Since its launch, WordPress has grown from a simple blogging platform to a powerful content management system. One of the reasons for this growth is the rise of plugins. Plugins play an important role in the WordPress ecosystem.
It’s hard to run a WordPress website without using at least one of them, even as a highly-experienced code whiz. There are different categories of plugins. In this article, however, we will focus on the plugins that can speed up your WordPress website.
Paying attention to your website’s loading speed is justified because attention spans are shorter than ever today. Your target audience won’t sit around and wait for your website to load for more than three seconds—and neither will you when visiting another website.
When people leave your website because it’s taking too long to load, the search engines will notice, and you will lose your ranking position for that search term over time. Also, Google now takes your loading speed into consideration when ranking your website.
So will a slow loading site be the end of your business? It may not, but it will significantly suppress your conversions. However, that is if you don’t do anything about it. This article contains top plugins that can improve your page load speed in minutes.
What Are WordPress Plugins and What Can They Do?
To get a clear picture of what WordPress plugins are, think about how apps make your smartphone a lot more usable. With a plugin, you can add new features and functionality that don’t come installed on WordPress by default.
Today, there are more than 56,000 free plugins available for use on the WordPress.org platform.
Many more thousands are available on dozens of third-party websites such as Github. Also, there are thousands of paid plugins developed by individual software developers.
With this plethora of options available, there is almost no limit to the kind of websites you can create on WordPress. The days of viewing the platform as a blogging tool are long gone. Do you want to see the type of WordPress websites you can create with just a plugin? Here is a table for different plugins and the websites you can create with them.
|Plugin||Type of Website|
|WooCommerce Plugin||Used to create an online store|
|Job Manager Plugin||Used to create a job board|
|Directory Plugin||Used to build a business directory|
|Coupon Plugin||For starting a coupon website|
|Gallery Plugin||For launching an online photography portfolio|
|Knowledgebase Plugin||For creating a Wiki website|
|Membership Plugins||For creating and managing a membership site|
Regardless of what type of website you are looking to build, there is a plugin that will simplify the process for you. When you are done creating your ideal website, you can also use plugins to add other functions, or generally improve your website’s performance. Apart from improving website page load speed, there are plugins that can help you improve your search rankings, add social sharing, embed pictures, and more.
How Do WordPress Plugins work?
The beauty of WordPress is that it’s designed to allow other developers to alter its functions and add their own code. This allows the addition of new functions to the platform, as well as improving existing functions.
The plugins work because they are allowed to seamlessly integrate with WordPress and make use of taxonomies, custom fields, and content types. They are also registered in the WordPress database. When a user visits a page on your website, the plugins run on the servers executing its code either adding it to the existing WordPress code or changing the code altogether.
You can activate or deactivate any WordPress plugins you no longer need in a few clicks (more on this below).
As we mentioned above, any website that takes longer than three seconds to load will have a high bounce rate and a lower search engine ranking. Is your website guilty of this? We have collated the best WordPress plugins that can speed up your website.
You can also use these plugins proactively to ensure your page load speed never gets to a level where it is causing you to lose site visitors. The best options to use will ultimately come down to how each plugin solves your website’s specific needs.
1. WP Fastest Cache
This plugin should be high on your list if you are looking for a free cache plugin that can improve the user experience for your audience. It creates a static HTML file for your page so that multiple users visiting your website can reach the same static page instead making your server repeatedly render the same page.
Multiple rendering is a problem for both low traffic websites and those generating thousands of page views per day. The RAM and CPU provided by your hosting will be under a lot more pressure.
This is the cause of slow rendering. Thousands of WordPress users trust this plugin to solve this problem, among other things. However, you have to use the premium version to unlock all its features.
2. WP Rocket
WP Rocket is another powerful cache plugin you should consider when looking for how to speed up your website. It will set you back $49 per year at the entry-level option, but most users agree it’s value for money.
