To speed up your website, is to have happy visitors and happy Google, isn't that true? A website that loads fast for its visitors gains credibility and traffic much faster than those that do not. So, how do we do that?
Maintaining your WordPress blog itself is a task that needs regular attention. On top of that, publishing fresh content on a regular basis is a task enough to easily keep you busy for a few hours.
But what is the point of writing fresh, well written and exciting content if your visitors aren’t happy about the way your website loads? What is the point of putting so much hard work into design and content if Google is not happy because your website loads too slow?
You and I both know that website speed is important. Also, as you continue to put more and more content and images into your website, the load on your server increases and your website becomes slow. We also know that slow loading of your website hurts your SEO, as it is one of the factors Google uses in the ranking process.
When you are running a WordPress powered website, you can be on top of the game with some awesome plug-ins and a few tips and tricks. You can speed up your WordPress, optimize your resource usage and also, protect yourself against some vulnerabilities.
Speed Up WordPress To Make Your Website Load Faster
Before you follow this tutorial and start using some of the awesome plugins and services to speed up your WordPress and improve your website loading time, I have two questions to answer for you:
Is it going to be a quick fix? No.
Will it break something on my website? Probably! And if you aren’t confident that you can do it, seek help from someone you think knows the stuff.
I think that it’s better to do this exercise and to fix any glitches, once and for all, so your visitors and search engines can have good feeling about your website. Don’t you think?
I am now going to share with you a few awesome WordPress plugins and a few optimization tips for WordPress that is going to help you speed up your website and keep your readers happy. I am speaking from experience and I know these will help you because they have certainly helped me.
1. First, Know How Fast Your Website Loads
To be able to know whether or not you are making progress as you walk through this tutorial, you need to know the current loading time of your website. You need a tangible way to measure your improvements along the way, don’t you?
However, I prefer to use these online services for that purpose and I think they are not only easy to use, they are fun to use as well:
All of these services give you slightly different numbers and recommendations and that is why I use them all. But if you are just starting, you can begin with one and have fun testing your website’s loading speed.
Make a note of the information you gather by testing your website through these above services. Things like, page size, page load time, YSlow grade etc. That way, you will be able to track your progress as you follow this tutorial.
2. Save Pictures in the Right Format
A picture is worth a thousand words and so, we all love using images on our websites. Our readers also love pictures along with search engines. However, it is important to make sure the pictures you are loading in your website, are optimized.
Image format is an important aspect of your overall website optimization work. There are only three most popular image extensions – .png, .jpg and .gif. But what you should do is, based on the type of picture, either use .jpg or .png because these are the most optimal image formats.
Since .jpg is the smallest in size when it comes to pictures taken with a camera, I prefer to use this format. However, if I create a graphic or add some text to images (such as quotes and things like that), then I save it as .png and .jpg both and whichever has smallest size without losing quality, I use it.
If you don’t pay attention to the image formats, this can make your website images bulky and unmanageable as your website grows. It’s a good idea to be smart about it right from the beginning.
3. Do Not Make WordPress Resize Your Images
Whether you get your images from image repositories or you shoot your own pictures, usually the images are pretty larger in dimensions. However, the width of your website (and your blog content area) is usually much smaller when compared with the image width.
If you load your images in AS IS condition, you force WordPress to resize your image to fit your window which is a lot of work at the time of page loading. You don’t want to put that stress on your server.
So, it is important that you resize your image to the exact width and height that you desire for it to have when it is displayed on your web page. You can use any image editor such as Photoshop for resizing your images. I use Paint.Net which is a free program and it does a great job.
Once you have resized the image, upload it and when you are inserting it into a page or a blog post, make sure you select the “Full Size” option so the dimension is specified correctly for the page to load the image without trying to resize it again.
4. Install WP Smush.It To Optimize Your Website Images
In spite of above two steps, images are still one of the things that cause most of the page loading time delays for your website pages. So, there is a bit of more optimization that is still possible.
Even though you have the correct dimensions of the image specified and have resized it to fit correctly before uploading it, it is also important that you use images in such a way that they are of the smallest possible file size without losing image quality.
Let’s understand this a bit more.
Usually, any picture contains along with it a lot of additional information such as information about the camera, the lens used, date and time etc. This piece of information isn’t really needed along with your image when you are loading it on your pages.
So, in order to optimize your images to strip out extra information, you need WP Smush.it plugin which is designed to use the Yahoo! API to reduce the size of your images without losing any quality as soon as you upload an image to your blog.
Do you think this will help you improve your website page loading time? You bet!
Once you have installed the plugin and activated it, go to your WordPress Admin Dashboard and go to Media > Bulk Smush.It option. Use this to smush all the existing images in your media library. Please note that the service will smush images that are less than 1MB in size. It doesn’t work with larger images.
5. Install & Configure W3 Total Cache WordPress Plugin
Unless you have a membership website (where things get a bit more complex), you need a caching mechanism for your website no matter how much traffic you have. Otherwise, imagine how much load your server has to go through each time somebody is trying to access your website.
What a cache plugin like W3 Total Cache does is, it simply saves the pages rendered by the web server whenever somebody accesses the page for the first time and then shows it to the next user. That way load time is significantly reduced for the cached pages because the server doesn’t have to compile the whole code every time a user visits a page.
While the detailed settings of this plugin is beyond the scope of this tutorial (and I am planning another post about that in near future), you can learn about configuring W3 Total Cache by visiting this article by Ansh.
