Not too terribly long ago, we covered an article about 16 Tips to Speed Up Your WordPress Blog – Infographic by Cent M. First, let’s review and take a deeper look at that valuable list. Then, we are going to expand on what the Infographic presents and point out some actionable steps that you can take.
Here is a recap those 16 tips from the original article:
- Speed up your target home page load time.
- Don’t use a cheap-shared hosting provider.
- Remove unwanted plugins.
- Keep the number of plugins as low as possible.
- Keep your site size low.
- Keep your images sized below 100k.
- Understand the impact of social sharing buttons and integrations.
- Optimize your database.
- Avoid external scripts whenever possible.
- Use CSS instead of images, when possible.
- Keep images on your server instead of loading from another site (this does not include CDN usage).
- Use images instead of widgets, when possible.
- Spend more time analyzing the performance of your site, rather than the analytics.
- Create a test site and experiment on that test site.
- Use a caching plugin.
- Review site performance once a month.
These are great tips, but sometimes reading the tip and applying the tip creates a gap in our understanding if we are not prepared to hear it (i.e. no prior knowledge of the topic). This is especially true when we don’t quite understand what we are instructed to do.
For example, let’s look at #11. This is good advice. The speed at which your page loads is better if it is loading the image off of your server instead of connecting to another server and loading the image from there. (Also, there may be some permission issues if you load the image from another site.)
However, this does not apply if you are talking about a CDN. What is a CDN?
What is a CDN and Why Do You Want a CDN?
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. The way that it works is that the company caches your blog or website in various company-owned data centers. Let’s use Incapsula as an example vendor, with features of how they run their content delivery network. That way, by using an example vendor, we can go through the bullet points of what they offer.
Incapsula’s system is able to analyze your site and figure out what can be cached and what cannot or should not be cached. It is “application-aware,” understanding the what is considered static information and what is considered dynamic (i.e. database-driven) information. This allows the CDN to perform at a peak level.
How does this help your load time?
Sound confusing.. all this “static” versus “dynamic?” That's ok, we got you covered. 😉
Static data is that data that doesn't change. So, if you create a web page in straight HTML that says, “Hello world.” It is a static page. (It would also load really quickly for you because all it has is some text.) However, if you create a page, using WordPress or some other application, that goes and looks up the first name of the person who is logged into the site and says, “Hello, Ileane!” based on the information from the database (i.e. looking up the username of the logged in user and cross-referencing the first name), well, then that is a dynamic page. Make sense?
But, more than that, there are other advantages to a CDN, as we continue…
When a visitor visits your site, instead of waiting for the page to load every element and piece of data and image, as if loading for the first time (which is always going to take longer), it connects to the Incapsula CDN and finds the fastest current cached version of the site and loads that. The site visitor doesn’t have to do anything. The site visitor doesn't even have to know anything (as it relates to site performance)! The heavy lifting is done by Incapsula (or whatever CDN vendor, assuming they can do it), based on the configuration that is put together, as a team effort between the client (blog owner) and Incapsula’s talented team (in this example).
The large sites like Mashable, CNN, etc. use a CDN in order to keep their sites loading fast. Also, they get hit by so much traffic that their site would go down without it. Oh, yes, because that is another aspect of a good CDN — security. Not all CDNs cover security, but our example CDN does. So, that is a *hint*… if you choose a CDN, choose one with a security aspect. In the case of our example CDN, Incapsula, the “bad traffic” is blocked, freeing up more for the “good traffic.” Bad traffic would be those sources that have been identified as nefarious, as an example.
Let’s look at #6, above, with the suggestion of keeping images under 100k. Actually, I would recommend that we aim for less than 300k. Of course, under 100k is even better, but there are some images that aren't going to quite fit under that 100k mark. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this work offline. If you have a WordPress blog, you can obtain a plugin and “Smush It,” reducing the size of your image. You don’t want to expect miracles, but in general, this plug can do the work for you. You can download a free version of the WPMUDev WP Smush. There is also a pro/upgrade version if you want a more powerful tool.
Oldie, but goodie >> Check out Ileane's post from a few years ago on plugins you should ditch (also related to speed).
WordPress Caching Plugins
Remember how we were talking about caching, above, under the topic of CDNs? In the same way that CDNs use caching to deliver the version to your blog readers, there are localized cache plugins that may be added to your WordPress blog. A couple that come to mind are:
There is an interesting comparison of these two plugins (as well as a plugin by wpmuDev): The Top 3 WordPress Caching Plugins Compared And Choosing The Best One For Your Site It is a helpful article and aids in explaining what caching is, but just keep in mind that one of the plugins is from the company that hosts the blog.
One Final Word
A friend of mine also wrote a wonderful article on this topic and it would be worth consulting. Also, selfishly, I am quoted in the article on the topic of plugins (and quantity, etc.). That article is Your website’s need for speed. In fact, as I scan the article, I see many of the same recommendations that we are making here. I guess great minds think alike, eh?
There you have it, the article linked at the beginning of this one, here on BasicBlogTips, some tips that I’m sending your way, and yet another valuable article on the topic of speed for your site. I’d say you are armed with the information that you need to start speeding up that site of yours, wouldn’t you?