How to Drastically Improve Your WordPress Site Speed

by | April 2020 | 20 comments

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Have you ever visited a website only to have it buffer for what seems like forever? You wait and wait and then finally give up and leave the site. Epic fail for that website. Site speed is key for websites, especially blogs. You want to keep site visitors on your blog as long as possible. Site speed affects your SEO (search engine optimization), bounce rate, and overall user experience.

If you have a blog and have never checked your site speed before, you should check it. But before you do… WARNING: The results may be shocking (and depressing). You might want to hide under a rock after you see them and give up on blogging altogether. I’m not going to lie. The thought crossed my mind when I saw my own site speed results. 🤦‍♀️

Yikes! I was mortified! But was my site speed really that bad? And was it even that big of a deal? I let it go for a while. After all, I thought I was doing everything right. I have a great hosting plan with an awesome WordPress theme. I had also optimized all the images for my site and was using a caching plugin.

What more could I do? Plus, there’s so much to worry about and take care of when you’re a blogger. You’ve gotta prioritize. And unfortunately, site speed was at the bottom of the to-do list.

But it kept nagging at me. After doing some research about the importance of site speed and reading positive reviews about WP Rocket, I decided it was time to make a change. 

How To Improve the Site Speed for Your WordPress Blog

When you start out blogging though, every little expense can seem astronomical. It’s hard to justify spending money when you’re not making much (if any). After an internal struggle with spending even more money on my blog, I realized I needed to invest in my blog if I want to be a serious blogger.

So I gave in and purchased the premium WP Rocket caching plugin. Even though it’s just a small investment, I wondered if it was going to be a waste of money. And I was nervous as I installed the plugin. Was it really going to make that big of a difference?

After giving WP Rocket a go, I just have to say… BEST. DECISION. EVER!

I know what you’re thinking. Really? YES, really! Check out the before and after screenshots of my site speed results after installing WP Rocket and making a few tweaks. I’m a sucker for before and after pics. They’re a fabulous way to compare and display dramatic results. And these results are definitely dramatic!

BEFORE

GTmetrix Site Speed Score BEFORE Site Speed Optimization

AFTER

GTmetrix Site Speed Results AFTER Scaling Images

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How to Drastically Improve Your WordPress Site Speed

If you’re ready to drastically improve your site speed, you’ve come to the right place, my friend!

I was able to take my PageSpeed Score from an “F” to an “A” and my Fully Loaded Time from 7.8 seconds (eek! 😱) to 1.8 seconds (a full 6 seconds faster… WHOAH! 😁).

And I’m going to show exactly what I did to get those results using SiteGround web hosting and the WP Rocket plugin.

But before I get into the nitty-gritty of my site speed optimization steps, let’s quickly talk about site speed tests and my results.

You may also like: WP Rocket Review: Is the Caching Plugin Really Worth It?

Divi WordPress Theme

Site Speed Tests

If you haven’t tested your site speed yet, go ahead and bite the bullet. It’s good to have a starting point to be able to measure your results.

I was completely crushed by my ”before” results. But it makes the “after” results that much more rewarding!

There are many websites you can use to test your site speed. Here are the ones I used:

GTmetrix

Google PageSpeed Insights

Pingdom Website Speed Test 

Before & After Site Speed Optimization

Now that we’ve discussed the site speed tests, let’s dive more into my results for each one before and after I optimized my site speed.

GTmetrix BEFORE

GTmetrix Site Speed Score BEFORE Site Speed Optimization

GTmetrix AFTER

GTmetrix Site Speed Results AFTER Scaling Images

Google PageSpeed Insights BEFORE

PageSpeed Insights Site Speed Score BEFORE Site Speed Optimization

Google PageSpeed Insights AFTER

PageSpeed Insights Site Speed Results AFTER Scaling Images

Pingdom BEFORE

Pingdom AFTER

Pingdom Site Speed Results AFTER Scaling Images

Ummm… YIKES! 7.8 seconds is so embarrassing! I’m ashamed to share these results. But we all gotta start somewhere, right?

I spent about half a day optimizing the settings and working on my site speed optimization suggestions. Both my well-spent money and time investments paid off!

If you’re wondering what I did to get such dramatic and awesome results for my site speed, I’ve got you! Stay with me. 

I’m going to tell you the exact steps I took to improve my site speed using SiteGround web hosting and the premium caching WordPress plugin WP Rocket.

You may also like: The 60+ Best Blogging Tools You Need to Make You a Successful Blogger

SiteGround Web Hosting for Site Speed

First, let’s start with web hosting. This is the base for site speed optimization. Your web hosting provider and plan play a vital role in the speed of your website.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time researching and comparing web hosting providers. It came down to SiteGround and BlueHost. BlueHost kept coming up as a recommendation by a ton of other bloggers.

But when I did my own research and delved into the details, I realized that BlueHost isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Turns out, it’s recommended by a lot of bloggers because of its high-paying affiliate program.

On the other hand, I read nothing but positive feedback about SiteGround. One thing I looked at for web hosting providers were their customer reviews, and SiteGround has amazing reviews praising their customer service.

It also came down to the numbers. Not only are their shared hosting plans super affordable, but the numbers really speak for themselves with their impressive uptime and website loading speed.

Check out this comparison of SiteGround and BlueHost from WebsiteToolTester.com (see the comment on Speed):

SiteGround vs BlueHost Chart

Another key deciding factor for me was reading post after post about other bloggers switching from Bluehost to SiteGround like this one and this other one. So that really sealed the deal for me!

I ended up going with SiteGround (thank goodness!) and opted for the shared hosting GrowBig plan. It’s a step up from the base level StartUp Plan and offers extra features that I found important, such as:

• Dynamic caching (caching is crucial for site speed!) which works with SiteGround’s SG Optimizer WordPress plugin (more on that below)

• On-demand site backups (love this feature!)

• Free professional site transfer since I wanted to move from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress.org.

The dynamic caching feature with SiteGround’s GrowBig and higher plans is key for site speed and the steps I used to drastically increase my site speed.

I highly recommend starting with at least the GrowBig plan. Their GrowBig hosting plan starts at just $5.95/month. And it’s well worth the minimal investment for self-hosting your own WordPress blog.

Pricing for SiteGround Hosting Plans

If you want to start your own self-hosted blog, SiteGround is the way to go. If you already have your own self-hosted site but you’re with a sub-par hosting company, it’s time to switch to SiteGround.

To recap, get a web hosting plan with SiteGround. That leads us to the steps for site speed optimization because the first step requires a SiteGround GrowBig plan or higher.

You may also like: How to Easily Start a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 5 Steps

Steps for Site Speed Optimization

Before I tell you my site speed optimization steps, let me preface this by saying I’m not an expert. You may get different results or need different settings based on your hosting provider, WordPress theme, other plugins, etc.

But these are the programs and steps I used to get my incredible results with. Hopefully, they help you achieve the same, if not better, site speed improvement that I was able to get.

SG Optimizer WordPress Plugin for SiteGround

STEP 1: SG Optimizer Settings

One of the many perks of hosting your site with SiteGround’s GrowBig plan or higher is being able to use their SG Optimizer plugin for dynamic caching. It won’t work with any other hosting provider.

So if you’re not using SiteGround as your host, you won’t be able to use the SG Optimizer plugin. And you’ll need SiteGround’s GrowBig plan or higher to get dynamic caching and be able to use the SG Optimizer plugin.

The SG Optimizer plugin links WordPress with SiteGround’s performance services for your site, such as SiteGround’s SuperCacher for Dynamic Caching and Memcached. Here are the SG Optimizer settings I’m using:

1. SUPERCACHER Settings

• Dynamic Caching – Checked

• Automatic Cache Purge – Checked

• Browser-Specific Caching – Checked (you may or may not want to use this one)

• Excluding URLs – left Blank

• Test URLs for Cache Status – left Blank

• Memcached – Checked

SG Optimizer Supercacher Settings

2. ENVIRONMENT OPTIMIZATION Settings

• Enable HTTPS – left Unchecked as I already have it enabled in my SiteGround settings

