8 of the Best Plugins for Optimizing WordPress Site Performance

Adrian Try
Adrian Try

How do you avoid having a website that’s as slow as molasses? Our last article detailed ten techniques for optimizing your WordPress performance. This follow-up post is a quick reference of the best plugins that satisfy your need for speed.

We’ve covered eight of the best plugins that cover all the bases. We’ve also listed almost two dozen alternatives so you can explore which best suit your needs. Dive in and see what makes the most difference to your site.

If you’re following our WordPress Maintenance Checklist you’ll probably already be using some of these plugins. Keep it up! That cruft will continue to accumulate.

Have we missed your favorite plugin? How has it helped? Let us know in the comments.

1. W3 Total Cache

  • Cost: free
  • Active installs: 1+ million

This plugin provides Easy Web Performance Optimization (WPO) using caching—caching of posts and pages to memory or disk, caching of feeds, search result pages, database objects and minified CSS and Javascript files. To get the most out of it, spend some time configuring it carefully.

W3 Total Cache can also work with your CDN (like Cloudflare or MaxCDN) to further improve load times.

W3 Total Cache improves the SEO and user experience of your site by increasing website performance, reducing download times via features like content delivery network (CDN) integration.

Alternative caching plugins include WP Super Cache, Hyper Cache, WP Fastest Cache and Cache Enabler.

If you prefer to avoid using plugins, a good option for you would be to look for a hosting provider that will do the caching for you. Our partner SiteGround has a great caching tool, developed in-house, that can help you drastically boost your website speed.

2. WP-Optimize

  • Cost: free
  • Active installs: 600,000+

This free plugin will optimize your WordPress database with the click of a button, or automatically with its built-in scheduler. Redundant information like spam comments, post revisions and other trash items will be cleaned from your mySQL database, speeding up how quickly your site loads.

WP-Optimize is an effective tool for automatically cleaning your WordPress database so that it runs at maximum efficiency.

Alternative database optimization plugins include Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions, WP Cleanup, WPOptimize, WP Database Cleaner and WP-DBManager.

3. Autoptimize

  • Cost: free
  • Active installs: 300,000+

Poorly structured CSS and HTML will result in a slow site and lost traffic. This plugin scans and tweaks your site, “minifying” and removing redundant code.

To prevent compatibility conflicts, Autoptimize can ignore your other plugins. It can also force your plugins to run in a specific order. By experimenting with this, you might be able to drastically improve your loading times.

Autoptimize makes optimizing your site really easy. It concatenates all scripts and styles, minifies and compresses them, adds expires headers, caches them, and moves styles to the page head and can move scripts to the footer.

Alternative plugins that minify include WP Super Minify and Better WordPress Minify.

4. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)

  • Cost: free
  • Active installs: 100,000+

Bad plugins can adversely affect the performance of your site. P3 will evaluate yours. It will identify the plugins that have the biggest impact on your site’s load time, and display them in a pie chart so you can easily see which tweaks will make the most difference.

This plugin creates a profile of your WordPress site’s plugins’ performance by measuring their impact on your site’s load time.  Often times, WordPress sites load slowly because of poorly configured plugins or because there are so many of them. By using the P3 plugin, you can narrow down anything causing slowness on your site.

Alternative plugin-related plugins include Plugin Organizer.

5. WP Smush

  • Cost: free and premium from $19/month
  • Active installs: 700,000+

This plugin compresses images by stripping metadata from JPEG files, optimizing JPEG compression, converting certain GIFs to indexed PNGs and stripping the unused colors from indexed images. You can set it up to automatically compress new images when they’re uploaded to your site.

WP Smush is fast, and performs well. Files are compressed using dedicated servers, and it’s recommended by the site performance tool GTmetrix.com.

Resize, optimize and compress all of your images with the, incredibly powerful and 100% free WordPress image smusher, brought to you by the superteam at WPMU DEV!

Alternative image compression plugins include EWWW Image Optimizer, Imagify, Kraken Image Optimizer, ShortPixel Image Optimizer and CW Image Optimizer.

6. Lazy Load

  • Cost: free
  • Active installs: 90,000+

This plugin makes sure images are loaded only when they are visible above fold. It doesn’t require configuration and works out of the box.

Lazy load images to improve page load times. Uses jQuery.sonar to only load an image when it’s visible in the viewport.

Alternative lazy load plugins include jQuery Image Lazy Load WP, BJ Lazy Load, Rocket Lazy Load, Unveil Lazy Load and Lazy Load for Videos.

7. Imsanity

  • Cost: free
  • Active installs: 100,000+

Rather than offering lossless compression, this free plugin automatically resizes images to a more “sane” resolution. It’s able to set a maximum width, height and quality of images, and can convert BMP files to JPG.

Imsanity automatically resizes huge image uploads down to a size that is more reasonable for display in browser, yet still more than large enough for typical website use. The plugin is configurable with a max width, height and quality.

8. WP HTTP Compression

  • Cost: free
  • Active installs: 5,000+

This plugin compresses your pages in the gZip format (if the browser supports compressed pages). HTTP compression can reduce the size of your pages by 60-80%, allowing pages to load three or four times faster.

This plugin allows your WordPress blog to output pages compressed in gzip format if a browser supports compression.

You can also enable gZip compression from W3 Total Cache mentioned above, or in the settings of your web host’s control panel.