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Newbie guide to speeding up your blog

Internet users HATE slow loading websites! And so does Google!

If there is one thing you can do to turn off your visitors, this is it. No matter how great your blog is, long page loading time will surely not attract many suitors. Improving you blog loading time is a must if you want to succeed.

But why am I telling you all this? Why am I assuming that your blog may be slow?

This is because blogs in general ARE very susceptible to slow loading times (YOU need to do something about it). There are 2 main factors behind it.

Why blogs tend to get slow?

Slowdown factor 1:

Blogging platforms such as WordPress are dynamic sites. It means that each time a page is requested, it is generated dynamically and then served. This consumes a lot of resources. More importantly, it takes time to dynamically generate a web page. Lots of connections and crosstalk occur between php and mysql, causing the page load time to soar.

Slowdown factor 2:

WordPress also uses lots of plugins. Don’t get me wrong, some plugins are very essential, but not all of them.

Plugins use lots of resources from your server. More importantly, many plugins need to connect to external sites to carry out their functions. Your page cannot load completely until these external servers have responded. Result – as you guessed – your blog takes more time to load.

Did I make worried?

Don’t be. The purpose of this post is to tell you what you can to do to prevent long and slow loading times.

There are two steps to it:

  • Knowing how to check the speed of your blog.
  • Making your blog load faster with simple optimizations and monitoring it.

How to check speed of your blog?

It is quite easy. There are quite a few tools that allow you to check your site or page loading speed. The simplest and easiest one is this speed checking tool.

Go to the site, enter your blog url and hit the “test now” button. It will give you the loading time for your blog. Try it. How long did it take for your blog to load completely?

My blog took x seconds. How slow is slow?

Tricky question. This depends on the user. Some users are prepared to wait a little bit while others are not having that much patience. Your aim should be to make your blog as fast as possible.

As a rule of thumb, anything taking more than three seconds to load should be avoided. Large sites usually take between 1 to 3 seconds to load. It is fine if a few of your pages take a little more. But mostly it should be below 3 seconds, especially your frontpage.

Can simple optimizations make my blog faster?

Yes they can.

In fact, you only need a few simple tweaks. Things any newbie can do easily (keep reading).

Are you skeptical about how much difference small optimizations make? Here is an example.

This is a screenshot of the loading time for Blogician.com without any major optimizations. The blog was being served dynamically.

Site speed without caching

Site speed without caching

As you can see, the loading time was quite long. And it was only around 300 KBs of data. You may have much larger blog posts. It was not acceptable at all.

So I made a few optimizations. I installed W3 Total Cache, a very good caching plugin. It is one of the few must have plugins for a WordPress blog. I simply enabled page caching.

What happened behind the scene: Next, I had to reopen my blog. When I opened the blog for the first time after enabling the plugin, the blog was dynamically generated and served. Now, these dynamically generated pages got cached and converted to static ones (by the plugin). Whenever another request for the same page would be made, the readymade static ones will be served instead.

Still skeptical? Lets see what difference it made. Here is a screenshot of my blog after installing the caching plugin and generating the cache.

Site speed after caching

Site speed after caching

Impressed? From over 12 seconds to less than half a second. Great improvement, isn’t that? This is what simple tweaks can do to improve loading time for your blog and make it faster.

Know what is slowing your site down

From the same tool, you can also get some great insights into what is working and what is not. The page analysis tab in the report is the most useful one. It tells you a lots of things about your blog:

  1. time spent in each state (tells you whether establishment of “connection” state is taking most of the time whether it the server that is slow resulting in long “wait” state
  2. time spent on each content type (tell see which type of content is using up most of the bandwidth; is your blog script heavy or there are too many images)
  3. time spent per domain (how much time is being spent per domain; usually the most time is spent on the host domain but sometimes plugins may connect to external sites which needs considerable amount of time to respond)
  4. what amount of data is being used for each content type (tells you which type of content is using the most data; images or JavaScript or something else)
  5. what amount of data is being taken from each domain (how much data was obtained from each domain before presenting on your blog; certain plugins obtain data from other domains before presenting on your site)
  6. an analysis of the requests made

Having a quick look through this tool can give an fair idea of what may be happening wrong. You can take corrective actions accordingly.

  • For example, if a long time is being spent on an external domain which is used for a certain plug-in, you can think about disabling that plug-in.
  • If images are taking too much space, you can resize and optimize images.

