How to Optimize WooCommerce (Speed) – 8 Effective Steps

In this post I am going to tell you 8 effective ways that you can make your WooCommerce websites faster!

WooCommerce is a great platform for building an online store but out of the box, the performance is pretty poor. But fortunately there are a few simple things you can do, that can make your website load significantly quicker.

Get a Benchmark

There is no point making any changes to your site unless you know how your website is performing as it is currently. This is really easy to do as there are some great free tools online that can help you do this and what is really good is that they tell you what is causing your sites issues so that you can address them. Here are my three go to tools:

  1. Google PageSpeed Insights – you want to rank in google right? So you want to use their PageSpeed tool to see how they rate your sites performance.
  2. GTMetrix – a great free tool but if you want access to their global servers, then you will need to create a free account. Their waterfall is a fantastic analytic software that shows you exactly where your site is slow.
  3. Pingdom Speed Test – with Pingdom, you get access to all of their global servers without having to create an account. This tool gives you a detailed breakdown of what is causing performance issues on your site. This is also the tool I use when testing performance for my ecommerce reviews.

It is best to use these tools together as they all give you slightly different information to help you analyse your sites performance. At this point, don’t be to disappointed/angry/upset if you don’t get good results, you wouldn’t be reading this post if your site was performing well would you?

What Can You Change?

Every website is different so not everything in this list will apply to your site but it is still worth reading through the list as you there might be some things in here that could be really helpful.

Step 1: Use a Good Quality Web Host

Not all web hosts are the same and just moving from a poor host to a good one can make a huge difference in your sites load speed. I know this from first hand experience when I moved my ecommerce site to my current host Krystal, I saw a a near 50% drop in my page load speeds.

As there are hundreds of hosts that offer specialist WordPress hosting, it can be challenging to find the right one for your site. For me, the best places to do research on web hosts is review/advice sites such as this one, where you get the opinion of people who have spent a lot of time researching all of these things and in many cases testing them as well.

You also want to read reviews on websites such as TrustPilot, Google and Facebook (If they have a Facebook page). If a host isn’t very good, it won’t take you long to find out and on the flip side you will soon see web hosts that are loved by their customers.

Step 2: Upgrade Your PHP Version

Lots of people get scared by this one as it sounds very technical but honestly it is a really simple thing to do.

Some web hosts will do this for you automatically but most the ones I have used require you to do this yourself.

To upgrade your PHP, simply log into your CPanel and type in the search bar in the top right PHP Version (it is easier to do this than trying to find it manually) and then click on the Select PHP Version option.

Select PHP Version

You will then be taken to the section where you can change your PHP version. At the top of the screen it will tell what version you are currently using, if you are running the latest version then you don’t need to change anything.

If you are running an old version say 5.6 or 7.0, then you do want to upgrade to a newer one. Lots of people recommend going to the latest one but this can cause problems, especially if your theme or some of your plugins aren’t set up for the latest version.

From my experience upgrading to the version before that latest one is the best compromise between performance gains and not breaking your website.

Step 3: Remove Unused Themes and Plugins

Having a large number of themes and plugins installed that you are not using can have a big impact on your sites load speed. To remedy this, you want to have a clear out!

For themes, you only need the parent and child of the theme you are currently using. There really is no need to have any others installed.

The same goes for plugins as well, only have ones installed and activated that you are using and need in order for your site to work properly. If have plugins installed for one specific function, it is worth checking to see if another function you are using can do the same job.

Ideally, you only want to have a maximum of 25 plugins installed to help prevent bloating on your site.

Step 4: Use a Lightweight Theme

As with everything, they are not all created equal. Some themes can have a very detrimental impact on your sites load speed, this is usually down to poor quality coding. Where as a light weight, well coded theme can have the opposite effect.

You also want to be minimalist in your sites design as the more elements you have on the page, the more stuff that needs to be loaded.

Page Builders

This is as good time to talk about page builders, I used to use page builders regularly for my homepage, info pages and blog posts but I saw between 0.5 and 1 second improvements in load times when I switched to the new Gutenberg block editor.

