If you are looking to improve your initial server response time in WordPress, then look no further, here is the ultimate guide you need to read right now.
In this post, you will learn about
- The basics to fix initial server response time
- Ideal ways to improve response time
- How to keep the speed ideal for future
How to Improve Server Response Time WordPress
The slow response time of a website affects the performance which further affects the Core Web Vitals scores which are going to be a ranking factor in 2020.
Here are the best ways to improve server response time in WordPress.
Use Fastest Hosting
This is basics or roots to improve any kind of server response time. If you are using a cheap WordPress hosting, the response time can't be improved further. Do you know why?
As the name indicates, its a shared hosting and your website will be hosted along with thousands of such sites. Here is one site as an example. There are 1209 domains hosted on a single IP and you can't expect better performance from it.
Ideally, half of the sites that face Server Response Time Issue are hosted on shared hosting. You can see the above mentioned site facing the issue of initial server response time.
Here is one of our site hosted on Templ (Try for free!), which is basically a Google powered WordPress Hosting and I don't have any noisy neighbours. As a result, the site never faces server response time issues.
If you are looking for a cheaper cloud hosting, Check Cloudways (Use Code: BIO25 for $25 free credits). The plan costs just $10 per month, no need to pay the yearly upfront amount. After all, its cheaper than shared hosting when it comes to renewals.
Here is the Lighthouse report of the above domain. You can see the site is not optimized with caching plugins, yet the results are impressive.
Summary: Use the fastest web hosting. Choose Templ for WordPress or Cloudways for other CMS.
Use Region Fastest CDN
Using a CDN is a mandatory thing to improve your response time. Even Google recommends using it even if the necessity is lesser.
I fixed LCP issues Longer than 4 seconds by adding CDN to the sites where the scores turn out to “Good” from “Needs improvements”
Why CDN? Unlike the physical server provided by your hosting provider, the CDN is powered by the global location where all your assets like images, CSS & JS are distributed to all global locations.
Suppose if your server is in the United States and someone from India visits your site, the CDN delivers the web pages from a POP location in India instead of your physical location. This will greatly reduce latency and improves your server response time.
Since the latest Core Web Vitals are based on real chrome users data, using a CDN is essential to improve the scores. Even if your site visitors are from a single country like the United States, CDN improves your response time.
Unlike most sites, I'm not going to recommend a single CDN. You need to choose a CDN based on your visitor's region. For example, StackPath is the fastest CDN in North America while Fastly CDN is the fastest in Australia. So, if you have Australia based sites, using StackPath is a wrong idea. So, here is the top three fastest commercial CDNs in each region.
- Google CDN: Fastest CDN in North America, Asia, Europe.
- StackPath: Second best for North America.
- Cloudflare: Second best for Asia
- BunnyCDN: Second best for Europe and Australia.
While Google CDN is the fastest of all, it requires your sites to be hosted on Google Compute Engine. As far as I know, Templ is the only host to offer Google Compute & CDN hosting combined.
So, if you are hosting somewhere else, choose StackPath For North American (USA & Canada) traffic while BunnyCDN is an ideal choice for Europe and Australia.
Most people might be surprised why I didn't include Cloudflare because the free version is not fastest and the paid options are costlier like $20 per single site while StackPath & BunnyCDN costs $10 for unlimited sites.
- Both Hosting and CDN plays a vital role here. Most of the issues can be sorted out by choosing the optimized server setup for your CMS applications.
- Coming next are the ideas to improve response time from your site end.
Use Fast Loading WordPress Themes
You might saw this text from Google Insights reports where Google says
Themes, plugins, and server specifications all contribute to server response time. Consider finding a more optimized theme, carefully selecting an optimization plugin, and/or upgrading your server.
While we dicussed about server specifications above, the rest thing that needs to be optimized are WordPress themes and plugins.
Almost all the theme sales page mentions how fast their themes are. That's the kind of impact and website owners mood in 2020. All they need is a fast loading theme and doesn't mind spending the right money for a quality product.
