How to Make Your Blog Load Faster

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As you progress, you’ll soon realize that website speed is very important when comes to user experience and retention. In other words, users are likely to lose their patience if your blog is taking too long to load.

You may ask – “how fast is fast enough to keep my blog up to user’s expectation?”

Before we dive in further, let’s look at some interesting facts on page load time first:

Site Speed Statistics
Source

Did you notice? 3 seconds or less! 

More than 83% of people are expecting a web page to load in 3 seconds or less, and more than 40% will start abandoning your page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

It sounds cruel for blogs that have slow speed but the stats are quite reflective of the internet users’ behavior nowadays. People are competing with time and those who can provide quick info or services for the same or even better quality will likely be preferred.

Having said that, 3 seconds is not a magic number, it serves as a benchmark for us to compare our blog’s speed performance so that we can try to work towards it, if possible.

How to check your page load speed? Depending on your region, you can check your page load time from USA, Sweden or Australia via Pingdom.

As in how to make you blog load faster, I’ve categorized the tips into two broad headings – Primary and Secondary Setups to help you understand better the importance of the components under these two headings.

How-to-Make-Your-Blog-Load-Faster-Than-EverPrimary Setup 

The primary setup here is referring to the core components of your blog when it’s built. Just like assembling a racing car, we need to get the right engine and operating system that are capable for speeding first.

For a website to speed, I believe these 2 components are essential and need to be in place from the onset:

1. Get a Web Host With Great Server Speed

Web server is just like the engine of your blog. If you want to speed up your blog, you need to equip it with the right engine for speeding. As simple as that.

The question is – “Which host has great server speed?”

Personally, I’m satisfied with the performance of InMotion Hosting and I host this blog with them. Alternatively, you can find other high-speed performance hosts from my web hosting reviews page.

Consider switching to a better high-speed host if you find your existing one is too slow. Bitcatcha’s server speed checker is a handy tool to check your server speed performance for free.

 Note:  The nearer your blog’s server is located from the target audiences, the better speed experience will be received by them.

2. Use a WordPress Theme That is Optimized For Speed

WordPress theme is the backbone of your blog. How well-written are the codes will have direct impact to your overall site performance. So, it’s crucial to get a speed optimized WordPress theme to set your foundation right for speed.

While you can find all sort of different WordPress themes in the market, not all are written with the objective for speedy performance in mind, especially those that are free.

To check how fast a WordPress theme is, you can test it by using the demo theme’s homepage, post and page on Google’s PageSpeed Tool to gauge its performance on both desktop and mobile device.

My advice is, do consider to get a well-optimized WordPress theme seriously when starting a blog as switching theme half-way through can be overwhelming, especially when you’ve made customization to it.

Secondary Setup

Secondary setup is the nitty-gritty parts where you need to tweak the bolts and nuts in order to maximize the speed potential of your blog, without major changes to the core components.

Let’s see what else you can do to make your blog load even faster…

1. Optimize Your Images

We all know that images are great to bring visual experience to users but the size of image is kind of headache when it starts to jam up your blog’s speed.

As a general rule of thumb, save your images in JPEG format as image in this format is best to be compressed without losing the quality significantly. Alternatively, save in PNG format if transparent background is needed.

A quick fix to optimize your images can be done by using free image optimization tool like WP-Smush plugin to compress the new and existing images from your blog. At the point of writing, WP-Smush helped me to save 12.4MB / 6.2% image size for free. Not bad right?

Optimize-Images-with-WP-Smush2. Install a WordPress Caching Plugin

Cache plugin helps to speed up your page load time by delivering stored content to the users. I have to say, this is one of the Must-Have plugins to improve speed performance.

Depending on the WordPress theme that you’re using, cache plugin that works best for one theme may not be effective for other themes. You’ll only know when you try it.

If you asked me, I think it’s worth trying the free version of WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache or WP Fastest Cache before you decide which one works best to your blog.

3. Minify Javascript and CSS Files

This usually comes together with the embedded features in cache plugin which helps to improve page load time by combining and compressing your Javascript and CSS files.

