HomeWordPressWhat Is GZIP - Simple Ways To Implement WordPress Compression

What Is GZIP – Simple Ways To Implement WordPress Compression

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Are you looking for ways to speed up your WordPress site? GZIP compression is one of my favorite approaches. But what is GZIP in WordPress? I will explain this and walk you through the details of this topic.

What is GZIP Compression?

I am sure you have used Zip software like WinZip in the past. You would’ve used them to reduce attachments to smaller files for purposes of emailing convenient-sized files. GZIP is something similar.

GZIP is software that compresses and decompresses files. Gzip is a file format (.gz) that goes by the same name. GZIP reduces the size of your site’s pages, scripts, and cascading stylesheets. This size reduction helps during transmission on the internet.

The GZIP program was created to replace the patented compression programs. Unix Systems held those patents. Mark Adler and Jean-loup Gailly originally authored GZIP to make it available for free.

Like WordPress, GZIP was created to be used with GNU, i.e., open-source and free. The letter “G” in GZIP stands for “GNU.”

How does GZIP Improve WordPress Site Performance?

Your website visitors access it through their browsers. The browser requests relevant files from the WordPress web server. GZIP compresses the files before transmitting a response to the browser. Compression reduces the file size, and that makes the internet transfer faster.

The files received in the browser are decompressed. It is then rendered for the end user. This process makes your website load faster and better. In addition, this automatically leads to better WordPress site performance and Core Web Vitals metrics.

There might be situations where the browser does not support GZIP decompression as it is based on the Deflate Algorithm. In this case, the server does not compress files before sending.

GZIP Compression Process
GZIP Compression Process

GZIP helps WordPress administrators maintain good site performance metrics. There are several other techniques to speed up your WordPress site. I would recommend you consider one or more of the following:

  1. Content Delivery Network (CDN) / Better Hosting
  2. Minification of Javascript & CSS
  3. Lazy loading of Images
  4. WordPress Cache
  5. Optimized Video hosting

GZIP vs. Brotli

Brotli is one more compression algorithm available for WordPress sites. It is relatively new compared to GZIP. While running tests between Brotli and GZIP compression, the significant findings are:

  • Brotli does a better job of compressing files. It can achieve a better compression ratio for static files.
  • GZIP uses lesser resources to compress and decompress data. In addition, GZIP is faster because of its streaming algorithm.

Most web hosting service companies default to enable gzip compression method. It is also easy to set up if you prefer plugins.

CDN service providers like Cloudflare and KeyCDN optimize compression with Brotli. So, if you subscribe to their services, it should be straightforward.

Why Is GZIP Compression Preferred for WordPress Sites?

Here are five great reasons why GZIP became popular:

  1. Speedy Compression & Decompression: The speed at which GZIP achieves compression and decompression is unmatched. This differentiates GZIP from other compression algorithms. The speed of page load time makes it valuable for website applications.
  2. Excellent File compression ratio: GZIP programs can compress small files by approximately 70%. In larger text-based scripts, compression goes as high as 90%.
  3. Needs low memory: This matters for a heavy website with high traffic. Server resources could get stretched. GZIP’s need for low memory helps.
  4. Broad Support: GZIP is supported by nearly all hosting servers and browser clients. It doesn’t matter which server you use to host your website. You can speed up its performance by activating GZIP.
  5. Free and open source: This program was created to replace patented compression technologies. GZIP is available under a GNU license and can be used freely by anyone.

How To Check If GZIP Compression Is Enabled?

There are three ways to find out if your site is already serving compressed content.

1. Browser check

In Chrome, navigate to the top right corner Menu > More Tools > Developer Tools > Network Tab.

  1. Refresh the web page.
  2. The browser logs all the Network details within the Developer Tools window.
  3. Click on the webpage Name.
  4. On the right window, scroll down to the Response Headers section (see screenshot)
  5. The GZIP header Content-encoding: gzip indicates that the contents were compressed with GZIP.

Similar options are available in other browsers like Firefox & Edge.

GZIP Header in Chrome
GZIP Header in Chrome

2. Speed Testing reports

You can see it in the most popular WordPress speed testing tool results. The report mentions if compression is enabled on your website or not. For example, the screenshot below is from the Google PageSpeed Insights report.

Compression indicator in Google Pagespeed Insights report
Compression indicator in Google Pagespeed Insights report

3. GZIP Compression online Test Tools

Online GZIP compression test tools allow you to check for WordPress compression for free. You only need to type in the URL to test. The below screenshots are results from Giftofspeed and Whatsmyip.

GZIP Compression result on Giftospeed
GZIP Compression result on Giftospeed
GZIP Compression result on Whatsmyip
GZIP Compression result on Whatsmyip

How To Set Up GZIP Compression for WordPress?

Now that you have understood the fundamentals of GZIP, I will touch on how to use gzip for WordPress sites.

Webhost’s setup for GZIP Compression

Web hosts like Kinsta, Siteground, and Godaddy enable WordPress GZIP compression. It is available by default as the performance benefits are too compelling to ignore.

In cases where it’s not a default setting, you can review the documentation. You may also need to log a support ticket to know how to enable it. It should be a simple process.

WordPress plugins for GZIP compression

Finding a good plugin created just for Gzip compression might be challenging. But the good news is that many popular speed optimization plugins incorporate it. As a result, it is now a standard feature.

For example, consider caching plugins like WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache. They enable GZIP compression automatically when activated. In others, like WP Super Cache, you can quickly turn it on by clicking a check box in Settings.

GZIP Compression by Code Update

You can manually enable WordPress GZIP compression by editing a single file on your server. However, I would not recommend this approach unless you are very tech-savvy.

The file to be edited is a sensitive server file. One mistake can create complex problems to fix. Therefore, before editing this file, you should back up the entire site and the original file. Make sure that you are covered in case something goes wrong.

If you are using Apache Server, locate the .htaccess file. You may use an SFTP tool like Filezilla or the online file manager provided by your host. The file will be there in the root directory of your WordPress website.

If you are using a Ngnix server, you need to locate the nginx.conf file

I found the code snippets on Kinsta website particularly well written. The code / gzip command can be directly copy/pasted into the relevant files.

Conclusion

GZIP compression is your go-to approach for efficient file compression. It plays a critical role in improving WordPress site performance and SEO.

You can set up GZIP by leveraging the Web hosting service provider’s settings. WordPress plugins and manual code updates are the other options. Finally, with this understanding of GZIP, you can decide how to implement it for your WordPress site.

The compression ratio is not a measure of a compression algorithm’s effectiveness. Its speed and efficiency in data compression also matter. GZIP is the preferred choice over Brotli due to this reason.

You may also like:

How to Install WordPress Plugins in Three Ways

How to Enable Object Caching in WordPress

The Art of Minimalist Website Design

 

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Prashant Shetty
Prashant Shetty
Prashant Shetty is a Technology Industry Veteran with 20+ years of experience in the field. He loves reading, music, and blogging about technology in the context of Life. He craves for a cup of sugarless black masala tea and is a religious runner.

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