Discover the most effective ways to boost your WordPress site performance

Discover the most effective ways to boost your WordPress site performance

You’ve created a wonderfully designed WordPress page. But as good as it may look and feel, if it’s sluggish and takes too long to load, you can kiss your conversions goodbye and say hello to higher bounce rates.

In a world where the average consumer is busier, savvier, more demanding and less patient than ever, site performance really matters – a lot. According to Google research, more than half of all mobile site visits are abandoned if a page takes more than just three seconds to load:

Faster pages, on the other hand, see better conversion rates, longer engagement and generate more revenue for their owners:

Every element of your website takes up space and memory, all of which increase your upload time and decrease your page speed. The more memory you use, the more sluggish your website is likely to be.

For WordPress site owners in particular, this represents a real challenge.  WordPress sites are built on a basic shell, which is modified by choosing a theme, layout template and then adding in various plugins. Each extra element means extra database queries and additional HTTP requests, every one of which slows down your page speed and diminishes a website’s performance.

Most of us might not even notice these tiny, incremental decreases in speed when we view our own websites, but even fractions of a second can add up, especially for mobile viewers. And considering that just one second can make the difference between an engagement or a bounce, improving the page speed is critical.

Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to reduce database space and speed up the loading time of your WordPress site, none of which require technical knowledge or coding skills.

We’ve come up with the following ways to improve your WordPress sites speed and optimize its performance without compromising on design:

Remove Unnecessary Assets

When building a WordPress site, you’ll invariably end up with things you thought you might use, but later discover that you don’t really need; like that picture you had to add three times to get the sizing right, or that extra theme you installed but then changed your mind about. All of these extras can add up, so it’s important to do a bit of cleaning up:

1. Start by going through your media library with a fine-tooth comb, removing any image files, videos, audio clips or other media files that you no longer need. If you have a huge library to go through, consider using a media cleaner plugin to make the job quick and easy.

2. Remove any unused plugins. This is one of the fastest and easiest ways to reduce the size of your database and speed up your site performance. Rather than just deactivating them (which basically turns them off but leaves them in the database), it is worth going through and deleting them properly:

3. Next, remove any unused themes. If, like most people, you built your own WordPress site, you probably tried a few (or many) different themes before settling on your final design. And all of those themes remain in your site’s database, hogging space and slowing things down. Get rid of them by clicking on Appearance > Themes then click on Theme Details for the theme(s) you want to remove. Then click on Delete in the bottom right corner.

One word of warning though – be careful not to delete the default WordPress theme, Twenty Fourteen:

“The reason is,” explains Rich Plakas from Connected Systems, “if one of the other 3rd party themes gets corrupted, either from a bad update or from you modifying theme files, you will experience the ‘WordPress White Screen of Death.’ Leaving the default theme gives you an easy way to get the site running again.”

4. Finally, delete all unnecessary HTML and extra code. If you have a pretty good understanding of how site coding works, there are a number of plugins you can use to clean up your code. But only those who know what they’re doing with HTML should use these plugins. Otherwise you may permanently change things you didn’t want to change.

Keep your WordPress site Updated and Secure

Updating may seem like a small thing, but it’s one of the most overlooked elements of site performance on any WordPress site. Like a smartphone, it requires these regular updates to ensure its operating system and applications stay up-to-speed and offer the latest features.

WordPress automatically pushes out updates on a regular basis. Each update provides new features and mends underlying security issues and bugs. Your WordPress theme and plugins may have regular updates, too; check in on your Dashboard frequently, and be sure to update whenever prompted. Failure to do so may make your website slow, unreliable and vulnerable to security breaches.

To  keep track of your WordPress updates and do it all from one convenient dashboard, we recommend using UpdraftCentral. UpdraftCentral is a highly efficient way to manage, update and backup multiple websites from one place for sites on which UpdraftPlus is installed. 

To help optimize your site, WP-Optimize can automate the otherwise technical and time-consuming task of cleaning up your WordPress database by removing old revisions, spam and trash. WP-Optimize also comes with a cache feature that loads your WordPress posts and pages as static files, thus reducing the processing load on the web server. With minimal configuration, it can help to improve your website’s speed and performance. Further optimize your site by compressing large images using WP-Optimize’s cutting-edge lossy/lossless compression techniques, allowing large images to be uploaded in an instant.