Do look out for this option in the cache plugin and make sure it’s enabled.

4. Choose Optimized WordPress Plugins & Remove Unwanted Plugins

Plugins are great to bring more functionalities to our site. However, loading on excessive plugins (even for inactive plugins) can slow down your website speed significantly.

Ask yourself which plugins are really the core for the required functionality? Can it be removed?

Are the core plugins slowing down your blog? If yes, are there alternative speed optimized plugins available to perform the same function? 

You can do a quick check on your plugins’ performance using this free tool – P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler). It creates a profile of your plugins’ performance by measuring their impact on your WordPress site’s load time.

 Note:  Don’t forget to delete the P3 plugin after you’ve used it to trim down the unwanted plugins.

5. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

As mentioned earlier, the location of your web server can have impact on your blog speed when it’s accessed by users from different regions. For example, if your server is located in West Coast of US, your blog’s page load speed maybe quick for users in the West Coast but not so for users in Australia, Hong Kong or even East Coast of US.

In short, the further away your server is located from your users, the longer it takes to transmit the data when your blog is not on CDN.

A CDN is a network made up of servers all around the world where each server will store the “static” files that are used to make up your blog. Example of “static” files are images, CSS, Javascript etc. Every time when a user visits your blog, he/she is served those static files from whichever server that is closest to them. With this, your own web hosting server will also be faster as CDN is relieving the work from your server.

If you’re considering to leverage on CDN, MaxCDN and Cloudflare are the 2 popular options preferred by the webmasters.

6. Clean Up Your WordPress Database

A cleaned database does help to improve speed performance. Do regular clean up to your WordPress database and delete things that are not required anymore such as trashed posts, post revisions, spam comments etc.

I did this with WP-Optimize plugin and I find that it’s very easy to clean up my database with just a few clicks as per the screenshot below.

 Reminder:  Do backup your database before running the optimization, especially for items in red font in the screenshot.

WordPress-Database-CleanUp


7. Disable Hotlinking of Your Content to Prevent Bandwidth Theft

Hotlinking happens when someone is linking your image URLs directly on their website without actually storing the file on their own server. Literally, they are stealing your server’s bandwidth to serve the image on their website.

This can slow down your server speed performance as bandwidth is a limited resource to all of us. To prevent this, you can add the following code to your .htaccess file.

# BEGIN disable hotlinking of images with forbidden or custom image option RewriteEngine on RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$ RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?yourdomain.com [NC] RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.com [NC] RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?feeds.feedburner.com/username [NC] RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [NC,F,L] # END disable hotlinking of images with forbidden or custom image option

The codes blocked all sites from hotlinking by default. You’ll have to specify which websites that you would like to allow for hotlinking. My suggestion is to allow your own site, google and your feed address as highlighted in the red font code above. Just create additional lines if you have more websites to put in and amend the URL accordingly.

RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [NC,F,L]

This line of code is the image format that you want to block from hotlinking. If you’ve more image formats to block, feel free to add-on by seperating them with “|”. Example:

RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif|img)$ – [NC,F,L]
 Reminder:  Remember to backup your .htaccess file before making any changes.

8. Keep Your WordPress Updated & Optimized

This is kind of the low-hanging fruits that we as a blogger should know to keep our WordPress site, theme, and plugins updated to the latest versions. Failing to do so can make your site slow, unreliable, and make you vulnerable to security threats.

Apart from that, here are some tweaks in the settings within WordPress that may help to make your blog load faster:

  • Show summary instead of full posts for each article in a feed.
  • Reduce the number of posts from 10 to 7 (or lower) on a page.
  • Split comments into pages instead of showing all in one page.
  • Remove unnecessary sharing buttons on post / page (includes only the major one like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram etc).

Key Takeaways

There are many other factors that could make your blog load faster (or slower). After all, speed optimization is an on-going effort and we should always try to improve our blog speed consciously for better user experience.

When user experience is satisfied, then search engine ranking will follow. Don’t you notice websites that rank high in search engine usually load faster? 🙂