There is nothing worse than a slow website. Especially slow online stores!
In this article I’m going to share some tactics I use to speed up WooCommerce.
Note: if you use Shopify, Squarespace or Wix, only some of the tips below will apply to you. I’ll write more guides soon for speeding up each. So stay tuned!
Table of Contents:
Benefits of Speeding Up WooCommerce
Speeding up your WooCommerce store or funnel will do two main things:
- Generate more traffic – Google rewards faster websites
- Increase sales – better user experience leads to more sales
Why Speed Matters For Online Stores
The above benefits are the main reasons why speed matters for online stores.
But don’t just take my word for it.
Check out these statistics and facts from Google:
It takes, on average, 15.3 seconds to fully load a mobile page.Google
Holy moly! That is slow.
This statistic comes from research by Google who tested 11 million websites via webpagetest.org using a 4G connection.
77% of smartphone shoppers are more likely to purchase from companies whose mobile sites or apps allow them to make purchases quickly.Google
I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly more likely to make a purchase if a website is faster. Not because it’s fast, but because it provides a better user experience. i.e. the website makes it easy to buy that thing you are looking for.
Page Experience Update – Major Google Algorithm Change
Google is currently rolling out the ‘Page Experience Update‘; a major algorithm change that will be complete by the end of August, 2021.
Make sure you click on the above link to read all about it.
Best Website Speed Test Tools
It’s important to note that each speed test tool will likely give you different results. This is because they analyse your website in different ways.
Chrome Developer Tools
Chrome developer tools has a tab called, ‘Lighthouse’ that uses Google Lighthouse to test your website speed.
10 Ways To Speed Up WooCommerce
1. Invest in better hosting
This is arguably the most important step and most effective way to speed up WooCommerce.
Not just WooCommerce, but any website built on WordPress.
However, WooCommerce websites require more resources than static WordPress websites. So your hosting provider can make or break your online business.
Hosting recommendations for different situations
– WooCommerce websites on a budget but wanting performance: On a budget but wanting performance: if you are on a budget but still want high performance, I recommend using Cloudways. You can pick between Google Cloud, Amazon, VULTR, Linode and Digital Ocean servers.
– WooCommerce websites needing to scale: if you have a highly dynamic website that requires lots of resources and you have the budget, Pagely could be a good option.
2. Choose a server closest to your visitors
Once you’ve decided on a hosting provider, it’s important to choose a server that is closest to your target audience and potential visitors. You don’t want your server in the US when your visitors are in Australia.
The greater the distance between your server and visitor, the longer the connection time.
To test your connection times, you can try KeyCDN’s Performance Test. It’s a free tool that will show you connection times worldwide for your domain.
See screenshot below that shows connections times for this website.
Notice how the connection time aka Time to First Byte (TTFB) is ~15ms from Australia (my target audience) but almost 1s from Europe? Server location matters.
If you have customer’s worldwide, then I recommend setting up a content delivery network aka CDN. I recommend using CloudFlare to get started (it’s free to use). Other CDN providers I’ve used include KeyCDN, StackPath & BunnyCDN. Note that if you use Cloudways for hosting, you automatically get access to StackPath (aka CloudwaysCDN).
3. Use the latest PHP version
There are two main reasons to use the latest PHP version…
Firstly, it will improve performance allowing your site to process twice as many requests.
Interestingly ~30% of websites still use PHP version 5, which is ~2 times slower than PHP 7.
The second reason is security. Just like any software, it’s best to run the latest and greatest version to keep up with recent security patches.
If you aren’t using PHP version 8 (this is the latest version), you could be missing out on a signficant performance and security boost.
If your current hosting provider doesn’t have at least PHP version 7.4 available, you should look for another host.
4. Use a performance focused WordPress theme
Unfortunately most WordPress themes aren’t performance focused. Most themes are made with a gazillion features that make it easier to design and develop your website BUT slow your site down.
If you want a faster website, I recommend using the default WordPress editor aka Gutenberg editor. Using Gutenberg instead of drag and drop page builders like Beaver Builder, Divi and Elementor will significantly increase your website performance.
I recommend using Generate Press (this website is built using Generate Press + Generate Blocks)
The free version is a great start. It has less design options but this means your site will be faster!