Relying on the WordPress updates alone is not really enough to keep your site protected in the event of a crash, hack or other system melt-down as WordPress is notoriously vulnerable to security problems.

To give you an idea of how big a problem this really is, check out WPScan’s vulnerability database, which lists real-time reports of current vulnerabilities in the WordPress core code, plugins and themes. As you can see from the nearly 15,000 vulnerabilities in the screenshot below, an unprotected site is at constant risk:

With that kind of risk exposure, many experts recommend using UpdraftPlus – the top rated and most popular WordPress backup plugin that can protect you from hackers, server crashes, bad plugins, and even user errors. If anything goes wrong, you’ll be able to easily restore WordPress from a backup and get your site to full working order.

Adopt a CDN

When optimizing for speed, it’s important to consider the distance your potential viewers are from your server. If you have a global audience with visitors coming from anywhere in the world, you’ll probably want to install a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

CDN is basically when you have a lot of highly optimized servers that span the planet, that allow you to hit the server that is closest to your location.

CDNs are used to prevent the issue of latency, which is an irritating delay that happens from the point when you request to load a web page to the point where the content appears onscreen. Latency, as you may have guessed, slows site loading speed down and has an adverse impact on site performance.

Installing a CDN on your WordPress site will help to ensure that it continues to perform well and load quickly, keeping visitors happy and reducing bounce rate, wherever they happen to be. You can find CDN plugins on WordPress.org; or, check with your hosting provider. Many of them provide CDNs at no or minimal costs.

Good site performance begins with cleaning out your assets, keeping your software updated, and using a good CDN for fast delivery. Once you get these basics down, you will be on your way to maintaining a high quality user experience and building a long-lasting relationship with your audience.

Dvora Goldstein – professional blogger and content marketer

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Why defunct WordPress plugins pose a threat & how to secure your site

Let’s get one thing clear right away: WordPress as a freshly-installed CMS isn’t particularly vulnerable and remains a strong option if you want to create a secure site. However, due to WordPress’ popularity it is often a target for hackers who are seeking access to popular websites. The fact that hacks are fairly rare is a testament to the work put in by the developers and the WordPress community.

The issue that often introduces vulnerability to a WordPress installation is the improper use of plugins: in particular, the use of plugins that have long since stopped being updated. Why do these plugins imperil your site and how can you guard against it? In this blog we will attempt to clear this up and run through some tips.

Why outdated plugins are dangerous 

Every plugin you add to your WordPress site (even if it’s a plugin designed to improve security) will technically add a point of vulnerability. It’s a simple concept: additional code from a third-party source (even a trusted one) can potentially leave your entire system further exposed. Modern security standards are quite high, with websites required to keep user data closely guarded while locking down transactions through standards like PCI. Just one weak link can break the chain and cause untold damage your site, business and reputation.

Most of the time an added plugin isn’t a problem because it has its own security updates, just as WordPress does and the developer will devise a patch soon after an issue is discovered. However, this isn’t always the case. When a WordPress plugin is abandoned, the last version that was updated becomes increasingly more dated and remains installed on many systems. This plugin could even remain available for download on WP.org until the developer remembers to take it offline.

Thankfully, it’s reasonably simple to address this issue: Just find the plugin and disable or uninstall it. We would typically recommend uninstalling the plugin, rather than disabling it, unless you have good reason to think that it may be updated at some point in the near future. You will also need to be careful about how the outdated plugin interacts with other plugins and your website though as issues could arise after deleting a plugin. For example, if you delete a plugin that deals with limiting the amount of password attempts a user can make, this could cause potential security issues and you will need to find an adequate replacement if necessary.

How to replace needed functionality

If you have removed an outdated plugin, but find it played an important part in the everyday operation of your site and can’t find anything similar on the market. What should you do? WordPress gives you the freedom to source plugins from multiple sources (not just the WP.org listings), but that can place you in a potentially precarious position when using these plugins.

