Giselle of Hacking Digital teaches us how to speed up our blog’s and improve loading time for an improved reader experience!
Hey Unicorns! I’m Giselle, the math and coding nerd behind Hacking Digital. I’m one of those rare food bloggers who really enjoys figuring out how to do all the technical stuff most bloggers hate. So, I started a second blog where I share coding and blogging tips and tricks that the average blogger can actually understand. For more behind-the-scenes WordPress and blogging hacks, follow me on Pinterest, Twitter and Inst
Bloggers love to focus on on-page SEO. But did you know that SEO involves more than optimizing your content? We could literally talk for hours about all the different ways you can improve your SEO game but today I just wanted to focus on one. Specifically, why and how you should speed up your blog for better SEO.
Why your blog’s loading time is important for SEO
Google has made it clear that site speed is one of the factors used to rank pages. It may not be the most important one, but if your page load time is subpar, you may rank lower in search than websites with a better site speed.
The second and arguably more important reason to speed up your blog is your audience. Most readers expect a blog to load within 2 seconds or less and many will click away if it takes more than 3 seconds. Disappointing your readers is bad enough but having them abandon ship after only 3 seconds will lead to a higher bounce rate which isn’t great for SEO.
So the question becomes, what can you do about it?
How to check your blog’s page speed
There are quite a few sites that allow you to check your blog’s page speed, including Google’s PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom and WebPageTest. I prefer PageSpeed Insights myself but I’ve heard good things about the others as well.
Regardless of which tool you use, you need to check your page speed before you attempt to speed up your blog. Once you do, you’ll have a better idea of what needs to be fixed and you can measure your progress as you make changes.
Now, onto the good stuff:
How to speed up your blog and improve loading time
These are definitely not the only five steps you can take to speed up your site but they’re some of the more simple ones. You won’t need any special knowledge or tools, beyond a few free plugins and websites, to make these changes.
1. Reduce your images
Large images can slow down your site like nothing else. Since I’m sure you don’t plan to stop including photos in your posts, here are a couple ways to make sure they don’t slow down your blog.
Upload the right size
Your theme is designed to display images up to a certain size and you should never upload photos larger than that. Instead, resize your photos to the width of your blog area before uploading them.
Save for web
Images store a lot of extra information that can lead to unnecessarily large files. Using the save for web feature on photo editing software like photoshop or GIMP can help remove some of that extra info.
Another option would be to use a website like TinyJPG which automatically reduces your photos as much as possible without sacrificing quality.
Use a plugin
I’m not a fan of using plugins to optimize images since the point is to reduce the file size before you upload. Plus, many plugins reduce images a bit too much resulting in dull looking photos. But if the previous options aren’t for you, WP Smush or Compress JPEG & PNG images may be worth a look.
2. Show less content per page
By default, WordPress loads 10 full posts onto your blog and archive pages. That’s a lot of content to load, especially if you share tons of photos and other media. And the more content you load per page, the slower your blog gets. No bueno.
Instead of showing full posts on these pages, set WordPress to display only excerpts and small thumbnails. And if you must show the entire post, reduce the number of posts per blog page. It’s still not ideal, especially if you share multiple photos per post but it’s better than doing nothing.
Tip: You can change these settings by going to Settings >> Reading on your WordPress dashboard.
3. Start caching
Every time a person visits a post or page on your blog, your site does a database lookup to find the information it needs to display. I’m talking logos, menu items, sidebars, footers and more, plus the content on the actual post or page. And once it finds everything, it needs to put it where it belongs. Can you imagine how much time that takes?
Luckily when caching is enabled, your blog only has to do the database lookup part of that equation once per user. Then the result is saved and shown to them the next time they visit your blog. Hello, faster loading times.
The best way to utilize caching is to have it built directly into your server/hosting. However, this usually isn’t an option with the shared hosting plans that most bloggers have. Luckily, there’s
an app a plugin, or two, for that:
4. Clean up your database
Most bloggers have a ton of unnecessary files in their databases. Some are files WordPress automatically saves and others are things the bloggers themselves hoard for no good reason. Either way, it all adds up and can lead to a bigger database and eventually a slower site.
Here are a few ways you can clean up your database and possibly speed up your blog:
To clean up your database, start by deleting unused media files and uninstalling and deleting old themes and plugins. Then, install a plugin like WP Optimize to help you automatically clean up your WordPress database by:
- delete unused media files
- uninstall/delete old themes
- delete post drafts and revisions
- clear spam comments
- delete and disable pingbacks & trackback
Tip: Install a plugin like WP Optimize to help with some of these
5. Audit your plugins
Bloggers love plugins and I completely understand why. You can do a lot of usually complicated things in your WordPress backend just by installing a plugin and clicking a few buttons. But as with most things, there’s a catch.
Some plugins are badly coded and end up slowing down your blog like crazy. Well coded plugins can also add to your speed woes if they have a lot of features or require a lot of resources. In either case, ridding your blog of a few of these problem plugins can help you speed up your blog significantly.
Start by uninstalling any unused plugins you’ve been keeping around ‘just in case’. Then, use a plugin like Plugin Performance Profiler to asses your blog’s loading time and determine which plugins are causing the issues. And don’t forget to uninstall P3 once you’ve made the recommended changes.
But wait, there’s more
As I mentioned before, there are a ton of ways to speed up your blog. These are just five of the easiest. But if you’ve already implemented these and still aren’t happy with your site speed, you may want to go a step further and do some of the more ‘technical’ stuff. So I’ve created a downloadable checklist with all the actionables I mentioned in this post, plus five other that are a bit more advanced. You can grab it here.