• Set your PHP version – selected Managed PHP so I don’t have to worry about it

SG Optimizer Environment Optimization Settings

3. FRONTEND OPTIMIZATION Settings

• Minify the HTML Output – Checked

• Minify Javascript Files – Checked

• Defer Render-blocking JS – Checked

• /wp-includes/js/jquery/jquery.js

• /wp-includes/js/jquery/jquery-migrate.min.js

• Minify CSS Files – Checked

• Combine CSS Files – Checked

• Optimize Loading of Google Fonts – Checked

• Remove Query Strings From Static Resources – Checked

• Disable Emojis – Unchecked (I have it enabled in WP Rocket – more on WP Rocket settings below)

SG Optimizer Frontend Optimization Settings

4. MEDIA OPTIMIZATION Settings

• New Images Optimization – Unchecked (I use the WP Optimize plugin for my image optimization)

• Generate WebP Copies of New Images – Checked

• Lazy Load Media – Unchecked (I have it enabled in WP Rocket – more on WP Rocket settings below)

SG Optimizer Media Optimization Settings

The plugin also has a handy Performance Test powered by Google PageSpeed built in to easily check your site speed performance.

SG Optimizer Performance Test

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WP Rocket - WordPress Caching Plugin

STEP 2: WP Rocket Settings

Generally, you only want to use one caching plugin. But, the SG Optimizer plugin happens to work hand-in-hand with the WP Rocket plugin. In fact, they complement one another. You can read more about that here.

I was already using the SG Optimizer plugin. But as soon as I installed and activated the WP Rocket plugin (before changing any settings), there was an immediate increase in site loading speed! I was instantly SOLD on WP Rocket!

Click HERE for my full review of the WP Rocket plugin.

Here are my site speed results before WP Rocket and right after I installed and activated the plugin before updating any of the settings:

GTmetrix (look at the Fully Loaded Time)

BEFORE WP Rocket

GTmetrix Site Speed Score BEFORE Site Speed Optimization

AFTER WP Rocket

GTmetrix Site Speed Results AFTER WP Rocket BUT BEFORE Changing Settings

Google PageSpeed Insights (look at the Score and Speed Index)

BEFORE WP Rocket

PageSpeed Insights Site Speed Score BEFORE Site Speed Optimization

AFTER WP Rocket

PageSpeed Insights Site Speed Results AFTER WP Rocket BUT BEFORE Changing Settings

Pingdom (look at the Load Time)

BEFORE WP Rocket

AFTER WP Rocket

Pingdom Site Speed Results AFTER WP Rocket BUT BEFORE Changing Settings

I knew that if I got those results without even touching the settings, WP Rocket was going to be a total game-changer! And it only got better from there!

Plus, setup is super easy. I was already using the SG Optimizer plugin. And when I installed and activated the WP Rocket plugin, this message showed up in my WordPress Admin area:

Message from SG Optimizer about Settings for WP Rocket and SG Optimizer

How awesome is that? I didn’t even have to do anything for those settings since they synced between WP Rocket and SG Optimizer. As for the other settings, I’ll tell you what I did. But first, you’ll need to do the following:

1. Purchase WP Rocket and download the WP Rocket Plugin

How To Download the WP Rocket Plugin

2. Upload and Install the WP Rocket Plugin in WordPress

Add New Plugin
Upload New Plugin
Upload Plugin ZIP FIle and Install Plugin

3. Activate the WP Rocket Plugin in WordPress

How to Activate WordPress Plugins to use them

Now that you have WP Rocket installed and activated in WordPress, here are the settings I used for WP Rocket (I’m going to start at the top and work my way down):

1. DASHBOARD Settings

• Rocket Tester – OFF

• Rocket Analysis – OFF

WP Rocket Dashboard Settings

2. CACHE Settings

• Mobile Caching – Checked “Enable caching for mobile devices” and “Separate cache files for mobile devices.”

• Left everything else Unchecked.

• Saved Changes.

WP Rocket Cache Settings

3. FILE OPTIMIZATION Settings

• I checked everything except “Combine JavaScript files” and Saved Changes.

• You may not want to check “Combine CSS files” and/or “Combine JavaScript files” if your site uses HTTP/2.

