If you manage a WordPress site, then optimizing its performance can pay rich dividends. After all, no one wants to stay on a page that takes an eternity to load.
Also, after the introduction of the Core Web Vitals (CWV) in the Google search update of 2021, it is vital that your pages load quickly to avoid loss of ranking on search pages.
In this post, I will reveal the 7 best speed optimization plugins in 2023 for WordPress that you can use to increase your website speed in no time.
There are many factors that influence your WordPress websites’ loading speed, but which ones can be controlled with the help of plugins?
Let us look at those.
Main factors that determine WordPress site speed
The main factors that affect WordPress page load times are:
- Number of HTTP requests
- Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- GZIP compression
- Image compression
- Database optimization
- WordPress HeartBeat API
As you can see most of the factors that affect your website’s speed, except a CDN, can be optimized with the right combination of WordPress performance optimization plugins.
But before selecting the best speed plugins to reduce your page load times, you should remember that your goal is to achieve greater website speed using as few plugins as possible.
Why is it so?
Because, each plugin contributes some overhead, howsoever small, to the overall loading times of your WordPress website.
So, a single plugin that offers multiple features which are also offered by numerous individual plugins will add lesser overhead to your site loading times than those multiple plugins offering individual features.
Now let us look at the best WordPress speed optimization plugins you should use in 2021 to reduce your page load times with this insight.
1. WP Rocket: Best caching plugin for WordPress
As its name suggests, WP Rocket can skyrocket your website speeds with its multi-dimensional approach to WordPress optimization.
Although it is primarily a caching plugin, in reality, it does much more than just page and browser caching.
WP Rocket provides the following benefits:
- Ease of use (In fact, the easiest caching plugin to use)
- Page and browser caching
- Cache preloading
- GZIP compression
- Database optimization
- Lazyload images
- Supports multiple CDNs
- And much more
You can see that WP Rocket, on its own, performs most of the tasks required for boosting your WordPress site speed.
WP Rocket takes care of all these speed optimization factors for you single-handedly. For these reasons, it is considered the best WordPress speed optimization plugin.
In fact, using WP Rocket in combination with a good CDN alone will reduce your page load times significantly.
Recommended: The Ideal WP Rocket Settings for Your Blog
How much difference did WP Rocket make to our Core Web Vitals? See below.
As you can see, our Core Web Vitals (CWV) were only average as represented by the orange line. But within one month of installing WP Rocket, PassionWP’s CWV went from average to good as represented by the green line.
We have also managed to achieve a perfect score on Google Page Speed Insights for mobile and desktop with these optimal WP Rocket settings.
Alternative WordPress caching plugins
In case you do not wish to use WP Rocket, you can use one of the free caching plugins listed below.
W3 Total Cache: This is one of the most popular free caching plugins. But configuring it is not everyone’s cup of tea. Also, it often tends to break things on websites as I realized from my experience.
LiteSpeed Cache: This caching plugin works best when paired with a LiteSpeed webserver. In this case, it offers performance comparable to WP Rocket. But each setting should be tested carefully as I have noticed that it sometimes causes conflicts with other plugins.
WP Fastest Cache: Another popular free cache plugin. The layout is simple although looks somewhat dated. The performance is good for a free caching plugin. It has a premium version but the performance is not close to what you can achieve with WP Rocket when both are compared head-on.
Apart from a cache plugin, there are other performance plugins as well to help optimize your WordPress site for speed.
2. Asset CleanUp: Speed booster plugin
These scripts and CSS are loaded on every page of your website, even when not required. For example, let’s say you’re using a WordPress form plugin like WP Forms to create a contact form for use on your Contact Us page.
Then, using the Asset CleanUp plugin, you can disable the unused script and CSS from specific pages to reduce their load times and boost your overall website speed.
3. Perfmatters: Lightweight performance plugin
Recently we shifted from Asset CleanUp to Perfmatters, a WordPress performance optimization plugin.
Although it’s a premium plugin, the small investment is well worth it. The interface is uncluttered and configuring Perfmatters takes less than 5 minutes.
The plugin is very lightweight and does not add any noticeable overhead to your page size. It is the recommended plugin to speed up your WordPress admin backend.
Plus, the plugin authors have thoughtfully included many other features that will boost your website speed as well as the back-end for logged-in users.
For complete details, check out my Perfmatters settings and review.
3. EWWW Optimizer: Best image optimization plugin
The images on your WordPress site often account for Lion’s share of the page size and therefore, compressing the image size is crucial to reducing your page load times.
