Could this be going through the mind of one of your site visitors right now? If you’re worried, well, you probably should be. On April 9th of 2010, Google announced that they take website speed into account when ranking webpages. So, if your website is loading slow, you bet it’s costing you traffic.
OK, now that you’re nice and motivated to get your site into top shape, we’re going to share 7 easy ways to increase your WordPress website speed. Actually, most of these tips apply to other sites as well, so if you have any type of website, keep reading!
1. Resize and compress your images.
Big images take a long time to load. Unfortunately, some site owners upload supersize images to their websites, then let WordPress resize them so that the viewer sees a smaller version. Too bad the viewer isn’t going to see anything if they press the “back” button when they get bored of watching the page load!
Marketing expert and blogger Willie Jackson warns that many pictures have lots of extra metadata that bloats the file size, so webmasters need to compress images before uploading them. He recommends using applications such as Image Optimizer and Picnik, both of which are free, to optimize and resize images.
Web designer and blogger Daniel Tara of OneDesigns.com also recommends setting height and width attributes for each image, since this tells the browser how much space will be needed to draw the image before it loads.
2. Use <link > , not @import, to call stylesheets.
Both Jackson and Tara recommend staying away from the @import reference when calling stylesheets. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer loads them as if the reference came from the bottom of the document.
Instead, just stick to <link>.
3. Cut back on the number of files needed to load your site.
Obviously, a simple page will load faster than a page with lots of bells and whistles, so ditch any elements you don’t need.
Jackson says webmasters especially need to watch out for WordPress plugins, since many are known to stick extra CSS code into your site without letting you add the needed styles to your site’s stylesheet by hand. That doesn’t mean you should avoid using plugins, of course, just check how each one affects your code and weigh the pros and cons.
4. Install the W3 Total Cache plugin.
See, some plugins are good! Both Tara and Jackson recommend installing the W3 Total Cache plugin, which takes care of many server-side tasks that boost your site’s performance.
They recommend this plugin because it can cache dynamic content pages, minify code, combine scripts and stylesheets, cache database queries, and much more. It’s free, so there’s no reason not to test it out.
5. Use robots.txt to tell bots which parts of your site they can skip, put limits on how often they crawl your site, and block those that aren’t helping you bring in traffic.
This tip comes from online travel show host and blogger Chris Christensen. You can use the robots.txt file, which should be in your site’s top level directory, to tell search engines how their bots should treat your site.
For example, Christensen found that a bot called Majestic12 , part of an open source project aimed at building a new search engine index, was spending a lot of time spidering his site, but not really sending much traffic his way. He added this code to make it stop:
Christensen also added code to limit how often Google and MSN bots crawled his pages, telling Google not to visit more than once per minute and MSN once every five minutes:
He found that these were among the changes that helped speed his WordPress website up.
6. Consider investing in a content delivery network.
OK, using this strategy costs money, but it’s sure to boost the speed of your WordPress site. A content delivery network s uses servers around the world to deliver your site’s static files to visitors from the city nearest them, instead of sending all your site’s files through just one host.
Both Jackson and Tara recommend using a CDN. Our team at CreditDonkey uses Akamai, another CDN provider. Jackson recommends MaxCDN in particular. MaxCDN advertises their services with prices as low as $39.95 per terabyte, with “easy, instant activation” for WordPress sites and a money back guarantee. It also works well with the W3 Total Cache plugin recommended earlier.
7. If a content delivery network is outside of your budget, try CloudFlare instead.
Not ready to pay for a content delivery network? That’s OK. Tara advises using CloudFlare as a free alternative.
CloudFlare is a worldwide network of data centers set up to work as a proxy between your server and the Web. Since CloudFlare caches your site’s static content in their data centers prior to sending them, it acts as a CDN. Again, it works well with the W3 Total Cache plugin.
Tara warns that CloudFlare can actually hurt your site performance, however, especially since dynamic requests are still going to be served via the original server, using a DNS translation. So, if you use the CloudFlare dashboard to get a comparison of site load speed with and without their service and see that the load score isn’t available, do tests yourself to make sure it’s actually helping.
[box]Written by Daniela Baker
Daniela Baker, social media advocate with CreditDonkey, reviews business credit card deals to help bloggers support their blog expansion. Now that you know the ins and outs of these 7 easy ways to increase your WordPress website speed, you can offer a better browsing experience to your visitors, and you know what that means—more conversions![/box]