• If you’re not sure if your site uses HTTP/2, you can check here. And you can also get more info on HTTP/2, here.

WP Rocket File Optimization Settings

4. MEDIA Settings

• Checked everything except Enable WebP caching as I have it enabled with SG Optimizer.

• Saved Changes.

WP Rocket Media Settings

5. PRELOAD Settings

• Activate Preloading – Checked.

• Activate sitemap-based cache preloading – Checked.

• Yoast SEO XML sitemap – Checked (if you use the Yoast plugin for your sitemap, this should be checked).

• Prefetch DNS Requests

• Listed URLs to prefetch (You can use this tool to get a list of domains that could be prefetched on your site. Then just copy and paste the list here.)

• Saved Changes.

WP Rocket Preload Settings

6. ADVANCED RULES Settings

• Left Blank (if you have advanced rules you want to use, you can add them here).

WP Rocket Advanced Rules Settings

7. DATABASE Settings

• You can use the Database feature to manually cleanup posts, comments, and more.

• You can also enable Schedule Automatic Cleanup if you want. I chose not to as I would rather do it manually after doing a back up of my database to be on the safe side.

WP Rocket Database Settings

8. CDN  Settings

• Left Blank as SiteGround’s hosting plans come with CDN and I already enabled Cloudfare CDN with SiteGround.

WP Rocket CDN Settings

9. HEARTBEAT Settings

• Checked “Control Heartbeat” and left everything else Blank.

• Saved Changes.

WP Rocket Heartbeat Settings

10. ADD-ONS Settings

• Checked Google Analytics ON.

• Checked Cloudfare ON since I use Cloudfare through my hosting with SiteGround.

• If you use any of the other services, you might want to check them as well.

WP Rocket Add-On Settings

11. CLOUDFARE Settings

• Since I’m using Cloudfare with my SiteGround hosting and activated the Cloudfare Add-on with WP Rocket, I needed to modify some of the Cloudfare Add-on Options. For details on using WP Rocket with Cloudfare, click here.

• In the Add-Ons Settings under Cloudfare, clicked on “Modify Options” to get to the Cloudfare Settings.

• Entered Cloudfare Credentials (Global API key, Account email, and Zone ID).

• Checked “Optimal Settings” ON.

• Saved Changes.

WP Rocket Cloudfare Settings
  • Here are the Cloudfare settings I’m using with my SiteGround hosting in case you’re wondering:
SiteGround Cloudfare Settings

12. IMAGE OPTIMIZATION Settings

• I didn’t use WP Rocket’s Image Optimization service Imagify as it’s an additional cost, and I’ve been using the free WP Optimize plugin for image optimization.

You may also like: 10 Free Essential Plugins to Use for Your WordPress Blog

STEP 3: Scale Images

After adjusting the settings for SG Optimizer and WP Rocket, my site speed got even better! But my PageSpeed Score with GTmetrix was still weighed down by large images. They needed to be scaled down to the appropriate size for the web page they’re on.

GTmetrix Serve Scaled Images Recommendation Details

It told me the exact images that needed to be scaled down and the size they needed to be scaled down to. How helpful is that?! After making this final tweak recommend by GTmetrix and scaling down those images to the recommended size, here’s what happened:

• PageSpeed Score went from an E to an A

• YSlow Score went from a B to an A as well

• Fully Loaded Time went from 3.2 to just 1.8 seconds!

GTmetrix BEFORE Scaled Images

GTmetrix Site Speed Results BEFORE Scaling Images

GTmetrix AFTER Scaled Images

The goal is to get to under 2 seconds for site load time. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! And A scores? Sweet! I thought maybe I’d get B’s and would have been satisfied with that. So I couldn’t be happier with A’s!

If you get the recommendation to serve scaled images, you can easily scale your image sizes down in WordPress. Here’s how to do it:

1. Go to your Media Library and click on the Image you need to scale down.

Go to Media Library and Click on Photo to Scale Down

2. Click on Edit Image.

Edit Image in WordPress

3. Under SCALE IMAGE on the top right side, enter the recommended size dimensions. Click on “Scale” and “Save.”

Scale Image Size in WordPress

4. *You’ll then need to delete the current image from the page/post and re-upload the newly scaled image to that location on your site to update it (this is important!).