5. Use Less Plugins
A great way to speed up your WordPress site is by using less plugins. Each plugin adds load time to your site.
It’s also important to delete any plugins that you aren’t using.
More importantly, remove resource intensive and slow loading plugins. Check out this detailed list of plugins to avoid.
6. Use Server Caching
Cache is king when it comes to website performance.
What is caching though? Caching basically means storing your website content from the first visit so that it’s faster on the second visit.
There are two main ways to cache aka store your content:
Browser Caching – when a visitor loads your page, your website content (images, text, etc) is stored in their browser (e.g. Chrome, Firefox, etc). This means your website will be faster to load on the second visit for that person.
Server Caching – the same as above, but your website content is stored at the server level. The benefit here is that essentially only one person has to visit your site for your content to be cached for everyone else. As opposed to browser caching where it only benefits the one person browsing your site.
If your hosting provider doesn’t have server level caching, I recommend using a premium caching plugin.
For more advanced users I recommend using Swift Performance. The premium version is great but they also have a decent free version.
For beginner users, I recommend using WP Rocket. Not as many advanced options as Swift but an amazing plugin that is very easy to set up.
Before picking a caching plugin, make sure you understand the differences between Swift Performance vs WP Rocket.
7. Optimise Media
One of the key components to load time is your overall website size. Most of which is made up of images. So optimising your images by compressing and removing unneeded EXIF data is key.
Image Optimisation Plugins
If your website uses video it’s also crucial to optimise the way they are loaded. Make sure you DO NOT upload videos directly to your website. Embed them instead.
Lazy Load Videos
I also recommend lazy loading videos so that they load upon user interaction. This will significantly reduce external requests and loading time. This is crucial. Don’t forget to do this.
8. Speed Up WooCommerce Database
In order to speed up WooCommerce database, you need to optimise your database from time to time. For busy eCommerce websites this might need to be done weekly. For smaller, low traffic websites this might be monthly.
To clean and optimise your database it’s important to delete trashed posts and post revisions. Don’t let them build up.
I also recommend cleaning your wp_options table and removing autoload data that shouldn’t be there. It’s amazing how much stuff that loads that doesn’t need to. Usually from plugins and software deleted over the years. But also from poorly coded plugins and themes that make huge database queries. e.g. loading a huge list of google fonts, even though you only use one or none.
If your WordPress site has been revamped over the years, even just once, then I highly recommend learning how to clean your wp_options table and removing autoloaded data.
It’s possible your wp_options table is so full of plugin and theme options that you have no idea what is what. Some plugins have really weird names that make no sense so it can be risky deleting rows that you aren’t sure about.
If this is the case, I recommend doing a fresh install of WordPress with a new database, exporting content from your current site, then importing into your fresh WordPress install. Only install the plugins you need. Note that I don’t mean using a migration plugin – this would just copy the same bloated database over.
This could be a lot of work though… Good luck!
9. Advanced Optimisations
Here are some advanced ways to optimise your WooCommerce site:
– prevent certain plugins from loading on every page. e.g. your contact form likely loads css and js on every page, even though it’s only used on your contact page.
– store Google Fonts locally. e.g. downloading your chosen Google Font and storing it on your server instead of requesting it from Google every single time someone visits your site.
– defer scripts from loading until user interaction. e.g. preventing tracking or chatbox scripts from loading until someone starts scrolling down your page. Most third party scripts don’t need to load until someone is actually interacting with your site. Doing this will give your site a huge performance boost.
10. Run Speed Tests
Tips for running speed tests:
– To see improvements, make sure you run BEFORE and AFTER tests.
– Run multiple tests to get an average.
– Run tests using differing connection speeds. e.g. Unthrottled, Broadband, 4G, 3G, etc.
– Test desktop and mobile.
– Test using different browsers. e.g. Chrome, Firefox, etc.
– Test from your target audience’s location (WebPageTest has ~30 locations to test from). Testing from multiple locations is crucial if you manage an eCommerce website that sells to customers in multiple countries. If this is you, make sure you integrate a Content Delivery Network (CDN). Good hosting providers should have a CDN option built into their platform. e.g. Kinsta uses KeyCDN, Cloudways uses Stackpath.
There you have it. A bunch of ways to speed up WooCommerce.
The list I’ve provided covers the most important elements of speeding up WooCommerce.
Reach out if you need help.