Speed Up Your Blog – Simple Tips

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.

Pindgom Website Speed TestA 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:

  • Pictures
  • Plugins
  • 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.

Pictures

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).

Smush.it WordPress PluginThe 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.)

Plugins

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.

WP-Optimize WordPress PluginTo 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.

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Speed Up Your Blog – Simple Tips

52 Comments So Far, What Do You Think?

  1. I thought I would know everything in this post and then you throw WP-optimize at me – well played sir.

    ayngelina March 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm #
    • Well how would it look if you knew more than me 🙂

      Chris Richardson March 15, 2011 at 2:24 pm #
    • Same! Just downloaded and uploaded WP-Optimize – you see that faith and obedience! Blind trust mate… 😉

      Cam March 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm #
  2. OMG can you hold my hand while I go through this post? overwhelming and scary. there is so much i don’t know. i need a “how to” guide for this blog! haha. thanks for providing such helpful info for technically challenged folks like me.

    Erin March 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm #
    • haha Erin, I have to admit there is a lot up there and in my attempt to keep it under a 2000 word limit I have short handed some of the information.

      If you have specific questions leave a message in the forums and I’m happy to help work thought all of this with you. Otherwise send me a message via the contact page up the top and I’ll get in contact to help you that way instead.

      Chris Richardson March 15, 2011 at 2:32 pm #
      • I’ve actually just checked out your blog Erin and it looks like you host with wordpress.com. Unfortunately most of the above mentioned tips won’t apply to you as they do not provide the same flexibility that you get from hosting your blog yourself.

        Chris Richardson March 15, 2011 at 2:40 pm #
        • ok…how difficult is it to transition?

          Erin March 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm #
          • There is a bit of a setup learning curve but once you are up and going its plain sailing. There is extra cost in getting a hosting server for your blog but if/when you want to look at it, email me and I’ll give you a hand.

            Chris Richardson March 15, 2011 at 2:48 pm #
  3. It seems I kept adding plugins to ‘speed up my blog’ but too many plugins were really just slowing it down.

    Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ March 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm #
    • haha Lindsay, that’s some fancy reverse logic you have going on there. It will depend on the type of plugin but on the whole less should be better.

      Chris Richardson March 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm #
  4. Hmmm, I was at 8.3 seconds before following your steps. After deleting and deactivating some plugins, smushing some media and installing WP-optimize and deleting post revisions and spam, my load time changed to 8.6. I must be doing something wrong.

    Mike March 15, 2011 at 4:28 pm #
    • Never mind, went back and tested it again a few minutes later and it’s now taking between 5.6 and 7.5 seconds.

      Mike March 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm #
      • Mike there will be variations in speed for all websites. If your shared hosting server is busy it won’t matter how much work you do it will be slow and again at times it will appear faster than normal when it isn’t busy.

        The pictures section above would help load time of individual posts rather than your main page to a degree as well and that is probably something I should have mentioned above.

        To get a real idea of load times you would need to take several recordings at different times over a period to get a good average.

        Chris Richardson March 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm #
  5. Thanks. That makes a lot of sense.

    Mike March 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm #
  6. Oh geez. My site is so slow, it’s embarrassing. I already installed most of the suggested plugins before, and have been fumbling around for a while trying to get my site speed up. No luck, though. I think my site just hates me.

    Amanda March 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm #
    • Don’t worry Amanda there is more you can do to help speed up your blog, this is just the beginning.

      Chris Richardson March 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm #
  7. Great tips! I wasn’t aware of the two plugins you mentioned, so I’m going to check them out and see if they can help cut down on my load time. Right now, I’m coming in at 8.9 seconds.

    Randy March 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm #
    • Glad to be of use Randy. With so many plugins out there these days it’s hard to keep up anyway so happy to point these out for you.

