Best Free WordPress Plugins for Optimizing Website Performance

Did you know that search engines like Google give preference to fast-loading websites in their rankings? Visitors are also less likely to abandon your site if it loads quickly. Everyone expects a website to load as quickly as possible—if it doesn’t, they will likely abandon it and visit the competitor instead.

This means that a slow website with good content will still have a harder time bringing in visitors and potential business. On the other hand, a fast-loading website will help increase your business even further.

If you are a WordPress user, there are a lot of plugins that you can use to optimize your website performance. In this post, we will summarize the features of some of these plugins which can improve a website’s performance using caches or by optimizing images.

WordPress Cache Plugins

One of the easiest ways to optimize a website’s performance is with the proper use of caching. This way, your visitors only need to load static resources like JavaScript libraries, CSS stylesheets and images only once. When someone visits your websites for the first time, all these static resources will be stored in their browser’s cache so they don’t have to request them again and again. This can significantly bring down the number of requests and page load time.

Here are some of the most popular free plugins that you can use to fully utilize the potential of caching.

W3 Total Cache

The W3 Total Cache plugin will improve the SEO and user experience of a website by increasing its performance and reducing the load time with the help of CDN integration and latest best practices.

W3 Total Cache

The plugin provides the following benefits:

  • a boost in search engine result page rankings for websites specifically those which are mobile-friendly and use SSL
  • almost instant repeat page views due to browser caching
  • at least 10 times improved performance upon full configuration
  • optimized progressive render so that users can start interacting with the page content as soon as possible
  • improved performance of the web server and 80% savings in the bandwidth

This plugin is compatible with shared hosting, virtual private hosting as well as dedicated servers. It also provides support for SSL and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). You can use the plugin to cache pages, posts, CSS, JavaScript and search result pages within the website. Not only that but the plugin also minifies the HTML, CSS and JavaScript used to render the webpages.

You can visit the plugin description page to learn more about the plugin.

WP Super Cache

The WP Super Cache plugin generates static HTML files to serve to users instead of repeatedly processing the WordPress PHP scripts again and again for each visitor. Creation of static HTML files for users can significantly reduce the load on server and improve the page load time because each webpage doesn’t not have to be processed again and again for different users.

WP Super Cache

These static pages are served to users who are not logged in, have not left a comment on your website or who are not viewing a password protected post. This generally covers a majority of the website traffic.

Any other website visitors will be served custom cached files tailored for their visits. For example, if they are logged in or have left a comment on a post, they will be served that specific cached version of the respective webpage.

You should visit the plugin description page to check out different ways in which it serves cached pages and to learn about some troubleshooting tips if things are not working. The plugin has over 2 million active installations with pretty good reviews so you should definitely check it out.

WP Fastest Cache

The WP Fastest Cache works in a manner similar to WP Super Cache. It generates static HTML files from your dynamic WordPress blog. Instead of using RAM and CPU for each visit to your website to render and process the PHP or to access the database, this plugin creates a static version of the page or post.

WP Fastest Cache

The content of most posts and pages in a WordPress blog won’t change frequently. So, it makes sense that the page is processed only once and a static file is served to the users after each that for each visit. The time period for which the static file is valid can be set by you so you can easily control how often the static version of a webpage is generated again.

The plugin optimizes the website performance with use of static pages, minified HTML and CSS, combining multiple CSS and JS files, browser caching, enabling Gzip compression, and optionally removing the emoji inline CSS and the wp-emoji-release.min.js file.

There are a lot of configurable options available to determine how and when a page is cached. As an admin, you will be able to delete all cached and minifed files from the options page whenever you feel like the cache has gone stale.You can also use shortcode to block specific posts and pages from being cached. The caching option can be enabled or disabled for mobile devices or logged-in users.

If you like this plugin, you can read more about it on the description page.

LiteSpeed Cache

LiteSpeed Cache is also a great plugin for improving website performance. Even though some of its features can be used on any web server, it offers some features exclusively meant for users of OpenLiteSpeed, commerical LiteSpeed products, or LiteSpeed-powered hosting. You can ask your hosting provider if they use LiteSpeed because using this plugin will significantly improve your website performance while reducing server load as it is tailor-made for improving the performance of such WordPress websites.

Some of the general features available in this plugin include minification of HTML, CSS and JavaScript files and well as minification of inline CSS and HTML. It will also combine multiple smaller CSS and JS files to reduce the total number of requests. It automatically generates critical CSS and load any CSS and JS files asynchronously. It also comes with several options to clean and optimize the database.

Here are some of its LiteSpeed exclusive features:

  • automatic caching of pages to improve performance
  • automatic purges of related pages based on certain events
  • private cache for logged-in users
  • posts and pages are cached separately for desktop and mobile views
  • scheduled purge of specific URLs

The description page for the plugin lists a few more features and answers all the plugin related FAQs.

Image Optimization Plugins

Generally, images make up the largest chunk of data that is loaded when someone visits a webpage. Text based files like scripts and stylesheets are very rarely larger than 100kb but images are bigger than that a lot of times.

There are two major reasons why the loading speed of your website could be slow due to large image sizes. You might be loading images without proper compression and optimization or you are loading images with very large dimensions when small ones will do.

Generally, images can be compressed to about half their size without seeing a significant drop in their quality. You can also resize images so that they are not larger than they need to be. For instance, the webpage where you are loading an image might be displaying it at a resolution of 1366 x 768 but you might be loading an image with resolution 1920 x 1080. Scaling the original image down to 1366 x 768 will bring down the file size and reduce the loading time of the webpage.

Here are a couple of plugins that you can use to optimize images on your WordPress website.

EWWW Image Optimizer

The EWWW Image optimizer plugin offers many useful features related to image optimization. In the end, you will save both storage space and bandwidth while delivering fast page load times for your users. The plugin automatically optimizes any newly uploaded images.

EWWW Image Optimizer

One of the nice things about the plugin is that it does not put a restriction on the file size of the image that you want to compress. The plugin also tries to get the best possible  compression to quality ratio for the images. In certain cases, you can also choose to convert images from one format to another because it will yield smaller file sizes without compromising the quality.

There are some other nice features that you can read about on the plugin description page.

Smush Image Compression and Optimization

This plugin offers a lot of unique features when it comes to image optimization. During lossless compression, the plugin will strip unused data without affecting the image quality. You can use it to optimize as many as 50 images with a single click. The plugin can also optimize images that are not located in the media library.

Smush Image Compression and Optimization

When you upload new images, it is possible to set a default max width and height so that any image with larger dimensions is automatically scaled down while being compressed. For example, if you know that no image on the website will be displayed in dimensions larger than 1366 x 768 just set them as the largest possible dimensions. After that, if you upload a 1920 x 1080 image it will be automatically scaled down to 1366 x 768. This scaling down by itself will significantly reduce the file size.

One nice feature of this plugin is that it supports lazy-loading of images. This basically means that any off-screen images that the user still has not scrolled down to will not be downloaded as soon as the page loads. If a page has 20 images and the users does not scroll past the first 5 then the remaining 15 images won’t even load on the webpage. This can significantly improve the page load time by only loading images when they are needed.

One shortcoming of this plugin is that the images you optimize cannot be larger than 1MB in size. If that is not an issue for you, this image smushing plugin will serve you well.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we have covered six different free, popular and feature-rich plugins that you can use to optimize you WordPress based websites. The first four plugin offer general site optimization features and the last two specifically optimize images. You don’t have to and should use all these plugins at once on a single website. Just try them first and choose the one you like the best.

Do you know any other plugins for optimizing a WordPress website? Share them with us in the comments below!

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