It is a super easy cacheing plugin to configure, and it’s well-maintained by its developers. They are constantly adding new features. Currently, you’ll need to combine multiple plugins to get all the features on WP Rocket. Some of these include:
- CDN integration
- DNS request prefetch
- Heartbeat Control
- Scheduled database cleanup
- Image and video lazy loading
- Host Google analytics locally
If you don’t mind paying for a caching plugin, this option should be high on your list. This is even more important if you need all its main features. You can’t use more than one caching plugin. If you’d rather not pay for WP Rocket, use a free option like WP Fastest Cache and then use other plugins to augment its features.
WP-Optimize is a WordPress clean up plugin that removes spam, post revisions, and any redundant or junk files in your database. If you allow these rows to remain in your database, they can slow down your WordPress site and even make your admin dashboard to load slower.
Ideally, you should clean up your database every couple of weeks but try to remove junk rows from your database every month for the best results. Fortunately, WP-Optimize can also allow you to schedule database cleanups, just like WP Rocket. Again, you don’t need this plugin if you are paying for WP Rocket as its main features are already covered.
4. WP YouTube Lyte
Videos tend to have a huge impact on the loading speed of a website. This is why many web owners choose to embed videos from sharing sites like YouTube. Unfortunately, embeds can still slow down a page—even if not as badly as hosting the video on your server.
With WP YouTube Lyte, the YouTube media player that typically shows in embeds is hidden until a user clicks the play button. With this approach, you can speed up the loading speed of pages with videos by more than 80%! Caching plugins like WP Rocket include this feature under the “media” tab.
After videos, images rank highly as one of the heaviest elements on a web page. it’s no surprise that most GTmetrix speed tests always point at poorly optimized images as a reason for a slow loading page. With Shortpixel, you can losslessly compress your images.
Lossless compression, specifying image dimensions (in its HTML or CSS), and resizing images to the correct dimensions (serving scaled images) are some of the best ways to optimize your image elements. Shortpixel is one of the plugins that can provide this solution. Others include EWWW, Smush, Imagify, and Kraken. You only need to use one of these.
6. Heartbeat Control
WordPress introduced the Heartbeat API as a way to provide real-time communication between your browser and the server when you are using the admin panel. However, these real-time notifications tend to consume server resources.
Its impact on page speed may be minimal compared to other speed limiters, but when it comes to improving the experience for your users, every millisecond counts. Most WordPress users don’t have any reason to allow the Heartbeat API interaction so you should consider downloading Heartbeat Control.
7. Asset Cleanup
As we mentioned near the start of this article, WordPress loads everything when someone clicks to a page on your website. This can slow things to a crawl if a lot of elements need to be executed on the page. For example, your contact form plugin can load even when a user is visiting a page where the contact form is not necessary. The same applies to other plugins like social sharing, etc.
To help prevent this, you can use Asset Cleanup to ensure plugins only load where they are needed.
With this, you can reduce the number of server requests made while loading a page, hence improving the overall speed.
8. Pre* Party Resource Hints
This Plugin improves page load speed by allowing DNS prefetch, preconnect, preload, prerender, and more. With it, browsers can anticipate external resources and load them faster.
Even if you are using a premium optimization plugin like WP Rocket, you may still need this plugin because it’s one of the few good ones that allow DNS preconnect. With DNS preconnect you get DNS lookup, TCP handshake, and TLS negotiation. With prefetch, on the other hand, you only get a basic DNS lookup.
Clearfy is an important speed plugin on WordPress that helps you disable unnecessary CPU resource-hogging features. You can also use it to remove query strings. Other things it can do include hosting your Google Analytics tracking code locally, limiting the number of post revisions, disabling autosaves, disabling emojis and Gravatars, and more.
Does your website get a lot of comments? You can use Clearfy to manage them. It can paginate your comments after 20 posts, or disable commenting on posts that are older than 28 days.
10. CAOS | Host Google Analytics Locally
With CAOS, you can host Google Analytics locally. This fixes the leverage browser caching problem in GTMetrix speed test results. When you enter your Tracking-ID in this plugin, it will add your Tracking Code to your website header (or footer).