      Chris Richardson March 15, 2011 at 9:48 pm #
  8. Great post Chris, goes again in the column of “wish I had written that.” 🙂
    Some points to add.. anyone using Firebug has some extra tools at hand. Firebug itself has the “Net” tab of the console which will show you which requests (and how many) are running slowly. yslow is another firefox plugin that can get some info to page speed. It can also arise some paranoia about things to fix, so use with common sense.

    Like Chris mentions, anything that comes from an external provider (Facebook, twitter, paypal, etc) can add time that you will not be able to influence. I seem to see the Facebook Friends plugin as kind of a time hog as it loads the friend pictures individually which can take time.

    Also if your main page (which should be the first entry when looking at it in Firebug console) is taking a while, it could be a sign of too many plugins, or at least too much time spent running in the server.

    GroundedTraveler March 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm #
    • Andrew I have to get in before you write all the good stuff 🙂 Good tip about Firebug too it’s a great tool for all sorts of things but does have a bit of a learning curve to it.

      And your explanation of what having too many plugins can do sounds better than what I rambled on about 🙂

      Chris Richardson March 15, 2011 at 9:52 pm #
  9. Dude, just took mine from 5.9 seconds to 4.3 doing what you said. Super helpful post — I seriously thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    Lauren Fritsky March 16, 2011 at 12:44 am #
    • Lauren hopefully we can make it load even quicker in the near future.

      Chris Richardson March 21, 2011 at 9:23 am #
  10. I would have to agree with Ayngelina. Thought I would know everything in this post – I have to go check out WP-Optimize now. I must get rid of all those plugins I don’t se also.

    Anthony March 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm #
    • Glad to be keeping you on your toes Anthony.

      Chris Richardson March 21, 2011 at 9:23 am #
  11. I wanted to add WP Super Cache as another viable option. Creating cached pages supposedly increases page speed. Just remember to turn it off before you start working on things or you might get frustrated.

    Brandon March 17, 2011 at 2:30 am #
    • Brandon a caching plugin is definitely a great way to help improve the speed of your blog. It’s a little more advanced to setup correctly than the above mentioned tips as it can cause issues with peoples rotating banner images and displays on a blog. I’ll touch on the plugin I use and how to set it up soon.

      Also agree with you on the poorly written theme causing your site to be slow but for most people working that out is almost impossible.

      Chris Richardson March 21, 2011 at 9:22 am #
  12. Oh, yeah – If your theme is poorly written you are doomed no matter what you do.

    Brandon March 17, 2011 at 2:35 am #
  13. I’m counting down the days until my site is finally switched over to WordPress (from squarespace) so I can start playing with the big boys. Thanks for the great post and I’ve already implemented the plugins you mentioned for the new site design.

    Gareth Leonard March 22, 2011 at 10:57 pm #
  14. Thanks for the tips. I host my blog photos on photobucket – they actually have a “thumbnail” that I find helpful.

    Santos March 29, 2011 at 6:11 pm #
  15. Yikes, 13.5 seconds!! I think it’s the older images that’s the problem. Have Smush it but only got recentish-ly. If you know better, please do holler!
    Cheers mate

    Jools Stone April 1, 2011 at 12:35 am #
    • Jools, I haven’t written up a post about it yet but I’ve got it written in my head. Loo up W3 Total Cache and get it installed. Doesn’t appear like you have a caching plugin installed yet and it should help cut that time in half.

      Chris Richardson April 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm #
    • Also look at cutting down the number or articles on your main page and reducing the picture sizes. Most seem to be approx 150k in size which is hurting the main page load speed when you are loading it.

      Chris Richardson April 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm #
  16. I have W3 yeah. How do I control how many posts are displayed on homepage, is it down to the specific theme I have? (I wish I could adopt you as my little pet blog mechanic. I’d make you a nice little cage with straw bedding n everything)

    Jools Stone April 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm #
    • hmm W3 might be installed but it doesn’t appear to be working…. have you got it deployed on the settings page?

      As for setting the number of posts to display. Go to Settings -> Reading and change the Blog pages show at most box.

