Once upon a time, it was only humans that really cared how fast a website was. Then came broadband, and suddenly we all thought we could have massive websites. Google put a stop to that, by announcing that speed makes a big difference to how well your WordPress blog will rank.
Now, not only do we need to ensure we write great blog content, we also need to care about our blog speed for both human users and robots like Google. Here I share eight proven methods to improve the speed of your website in no time at all – and the best part is that they are nearly all free to do!
Choose a fast hosting provider
It all starts with where you host your blog. Having a super cheap host is pretty much a guarantee it is going to be slow. The cheaper the hosting, the more sites they need to host on each server, to make money.
Try using a service like webpagetest.org to see how fast various hosting companies’ websites are. Ideally, find one of their customer’s websites to test, because they would put lots of effort in ensuring their own is faster.
You can also search for reviews of various hosting companies. For example, search “[hosting company name] reviews” or “[hosting company name] speed”
Keep files to a minimum
The issue with many WordPress themes, is they come with dozens of files that get served with each page load. Having many files, no matter how small they are, slows everything down. For example, a randomly chosen blog I looked at, although reasonably fast, still has 25 files being loaded;
- · 9 x images
- · 6 x script files
- · 6 x CSS files
- · 3 x font files
- · 1 x HTML file
Those 25 files all need to be loaded by every user’s device, before they can enjoy the content!
A speed test tool like Pingdom (free) will show you how many files a site has, under ‘Requests by content type’ in the results.
Use cache plugins
There are a number of great caching and speed plugins for WordPress. My favourite is WP Rocket (paid), however I have also heard great things about two free plugins, W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache (very similar names, I know).
The reason I like WP Rocket, is that it is very granular in what you can turn on and off. I find each theme can be a little bit of work to tweak so it is best optimised, without breaking any features. It is, however, a paid product, so won’t suit everyone’s tastes.
Optimize those images!
It’s absolutely important that you add images to your blog. Quality images look fantastic, however they come at a speed and performance price.
The first task is to always ensure you resize images to the exact size you actually require. Uploading a 3,000 pixel image when you only need a 900 pixel wide image, is just wasting resources. If you don’t have a paid version of Adobe Photoshop or similar, then I recommend the strangely named but feature packed, Photo Pea. It’s free and browser based, so there is nothing to install.
Upload your photo or image to Photo Pea, select Image Size, change it to the right size and then export the result. I find using Photo Pea to export as JPG already makes the file size pretty small.
Another free tool I love is Optimizilla. Drag and drop your image files, and then let it compress the file size. I often find anywhere from 30-70% file size savings, with no loss in visual appearance. That’s well worth the 10-30 seconds per image it takes me to upload and download.
Keep all plugins up to date
It’s fairly easy to ignore those plugin update warnings, and soon enough your website or blog has 20 out of date plugins.
This can be an issue for security exploits which is super bad of course, but also there are plenty of developers who are constantly improving the speed of their plugins. So do yourself a favour and keep the ones you are using up to date at all times. This definitely will help speed up your WordPress blog.
Fix any crawl issues
Google’s own Search Console is an awesome resource for website owners. One of the features it has will highlight any issues with your sitemap or page crawls, meaning Google actually makes suggestions for improvements for you.
Signing up is free, and there are plenty of helpful articles about Google Search Console to get further advice on how to best use it.
Use a content distribution network
This sounds very technical, and it can be, however the concept behind content distribution networks (CDN for short) is that they host your blog files closer to where your users are.
That means they have a copy of all your images and files in Australia, as well as France, in Mexico and in Africa, etc.
Whilst most CDN providers are commercial, you can get a free albeit limited account with Cloudflare, who are one of the biggest CDN providers in the market.
Uninstall inactive themes and plugins
Whilst WordPress may not necessarily load these files every time, it still makes zero sense to have a bunch of themes you are never using, or plugins that you will never activate, sitting there in your WordPress install.
As long as you don’t plan to ever use them, and they are definitely inactive, it makes sense to delete them from your WordPress blog so you never need to worry about them in the future.
So, in summary, by ticking off all eight of the above speed improving methods, you are putting your best foot forward to speed up your WordPress blog, ensuring it is as fast as you can make it for both humans and robots alike.
Best of luck in keeping it up to date, and all the best for blogging success!