15 Ways to Speed up Your WordPress Site
WordPress is one of the most powerful blogging platforms. And I love WordPress, but I have to admit that one of its drawbacks is website speed.
As my blog following grew, my WordPress site slowed down. I wanted to blame my host, but I knew there was more to it than that. So, I dug into the nitty gritty to find out what was wrong with my blog and I found out there was a lot wrong. A lot.
Before running and making major changes to your blog, it's probably a good idea if speed is really an issue.
How to Find Out if Your Blog is Slow
Finding out you have a slow blog is easy. You could visit it on a browser you seldom use. Or, you could do it the more legit way: The Google Page Speed tool. Simply type your blog URL into the field, hit submit, and out pops an answer!
Do you have a slow website?
Why Page Speed Matters
You might be thinking, "Well if WordPress is known to slow things down, why should I care? I mean everyone else's website is slow." True that. There are a lot of slow sites. And hey, Internet speeds are faster these days so why do you need a fast site? These are great reasons to be slightly apathetic about your blog's speed, but there are plenty of reasons you should be concerned.
Google cares. That's enough for me! If you have a slow site, you're pushed down in the search engine results. True story.
I care. Pretend for a second that I'm Joe Visitor. If I visit your website and it's not loading for me, I probably won't stay long.
Do you remember how junked up MySpace profiles could get? I knew this girl who would put little countdown dealies and glitter graphics on her MySpace page (remember them?) Each piece of code had extra junk on it like a link to some glitter graphics website and the girl never cleaned up the code and was always adding more and more code. She also wanted to play a song on her profile so I got the opportunity to hear five seconds of a pretty terrible song before my browser crashed. I wouldn't visit her page unless I HAD to. Don't be that girl.
Mobile visitors care. I have 4G in my area which is 1 arbitrary unit of G better than 3G, but browsing on my phone can still be pretty slow. And you can't ignore your mobile visitors because, holy cow, have you looked at your site stats lately? They take up a HUGE chunk of the market.
How Fast is Starwars.com?
How to Speed Up Your Blog
Now that you're sold on getting your blog up to speed, let's get to it. There are different things you can do to reduce load times, but it's really up to you to decide which of these options will work best for your blog.
1. Get Faster Hosting
You'll want a web host who is up to speed on things (literally.) In addition to this, you'll want a host with next to nil in the downtime category. Hunt around when you're looking for a host. Ask other bloggers who they use and ask if they're happy. Make sure to ask about load times, but also ask about their customer service.
I use NameCheap and the speed is decent. Not great, but it could be a far worse scenario. Their downtime is pretty low and their customer service is phenomenal. I chose them because they have a great price. However, I've heard that people have been super thrilled with BlueHost, WPEngine, 1and1... the list goes on. There are some not-so-great hosts around too. Seriously do not be afraid to ask around.
2. Get Rid of Excess Widgets
I'll come across blogs here and there that share badges for their favorite blogging group and have a few ads and little widgets. That's fine. However, there are some folks that have like 20 badges, 9 ad units, about a billion little widgets loading, and a partridge in a pear tree. If my computer's fan kicks on when I'm trying to load your page, you can bet I'm outta' there.
There are some really tasteful ways to do widgets. Do the minimalist thing. As a visitor I do like widgets. I think it really gives personality to a blog. However, please don't put so many ads up on your page that I start to realize you're kind of using me. And I don't need to know where your last ten visitors came from.
3. Optimize Images
Having giant, crystal clear images is a great way to get your blog posts all over social media. As a blogger, this is exactly what you want! However, you'll want to optimize your images in order to speed up your blog. If you've run your url in Google's magic page speed box, you may have seen something about optimizing images. So what does that mean?
When you optimize your images, you remove all the extra stuff you don't need while not making any changes to the quality of your images. That way, you still have those amazingly crystal clear images that do awesome on Pinterest while also having a lightning fast website.
Smush.it is a free plug-in that will do all your image optimization as you upload images. In addition to this, you can go into you image library and optimize images you already have uploaded to your blog. Smush.it will strip meta data from JPEGs and optimize JPEG compression, convert certain GIFs to indexed PNGs, and strip the unused colors from indexed images.
4. Ditch Disqus & Other Complex Commenting Systems
I'm a little sad about this one. Disqus is a really fun commenting system and it has a beautiful, clean form. However, sometimes it stalls when I'm loading a page, which means I can't comment. Other times it just takes so darn long to load.
