Knowledge Base

Advanced WordPress Optimization

Optimizing your WordPress site may sound like a daunting task, but following this guide will help you take control of your site's performance. This can both reduce the CPU resources of your site and increase the overall speed of your WordPress site.

Evaluate Your Needs

The first thing you should do when considering optimization changes is to understand what direction you need to work in. Here are a few recommended tools that will help you find your starting line.

  • Google's PageSpeed Insights - This powerful tool will provide you with meaningful and direct recommendations on performance best practices that can be applied to your site. These recommendations often come with a step by step tutorial on how to accomplish the provided suggestion.  
  • Pingdom Website Speed Test - Pingdom's speed test allows you to see what lies beneath your slow pages. You can use this tool to view recommendations and also to see what specific requests had to be completed in order to load the default page of your site. This is especially useful if you need to identify large or problematic files. 

Limit Plugins

When you're working towards optimization, your next stop should be your plugins. Browse through your plugins and try to identify any that you can do without. This could mean that your site no longer uses the plugin, or you have found an alternative and no longer need the plugin. 

For instance, if you have a plugin that locates broken links on your WordPress site, try searching for a browser based alternative, such as Broken Link Checker. A common rule of thumb with WordPress sites is "less is more" when it comes to plugins. Try to limit your site to stay under 20 plugins at a time. For additional information regarding WordPress plugins, please refer to the following article:

Work Smarter, Not Harder


A common reason for slow page speed is the actual size of the page in question. The larger the page, the harder the site has to work to execute each portion of the page. This includes loading any large photos or images you have incorporated into your site. Below is a general guideline to site size:

  • Excellent: Under 500kb
  • Good: Under 1mb
  • Acceptable: 1-3mb
  • Needs Improvement: Above 3mb

There are several ways to identify what images may need to be addressed and optimized, one of which is to use the tool mentioned above, Pingdom. You can run the speed test on your site and then sort by file size. This will give you an idea of what images you need to resize. Once you have your starting point, use a free image resizing tool such as picresize and replace the images as you resize them. It is good practice not to exceed 100kb if speed is your primary objective. Any new images you add should be optimized prior to uploading them to your WordPress site. Additionally, if your theme is utilizing a specific image for a header, don't rely on the theme to resize the image for you. If the featured image displays at 120 pixels in width, make sure you create the image or resize it to the exact size that will be displayed.

If you're looking for a quicker way to accomplish these optimizations, you can install the WP Smush.it plugin. This tool provides you the ability to compress image files while also stripping meta data from the image files. You can install this plugin and run it on your current media library. Once this plugin is active, any new image you add to your library will automatically be optimized as well.

For alternate optimization suggestions, you can use GTMetix, which is comparable to Pingdom.


Using external scripts that rely on remote pages such as Facebook links, Twitter feeds, and external videos can impact the performance of your site. You'll want to limit these external tools as much as possible so your site is not held back by scripts you cannot control.

To identify the scripts of most impact on your site you can use Pingdom and GTMetrix as previously discussed. This will tell you how many remote files your site is loading.

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