For most people, particularly those running their businesses online, the restrictions of the modern SaaS model feel comforting. For instance, using a hosted CMS has grown hugely popular for eCommerce sites as it offers a good mix of customization options and guaranteed security. Even though in principle, you can do more with WordPress, having so many different choices can be confusing.

Should you find yourself in the unlikely position where you feel it is necessary to delete a plugin and can find no viable replacement to fill that gap, you have two realistic options for addressing it. Either hire a WordPress developer to program a replacement, or attempt to reproduce the functionality using existing systems (tools like Zapier and IFTTT can be used to achieve some remarkable automation if you can get to grips with them). 

Choosing your plugins carefully

The importance of developer expertise means that not all plugins are created equal. Developer expertise, reputation and general reliability are just some of the factors that make up the difference between a plugin created by a well-known developer with a solid monetization policy. While you might not like spending money on plugins, payments keep developers going and enable them to continually update their software. This is in comparison to other plugins you may be using which were made by a hobbyist, with little intention of maintaining it.

The most sensible way to proceed is to carefully consider the developer of a plugin before you install and start relying on it. Be sure to check their reviews. Research their track record when it comes to update value and consistency. Do they have a blog you can follow? If you stick with the developers that are profiting from their work, you can be fairly confident that they’ll continue to update and maintain the plugin, which will help to lower the possibility of your site being hacked via an outdated plugin.

One of the best ways to ensure that your plugins remain up to date is to use UpdraftCentral. This powerful remote control for WordPress not only allows you to centrally manage and update your themes, plugins and core on all your site with just one click, but also backup and control all your sites on which UpdraftPlus is installed on from one central location in the Cloud. If you are too busy or have too many sites to reliably update, you could also use Easy Updates Manager. This service automatically keeps sites up to date and bug-free.

How to secure your site

Even if you choose your plugins carefully, keep an eye out for outdated plugins that haven’t been updated in a while and act to remove them if possible when you spot them. However, there will always be some potential unseen danger as a developer might stop putting their full effort into updating their plugins, which could lead to vulnerabilities going unpatched despite updates being released.

Due to these potential security issues, you need to do more to keep your site secure. One of the best ways to do this is by backing up your site on a regular basis by using UpdraftPlus. Be sure to always create a backup before you install or update a plugin and schedule new backups on a regular basis to defend yourself against any unforeseen problems. If anything does go wrong because of a vulnerable plugin, you can use UpdraftPlus to revert to an existing backup, at which time you can remove the offending plugin and carry on as normal.

In summary, defunct WordPress plugins are a threat because they can allow vulnerabilities to creep into your otherwise secure WordPress site. To stay safe, be selective, stay on guard, take action when needed and keep your site backed up with UpdraftPlus.

Rodney Laws

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Easy Updates Manager release new update: Includes new automatic update notes section

Easy Updates Manager are happy to announce that we have released another update – Easy Updates Manager 8.1.0 (free and premium), featuring lots of newly added features, fixes and tweaks. One of the new features that we are sure will be of use to users is the addition of a new ‘notes section’ that will show extra detail on why an automatic update may have failed. This update will help users to identify and fix any potential problems with their automatic updates.

We recommend the update for all Easy Updates Manager Free and Premium users.

  • FEATURE: Notes section added to log to show why an automatic update failed.
  • FEATURE: (Premium) Adding version control protection so that version controlled plugins or themes will not be updated.
  • FIX: Fixed saving error when toggling auto-update on individual themes.
  • FIX: Don’t wipe settings when removing the free version, if premium is installed. Or vice versa.
  • FIX: Enabling/disabling admin bar was resetting General options.
  • FIX: Disabling Core updates will no longer block other automatic updates.
  • FIX: Translation updates are run after automatic updates have completed.
  • FIX: Translation updates now show the correct label.
  • FIX: (Premium) Slack logging now shows the site name from where the event came from.
  • TWEAK: UI Fix: Prevent notices about EUM-Premium from appearing in the premium version of the plugin.
  • TWEAK: Do not allow null values to be passed to an INSERT on the version_from field in the log table.
  • TWEAK: Add some missing translation domains.
  • TWEAK: Code-styling tweak to avoid use of extract().
  • TWEAK: Adding dashboard notice if automatic updates are disabled through constants.
  • TWEAK: Prevent unnecessary PHP notice when controlling via UpdraftCentral.
  • TWEAK: Database logging is now always turned on, to aid troubleshooting. (The storage overhead is tiny, since updates are infrequent events compared with other things going on in a WP database).
  • TWEAK: Update updater class to latest series (1.8).
  • TWEAK: Automatic update emails are only sent once every twenty four hours.

