How fast does your website load? If you don’t know, then you could be missing out on a lot of traffic and lost revenue as a result of a slow loading site. Just because your site loads fast for you, it doesn’t mean it will load fast for everyone. It’s actually depends on a wide range of factors… all of which we will be covering in this article.
First of all, a fast loading website is extremely important for a number of reasons. Here are just a few of them:
- Keep your audience happy
- Limit your bounce rate
- Google ranks fast sites higher
- Faster website earn more per visitor
These are just four of the most obvious reasons to have a fast loading site. Besides the obvious point of a slow loading site being extremely annoying, it’s a huge financial and growth factor as well.
I’ve already covered most of these points in previous articles on this blog, so this time I want to focus solely on how you can actually speed up your site — step by step. However, just to provide a reminder of how important loading time and page speed is to your business and brand, take a look at the graphic below provided by Aberdeen Group. No matter how much traffic, revenue or business your site is generating online… it can still be leaving a lot of money on the table if it’s not loading as fast as possible.
8 Steps to a Faster Loading WordPress Site
Each of the methods below will be used to increase the loading time and speed of your site in different ways. For this reason, I highly recommend you do a Google Speed Test on your website before implementing any of them tips, then running it again each time you make changes to your site. This way you can see what improvements have worked best. Special thanks to Blogging Basics 101 for the infographic below.
1 – Identify What Causes Your Site to Slow Down
If you want to have a fast loading website or blog, you will find need to find out what areas are slowing it down. A great way to accomplish this is to run a simple speed and optimization test through sites like Pingdom, WebPageTest or GT Metrix.
Each of these solutions will analyze your site and then provide a report for you on how fast each section of your site is loading. As mentioned earlier, this is one of the first things you should be doing before moving forward with any of the steps below.
2 – Get Rid of Unnecessary Plugins
WordPress is one of the greatest content management platforms ever created, however it can also be loaded up with some unnecessary features as well — such as plugins.
It’s important to not only remove such plugins after installing WordPress on your site, but also to remove any unwanted or unused plugins after you may no longer need them. A good rule of thumb to remember is, the more complex a WordPress plugin in… the more likely it is slowing down your site.
P3Profiler is a great plugin for analyzing WordPress plugins and see letting you know which may be affecting the speed of your site.
3 – Practice Optimizing Your Database
The power behind your WordPress site is actually the database that it’s running off of. Just like a computer, this database can fill up with junk over time and slow down in it’s processing speed. Other areas that can slow down your WordPress site include spam comments, drafts, revisions and old plugin tables.
Optimizing your database is not only a great way to speed up your site, it’s also quite easy to accomplish as well. Garbage Collector is a plugin that will help clean up unwanted tables and different areas of your site.
4 – Understand Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
One of the best ways to immediately improve the loading time of your site is to connect with a content delivery network. The way a CDN works is simple, they basically host a copy of your site in different places around the world so your readers are directed to a server closer to them.
For a CDN to work, all a site owner needs to do is modify their root domain DNS configurations (ie: domain.com) and those of its subdomain as well (www.domain.com / img.domain.com). The root domain (A record) will also need to point to the CDN’s IP ranges as well. It sounds like a complicated process, but it’s actually quite simple and will only need to be set up once. Most CDNs will also provide you with a complete tutorial on how to set this up as well.
Content delivery networks can actually help your site with a lot more than just increasing its loading time. Further benefits of having a CDN associated with your site includes:
- Improve page load speed
- Handle high traffic loads
- Block spammers, scrapers and other bad bots
- Localize coverage without the cost
- Reduce bandwidth consumption
- Load balance between multiple servers
- Protect your website from DDoS attacks
- Secure your application
I personally like the CDN from Incapsula, since it has integrated DDoS protection, WAF and real-time traffic monitoring (failover and HA).
W3 Total Cache is definitely my recommendation as a popular WordPress plugin that is often used to connect WordPress sites with their CDN of choice.
5 – Learn to Speed Up Images Issues
One of the heaviest areas of content and resources on your site is going to be image use. Every photo on our site must be downloaded by your audience every time your site is accessed. This includes site design images and content as well. In short… the more images you have, the longer your site is going to take to load.
An excellent way to speed up your site while lowering image loading issues is to add lazy loading to your site. This will only load images as the reader scrolls down into your site content. Some popular plugins for this are Lazy Load, BT Lazy Load and Lazy Widget Leader.
6 – Never Forget to Use Caching
Caching is a great way to speed up your site and content delivery while also reducing the amount of requests that are being sent to and from your server. The more and longer they processes to your server takes, the longer loading time your site will have.
To help with this process, you can implement a caching plugin to do most of this work for you. Such plugins change dynamic files into static HTML files, thus speeding up the time is takes for your site to load.
7 – Minimize and Minify Your Code
While WordPress has made the concept of creating websites and content very easy, it hasn’t done a world of wonders for the actual coding and page sizes that are being published. A better way to get around this and release sites and content with smaller loading times is to minimize and minify your coding wherever possible.
This is best accomplished through the use of GZIP, which can reduce your page size by up to 70%. This can be done by modifying your .htaccess file or using a plugin like W3 Total Cache or WP HTTP Compression.
8 – Social Media Sharing
We all know about the importance of social media sharing and adding those cool Facebook Fan Page boxes and sharing buttons to our sites, but are you using the right ones? As great as some of them might look, they could actually be causing more damage than good.
Many of these tools and plugins are very heavy in coding or resources, which ultimately slows down your site. Some of the most recommended and fast loading WP plugins for social sharing are Floating Social Bar, Share Center Pro or WP MashSocial widget.
Speeding Up Your WordPress Site Infographic
In addition to everything we’ve laid out above in detail, you can also walk through this same 8-step process in the visual infographic below.