Speed up your WordPress Blog

Besides content, I think the speed your site loads is the second most important factor in sales conversion.  Yes, content is still king – uhm, queen.  Why?

  1. People do not wait for web pages to load.  There are plenty of other sites in the Internet sea.
  2. Google uses your site speed as a factor in ranking your site.
  3. Search engines won’t visit your site as often to rank it.
  4. Slow sites means more data is being used (think of phone data usage).

How fast do your web pages load? Test it out at WebPagetest.  Google Page Speed Online and Yahoo! YSlow will display graphs and identify problems so you can identify your biggest hitters.

Why is Mobile usage important? Think of how people arrive at your site.Over 50% of mobile phones are smartphones. They are commonly used to email and social media statuses.You want them to click on your links and enjoy their visit.

1. Optimize the web site’s code, stylesheet, and template

In most cases, you can shave a significant amount of time off your speed by making changes to the code and template files.  Have your web master or designer:

  • Clean up your theme’s stylesheet and remove duplicate and unused CSS tags.
  • Compress your images as much as possible.
  • Use CSS sprites instead of individual images for your bullets, buttons, backgrounds, etc.  The CSS Sprite Generator tool is awesome for this.
  • Use text instead of images when you can.  They are faster.

2. Upgrade to the latest version of WordPress

First, old versions of WordPress are not only less secure, but slower than the current version.  With each version, tweaks are being made to the code to speed it up and make it more secure.  Also, the code is enhanced to work with different browsers.

So… maintain your WordPress site, but upgrading when appropriate.

CAUTION: Take a backup first and have someone experienced do this (a) if the site has not been upgraded for over a year, (b) for major upgrades to ensure there are no conflicts with your template or plug-ins or (c) if you have never done this before.


3.  Use WordPress plug-ins wisely

WordPress plug-ins can hinder the speed a site loads.  Use the WordPress plug-in, P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler), to identify which plug-ins are your bandwidth hogs.

  • Do your really need that plug-in?  Review your active plug-ins with your web master periodically.
  • Turn off plug-ins you are not currently using.  Plug-ins like Plugin Performance Profiler, Exploit Scanner, WP Optimize, and some backup utilities are only used occasionally.
  • Uninstall plug-ins you don’t really use.
  • Replace slow loading plug-ins or ones that haven’t been updated in a year with an alternative.
  • Does it make sense to use HTML instead of a plug-in to display the information?  Even the simple plug-ins like those that display Social Media links may slow your site down.

4. Use a Caching Plug-In

A caching plug-ins will create static HTML pages out of WordPress posts and pages so that they load faster.  This means when a visitor goes to a web page, the server isn’t running all the WordPress and plug-in code it takes to display that page.

There are several great ones out there. WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache are the most used.  Sometimes, your theme or a plug-in can conflict with the caching plug-in you use so you may have to use a different one.  Overall, I run into less conflicts with WP Super Cache.


5. Watch out for affiliate banners

Remotely loaded affiliate banners, especially rotating ones, can really slow your site down.    Remember, you are relying on your affiliate’s server to display it.   By removing one off my site, it reduced my loading speed by half.

Affiliates like to have you load the banners remotely because they can analyze affiliate traffic and they can change the promotional banner in the future and it will automatically reflected on your site.

  • Use the affiliate’s static link.
  • Save affiliate image files and load them on your server.  You may need to ask for permission.
  • Create your own banner ads, get them approved by the affiliate and display them on your site.

6. Optimize your images and streaming media

Image, audio and video files are exponentially larger than HTML and text.

The image file of a photograph you take with your camera will be very large.  They are taken at a minimum of 300 ppi (pixels per inch).  300 ppi is the resolution you need to print it and have it not look grainy.  The images you see on your screen and in your browser are displayed at 75 ppi.

Most users will upload a photo they snapped or an image they purchased and resize it in the WordPress editor (or other web design software).  Resizing an image in this way does not reduce the size of the file.

  • Resize the images in your image editing software to the maximum width in pixels you will display it on your web page.
  • Save the image using the export to web option in your image editing software and then upload it to your web server.
  • (optional)  Check out WP Smush.it, a WordPress plug-in, that compresses images in your media library.  Depending on your site setup, this plug-in may not work.

The video and audio files used to stream media should also be analyzed and compressed to be as small as possible.

Really think about whether you need HD.  It takes up more file space, costs more to stream, and uses up more of your user’s bandwidth.  You will see your support calls go up because many people do not have a fast enough Internet speed to watch them uninterrupted.  Some of your users don’t live in the city.  Other city dwellers are imposed with a monthly bandwidth limit by their Internet Service Provider.


7. Use a content deliver network for static content

(optional) 

Many sites (like this one) do not use a content delivery network (CDN), such as Amazon S3, and have fast loading sites.  In fact, we only use a CDN for video and audio streaming and file downloads in order to conserve bandwidth used with our hosting company.

Why does a CDN improve the speed of a site?  CDNs usually have a bigger pipeline (bandwidth) to deliver content faster than your hosting company.  Also, you can use a CDN to mirror your static content on servers in different countries.  This means someone in Europe is accessing a server in Europe rather than one in the United States.


 What about your Web Hosting Provider?

Yes, it could be them.  Your web hosting provider uses a bunch of wires and cables that connect the server your website is hosted on to the Internet backbone (another set of cables).  Think of these cables as the water pipes in your house.  There is a limit to how much water can go through your pipes any given second.  A skinny pipe lets less water through than a wide pipe.

Another consideration, for those on shared hosting contracts, is how many websites are on the same server as you.  The cables to the server are not only handling your traffic, but also the traffic of the other websites hosted on it.


Resources

This article is by Ricki Steigerwald

Ricki is our lead Wordpress developer and Owner of Just2Technical. She has been working with Wordpress since 2007 and has over 20 years of formal web development experience. She works with both simple informational Wordpress sites and large complex stores and paid membership sites. Read Ricki's Full Bio

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