Use Google PageSpeed

Another great website speed optimization tool that you can use is Google’s PageSpeed. Put in your blog URL and ask it to analyse. It will give you a scorecard along with suggestions to improve your site speed.

Here is a screenshot of the report it produced when I analysed Blogician.com.

Page Speed Report card to speed up blog

Page Speed Report card to speed up blog

A pretty decent score of 81 but it also made certain suggestions. The most critical suggestion that it gave was to leverage browser caching.

Leverage Browser Caching

This could be done with our existing caching plug-in. You just need to go to general settings, scroll down to browser caching option, tick the checkbox and save the settings.

enable browser cache

Enabling browser cache

Another suggestion made by Page speed was to minify JavaScript.

Minify Javascript

This can also be done with W3 total cache plug-in. Go to minify settings, scrawl down to the JavaScript option and enable it by tickng the checkbox.

Enabling js minifiy

Enabling js minifiy

 

Similarly, you can also implement the other suggestions as per requirement.

More NEWBIE tips to improve loading time

There are many other simple tweaks that you can employ to speed up your blog. Here is what each of these tweaks do.

Page caching

It generates a cache of static webpages from dynamically generated ones. When the static web page is served, less resources and connections need to be made; as a result your page load is faster.

This is something you must enable on your blog.

Minify codes

Codes such as CSS, HTML and JavaScript may contain useless and redundant data. Minifying codes removes those data and results in shorter codes. As a result, less data needs to be transferred and you can certainly guess its effect on the loading speed of your blog.

At the very least, minify the JavaScript on your blog.

Browser caching

This is basically a set of instructions to the browser, telling it what to cache at the browser side and for how long. For example, you can instruct browsers to cache your blog header image for a period of few years, if you’re not going to change it. During repeat visits, the browser will generate the header image from its own cache rather than trying to get it from your server.

You can enable browser caching if you want with the W3 total cache plug-in. Repeat visitors are likely to find your site load faster.

Compression

Compressing the data would save up bandwidth. The data will be compressed at the server end and sent to the user. At the user end, the data will be uncompressed and used for displaying the page.

Image optimization

Images are usually the biggest spenders of your bandwidth. Resize and optimise them to minimise their size. Sacrifice that little bit of image quality if it means major savings on your bandwidth.

You can use a plug-in such as WP Smush.it or EWWW image optimizer. Both work fantastically.

Less plugins

Plugins are very essential to WordPress or any other blogging platform. But some plugins cause considerable slowing down of your blog. What can you do under such a circumstance?

There are two options. (1)You can either ditch that plug-in altogether and sacrifice that functionality. (2) Or you can look for an alternative plug-in that gives same function but without the slowdown.

Less callbacks

Callbacks and Trackbacks are good for showing your popularity. But they can also slow your blog down.

If you want, you can disable track backs and callbacks. In WordPress, it can be turned off for individual posts in the “edit post” page.

Advanced tips to make your blog faster

There are many other things you can do to speed up your blog. But these things often require some level of technical expertise and know-how. Not something a newbie will be familiar with. That is why, I have not covered these little advanced strategies to improve loading time in this post. Here is a list of the advanced techniques that you can employ.

  • Optimize CSS delivery
  • Disable hotlinking and leeching of your content
  • Add an expires header to static resources (browser caching done manually)
  • Add LazyLoad to your images
  • Reduce redirects
  • Use content delivery network
  • Put CSS at the top and JS at the bottom

You can read more about these strategies at Moz and Sparringmind.

Final advice

One thing to remember in this respect is not to overdo it. If your blog is achieving good speed by using the simple strategies, then let it be. If your blog is already running fast, what is the point in removing some essential plug-ins or over compressing your images. Isn’t it?

Conclusion

So there you are. Now you know so many ways to optimize your blog to load faster. Try these out and let us know how it went. How much improvement did you notice? Share your experience in the comments section. If you’re having any difficulties, feel free to ask in the comments section. Looking forward to your comments.

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Neil
Neil is the owner of Blogician. Neil writes on every aspect of Blogging to make life simple for fellow bloggers. Follow Neil to learn how to grow a blog.
6 Responses to “Newbie guide to speeding up your blog”
  1. Sanusi December 9, 2014
    • Neil December 9, 2014
  2. Brigitte Lepoix March 23, 2015
    • Neil March 23, 2015
  3. Harshil Barot March 29, 2015
    • Neil March 29, 2015

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