We developed the perfmatters plugin to speed up your WordPress sites!

Speed Up WordPress – Your Complete Optimization Guide

WordPress is a very powerful and popular Content Management System (CMS). It currently powers over 28% of all the sites on the internet. That means every 1 in 4 sites that you visit is most likely running WordPress. Sites like EA, CBN, ESPN, etc. all use WordPress to power their sites. I personally think WordPress is the best solution for business owners and even enterprise sites when it comes to simplifying the online marketing of their website.

Speed Up WordPress

Even though WordPress is super popular it can also come with a price. And that price is web performance. Originally WordPress was created as a blogging platform. But it has evolved into much more than that. With that evolution comes the need for more functionality. And with so many different configurations out there WordPress can run quite slow if not setup correctly. In this post I want to cover, step by step, exactly how I configure all my WordPress sites and how you can easily achieve speeds of under 500ms load times.

A little bit about me. I have spent over 10 years using WordPress and currently work for Kinsta, a high-performance managed WordPress hosting company. Previous to this, I worked for KeyCDN, a global content delivery network. I have spent hundreds of hours optimizing WordPress sites to ensure that they are running at optimal performance. As an internet marketer, WordPress has helped me achieve amazing things and it can also help you! Just follow the steps below to instantly speed up WordPress.

I promise you, no matter what your background or level of expertise, you will find something in my post that is useful.

06.08.17 – I’m working on updating this guide, make sure to bookmark it.

1. Fast WordPress Hosting

One of the easiest and most important ways to speed up WordPress is to start with a solid foundation. And that means picking a reliable and fast Web Hosting provider. I’m sure you see guys all the time advertising BlueHost hosting. Unfortunately, a lot of those sites are run by affiliate marketers simply trying to make a quick buck. And most of the time the affiliate marketer doesn’t actually use them, they simply refer people to them. Picking a host like BlueHost is one of the worst decisions you could ever make when it comes to hosting your website.

Did you know that BlueHost is owned by EIG? EIG is a corporation that has been buying up all the crappy hosts. Here is a full list of hosts owned by EIG. You can pretty much expect the same horrible service from all of them.

While it is true that I am an affiliate marketer, my passion for web performance has always trumped that. That is why I will only be referring you to web hosting providers that I currently use for my websites. Having a superior web hosting provider means that you don’t have to worry about downtime or speed. Below are three WordPress hosting providers that I fully stand behind.

Option 1 – Affordable WordPress Hosting – SiteGround

If you are looking for more affordable WordPress hosting, I highly recommend SiteGround. They offer shared hosting with HTTP/2, PHP7, SSD and tons of other features starting at only $3.95 a month! This is about as good as it gets for shared hosting folks. Make sure to check out our in-depth SiteGround review.

siteground shared wordpress hosting

SiteGround is great if you need a cheap host that still has some of the latest features that the bigger guys do. Once you start getting a lot of traffic though I recommend investing in a bigger host like WPHostingSpot or Kinsta below.

Visit SiteGround

Option 2 – Mid-Tier Managed WordPress Hosting – WPHostingSpot

The one host that I use for all of my websites is WebHostingSpot. They offer managed WordPress hosting. What is managed WordPress hosting? Basically managed means what they offer you support 24/7 if you have problems with your websites, and also they are responsible if something goes wrong with your server. Managed WordPress hosting of course costs more but you have to ask yourself. How comfortable are you fixing server issues or problems with your website if it goes down? If you have any doubts, you should be using a managed WordPress host. I choose to pay a little more so that I can focus on what is really important to me, which is content marketing and writing.

WebHostingSpot features the best of the best when it comes to server architecture and web performance stack. They offer VPS options from Vultr, Linode, or Digital Ocean. I recommend going with Vultr or Linode. You can pick from available server locations when checking out.wphostingspot

WPHostingSpot uses Nginx on all their servers, supports HTTP/2, MariaDB, and the latest PHP7. A lot of cheap hosts you see using Cpanel use Apache servers. When you choose a host, trust me, you want one that runs Nginx as it has been proven to be much faster and more stable than Apache. They also offer a CDN for free along with free SSL certs via Let’s Encrypt.

