Having a slow website not only annoys you but probably your readers and not to mention the wrath that could be unleashed on you if Google gets upset. Before I get into this too much head on over to this great site at Pingdom and put your website through it’s paces.
A test on RTW Labs leaves me with a full load time of 3.5 seconds, not bad but I know that I can improve it with a couple of changes. A general rule of thumb that I’ve seen written about a few times is to aim on having your blog load in under 5 seconds, ideally in less but that’s a hard ask for a wordpress blog full of images and other content. Any longer and it starts to impact on people visiting your site, I know personally if a page takes too long to load I just go find another one that will.
Now that you know how long it takes your main blog page to load, scroll up on that site and read through the elements that your blog loads when someone visits it. Do any items stand out with a long load time? For RTW Labs worst offending item is the Paypal Donate button. This is due to it having to load the content from paypal’s servers itself, not much I can do there unless i remove it.
Any item on your blog that requires it to load images or content from another server other than your own can inflate your load times. Most of those you can’t do anything about, take the facebook widget everyone has for example.
But what if you have slow load times from items that come from your blog. An example of some of these items that are:
- Spam Comments
- Saved Blog Post Revision
- Un-Optimized Database
Some of those items might seem familiar to you and others might be completely foreign. Don’t worry though as there are a few simple tools you can use to help overcome these and move onto a quicker and faster blog. Remember these are tips I use, maybe you have others or just disagree so feel free to leave any other suggests in the comments below.
You have that fancy SLR camera and your snapping away taking amazing photos, great I’m jealous. The problem comes when you go to upload that great photo along with three or four others and they are all 4-5MB in size. Now if you link your photos from Flickr or Smugmug great, you can skip this part as its only for those of us that upload images directly to our WordPress blogs. (Note: There is a whole post on using Flickr and Smugmug to host your photos but I won’t cover that today)
Before you think about uploading that photo to your blog you should resize the photo down from its original size to something more like what you would have as the finished product on your blog. This gets the megabyte size of the photo down allowing it to upload quicker and also saves valuable time when it comes time to backup your blog. Why download un-necessary megabytes of data in photos every time you backup.
By reducing the actual size of the image you won’t be taking away from the overall quality of the image, just shrinking it down from a poster size photo to an envelope sized one.
Most camera software comes with some form of image tool you can use to do this. If not Mac users can use iPhoto to do the job while the Windows folk can download Picasa or other free software to assist you.
A simple plugin on your blog can also help to reduce the size even more. It’s called WP Smush.it and it helps to optimize the photo by removing extra meta data from the photo file left behind by your camera as well as improving the compression of the photo and other tasks (Read about it’s features on the WordPress plugin directory Wp Smush.it).
The bonus for this plugin is you install and activate it and your done. Any new photos you upload are automatically run through Smush.it’s process as you upload them. Existing photos you have uploaded before installing this will plugin will need to be manually processed.
To do this, in the backend of your blog click on Media in the left hand side menu. The very right hand column that loads will give you the details from the plugin. Photos that have been processed show how much they have been reduced while photos that aren’t processed give you the option to Smush.it Now. (Note images need to be smaller than 1MB to be processed by this plugin it seems so keep them small folks.)
Aren’t plugins great, they expand our blog from just a bunch of words into full blown working machines that filter our comments, helps promote us on facebook/twitter and many many other things. I’m sure all of you have got a plethora of plugins installed at this very moment, some inactive and a lot probably active.
Of all of those active plugins, how many are actually serving a purpose? Each plugin you have active requires your hosting server to process it every time someone browse’s your site. So that plugin you installed last month when you thought of adding a photo gallery or the three different social media plugins you activated and tried but couldn’t get to display on your blog properly are all making your site that little bit slower because they are still active.
Take a look at your plugin list and see just how many of them you really need. My guess is you can probably disable a third of them and not loose any functionality at all. I’ve seen people talk about having 35-40 plugins active at one time and I can’t for the life of me work out what you need that many for.
Just going through the plugins I have active on The Aussie Nomad,I found two plugins that I’d looked at a few weeks ago and had left active after deciding they weren’t for me. It won’t be the killer blow to a fast site but if your hosting provider has been getting angry at you and throttling your site speed this might just bring you back into their good books.
While I’m talking about plugins it’s also good form to make sure you keep them updated. Update’s mean they have fixed bugs or given you more functionality and that’s a good thing. An out of date plugin could have been poorly written which adds extra load to your server which in turns increases page load time. Not to mention it could be leaving your blog open to be hacked by some unsavoury character. It only takes a few minutes to browse the plugin updates page and run through the updates.
Finally any plugin you don’t need and is already set to inactive is worth deleting. Why keep it around as you can always download it again if it’s really needed.
Spam Comments/Saved Blog Post Revision/Un-Optimized Database
These three stooges all make your blog database grow into a big old fat cow, and we all know how fast big things run. The blog database stores all of your posts and blog comments among other things so you want it to be as lean as possible. It’s also worth noting that as your site gets more popular and your traffic grows you pay an even bigger price for a slow database, so how can you tweak that database of yours into a finely tuned machine?
One easy plugin is all you need and its called WP-Optimize. This great little tool will:
- Remove all post revisions
- Remove all auto-draft posts
- Clean marked spam comments
- Clean unapproved comments
- Optimise database tables
Post revisions can easily add up, especially when you write your blog posts directly into the backend of your blog. If you use them great but try and get rid of them once you’ve finished as they will affect performance. The same goes for auto-saved draft posts, if they aren’t needed bin them.
I prefer to manage my spam comments via the main WordPress interface as sometimes good comments get caught in there, but the other three options can be run straight from the plugin page.
To install this login in your blog backed, navigate down to Plugins on the left hand side and choose Add New. A quick search for WP-Optimize and you will have it installed and activated ready to go. The menu option should appear at the very bottom of your blog sidebar menu on the left so go ahead and click it. (This plugin is only for WordPress versions 2.9+ so if you are older than that it’s time to upgrade)
On your first run I’d perform each task individually as you may have a few items to be removed but after that it will be fine to run whenever you please. I normally optimise my blog database on a weekly basis and free up a good 4-5Mb of database space, its not much but everything helps. Lastly It would be foolish of me to not mention this but don’t forget to take a backup of your site beforehand just in case.
So there you have it, a few simple tips to help improve your blog speed. Of course this is just the beginning as I’m yet to cover caching plugins, loading your images from external sites and many other tweaks that could suit your particular blog. I’ll get to those soon but lets just move forward at baby step speed OK. It’s better to understand how your blog works that just be implementing all these feature and not know what any of them do.
Lastly I’d be curious to know just how quick your blog loads from running that speed test at the start of this post, so if your not too scared leave the time in your comments below. Over the next few weeks I’ll post other ways to improve your speed so keep a record and then once we’ve made all the changes go back and check again (not before) and we can compare from now to then. I’d really like to see just how much time we can squeeze out of your blogs.