For all its superficial simplicity, WordPress is a complex beast and getting more complicated with each update and new wave of plug-ins. At its core, WordPress is just a set of .php scripts and a single database. What could go wrong?
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Database issues can dramatically slow WP sites. And every task you do creates cruft in the database, from iterations (drafts) of your posts, to metadata messes and comment confusion. It rapidly becomes overwhelming if sites are in production for daily use. Complicating matters are images, and WP makes multiple copies of every uploaded image in multiple sizes. And those simple .php scripts get very complicated when users throw multiple themes and plug-ins at them, few of them working well together.
WP Optimiser is new tool that takes on speed issues in WordPress and attacks potential database problems with a minimum of complexity. Its companion software, Viper Cache, adds crushing speeds to sites with a minimum of hassle.
Every few months, one of our 70+ WordPress sites get sick, often taking down other sites on the same server. Or, we have a sudden uptick in site visits, and an inefficient WP installation takes either bandwidth or processing power away from its sisters. It generally takes an entire day, sometime two, to get everything back on track, including hours spent purging unoptimized images, often taken with powerful cameras or phones, whose resolution is simply overkill for basic web use.
Thankfully, WP Optimiser addresses image optimization on the fly, and it even has the ability to batch optimize the backlog of images on an older site. When we interviewed Chris Hitman, one of WP Optimiser’s development team, he explained that “the plug-in can batch optimize legacy images, processing up to 500 daily. The user just sets it up once, and it proceeds in the background, until the until media library has been processed.”
“Once active, this feature will automatically optimize the images that are uploaded to the media library or set as the featured image on a post. With each uploaded image WordPress will automatically create multiple resized versions that are required by your theme which will also be optimized.” Hitman added, “We use the popular image optimization service TinyPNG which applies the best possible optimization.”
The plug-in also speeds page loading time dramatically, by stalling images until the reader see them. This is perfect for image intensive sites. “Once active this feature improves page load times by loading your images on demand,” says Hitman. “It delays loading of images outside of the browsers viewport (visible part of a web page). Images won’t be loaded until the user scrolls down to them. On long pages and/or pages containing many large images, this will make the page load much faster by reducing server load and saving bandwidth.”
“You can also enable/disable Lazy Load Images on an individual post/page. When editing a post/page use the ‘WP Optimiser’ box to enable/disable Lazy Load Images.”
“Your WordPress database consists of many tables, that over time become inefficient as you add, change and remove data. Optimizing these tables every once in a while will keep your site running as efficient as possible,” accords Hitman.
“Each time you create or edit a post or page, WordPress will create a revision of that post or page. So for example if you edit a post 6 times, then you might get 5 copies of that post as revisions. This can quickly add lots of rarely used data to your database, making it bloated and slower to access. You might have thousands of spam and un-approved comments in your comments table which can also be cleaned.” Hitman’s product also provides a snapshot of your WP database, allowing you to quick see and diagnose potential table problems.
“Site Health Check is designed to give you an accurate overview of how good or bad your site environment is. It tests your software setup, server status + connectivity and gives you recommendations of what action to take.” This may be WP Optimiser’s killer feature. While you can configure JetPack to email you when your site is down, that after-the-disaster notification. WP Optimiser looks a ten different measures of site and server health daily, and lets you know before you have a site-killing, or even a site-slowing issue.
The last feature of WP Optimiser is one we formerly used the P3 Plugin for. Many WP power users know the P3 plug-in, but it hasn’t been updated in three years. “The Site Speed Profiler of WP Optimiser looks at the speed impact of your WordPress core, themes & plugins. It also shows you a comparison of your site against a benchmark site with a default set of plugins and WordPress Default theme,” says Hitman. “The objective here is to look and spot any slow themes & plugins and replace these with better options.”
That it does, better than the old P3 Plug-in. WP Optimiser benchmarks your site against a known reference site, examining the overall site load time, plug-in load times, theme loading and, importantly, the time the core WordPress files take to onboard. The last one is important, as it can tell you if your hosting, not your WP instance, is at issue. And like the deprecated P3, it will tell you the exact load time of each plug-in. If you are an IM maven, you’ve likely installed a host of WP plug-ins to extend your site functions, or access tools like auto-Tweets or scarcity bars. (* PRO TIP: put those plug-ins in separate WP installation in a sub-domain. It won’t mess with your production site, and you can easily kill renegade Chron jobs that way) WP Optimiser will tell you exactly what plug-in is killing your site’s load time. You can also use it to A/B Split test different themes, or even theme customization, as WP Optimiser keeps a record of each profile run. It’s a super-powerful debugging approach.
Next Generation Cacheing with Viper Cache
Hitman also delivers the scoop on Viper Cache, a next generation, best of breed cacheing solution that accompanies WP Optimiser. “Before you enable Viper Cache you may wish to perform your own speed tests using Pingdom or Pagespeed Insights – please note these services are not 100% accurate as the results will fluctuate with internet traffic.”
“Simply enable the cache and decide whether HTTPS caching best suits your site then test your site to make sure everything works as before. Ninety-nine percent of sites will work fine with the default options we selected – in the unlikely event that your site doesn’t work as it should: turn off all the cache options below and turn on each option one by one until you isolate the problem,” says Hitman. “Cache clearing will happen automatically when you change any page/post or when you install new plugins so there’s no need to manually clear cache like on other products. Where images or content on your page are created by external sites or outside WordPress either update the page or reset the cache using the button below.”
