Do you have a WordPress blog that is slow to load in a web browser?
If so, I recommend that you take steps to speed it up right away, for two important reasons:
1 – Most people will only wait a couple of seconds for a web page to load before clicking the back button and going to a different website.
That means if your blog’s pages load slowly it’s a good bet that many of your potential readers aren’t hanging around to read your posts.
2 – Google is now actively penalizing slow loading pages via their search algorithm. That means fewer visitors will find your blog when they search for a term that’s relevant to it.
Luckily, there are several things you can do to speed up your blog so it can reach its full potential:
1 – Hosting – First of all, you need to choose a good web host for your blog. As with most things in life, all hosting companies aren’t equal when it comes to quickly and efficiently serving web pages.
A great web hosting company will place your blog on a fast, capable server that uses solid state drives (SSDs) instead of hard drives. It will then manage your server’s resources and keep everything updated to ensure the fastest page load times possible while protecting your blog from hackers.
There are several awesome hosts out there, but in my opinion DreamHost offers excellent value in terms of fast hardware and excellent customer service in relation to the price (plans start at less than $3 per month).
Note: I use inmotion Hosting to host all of my blogs for the reasons stated in this post. But for a blogger with just one or two blogs I recommend a Dreamhost WordPress hosting plan due to its lower cost.
2 – Plugins – Keep the number of plugins you use to an absolute minimum. Every plugin you install on your blog will slow it down a bit, and it doesn’t take very many of them to bring your blog to a crawl.
My rules of thumb for the number of plugins is simple: If a plugin doesn’t add real value to my blog or if the value it adds can be implemented without using a plugin at all, I don’t install it.
In general, I try my best to keep the number of installed plugins below a dozen or so, but that isn’t written in stone. Use the plugins that you truly need and skip the rest.
Now that I’ve told you to limit the number of plugins you use, I’m going to tell you about a few that you should absolutely install on your blog. How’s that for a contradiction?
3 – Caching – In my opinion, every WordPress blog should be taking advantage of a good caching plugin.
In a nutshell, a caching plugin creates a static HTML version of each of your blog’s pages. It then serves those faster loading HTML pages to your blog’s visitors to prevent your server from having to assemble the pages from scratch every time they are requested by a different visitor.
If your blog is typical, you’ll be amazed at how much faster your blog loads after you have installed a caching plugin.
There are several great caching plugins out there, but the one I recommend for most bloggers is WP Fastest Cache due to it’s relative simplicity and great performance.
Note: If you move your blog to a Dreamhost “Starter” WordPress hosting plan or higher you won’t need to install a caching plugin because server-level caching is built right in.
4 – Images – Whenever possible, I recommend that you use the smallest images you can get by with in your blog posts.
Images are one of the heaviest drags on page load times, therefore it really pays to keep them as small as possible.
When I say small, I’m talking about two different attributes: the width and height of the image and the number of bytes contained in the image file.
You can easily limit an image’s width and height by resizing it using your favorite image editor. Simply load the image into the editor and resize it to the desired dimensions.
Making an image smaller automatically reduces the number of bytes in its image file, but you can reduce its file size even more by optimizing it.
An amazing plugin called WP Smush.it will squeeze every unnecessary byte out of your image files, making them as lean and fast loading as possible.
Using WP Smush.it is easy. Simply install the plugin and click the Bulk Smush Now button to begin optimizing the images that are already in use on your blog.
The free version of the plugin will optimize 50 images at a time so you might need to click the button several times to finish optimizing all of them. New images will be optimized automatically as they are uploaded.
5 – Optimization – Just as with images, it’s also possible to optimize your blog’s code by eliminating white space and unnecessary characters from your blog’s files. I won’t go into much detail on this one, just know that it works.
There are several great plugins for this task, but the one I recommend most often is WP Super Minify due to it’s relative ease of use.
Important: Since this plugin actually changes the structure of your blog’s files there’s a possibility that it can cause issues with your blog or even cause it to stop loading correctly. I strongly recommend that you create a full backup of your blog before installing and using WP Super Minify.
6 – Security – Hackers are constantly seeking out WordPress blogs to break into and deface or use for any number of illicit activities. A good security plugin in essential, and I actually use two of them.
First, I use WordFence Security to secure my blogs from a wide variety of threats. I also supplement WordFence by enabling Two-Factor Authentication on all of my blogs with the awesome Google Authenticator plugin.
7 – Content Delivery Network (CDN) – Using a CDN can dramatically speed up your blog by storing copies of your blog’s pages on multiple servers that are located all around the globe.
The CDN will serve your blog posts to users from the server that’s physically closest to them, reducing the amount of time it takes for the data to be transferred from server to browser. It will also reduce the load on your own web server since many of the pages requested won’t have to be handled by your server at all.
As with most everything else, I have a preference when it comes to CDNs. I use and recommend Cloudflare.
Bottom line: Keeping your blog running smoothly and loading as quickly as possible is critical to its overall success. The tips mentioned above can help you speed up your blog dramatically.
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