Like I said, I like using Disqus, so I'll comment on blogs that use it. That said, I've also heard complaints from people that they can't comment on blogs that use it because they can't get it to render correctly. I've heard from others that it just plain sucks. I ended up ditching Disqus because of others' complaints and I'm pretty happy using CommentLuv instead. It's really your call on this one.
5. Show Excerpts on Your Homepage
Showing excerpts instead of entire posts on your homepage gives your blog a really nice, crisp minimalist look. And it helps your blog load more quickly.
Aside from a more quickly loading website, showing excerpts might increase impressions. If a user sees a post they're interested in reading, they'll click to open it. If you already have the entire post on your front page, then it'll likely be a one-page visit. Plus, visitors will more easily see multiple posts. That way, if your latest post isn't really their thing, they might see a different post and stick around for a while.
6. Enable Lazy Load
Have you ever visited a website that loads parts of a page as you scroll down? That's what lazy load is. I'm personally not a fan of lazy load, typically because some sites really abuse it (I really don't like how HubPages implemented it.)
7. Remove Excess Social Media Sharing Buttons
I know you want social media shares. I want them too. Social media sharing buttons really bog down your blog. They are a huge culprit in slowing your stuff down. You need those buttons. I get that.
Leave your index/main blog page devoid of "pin this" and "like that." Just have buttons/widgets for following you on various social media sites. You don't need folks to like or pin your index page. Leave your social media like, share, and tweet buttons for your individual posts.
8. Cache Your Blog
Reduce load times by utilizing static HTML pages. In caching your blog, you're making calls to php and mysql ahead of time. That way, when users visit your site, you've essentially already done a lot of the loading work for them. If a page hasn't changed, there's no reason to render it repeatedly.
The W3 Total Cache plugin does the job amazingly well. It's seriously one of the best plugins I've used (and I'm not saying that lightly.) The plugin has a lot of really helpful features including the ability to connect to Google's Page Speed tool and tells you where you need to improve in terms of page speed.
9. Get Rid of Excess Plugins
It's funny that I'm suggesting plugins and then telling you to get rid of plugins, but really, you don't need a hundred plugins to run a successful blog. Go through your plugins and delete ones you'll never use again, then go through and figure out which you can do without.
Plugins use resources and having a lot of plugins, well, use a lot of resources. In addition to that, some plugins can actually be harmful to your blog. Use plugins from good sources. Even vet your sources. Chances are, if it's in the WordPress plugin directory, it's good. Read the comments too. What do others say about the plugin? Is it slow? Does it do exactly what you want or are there additional unnecessary bits to it?
10. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN is essentially a group of servers located in various parts of the world where you store your images. Believe it or not, where you're located relative to where a website is hosted has a huge impact on site speed.
Let's say your blog is hosted in California, but you have a visitor located in Germany. It could take him forever to load your blog's images. If you use a CDN, your images will load lightning fast. This is because he's not getting images sent to him all the way from California, he's getting them from elsewhere in Europe. Visitors to your site will always get images from the server that’s closest to them. This is a huge improvement in performance for your readers.
MaxCDN is a plugin that works really well with W3 Total Cache. Note that MaxCDN, along with many other content delivery networks charges for their service.
11. Get Rid of Excess Code
12. Reduce the Number of Posts on Your Main Page
Cutting down on the number of posts on your home page can really help. If you put short excerpts on your home page, you can get away with having more posts. However, limit it to 15 (with excerpts) and 5 (without excerpts.) I personally think somewhere between 5-10 is really a great maximum, but really don't go over 15 or your load times will really suffer.
13. Enable Compression
Google is very clear about this one. If you compress files on your site, you will significantly cut down on the number of bytes sent over networks (thus making your pages load faster.)
I use the GZip Ninja Speed Compression plugin for this and am really pretty happy with its ease of use.
14. Minify Your Code
15. Cut Down on The Number of Comments
If you have a few posts that have really gotten a lot of attention and thus hundreds of comments, use a commenting system that hides older comments. That way only the most relevant 25 or so comments appear on your blog post, thus making it so there's less for your users to load.
Don't worry, users who want to read older comments can click a button that allows them to dig in deeper.
Following these tips should really help out with your blog's load times. As always, let me know if you have any questions and please share if you found this helpful!
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Melanie Shebel