Did you know that if your site takes a mere 4 seconds to load, 25% of your potential site visitors will bail before it does?
Did you know that search engines take into account the speed of page loads in their algorithms?
If you have a WordPress site and are noticing it taking a long time to load it is time to do an assessment. You can use a free site www.webpagetest.org to enter your url and it will give you some eye-opening data. You most likely know already if your site is slow to load but it is nice to have the data on how slow and what is causing it so that you can make some changes and reassess to see how much improvement you gained by your actions.
Here is a short list of the most likely culprits:
1. Overuse of Plugins. Performance tests with new installs of a premium theme without plugins show a pretty significant increase in speed to those with even the normal group of about six plugins. Now don’t get panicky. There are some plugins that are necessary for optimum performance, like Akismet and SEO plugins but do a brutal assessment and delete any that you don’t really need, especially those that make data calls to another program like a Twitter Feed or Facebook Like box.
2. Poorly Coded Themes. Many themes load java script in the header when for best performance it should be loaded last, in the footer, so that the site shows up and then lets the java load. How can a lay person know this? Look at your “View Source” and if you see it then it may be time for a theme change. Another problem is sloppy redundant CSS. Some of the theme frameworks like Genesis and Thesis pride themselves on their code being optimized for best performance.
3. Too Many and Too Big Images. Yes, too many images, may make your site crawl. This is compounded when those images have not been resized before being uploaded. Sometimes WordPress is actually using a small sized image on your post or page, but other times it may be loading one of your huge images, (direct from your mega pixel camera) and letting the browser resize it with html. This is a big speed load killer. Get into the habit of resizing images to less than 800 pixels wide and 72 dpi before uploading them. Even better, resize them to the needed size before you import. Whenever possible, compress your graphics by saving them “for the web”. Your eye won’t notice a difference, but your site will. There is a WordPress Plugin that will “Smush” your images. However, if you brought in huge images you may have to resize them by hand because Smush it has an upper size limit that it can handle.
4. Shared Web Hosting. Good hosting is very important and there are some hosts where your shared hosting will work just fine ( Bluehost) and some that load too many sites onto one server and have performance issues for database sites (GoDaddy). If there are too many sites on a shared server or one of the sites on a shared server gets some major traffic and takes up too much oomph (don’t you just love my technical terms?), then your site speed will suffer. There may come a time when you want to move to either a “managed hosting company” like WP-Engine, that only works with WordPress sites and provides caching and CDN services to all of their sites. Or, you might want to get hosting on a virtual private server. Just be aware with hosting, free or really cheap is usually not a great option.
5. No Caching. One way you can improve performance is to use a caching plugin like WP Super Cache or a managed hosting company that caches for you such as WP-Engine. Caching makes a copy of the parts of your site that don’t rely on data calls by creating static html files. These static files can be loaded quickly when someone visits your site, while your actual dynamic site is being loaded in the background.