So… your blog speeds suck. You’re browsing around your own site and you’re thinking how the hell you can improve your blog’s speed to improve the visitor experience for users on your blog.
The Importance of Speed
Speed is now an even more important factor in determining the ranking of your posts as Google Analytics measures your page load time and feeds that information back to Google who factor it into their algorithm.
Google broadly looks for two things when you publish content…
- Relevance: Does the content you publish deliver on the solutions that the searcher is looking for?
- Visitor Experience: Page speeds and loading times are massively important in providing a great visitor experience.
This is still way less important than relevance but helps your site to reduce its bounce rate, increase stickiness (ie. pageviews per visit) and increases the overall visitor experience, which of course can help you build trust, relationships and conversions.
Tips to Increase Blog Speed
We all need a bit of a pointer in the right direction, so here goes…
#1 Ensure You’re Using a Reliable & Reputable Host
Don’t skimp here. This is one cost that you must take on as a blogger and at just $6-7 per month for shared hosting solutions from companies like Bluehost or Hostgator, there really is no excuse.
Don’t try anything wacky like hosting on your own servers or using a free hosting service. It just isn’t worth the hassle and downtime.
At the moment, I’m using Westhost business class hosting as I get more benefits than the traditional shared hosting accounts and access to WordPress experts when I contact their customer service. I trust a better class of hosting when I’m getting a good volume of traffic to my site.
#2 Use a Caching Plugin
#3 Use Less Plugins
One of the common faults of bloggers is they like to tinker and I’m certainly no exception. I always want to see if there’s another plugin that will take my blog to the next level.
The challenge is using only the plugins that are, in some way, actually benefiting your blog. You can use some of the better plugins which are well coded to take care of your main problems.
I gave a special mention to many of the WordPress plugins that I’m personally using in my ‘Best Free WordPress Plugins’ post. The list is subject to change as I find new alternatives to deal with the demands and growing pains of a blog with increasing traffic and authority.
#4 Use Less Widgets
Widgets are cool because they enable you to build page elements within your blog that appear on every page. This may be good to show reader comments, popular posts, other commentators, social connect buttons, etc, however if you have too many, then not only will you confuse your visitors by giving too many choices but you will slow down the speed of your blog.
Every page a visitor arrives at within your blog, you should have a conversion goal. Sometimes this goal is to make a sale, sometimes the goal is to get an opt in to your email list or RSS Reader and other times it is simply to provide value and build relationships/your community and get engagement and vital feedback/research from comments.
#5 Use a Premium WordPress Theme
If you’re creating a standard blog theme, don’t mess around with free WordPress themes. Sure, they’re free in terms of money but they could be costing you a lot more than you think!
- A slow site due to bad coding
- A site with little or no SEO tools or considerations.
If you buy a good quality WordPress theme, you can cut down significantly on the number of plugins since much of the functionality can be done from right within the theme.
Don’t scrimp! I only recommend two themes for bloggers.
I personally use a combination of a few different WooThemes to achieve the style of this site.
The themes are superbly coded, looks slick and has great SEO functionality (although I personally choose to turn it off in favour of the WordPress SEO plugin from Yoast.com).
==> Check out Thesis
This was the theme that I would have used had it not been for spotting a special WooTheme called Canvas. Thesis is highly rated by many top bloggers and I used it during the testing phase of redesigning my blog.
#6 Use Tools to Assess and Monitor Page Speed
This is important because blogs can slow down very slowly over time as you increase the database bloat, install more plugins, etc. You need a maintenance schedule to stay on top of this. A couple of tools that I recommend that you use to monitor your blog’s speed are:
- Pingdom Tools is possibly the most awesome site for checking the health of your DNS Server and to test your page loading times.
The site really helps you to understand which components of your web pages load in what order and how long each of those components take. From this, you can identify problematic elements that you can either address or even entirely eliminate. You’re likely to find some page load bottlenecks that you never knew existed.
- You can integrate a site speed tool within your Google Analytics for WordPress plugin by simply entering the API key from your Google account. Another superb plugin from Yoast.com.
#7 Compress Your Images
Images are often oversized for the purposes of fast loading web pages.
As well as optimising images using software such as GIMP, Paint.net or even PhotoShop if you’re a bit whizzy with it, you can also use a couple of quick, free and simple online tools to quickly get your images web optimised. A couple of great tools are:
#8 Compress Your Database
Reducing the size of your database is important because it often accumulates bloat over time. This can especially be the case if your tables gather and store additional data that isn’t essential for the running of your blog.
#9 Limit Revisions on Blog Posts
Limit the number of revisions that are held within your database tables. The default for WordPress is to store every revision, which you can see within the ‘revisions’ section of your post. You don’t need all the old revisions, however they’re taking up vital resources as you grow your site.
The bigger your site becomes, the more important this sort of maintenance becomes.
#10 Use a Content Delivery Network
When this content is compressed and served from locations closer to the visitor, the result is a much faster loading time for the end user resulting in a more pleasurable user experience.
I use Amazon S3 and MaxCDN for different things on my blog. Max CDN serves the static content using what’s called a mirrored pull zone. You can research this from the Max CDN website if you choose to set this up. I use Amazon S3 to host my video files and a technology called Cloudfront serves them which makes the streaming of my video content very fast.
There’s no doubt about it… going through the pain barrier of speeding your WordPress blog up will help you to reap dividends in so many ways including:
- Increasing your blog’s perceived authority with readers
- Improving the visitor experience of your readers
- Increasing pageviews per visit (blog stickiness)
- Fostering deeper relationships with your readers since they stick around longer for the relationship to build
- More authority from Google (ie. higher rankings, more traffic and possibly increased pagerank)
- … and ultimately higher conversions!
Please remember to test your blog speed before and after optimisation so you can see the gains for your blog and your readers.
Do you know any optimisation tricks and tips that I’ve missed? Perhaps you know a trick or tool which can transform blog speeds? Either way, let us know in the comments.
To Your Online Success,
The Profit Share
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