The name of the game is speed. Earlier this year, Google added website speed to its algorithm for determining how to rank your site. Since then there’s been a greater focus than ever in the blogging community to try and speed up load times.
The speed of your blog not only affects your ranking, but also keep in mind how it may affect the user experience.
If you are running a WordPress blog, there are a number of plugins available that will help improve your site’s speed. But what about a more universal solution? Is there anything that can be done for blogs that run on other platforms as well?
In this article, I’m going to discuss some methods to help you improve your site’s performance. Many of you may already be familiar with the wordpress plugins that I review, however you may be interested in the content delivery network service that I discuss to help improve your website’s performance in the second section of this post. If you’re already set with your wordpress setup, you might want to skip to the second section of this post.
If you are running a wordpress blog, there a few plugins that will help your speed up your site:
One of the original caching plugins. This plugin basically creates static html files for your WordPress blog and serves those up instead. Static html files are much faster to load than the WordPress PHP Scripts. This plugin is user friendly and basically plug and play.
This is a caching plugin for the more experienced user. It’s a good alternative to WP Super Cache for those who want advanced caching options. For the advanced user, you’ll be able to tweak extra performance out of this plugin over WP Super Cache.
This is a great compliment to your other caching plugins. The focus of this plugin is to cache the output of your blog widgets. Whereas your other plugins cache pages, this plugin is specific to caching the widgets in your sidebar. If you are running a lot of widgets or ads this plugin will do wonders for the overall speed of your site. Remember that this plugin is specific to widgets and not intended to replace your other caching plugins such as WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache.
Image files are one of largest drains on performance. This plugin optimizes image files by stripping out the unnecessary meta data, optimizing jpeg compression and stripping out unused colors from the images. Every image that you add to a post will run through Smush.it optimization. This plugin is a must have if you have images on your blog.
This plugin adds lazy loading to images. This allows your blog to load only the images that are visible in the fold and then load the other images as the user scrolls down. The effect is that your page will load much faster because it’s only loading images as needed.
These are just a few of the most essential WordPress Plugins to help you speed up yore website. There are a few other plugins that you can find to improve your load times, but you will see the most significant improvements with the ones above.
Content Delivery Networks
A content delivery network is a service that distributes your website from various other servers. Basically, these services will have copies of your blog cached all over the world. The benefit is that these cached files will be served up from sites closer to the user and it will also prevent bottlenecking at your own host. A CDN can greatly improve the load time of your blog.
The best thing is that a CDN is a universal solution. Anyone, whether you are running a wordpress blog or on some other platform can use a CDN to speed up your site.
Most CDNs are paid services. However, I’ve discovered a service that is both efficient and free. The CDN that I’ve been using over the past month is Cloudflare.
I’ve found overall that Cloudflare has improved the load time of my site about 30%. The best way I can explain how this works is with the charts from the Cloudflare site.
This is how your website is normally exposed on the web:
As you can see in this diagram, your traffic bottlenecks at your host since everything is coming in at the same location.
This is how cloudflare steps in to interact with your traffic and speed up your load time:
Cloudflare acts as a filter between your site and the rest of the world. It filters out the bad traffic to reduce the load on your site. It also serves up cached copies of your pages to your good visitors quickly.
Setting up Cloudflare
If you decide to try out the Cloudflare CDN service, it has a very straight forward set up process. Cloudflare easily walks you through the procedure. All you need to do is change your nameservers over to the cloudflare servers. This will typically take 24-48 hours.Once you’ve completed the change, you’ll notice Cloudflare speeding up your website right away. There are also a number of more advanced options you can adjust, including analytics and security.
The second thing that you’ll notice is that Cloudflare also provides extra security for your website.
The threat control system identifies bots and other common threats and presents a captcha phrase that bots likely wont fill in. This is just an additional level of security to prevent spammers and hackers from getting to your website.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the services that this free CDN offers. It’s definitely well worth looking into for anyone who wants to get some additional speed and security for their blog.
Overall, I’ve found that with all the plugins that I’m using, my site had been edging up to 9-10 seconds or more to load. This was fairly problematic. After implementing these few solutions, I’ve checked my performance with Pingdom tools and today I’m down to between 4-6 seconds.
Here’s what Pingdom Tools has to say about Riches Corner today: