Google will use many things to rate your site and give you a good ranking. One of those things is speed! Face it, this is a world where there is no time to wait 5 minutes for a site to load. You need information, you need it now, before something else gets your attention. So what are some of the best ways to actually speed up your site without losing content?
Themes & Frameworks
First thing is to make sure that the setup you have has a good framework. This means, that you are using a theme or engine that is lightning fast. One of the best WordPress Theme Frameworks is Genesis. This site is hosted with it, and it is amazingly fast. Out of the box, this theme is setup to not only manage the more important SEO on your site, but loads in less than a second!
The Genesis Framework is also smart in it’s design. Instead of limiting you to only 1 theme layout, it’s been made so you can add on “Child Themes”. These are the same as regular themes, except it only does the work of changing the styles of your site. Genesis is still the core, and you keep all those features handy so that any theme, or designer can put it to good use.
Some of the biggest culprits to slow down your site are plugins. There are so many different types of plugins, they all use their own scripts and they all try to be different. The problem with always being different, is that for each plugin you have, there’s 1 more thing to load. Bad code, or ill-thought out updates, can cause these plugins to slow down even more and make your readers find other venues for their learning or entertainment.
A fantastic plugin I’ve used to find issue on many sites is the Plugin Performance Profiler (P3). This amazing little plugin doesn’t waste memory or slow your site. It’s purely for the admin side. By running this tool you’ll find out exactly which plugins are slow and how long it takes to load information. Once you’ve identified the issues, the pain is in the pruning. Which plugins must stay, and which can you get rid of? Some sites I’ve worked on have had an almost 500% increase in loading times from removing plugins!
Photos, ads and buttons are all images that need to be kept as small as possible. That means, for the web, you don’t put 2-10MB, HD pictures. It’ll make people pull their hair out waiting, or they’ll just leave. The rule of thumb is to convert all images to a max of 400px square (unless there’s a reason, like backgrounds), and 72dpi (Dots per Inch) resolution for the web. Picasa and Gimp are free applications that will convert these images easily. Most affiliate programs and ads will already be optimized, so the rest is in the pictures you put in your posts!
That’s not it though. On top of making them small, you need to have as few as possible. Every time a picture is loaded, an “HTTP Request” is made, a phone call between the browser and server. The more of these there are, the slower your site. One way to reduce the number of requests there are is to use “CSS Sprites”.
Notice at the top of this blog, there’s 11 pictures for Social Media. If you add them individually, that’s 11 request. But in reality, those are sprites. It’s a single picture that uses CSS to point what and how much of the picture to show. Only 1 HTTP Request. The best part is that not only does it save requests, it also saves size. Each individual image has information put in it, if there’s only one picture, there only 1 set of information. Smaller pictures!
Consider your audience
How many people are still on 56k modems these days? More than you’d think! The bigger your blog, the more of these people will avoid you because they just can’t wait for your site to load. Google thinks of this for rankings too. So always keep your information to a minimum. Pictures, plugins, scripts, code, all of it will contribute to how long it take for your site to load. Y! Slow and Google PageSpeed are wonderful tools that you can use to see how many things are slowing you down. If you have 5 separate CSS sheets between your Themes and Plugins, combine them into 1 and save the space and speed!
What have you done to speed up your blog lately?