This is a high-level look at how I performance-optimize WordPress websites for myself and my clients. I can promise you that the approach laid out in this guide works and works exceptionally well.
I use a CDN for every WordPress website, and Cloudflare is my preferred vendor.
CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) minimize the distance between website visitors and a website’s server, storing a cached version of a website’s content in multiple geographical locations. Each location contains several caching servers responsible for delivering content to visitors within its proximity, providing enhanced end-to-end reachability.
People may argue that CDNs are only needed if you serve a global (or partially global) audience, and that’s not true.
CDNs also provide additional levels of security via DDoS Protection, Web Application Firewalls (WAF), SSL, Bot blocking, etc., keeping the bad guys from utilizing your server’s resources.
Additionally, Cloudflare is known for providing the fastest DNS resolution on the web.
Check out the Implement Cloudflare’s CDN for Better WordPress Security and Performance.
I use high-end WordPress hosting for every WordPress website, and Kinsta is my preferred vendor.
Kinsta takes the complexity out of caching, handling it all at the server level, so no complex caching plugins are required.
They have a powerful yet simplified management dashboard, high-performing technology stack, and superior 24/7 support.
If you are not using quality hosting, you are not taking your business seriously enough.
When you go with the Cloudflare and Kinsta combo, you will have all the caching you need! There is no need for caching plugins.
Using my recommended Cloudflare Page Rules and Kinta’s Edge Caching, your website’s assets will be served from locations closest to your users without putting additional load on your server.
If users of your website request an asset not cached at the edge, it’s not the end of the world because Kinsta provides some of the best server-level caching in the business.
There’s an ongoing debate as to whether the number of plugins slows down a website. It’s not the number of plugins but rather the quality of the installed plugins.
I recommend that you do your due diligence before installing plugins and if you hire someone to help with your website, be sure to hold them accountable as well.
- Is the vendor releasing updates at a reasonable interval?
- Is the vendor responsive in support forums?
- Does the vendor seem to care about performance and security?
After you’ve decided to implement a plugin, it is not a set-and-forget-it situation. You should constantly evaluate whether a plugin is still required, how your site continues to perform, and so on.
To go along with my preferred hosting vendor, the following plugin stack is what I use and recommend. You’ll notice I don’t mention a caching plugin, and that’s because, with Kinsta, you don’t need one.
- Cloudflare (Free Plan)
- Perfmatters (Overall Optimization)
- ShortPixel Image Optimizer (SPIO) (Initial/Bulk Image Optimization)
- ShortPixel Adaptive Images (SPAI) (Ongoing Image Optimization)
Some websites rely heavily on images, and for a good reason. If you do nothing to optimize the images added to your website, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
To provide the best user experience, significantly reduce disk space usage, and help with overall performance, you need to optimize the images that make it onto your website.
Conditional Code Snippets
In that case, you are loading code on every post/page of your website, and this can negatively impact your website in a significant way.
All code snippets should be applied only where they are needed. This keeps the potential for conflicts to a minimum and keeps you from adding unnecessary code bloat to your website.
It’s important to manage code snippets intelligently.
This needs to be an ongoing commitment. So many factors can impact your website’s performance, whether adding new plugins, changing settings, etc.
I recommend establishing performance baselines using testing tools like PageSpeed Insights, web.dev, or WebPageTest and reviewing your website’s performance routinely. If performance drops off, you need to find out why and fast, especially if you are in a tight race with competitors.