If you are looking for free WordPress plugins to speed up your WordPress website be sure to take a look at WPMU DEV, it may save you a lot of wasted time.
In this post I go over a few of their plugins and features that I am certain you will enjoy if you are serious about website speed.
Stumbling upon wpmudev was somewhat serendipitous. After trying almost everything to speed up this website, I was about to give up. Here is the short story.
This website has been around since 2009, has over 877 posts in 18 categories, over 53 pages, 3,700+ images and on top of that, since 2009 we have built this website on at least 3 different premium WordPress themes.
And also; I have experimented with so many tools/plugins/css scripts/subdomains etc. that there was a plethora of unused/extra files, folders css, and God knows what else that has been collected over all these years.
Since 2009 through Dec 2021 I hosted the SEO-Alien on a shared hosting account with Bluehost. I have nothing negative to say about Bluehost, overall the service has been great, and continue to use them to host several other websites. Bluehost is ideal for small businesses and start-ups, but for the SEO-Alien website with the amount of content on it, the lil' blue alien needed a little (a lot) more help.
It was April of 2021, realizing this website had a serious issue with slow loading speed, I decided to dive into learning how to speed up an aging website. The challenge for me was I wanted to do that without spending a small fortune, not having to hire someone to do it, or spending a lot of time learning how to do it.
What this meant was I had to go to back to 'online school' and educate myself on the subject, website speed was not my specialty. In fact, I wrote an article on it dated April 3rd, 2021 called header security and using stackpath. Yes, I later stopped using Stackpath as a CDN, but I felt they should be mentioned only because I learned a lot from this step.
It was then that I started focusing on analyzing website speed problems using 3 tools; GTMetrix, Google's PageSpeed Insights and Experte Bulk Page Speed Test. I found that Google's help confused me more than GTMetrix's did, but I guess it would all depend on what level of developer you are, I was still somewhat green on this subject. With the free Bulk Page Speed Test, you can have a professional and trustworthy assessment of your site's performance as it will analyze up to 500 URLS. This way, if individual pages are causing challenges, you can get to the bottom of it quickly.
The first flagged issue was TTFB. (I was so green I had to Google 'what is ttfb' to discover it meant time to first byte). This poor site had an average loading time of well over 12 seconds. I started messing around with free WordPress plugins that claimed to speed up a WordPress website. I tried things like W3 Total Cache, WP Rocket (paid) Cloudflare (paid), Hummingbird (free) and none of these seemed to work, or at least they did not work for long. And that seemed like an odd thing to me. Why at at first did a few of these plugins seem to help speed up the Website, but then days after it got bogged down again? It was frustrating.
Cloudflare was so disappointing. After I signed up I thought I had page speed fixed, but then I could never get my emails to work unless I upgraded to a $99/mo. package. Aggravated, I turned everything off, cancelled any premium paid plugins that I was using. I kept some of the core plugins, but essentially I started from scratch. The website took forever to load and something had to be done.
One of the plugins I kept installed was the Smush image optimizer. I felt it was one plugin that was actually doing a good job reducing loading time. At least that was what GTMetrix and Google's PageSpeed Insights was telling me. It was then, after reading up on Smush a bit more that I found out for only $6/mo. ($5/mo. if paid annually) you could get a whole bunch more... so I signed up. And that turned out to be the best decision I ever made when it came to speeding up the SEO-Alien website.
Remember me saying I started from scratch? Well that included deleting the Hummingbird plugin. Well, I reinstalled it. This was so exciting to me, as when I did the website speed went to a B+, that was a step in the right direction! I felt like I could sit back and smoke a victory cigar. That feeling lasted for about 2 days.
As fate had it, Elegant themes were doing some things of their own to speed up the Divi theme at the same time I was. (You can read about that from Divi Performance Update). All of a sudden, once again the website speed went to hell. Was it because of the Divi theme update? I have no idea. All I know is how close I was to giving up. I took at least a 2-3 week break, feeling about as discouraged as one could be.
Looking back on it now I can not remember exactly when I noticed, but I do remember the epiphany when it sunk in that both the Smush and Hummingbird plugins are created by wpmu dev. It only made sense to use these plugins together.
At this point the website speed was average, and average was much better than what it was, but I wanted to see how much better I could make it. I decided to sign up for WPMU hosting and this is when things got much 'gooder' and much faster! Their customer support is outstanding, and the process of transferring was about as simple as it can get.
If you do not feel like signing up for hosting right now but want a good place to start to speed up your WordPress website, start by downloading and using (for free) either the Smush Image Optimizer plugin, the Hummingbird Speed Optimization Plugin, or both and see where things go from there.
As for now, the problem of website speed loading time on this website is over and the case is closed! Unless something drastic happens, I do not see changing from WPMU hosting.
PS. I only touched the tip of the iceberg here. Wait till you discover everything else they offer. Even if you do not want to use one of their plugins at this current time, but would like to learn more about WordPress speed optimization and other WordPress tips and tricks, sign up to the WPMU Hub today and tell them the SEO-Alien sent you!
If you are serious about a faster WordPress website, you will not be disappointed!
About the Author:
The SEO-Alien is a project started in 2009 regarding all things online marketing. The site started out more of a diary of predictions, suggestions and references to things I frequently used for online marketing... before social media marketing was even an option.
I hope you find the information and tools presented here useful and something worth sharing with others.
If there is anything else about online marketing or any online advertising strategy you think would be helpful, please let me know.