Did you know that even a 1-second increase in site load time will affect your blog negatively?
In fact, you will get 11% less page views because people will get fed up and leave. That’s huge!
Research shows that people won’t wait longer than 3 seconds for a site to load before departing in disgust.
An extra bonus to a low site load time is that Google loves a fast site that the bots can navigate easily and quickly. This means you will rank better in searches and that’s a great thing.
Do this now! Check your site load time.
1. Go right now and check your site load time on Pingdom.com – check your home page load time and a random full post page. Write them down on a piece of paper and keep it handy.
2. Then come back here if you are over 3 seconds on either of those.
So you are back…
That means you got a wee shock after testing your site load time. Then let’s get serious and reduce that site load time. I could tell you to get a better host and a cleaner theme which is well-coded and there are all sorts of technical things you could do but I know you are not at that stage so I am going to tell you only things that you are capable of executing right now.
Go to your plugins and count them.
– Less than 10, give yourself a gold star.
– More than 10, start pruning them
Some plugins are essential for every well-run site, like SEO and cache plugins, but what about all the fluffy stuff that you have added one at a time until your site feels like a sluggish seal trying to move and that load time is in a dark hole? Get rid of it all – the fluff, not the good stuff.
WARNING – make sure that it is not a plugin that when taken away creates a problem. I used to use the Ziplist recipe plugin and one day decided I preferred the Easy Recipes plugin so wouldn’t need Ziplist anymore. Big mistake! It left all the recipes I had used it on wandering around bereft with nowhere to land. In fact, the recipes disappeared. The first warning I had was an angry horde of readers leaving comments about the absent recipes. Oops! I reinstalled it and the problem vanished. So please be careful. The best thing is not to install them in the first place.
Also, something that disturbs me when I do blog critiques is all those deactivated but not deleted plugins. They are a security risk and weigh down your blog unnecessarily. You are not using them but they are still there. You know that you can always reinstall them later if you want them, don’t you? They won’t disappear into the stratosphere never to be found again.
All those big images I see on almost every blog make me want to weep. It is such a shame to be making such an easily solvable issue. By the way, if you are not a great photographer, read my article, 8 Great Sites for Free Photo Downloads. But right now, this is what I want you to do going forward:
a) Find out what the width of your post area is on your blog. That is what your photo width has to be before uploading it to your WordPress blog.
b) Take your newly snapped image and import it into whatever photo software you use – Photoshop or Pic Monkey – and change it to have a resolution of 72 (not 300, which is what usually comes out of the camera) and then change the size to have the width of your post area. In my blog, Strands of My Life, it is 1024px and I make sure all my photos are that width. Also make sure they are under 100kb or they will be too big for the site to load easily. So, 3 things – 72 resolution, under 100kb and the width of your post area.
c) Upload this image to your media library or directly through your post upload function. DO NOT ever upload a large photo and then downsize it in WordPress, because the original size is what is registered for the load time. AND use as few photos as possible in one post or that load time will rise.
3. Posts showing on Home Page
The next thing to do is go to Settings/Reading on your Dashboard and see what number is beside Blog pages show at most and make sure it says 6-8, not 10, which seems to be the default. 10 is too many for most blogs. If you have heavy posts full of images, videos etc., choose 6. If you have light posts, then 8 should be fine.
4. Caching Plugin
I need you to go back to your plugin page and check whether you have a cache plugin like W3 Total Cache or something similar. A caching plugin is essential to keep your site running well and the load time fast but it has to be set up correctly and it is a little complex. You will need help with that. When you install it, make sure the Minify function is not enabled. It can conflict with some themes. Then get it configured. Just one little thing to check is whether your host already has one in place. Most don’t but, for example, WP Engine does and won’t want you installing another system. But some kind of caching system is important so check this out.
This is only for those of you with Jetpack installed. It is a worthwhile plugin in many ways and I love some of its features. It has stats right there on your dashboard, extra widgets and an easy contact form. As always, there is a warning. If you have too many of its features activated, it will slow down your site considerably. Go into the Jetpack dashboard and scour through every feature and deactivate all but the absolutely necessary ones. To do that, click on “Learn More” for each function and then you can deactivate that feature.
6. Loaded sidebars
Ah, now to my personal bugbear. Those wickedly loaded sidebars on some blogs make me want to weep as well. They are detrimental to your site load time and therefore to your blog. Every single item has to be loaded every time a new page is opened. Ouch! Talk about heavy. With time, bloggers add more and more things to their sidebars until they look like a derelict house full of centuries of litter. Talk about ugly and detracting from a good reader experience. I want you to do this now:
a)Go to Appearances/widgets and get rid of all but the essentials like an optin form, social media icons and a popular posts widget to get people to look around. Read my article, 5 Widgets You must have on Your WordPress Sidebar.
b) If you insist on ads, then one or two but not 50 of them.
c) Don’t put a Facebook or Google+ widget here that shows your number of followers unless that number is above 1,000. The number of likes is evidence to people that they should take you seriously so if you only have 200 followers, perhaps they won’t take you seriously.
d) Also clear out all those favours you are doing for all your blogging friends. Find another way to help them out without cluttering your sidebar. A sidebar should be minimalist, clean and clear for the reader. After all, this is about the reader, not your blogging friends.
Now doesn’t that feel lighter? I can assure you, your blog will feel lighter.
Last Step – test your site load time again
Go back to Pingdom.com and test your site load time again on the same pages.
Faster? Sure is! Now wasn’t that a good hour’s work?
Just to finish with, I want to link to a post, Site Speed is Money, which is a little complex but you will get the gist of how much money can be lost by having a slow site.
Let me know in the comments if you did this and it lowered your load time. I’d love to know.
Here is a summary in slide form of the above points.
Top image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net