5 Critical WordPress Plugins for Optimal Site Speed (FREE)

After months of experimenting with various combinations, I came up with the perfect set of WordPress plugins that gives me optimal site speed.

Here’s the five free WordPress plugins and settings you need to improve your PageSpeed Insights score and speed up your WordPress website.

5 best WordPress plugins for optimal site speed

Prior to discovering these WordPress plugins, my website was crawling slow. I had pretty terrible PageSpeed Insights scores. My first contentful paint was a lousy 4.4 seconds for the example page below.

However, after installing the following WordPress plugins, my page speed score improved drastically.

  1. W3 Total Cache
  2. EWWW Image Optimizer
  3. Autoptimize
  4. a3 Lazy Load
  5. WP Disable

Instead of seeing a 4.4 second first contentful paint, I was now seeing 2.4 seconds. All other metrics also improved dramatically. I went from a 49 PageSpeed Insights score to 91.

I also saw similar website performance improvements on all of my other webpages.

Improve Google Pagespeed Insights with WordPress plugins

It’s for that reason that I decided to share with you these WordPress plugins and the settings I use to get my website running at an optimal site speed. Although most of these plugins have premium paid versions, the free versions are more than sufficient in speeding up your website.

1. W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache WordPress plugin

Although there are dozens of features within the W3 Total Cache plugin, I found the default W3 Total Cache settings to work the best for me. In other words, after installing and activating W3 Total Cache on your WordPress site, you don’t need to change any settings. The default setting will work just fine out of the box.

This WordPress cache plugin reduces page load time by caching web pages. For those who aren’t familiar, caching pages is the practice of storing pages in such a way that allows for faster future serving.

2 .EWWW Image Optimizer

EWWW Image Optimizer WordPress plugin

Images tend to be one of the largest assets on a webpage, so image optimization is very important. Not only will the EWWW Image Optimizer plugin make your pages load faster, but it will also reduce bandwidth.

Again, the default EWWW Image Optimizer settings worked the best for me. I kept the default pixel perfect compression setting which is essentially a lossless compression technique. This means that your images—wether PNG, JPG, or GIF—will look the same but have a much smaller file size.

The best part about this WordPress image optimizer plugin is that it can automatically optimize all the images that you have already previously uploaded to your website.

One last tip I will leave you with is that I always pre-compress my WordPress images by uploading them to compressor.io. This not only reduced disk space usage, but allow you to fix the annoying “properly size images” suggestion on PageSpeed Insights.

3. Autoptimize

Autoptimize WordPress plugin

Yet another WordPress plugin that will make your website load faster is Autoptimize. Among other features, Autoptimize minifies your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript pages.

What does minifying mean? Simply put, minifying is the act of removing unnecessary or redundant code without changing its behavior.

The Autoptimize plugs minifies your website by getting ride of code comments, extra whitespace and formatting, and removing unused code. In doing so, the size of the webpages that are delivered from your server to the client are reduced, and therefore load faster.

The Autoptimize settings that you want are to enable optimization of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

Autoptimize WordPress settings

4. a3 Lazy Load

a3 Lazy Load WordPress plugin
When you understand a bit about how the internet works, this lazy loading image plugin makes a lot of sense. You see, typically when someone navigates to a page on your website, all text and images on that page must be sent to the user’s computer or phone before he can use your page–even the ones that you have to scroll down to see. On a page with multiple images, this could take a long time to download everything, especially on slow connections.

That’s where a3 Lazy Load comes in. Rather than downloading all images at once, this WordPress plugin only downloads the visible images on the user’s screen. Consequently, pages load much faster, and images download only when the user scrolls to make them visible.

Click here to see the a3 Lazy Load settings that I use for this website. In general, I enable lazy loading of all images, videos, and iframes. In addition, I enable script load optimization for the footer.

5. WP Disable

WP Disable WordPress pluginThe last plugin on this list of WordPress plugins to optimize your site speed is WP Disable. This plugin allows you to disable a number of WordPress features that you otherwise may not be using.

For example, if you don’t want your server to send emojis to your visitors, you can enable the “disable emojis” option and have your visitors’ browser display emojis locally. Additionally, WP Disable can minimize requests and load Google Fonts and Font Awesome asynchronously.

One funky thing about this plugin is that although it’s called WP Disable, it’s installed as Optimisation.io.

Click here to see the WP Disable requests settings and here for the tags settings that I use for this website.


As always, if you have any questions about the WordPress plugins that I use, let me know in the comments below. Also, if you need help optimizing your site speed, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

About The Author

With a strong software engineering background, Tony is determined to leverage the internet to positively impact as many people as possible. Discover why Tony quit his dream job to pursue this mission. You can send Tony a message here.

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