How to Speed Up WordPress Sites: Not an Ultimate Guide

One tip to speed up WordPress sites

If you're read any of my posts, you know I don't write ultimate guides to anything. I don't enjoy reading 10,000 word posts (even if Google thinks they're better) and so I don't write them. So this isn't an ultimate guide on how to speed up WordPress sites. It's a single trick, not 250 things you can try. But it will work every time!

Why caching is a last strategy, not your first option

You're probably thinking that I'm going to tell you something about caching. And while I love plugins that optimize WordPress site performance, that's not what I'm going to write about. And I'm not going to for a simple reason.

Caching is what you apply at the end of your performance optimization. Not at the start. If you apply it first, it will hide all the other work you could or should do.

So while you might still want to consider a caching plugin, do that after you consider my advice here.

Today's websites need more than cache

In the early days of WordPress (which turns 18 years old today), most sites that were using it were barely doing more than presenting blog or site content to users. The dynamic part of the site was the capturing of new content. But the content itself wasn't dynamic. So a caching solution was perfect.

But today's WordPress sites are eCommerce stores, online learning sites, membership sites and more. And caching doesn't solve the entire challenge for a site's performance.

For dynamic and interactive WordPress sites, you need to handle a lot of PHP processing and a lot of WordPress queries – quickly.

Let's talk about volleyball for a second

Stick with me for a second.

When I was in high school I was on our boys volleyball team. It was a six-man indoor team. But our coach was on the AVP professional beach two-man circuit. As a result, we did more than a few practices on sand.

“But coach,” we complained, “we don't play our game on sand.”

His response was simple. “The fastest way to improve your vertical is to move from sand to a gym floor.”

Over the years I've thought a lot about that statement.

Most of us try to improve things incrementally. We tweak things here or there. We make little adjustments because they're in our control, and they likely won't ruin things. We're more worried about not losing, than we are winning.

But what our coach was saying was that you need to step back and look at the bigger picture. Make substantial changes – like shifting from sand to a gym.

And that's the advice I'm going to give you here. One change, not 250 tweaks.

Let's look at the numbers

To make that recommendation, let's first look at the numbers published in today's performance reviews of WordPress hosts with plans under $25.

This chart highlights what I was mentioning above. If you want high performance for your WordPress site, if you want to learn how to speed up WordPress sites, you want to look at fast PHP processing, and large amounts of WP queries.

Now, if you have a regular blog or brochure site, nothing is wrong with a regular host with some caching. It will be just fine.

But if you're running anything more complex, this is the chart for you. A fast site requires a host that knows how to run fast. Even without cache.

And what stands out from this chart is that the platform we've built at Nexcess was designed for this.

The single thing you need to do to speed up WordPress sites

If you want to speed up WordPress sites, you need to go past the little tweaks. The 250 tips from all sorts of blog posts. Instead, the single thing you need to do is change your host.

It's like going from sand to a gym court – you don't change your game at all, but you see immediate improvement.

Sites that come to Nexcess, without any tweaks, often see their speed and performance double. Without changing a line of code.

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