These are below qualities I consider while picking new themes:
- Code Efficiency
- Future Focused
- User Experience
I use Marketers Delight theme for this site (reports) and also use it on around 10 projects. While it's great but not suitable for agencies who build business websites. While there are hundreds of theme providers, I suggest below three sellers who can satisfy any of your needs.
Out of three, Neve is my most favourite as its fastest among all and we built 87% of our new client sites using Neve in 2020.
Page builders are also a big let down when it comes to slow web pages. I also recommend you to use Gutenberg in most cases.
Deregister and Remove Unwanted Scripts
Every single site in WordPress uses some contact form plugin and probably might use it only at https://site.com/contact-us/ page.
But do you know the contact form scripts loads on every single page of your site? Irrespective of usage, WordPress loads all the scripts on every single page which smoothly increases the page size.
There are ways to deregister scripts loading from all pages. You can use WP Asset Pro or PerfMatters for this optimization.
For this tutorial, I'm considering PerfMatters since it does the neat and perfect than any other plugins in the market.
Once activate the plugin, enable Scripts Manager from the settings page. Now load any of the page and click “Script Manager” from the top bar.
Alternatively, you can also use /?Perfmatters at the end of URL to open the settings.
Now the plugin shows all the CSS & JS loading in the page and at one click, you can deregister unwanted scripts loading.
Apart from it, you can remove unwanted slow loading plugins or replace it with any lightweight plugin in the market.
- Gutenberg – Alternative to page builders
- Novashare – Lightweight social share plugin
- Rank Math – SEO Plugin
Check for Network tab in Chrome to find the CSS & JS loading of any URL. By removing JS, you can also improve the First Input Delay score.
The database should be fast as light in query processing. When it takes times to retrieve data, the load time increases.
Google mentions “You can either optimize your server queries databases or migrate to some faster database system“.
I wasn't aware of different databases until recently Templ.io team migrated my site database from MyISAM to InnoDB for faster performance. You can also your hosting provider regarding the same or check this updated tutorial.
Optimize Web Server Resources
The upcoming optimizations are additional improvements you can do to improve response time.
Use Latest PHP Version: The PHP 7.4 is the latest stable version and 3x faster than PHP 5.6 as reported by Kinsta here. If you are on managed hosting, ask your hosting provider to change it.
Compress Images: There are a lot of free plugins like TinyPng, Smushit which does compress your images and adds them to web pages. You also use WebP format images for even faster image load times. But keep in mind, there are some restrictions in the free version. Choose host like Nexcess which does offer unlimited image compression for all sites.
Increase RAM/CPU Cores: As suggested by Google, more the RAM/CPU cores, the faster will be your websites. Lately, many websites are providing such options.
Optimized Caching Setup
You all know, I'm a big fan of WP Rocket. After using almost every single caching plugin, WP Rocket is the clear winner, and most plugins features are highly inspired by them. Keep an eye on our WP Rocket Black Friday Deals post to save on any purchase.
Below are the most common optimization which can be done through WP Rocket:
Enable Caching: At first, enable Caching for desktop and mobile devices. Caching is the process where your site will be cached and stored separately.
When a visitors request a page, the cached version is delivered instead of processing the page from your web server. This highly improves the load time. Just enable the below two options.
File Optimization: You can minify HTML, CSS & JS either here or in CDN settings. I prefer CDN minification since the results are faster. If you don't use CDN, do minify in WP Rocket.
Enable Combine Google Fonts files and Remove query strings from static resources.
Don't combine CSS & JS if your sites are using HTTP/2. Check your server HTTP version here.
Enable LazyLoad for images. Enable for iframes and Videos. Disable Emoji.
Preload: It greatly improves your server load time. Enable Preloading and also sitemap-based cache preloading.
Visit http://prefetch.xyz/ and make a list of all URL that can be prefetched. Now, enter the same in below option.
First Update: August 2020
Right now, most of the above use cases will definitely improve the site speed and use our guide to improve Core Web Vitals scores in your search console just like us.