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The “Holy Grail” of WordPress Site Speed: Sub 1-second Page Loads Worldwide

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Huzzah! The “Holy Grail” of WordPress Site Speed!

I didn’t think it was possible. But I finally got my WordPress website to load in <1s from anywhere in the world. It took a lot of time and work to get the moving parts right. And though I’m here to tell the tale of my discovery, this journey was not without cost.

I endured many “flesh wounds” (more like wounds to my pride) while troubleshooting, testing, and retesting over the course of many weeks.

Please say you get the reference

Some nights I barely slept.

I HAD to get this figured out. But not just for my own benefit.

All the time and energy I sank into this project was to be able to share this WordPress configuration with you now.

My hope is you’ll be able to get fast WordPress page load speeds with far less effort than was required for me to get these results.

I’m not a developer. I don’t write custom PHP or JavaScript. I’m just a WordPress guy who gradually acquired some great tools and figured out how to make them cooperate to deliver some impressive results.

Here’s how I did it, in a nutshell. I used a combination of:

  • Premium managed hosting by Flywheel
  • Premium, professionally developed WordPress optimization plugins
  • FREE, but little known plugin called Flying Scripts
  • FREE Cloudflare account utilizing Page Rules for edge caching worldwide

All plugins/tools are linked further down this post for easy reference.

The “Holy Grail” WordPress Configuration for Sub 1sec. Page Loads: Hosting, Plugins, and Cloudflare [11:36 duration]

a.k.a “The Short Version”

“^That’s the short version??”, scoffed the reader. “Sure is”, laughed the author. Clearly uncomfortable knowing there’s a longer video* 😵‍💫

How I Got My WordPress Website to Load in 1 Second or Less From Anywhere In The World (Long Version) [36:22 duration]

a.k.a. “Big Boy”, “The Long Version”, “Francis” <– jk

The “Holy Grail” WordPress Page Speed Tech Stack

  • Flywheel Managed WordPress Hosting
  • WP Rocket – Page Caching, Asset Optimization, DNS Pre-connect, Pre-load fonts (locally hosted in my case), enable WebP caching
  • Perfmatters – WordPress Script Manager and Performance Booster (it does A LOT of good things)
  • GeneratePress Premium – Ultra Lightweight WordPress theme
  • Toolset Types & Blocks – used to create Custom Post Types and templates, on my site
  • Toolset is not relevant to the “Holy Grail” configuration. But this plugin deserves attention as at the time of this writing (Summer 2020), it’s currently the *only Gutenberg-compatible block plugin that supports dynamic content from custom types and custom fields. And I think more people need to know it’s out there.

Free Plugins in the Tech Stack

  • Flying Scripts – Javascript load-delaying magic – the “Holy Grail” wouldn’t be what it is without this plugin and its developer’s guidance on Cloudflare Page Rules. This plugin and a free Cloudflare account alone are the bare minimum someone could do to improve load times on their site with minimal effort. As of 2021 WP Rocket and Perfmatters each offer this delay Javascript functionality. But at the time of writing this post (Summer 2020), Flying Scripts was the only plugin of its kind offering this functionality.
  • Kadence Blocks – Lightweight Gutenberg Blocks – though hardly, if at all, mentioned in these videos – this set of Gutenberg blocks is killer. Plenty of styling controls and lightning fast. I actually use the Pro version because it comes with some extra pre-styled blocks that saved me a lot of time on my website redesign. If you look through the available Pro blocks, you’ll recognize some of their pre-built sections throughout my site.

How to Speed Up WordPress

To make any WordPress site load as fast as possible, you need the following tech stack and actionable optimizations:

  • Solid, premium WordPress hosting like Flywheel
  • Lightweight theme like GeneratePress or Kadence
  • Free Cloudflare account w/ Page Rules for Edge Caching
  • WP Rocket (caching plugin)
  • Perfmatters (asset optimization and script management plugin)
  • Flying Scripts plugin (free option to delay JavaScript not required for page load – WP Rocket and Perfmatters are paid options that also offer this feature)
  • Minimize the number of fonts used or use System Fonts if you’re really looking to speed things up (zero requests)
  • Locally host 3rd party assets when possible, particularly Google Fonts and Google Analytics
  • Preload any locally hosted fonts
  • Pre-connect to external domains delivering 3rd party assets where relevant
  • Use SVG icons in lieu of JPG/PNG icons
  • Compress and properly size all images, delivering in next-gen formats like WebP if possible (the WebP Express plugin is great for this). But I’m now personally using the pro version of EWWW Image Optimizer and making use of the EasyIO CDN (Bunny Net). Here’s the free version of EWWW if you want to take it for a spin.

