Here at The Free Tutorial Centre we have been on a mission to make the site quicker. As we now get on average more than 400 visitors a day during the week (you seem to take the weekends off – I don’t blame you for that) we want to provide the quickest performance we can get out of our service.
So after much experimentation, I’m going to let you know the free WordPress plugins we actually use here (others are available) to help you speed up your website!
- Use a CDN
- Image Compression
- Minify Your Code
- Move Scripts to the Footer
- Remove Database Bloat
- Fast Social Media Buttons
- Harness Caching
1. Use a CDN To Speed Up Your Site
A CDN (or ‘Content Delivery Network’) is a network of computers – preferably in different countries, which store a cached version of your site in those countries to increase the speed of delivery of your website. The closer a website visitor is to your server (Internet Connection Speeds dependent), the faster your site should load. Short of installing your own network a CDN is the best method out there.
Thankfully there are also free CDN’s you can take advantage of. After reviewing the options available to us, we set up an account with Cloudflare (which genuinely does take 5 minutes to set up!).
They also have the free companion plugin which you can download here.
One of the biggest issues I come across when performing a website audit for SEO is slow-loading images. Sometimes these are uploaded at Camera Quality (often 300dpi) when 144dpi or 72dpi will suffice for the web. More often than not they haven’t been compressed.
Lossy Compression can reduce your image quality, but this is usually not noticeable by the human eye. It strips out a lot of the ‘data’ which sits in an image file, reducing its file size. This means the images download much quicker.
Normally I recommend using compressor.io. However when you upload an image into the WordPress Media library, WordPress automatically creates extra image files for different sizes. Although it might say that it ‘crunches’ them, they are not as compressed as they could be.
Free Plugin: EWWW Image Optimizer.
This plugin will compress all your current entries in the Media Library and gives you the option to compress new images on upload (and all their created sizes). Works a charm and hasn’t adversely affected the appearance of our website!
Free Plugin: WP Minify Fix
<head> </head> section of your code, the rest of the page cannot display until the libraries are loaded.
Most of these could be loaded just before the
</body> tag and still work fine.
Free Plugin: Scripts to Footer
Test the different settings with this one. On some sites I have had to leave jQuery in the header to maintain some functionality.
WordPress is very good at keeping data. It gives you ‘revisions’ so you can ‘go back in time’ to restore a previous version of a post, for example. But there is often data in there which you’re not using any more – maybe a plugin you removed didn’t clean up after itself, extra comment data from those pesky spammy comments. A cluttered database can become a slow database. Thankfully cleaning all that up is easy!
Free Plugin: WP Optimize
A far simpler solution is to harness a normal HTML Link to the URL which generates the share on Social Media. No libraries needed!
Free Plugin: HTML Social Sharing Buttons
Caching is the process of storing a fixed version of your pages, rather than it being dynamically pulled from the database each time (which is how WordPress normally behaves). I’ve tried a few plugins to solve this particular issue. The caching plugin linked below comes with a good selection of options and I haven’t yet broken any of the sites I have used it on (fingers crossed!). It offers a variety of compression and minification options as well as different caching rules. And most importantly, it has increased my website’s speed!
Free Plugin: WP Super Cache
Testing your Site’s Speed
Again there are a variety of tools out there to test your website’s speed, but one we keep coming back to is Google PageSpeed Insights. Free, detailed and useful guidance on website performance it also has a basic ‘User Experience’ setting. This is particularly useful for mobile testing.
TL;DR Free WordPress Site Speed Plugins
There are a lot more options for all of the above, but I wanted to highlight what we have actually used with success here at The Free Tutorial Centre. We have also done a few
htaccess hacks but I wanted to give you the user-friendly plugin options to try first.