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Question from Sam.: Hello Rick. I need some advice if you don’t mind.
I ran some page speed tests on my blog and found out that it takes almost 8 seconds for my home page to finish loading.
I know I need to make my pages load faster but I don’t know what else to try.
I’ve already removed all but the most important images from my posts and cut the number of WordPress plugins from 37 down to 24.
I’ve noticed that your Rick’s Daily Tips blog loads lightning fast. What did you do to get the pages to load so quickly?
Rick’s answer: I’m glad you’re interested in making your blog load as quickly as possible, Sammy. While 8 seconds sounds like a very short period of time, it’s actually an eternity in Internet time!
To answer your question, there is no single tweak that will make a blog load in a flash, but there are several things you can do that will work together to really speed things up:
1 – Choose a good web host for your blog.
Hosting your blog on a fast and secure server is the most important thing you can do to ensure speedy page load times.
If your server takes its time in assembling and delivering your pages to your visitors’ browsers then nothing else you can do will ever cause your page load times to decrease to an acceptable level.
Some hosting companies try to squeeze as many websites onto a shared server as they can to maximize their profits, and when that happens it makes every site on that server load at a snail’s pace.
If you suspect that an over-crowded server is bogging your blog down (and it sure sounds like it might be), I recommend moving it to a faster server with a well-respected hosting company.
For the money I don’t believe you can beat inmotion Hosting because they use super-fast SSDs on all their servers. They also have amazing customer service and tech support (which is why I use them to host all of my blogs!).
2 – Keep the number of plugins to an absolute minimum.
Every plugin you install on your blog slows it down a bit, and I believe you still have far too many on your blog. Going from 37 plugins to 24 probably made a noticeable improvement, but I believe cutting the remaining 24 in half would work wonders.
It’s true that plugins can add some great features to a blog, but it’s important to always ask yourself if the benefits of a plugin outweigh the extra drag it will place on your page load times.
Do some research on Google and see if you can find one or two plugins that can replace several other plugins that you’re currently using. For example, the awesome Jetpack plugin from Automattic will replace at least half a dozen other plugins that are commonly used on many WordPress blogs.
3 – Use a high-quality caching plugin.
As you probably know, WordPress stores the actual content of your blog posts, your blog’s theme files and other page components in separate files instead of a single “flat” HTML file.
That means every time a visitor requests a page from your blog the WordPress engine has to assemble all of those pieces and parts into a single page before it can be sent over the Internet to the visitor’s browser.
That assembly process takes time, and that extra time means your pages load slower in the visitor’s browser than they really need to.
A good caching program will create and store static copies of your blog’s pages and deliver them to your visitors instead taking the time to assemble them again. I know I said it’s best to limit the number of plugins you use to just these essentials, and a caching plugin is one of them!
There are several great caching plugins to choose from, but I use and recommend WP Rocket because it works extremely well and it’s very easy to install, set up, and use.
And on top of all that, it’s simply the best caching plugin I have ever used. Note: Read this post for my full review.
4 – Use small images and keep them to a minimum.
You’ve probably noticed that most of the posts on this blog contain just one image, and it’s pretty small. Using just one small image in most of my posts is one of the secrets to this blog’s fast page loads.
Another trick I use to make my pages load quickly is to compress the images I use in my posts to squeeze every unnecessary byte I can out of them.
There are a number of tools you can use to compress your images, but I recommend using a fantastic plugin called Smush that will automatically compress your images as they are uploaded (without causing them to look bad).
5 – Use a Content Delivery Network.
A Content Delivery Network (aka CDN) has servers in various places around the world that store copies of your blog’s pages and deliver them on your blog’s behalf.
Once your blog has been set up to work with a CDN, visitors will receive the pages they request from the closest server instead of from your own server (which could quite literally be half way around the world from the visitor’s computer).
The less distance and the fewer hops a page has to to travel through, the faster the page will load for the visitor.
There are several well-known Content Delivery Networks to choose from, but I use and recommend Cloudflare.
Note: It’s worth checking with your hosting company to see if a CDN is already integrated with your hosting plan. If so, all you’ll need to do is click a link or two in your host’s control panel to enable it on your blog.
6 – Use a high-quality theme.
One huge advantage WordPress has over other blogging platforms is the thousands of themes that are available for customizing your blog and making it your own.
While there are tons of free themes you can install with the click of a mouse, if you’re serious about your blog I strongly recommend that you go with a high quality theme framework such as Genesis or Thesis. Update: Genesis is now free – and highly recommended!
While some free WordPress themes are well-designed, fast to load and secure, many others are not. Going with a commercial theme framework will ensure that you’ll receive regular feature and security updates and (usually) a faster blog to boot.
7 – Keep your WordPress installation, your theme and your plugins up-to-date.
Automattic releases updates to core WordPress files fairly often, and so do the major theme and plugin authors.
Some of those updates add new features and capabilities to the software, but many others fix bugs, patch security holes and/or optimize the code for faster execution. That’s why I recommend that you install new updates as soon as possible after they are released.
Bottom line: Having a fast-loading blog is critical to your success as a blogger, especially if you want your blog to be a source of income for you and your family. The steps mentioned above can help ensure that your WordPress blog will always load as quickly as possible.
Bonus tip: This post explains how to protect your blog from hackers by enabling Two-Factor Authentication on the Login page.