Optimizing your website for maximum speed when loading pages in a browser is extremely important if you want to retain visitors to your website. Statistics show that the average Internet user will wait 3 seconds or less for a page to load before they venture off of your site and go browse somewhere else.
Before you can engage your website visitor with your valuable content, you must first insure that they stay on your site long enough to see your content. You can do that by insuring your Home Page loads fast and that load speed is consistent throughout the rest of your pages.
There are specific tasks that you can complete to insure that your site loads fast and remains that way. None of these tasks are particularly difficult nor expensive. You do NOT need to work tirelessly on SEO to accomplish good page loading speed.
Let’s look at some of the most important page load optimization strategies and then I’ll show you where the “tweaks” can be found in your back-office.
In these examples, we will be using a WordPress website since WordPress dominates the content delivery platform on the Internet.
Visitors to my website blog frequently comment that the site that you are on right now, ScottAlanReed Dot Com, loads extremely fast. And they wonder if I’m doing some tricks to make that happen. I’M NOT! I’ll show you in the video, exactly what I do to insure fast load time.
Get an IP Address That Is Yours, and Yours Alone
By default, when you sign up with a web hosting company, your site shares an IP address with any number of other websites at the same hosting service. That means that your web traffic is competing with the web traffic of other websites that are sharing the same IP address that your site uses.
If those other websites are getting a lot of traffic, yours slows down and vice versa. This leaves your load time at the mercy of whoever is sharing the same IP address as you. So stop sharing your IP address with other websites so that the speed of your website is not dependent on theirs.
Think of an IP address as being the highway into and out of a web server, and one to many domains . You share that highway with other websites; but you don’t have to. My hosting company (Bluehost.com) offers a dedicated IP address to my website for about $4.85/month. My IP address is mine alone. I don’t share that highway with anyone. I share the web server with others. But the highway into and out of my website belongs to me.
If my website ever slows to a crawl, I would want to consider getting and paying for a dedicated server so that I can monopolize the memory and CPU power of the server for my needs alone. That would be expensive at $125/month. That time will arrive soon enough. For now, I recommend a dedicated IP address for your website in order to boost your sites page load time.
Run Your Domain On CloudFlare – It’s Free
CloudFlare is a CDN or Content Delivery/Distributed Network. A CDN is a large distributed system of servers deployed in multiple data centers around the world and Internet. The goal of a CDN is to serve content to end-users with high availability and high performance.
CloudFlare works just like Amazon.com. Amazon owns hundreds of data centers around the world.
Amazon handles an incredible amount of traffic quickly by recognizing the visitor’s geographical location and then by connecting the visitor to the Amazon data center that is geographically closest to them in order to maximize the speed of the Amazon website.
I use CloudFlare for ScottAlanReed.com and several of my other websites. I don’t pay anything for this service. Use of CloudFlare speeded up my blog website dramatically and is the primary reason why I am able to achieve fast page load times.
I’ll show you how to add your website to CloudFlare in the video below.
Also there is a CloudFlare plugin that you must install, but it’s also free and there are no complicated options to set up. All of the plugins that I mention in this article are free from WordPress.org and can be found in Plugins | Add New | Plugin Name (or search).
If you have heard a rumor that the CloudFlare network is rife with spammers, don’t believe it. I heard the same rumor a year ago before I started using CloudFlare. My sites are not getting spammed nor attacked. So much for rumors.
Use a Caching Plugin
You absolutely must have a cache plugin on your website. A cache stores the most frequently accessed pages and page elements of your website in memory so that they can be retrieved quickly the next time the page is accessed. If you are not using a cache, every single page on your site that is accessed is being fetched from disc or the server HDD. Fetching something from disc is a slow process.
There are good cache plugins and not so good cache plugins. I recommend WP Super Cache created by Automattic, W3 Total Cache, or WP Super Cache – Clear All Cache. Yoast has a caching plugin that is good but it has a ton of settings. They can be complicated to set up. But the one that I use isn’t too technical. And it gets the job done. This speed enhancing strategy is likely the second most effective page load speed booster, second only to CloudFlare.
Keep a Handle on Article Revisions, Visitor Comments, and WordPress Databases
In the course of composing new article content for your website, you create multiple revisions of the same article. Every time you save your work, you create another draft copy of the article that you are creating.
I have over 60 articles on my blog. It’s not uncommon for me to have 10 revisions of one article before I am ready to publish that article. If that were true for all articles that would be 600 copies of content of which I am only concerned with the final published draft of 60 articles.
Get rid of the old revisions. They drag down the performance of your website.
User Comments can do the same thing. It’s not unusual for me to have 4-6 thousand SPAM comments every couple of days residing in the SPAM queue waiting for my review and approval.