Hitman also dishes on ViperCache’s power feature. “Our smart cache preloading feature will preload the cache with your home page + 5 of your most popular pages – this is a unique bandwidth saving feature as on large sites cache preloading will tie up your processor, slow down your site and eat bandwidth. Cache clearing will happen automatically when you change any page/post or when you install new plugins so there’s no need to manually clear cache like on other products. Where images or content on your page are created by external sites or outside WordPress either update the page or reset the cache using the button below. Our smart cache preloading feature will preload the cache with your home page plus five of your most popular pages – this is a unique bandwidth saving feature as on large sites cache preloading will tie up your processor, slow down your site & eat bandwidth.”
Here’s the field. A list of WordPress speed optimization plugins to make your site load faster?None bring quite firepower to the game as WP Optimiser.
Cache plugins, image compression, image delay and more. We have tried most of these on production sites in (sometimes vain hopes) attempt websites load% faster.
One recommended set is running your WordPress site through GTmetrix (check the Page Speed and YSlow tabs) or another speed testing tool to use as a benchmark . Once you’ve installed each plugin, retest your GTmetrix scores to see how it affects your page load time and scores. Most plugins have at least a 4.5 star rating within WP already.
Here’s the list…
WP Rocket was rated the #1 cache plugin in this Facebook poll and is what I use on my site. It’s a $39 premium plugin but is well worth it if site speed important. I even did my own test on WP Rocket vs. WP Fastest Cache. vs. W3 Total Cache, and WP Rocket gave me the best load times. Note you should only be using 1 cache plugin at a time, however it’s best to try out at least 2-3 (the ones I listed) to see which one gives you the best results/scores in Pingdom/GTmetrix. Here you can see WP Rocket in a head-to-head test against Viper Cache.
WP Fastest Cache
This is the highest rated free cache plugin and is relatively simple to configure. Unlike WP Rocket, this plugin doesn’t have an option for lazyloading images/videos, database cleanup, and other options… so you will need to use WP Optimise and the Lazy Load For Videos plugins if you want those features too.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache can perform well in some contexts, not so well on others. The W3 Total Cache settings are difficult to configure, a start contrast with WP Optimise. After a couple of years of running W3 Total Cache we abandoned it after a series of fatal issues.
WP Optimize (not WP Optimiser)
Removes trash, spam, post revisions, transients, and other cruft files stored in your database which after accumulating, can slow down both your WordPress site and admin backend. You can run this every couple weeks (both WP Optimize and WP Rocket have an option to schedule), but this will add to your site’s overhead.
Lazy Load For Videos
The Lazy Load plugin replaces embedded Youtube and Vimeo videos with a clickable preview that when clicked, will load the video— obviously this will not allow for the auto-playing of videos. Videos often slow site loads considerably. If you’re using WP Rocket they have this feature in the “basic” settings.
Imagify fixes the “optimize images” items in GTmetrix (lossless compression).. Imagify gives you 25MB/month free then you need to buy a plan or wait until next month for it to reset. Again, WP Optimise is cleaner option, with the batch option allows you to accomplish this with a free account.
Here’s a succinct take on Heartbeat control. “If you commonly leave your WordPress admin up for long periods of time, especially while writing or editing a post, the repeated POST requests can cause high resource usage and slow down your site. Heartbeat Control allows you to manage the frequency of the WordPress heartbeat API and you can change the frequency to 15-60 seconds, or disable it completely. This is one option missing from WP Optimise.
Disables many features that consume CPU slow site performance:
Allows you to disable:
- Google Maps
- RSD (Really Simple Discovery) tag
- Shortlink Tag
- WordPress API from header
- Windows Live Writer tag
- WordPress Generator Tag
- Pingbacks + trackbacks
- WooCommerce scripts
- WooCommerce reviews
- Woocommerce Cart Fragments
It can also paginate comments after 20 comments or disable them after 28 days.j
The downside to the optimization approach is, of course, you are losing all of this functionality.
P3 Plugin Performance Profiler – Depecrated
This was our go to tool for many years. Too many plugins will significantly slow down your site. P3 identifies your slowest loading plugins and organizes them in a nice pie chart. This allows you to search for a plug-in with similar function, but less impact..
- Install the plugin
- Go to your plugins menu
- Under P3 click Scan Now > Auto Scan
- Wait for P3 to analyze your slowest plugins
- Replace slow plugins with lightweight plugins
- Deactivate and delete all plugins you don’t use
- Delete plugins you only need at certain times, then reinstall when needed
P3 Profiler hasn’t been updated for years and may not work. An alternative is to run your site through GTmetrix and use the Waterfall tab. You can also check this list of plugins that consume high resources from the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group.
Selectively disables plugins on certain pages/posts and change the order in which they load— can be an impressive troubleshooting tool. Contact form and social sharing plugins don’t need to be on every page/post so only use the plugins you need.
Autoptimize addresses expired headers, minification, others typical problems. Using a cache plugin (eg. W3 Total Cache) to complement Autooptimize is recommended by the plugin developer. This is one capable alternative to WP Optimise.