The plans with WPHostingSpot range from $20 a month all the way up to $150 per month. Now at first glance you might think that is super expensive. It is higher than you might be used to paying. But remember, if something goes wrong, you have support. This pays off in the long run. Make sure to check out my in-depth review of WPHostingSpot.

Visit WebHostingSpot

Option 3 – High Performance Managed WordPress Hosting – Kinsta

If you are looking for high performance managed WordPress hosting, I have nothing but praise for Kinsta. Kinsta’s vast feature set is really what sets them apart from the other managed WordPress hosting companies out there. Kinsta is the kind of host you want if you go on Shark Tank. Some of Kinsta’s current clients include Mint.com, Ubisoft, Swagway, Intuit, and AdEspresso! Make sure to check out our in-depth Kinsta review.

kinsta wordpress hosting

Some of Kinsta’s features include Nginx, Ubuntu 16.04, PHP 7, HTTP/2, MariaDB, Free premium DNS via Amazon Route 53, uptime monitoring via New Relic, and they don’t charge you based on visitors. That is right, you can have an unlimited amount visitors.

Visit Kinsta

2. Content Delivery Network (CDN)

No matter how fast your web hosting provider is, you can never beat the latency issue. When you host your website it is always stored on a single server somewhere in a data center. For visitors across the country, things are much slower because it has to download everything across the globe. A CDN fixes that by storing copies of your assets, like images, CSS, and JavasScript on servers, also known as POPs, around the globe. It also caches them. This way when a visitor from across the globe is looking up your website, the content is delivered from the local POP instead of your web server. Make sure to check out my article on CDN for dummies if you want to learn more about how CDNs work.

I use KeyCDN of course for all of my websites. Now yes I work for them so I might be a little biased. But at $0.04/GB (lowest price globally) with more POPs than MaxCDN, there really is no comparison and it’s a no brainer. KeyCDN also offers origin shield and secure token free of charge which most other providers charge hundreds of dollars for. KeyCDN also has a free Let’s Encrypt integration so you can deploy SSL for free. And they fully support HTTP/2 and the latest protocols so that your content is delivered as fast as possible. Make sure to also check out my full review of KeyCDN.


If you aren’t using a CDN yet then you are hurting yourself. A blog with a decent amount of traffic usually is in the 20-25GB bandwidth range, and to implement a CDN it costs less than a $3 per month. And suddenly your site is supercharged from multiple POPs all over the world. I used the free CDN Enabler plugin to deploy my CDN.

Setup the WordPress CDN Plugin

CDN Enabler is a completely free WordPress plugin that was designed for the sole purpose of linking your assets to your content delivery network provider (CDN). Check out our blog post on how a CDN can help speed up your website by 68%! As of writing this, the plugin currently has 6,000+ active installs and a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. People seem to love it. Here are just a few of the reviews below.

Can’t find easier plugin than this to power your website with a CDN. Fast and easy, all you need! kmartin26

It’s blazing fast, no unneeded functionality. bnwmovies

If you are running on redis cache and don’t want any bloated caching plugin this is very lightweight and seems to work well. rsmith4321

What exactly does the plugin do? Basically, when you are using a CDN, they will give you a special URL, such as cdn.yourdomain.com. This needs to be updated on all your WordPress images, CSS, and JavaScript files. This plugin lets you input your CDN URL and boom, you are ready to go! Follow the steps below to install it and set it up.

Step 1

Under “Plugins” in your WordPress dashboard click on “Add New” and then search for “CDN Enabler.” It should be the first one that comes up and says By KeyCDN. Click on the “Install Now” button. You can also download CDN Enabler directly from the repository if you prefer.

install cdn enabler

Step 2

Click on “Activate Plugin.”

activate cdn enabler

Step 3

Under “Settings” in your WordPress dashboard click into “CDN Enabler.” You will then want to input your CDN URL and also enable the HTTPS option if you are using a CDN that is running over HTTPS. If you don’t know how to find your CDN URL, you can always ask your CDN provider for help. Then click on “Save Changes.”

cdn enabler setup

And that is it! Now everything on your website will be linked to your CDN and turbocharged.

