Wordpress Speed

How to Speed up WordPress for SEO and users

I’m sure you have all experienced the frustration of not being able to reach the information you require as quickly as you want due to a slow loading website page, especially on a Smartphone or tablet device. How long until you give up?

Site speed is extremely important nowadays, not only to engage properly with users, but also for the SEO. Google has increased dramatically the importance of site speed in the algorithm, and a slow site will struggle with its rankings, especially in a competitive industry.

You can test your site speed using this free Google tool.

Today I will try to help you speed up your wordpress site, with my favourite plugins and optimisations.

How To Speed Up a WordPress site

In no particular order, the 15 tips below are all ways I have found to be most effective in speeding up WordPress sites. You should notice a difference even by just trying a few.

1. Invest in a good host

It is important to do lots of research and compare different packages to choose a hosting package that is most suitable for your requirements.

If you are a start up company, and budget is limited, a shared host may seem like a good idea, however be careful to consider the other unforeseen costs, for example, slow site speed and frequent down time. Think about the volume of content you want to produce and whether it’s high traffic periods you’re aiming for – and the stress you’ll experience if your site goes down when you’re in the middle of a campaign.

One of my favourite hosting companies for WordPress is WP Engine. They offer a great customer support and their servers and hosting plans are designed for WordPress sites only. This guarantees incredible performances.

2. Choose a solid framework

If you are going to use a default framework or theme, ensure the one you choose is solid, simple and light as this will no doubt lead to a speedier site. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to forget about style – there are plenty of options available!

While I prefer to use plugins, I’ve always found the default WP themes are good frameworks to use for quick page loads. And the fastest loading premium framework? That’ll be the Thesis Theme Framework.

3. Use an effective caching plugin

Caching plugins are simple to install and activate, and can really make a difference to your site’s speed. Even better, WP.org offers a range of free and easy to use caching plugins, including the W3 Total Cache, and WP-Super Cache (my favourite as it’s more likely to have no compatibility issues), which both have all the features you could want. Why not give it a go and see your page loads getting faster with minimal effort?

4. Use a content delivery network (CDN)

A CDN, or content delivery network, aims to serve content to the visitor at top speed by using a system of servers across the internet, and choosing the closest server to the visitor. The CDN grabs all your files and then delivers them to the audience. Many blogs use CDNs to ensure high availability and high performance of content for the user.
The Max CDN Content Delivery Network is reasonably priced, with an easy-to-use dashboard along with video tutorials to help the webmaster set it up – so even if you don’t have much experience with using CDN’s, this shouldn’t put you off from trying this feature out to see how it can help speed up your WordPress site.

5. Automatically optimise images using a plugin

Images are so important to capture the visitor’s attention that you need to make sure they are optimised for the web, as files that are too large will take longer to download, and could potentially slow your website down and disengage your visitors while they are waiting.

Rather than manually optimising images, which can be time consuming and a bit of a pain in general, it would be a good idea to consider a plugin to do it all for you. The plugin will ensure it is only the file size of an image that is being reduced, and not the quality.

There is a free plugin called WP-SmushIt that will automatically optimise your images as you upload them, saving you more time to spend on more important things such as creating great content for your readers.

6. Make sure your homepage is effective

With the homepage usually being the most visited page of your website, and visitors landing there most often, it is extremely important it loads quickly, contains no broken links or coding, and has clear call to actions to encourage the visitor to make that next step to visit more pages within your site.

Some quick ways in which you can increase the effectiveness of your homepage is to remove unnecessary widgets, reduce the number of articles, remove any inactive plugins and ensure the layout is clean and focused.

When you think the homepage is probably the first page of your website a new visitor will see, you can understand the importance of creating an exceptional first impression to make sure your visitor wants to read on, and then come back again for more at a later date.

7. Keep your WordPress database clean

If there is a choice between the long, laborious task of manually ‘cleansing’ and updating your WordPress database, or to have a plugin do all the hard work for you, I know which one I would choose!

I run the WP-Optimize plugin on all of my sites to make sure the database is free from spam and to clean up any other unwanted content. Also, you may find the WP-DB Manager plugin useful to schedule dates for database optimisation.

8. Avoid hotlinking your content

Hotlinking is when other sites link directly to the images on your site from their articles making your server work harder as it is serving content on external websites, as well as your own. The more images you have, the higher the chance other users may ‘scrape’ your content.

You can disable hotlinking by inserting the following code in your root .htaccess file:

disable hotlinking of images with forbidden or custom image option
 RewriteEngine on
 RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
 RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?yourwebsite.com [NC]
 RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.com [NC]
 RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?feeds2.feedburner.com/feedname [NC]
 RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [NC,F,L]

As a side note, you will need to replace the Feedburner link (shown above) to your own feed link to make sure all of your images are showing properly where you want them to show.

9. Use an expires header for static resources

An expires response header lets the website browser know when content expires so it doesn’t have to re-fetch cached content. The benefit of adding this is your website page load time can be significantly reduced.

Copy and paste the following code in your root .htaccess file to set an expires header:

ExpiresActive On
 ExpiresByType image/gif A2592000
 ExpiresByType image/png A2592000
 ExpiresByType image/jpg A2592000
 ExpiresByType image/jpeg A2592000

The above numbers are set for a month (in seconds), you can change them as you wish.

10. Think about your Gravatar image

You may think that having a Gravatar image makes your WordPress site more engaging and personal, however at what cost? The problem is, even though they are small images, every time they are requested from the server, they are putting pressure on your bandwidth. Therefore, not having a Gravatar image can improve page load times.

To change your Gravatar to a blank space, rather than the default image, go to your settings tab in the WordPress dashboard.

11. Lazy loading your images

Speed up your page loads by slowing down your image loads.

Lazy loading, also known as dynamic function loading, is a process where the web developer can decide what components should not be loaded until a certain point. So for the website owner, you can choose to only have the images above the fold being served, and only when the visitor scrolls further down the page, do the other images load.

The benefits of using lazy loading in this way is that your page will load faster as well as saving on bandwidth as data won’t be loaded for the users that don’t scroll down further. There is a nice plugin called jQuery Image Lazy Load that you can install to set this up for your site.

12. Limit your article revisions

If you don’t keep a close eye on WordPress, it has a habit of storing every single one of your drafts and revisions. And what happens when your post is published? The drafts are still there, of course.
It may be a good idea to use the Revision Control plugin so post revisions are limited – you choose the limit to what you’re comfortable with. It’s the balance between having reassurance that if you make a mistake, or your system freezes, you don’t lose all of your work, but also making sure you’re not using valuable storage with unnecessary drafts.

13. Manage your pingbacks

WordPress automatically ‘speaks’ to other blogs that have pingback and trackback functionality. This means that every time another blog mentions you, it lets your site know, creating more work and pressure on your bandwidth.

You can turn these updates off to help speed up your site. Rest assured, however, disabling pingbacks won’t affect the backlinks to your site.

14. Use compression (Gzip)

Compression is a simple, effective way to save bandwidth and speed up your site. You can easily compress your site using a free plugin called GZip Ninja Speed Compression.

15. Remove inactive plugins

You may think this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many WordPress sites still host inactive plugins, or don’t take advantage of the latest updates. Even if you have a plugin that is active, but you no longer use it, remove it from your site. By taking these simple actions, you could notice a great improvement in your page load speed.

I hope you have found these tips useful, and that by following some or all of them you start to notice a difference in your WordPress site speed (and blog page views).
Please do get in touch, or leave a comment below, if you have any other tips to share on how to improve WordPress site speed.

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