WordPress page speed plugins

Best Free WordPress Plugins To Speed Up Your Site

March 1, 2022

WordPress is the most popular CMS software on the planet, and with its wide selection of plugins and themes, you can use it to easily build just about any kind of website. However, without taking page speed into consideration, you can also easily slow your site down.

Some people incorrectly assume WordPress websites are always slow. However, this isn't the case. With just some free plugins, you can take your slow WordPress site and fix some common page speed issues in just a few clicks. Here are the top plugins to speed up any WordPress site.


Table of Contents


WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache is a free plugin for WordPress that enables caching for your HTML content. The plugin generates static files for your pages, so WordPress won't have to regenerate pages each time they're requested. 

This will significantly reduce your server load and speed up your time-to-first byte, and is an easy way to speed up your pages. Every WordPress website should always have a cache plugin installed, and WP Super Cache is one of the best cache plugins.

Other popular free cache plugins include Cache Enabler, W3 Total Cache, WP Rocket, and WP Fastest Cache. If you're using OpenLiteSpeed for your web server, you should use LiteSpeed cache instead, and remove any other WordPress caching plugin. However, for Apache, a cache plugin like WP Super Cache is a must 

Autoptimize

The Autoptimize plugin serves a few different purposes. This is an essential plugin for us when we're optimizing any WordPress website.

First, it will concatenate your CSS into a single file, and concatenate your JavaScript into another single file. Combining separate files speeds up your site performance by reducing the number of HTTP requests. Although with HTTP2 configured on your webserver, the overhead for making additional requests is reduced, concatenating CSS and JavaScript files still is faster.

Not only does this plugin combine CSS and JS files, but enables CSS and JavaScript minification. This removes unneeded whitespace from the files, and for JavaScript, uses some extra tricks to further reduce the file size without sacrificing any functionality.

This plugin also can enable image lazy loading. Especially for pages with many images, lazy loading is one of the biggest things you can to do speed up your site. Lazy loading works by changing the default behavior of images.

Rather than loading all of the images on the page at once when you first load a page, your browser will only load images as the user scrolls down the page. Since images tend to be the largest files on a page, this makes a huge difference to lazy load them.

This plugin has some bloat removal options as well. It can disable WP emojis and disable Google Fonts. If you're looking for an alternative, then WP Super Minify will handle the concatenation and minification.

WP Cloudflare Super Page Cache

With just a free Cloudflare account, this caching plugin lets you take advantage of Cloudflare's cache functionality for your HTML content. You should install an other cache plugin as well, or use this plugin's built-in local caching functionality, but the Cloudflare Super Page Cache plugin will speed up your site even more.

Cloudflare is CDN, or content delivery network, that has servers in various locations around the world. Their servers are located closely to ISP equipment, meaning with Cloudflare you'll get lower time-to-first-byte than even a fast server nearby.

Unlike Cloudflare's official WordPress plugin, this plugin only needs a free plan. It also integrates with many other common WordPress plugins, making it a better choice than the official plugin.

This plugin will set up Cloudflare to cache your HTML pages, so requests to your site can entirely skip your server, and the files can be served directly from Cloudflare. Your entire site can be served from the CDN, meaning your page speed isn't depending on your host or server configuration options.

While it does something similar to other caching plugins, you should still set up caching on your own server. This ensures that in the worst case, a user visits your site from a region where Cloudflare doesn't have your page cached yet, they'll still get it reasonably fast.

Cloudflare also has more features for pro accounts. It's able to resize images, convert images to WebP, delay loading of JavaScript, and minify your site's code. Even with just the free version, you'll be getting very fast server response times. With all of these features, some only available on a Pro plan, this may be the single best WordPress performance plugin.

Asset Cleanup

Asset Cleanup is a free plugin that allows you to disable specific JavaScipt and CSS files from loading on a per-page basis. It gives you granular control over which assets are loaded on each page, or on each type of page, so that you're never loading in JavaScript or CSS files that go unused.

If you've done a good job of optimizing your site, then you won't have a lot of unused JavaScript and CSS being loaded in. However, even otherwise highly optimized sites can see a small benefit from this plugin. If you're seeing a message in PageSpeed Insights telling you to remove unused CSS, then this plugin might do the trick.

This plugin has some additional bloat removal options. It can remove things most sites won't need, such as WP emojis, dashicons, and unneeded tags in the head of your site. Be sure to try out these settings for an easy way to eliminate bloat and improve your website speed.

This plugin can also handle combining CSS and JavaScript files, but plays nicely if you have Autoptimize installed as well. It includes options for disabling common WordPress bloat, such as extra tags in the head of your page, Google fonts, and default WordPress CSS.

Another plugin that can handle this is called PerfMatters. This alternative does have a nicer user friendly interface. Howerver, this is a paid only plugin, and Asset Cleanup can do it for free.

WebP Converter For Media

This free plugin for WebP conversion is an easy way to speed up your site in just a few clicks. If you're seeing the message in PageSpeed Insights that you need to load images in next-gen formats, then this plugin will fix it. WebP is a newer format that can compress images further than JPEG or PNG.

This plugin will automatically generate a WebP version of every image you upload, given that the WebP version is smaller than the original. The plugin settings allow you to select the image quality to increase the level of compression (we like setting it to 75% to get the smallest files). When you set the plugin up, it will generate WebP versions for all existing images.

The plugin will configure your web server so these new versions are served to browsers that support WebP. While all modern browsers support the format, some older ones don't, so with this plugin, you'll get the speed boost on newer browsers, and fallback to the original images when necessary.

