Have you noticed that your blog has been running a little slow lately? Pages aren’t loading up as fast as they used to, images take forever to display, and some of your plugins don’t even load up at all. These are all common issues that bloggers run into that can really hurt your traffic. How often have you exited a site because you have to wait 10 seconds for a page to load? Well, your blog’s visitors are just as likely to leave your site if they have to wait that long too. This will result in a high bounce rate and a low number of returning visitors. If you’re using WordPress, there are some easy things you can do to help speed things up and keep your site functioning optimally.
Test your blog’s speed
First and foremost, you have to check the speed of your blog. There’s always a chance that the lag you’re experiencing is due to your computer and internet service. So it’s best to test out your blog’s speed using a free online tool. Here are a few options you have:
Another cool option you could use is Whichloadsfaster.com. This site allows you to test your blog up against another one to see how you stack up. It’s useful to compare your loading speeds with a competitor’s. On average, you should aim for a load speed of no more than a few seconds. Like you see in the screenshots above, loading speeds of under 1 second is the ultimate goal. To give you an idea of how important load speeds are for your blog’s traffic, you can potentially lose 33% of your traffic if your blog doesn’t load within 5-8 seconds.
Now that you’ve tested your blog to see where you stand, the next step is going to be improving your numbers. Keep in mind that most of these tips are specifically for WordPress since this is WordPress Wednesdays. But a couple are actually applicable to any blogging CMS that you choose to use. And the best part is that all of these methods are 100% free.
1: Delete Plugins
One of the easiest ways to help speed up your WordPress blog is to delete some unnecessary plugins that are just taking up space. I know, we all love using plugins to enhance our blogs and add cool features that our limited coding skills may stop us from doing. But the truth is, you don’t necessarily need all of those plugins you’ve installed.
For instance, some plugins like the “Hello Dolly” plugin come standard with some WP installations. They don’t really add anything to your blog so you might as well get rid of them. I actually did a full write-up on 5 WordPress plugins your blog can do without if you want to see more details on some plugins you can get rid of.
And just to clarify, I’m referring to actually deleting plugins, not simply disabling them. This is a common mistake that some WP users make. Disabling your plugins makes them inoperable but they’re still in your database. You need to completely delete them to remove them from your database. In order to delete your plugins, the first thing you need to do is disable them. WP will not allow you to delete active plugins.
After you hit “Deactivate”, the option to “Delete” will become available.
If you haven’t used a particular plugin in a while or haven’t activated it, then you should probably start considering deleting it. From time to time I download plugins in anticipation of using them later and never get around to it. These are usually the first ones that I get rid of. Make a habit out of checking your current plugins on your blog regularly and deleting the ones you don’t need.
2: Caching Plugin
You have probably heard several times that you should install a caching plugin on your blog. But few people explain how/why it’s actually useful. I’m totally against just installing plugins because someone tells you it’s good. That leads to the problem addressed in the first tip above. So I’m going to give you a quick rundown of how caching plugins benefit your blog and decrease your loading time.
The way WP works is that each time a visitor views your blog, WP pulls data from your database. This data consists of:
- Blog posts
- And other dynamic content
Constantly going into your database to get this data takes time and if your site is rather large with tons of media and content, it can slow down your loading speed considerably. Unless you have some sort of auto-blog that is generating content every hour or so, the data WP is fetching will remain the same for extended periods of time. This is where caching plugins come in.
Caching plugins create saved files of your web pages and displays them to users when they visit your blog. The plugins also take care of the cache settings so that a visitor’s browser will know which files are cached and how long they’re cached. There are several different caching plugins to check out but two of the most popular are WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache. Keep in mind that you should only have one caching plugin enabled!
This is one of my favorite plugins for getting rid of all of the old files that crowd up your WP database. You can use the WP-Optimize dashboard to delete:
- Post revisions
- Auto draft posts
- Spam comments
- Unapproved comments
In addition to this, it also optimizes your database tables as well.
4: Optimize your images
One of the first mistakes I made when I started blogging was just throwing images into my posts without paying any attention to the size of the files. After all, they were just pictures, how much space could they really take up? This train of thought had my blogs sucking up so much unnecessary space that my posts and pages were taking forever to load. If I would have known how easy it was to make images “web friendly” sooner, it would have saved me a lot of frustration and lost traffic.
The key to optimizing your images is making the files as small as possible while still retaining the quality of the picture. You don’t want to break down the image files so much that the quality of the image is reduced to looking like a cell phone picture taken in the 90’s.
If you’re using your own original images, and use Photoshop or another image editing program, you should use the option to “Save for Web” which automatically reduces the size of the image so that it’s web friendly. You should aim for an image resolution of 72 dpi. You don’t really need anything beyond that for your blog’s images.
If you’re using images found on the web (assuming you got permission), then you can use an online tool like Smush.it to reduce the size of your saved images.
Remember, the key is to reduce the size of the file, not necessarily the size of the image (pixels). This tip is extremely helpful for WP blogs that rely heavily on images like food blogs, art blogs, or travel blogs. As for the file type, try to stick with JPG’s.
5: Check your web host
Last but certainly not least, you should contact your web host. The problems you have with your loading speeds may not even be your fault. After about one year of using a certain web host that shall go unnamed, I was extremely dissatisfied with my site’s loading speeds and was wondering what the problem was. The host was adamant about the problem lying within certain WP plugins I was using but I knew many other bloggers who used the exact same plugins on other hosts and had no issues at all. Needless to say, I switched hosts.
If you’re not exactly tech savvy, a trustworthy webhost will be invaluable. If you’re experiencing unusually slow loading speeds, contact your host because there could be an issue with their server that’s affecting other users as well.
After you implement some or all of these tips into your WP blog, you should definitely see some improvements in your loading time. Make sure that you keep track of your loading speeds with each improvement. That way you’ll know if whatever you’re doing is working. Don’t let slow loading speeds hurt your blog’s traffic.