The plugin is also compatible with monitoring plugins such as Monster Insights. Other plugins that have this feature include WP Disable, Swift Performance, and of course, WP Rocket. Remember, you can only use one of them.
11. OMGF | Host Google Fonts Locally
Do you see Google Font errors in your Pingdom, GTMetrix, or PageSpeed Insights results? The OMGF plugin is the solution you are looking for. It fixes this problem by downloading all Google Fonts on your website and then generating a stylesheet. It does this by using the Google Fonts Helper API.
12. WP Smush
WP Smush is a popular image compression plugin trusted by many WordPress website owners around the world. It works like Shortpixel by reducing the size of an image without compromising the quality. This means your audience gets to enjoy your images as intended, without having to deal with slow page load speeds.
WP Smush supports GIF, JPEG, and PNG. You can also use it to compress up to 50 images in one click and remove metadata from JPEG images. It should be high on your list when looking to speed up your WordPress site with an image optimization plugin.
13. CDN Enabler
A content delivery network (CDN) ensures your website data is stored across different server locations around the globe. When your site visitors click on a page, it will be delivered from the server nearest to them.
The CDN Enabler plugin is one of the simplest ways to set up your CDN. However, it only works with KeyCDN, StackPath, and other CDN options that provide you with a CDN URL. This means you can’t use it with popular options like Cloudflare.
If you are looking for an alternative to Asset Cleanup or Clearfy, you should consider using Perfmatters. It’s a premium plugin developed by Kinsta that allows you to disable unnecessary functions. You can use it to disable scripts, styles, cart fragments, and more. Starting at $24.95/year for a single website, it’s moderately priced.
15. Harry’s Gravatar Cache
Having lots of comments on your posts is good evidence that you are providing content that resonates with your audience. However, the numerous Gravatars can slow your page load speed to a crawl. It will also ensure you get mediocre results in your GTmetrix reports.
This plugin focuses on caching Gravatar images. The alternative to not using this plugin is to disable Gravatars completely. The user images won’t show up in comments anymore, speeding up your website.
17. AMP for WP
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), is a Google project designed to provide a faster mobile experience. You will see the “AMP” stamp in search results when surfing on mobile. This plugin makes your WordPress site AMP compatible by changing the overall layout and design.
It can cause drastic changes to how your website looks on a mobile device, so spend time on customizing the settings. If you are not impressed by the final design, disable the plugin, and your page will return to normal.
Before you choose to install this plugin, however, you need to consider if it can bring any marked difference to the speed of your website on mobile. Apart from the speed, how does the AMP rendering affect other elements on your website?
A recent study showed AMP can actually reduce conversions by more than 50%. So, this is not a plugin to install on a whim. Most WordPress themes are already responsive, so you probably already offer an excellent mobile experience with this plugin.
18. GTmetrix For WordPress
How do you know your website is slowing down if you don’t check? Of course, you can manually run the GTmetrix speed test once in a while, but that won’t bring back the users you’ve already lost as a result of slow page loading speeds. This plugin ensures you are constantly keeping an eye on your page speed metrics in your WordPress dashboard. You can also set it to send you regular email reports.
19. Query Monitor
With Query Monitor, you can find queries, scripts, plugins, and other elements that take the longest time to load. With this, you can know what to remove. It is a good alternative to the P3 Profiler plugin that hasn’t been updated in years.
20. Better Search Replace
If you change your website from http to https without updating your links, your server will create a lot of redirects with each new page visited. This can slow down your website.
If your GTmetrix report features “minimize redirects”, it means you need to use this plugin straight away. Of course, you can update the links manually, but Better Search Replace allows you to update the plugins in bulk and save time.
21. PHP Compatibility Checker
With PHP Compatibility Checker, you can scan your other plugins to ensure they are compatible with the latest PHP versions. Any options that aren’t frequently updated or properly coded may not be compatible with the latest PHP version, thus leading to slower loading times and in worst-case scenarios, broken pages.