Download CDN Enabler

3. Utilize the perfmatters Plugin

perfmatters is a lightweight WordPress performance plugin developed by myself and my brother which basically includes all the hacks we use on our sites to gain the extra edge over the competition. Get all the secret sauce from our sites with a few clicks.


Some of its features include:

  • Disable emojis
  • Disable self-pingbacks
  • Disable XML-RPC
  • Disable and or limit WordPress revisions
  • Remove query strings from static resources
  • Disable embeds
  • Change frequency and or disable Heartbeat API
  • Change autosave interval
  • Support straight from the developers of the plugin

And much more!

Get perfmatters

4. Optimize Database

The next thing to do is to ensure that the WordPress database is optimized. If you have never done this before you will want to check and make sure you don’t have any mixed MyISAM and InnoDB tables. Basically, there are two different types of MySQL tables. InnoDB has proven itself to be much faster. You can follow this tutorial here on how to convert MyISAM to InnoDB. When it comes to ways to speed up WordPress, this is often an overlooked optimization.

The next thing to do it clean up old post revisions and drafts that are most likely sitting in your database. I am always surprised by how many WordPress website owners don’t do this.

You should treat WordPress like a car, that means oil checkups, tuning, etc.Click To Tweet

You can install the free WP-Optimize plugin and run an optimization. As you can see below, in my case, there were 108 revisions sitting in the database. This is not a lot, but going forward its always nice to start with a fresh slate. Check out my in-depth post on how to delete old WordPress revisions from your database. Note: I delete the plugin immediately after I am done running the cleanup.

wp-optimize plugin

WP-Optimize optimization

Now that the old post revisions are cleaned up, it is time to limit the number of revisions so they don’t start bloating the database down the line again. There are a couple ways you can do this. I recommend using our perfmatters plugin. You can limit or disable them with a single click, as seen below.

disable and or limit wordpress revisions

Disable and or limit WordPress revisions

Or you can do it manually by adding the following code to your wp-config.php file. In this example, I am limiting them to 3.

define('AUTOSAVE_INTERVAL', 300); // seconds
define('WP_POST_REVISIONS', 3);

It is important to add the code above the ‘ABSPATH,’ otherwise, it won’t work.

limit wordpress revisions

Limit WordPress revisions

You can also disable revisions altogether.

5. Lightweight WordPress Themes

WordPress themes can make or break your site. There are a ton of bloated themes out there which can bring your site to crawl. When you looking for a WordPress theme you want to make sure you are buying from a reputable company with good developers and support. I use MyThemeShop on a lot of my websites and couldn’t be happier. I saw a 250ms decrease simply by changing themes, without anything else! Kudos to the team over at MyThemeShop because they know how to code properly, keep things lightweight, and still include schema markup and rich snippets, which are things most competitors don’t.


I went from MyThemeShop to ThemeForest, and am back on MyThemeShop. Yes, I was stupid. I won’t make that mistake again. I’m not saying that all developers at ThemeForest are bad, but unfortunately a lot simply add bloat to increase their sales. If you are interested I am currently running their socialMe theme. Feel free to check out my MyThemeShop review.

Head over to MyThemeShop and grab a super fast theme!

6. Got Rid of 12 Plugins I Can Live Without

live without you

Src: imgflip

The next step was to get rid of all the unnecessary plugins that I could technically live without. Now thankfully this is where I have to shout out to MyThemeShop again. I had a lot of plugins installed with my ThemeForest theme because I lost functionality leaving MyThemeShop (MTS).

Here are plugins I got rid of:

7. Took My Custom CSS to Bare Minimum

custom css

With my ThemeForest theme, I had to fix a lot of things to make it work the way I wanted. My custom CSS file had 247 lines of code. I went through each line after switching themes and managed to drop this down to 88 lines of code. This just goes to show you how much better these guys code. And I could probably clean this up even more.

New CSS Button

If you are curious, here are my new CSS buttons I am using.