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UpdraftCentral release new update: Includes new data import function from an export file

The UpdraftPlus have now released the latest updates for users of UpdraftCentral.

This latest update includes several new features, fixes and tweaks; including fixing the search area display on non-visible sites list and bigger check-boxes for easier use. We are sure that these updates will improve the overall experience of UpdraftCentral.

The change log for UpdraftCentral 0.8.9 and UpdraftCentral Premium 0.8.3 has been released for all versions (including Cloud). We recommend the update for all users.

Update: 0.8.9

  • FEATURE: Import function to import data from an export file
  • FEATURE: Open the UpdraftCentral page at a particular module using a querystring parameter
  • FIX: Prevent the in-progress dialog to show on subsequent requests
  • FIX: Fix inclusion of “up_to_date” return code as error
  • FIX: Fix search area display on non-visible sites list
  • TWEAK: Add debug/console information for troubleshooting FTP credentials failure easily
  • TWEAK: Add new items to the list in the upgrade page
  • TWEAK: Make the check-boxes bigger

Update: 0.8.3

  • FIX: Fix install/activate function not working inside plugins and themes install area
  • FIX: Fix theme and plugin permission and processing related issues
  • FIX: Fix a couple of issues found when searching websites using tags as keyword
  • TWEAK: Cache the results of the WP API recommended plugins lookup
  • TWEAK: Avoid one-per-site SQL queries in the “tags” module
  • TWEAK: Update updater class to 1.8 series

 

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How to increase and check website speed with the WP-Optimize plugin

How to increase and check website speed with the WP-Optimize plugin

Faster website speeds can play an important role in the success of your website. The faster your website’s speed, the higher it can rank in search engines; which can attract more visitors, reduce bounce rate and help increase visitor to customer conversions. As a website owner, the speed of your site should be right at the top of your priority list.

To increase website speed there are a few techniques you can apply, including image compression, caching and database optimization. There are no end of plugins available that can individually help compress your images, optimize the database and cache your site. In the past you would have needed to install a separate plugin for each of these tasks as there was no single plugin available that did all these jobs.

Thanks to WP-Optimize, this has now changed; You can now get all the above features in one handy plugin. No more headaches from using and maintaining several different plugins and hoping that they have no security problems. With WP-Optimize, you can just install a single, secure plugin on your website and increase your site’s speed dramatically.

Before using the WP-Optimize plugin

To measure the site’s speed before and after optimization on our test website, we will use the Google Pagespeed Insights and GTMetrix speed measuring websites. When our test website is run on these services before using the WP-Optimize plugin, we get the following scores.


Using the WP-Optimize plugin

To start the optimization process, first install and activate the WP-Optimize plugin on your website. After activating the plugin, go to WP-Optimize->Database. You will find several default options selected by the plugin that should be optimized. 

As with all optimization procedures, it is always recommended to first take a backup of the database backup before running the database optimization option. Once the backup is complete, press the ‘Run all selected optimizations’ button. The plugin will now start removing orphan records from your database, resulting in reduced database size and better server response time.

Next, head over to WP-Optimize->Images. Turn on ‘Automatically compress newly-added images’, to make sure any image you add later will be compressed. Under the compression options, you will find 3 choices where you can select your preferred compression choice. For the purposes of this test, we will choose the most popular option – ‘Prioritize retention of detail’, which saves space, but maintains higher image quality.

If you scroll down the page, you will find a list of your uncompressed website images. Image compression will reduce the size of the images, resulting in a smaller page size and thus a higher page speed score. 

Click ‘Select all’ and then press the ‘Compress the selected images’ button.

The WP-Optimize plugin will start optimizing your images using the external service reSmush.it or Nitrosmush. You can choose either service from the ‘Show advanced options’ drop-down. By default, reSmush.it will be the service selected.

