Steps to Optimize WordPress to Reduce Server Load

How To Optimize WordPress To Improve Your Site Performance

Recently I came across a question on WordPress Development StackExchange asking for steps to optimize WordPress with regard to server load. Here’s a link to the question. Most of the answers were technical and couldn’t be understood by anyone new to WordPress. So I created this answer-like post to fix that shortcoming.

Enable Caching in WordPress

Install & activate the W3 Total Cache plugin for enabling caching functionality in your WordPress site. Activate page caching, database caching, object caching & browser caching feature from the plugin’s settings page. Make sure you choose Alternative PHP Cache (APC / APCu) as the caching mechanism ‘if available’. Do NOT enable any minification in W3 Total Cache as there are many chances for you to break your site’s appearance and/or functionality. We’ll leave it to Cloudflare.

Use a Content Delivery Network

Once you’re done with configuring the rest of the plugin functionalities, set up Cloudflare for your website. Make sure you enable Cloudflare in W3 Total Cache settings too, under the Extensions menu.

Cloudflare is a Content Delivery Network which caches all the static contents (image files, CSS, JS, documents, etc.,) from your site and serves it to your visitors from their global servers. This can help speed up page load times and reduce the load on your server. For a list of file types that are cached by Cloudlfare checkout this list. Moreover, Cloudflare has a free plan too.

In Cloudflare, set the caching level to standard and set browser cache expiration to something at least greater than 20 hours. Enable Always Online™ so that even if your server goes down, Cloudflare will serve your website’s static pages from their cache. Also enable their auto minify feature (remember why I asked you to not enable minification is W3 Total Cache? Because Cloudflare does it better!) Then set Rocket Loader™ to automatic.

Here’s an excerpt of what Rocket Loader does :

  • Decreases the number of network requests by bundling JavaScript files, even third party resources, to avoid slowing down page rendering.
  • Asynchronously loads scripts (including third party scripts) so
    that they do not block the content of your page from loading
  • Caches scripts locally (using LocalStorage, available on most
    browsers and smart phones) so they aren’t re-fetched unless

More information can be found here.

Also Read: Redirect non-www URLs to www using Cloudflare

Use Genesis Framework for WordPress

If possible switch to Genesis framework by StudioPress for WordPress because their themes are clean, without any bloat. Genesis framework and their child themes are built with speed, security and SEO in mind. I myself have tested it out around a few times and my Google PageSpeed scores were pretty damn good. Also if you’re using Genesis, then don’t forget to enable the ‘fragment cache’ extension in W3 Total Cache settings.

Since Genesis framework and all its child themes fall under the premium WordPress themes category (paid themes), not everyone can afford to buy them. So, I’ve got an excellent free Genesis themes alternative for you. Go for GeneratePress, the new kid on the block who’s performance can easily be compared to that of Genesis. Moreover, it is clean, simple and weighs less than 1 MB. GeneratePress is just a single theme but it offers all the best features of Genesis framework – it is lightweight and fast, fully mobile responsive, secure and stable yet developer friendly with full microdata integration.

Download GeneratePress

Compress Images Before/After Uploading

Since now you’re using Cloudlfare as a CDN, you can make use of a plugin like ‘Imagify‘ or ‘Compress JPEG & PNG images‘ by TingPNG to compress your images. Both are free plugins available in the plugin repository. Also, Imagify supports the powerful lossy compression algorithm.

Remove Query Strings from Static Files

Finally, install ‘Remove Query Strings From Static Resources‘ plugin by Your WP Expert from the WordPress repository so that it removes the query strings from static resources like CSS & JavaScript files. This is because resources with a “?” or “&” in the URL are not cached by some proxy caching servers (remember, Cloudflare is also a proxy caching server).

Use Google’s AJAX Library API CDN

Then install ‘Use Google Libraries‘ plugin by Jason Penney. This plugin allows your WordPress site to use Google’s AJAX Library API CDN rather than serving these files from your WordPress install directly.

Some of the key benefits are:

  • Increases the chance that a user already has these files cached.
  • Takes the extra load off your server.
  • Uses compressed versions of the libraries (when available).
  • Google’s servers are set up to negotiate HTTP compression with the requesting browser.

Optimize WordPress Database

Last but not the least, use the ‘WP-Optimize‘ plugin by Ruhani Rabin to clean and optimize your database.

Hope this helps you with regard to optimizing WordPress to reduce server load.

Also Read: How to make WordPress site HackProof

9 thoughts on “How To Optimize WordPress To Improve Your Site Performance

  1. Hey. Nice guide you wrote here. I would add two other recommendations for image optimization. I used with good results ShortPixel, and Kraken.

    1. Howdy,

      Thanks for the recommendations Andy. I’ve tried ShortPixel earlier and found Imagify to offer better compression rates than ShortPixel. Haven’t tried Kraken Image Optimizer yet. Will give it a try and maybe I’ll post the results in a separate blog post.

  2. Hey, love your posts man! Good content. But I was wondering if you, or anyone reading this, could expand on Cloudflare’s HSTS function and expand a little on it’s “Preload” & “Include Subdomains” Rules.

    I had a 7-Day long ticket support ticket with SiteGround over this because apparently the the “www” that you’re required to have with Cloudflare through SiteGround screws up the redirect that’s required for this function. So I was just wondering if anyone knew more about it.


  3. Good to know your recommendation that Imagify works better than ShortPixel which is what I’ve been using. Thanks for sharing at The Blogger’s Pit Stop! Roseann from

    1. Hey Roseann, it’s not that Imagify is better than ShortPixel or something. Both are good and nearly offer the same levels of compression. You can also checkout WP Smush image compression and optimization plugin by WPMU Dev.

    1. You’re welcome Linda. Oh yes, this post is still relevant in 2018 and the advice is still as good as it was in 2017. Should I rename this post to ‘How To Optimize WordPress Site Performance In 2018’ to gain your trust? Just kidding. This post falls under the evergreen content category. That is, it will always remain relevant to the audience no matter what time it is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.