Sample Button

.btn {
  -webkit-border-radius: 0;
  -moz-border-radius: 0;
  border-radius: 0px;
  font-family: Arial;
  color: #ffffff !important;
  font-size: 22px;
  background: #8cc462;
  padding: 12px 22px 12px 22px;
  text-decoration: none;
  border-bottom: 4px solid #6a944a !important;
  position: relative;
  display: inline-block;

.btn:hover {
  background: #97d26a;
  text-decoration: none;

Here is the HTML code. You could even go one step further and create your own shortcode. But by doing it this way, I get rid of one HTTP request from the button plugin.

<a class="btn" href="" target="_blank">button text</a>

8. Changed Web Fonts

I have been doing a lot of research recently on web font performance. I ditched the Adobe Typekit service. I saw an additional 300ms reduction by doing this. Typekit adds 2 external HTTP requests and it also base64 encodes all the font formats. If you aren’t familiar with fonts you no longer need to serve all the font formats, you only need WOFF and WOFF2 (if you are going for extra compression).

I switched back over to Google Fonts and am using the web font only for my headers. The rest of my site uses a web safe font, “Arial.” This ensures fonts are not slowing down my site whatsoever. Did you know there is a 200ms different between Google’s fastest font and a web safe font? (Update: I have moved back to a Google font for my body text as I could no longer stand Arial lol. But again the external call to Google is much faster than using a third party like Typekit.) And when Typekit goes down, which it does once in a while, it seems like half the internet breaks.

arial vs open sans

Src: KeyCDN

I also added prefetching for the Google fonts domain by adding this to my header.php file.

<link rel="dns-prefetch" href="//fonts.googleapis.com/">

9. WordPress Caching

Speed Up WordPress - Cache Enabler

Obviously everyone knows by now the importance of caching for your WordPress site. There are free caching plugins out there such W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache, but I have never been that impressed by them as far as speed goes. I used to use WP Rocket, which I was pretty happy with, and it performed well for over a year. However there is a new caching plugin on the block, and it is completely free. I am referring to WordPress Cache Enabler. Check out how it boosted speeds on a fresh WordPress install by over 27%!

WordPress Cache Enabler

The free WordPress cache enabler plugin is created by the team over at KeyCDN, a global content delivery network which focuses on speeding up content delivery. The plugin was developed with HTTP/2 and simplicity in mind. Setting up a caching plugin shouldn’t have to be crazy complicated or involve 25+ steps. How does it work? Well, basically it creates static HTML files which are then stored on your web server’s disks. When a visitor hits your website, the static HTML file is served. Due to it being static, this can be delivered super fast! Why? Because it pretty much bypasses the plugins, database, etc.

As of writing this, the plugin currently has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. People seem to love it. Here are just a few of the reviews below.

Simplicity and effectiveness. Love it! atomiccherry

Loving this lightweight plugin! It even supports WebP! Saw a speed increase after installing! tandkb

Nice and simple caching plugin, works great, and even supports WebP images generated by EWWW Image Optimizer. Awesome! nosilver4u

Cache Enabler Features

The cache enabler plugin features the following:

  • Caching HTML to disk
  • Feature to automatically purge cache when publishing new pages/posts
  • Manual purge feature
  • Displays the total size of cache in your WordPress dashboard
  • Minify your HTML and JavaScript
  • Supports WP multisite and custom post types
  • Ability to set the expiry directive
  • WebP Support (when combined with Optimus)
  • Supports responsive images via srcset since WP 4.4
  • Works with Autoptimize
  • HTTP/2 Focused

Example of Cache Size in Dashboard

In your WordPress dashboard you can clearly see on the “At a Glance” widget the size that is currently in the cache.

cache size dashboard

Example of Cache Size in Dashboard

You can individually purge pages/posts or clear the entire cache right from the WordPress admin bar.

clear cache wordpress dashboard

How to Install Cache Enabler

Follow the steps below on how to install the free WordPress Cache Enabler plugin.

