Having a fast website in 2018 matters a lot. In fact, it always did!
So much so that Google actually rewards page speed in its mobile-first index.
What is true on mobile certainly applies for desktop and other devices.
In this awesome infographic from KissMetrics, we learn that 73% of mobile Internet users encountered a website that was too slow to load.
That’s almost 3 out of 4 visitors from mobile…insane!
Without further ado, let’s take a look at 5 free tools I consider invaluable to speed up WordPress installations.
Tool #1: Smush Plugin
Image loading can really take its toll on your WordPress websites.
The best way to lighten the load is by using a favorite plugin of mine called Smush image compression and optimization.
What it does is automatically compress images uploaded from your dashboard. You can see a preview of how it works here:
Smush will also look at already uploaded image files and compress them to save you bandwith.
Some users were able to halve the loading time required thanks to this free plugin. Give it a try!
Tool #2: Cache Enabler Plugin
If your website gets a lot of traffic, having a great caching system in place is paramount.
Each time a user lands on your pages, a request is sent to your server. Then, the server processes said request and sends back a result to show on the user’s browser.
One way to speed up WordPress is by making sure the server remembers – and duplicates – content that has already been served in the past.
Cache Enabler is one of the most powerful free plugins in that regard. There’s lots of choices, both free and premium, but I love this one in particular.
Here’s some built-in features it has:
- Custom Post Type support
- Automated and/or manual clearing of the cache
While other plugins also offer these features, I like the simplicity of Cache Enabler. The automated options are nice if you don’t want to manually clean your cache.
Tool #3: GT Metrix
If you want to know how your website fares against others, GT Metrix gives you a quick analysis.
Simply add your URL and scan it to see a performance report. Like so:
You will get a score based on the following criterias:
Knowing how fast your page loads is important; 53% of people will leave a mobile page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Luckily enough, mine loaded in 1.2s on desktop so I should be fine 😉
Tool #4: Pingdom
Here’s another website performing tool you should be using for your websites.
The reason I’m including it in this list of free tools to speed up WordPress is because you can choose to test from different zones.
You can use the following servers:
- Australia (Melbourne)
- United States (New York)
- United States (California)
- Sweden (Stockholm)
This is very useful if you have international traffic or just curious about response time from another timezone.
Pingdom also features a DNS check tool you might find useful. There are 6 tests for DNS: delegation, nameserver, consistency, SOA, connectivity and DNSSEC. Although all of that might sound like jibberish to you, more advanced webmasters can use the tool to discover the source of errors like mail delivery.
Tool #5: Cloudflare CDN
If you’re serious about protecting your website, using a content delivery network (CDN) is a must.
Cloudflare happens to be the most advanced one yet, with a free plan including the following features:
- Unmetered Mitigation of DDoS
- Global CDN
- Shared SSL certificate
- 3 page rules
Denial of service attacks (DDoS) are all too common nowadays and it’s better to take a preventive approach.
Also, CDNs ensure your traffic downloads data from the nearest servers related to their geographical area.
If you have the budget, choosing a premium plan unlocks additional features like mobile acceleration using Mirage, image optimization and more.
Anything I’ve missed?
Do you know other ways to speed up WordPress? Feel free to discuss further in the comments below, I’m always looking for new tools to try and recommend for my readers.