Speed Up WP

In the world of blogs, blogging platforms and websites, the king of the platforms is WordPress. The combination of a default WordPress installation and configuration can result in considerable slowness in your blog or website loading. Add that to a default setup at many web hosts and you have a real problem, lost readers and revenue.

Why is speed important?

In today’s world of instant gratification, you only have 2-3 seconds to gain the almighty first impression.
Think about that for a second…
2 to 3 seconds to dazzle them with your brilliance. Every 2 second delay after that results in reduced user satisfaction, reduced clicks to your content, which results in lost revenue.
Another second or two and they are gone. Gone before you every have a chance to show off your great content…
Gone, probably forever.
Plus, trying to rank on Google for any of your keywords on the page is hampered because it loads so slow.
Google doesn’t like slow pages and will reward faster loading pages.
Another drawback is that the admin panel loads slow too. This slows down your work and updates. Making it really time consuming to get things done.
OK, so how do we fix that?
Here’s 9 tricks, tips, techniques and plug-ins that will help speed things up.

Choose a good hosting service

When starting out, a shared hosting service might sound like a great deal with, unlimited everything. Ask yourself this question…
“If everything is unlimited and the price is only a few bucks a month, what isn’t unlimited? What am I not getting?”
This usually works out to:
– poor or non-existent tech support
– extremely long load times in the 7 to 15 second range…bye, bye reader
– frequent downtime during high traffic periods…remember this is a shared service with a large number of other sites on the same server
Again, ask yourself if low cost hosting service is really low cost? In the long run, nope…

Choose a solid framework and theme

As great as WordPress (WP) is, you still need to learn to do a few things to get your site up and running.
Choosing a framework and theme is one of those things.
The framework is the feature foundation for the theme you choose. Think of the theme framework like the framework of a house. There’s the foundation, the sub-flooring, the studded walls and the rafters on top of the house that form the framework. By adding doors, windows, siding, paint and other features, we begin to give the house a look and character that make it unique.
The theme you choose does the same thing, gives your site a look and character that is unique to you.
The theme you choose is one of those first impression things, curb appeal, if you will. Take some time and put some real thought into it.
There are two ways to go with themes, default or premium.
Free default WP themes can be quite fast in loading due to their simplicity. The risk you take if you don’t know how to configure the theme, is that your site will look really generic and unprofessional, like a bunch of other sites you’ve seen elsewhere.
Premium themes, come with a custom framework and will give your site a more polished, professional look. Which is great, but it comes with a bit of a price. Premium themes can come with a lot of bloat and features you may never use, which can slow down your site. So you will need to learn how to configure the premium themes and disable the features you don’t want or need.

Use an effective caching plugin

Stop and think for a minute as to how many elements, objects, graphics, photos, etc. are the same on every page of your web site.
A bunch, right?
Now how efficient is it for all of those things to reload every time one of your visitors click a new page or reloads that page.
Not very…
Now what if we could get all of those elements to get loaded into memory or a cache, so that they only load once.
Much more efficient.
That’s what a caching plugin will do for your site. Speeds up loading and reloading of all the elements on the page.
And the best and most popular caching plugin is…
While you’re there on WordPress.org have a look around at all the other plugins there. All of them are free to download and use. Some, if not most, will have upgrades you can purchase, providing more features.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

The idea behind a CDN is sort of like a caching plugin, only on a global scale.
By storing various elements or even entire pages of your web site at different servers located around the world, your content, in theory, is loaded on your visitors computer at a much faster rate.
This can seem like a great idea, but the main drawback is that it can get a little pricey. Instead of paying for hosting on one host, essentially you’re paying for hosting on several servers around the world. Plus it’s usually based on the amount of bandwidth that is consumed by your visitors.
One of the more popular CDNs is Cloud Flare. Not only do they have a basic free plan, it works with W3 Total Cache and has security features that really protect your site. Best of all, they don’t charge by bandwidth usage. They believe, if your site suddenly becomes popular or worse, gets attacked, you shouldn’t be stuck with the bandwidth bill. Nice…