Another aspect to take care of is lazyload. Usually, all the images on a page are loaded at once, which slows down the load times since the browser tries to render all the images simultaneously.
That’s why you should lazyload the images so that each image is visible only when it comes in the viewport of the user and not earlier.
For these reasons, I highly recommend the free EWWW Image Optimizer plugin that takes care of image compression as well as lazyload with no strings attached.
Additionally, you should turn on the WebP image format conversion feature in EWWW to convert the images in JPG and PNG formats into WebP format. This format is optimized for loading images online and you should be making full use of it if you haven’t already done so.
To summarize, the 3 main features of EWWW Image Optimizer plugin are:
- Image compression: Achieves a very high level of compression on image upload
- Lazyload: Loads the images when they come into the viewport of the user
- WebP conversion: Converts the PNG and JPEG images into WebP format
Alternative image optimization plugins
- WP Smush is, by far, the most popular image compression plugin. Not only does it compress your website images, but it also has a lazy load feature built-in. The downside is that it does not compress all the image dimensions in the free version and you need to upgrade to a paid plan if you wish to compress all the image dimensions.
- Imagify is an image compression plugin offered by Imagify.io that offers a generous 25 MB of free image compression (about 250 images) quota every month, which should be more than adequate for most blogs.
- reSmush.it is another popular and free image optimization plugin based on the reSmush.it API. The cool feature of this plugin is that it compresses images up to 5 MB in size!
Read my in-depth comparison of the 10 best image optimization plugins for WordPress.
Whichever image compression tool you use, remember to take advantage of the lossless image compression setting in order to reduce the image size without affecting the image quality.
Lossy compression, on the other hand, results in a greater reduction in image sizes at the expense of image quality, even if slightly.
4. WP-Optimize: Database optimization plugin
But we are not done yet.
Your database needs to be cleaned from time to time to reduce bloat and keep running your website at peak performance.
WP-Optimize plugin offers the complete suite of database optimization tools for free. It cleans up transients (temporary data), spam comments, removes pingbacks and trackbacks, and also cleans up and optimizes your MySQL tables with a single click.
But it doesn’t stop there. It even compresses your images and performs database backups if you have the UpdraftPlus plugin installed.
However, if you use the WP Rocket plugin then you can skip WP-Optimize since WP Rocket takes care of the optimization tasks for you. But if you are not using WP Rocket then go ahead and install WP-Optimize to boost your website speed.
6. Heartbeat Control: Control the WordPress API as per your needs
WordPress, which is installed on your web server, has a wonderful way to communicate with your browser using its HeartBeat API.
When you or another user is logged into the WordPress admin, this API calls your browser every 60 seconds on the dashboard and every 15 seconds on post edit pages in order to sync the changes that you are making, through your browser, with your webserver where WordPress is installed.
However, the flip side of this API is that if you are logged into your WordPress admin for a long time, it can result in frequent server calls which in turn can cause adverse performance issues and even your hosting company may not take kindly to it if you are on a shared host.
The solution is to limit the HeartBeat API activity to a minimum in order to maintain optimum website performance.
Again, if you are using WP Rocket, then you can control the HeartBeat API from within its settings.
But in case you are not, then just use the HeartBeat Control plugin to adjust the API rate.
7. Query monitor: Identify resource heavy plugins
Wouldn’t it be nice to identify plugins that hog the majority of your website’s resources so you could replace them with lightweight alternatives?
The Query Monitor plugin is what you need. It lists the queries made by each plugin and the time taken to execute the queries.
If you find that a particular plugin is adding unnecessary requests, you can replace or deactivate that plugin.
Please note that the Query Monitor plugin itself isn’t lightweight either and you should deactivate the plugin once you have identified the resource-grabbing plugins.
How many plugins do you need?
From the above, you can see that you need 5 WordPress speed optimization plugins to reduce your website page load times: one each for caching, backend optimization, image compression and lazyload, database optimization, and HeartBeat API control. The Query Monitor plugin is completely optional.
But if you do not want to use so many plugins for increasing your website speed, you can just install WP Rocket, which takes care of caching, lazyload, database optimization, and HeartBeat control, and install one additional plugin for image compression.
Of course, I would also recommend the very useful Perfmatters plugin to further reduce your WordPress page load times and speed up your WordPress backend.
Recommended WordPress performance plugins:
- WP Rocket
- EWWW Image Optimizer
So, 3 plugins along with the use of a free CDN like Cloudflare will make your WordPress website run at warp speed.
Tell us if you liked this list of the best WordPress speed optimization plugins and which plugins you use for increasing your website speed in the comments below.
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