      Chris Richardson April 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm #
  17. I only now discovered your blog. Never thought about blog speed before. Took 22 seconds(!!!) on pingdom. After following all the tips here, it’s now quicker, but hard to say how quick. I tested 4 times and it came out differently all times but between 8.5 and 15.5 seconds. So it’s certainly quicker. Thanks 🙂

    Quick question about back-up as well – is there an easy step-by-step instruction for this somewhere? I might be embarrassing myself now but what the heck 🙂 My back-up consists of copying everything into word-documents.

    Sophie April 13, 2011 at 11:20 am #
    • Hi Sophie thanks for finding my blog to start with. It is hard to determine just how much speed you can save with the above steps and they are very small steps as well. I’m working on a post that will detail how to install and configure a caching plugin that should make an obvious difference so keep an eye out for that one soon.

      As for the backup well I’ve got another post going on that but I’m doing some testing on plugins first to try and give the best solution. To get you started look up WordPress Database Backup as a plugin. It will perform a full backup of your post text and email it to you.

      Chris Richardson April 13, 2011 at 11:33 am #
  18. Thanks, Chris. I’ve added to you to my Google Reader, so will keep an eye out. Again thanks for all these useful tips.

    Sophie April 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm #
  19. Hey Chris – I appear to have gone from 9.9 to somewhere between 5 and 6s after adding Optimize, Smushit and W3 Cache…but on my laptop, my site still actually seems much slower than that….any other words o wisdom?

    Skott April 21, 2011 at 3:35 am #
    • Hi Skott,

      Your next step would be to really optimize the photos you upload and possible reduce the number that appear on your main page as that’s what appears to be adding extra time as the page loads.

      You can go more advanced with a CDN (content delivery network) but unless your blog is getting major traffic its not so cost effective.

      Chris Richardson April 24, 2011 at 3:25 pm #
  20. When from 8.2 down to 6.1, and I haven’t even gone back and used Smush It on my previous photo uploads. This is a really informative article with easy to follow instructions that helped me achieve immediate results. Thank you so much!

    The Travel Chica May 13, 2011 at 3:00 am #
  21. Wow, this is gold. Thanks Chris!

    Roy | Cruisesurfingz May 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm #
  22. I like the idea of WP Optimise, only thing is my blog sometimes has a flaky moment and wipes the current post and then I go back to the post revision to retrieve the draft article, so I’m wondering whether the plug-in has some level of control e.g. only delete post revisions once post is published.

    Also you touch on widgets like the facebook like button slowing down the site and I’ve heard that Javascript is a culprit – but I don’t know how to make sense of all the things I see loading on my site – is there a quick way I can tell which of all the badges, widgets & ads are causing the problem? I’m talking about my site at heatheronhertravels.com

    Heather on her travels May 25, 2011 at 8:07 am #
  23. Thanks, Chris! The WP-Optimize plugin cut over a second from my load time by itself. I still have a long ways to go, but that’s a big chunk. Cheers!

    Wes Nations May 31, 2011 at 6:11 am #
    • Followup – after spending another hour scouring through plugins, I shaved another full second off, improving my total load time by 20%. That’s yet another beer I owe ya.

      Wes Nations May 31, 2011 at 6:45 am #
  24. Honestly, this post saved my life – I mean my blog 😛 I´m not kidding when I say I cut my speed down by half. You wouldn´t want to know what it was b4 😛 Anyhow, cheers mate & I have a feeling I´ll be coming back to this site often.

    Nomadic Samuel (Samuel Jeffery) May 31, 2011 at 4:17 pm #
  25. Absolutely brilliant mate. Working on getting it down from 8.6 now ….

    Matt June 2, 2011 at 1:00 pm #
  26. the result of pingdom seems to be affected by the speed of the connection though… i tested mine here in luang prabang and it came out at 4 a minute after i asked my friend to check it out in manila and the result if 1.2s…

    nice one for the wp-optimize…

    flip June 3, 2011 at 2:18 pm #
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