Digital Soleutions

website wednesday

How To Speed Up Your Website

WordPress is a great platform. One weakness that it suffers from, however, is it can be quite slow. Without taking the right precautions, you could end up with a sluggish site. That’s not only a hassle for repeat visitors but will cause you to lose subscribers and customers.

When a person lands on your site for the first time, you only have a few seconds to capture their attention to convince them to hang around. Get ready to lose sleep at night: according to a report by the Microsoft Bing search team, a 2-second longer delay in page responsiveness reduced user satisfaction by 3.8%, increased lost revenue per user by 4.3%, and a reduced clicks by 4.3%. If your site takes too long to load, most people are gone, lost before you even had a chance. Not only that, but Google now includes site speed in its ranking algorithm. That means that your site’s speed effects SEO, so if your site is slow, you’re now losing visitors from impatience and reduced rankings in search engines. Yikes.

Let’s fix that.

1. Use an effective caching plugin

WordPress plugins are obviously quite useful, but some of the best fall under the caching category, as they drastically improve page load time, and best of all, all of them on WP.org are free and easy to use.

By far my favorite, bar none, is W3 Total Cache, I wouldn’t recommend or use any other caching plugin, it has all of the features you need and is extremely easy to install and use.

Simply install and activate, and what your page load faster as elements are cached.

2. Optimize images (automatically)

Yahoo! has an image optimizer called Smush.it that will drastically reduce the file size of an image, while not reducing quality.

However, if you are like me, doing this to every image would be beyond a pain, and incredibly time-consuming.

Fortunately, there is an amazing, free plugin called WP-SmushIt which will do this process to all of your images automatically, as you are uploading them. No reason not to install this one.

3. Optimize your WordPress database

I’m certainly getting a lot of use out of the word “optimize” in this post!

This can be done the very tedious, extremely boring manual fashion, or…

You can simply use the WP-Optimize plugin, which I run on all of my sites.

This plugin lets you do just one simple task: optimize your database (spam, post revisions, drafts, tables, etc.) to reduce their overhead.

I would also recommend the WP-DB Manager plugin, which can schedule dates for database optimization.

4. Optimize your homepage to load quickly

This isn’t one thing but really a few easy things that you can do to ensure that your homepage loads quickly, which probably is the most important part of your site because people will be landing there the most often.

Things that you can do include:

  1. Show excerpts instead of full posts
  2. Reduce the number of posts on the page (I like showing between 5-7)
  3. Remove unnecessary sharing widgets from the home page (include them only in posts)
  4. Remove inactive plugins and widgets that you don’t need
  5. Keep in minimal! Readers are here for content, not 8,000 widgets on the homepage

5. Use a content delivery network (CDN)

All of your favorite big blogs are making use of this, and if you are into online marketing using WordPress (as I’m sure many of my readers are) you won’t be surprised to hear that some of your favorite blogs like Copyblogger are making use of CDN’s.

Essentially, a CDN, or content delivery network, take all your static files you’ve got on your site (CSS, Javascript, and images etc) and lets visitors download them as fast as possible by serving the files on servers as close to them as possible.

I personally use the Max CDN Content Delivery Network on my WordPress sites, as I’ve found that they have the most reasonable prices and their dashboard is very simple to use (and comes with video tutorials to set it up, takes only a few minutes).

There is a plugin called Free-CDN that promises to do the same, although I haven’t tested it.

6. Use CloudFlare

This is similar to the section above on using CDN’s, but I’ve become so fond of CloudFlare since I discussed it in my best web analytics post that I’ve decided to include it separately here.

To put it bluntly, CloudFlare, along with the W3 Total Cache plugin discussed above, are a really potent combination (they integrate with each other) that will greatly improve not only the speed but the security of your site.

7. Add LazyLoad to your images

LazyLoad is the process of having only the images above the fold load (i.e. only the images visible in the visitor’s browser window), then, when reader scrolls down, the other images begin to load, just before they come into view.

This will not only speed your page loads, it can also save bandwidth by loading less data for users who don’t scroll all the way down on your pages.

To do this automatically, install the jQuery Image Lazy Load plugin.

8. Add an expires header to static resources

An Expires header is a way to specify a time far enough in the future so that the clients (browsers) don’t have to re-fetch any static content (such as CSS file, javascript, images etc).

This way can cut your load time significantly for your regular users.

You need to copy and paste the following code in your root .htaccess file:
ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/gif A2592000
ExpiresByType image/png A2592000
ExpiresByType image/jpg A2592000
ExpiresByType image/jpeg A2592000
The above numbers are set for a month (in seconds), you can change them as you wish.

questions?

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