In 2010, Search Engine Land reported that it was finally official – Google counts the loading speed of your website as a ranking factor.
And we all want to rank better and bring floods of traffic to our site right?
The thing is, speed is not just important for search engines, it’s important for user experience.
Improving your websites loading time should be about your websites visitors and ensuring your user experience is as good as possible.
For example, a study by Tagman.com revealed that just one second delay in page-loading time could potentially cause a loss of 7% in conversions.
Just how much of an impact 1 second could have on your site could differ but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
There’s plenty other cases for the importance of increasing your websites load time, there’s another great collection of statistics on Econsultancy.com.
For those of that use WordPress, we are in a unique position because we don’t have to be all too technically savvy to see some great improvements in our websites loading time.
This is all thanks to a great selection WordPress plugins that are designed to help you speed up your websites loading time.
What makes this even better is that all of the plugins included below are free!
Speed enhancing WordPress plugins
1. WP Fastest Cache
WP Fastest Cache comes with a great set of features, balanced with ease of use.
Some plugins are too basic, others are too advanced – the developer of this plugin has definitely found the middle ground.
Just install, activate and run through the settings. Then hit save and you’re ready to go.
I especially like how easy it is to set cache expiration times for certain URL strings.
And it gets better, because this plugin is used by over 200,000 people and receives great reviews on WordPress.org.
- Easy setup
- 1-click to clear cache and/or minified CSS etc
- Minify CSS and HTML
- Set posts/pages to exclude (some like admin area excluded by default)
- Set expiration times for all posts/pages or certain URL strings
- CDN integration
- Premium version available with extra features
2. Cache Enabler
This is a great plugin from the team at KeyCDN.
It’s a light weight caching plugin that you can setup in minutes.
It comes with the option to set cache expiry time, minification setup and a few other options. Other than that, it’s sparce on features but that’s the entire point of this plugin.
If you need to add a CDN, you can use the sister plugin to this called CDN Enabler. Same principle applies – light weight and easy to setup.
- Simple setup
- 1-click to clear cache
- Set cache behaviour (e.g. clearing after new posts)
- Minification feature
- Set post ID’s to exclude from cache
- Set expiration times
3. WP Super Cache
This is one of the most widely used caching plugins available for WordPress. At the time of writing this post it has had over 5.5 million downloads.
It’s straight forward to setup but has some settings for advanced users which can be used to get more out of the plugin.
- Support for multiple caching types (Mod_Rewrite, PHP and Legacy)
- Serve static html files
- Cache preload
- CDN support
4. W3 Total Cache
This is another popular speed enhancing plugin. It goes beyond just being a simple caching plugin. It’s a complete framework.
There’s a huge array of options and various caching methods that are supported.
There’s advanced support for CloudFlare and various CDN services such as MaxCDN.
But, the reality is that because there are so many options, it’s not the easiest to setup. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could break something. That’s why only advanced users should use this plugin.
- CDN Support
- Browser caching
- Database caching
- Object caching
- And lots more
5. WP Super Minify
The idea of minifying is to combine JS, HTML and CSS files so that they can be compressed and served to visitors in a way that reduces website loading times.
It’s worth noting that you should be very careful when setting up these types of plugins, in the past I have found that sometimes particular themes and plugins can conflict with this type of plugin.
- Extremely straight forward and easy to use.
6. Better WordPress Minify
This is a great alternative to WP Minify.
This plugin relies on something called the ‘enqueueing system’ within WordPress, whereas a lot of other plugins use the output buffer which seems to be one of the main reasons why people often have issues setting up minify plugins.
CDN support will be coming in future updates.
- WordPress multi-site compatible
- Complete control over the minification process
- Customise minify strings
- Available in multiple languages
7. WP Smush.it
This plugin is based on the Yahoo Smush.it service which is used to optimize images and remove unnecessary bytes from image files.
Most tools use ‘lossy’ formats which degrade quality, but this uses lossless formats so you won’t be able to notice any difference in quality.
I tried this plugin a long time ago and it didn’t work very well due to the fact that there were some bugs in the plugin.
Actually at the time, it broke all of my image thumbnails but thankfully there’s a plugin called ‘Regenerate Thumbnails’ that fixed the issue on my site within 5 minutes, so no harm done.
It’s worth noting that this happened a long time ago and since then the plugins development has been taken over by WPMU DEV’s team.
- Strips un-used colour from images
- Strips meta data from JPEG’s (this isn’t needed anyway)
- Optimizing JPEG compression
- Integrates with the Smush.it API
- Choose to run existing images through the plugin
8. BJ Lazy Load
Usually when a visitor hits your website and tries to load a page it will load the entire page.
If it’s a long page with lots of images this can cause your loading times to skyrocket.
The truth is that you don’t actually need the entire page to load at the same time, especially images which usually take the most time to load.
The idea of ‘lazy loading’ is that specific elements are only loaded when they are needed.
- Replaces post images, Gravatar images and post thumbnails
- Replaces content iframes with a placeholder until content needs to load
- Plugin uses jQuery to operate
- Serves scaled down images with responsive designs
9. P3 Plugin Profiler
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a fan of Go Daddy but creating this plugin was one of the smartest things they have done.
The idea of this plugin is that it will run a scan on your WordPress installation to figure out which plugins are slowing down your site.
You will be able to see a breakdown of exactly how long each plugin takes to load along with the impact your theme has.
- View a full profile of the impact your plugins and theme have on your site
- Option to use your IP address
- Debug mode in case you run into any issues
- Various visualisations and charts
- Detailed timeline view
- Optional feature allows the report to be emailed
Bonus: 5 top tools to test the speed of your website
This post is all about showing you WordPress plugins that you use for caching your website, minifying elements of your site and setting up things like lazy loading – all plugins that will speed up the page loading times of your website.
And I was originally going to keep it that way but I think it’s important to share a few none-WordPress tools that you can use to measure the speed of your site.
These types of tools work by just entering your websites URL into the tool and running the test.
Here are 5 tools to get you started:
- Load Impact
- Google Page Speed
- GTmetrix (H/T to Mary Green in the comments)
- Web Page Test
- Pingdom Website Speed Test
Over to you
If you’re struggling to speed up your WordPress installation, just installing a few of these plugins can have a dramatic improvement on your page load times.
It’s important to point out that you shouldn’t go ahead and install all of these. Only install what you need and remember that less is more. It’s definitely true that there are other ways to speed up your site but some of these plugins are a great way to start.
Which plugins have you found to make the biggest difference when speeding up your WordPress installation?
And which have you had problems?
I’d love to know more about your experiences in the comments below.