Wordpress is nothing short of absolutely brilliant, a great publishing and content-management platform.
However the fact of the matter is that Wordpress blogs and website can be pretty slow at times. This could either be because of a plugin that takes too long to load up, a bad/corrupt Wordpress installation, a slow webhosting service, or maybe even a combination of different factors.
And quite frankly, a slow-loading website can be a downright pain! Load times are interrelated with other important aspects of your website. For starters, a website or a blog that takes ages to load up will most certainly not have very impressive conversion or bounce statistics, will most certainly lose repeat visitors, subscribers and customers, and hence will lose you traffic and revenue in the process.
How to Test Website/Blog Load Times
I use a simple, free online tool by Pingdom to test the load times of my websites. A great little tool, it quickly tests your website and determines its total load times in seconds, and provides you with the page’s size as well. It also gives you detailed information such as pages size and load times of each individual element of your website.
Importance of Load Times
An average human being is impatient by nature. For instance when you look something up on Google, you get 10 results almost instantly. You will most certainly read the information on the website that is quickest to load, one that loads up within a couple of seconds, as opposed to one that takes more than 30 seconds to load up. Chances are, if a website is taking too long to load up, you will almost immediately close it.
If this wasn’t enough, it is a proven fact that when a new visitor stumbles upon your website for the first time, you have only a few seconds to capture their attention. Hence pages that load up instantly have a distinct advantage here.
Even if your website looks fantastic, offers the best products, at the most competitive prices out there, if it loads up too slow, you’re losing potential customers and buyers even before you get the chance to be able to convert them.
Because in all fairness, no one is really going to wait around for more than 10 second for your webpage to load up. People will move on. Studies too have shown that the time before people click away from your website is an extremely short one. And that means you are losing potential sales, customers and clients even before you had the chance to convince them stay on your blog or take some action.
So in essence, you might have all your on-site and off-site SEO metrics up to mark, in good health and performing as expected. But your slow load times are quite simply, killing off all your efforts.
Last but most certainly not the least, Google’s ranking mechanism and algorithm now takes website load times into account, in order to rank your blog for your keywords. Faster-loading blogs will be ranked higher up the SERP and vice-versa.
Now that the importance of a quick-loading website has been established, here are a few things that all webmasters and Wordpress users can do in order to ensure that their blogs don’t take ages (or more than 5 seconds) to load up. The following list of suggestions has not been arranged in any particular order.
Yes, start from the beginning. Slow load times could very well be due to unreliable hosting services, or one that is unable to cope with the demands and traffic levels of your website. Choose a good host and a good hosting package (remember, you almost always get what you pay for!) when starting from scratch, or upgrade to better, quicker servers, maybe even dedicated ones from a well-reputed host.
3. Optimize Images
WP-SmushIt, a great plugin that automatically optimizes your images as you’re uploading them, reducing their file-size (while having a minimal effect on image quality) so that they do not take too long to load up, especially on slower internet connections. Speaking of plugins…
4. Use Plugins
Yes, using plugins that speed up your blog’s load times will make a world of difference. One such plugin is W3 Total Cache. This plugin automatically improves the server performance by caching your complete website automatically, cutting the load time of your blog’s theme and content into half. It also comes with CDN integration. WP Super Cache is another similar plugin, but what this particular plugin does is it generates static HTML files of your website’s pages, which are then served directly, instead of calling up the heavier PHP scripts. No reason why you shouldn’t use both these plugins.
Another plugin that I recommend using is WP-Optimize. This gem of a plugin optimizes your database (including post-revisions, spam, drafts, tables, etc.) and reduces their overhead, bringing down load times of your blog considerably.
6. Theme Framework
A good theme forms the foundation of your blog. The more well-built the foundation, the better, quicker your load times will be. This is precisely why WP’s default themes load up almost instantly, they are well-built and above all, they are minimalistic, no-frills frameworks. If you’re looking for something just as good but with more options, check out the Thesis Theme Framework. While you might need to shell some money for it, it is by far the best after-market theme framework out there in terms of load-times, customizability and SEO.
Wordpress, as crazy as this is, stores every single one of your post drafts, so if for instance during writing you save a draft 20 times, you’ll end up with 20 post revisions, all neatly stored in your WP database. Imagine if you were to add large sized images to your post; Wordpress would essentially have 20 versions of the same large-sized post, making a single post extremely large in size. In order to counter this, use a plugin called Revision-Control, which keeps your post revisions to a limited number, 2 or 3, which means you end up with a lighter and uncluttered backend.