5. Be sure to save the updated image and “Update” the page/post in WordPress.

6. You may want to also clear your cache, which you can do with SG Optimizer and WP Rocket:

Clear Cache with SG Optimizer

How To Clear Cache with SG Optimizer

Clear Cache with WP Rocket

How To Clear Cache with WP Rocket

Wrapping Up Site Speed Optimization

I am beyond THRILLED that I was able to get such drastic results! My site speed skyrocketed! And all it took was SiteGround web hosting, SG Optimizer, WP Rocket, updating some settings, and scaling down a few images.

I had been intimidated by site speed optimization at first and put it off for too long. Now that I realize how easy it was to improve my site speed, I wish I would have done it from the start. But better late than never!

WP Rocket is seriously one of the BEST investments I’ve made for my blog. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Combine it with SiteGround web hosting and the SG Optimizer plugin to get a site optimized for speed!

For a full list of all the blogging tools I use and recommend, get your free copy of my Ultimate Blogging Tools Checklist!

Leave a question or comment HERE!

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How to Improve Site Speed for WordPress Blogs

How To Drastically Improve Site Speed for Your WordPress Blog
How To Drastically Improve WordPress Blog Site Speed
Briana Nickas

Behind the Blog

I’m Briana Nickas, a part-time RVer who loves RVing, hiking, visiting National Parks, and taking photos. My happiest days are spent on the road with my hubby and our fur-baby Saucy (a 7-lb maltipoo) exploring the country and meeting fellow adventurers along the way… READ MORE

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Leave a Comment!

20 Comments

  1. Danielle

    Such a good idea! I definitely need this for my blog!

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks, Danielle! Definitely give WP Rocket a try! Hopefully you’ll get awesome results with it too!

      Reply
  2. Cherrie

    This is very timely. I was just checking my site speed yesterday. Thank you so much for this. Such an excellent post.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      You’re so welcome, Cherrie! Talk about good timing! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post. Hope it helps with your site speed!

      Reply
  3. Carrie Lynn

    Great tips on the Plugins. Will give WP rocket a try!

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks, Carrie! I’m sure you’ll love WP Rocket as much as I do 😊

      Reply
  4. Iamgeetha blog

    Wow! This looks easy and good ideas! Better I get out from Blogger and will start to use wordpress.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks, Geetha! It was actually much easier than I had anticipated. When you switch to WordPress, definitely use these tools and steps for optimal site speed!

      Reply
  5. Susan

    Thanks for this useful info! Much appreciated.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      You’re so welcome, Susan! 🙂 I’m glad you found it helpful!

      Reply
  6. Sadie

    Wow thank you for this! I hadn’t realized bluehost was so terrible for site speed. Fortunately I am with Siteground, but I now have a couple take-aways I am going to try on my blog to see if I can improve my score. I definitely took some notes on this one!

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks, Sadie! I’m glad you’re already with SiteGround and am so happy that you got some helpful take-aways from this post that you can use with your own blog. I hope they help with your site speed!

      Reply
  7. Jan

    Great tips on site speed! My page speed was A-92% but my Yslow-score was C-78%, Couldn’t understand what Yslow meant. Thanks for a very useful blog!:-)

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks, Jan! Glad you found the site speed tips helpful!

      Reply
  8. Kyle

    This sounds amazing. I am always looking for ways to improve the speed of my website. Many thanks.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      You’re very welcome, Kyle! I’m glad you found my post about site speed optimization and hope it helps you improve your site speed.

      Reply
  9. Inspiroblog

    Great post. I have struggled with my website’s speed too due to image optimization. I loved all the points. I will surely use some on my website! Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thank you! I’m glad you found my site speed optimization tips helpful and will be able to use them to speed up your site.

      Reply
  10. Ashley

    Thoight my site is doing well speed wise, I know it wont always be that way. Taking notes ahead of time I figure is a good idea.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Ashley! I’m glad you took some notes for future reference. It’s a good idea to check your site speed periodically. And if it ever starts to suffer, you can definitely refer back for these steps on how to improve it!

      Reply

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