6. Empower Your Website With CloudFlare Rocket Loader
A few months ago, I wrote a blog post specifically about CloudFlare and how much difference it made to my website’s loading time. If you would like to read more about it, check out this post.
CloudFlare works really well and configuration of CloudFlare becomes very easy when you have W3 Total Cache installed.
CloudFlare not only brings security benefits to the table, but also a basic CDN service that allows your website pages to load much faster using the distributed network of servers that CloudFlare uses around the world.
Last but not the least, the Rocket Loader of CloudFlare is the reason why CloudFlare is so awesome. You enable Rocket Loader and if things work out well, you will see instant improvement in your website’s loading performance by at least 50% on most cases. And guess what? All this for free!
7. Host Objects On Your Server Instead Of Hot-Linking
Although it’s not possible to completely avoid this without losing on a few features, you should pay attention to this aspect as much as possible.
Whenever you include an object such as a script or an image, the browser needs to serve an additional DNS request for that website. This usually adds to the page loading time. That means, if you can host that code or that image on your own server, you reduce that http trip for your reader’s browsers helping your website load a bit faster.
For example, when you are promoting an affiliate product or a service, it is a good idea to not just copy and paste the code that is given to you. Instead, look if the code refers to an image and if it does, download it, optimize it using Smush.it and then upload it to your blog. This will help you be in control.
8. Split Comments Into Multiple Pages
If you are getting a lot of comments on your blog, it simply means you are having a good engagement and it’s a great thing to happen. Congratulations!
However, you may want to split your comments onto multiple pages because loading all comments in a single go will cause your page to load much slower. Also, loading all comments in one page makes your page too large.
You can set the option to break comments into multiple pages using your WordPress Admin dashboard by going to Settings -> Discussion menu item.
9. Reduce The MySQL Overhead By Leveraging WP-CONFIG
Some of the things that WordPress does by default causes your website to do unnecessary lookups into your MySQL database adding to the overhead. Some of those lookups can be reduced by leveraging your wp-config.php file located under your website’s home directory (usually the /public_html directory under your website’s root).
Also, when you are editing your blog posts and pages, WordPress keeps storing post revisions which occupy a lot of space and eventually slow down your MySQL performance.
Here are a few things you can add in your wp-config.php file to reduce some of those overheads:
/*** WordPress URL Settings to avoid database call each time. ***/
define('WP_SITEURL', 'http://www. YourWebsite.com');
/*** Disable post revisions and keep your database clean ***/
WARNING: If you don’t understand this, then it is not for you. Do not do something you do not understand because it can break your website.
10. Limit The Number Of WordPress Plugins Installed
If you don’t know it yet, this is your opportunity to know that the more plugins you have installed, the more overhead your website is going through. While plugins are installed for a reason, it is important to know which plugins are really needed and which ones can be removed.
If you have a few plugins that are not serving a great deal, it is a good idea to get rid of them and help your website speed up a bit more.
You should know that deactivating your plugin will not help. Even if you deactivate a plugin, it is still loaded in memory. So, if you don’t need a plugin, you need to remove it completely.
11. Optimize Your MySQL Database Regularly
Depending upon your publishing schedule and the comments engagement, you may decide to do this on a weekly basis or on monthly basis. However, optimizing your MySQL database is an important activity to help speed up your WordPress website.
There are two ways to do it and either way should work fine. One way is to use a free plugin called WP Optimize (or any other similar plugin) and the other option is to use the phpMyAdmin tool from your cPanel account.
If you choose to use the plugin, the work is simple. Activate the plugin and then go to Tools > Optimize DB menu item and click on Optimize Now. That’s all. It will optimize your database tables momentarily and you are done!
I prefer the other option because I don’t want to add another plugin to my website just for this purpose. This method requires me to log into my cPanel account and then start the app called phpMyAdmin.
Once phpMyAdmin is started, select all the tables by clicking on the check boxes on their left hand side and then scroll down to the bottom of the page. You should now be able to choose the Optimize Table option from the drop-down menu. Select the option and this will optimize your database size.
12. Empower Your Website With A CDN Service Like MAXCDN or CDN77
There is a reason why I mentioned this option last. And the reason is simple – it’s requires you to allocate budget to do this (although it’s not much).
I don’t want to explain a lot here about this topic because I already wrote two detailed posts about the importance of using a CDN and how much impact it makes on your website’s overall page loading speed. For your reference, I am providing the links to those posts here so you can check them out:
- Blazing Fast And Secure Website Using MaxCDN And CloudFlare
- How To Increase Your Website Speed With CDN77 And CloudFlare
As you see, I wrote about two CDN service providers through those two posts and both are great providers with great prices. I use MaxCDN for the obvious reasons that they are the best as I found out through experience. However, CDN77 is also a great service with great support.
You will see an immediate improvement in your website loading speed when you implement a CDN service.
As you follow these steps, you will not only make your WordPress stronger, secure and better, you will be able to give a better experience to your website visitors as well. When your WordPress website loads faster, Google will like it too and you will see improvement in your search engine rankings as well.
Therefore, it’s worth the investment of your time and efforts to get this done. I highly encourage you to pay attention to the details I’ve just shared with you and I am sure you will be glad you did.
Over To You – Share Your Thoughts/Questions/Experiences
Having shared a few important WordPress optimization techniques, I would like to know if you have already done some of it and what kind of improvements did you see. Would you like to share your experiences?
If this is your first introduction to this concept and you want to speed up your website, you may have some questions. Please use the comment section to ask your questions and I will try to be as fast as I can be to get you an answer.
Thank you kindly!