My blog FloridaSwimNetwork.com has been loading very slowly lately – over 10 seconds. My analytics showed we lost a good deal of traffic from people bouncing off the site simply because it did not load fast enough; especially our mobile users. I had to do something because nothing kills a blog like a slow loading time. (Psst! It also affects your Google rankings – yikes!)
Check Your Load Time
There are a variety of sites that check your load time for you. I like numion.stopwatch.com and tools.pingdom.com. StopWatch gives a simple time to load while Pingdom gives a ton of feedback about what on your home page is taking the longest to load. Use that to guide the changes you make to your blog to decrease the loading times.
Check Your Theme
It turns out the WordPress theme we were using, called Magnus, utilized a ton of widgets on the front page in order to display the posts in a variety of ways, including a slider and news ticker. While it looks great, it was way too heavy and created a delay as a browser tried to fetch each one of the posts in the widgets. So, we decided to switch to a cleaner, simpler theme.
Don’t Overload Your Home Page With Posts
This was a sticking point between my blogging partner (my hubby) and me. My husband wanted the home page to looked packed with info, lots going on, and lots to see. It turns out all those blog posts slowed down the loading time. It is better to have fewer than 10 posts on the front page, and then have the visitor use the menu tabs to find other/older stories. Remember to only show excerpts and not the full stories, too. And, if you are really ambitious, get rid of all the social media widgets, too. They really put a strain on load time.
Optimize Your Images
Another problem with our particular theme was that while it was dynamic, it didn’t automatically resize an image for different sized browsers. What it actually did was create 7 different copies of an uploaded image and resized those, which not only slowed loading times but also clogged my media library in my host files.
Use this plug in to resize/optimize your photos: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/
Use Lazy Load
By adding this plug in to your site, a browser will only load the images above the fold instead of the entire front page, increasing the loading time. As the reader scrolls down, the images will then render with the scroll.
Find it here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/jquery-image-lazy-loading/
Try a Cache Plug in
In March we had so much traffic that we crashed our server. This is a good thing, yes, but it also meant time for us to upgrade our hosting plan. We also added a cache plug in, which basically creates a photocopy of your most popular pages and shows that to visitors, thus there is no rendering of images needed. Be careful with your plug in settings, though, as it can overload your server if set incorrectly.
Try this plug in: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/
In addition t the cache plug in, you can add Cloudflare with temporarily optimizes your hosting plan when the traffic is high.
Learn more here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/cloudflare/
If you allow comments (we don’t to force the conversation onto Twitter and Facebook), be sure to set your gravatars to a blank space instead of the goofy cartoon faces. Yep, even those take loading time.
You may not have heard of hotlinking before – it is when somebody links to the images on your site. (Happens more than you think!) So every time somebody visits their site, the image is downloading from your site, thus putting a cramp on your bandwidth. You can prevent this by adding a plug in to stop it.
Try this: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-automatic-image-hotlink-protection/
So, I can’t wait until our new redesign at FloridaSwimNetwork.com is ready employing all these strategies to get a blazing hot (and speedy) site!