If you you've read my previous posts here on Search Engine People you have probably noticed that two things that I enjoy writing about are WordPress and Website Performance. With over 73 million sites running on WordPress it goes without saying that it is a staple in the web development community. Also, with ever increasing internet speeds on both computers and mobile devices, page load speeds are one of the most important metrics that will affect your conversions. So, we know that WordPress powers A LOT of websites, and we know that speed matters. When I recently found myself troubleshooting a painfully slow WordPress install, I realized I wasn't the only one with this problem. Let's see how we can optimize a lagging WordPress install.
In case you missed my previous post, check out How to Optimize Your Website's Loading Time and Performance and Lazy Loading , WP Smush It, and Optimizing Your Website's Performance . If you run through those and are still experiencing problems, then it's time to get your hands dirty.
Analyze Your Plugins
The WordPress community and plugin repository are incredible, and one of the reasons I love working with WordPress. However, it does also have its problems.
Since WordPress is open source, and anyone can contribute plugins to the repo, you may find some inefficient and flat out poorly coded plugins. If a plugin is poorly coded, it can put a lot of strain on your database, thus slowing WordPress down.
Lucky for us, our solution also comes in form of a plugin. Install the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) plugin and run a test with it. The initial results that it shows provide a lot of information, and can tell you right off the bat if a plugin is slowing your site. If so, try deactivating some of the plugins with slow loading times and see if your site is faster.
Did You Turn It Off And On Again?
If the P3 plugin didn't help you get to the bottom of things, you might have to take things into your own hands. This step can potentially save you a lot of headaches. It can also be a pain to do on a production site.
Go through your plugins one by one, and disable them. Then view the site and see if the performance issues are still present. If you notice your site is a lot snappier and responsive, it's safe to say a plugin was causing the problems.
Try reactivating them one by one, viewing the site each time to see which is the cause. If you deactivate all your plugins and the site is still slow, try reverting to the default Twenty Twelve theme for WordPress. If your site is faster, then it's a big possibility that your theme was causing the problems.
Optimize Your Database
As your WordPress site ages, and you add new features and remove old, your MySQL Database can get filled with unneeded clutter. All databases need to be optimized, and if you haven't set up a cron job to do so, then you will need to do it manually.
Login to your database via phpMyAdmin, and navigate to your WordPress database. At the bottom you will see a link that says "Check tables having overhead." True to its name, this will select all the tables that have overhead. Now all you have to do is choose "Optimize Tables" in the "With Selected" drop down menu. This process is similar to defragging a harddrive, and it should be done regularly.
While you're in there, you may also want to check out your wp_options table. This table holds your default WordPress settings. Some plugins also use it to store settings. If you haven't checked it out before, I suggest that you read my article, How to Optimize Your wp_options Table in WordPress.
So, you've analyzed your plugins. You've optimized your database. You've optimized the front end of your site, using Lazy Loading, WP Smush It, and general best practices for optimization. You should now have a happy WordPress install, that loads quickly and most importantly, makes your visitors happy.
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Ryan Cowles is a WordPress / Front End Developer living in Los Angeles, California. Along with a passion for building creative websites, he also enjoys photography, design, travel and the great outdoors.