How I improved my WordPress page load speed by 65%

I was able to improve my WordPress page load speed by 65% this past weekend using a few simple steps. Admittedly, our site has not been the fastest loading site on the web due to a couple of factors; part site content (our photography blog is an image rich site) and to a larger degree poor site management (I’ll own that one). However, since reading Google is strongly considering adding page load speed as a new ranking factor into their algorithm, I decided now is the best time to take action.  Based on my recent experiences, I will share some tips on how to speed up your WordPress blog.

Establish a benchmark. Before making any changes to your site it is important to establish a benchmark for site speed. It is important to understand where the needs are prior to making wholesale changes. WebPageTest.org makes one of the best tools I have used for conducting a web page performance test. This test may take a few minutes to complete, but once completed, you’ll have plenty of data to start your web site improvement project.

Remove excess (javascript) baggage. Javascript can add cool functionality to your site, but also put a major drag on your load times. These scripts usually come in the form of widgets, affiliate ad blocks, and counters. At ILovePhotoblogs, we used a number of widgets and plugins to track user engagement, display photography supplies, and to promote social networking. After reviewing my web site performance test results, I was confronted with the reality that to improve site speed many of these “nice to haves” would have to go.

  • Tweetmeme – I really love this plug-in and it’s ability to allow users to promote our content on Twitter from a single interface. Since I already use the Google URL Shortner and Feedburner Socialize to publish my latest posts on Twitter, living without Tweetmeme is doable.
  • Whos.amung.us – If you are looking for real time traffic stats, this is a great tool. Simply add a few lines of code to your site and away you go…but again…more javascript that slows down the site. I removed this code for two reasons…more javascript (as previously mentioned), and secondly, I spent way too much time watching visitors come and go. Interesting stats but a major time waster for me
  • Amazon Search Widget – Amazon is very good affiliate program, but fancy widgets do come at a premium as it relates to page load speed. This particular widget looks great..was a decent performer…but a major obstacle in my mission for improved speed

Clean house. Pay special attention to the total number of WordPress plugins you are using. We all love plugins, but go through all active plugins  and verify you still have a need for each. If you find any candidates for removal, deactivate and delete. This review step enabled us to remove 6 plugins; 3 were providing redundant actions and 3 were not being utilized. For serious cleaning, you should consider WP-Optimize. This plugin allows you to – remove existing WordPress post revisions, remove all the comments in the spam queue, remove all un-approved comments, apply MySql commands to your database tables with phpMyAdmin, and more.

Look for 404 errors. One of the more  interesting warnings  I noticed on my benchmark test results was a 404 error (page not found) for ilovephotoblogs.com/favicon.ico. What is a Favicon.ico and how to create one?

“The “favicon.ico” facility is by no means essential to your website’s operation. In fact, few people even notice its existence, and its really too small to put anything useful in it. However, creating one can save your site some bandwidth if you have created a custom 404 File Not Found error file – that file will be sent by your web server everytime there is a request for a nonexistent “favicon.ico” file. Perhaps more importantly, creating such an icon adds to the professionalism of your site, marking you as a web designer who attends to detail.”

Here’s a great site if you are interested in creating a favicon for your site.

Compress, compress, compress. Finally, caching your blog output will significantly reduce the Sql queries to your database and speed up your site. Check out these (2) plugins; WP Super Cache and WP Widget Cache. Since my site has a ton of images, I  installed/activated WP Smush.it. I’ve been “consistently inconsistent” in compressing the images I post. Smush.it allows for quick compression of any image you wish to publish, which saves me the step of running each photo through Photoshop to compress. For all future posts, this plugin will be a great asset…too bad I have 2000 images in my Media Library from past posts which will need to be addressed.

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3 thoughts on “How I improved my WordPress page load speed by 65%

  1. Smush.it sounds great. I’m building a portfolio site for a client and I’ll check it out as their portfolio images are usually huge!

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