When you check the site score on Pagespeed Insights, you will notice the recommendation for ‘Defer offscreen images’ – the recommended lazy-load technique. 

Lazy-load is a technique that defers the loading of non-critical resources (images, video) during page loading. These non-critical resources are instead loaded at the point when they are needed (e.g. when the user scrolls down the page). If possible, this technique should be employed as it will definitely speed up your website.

To enable this feature in WP-Optimize, go to the ‘Lazy-load’ tab and select the checkbox for ‘Images’ and ‘iframes and Videos’ (should you have any on your site) and press ‘Save settings’.

Next, set up the cache feature within WP-Optimize. To start, go to WP-Optimize>Cache. Within the ‘Page cache’ tab, turn on ‘Enable page caching’ and select the option for ‘Generate separate files for mobile devices’, if your website has a mobile specific theme. 

Don’t forget to save the changes.

The following Gzip compression and static file caching should be done before enabling cache. Gzip compresses the requested resource before sending it, resulting in smaller file sizes and faster loading. Enable this option in the ‘Gzip compression’ tab.

Finally, enable the browser static file caching settings in the ‘Static file headers’ tab. By doing this, it advises a visitor’s browser to cache non-changing files for a period of time so that it doesn’t attempt to retrieve them upon every visit.

After using the WP-Optimize plugin

Now we are done setting up all the WP-Optimize settings, let’s check our test site’s speed score on Google Pagespeed Insights and GTmetrix again. This will evaluate your site’s performance and should give a better score compared to pre-optimization results.

Conclusion

With just these few optimization techniques, the test site’s Google page speed has improved from 48 to 65, while the GTmetrix score has improved the PageSpeed score from 34% to 49%, YSlow score from 53% to 75%, fully loaded time from 4.2s to 3.7s and total page size from 4.04MB to 3.10MB.

When it comes to WordPress, site optimization is a hugely important step to perform before your launch your site. A properly optimized site will not only give your visitors a better user experience, but also help you succeed online. 

By using the WP-Optimize all-in-one plugin, you can get all the essential features needed for optimizing your WordPress website. Get a copy of WP-Optimize today and increase your website speed and let us know your feedback in the comment section below.

Sajid Sayyad

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WP-Optimize release new updated: Increase control over your site with a wide range of new tweaks

The latest update of WP-Optimize has been developed to give the user more control of their website’s optimization. The first of these updates is the ability to purge a single page or post from cache. Up until now if you wanted to purge a page’s cache, you had to purge the whole site. Users now have the option to purge a single post or page from the editing screen.

We’ve also added Lazy Load support for WooCommerce, making your web shop load faster. 

For our premium users, we’ve improved the unused image detection feature, which we’ll continue improving in the following releases. 

Users of the image compression feature can now also delete all backup images after a specified delay. 

The changelog for WP-O 3.0.12 (free + paid) is as follows. We recommend the update for all users.

  • TWEAK: Cache – Purge cache files when updating menu, saving the customizer and editing widgets
  • TWEAK: Cache – Do not show the reason for not caching when the request is DOING_CRON
  • TWEAK: Premium – Unused images feature – Improved detection on sites with many posts/images
  • TWEAK: Automatically delete smush image backups option
  • TWEAK: Premium – Unused images feature – Better detection of featured images
  • TWEAK: Cache – Ability to purge single page or post from cache
  • TWEAK: Cache – Display the content of advanced-cache.php to the user if it was not writable when enabling cache
  • TWEAK: Image compression – Automatically delete image backups option
  • TWEAK: Image compression – metabox now inherits the settings from the main screen
  • TWEAK: Image compression – Added feature to mark images as already compressed by another tool
  • TWEAK: Image compression – Added detailed log information when image compression fails.
  • TWEAK: Premium – Unused images feature – Improved detection on sites with many posts/images
  • TWEAK: Premium – Unused images feature – Better detection of featured images
  • TWEAK: Premium – Lazy load – Added WooCommerce support
  • TWEAK: Premium – Increased warning level and visibility when deleting unused database tables and unused images
  • TWEAK: Prevent a couple of unwanted PHP notices being logged when running cron via the command-line
  • TWEAK: Tweaked update notice wording

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