If you are using page builders such as SiteOrigin or Elementor, it may be worth doing some testing as to whether switching to Gutenberg could improve your sites performance. Most page builders allow you to use their widgets in the new editor, so you can still have really well designed pages.

Step 5: Use an Optimisation Plugin

WordPress code isn’t that well optimised and that will be evident when you start running performance tests on your site. Fortunately there are lots of great plugins out there that can help you optimise your website and they range from very simple, easy to use ones to quite complicated and in-depth ones.

When looking for an optimisation plugin, the first thing to do is check what kind of servers your web hosts use and see if there is a plugin specifically for that. For example, Krystal who I am hosted with use Litespeed servers, so I use the Litespeed plugin to optimise my site.

If you can’t find a server specific plugin, then you will need to use a third-party one. One of the easiest to use is Autoptimize, I used this for a couple of years before I moved to Krystal and was able to get pretty good results from not very good hosting.

Autoptimize Plugin

It isn’t the most in-depth plugin but you can optimise your sites HTML, CSS and Javascript which will have a big impact on your page load speed. If you want to do even more then you can opt for paid for plugins such as WP Rocket which does far more.

When using an optimisation plugin, only change one thing at a time and then check your website to make sure it is displaying properly. There are some optimisations that don’t work with some themes and/or other plugins very well and can affect the look of your site. So always do optimisation in a step by step manner.

Optimise Your Database

Something slightly different to using an optimisation plugin for your websites code is to use and plugin to optimise your websites database.

WP-Optimize is one of the best and easiest to use, by clicking a few check boxes you can clean up your databases and remove any unwanted stuff that may be slowing your website down.

Step 6: Use a Caching Plugin

A caching plugin will go a long way to helping you reduce your websites load speed. There are lots of quite complicated explanations as to what caching actually is but it basically means that your website is served up faster from your websites servers.

WP Super Cache Plugin

Some optimisation plugins offer caching as well but others don’t and Autoptimize that I mentioned above does not. Setting up a caching plugin properly can be quite complicated and that is why WP Super Cache is a very popular option as you can set up simple rules that will have a big impact on your time or your can set up your own advanced rules.

The reason why I and many others recommend these two plugins together are that they are known to work well with each other, which means less potential headaches for you!

Step 7: Optimise Your Images

Having large images on your site that haven’t been optimised for a website can take a long time to load and that is why you need to optimise them!

Really, you want to be doing a combination of offsite and onsite image optimisation. Offsite can be done with the likes of Adobe Photoshop, using the save for web feature. Online tools like Canva also produce optimised images as well, which is great.

Smush Image Optimisation Plugin

To optimise your images on your WooCommerce site, you want to use an image optimisation plugin. Some general optimisation plugins will do this for you but I think one of the best tools is Smush. Once you have set it up, it will automatically optimise them when you upload them. It does add a little time to the upload process but it is definitely worth it.

The file type you use for your images also has a big impact on this size of the image and the bigger the image, the longer it takes to load. PNG images are higher quality but also generally have a much larger file size, especially on big images. The best compromise between quality and image size that I have found is JPEG images saved in high quality.

Step 8: Lazy Load Your Images

Lazy load is a great function, especially if you image heavy pages as it only loads the images that the visitor is going to see. It won’t load images further down the page until they start to scroll down, this can reduce page speed time quite a bit, especially when you combine it with optimised images.

You can install specific plugins to do this but most optimisation plugins will have this feature including Autoptimize and Smush. You only want to enable this feature in one plugin though to help avoid any conflicts between the plugins.

Conclusion

These 8 steps are what I have done to all of the WooCommerce sites I have ever ran and I haven’t had many complaints about my websites performance, so I know they do work. I also apply a very similar set up to my blog sites such as this one.

The thing you do need to remember when doing performance optimisation to your website is that it is a marathon, not a sprint. Go through each step and do testing using the tools mentioned at the very start to see what improvements making that change has done to your site.

If you do them all together, you won’t know what has worked and what hasn’t. It may take a few days to work through all this and get it sorted but it will definitely be worth it in the end. Not only will search engines like your site more because it is fast but so will your customers.