Site speed is now a major ranking factor with Google. This means that slower sites will be pushed below sites that are faster in search results.If your WordPress site is slow, here are a few quick ‘fixes’ for site speed:
Use a Lightweight Theme to Increase Site Speed
I started designing WordPress sites using Artisteer even though I knew it had problems with bloated code. But I am primarily an artist and wanted a simple way to create a theme visually. I have tried many themes and finally settled on Genesis because it is so lightweight and clean. Genesis is just a framework that sits on top of WordPress. You can add or create a theme that prettifies the site using one of their themes, or Dynamik for Genesis.
On top of being lightweight and clean, Genesis is a responsive framework and eliminates the need for a mobile plugin. Dynamik carries that even further, giving you simple means to add code specific for different screen sizes (tablet, phone, iPad, etc.) Use Firebug in Firefox to tweak the layout.
Eliminate or Replace Plugins
What can you do to find out if your site speed is slow because of plugins? Use yet another plugin to find out – the P3 Plugin Profiler, available through the WordPress repository.
Simply install the P3 Plugin Profiler through the WordPress Plugins dashboard and run it. It will show you which plugins are large, taking time to load, how many header requests are being made to your server, and how long it takes your site’s plugins to load.
This gives you the opportunity to
- find another plugin to replace large ones
- eliminate plugins that are unnecessary or deactivated
- replace plugins with code in your functions.php file
Shopping carts, calendars, event registration, quote rotators, social network feeds and membership plugins are notoriously huge. If you are using these on your site, you’ll want to keep everything else to a minimum. Once you’ve finished with P3, delete that plugin.
Be sure to delete plugins that are deactivated. Those files are still active even though they aren’t functioning.
Genesis’ Header and Footer Scripts in the Theme Settings lets you add the Google Analytics code to your sites, rather than using a plugin to install it. The code is readily available from your Analytics account. Another option is to add the code to your header.php file. You can find this file under Appearance/Editor in the theme files. Be sure to make a copy of the original file in Notepad in case you blow it.
Use a Caching Plugin
Do you realize that when someone lands on your website, their browser retrieves all the files for your site? The more files to retrieve, the longer it takes your site to load. Site speed slows down. You can reduce the number of ‘header requests’ by using a caching plugin.
A caching plugin can reduce your header requests by half. The best caching plugins are WP Supercache, WP Total Cache, and DB Cache Reloaded Fix with Hypercache. The easiest to use is DB Cache Reloaded Fix, with WP Supercache running in second place. Total Cache is very robust but you really need to know a lot about coding to get the most out of it. DB Cache Reloaded Fix does not usually conflict with shopping carts, a common problem.
Take Care of Your Images
Sliders retrieve all the images from the media library even though only one image is shown at a time. Slider images are big. And some slider files will be retrieved on each page that someone is viewing even though the slider may not appear on that page. NextGen Gallery has a complementary plugin (NextGEN Gallery Optimizer Premium) that preventing NextGEN’s scripts & styles from loading on pages without the slider shortcode. Similarly,the New RoyalSlider image files are only called up on the page it is on.
Image files can be enormous. Imsanity is a great plugin that prevents uploading oversized image files – it resizes the images as they are uploaded to a maximum size you specify. In addition, you can resize the images in the current library in bulk to something manageable.
The easiest thing to do is to size your images appropriately before you upload them. If your theme is 1000px wide, size your images at that width maximally. There are a couple of places online to shrink your images – use TinyPNG for PNG images and try JPEG Optimizer for JPGs. The compression can reduce the file size by 70%.
Host Your Site on a VPS Server and/or use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
VPS servers are fast. Much faster than regular shared hosting servers. They’re not cheap but if your site is large and growing larger, with increasing traffic, they’re worth every penny.
CDNs like AmazonAWS are storage facilities that deliver up your content the same way your website server does – they store and deliver specific files, which relieves the strain on your hosting server.
These two methods of hosting your content can make a huge difference in the site speed of your website.
Check Your Site Speed
Pingdom has a great tool that tests your site speed. It actually shows you the order in which files are loaded. Plus, it shows you which files are taking a long time to load – many times, it’s the images.