Is it feasible to speed up a WordPress website to make it load more quickly? Of course! But is using the premium, paid plugins necessary to accomplish this task? No, not necessarily. Continue reading to find out more about the many great free plugin options that are available to perform this task.
It can be challenging to “optimize” or speed up the pages of your WordPress website in order to increase your PageSpeed and reduce page loading times. This process can be time-consuming, complicated, expensive, and just downright challenging, which is why even some of the best designers and developers are still not keen on taking on this task. Knowing which plugins to use and which features to enable can sometimes be a perplexing and an apparently contradictory burden because there are so many distinct plugin options available to help you complete this task.
So which optimization plugins are the best to use? And how can someone accomplish this for free? Well, we’ve done all the dirty work so you don’t have to, and we’ll show you the best free PageSpeed optimization plugins to use and which options to enable on each one to speed up a WordPress website and decrease your page loading times as much as possible.
But before we get into which plugins to use, let’s first clear up some confusion:
Can you use Elementor and still achieve a perfect PageSpeed score of 100?
Yes! Absolutely you can! It’s a common misconception that Elementor is just too heavy and bloated to speed up loading times. But this is simply not true. Go ahead, check our website for yourself. While our PageSpeed score on mobile will vary (which is natural due to the nature of the Google Lighthouse test) we have a perfect score of 100 on desktop.
Now, let’s start with theme usage:
7 Steps To Speed Up A WordPress Website
1. Use a lightweight theme
The first and most important thing you’ll need to do is choose a theme that is optimized for speed and performance.
Many excellent light WordPress themes are available. Astra, OceanWP, and Hestia are a few of the top possibilities. These themes are all quick, responsive, and simple to use. Additionally, they are well-designed and adaptable, enabling you to build a website that looks beautiful and accurately represents your own brand. GeneratePress and Neve are two further lightweight themes that you could want to take into account.
But while there are many free themes available that are lightweight and fast, there’s one that we like the best.
If you’re using Elementor as a page builder, just use the Hello Elementor theme. It’s forever free and a great starting point to control and customize every part of any website you build with Elementor. It works perfectly with Elementor and minimizes the need for other plugins.
2. Optimize images
Large graphics can make your page load slowly. Additionally, employing image formats like JPEG and PNG will increase loading speeds. WebP and AVIF are the web-optimized picture formats, and search engines now favor them above other formats in terms of PageSpeed.
There are certainly a couple of freemium plugin options such as Imagify (which we use) and ShortPixel, which we recommend, but you’re limited to the number of images you can optimize before having to pay. Another good free option for you to use Smush. It does a great job of optimizing images and reducing their file sizes.
3. Enable caching
Caching stores static copies of your pages and posts, which is going to improve your PageSpeed and help your website operate better and faster. WP Rocket, which is a paid plugin that we use, is one of the greatest caching plugins available. However, there are numerous free caching plugins for WordPress, such W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache, if you want to do it without spending any money.
But WP Fastest Cache is the best option we’ve found.
Even though this is technically a premium plugin, you absolutely can get away with using the free version while still optimizting for WordPress website for PageSpeed.
You’ll just want to enable to following options:
Under “Settings” check the following boxes:
- Cache System
- New Post
- Update Post
- Minify HTML
- Minify CSS
- Combine CSS
- Combine Js
- Browser Caching
- Disable Emojis
The free version of WP Fastest Cache only gives you access to this “Settings” tab.
Also, you’ll want to use it in conjunction with another free plugin called Autoptimize. These are the following settings you’ll want to enable:
Under “JS, CSS & HTML” you’ll want the following boxes checked:
- Aggregate JS-files?
Under “CSS Options” you’ll want the following boxes checked:
- Optimize CSS Code?
- Aggregate CSS-files?
- Also aggregate inline CSS?
Under “HTML Options” you’ll want the following boxes checked:
- Optimize HTML Code?
- Also minify inline JS/CSS?
Under Misc Options you’ll want to check all the boxes:
- Save aggregated script/css as static files?
- Minify excluded CSS and JS files?
- Enable 404 fallbacks?
- Also optimize for logged in editors/administrators?
- Enable configuration per post/page?
In the next tab under “Images” you’ll want the following boxes checked:
- Optimize Images (if you’re using ShortPixel in this case)
- Image Optimization quality (choose “Lossy”)
- Load AVIF in supported browsers?
- Lazy-load images?
- Lazy-load from nth image (input “1”)
And finally under the “Extra” tab you’ll want the following boxes checked:
- Google Fonts (choose “Remove Google Fonts”)
- Remove emojis
With all this talk of plugins, the next recommendation is going to feel contradictory:
4. Minimize the use of plugins
While plugins can add functionality to your website, they can also slow it down. You’ll only want to use the plugins that are necessary for your website, and delete any that are not being used.
5. Use a content delivery network (CDN)
A CDN can improve the loading speed of your website by storing static files on servers located around the world. There are many free CDN options available, such as Cloudflare and Jetpack. We use Cloudflare and have found it to be the best free option available.
6. Optimize your website’s code
Clean and optimized code can help improve the performance of your website. Use tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix to identify any code that may need to be optimized. These tools will cover your site’s Core Web Vitals, and will provide a comprehensive report that lists any parts of your website that may be contributing to its slow loading times, and will suggest ways to improve these certain aspects of your site. These tools will create this report that details what code can be optimized and how to go about it.
By utilizing tools such as PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix, you can make sure that your website’s code is up to date and optimized so that it can reach its maximum potential. Keeping your website running optimally and quickly will ensure the best experience for users, which is ultimately what PageSpeed is all about.
7. Host your fonts locally
Another major factor that can contribute to slow loading times is fetching your fonts from an external source such as Google or Adobe. To get around this, you want to make sure you are hosting your fonts locally and serving them to your website from your server. This one fix can potentially give you a dramatically faster loading time, which will increase your overall PageSpeed score even more and perhaps push you from the 80s into the 90s.
We hope we could help you in this endeavor. If you need us for additional assistance, feel free to book your FREE CONSULTATION using the form below.