If you’re thinking that it’s okay to settle with your snail-paced website speed, you are terribly mistaken. Don’t even think that your superb content will save you! Trust me, the number of hours you’ve spent writing that blog is as good as nothing if your annoyed visitor clicked the exit button even before seeing it. A study published by Google even revealed that 50% of mobile users will surely leave if your website does not load within three seconds!

Beyond providing convenience for your visitors, having a fast loading time can do wonders for your website. Improved search rankings. Longer visit times. Even higher revenue! Convinced to do an upgrade? Come and let me walk you through 10 things you need to do for a faster WordPress niche site.

1. Find a reliable host provider

Your host provider has the biggest influence on the speed of your niche site. If it is no good, further optimization is useless! Whether you’re evaluating your options for your first blog or just looking for a replacement, heed my words and stay away from any free or cheap services. If you want your website to work, don’t hesitate to make a bigger investment.

Take your time in comparing each host provider’s built-in processors, memory, and number of customers per server. My personal favorite is Cloudways.com which has served me well for years.

2. Analyze your current website speed

Hold your horses and check first how much work you need to do by analyzing your niche site’s speed. You can do this easily with tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom. Let’s introduce you to some technical metrics you might encounter:

  • Time to First Byte (TTFB) – the period between entering your URL and the moment a browser gets the first piece of data from the server. Optimum TTFB is under 200 milliseconds.
  • Time to First Draw (TTFD)¬†– the period that has elapsed before a user sees the first content on display. Ideal TTFD is less than a second.
  • Time to Usability¬† – period required for your site to be completely ready for a visitor to interact with all of your content, which must take about two to three seconds tops.

After using their PageSpeed tool, Google will also give you optimized images, javascript, and CSS files available for download. Simply replace your original files through the WordPress backend or the tool FileZilla.

3. Select a fast WordPress theme

The general rule is to simply say no to themes packed with thousands of functions you don’t even need. Along with poorly programmed designs, these will surely make your website speed more sluggish than ever.

4. Test your plugins’ performance

With the help of P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler), you can easily check the speed of your activated plugins and flag the ones holding your niche site’s speed back. It would be smart to replace anything that doesn’t perform well, but there are times that there isn’t any alternative available. For instance, I had to settle with the plugins BackWPup, EWWW Image Optimizer, and the WordPress SEO.

Never install any plugin that you don’t actually need! Every tool that you activate increases the queries on your server, thereby slowing down your website.

5. Skip the official social media plugins

Everyone’s familiar with the Facebook buttons which allow a visitor to mark your website with a “like.” Seems great for your engagements right? However, you might change your mind once you discover that these greatly slows down your loading time. It can even put you in conflict with data protection laws! I find Static Social Buttons like Shariff Wrapper, Revive Old Posts, and Social Metrics Pro are far better. These plugins do not automatically communicate with social networks, and will only send queries once clicked by the user.

6. Optimize your images’ size and format

Reducing a file size while maintaining great quality is difficult, but possible.

To make sure you’re using the right files, check out the prescribed image size of your theme. If it needs a width of 940 pixels for an article banner, then your photo must be exactly 940 pixels wide. Uploading anything bigger will automatically be scaled to the correct size, but has an unnecessary larger file size that then affects your website’s speed.

If you want to optimize your photos, the rule of thumb is to never upload anything that exceeds 500 KB. Check out these guidelines on the best file sizes for images on your niche site:

  • Article banners and pictures – 50 to 100 KB
  • Wallpapers – not exceeding 250 KB

You’d also want to make sure that you’re using the right file formats.

  • PNG – suitable for screenshots or graphics with few colors and lots of text. Supports transparent background.
  • JPG – better for normal photos. Supports increased file compression.

Before uploading them to WordPress, I usually crop and optimize my photos on either FotoSizer, TinyPic, or Gimp.

I also highly recommend installing EWWW Image Optimizer, which lets you reduce the sizes of all your niche site’s photos with just a click. You can also try plugins with similar functions, including Optimus, ECSC Pro, Imsanity, squatting.io, and WP Smush.it.

7. Use a Caching Plugin

Simply put, a caching plugin converts the dynamic contents of your WordPress site into a static page. This reduces the queries on the database, reducing the loading time dramatically.

The most common WordPress caching are:

  • W3 Total Cache
  • WP Fastest Cache
  • WP Super Cache
  • Hyper Cache
  • Cache Enabler

The plugins all perform the same function, but vary in terms of settings’ complexity. Not being familiar with important technical aspects may lead you to a configuration that’s even slower than before.

To get around this hassle, I use the plugin Cachify which only has five easy to tweak settings that can generate results as good as its advanced counterparts. For instance, its cache minimization option removes all unnecessary characters from the HTML and JavaScript files. If this gave you issues in displaying your niche pages, use only HTML minimization or turn it off completely.

8. Compress your site’s CSS, JavaScript and HTML

Using the tool Autoptimize, you can automatically merge and compress CSS and Javascript files, alongside reducing the size of your page’s HTML code. It can also move the files from the header to the footer. Word of warning though, these functions may cause issues with your Star Rating plugins. To be safe, activate the options of Autoptimize step by step and check if your site still runs as it should. If this plugin doesn’t fit your liking, you can also use Besseres WordPress Minify as an alternative.

9. Drill out Htaccess file

Through the .htaccess file, you can configure your host provider settings and increase the speed of your WordPress page significantly. By activating the browser caching function, your contents are compressed at optimum levels. This reduces server requests, thereby improving your loading time.

10. Clean up the database regularly

When you create a niche page with WordPress, the database in the background gets bigger and bigger as you move forward. Automatically cached articles, spam, deleted comments, orphaned metatags and relationships greatly slow down the database. Your job is to clean up all these data garbage at least once every month.

If you’re equipped with the technical must-knows, you can do so directly in the MySQL database. For beginners, you can count on helpful plugins like WP-Optimize and WP-Sweep to do the job for you.

Word of advice: create a database backup before each execution of the plugin. I personally never encountered any problems, but it won’t hurt to play safe.

Conclusion

These 10 pointers are definite game changers for me and my websites. Though I have already achieved a 500 milliseconds loading time, I’m still looking out for ways to optimize its speed. You’ll often find me testing them over and over on Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom. So if you know any other tips and tricks on how to make WordPress niche sites faster, please include it in your comments!

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