Optimize the images on your site

Other great thing to do to speed up your web site is to optimize the images.
Sounds great…..uh… how do you do that you ask?
If you’re creating your own graphics for your site, there’s a good chance you may already know how. When you save your image for the web, there are options in most graphics editors, like Gimp, Photoshop or Pixelmator to save the image in a compressed format.
Keep in mind that the JPG image loses quality as you compress the image. The more you compress the image down is size, the worse it gets. It can get so bad that the edges in your image begins to look jaggy and rough.
The PNG format on the other hand, is a lossless format. The more you compress the image, the quality stays the same, no jaggy edges. To allow that to happen, the end resulting image can be a bit larger in size than a JPG image of the same compression.
The real headache to doing this yourself, is it’s time-consuming if your site is already up and running with a lot of images on it. You’ll have to re-do every one of them individually. Of course any new images can be done as you create them.
So how can you optimize images automatically?
WordPress plugins to the rescue…
With claims of drastically reducing page load times and automatically optimizing your images, WP Smush is the plugin to get.
Here’s what they have to say:
Features available in WP Smush include:
– Optimize your images using advanced lossless compression techniques.
– Set maximum width and height and large images will automatically scale before being added to your media library
– Process JPEG, GIF and PNG image files.
– Auto-smush your attachments on upload.
– Manually smush your attachments individually in the media library, or in bulk 50 attachments at a time.
– Smush all standard web-sized images 1MB or smaller.
– Smush images with no slowdown using WPMU DEV’s fast, reliable Smush API.
– View advanced compression stats per-attachment and library totals.
Sounds good to me…
However, if you’re the do it yourself kind of person, and I really recommend you compress your images with the tool at Optimizilla. This is hands down the best image compressing tool I have found. I have taken images that I thought were compressed with other tools and Optimizilla compressed it even more…
Couldn’t believe it… oh did I mention it’s FREE?

Optimize the homepage

Makes a lot of sense to optimize the homepage, since it’s most likely the first page your visitors see and gives them that all important first impression.
You’ve already done a lot to get the site to load faster.
There are a few things left that can be done on the homepage to help a little more…
– Show excerpts instead of full posts
– Reduce the number of posts on the page (show between 5-7)
– Remove unnecessary social media widgets from the home page
– Remove inactive plugins and widgets that you don’t aren’t being used
– Keep things to a minimum. Your visitors are here for content, not 40 widgets and 60 web ads popping up all over the place

Optimize the WP databases

Do to it’s design, WordPress uses databases to hold all of the information (spam, post revisions, drafts, images, comments, etc.) found on your site. Databases by nature, have a lot of overhead as they get used more and more. In order to be efficient, those databases need to be cleaned up and optimized.
And you guessed it, we have a plugin for that…
WP Optimize is an extensive WordPress database cleanup and optimization tool, that doesn’t require you to be a database administrator to work or administer. It has a tremendous list of features that are too numerous to list here.
Just go check it out!

Disable hot linking

Hot linking is the practice of directly linking to your images on another site. What this amounts to is your image, stored on your site, is being delivered to and loads on someone else’s site and you get the bill. Not only is this a form of copyright infringement, but it causes your bandwidth to increase.
But there is a way to combat this…
Sorry, no plugin this time. There used to be, but it hasn’t been updated in ages and it had poor reviews.
This trick will take some technical knowledge on your part as it uses your sites .htaccess file to work.
If you don’t know what an .htaccess file is or aren’t that “techie”, I suggest you seek help or don’t do this.
The .htaccess file is used to limit access to your site and if configured incorrectly can cause problems getting to your site.
And believe me you don’t want that to happen…
The code below will serve up a failed request for the file being hot linked. Copy it into your .htaccess file and upload it to the directory where the .htaccess file is stored, usually your root directory.
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?yourdomainname.com/.*$[NC]
RewriteRule \.(gif|jpg|js|css)$ – [F]
It should be obvious that you need to replace the “yourdomainname.com” in the code with your own domain name.
This code has actually been around for a while, but for a few more details on how to implement it, I will refer you to the good folks at Javascriptkit.com.

Lazy Load your images

One more trick before we call it quits here…
Lazy Load your images. I suppose you’re wondering what the hell that is?
Lazy loading is based on the simple principle that what you see in your browser is all that gets loaded on the page. As you start to scroll the page, the rest of the images and content begins to load. Kind of like streaming the page as it loads.
By actually limiting the HTTP requests until they are actually visible on the page, page load speed increases.
And yes there are plugins for this…
Do a search on WordPress.org for “lazy load” and you’ll find several plugins to get the job done.
These 9 suggestions should get you a good start on speeding things up.
Keep in mind that this article was written by a techie, Me. As such, some of these tips and tricks may not be for the timid, non-techie.
For the non-techies out there, I’ll refer you to my friend Gael Breton at Authority Hacker and his great article…
Click the graphic to check it out..

Do you know of some other ways with or without plugins? Let us know in the comments what you have had good luck with…