Not all of these comments are really SPAM. A SPAM comment on my website is any comment that contains more than two links. The primary link in a comment is the name of your website. Your e-mail address is another link. If you put something in the body of your comment like “please visit my blog at this link and tell me what you think”, that is a third link and your comment will fall into the SPAM queue.
Many websites automatically delete SPAM sight-unseen by the site owner. Most SPAM must be deleted manually. Since not all SPAM is really SPAM, I review most SPAM quickly and look for the comments that were made by the visitor who never intended to SPAM my site. It is easy to accidentally create SPAM. I have found some of my best and most constructive comments in SPAM. It’s obvious that the person who created the comment did not intend to create SPAM. And it’s a simple matter to weed out the offending link and approve the comment.
However, no one has the time to review and edit 6,000 SPAM comments. I’ll peruse a half-dozen pages of SPAM and delete the rest. Leaving massive numbers of unapproved comments in your comments queue will drag down the performance of your website. I’ve seen SPAM comments occupy 166 pages in the SPAM queue. That’s like pulling an anchor around your website. Get rid of that dead weight and do it often.
Fortunately, there is a handy WordPress plugin called “Optimize Databases After Deleting Revisions” that will handle this. The plugin not only keeps your WordPress databases clean, it also deletes all old article revisions (except the most recent revision) AND empties the SPAM queue for you.
I’ll demo this plugin for you in the video below so that you will see the actual size of my website in megabytes before and after optimization. There’s a big difference. The larger your website in megabytes or gigabytes the slower it runs, unless you have taken steps to compensate for this, like moving your site to a dedicated server. It isn’t necessary to do that with most sites. And as I said before, dedicated servers are expensive.
Getting back to the “Optimize Databases After Deleting Revisions” plugin,I run this plugin after reviewing comments in order to keep my site running on all cylinders. You should too.
WordPress Plugins Can Impede Performance
This is kind of a touchy matter. You need plugins on your site. But too many or the wrong plugins can be a drag on performance. It’s a judgment call. You will have to decide if the plugin functionality is worth the drag it puts on performance. Just don’t get “plugin happy” because plugins will come with a price in lost performance for your site.
Really “heavy duty” plugins should be tested in advance of use. If performance has been affected, your visitors will let you know in their comments when page load times are slower or are getting intolerable. By “heavy duty” I mean plugins that are described as doing just about everything you can imagine except shine your shoes.
If you are not using a plugin, deactivate it and then choose to delete the plugin’s files. Deactivation does not remove the plugins files, which means that the plugin PHP code still resides on your website. When WordPress prompts you with “Delete Files?” upon deactivating a plugin, choose “Yes”. If you change your mind and find a use for the plugin you can always reinstall it.
Don’t Host Your Own Videos
Most video files are huge. Do not store them in the Media section of your WordPress website. There are plenty of free video hosting websites available. YouTube is the most obvious one. Wistia.com will also store videos for free with their free plan. Vimeo also offers free video hosting accounts.
Be Conscious of Image Sizes
Using photos on your website is important for illustration and engaging your audience. But the use of too many photos, or photos that are too large can drag down page load times. There’s no sense in loading a 20MB image file when you’re only going to display it as 300×300 pixels! Image quality is important, but only if it is noticeable. Image quality is achieved by using higher pixel concentrations (resolution). But resolutions in excess of 72 dpi (dots per inch) are not appropriate for the Web.
There are some plugins that will help you control the impact of images on your page loads. The WP Smush.it plugin will optimize JPEG compression and strip the unnecessary metadata to make photo files smaller. You might also consider the Lazy Load plugin, which will only load images when they are visible to the user.
Summing It All Up
This is how I achieve fast page loads on Scott Alan Reed Dot Com. No tricks.
- Get your own dedicated IP address.
- Subscribe your website to CloudFlare. It’s free and it makes a big difference.
- Use a caching plugin to cache pages and other elements that are accessed or viewed most often.
- Use a plugin to clean your WordPress databases, the SPAM queue, and old revisions of posts.
- Minimize plugin use. Delete plugin code that you are not using.
- Do not store video files on your website. Use a service. Many offer free accounts.
- Avoid huge photo files. 72 dpi resolution is sufficient for the Web. If unsure about resolution, look at the file properties.
I have not had a need to implement the following for faster page loads.
If you have implemented all of the above steps but are still facing unacceptable page load speed, I would first consider looking around for a better hosting service. And if that doesn’t resolve your problem, you may need to consider putting your website on a dedicated file server.
Most web hosts offer several packages for improving website performance. Some hosts have optimization consulting experts on staff and available for a nominal fee. They will evaluate your website to insure that it is running at peak performance.
Web hosting is highly competitive. And because of competition, these companies use special service offerings to compete against each other. Take advantage of these services. Since competition is stiff, these services are often offered to you at bargain prices.