By upgrading to the premium version, you can also convert your images to the AVIF format. Converting to WebP is certainly good enough, however, if you're looking for that extra little bit of speed, then AVIF will apply even better image compression.

Async JavaScript

While the Autoptimize plugin will combine JavaScript files, and set the resulting bundle to load asynchronously, your site may still have third party JavaScript files that you need to load. It's best to avoid this whenever possible, but if you can't, the Async JavaScript plugin will reduce the impact of those scripts.

In HTML, script tags support two attribute for controlling the loading JavaScript, async and defer. This plugin will automatically set all scripts to use the async attribute, or if you'd like, the defer attribute. If you're not using any third party scripts, you may not need this, but if you are, it's highly recommended.

WP YouTube Lyte

YouTube iframes are a common reason for slow performance, and they really slow down any page by a lot. This plugin will automatically replace standard YouTube embeds with a placeholder that only loads the full video when clicked.

Since this plugin works by replacing videos with an image, if you lazy load images, then your videos will have no impact at all on the load speed, only causing the browser to load anything when needed.

In PageSpeed insights, you may notice the message for "facade available" if you've embedded a YouTube video in your page, along with many other warnings related to YouTube videos. Something like this plugin is what it's suggesting you should use to lazy load your videos.

WP Smush

Image optimization is one of the most important steps to page speed optimization. While it's best to optimize images before uploading to your site, if you already have a lot of unoptimized images, the Smush plugin can take care of automatically applying compression.

The free plugin is limited, and if you have a very large number of images on your site, you'll need to upgrade to the paid plugin. If you've optimized your images manually already, then this WordPress performance plugin isn't needed.

OMGF - Locally Host Google Fonts

If you're loading in third party fonts, such as from Google, then you should instead self-host the fonts to speed up your page load times. For every request to a third-party domain, your site slows down due to overhead from extra DNS requests.

The OMGF plugin will automatically download font files to your server, and replace your web fonts with self-hosted versions. For some plugins, such as Oyxgen Builder, you'll need to upgrade to the pro version of this plugin.

Alternatively, you use Google Webfonts Helper to locally host your fonts. This is a non-WordPress specific solution, so there's no plugins required using this method. Simply select your font, download the provided zip file and upload the fonts to your server, and add the provided CSS to to WordPress by navigating to "Customize" in the admin bar and "Custom CSS." You'll need to disable Google Fonts as with another plugin, such as Autoptimize or Asset Cleanup.

Webfonts can slow any site down significantly. Be sure to add "font-display: swap" as well. You should also avoid using icon fonts, such as Font Awesome, instead using SVG icons.

CAOS - Host Google Analytics Locally

If you use Google Analytics and are looking to remove every last third party resource from your pages, then this plugin can help. Rather than loading the JavaScript files for Google Analytics from Google's servers, this plugin will cache them locally on your server, and directly serve them to users.

Be sure to check in tools like GTMetrix and PageSpeed Insights, and compare to your current Google Analytics implementation. We've found that adding Google's JavaScript to the footer of the page and loading it with async can produce better results. There are many WordPress plugins for inserting snippets into the footer of your site.

AMP WordPress Plugin

AMP, or accelerated mobile pages, is Google's framework for making fast mobile pages. It supports a limited set of features that HTML normally supports. For the most part, you can't use any custom JavaScript, only what AMP makes available. With AMP, you can only load limited CSS and it must be inline. This limited feature set means your pages are likely to be reasonably fast.

Additionally, for mobile users coming from Google's search results, the pages will be preloaded and served from Google's AMP cache, meaning they'll appear to load much faster.

In our experience, it's possible to make pages that score even better than AMP with careful optimization. However, using WordPress's AMP plugin along with an AMP compatible theme can be an easy way to speed things up, if you're willing to possibly sacrifice some of your design and functionality.

WP Optimize

The WP Optimize plugin cleans up old data from your MySQL database. Over time, your database may become cluttered with old spam comments, settings from plugins that aren't being used anymore, or old post revisions. 

Your WordPress database becomes slower to access as the tables become more bloated. This plugin will clear out the bloat from your database. Slow database queries aren't the biggest issue for your site's speed, but in cases where a user visits a page that hasn't been cached, they'll be waiting on the database.

Conclusion

Page load times are very important for any website. Not only does page speed correlate to bounce rate, as users get frustrated and leave when a page takes longer to load, but with Google's Core Web Vitals, it directly impacts your SEO. A faster web page means happier users, and more sales, leads, and revenue. This is particularly important for mobile devices, which now account for over half of all internet traffic.

With a fast theme, or a fast page builder like Oxygen, along with a few simple plugins, you can achieve excellent page speed on WordPress websites. Ultimately, WordPress gives you full control over your site, and with a little work, you can even score 100/100 on PageSpeed Insights. These speed optimization plugins will get you on the right path. 

Our WP Speed Optimization course will teach you everything to know, along with the free resources we post on our blog here. We'll show you exactly how to set up WordPress for perfect page speed, configure Apache to enable GZIP compression, browser caching, HTTP2, optimize your images, and more. We hope this article helped, and if so, be sure to check out our other articles!


Written By 
Mason Wiley
My name is Mason, and I cofounded Fastify after years of experience with SEO and affiliate marketing in a highly competitive industry. I've worked through countless pages of documentation and ran countless experiments to find all the hidden secrets to making screaming fast pages.
menucross-circle