Essential Tips for Maintaining and Speeding Up WordPress

WordPress is one of the most popular and widely-used blogging platforms and CMSs (content management system). The reason is it’s easy to install and use, so you can focus on creating content rather than building and maintaining your website. Everything from small personal blogs to big digital magazines use WordPress to run their sites.

Chances are you’re using WordPress for your own site or are planning on using it. Well, although WordPress is fine out of the box, it’s not fully optimized – and worse, it can crash when you start increasing traffic. Lucky for you, this article brings you essential tips for maintaining and speeding up WordPress.

Using these simple and free tweaks and plugin installations, you can:

Maintain your WordPress site to be in tip-top error-free shape using automated methods so you don’t need to waste your precious time

Speed up your WordPress site so it not only loads faster but holds up to traffic spikes

Monitor your WordPress site so you’re aware when a problem pops up and how to quickly fix it

All of which will ultimately free up your time to focus more on creating content and great work, not wasting time fixing your site when it goes down. So without further ado, here are the essential tips for maintaining and speeding up WordPress…

1. Regularly backup your database

In case your WordPress-powered blog breaks or you need to reinstall WordPress. You’ll have all of your latest pages, posts and comments in a handy file. Automate this by using the WP-DBManager plugin. You can set it to regularly backup your database and save a file on your hosting or by emailing an attachment.

2. Optimize your database

Again, you can use the WP-DBManager plugin to automate this.

3. Regularly backup your WordPress files

This means your images and plugins. Automate this by using the WordPress Backup plugin. You can set it to regularly backup your WordPress files and email an attachment.

4. Reduce spam comments

Have Akismet plugin running and filtering out the spam comments. This will save you time by helping speed up comment moderation/reading/replying.

5. Make sure you don’t have unnecessary 404′s

This is when people try to access your pages and posts and get a 404 error message page instead. Use the 404 Notifier plugin to identify the 404 errors and fix them with redirection by using the Redirection plugin.

6. Switch to pretty permalinks

That is if you haven’t already. Go to Settings > Permalinks panel and choose a pretty permalink style (like “example.com/date/post-name/“). Like the URL style that Speckyboy here has, rather than the “/?p=X” permalink style that WordPress for some reason still insists on defaulting to. This not only helps with SEO (search engine optimization, since the keywords people would use to find your post will be right there in the URL) but with human readability. It becomes obvious what you’re going to read as well as making it easier to share.

7. Automate basic SEO (search engine optimization)

Install the All in One SEO Pack plugin. Add your title, keywords, and description in the plugin options screen. This will make it easier for people who are searching for what you have to find you.

1. Use caching

Install the WP Super Cache plugin and enable the Gzip option. This will load only the appropriate cached content to visitors rather than loading every single script and element of your WordPress site. Your bandwidth is greatly reduced and you avoid your site going down during traffic spikes (and if you’re making a kick-butt site with kick-butt content, you should expect them more often than not).

2. Reduce the CSS files to as few as possible

Combine multiple custom CSS files into one big one. The less individual CSS files the theme needs to read the faster it’ll load. Simply copy/paste the code from individual CSS files into the main style.css or a custom.css file in your theme.

3. Reduce the Javascript files to as few as possible

Combine multiple .js files into one big one. The less individual .js files the theme needs to read the faster it’ll load. You can copy/paste the code from individual Javascript files (/js/jquery.js, /js/jquery.slider.js, /js/jquery.tooltip.js) into a new single Javascript file (/js/jquery.js,jquery.slider.js,jquery.tooltip.js).

3. Put as much Javascript code as possible in the footer

In the footer.php file of your theme, or in the footer section in your theme’s customization panel if applicable. This is so that the Javscript calls load last. This way, your visitors will be able to quickly read the content while the Javascript loads in the background.

4. Use as few plugins as possible

The less plugins need to load the more stable your WordPress site can be (and slightly faster in certain cases if a plugin isn’t properly coded). Do that by seeing if you can copy/paste code or hand-code the functionality into your theme, or using a theme that has the functionality built-in, or having it designed or customized for you. This doesn’t mean don’t use any plugins, especially since this article is suggesting plugins for WordPress optimization – just stick to only the essential ones rather than random sidebar widgets and whatnot.

5. Speed up image loading

Use the Amazon S3 storage service to upload and host your files. The images will load faster and your visitors won’t have to wait as long for them to load – especially important for web and visual designers with lots of images and portfolios to showcase. You can use the Amazon S3 for WordPress plugin to streamline image uploading and inserting into your pages and posts.

1. See your basic hosting server info and WordPress PHP memory usage

Install the WP System Health plugin. This can let you see if there are memory issues so you can identify and fix the problem rather than blindly trying things when your WordPress site is slow.

2. See more detailed hosting server info

Install the Hosting Monitor plugin. This will let you know if slowness or any other performance issues are something to do with WordPress or your hosting, and you can fix it or contact your hosting accordingly.

3. Have any WordPress errors logged and notifications emailed

Install the Error Reporting plugin. Since you’ll be notified right when an error occurs, you can fix it right away.

By using these tweaks and installing these plugins, you’ll not only take your WordPress site’s performance and stability from merely okay to great, but you’ll automate a lot of it so that you don’t have to spend time maintaining your site. Not to mention you won’t have to waste time fixing and trying to get your WordPress site back up when it crashes from a traffic spike or whatnot.

All of which boils down to why you should even care about any of this in the first place: you free up time to focus on creating content and great work.

Over to you: what are some other essential tips for maintaining and speeding up WordPress that weren’t featured here? Feel free to share your useful additions in the comments section below.

Author: (646 Posts)

Paul Andrew is the editor and founder of Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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