Optimize WordPress Websites for Outstanding Performance

I recommend referencing this guide periodically, as things rapidly change in this space.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

CDNs 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 a number of caching servers responsible for delivering content to visitors within its proximity, providing enhanced end-to-end reachability.

CDNs also provide additional levels of security, via DDoS Protection, Web Application Firewalls (WAF), SSL, etc.

Even if you don’t use the full capabilities of a CDN, consider using a CDN to host DNS services, rather than the domain or website hosting vendor.

This may not only speed up DNS resolution, but it makes it easier to migrate websites when/if needed.

Check out the Implement Cloudflare’s CDN for Better WordPress Security and Performance for more information.

WordPress Website Hosting

My preferred vendor for hosting WordPress websites is Kinsta, due to their powerful yet simplified management dashboard, high-performing technology stack, and high level of support.

Kinsta also takes the complexity out of caching, handling it all at the server level. There are no complex caching plugins required.

Recommended Plugin Stack

There’s an ongoing debate as to whether the number of plugins slows down a website and the simple answer is that it’s not the number of plugins, but rather the quality of plugins that are installed.

I recommend that all website managers do their due diligence before installing plugins. Is there a significant amount of people currently using the plugin? Is the vendor releasing updates at a reasonable interval? Is the vendor responsive in support forums?

After you’ve decided to implement a plugin, it is not a set it and forget it situation. Website managers should always keep an eye on what’s installed, how the site is performing, what other solutions are available, etc.

To go along with my recommended hosting vendor, Kinsta, here is my recommended plugin stack with pairs extremely well.

Be sure to check out the How to Optimize WordPress Websites With Perfmatters guide.

Image Optimization

When uploading images to your website, upload images with dimensions that are appropriate for the various theme elements. In other words, if a theme element wants to re-size an image to 500 x 500 px, upload an image that is 500 x 500 px.

Before uploading images, I recommend implementing a plugin that will automatically provide lossy compression of images. 

However, if you’ve already uploaded images, ShortPixel Adaptive Images (SPAI) will allow you to bulk-optimize images on the fly.

Performance Testing

This needs to be an ongoing commitment from the website owner. There are so many factors that can impact performance and it’s important to always be testing.

I recommend establishing a performance baseline at the end of every month, that gets revisited on a monthly basis.

If performance drops off, we need to figure out where it’s dropping off before we can find out the why.

When it comes to fine-tuning and remediation, there would be too much information to list here and we would still not cover it all. However, I can certainly be a resource for you in this area.

Check out the How to Audit the Performance of Your WordPress Website guide for more information.