What To Consider Before Installing WordPress Plugins
Although plugins are super useful, you can’t go around installing them without proper considerations. Remember, you are introducing third-party code to your WordPress site, so you need to be very careful with the plugins you install. Here are some of the dangers that come with indiscriminate plugin installations:
- You can introduce malicious code to your site.
- A plugin may include a vulnerability that makes your website an easy target for hackers.
- You can harm your page load speed.
- You can cause broken links, broken pages, and other similar errors on your website.
To reduce these dangers that come with plugin installations, here’s what you should do.
- Only download plugins you absolutely need.
- Use plugins from the official plugin directory on WordPress.org or reputable third-party sources.
- Read reviews and check the popularity of a plugin before you install it.
- Confirm the last time a plugin was updated to ensure it hasn’t been abandoned by the developer.
For plugins in the WordPress directory, you will find the number of installs, and “last update” on the right-hand side of the page as shown below:
How to Find, Install, and Update WordPress Plugins
You can find free WordPress plugins in the WordPress.org directory. If you already have your WordPress site set up, downloading from your WP Dashboard is a better option. Click on Plugins>Add New. This will bring up the plugin directory.
While in the directory, type in the name of the plugin you are looking for and it will appear in the search results. If you don’t have any plugin options in mind, you can type in the functionality you are looking for, and the relevant options will be displayed in the results.
Go over the results and pick the right option for you, keeping in mind some of the plugin screening points we have already covered above.
You should keep in mind that searching for plugins from your WP Dashboard will only bring up free options. If a plugin doesn’t have a free version (WP Rocket, Perfmatters, etc.), you have to get them from the developer’s website.
Not sure what plugin to go with? Let lists such as ours guide you. There are tons of WordPress sites committed to reviewing different types of plugins. Whatever you need, someone has done a review somewhere. If you can’t find enough conversations around a plugin online, that should be your cue to look at other alternatives.
You can install a WordPress plugin by clicking the “Install Now” tab on the plugin’s page. Once it’s installed, go back to your plugin list and click on “Activate”. Don’t forget to visit the plugin’s settings page to ensure it is configured with your preferred settings.
As you use the plugin, you should update it from time to time. This will keep it functioning perfectly and also help you avoid security vulnerabilities. You will get a prompt in your Dashboard to update a plugin. Follow the prompt, and you can complete the process.
How to Deactivate a WordPress Plugin
However, this doesn’t remove the plugin from your database. You have to click on “delete” to remove the plugin completely.
The Benefits of Using WordPress Plugins
Here are some of the top benefits of using WordPress plugins:
- They bring advanced functionality to a website.
- WordPress plugins are easy to install and use, often requiring no technical skills.
- With WordPress plugins, there is no limit to what your website can do.
- They allow inexperienced website owners to start a new website from scratch and fully manage it without any professional help.
Can You Have Too Many WordPress Plugins?
One of the most common misconceptions you’ll see is that “too many WordPress plugins can slow down a website”. The reality, however, is that the number of plugins you have doesn’t have anything to do with your site’s speed. What affects the site speed is how the plugins are coded and how the plugin interacts with other elements on your website.
So, if you have a legitimate reason to install a plugin, don’t be afraid of having too many plugins. However, it’s always a good idea to use plugin options that combine many features. Using one plugin to cover five features will always make more sense than having five different plugins.
WordPress as a platform has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years. However, slow page load speed is one of the few downsides associated with it to date. Fortunately, there are dozens of robust plugins designed to remedy the situation. Some of the plugins we have covered here will help you stay on top of this problem at all times. You can use them to ensure your website remains one of the fastest on the web.
Remember, you don’t have to use all of these plugins at once. Go over each option and consider how they can improve your page speed problems before installing it. A good tip is to only install plugins that can address the problems highlighted in your page speed test results.