That list could go on and on… But I’m going to leave it be. Does it bother anyone else that the list stops at 12 points instead of 10? (you may not have been counting the arrows, but I did)

Pair the Holy Grail tech stack and recommendations above with a little insight on how to make all those pieces work together, and you’re guaranteed to have a fast-loading WordPress website.

For a more comprehensive guide on optimizing WordPress websites for speed, this article on the Perfmatters site is a “must bookmark” item:

WordPress Performance Checklist by Perfmatters.io

Read that^ and action everything you can.

Buy the Perfmatters plugin and you’ll have an easy time checking off all the performance optimizations mentioned in their article. Go figure, right?

Seriously, it’s one of my favorite plugins. You should get it. Like. Right now.

The “Holy Grail” WordPress Site Speed Course: Launched August 9th 2021

The Holy Grail WordPress Site Speed Course launched August 2021.

You’ll need the Perfmatters plugin as well as WP Rocket to follow-along with my WordPress site speed course (see the bottom of this page for details)

The course outlines a premium solution for optimizing WordPress page load times. It won’t be for everyone. But if you acquire the premium plugins mentioned in this post and companion videos, you won’t regret your investment – especially once you learn to use them to their maximum potential in the course.

I can’t emphasize enough how much ANYONE could benefit from implementing the free tools mentioned in this post and videos. You’re leaving seconds on your load times without them.

For further WordPress optimization study, I highly recommend you check out WP Speed Matters. Gijo’s blog is full of super helpful tutorials, many of which I’ve implemented on this site.

There’s even a WP Speed Matters Facebook group where the topic of discussion is always site speed. All day, every day. Swing by and see what you can learn from or teach to those in the group.

“Holy Grail” WordPress Speed Stack vs. JAMstack and Headless WordPress Configurations

If you try this or a similar configuration on a different host or with some different tools than I’m using, I’d love to hear about it.

I’m looking to make this configuration better over time. So I’d love to hear if you would do anything differently.

I think a fair comparison between my setup and anything else should include images and text on the page.

A static WordPress setup is stupid fast and virtually impossible to compete with from a traditional, dynamic WordPress website standpoint. So I’m not necessarily looking to compare speeds between this setup and static WordPress installations.

So again, I’m not looking to compare the Holy Grail configuration to static WordPress setup using headless WordPress or JAMstack. But if you’re interested in looking into that stuff, Cloudflare has a great article on JAMstack. And their impressive Workers technology behind their approach to this is super intriguing. I’m sure I’ll experiment with it in the near future.

Shifter and Strattic are two of the top player in the headless/static WordPress hosting world right now. But I’m thinking Cloudflare Workers will be the way to go for me when I get around to deploying and testing static WordPress sites.

Adam Preiser at WP Crafter has a nice summary of the Pros and Cons of Static WordPress Hosting if you’d like to determine if Static WordPress could be right for you.

Improving the Holy Grail Site Speed Configuration

Do you have a similar, nay I say, better cocktail of hosting and plugins? Do you have any recommendations that might make this tech stack better? If so, drop me a message via my contact page. We’ll talk shop.

The “Holy Grail” WordPress Site Speed Course: Mini Course

The free mini-course is available. It’s be a few short videos that will help you get the Holy Grail site speed configuration working on your website. Sign up for it below.

A paid course is also available for those who want even more granular teachings around WordPress site speed and performance optimizations.

It’s perfect for anyone who’d like a step-by-step walkthrough of how to implement the more manually-intensive components of the Holy Grail configuration for their own or clients’ websites including:

  • Locally hosting and preloading Google fonts
  • Optimal Cloudflare configuration plus Page Rules for Edge Caching
  • How to read waterfall charts in any website testing tool
  • How to find opportunities for asset preloading and DNS pre-connect for external 3rd party requests
  • How to identify Javascript that can be delayed, not just deferred, until after page load
  • Other stuff

Sign up for the FREE mini course. If you like the free stuff, you’ll absolutely love the paid course.

You can preview the course syllabus for the mini course and full paid course before signing up if you like. This same opt-in form can be found on the syllabus page.

Holy Grail Site Speed Mini Course Enrollment