Step 1

In your WordPress dashboard under “Plugins” click on “Add New” and search for cache enabler. Ensure that it says By KeyCDN for the author. Click on the “Install Now” button. You can also download it directly from the WordPress repository.

search cache enabler

Step 2

After you activate the plugin you will want to enable a few settings. In your WordPress dashboard under “Settings” click into “Cache Enabler.” I recommend enabling the pre-compression option and also the WebP support. You can take advantage of this with the Optimus Image Optimizer plugin. WebP is Google’s image format and has been shown to decrease image sizes by sometimes up to over 70%! I also recommend enabling cache minification for both HTML and JavaScript. Note: if you have any issues, you might have to disable the JavaScript minification and only use HTML. The Disqus plugin is one for example that doesn’t play well with JavaScript minification.

cache enabler settings

Step 3 (optional)

There is an advanced snippet of code you can use to bypass PHP in WordPress. This is an optional step, but you will see even faster speed increases! I am using this for the speed tests you see further below. Follow the tutorial here on how to enable the advanced snippet for Nginx and Apache.

Cache Enabler Speed Results

So now lets see what the speed tests say. I am using this on a fresh install of WordPress with the twenty sixteen theme running. If you have a larger site you can expect to see even faster increases!

Without Caching

I first ran 5 tests via Pingdom and took an average without a caching plugin running.

wordpress speed without cache

With Cache Enabler

I then ran another 5 tests via Pingdom and took the average with the free Cache Enabler plugin enabled.

wordpress speed with cache

You can see that the Cache Enabler plugin decreased load times from 537 ms down to 390 ms. That is a 27.37% speed increase for only 2 minutes of setup work using a free plugin! Not too shabby.

As you can see, for a free plugin, the WordPress Cache Enabler plugin can do wonders for your website or blog. It is super simple to setup and you will see drastic speed increases.

Download Cache Enabler

10. Google Analytics – Removed Advertising and Remarketing

Having worked in the corporate agency setting in the past I have always enabled advertising features and remarketing in my Google Analytics accounts by default. However, on my blog I don’t use any of the data, so better to remove it. Why? Because if you are running these features you will actually have a 2nd HTTP request for this file: https://stats.g.doubleclick.net/r/collect? and then your main Google Analytics script will have a 302 redirect in the response header.

google analytics collect

You can fix this by turning both remarketing and advertising reporting features off in your Google Analytics account.

google analytics data collection

You can also disable the features by adding the following code to your Google Analytics script.

  ga('set', 'displayFeaturesTask', null);

After disabling this you should no longer have that 2nd HTTP request and your main script will no longer have a 302 redirect.

google analytics no redirect

11. Installed the Gonzalez Plugin

If you are not familiar with the Gonzalez plugin do yourself a favor and go buy it right now. It is a WordPress plugin developed by Tomasz Dobrzyński for the specific purpose of disabling CSS and Javascript on a page-level basis. It really is pure genius. Now my site was pretty optimized already, especially after doing everything above. But simply by installing Gonzalez I was able to drop down from around 372ms to 276ms. In fact, this plugin is solely responsible for me breaking the 300ms barrier.

I was able to disable 1 script and 4 stylesheets from loading on my homepage. For example, the social warfare script is my social counter plugin. That only needs to load on posts, not my homepage. So I disabled it.

gonzalez wordpress plugin

I will be publishing a full review of this plugin in the near future. For sites that aren’t as optimized as mine, I could easily see this plugin shaving off entire seconds! There is also a free plugin on the WP repository called Plugin Organizer which also does the same thing. You might want to check that out as well.

Test Results – Speed Up WordPress

And here are my speed test results after I did everything above. The tests were run 8 times each.

Before Optimization

brianjackson before optimization

Src: Pingdom

After Optimization

brianjackson after optimization

Src: Pingdom

As you can see I managed to reduce my HTTP requests from 90 down to 44. I decreased my page size from 939.9kb down to 497.6kb. And I decreased my load time from 1.52s down to 276ms!

Other Speed Up WordPress Tips

Here are a few additional things I am already doing that you might want to check out.

Call me crazy but I am actually still not happy with the results. My next goal is to bridge the 200ms barrier into the land of 100 ms! Stay tuned, as I already have some tricks up my sleeves on how to accomplish that. Hopefully my experience above on how to speed up WordPress will be eye opening for you. I would love to hear any feedback below!


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