WordPress is a popular and powerful platform. Over 409 million people use WordPress, viewing more than 17.6 billion pages PER MONTH, (according to WordPress.com). As much as 19% of the web now runs on WordPress, as of July 2013. Users of this awesome content management system range from independent bloggers to big businesses. However, if you’ve been troubled with slow loading pages, you are not alone.
How do you know if your site’s speed can or should be improved?
It’s intuitive by now: you know you only have a few seconds to capture your visitors’ attention. Slow loading landing pages will discourage the impulse-driven folks that we all are, and we will simply be off to the next site listed on our search results page if your page has trouble downloading that killer graphic you spent $300 on!
Some great tools to measure your sites speed include:
- Google PageSpeed – Google is the king. Quickly get a snapshot of how your site loads on a variety of browsers by using Google PageSpeed Insights. Simply type in your website URL and Google will give you a speed score based on 10 criteria along with suggestions on how to improve loading times on mobile and desktop browsers.
- GTMetrix – This is a quick way to see how your site is doing by assessing how individual pages perform in different situations. For instance, you can see how quickly it loads from a mobile device or what access speeds are like in other countries. You can test pretty much any variable here.
- Pingdom – A website speed test that analyzes loading speeds of your website from multiple locations and provides tips on how to improve your site’s speed.
Google has now included site speed in its ranking algorithm. Affecting your SEO, so if your site is slow, you are not only losing visitors out of impatience, but you could also be losing them by having reduced rankings in search engines.
How to Speed up WordPress
1. Use Fast WordPress Optimized Web Hosting
Web hosting companies have come a long way in catering to WordPress customers. Looking for a recommended fast WordPress host? CastironHosting.com uses A2 Hosting because of their reliability and speed. I opted for their SSD hosting plan which uses solid state drive technology for the server’s OS, MySQL databases, and other files. You want a hosting plan on an uncrowded and properly configured server that’s optimized for WordPress, with the latest technology to speed things up.
2. Your WordPress Framework/Theme
The default, Twenty Ten/Twenty Eleven “framework” are quite light frameworks to use. Consider learning a bit about how to customize them for your site’s use. When researching themes, look for words like ‘minimalist’, ‘lightweight’, or ‘optimized’. Find some sites built with these (often the designer will have a demo site built) and run it through the Google Page Speed Test mention above.
3. Don’t Go Plugin Crazy
If you have installed dozens of plugins and your site is slow, your main culprit is most likely a plugin (or three!). Put as much time into researching your Plugin’s reputation and speed as you do your theme.
- Delete any inactive plugins that you do not need.
- Make sure all your plugins are up-to-date.
- Identify plugins that are potentially slowing down your website with the P3 – Plugin Performance Profiler.
Helpful Plugins For Speed
Make sure GZIP compression and deflation are enabled for your website. You can reduce your file sizes up to 70% with this method, which is no small change when it comes to speed. If you’re not sure if it’s enabled you can use this simple tool to find out: CheckGZIPCompression.com
If it’s not enabled you can use this WordPress GZIP Compression plugin or talk with your web hosting provider about enabling it for you.
Once you’ve streamlined your plugins run your site through the Google Page Speed test again.
4. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
But not if your visitors don’t ever see it! Be sure you are not uploading the HUGE RAW images your camera took or the high quality images you bought for print advertising. Those files will slow your site down immensely.
Yahoo’s image optimizer called Smush.it will drastically reduce the file size of an image, while not reducing quality. However, if you are like me, doing this to every image is not efficient. Thankfully, there is a free plugin called WP-SmushIt that optimizes your uploaded images automatically. It’s well worth installing.
5. Make Some Simple Adjustments to Optimize Your Pages
- Show excerpts instead of full posts.
- Reduce the number of posts on the page (between 5-7).
- Remove unnecessary sharing widgets.
- Remove inactive plugins and widgets that you don’t need.
- Keep in simple!
6. Optimize WordPress Databases
If you are updating your WordPress website on a regular basis, your database is growing. Over time, just like your home computer, the data gets jumbled up and disorganized. This slows performance when it takes longer to sort through and find the data a visitor is requesting. Optimizing removes unnecessary data and increases the speed of retrieval.
Database Optimization Plugin: WP-Optimize – Removes all the trash and unused post revisions, and can be set to automatically do its job.
7. Minifying Your Code
8. Consider Using a Content Delivery Network
A content delivery network, or CDN, is essentially a network of servers geographically dispersed to make it easier and faster for visitors to your site to access information. This would be especially helpful if your site is hosted in the US and most of your visitors are accessing the site from, say, Europe. Having a server site in Europe will allow the information to be accessed much more quickly by your European visitors.
Now, it may seem that a CDN would be difficult and expensive to implement. But not true! Consider a couple of solutions: MaxCDN (starts at $9/month) and CloudFlare (free and paid plans). Both are easy to configure and you can use CloudFlare for free, so, there’s not a big risk in trying a CDN to see if it improves your site’s speed. Be sure to measure speed before and after configuration and of course, it’s a good idea to use all the free techniques before resorting to premium plugins.
Finally, there are many more things that go into speed optimization, but simply put, don’t overload each page with unnecessary information, images or video. If page speed is a problem, addressing the issue first with your hosting company (if you have a shared account, you need to consider an upgrade) then with your site.
This handful of items will increase your website performance. Be sure to run the checker FIRST before applying any changes. Consider running it after each step. Document the amount of speed you gain with each tactic. Doing so may enlighten you and help when building your next great website or expanding the current one.
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