 dimensional approach, you should probably be looking at all pages.

5. High PageSpeed Score Will Likely Not Improve Your SEO

There’s a misconception that a high PageSpeed Score means that the Google Gods will gift magical SEO rankings. This is not the case – for starters, see the previous point.

Second to that, achieving a 100 score especially on a WordPress site is extremely difficult unless you break the render of the site OR switch to a theme that does not use Jquery – this article talks through the Fastest WordPress Themes in more detail.

We’ve seen SEO consultants and webmasters spend days obsessing over Pagespeed score in the hope it will boost SEO. Your time would be better spend on other SEO tasks like optimizing your meta descriptions for CTR or optimizing your open graph tags to boost social CTR.

6. The Score Varies Wildly From Test to Test

Run multiple tests and you’ll see the score varies wildly often by 20-30 points. That’s partly a function of geography but these inconsistencies make it difficult to trust the tool.