A fast website matters. In fact, Google has learned even one second is too slow for some web users. According to a NY Times article, “These days, even 400 milliseconds — literally the blink of an eye — is too long, as Google engineers have discovered. That barely perceptible delay causes people to search less.”
Naturally, Google wants your website to load fast. One of their many SEO ranking factors is website load time. They want the best possible experience for their users. Part of that experience is having websites load super fast.
But how do you make your website load fast? If you use WordPress, then this tutorial will show you how you can test your website speed and dramatically decrease website load time. Even if you don’t use WordPress, these tips can still help!
With the following steps, I was able to take one of my WordPress website’s load time from 18 seconds to 2.78 seconds.
I will be applying these tips to this blog soon too.
Tools to test your website speed
Before you begin, use the following tools to analyze your current website speeds. This way you can compare results and use them to make further performance decisions.
Pingdom Tools-Test load speed and find out what areas of your site need improvement (ie. image, css, js, and other file size compression).
Another option is to use loads.in to test and analyze performance.
Remove plugins that hog performance
Also, make sure you analyze any plugins that might be causing your overall WordPress performance to stall.
P3 Plugin Performance Profiler is an excellent plugin that can tell you which plugins are causing performance issues.
Use a caching plugin to decrease load time with WordPress
Setting up W3 Total Caching Plugin
There are several caching plugins for WordPress but the one I found that works best is W3 Total Cache. Plus it allows you to utilize additional features that work with a content delivery network.
W3 Total Cache is a very robust caching plugin and it can get fairly complex.
I strongly suggest you experiment with toggling on and off Object Cache, Database Cache, Browser Cache, and Page Cache and test the results with each one using Pingdom tools.
For some servers, caching may already be present and turning on some of these features in W3 Total Cache might increase load time and create the opposite effect we are looking for.
However, based on testing and our server configuration with VPS.net the following seems to work well:
- Page Cache Enable-Disk: Enhanced
- Minify Enabled. Use Auto.
- Database Cache Enabled (Disk).
- Object Cache Enabled.
- Browser Cache Enabled.
Configuring Cloud Flare CDN to be used with W3T.
Cloud Flare offers a robust and FREE content delivery network. Anyone can use their system and it’s quite impressive for a free service. Using a CDN alone will give you a noticeable speed increase. You can use this service with any site-not just WordPress.
I’m not going to explain the complexities of a CDN but you can read more about them here.
First, go sign-up with CloudFlare.com.
Get a free account.
After you register, login and you will see a field to add your website URL.
Cloudflare will spend some time detecting your DNS settings and you should be able to follow the on-screen instructions.
Just make sure your IP Address for your host looks correct. Click “Im done adding my DNS settings” and now CloudFlare gives you a new DNS to use.
This is important.
- The new DNS you should copy into a text file.
- Go to your domain registrar (the place you registered your domain) and replace the two DNS fields you currently are using with CloudFlare’s DNS.
- Make sure you also save your old DNS settings incase you need them again.
- It can take up to 48 hours to propagate (usually only an hour) and then your site will be using CloudFlare as a CDN.
The next step is to sync W3 Total Cache with your CDN. This is where the magic happens.
You need to acquire the API key from your CloudFlare account and copy and paste it into the API key field in W3TC.
Make sure you add your account info, use “low” as your security level and make sure development mode is off.
Click save when finished.
Optimize images in your blog posts
Now that we have the caching plugin setup, we can run all of our images through Yahoo’s Smush.it platform which optimizes all of our images using a “lossless” technique.
Smush.it uses optimization techniques specific to image format to remove unnecessary bytes from image files. It is a “lossless” tool, which means it optimizes the images without changing their look or visual quality. After Smush.it runs on a web page it reports how many bytes would be saved by optimizing the page’s images and provides a downloadable zip file with the minimized image files.
We will use a plugin to assist us with bulk “smushing” of our images. Wp Smush.it is a plugin that does all of the hard work for us. Go ahead and install it.
After you have installed it, make sure you click on your Media tab and click “bulk smush.it” and the tool will take all of your existing images and run them through Yahoo Smush.it.
Please note if you have a lot of files already, it might take some time to complete. If it times out or stalls, just run it again.
For some files, it might not work if they are over a certain size. Consider deleting those images and replacing with optimized versions. You should be optimizing each image you insert into your wordpress blog posts.
After you complete these steps, be sure to clear your browsers cache. Now go back and test your website speed and watch your new speedy website!
Of course there are many other options to help load time but this should significaly help you with minimal effort.
Please post your results or questions in the comments below!
I would appreciate your Facebook Likes, Re-tweets and all that social love of course!