Speedup Your WordPress Site

WordPress has all the bells and whistles for an easy DIY website, right? Plugins til the cows come home, you can customize just about every aspect of your WordPress site can’t you? That’s why I’m using it. I’m no code guru, I’m just squeaking by, learning bits here and there, trying to make my footprint on the web. But did you ever notice how slow your site began to be after you started adding all that ‘stuff’? If you’re like me, you’re on high speed internet so you don’t notice it so much, but what I didn’t know was that most people don’t have high speed internet. What I learned was that a lot of people weren’t even able to pull up my site because it was loading too slowly, even on DSL.

People were leaving my site as soon as they got there because it was slow! That’s not good….lets face it, if people can’t upload your website they aren’t going to stay on your website and they sure as heck aren’t going to buy anything. That’s hurting your website in more ways than one, because guess what? Google knows your website is slow and is penalizing you for it. So, first things first, is your website slow?  How do you tell if it is or not? That’s why the PTB in internet land made websites that will test your page speed for you on different internet connections as well as different browsers! How cool is that? There are several websites where you can test your page speed, but WebPageTest is the one I like, you can change connection, browser, even the location. Don’t forget to check the speed of different pages of your website. How fast should your webpage be? While you probably don’t need to optimize for 56k Dial-up visitors, aiming for a download speed of 30 seconds or below on Dial-up is a pretty good range to make sure your webpage is fast.

OK, so your website is slow, but WordPress sites really don’t have to be slow, you can speed it up and increase traffic and conversions by making a few changes. Most of the things that slow down a WordPress site are the very things we like about it, all the bells and whistles, but there are other things as well-

  • Large plugins
  • Excessive plugins
  • External requests
  • Large images
  • Slow themes
  • Advertising
  • Bad hosts

As awesome as plugins are, they can be just as bad for your website and it’s always the number one suggestion you’ll hear for why a WordPress site is slow. If you already have lots of plugins and your site is slow, what I recommend is disabling them all and checking your page speed without them. Then enabling them again, one one at a time, checking your page speed as you go. This will show you which plugins you’re using if any, that are dragging your site down. What I learned though, was that my speed was so bad, this didn’t help me much until I tackled some other things first.

So I set about making my site as bareboned as I could. I took out all the extra external requests, like Flickr widgets, my offsite Shop widgets, Facebook widgets, stuff like that, clear it out and start from scratch because that stuff is weighing your site down. That includes gravatars on comments, every gravatar is an external request that will slow down load times.

I verified my theme wasn’t killing me by doing some research on fast and slow WordPress themes. Believe it or not there’s a ton of research already done on how to speed up your site, you just have to find it. So I felt fairly confident my theme wasn’t detrimental to my page load time but at the same time I learned that I needed to compress my css and javascript. What do you know, there are plugins for that! Of course there are (snarkasm, I just made a new word, don’t steal it). You can find plugins that will do that as well as compress other things and cache your pages, images, and files for you…all good things to make your site load faster. Be careful though, some of these caching plugins are HUGE, and I do mean huge. One of the best out there I passed on because it really slowed my site down, so I ditched it and went with a smaller one, W3 Total Cache.

Images! Argh, it’s a never ending task to make your site faster, especially if you haven’t been optimizing your photos for websites……and I hadn’t. I thought I had, but I was wrong. Luckily, this site hadn’t come far in terms of me getting content onto it so it wasn’t that tough for me to delete my images and get smaller ones up, just a PITA. But you’ve got to crop your images and scale them down in size, believe it or not a 300×300 photo is fine for webpages. But once you’ve got it there….find the hand dandy tool that compresses it for webpages and compress it, seriously.

Advertising. If you have a WordPress site that you are trying to sell from (or are hoping to!) and you have advertising on it and it’s slowing your site down, then you kind of deserve it. If you have a blog that is purely informative, by all means advertise on it, it’s supposed to be a money making blog. But if you’ve got a website that you want to sell things from, leave the advertising at the door because the object is to keep folks on your site, not send them away….and it slows your load speed down!

Bad hosts….well that speaks for itself now doesn’t it? Did you know there are websites that will tell you how many other websites are hosted on the same server as yours is? Once upon a time I was using shared hosting on GoDaddy and my site was slow. I did this check and found out there were nearly 50k other websites hosted on the same server as mine. Ah, but this “wasn’t the reason for my site being slow”, they told me, nope, that’s not it. You need to, well, basically do all the things I was currently working on, and that I told them I was working on, but still my site wasn’t getting any faster. There was no point in arguing with them, I knew from what I was reading on other websites on this same topic that goDaddy was never going to own up to the fact that they were overburdening their servers and it was affecting their customers. I really think they don’t believe they owe it their customers to not overburden their servers, I mean, how else will they get them to puchase dedicated server space, right?

Anyways, none of that stuff made a difference for my site until I left GoDaddy in the dust. So I did more research for hosts that were good for WordPress sites and decided on InMotionHosting and have been very happy about the switch. They have lots of tutorials for migrating your WordPress site over and have live techs to answer questions online when you have them. They were happy to help me with WordPress things that GoDaddy would not have, because GoDaddy avoids helping with WordPress issues at all costs. I am on a shared hosting plan there but it’s cheaper than GoDaddy and my features are better and there are less than 4500 websites on the same server as mine =), oh, and my website is pretty fast I think.

The moral of the story? GoDaddy go, just get the heck out of Dodge and don’t look back. Oh, and BTW, you can get a refund of your remaining Godaddy hosting! After you are sure you no longer need access to their servers, simply cancel your hosting account in your admin panel, then start a support ticket stating you’d like a refund for the remainder of the hosting you paid for. It takes a week or two, but you get it.

OK, so I had a new host, I migrated my sites over, set up new emails and migrated those over, so much work, but I wasn’t done. Then I needed to figure out just exactly what good things I could add back in without slowing me down. Personally, I’ve decided to keep it as bareboned as I can stomach and am planning to see where that takes me. I think all the extra widgets and junk kind of get in the way myself, and I kind of like having a central place for links where folks can find me rather than a jumble of junk that makes the page look busy and leaves people wondering where to find me. Plus I’m working on a 3dcart (PS use this link to get a cart for yourself, and you get a free month…and so do I!) to add soon so I don’t need my offsite shop widgets anymore. I did add some social sharing things that didn’t seem to slow me down, though, and a slim SEO plugin. I decided against gallery plugins, they just don’t seem to work anyways and are frustrating.

So that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. But let me tell you this, if you don’t know for a fact that your WordPress site is fast, it probably isn’t, and quite frankly, that goes for blogger blogs, too (I streamlined my old blogger blog after realizing it was uber slow, too). So take the time to fix it, or what’s the point?