In 2010, a report by Search Engine Land finally confirmed that Google counts the loading speed of a site as a crucial ranking factor. The average human attention span dropped from 12 seconds to 7 seconds between 2006 and 2016. In other words, if you want a blog to succeed, mindfulness with the loading speed will be a crucial success factor.
A slow blog irritates the reader. Every millisecond matter. In a case study by StrangeLoop involving Google, Amazon and other industry giants, it was found that even a 1-second delay leads to 7% loss in conversions, 16% decrease in customer satisfaction and 11% fewer page views.
Is the emphasis on loading speed for search engines? No, the emphasis is on improving user experience and since search engines are concerned with user experience; hence, they use the loading speed as a ranking factor.
In this article, we will look into the reasons why a blog slows down and recommend plugins to speedup the WordPress blog.
Reasons a WordPress Blog Slows Down
#1 Bad Plugins
Never installed a nulled or cracked plugin as the blog becomes a target for bad scripts and malicious codes. Also, a poorly coded plugin slows down a blog easily.
#2 Web Hosting
Blogs hosted on the shared server often experiences slow speed as thousands of sites are hosted on the same server. Of course, one can understand that there is no point in getting a dedicated or VPS service for a new blog but shared hosting does play a role in slowing down the WordPress blog.
If the WordPress CMS is not configured properly such as not using a caching service can overload the server, causing massive crashes.
#4 External Scripts
We tend to use external scripts on the WordPress CMS to improve functionalities such as adding font loaders or external ad codes. However, they need to be optimised properly as they impact the blog loading speed.
Recommended Plugins to Speed Up WordPress Blog
You can use any of these recommended plugins to speed up the WordPress blog.
#1 Cache Enabler
Built by the team at KeyCDN, the Cache Enabler caches the HTML files and stores them on the server disk. Caching pages is important to ensure all the static files are cached and stored to render automatically whenever users want to access blog pages. This plugin allows you to set cache expiry time and minification options.
It has 1-click option to clear cache, option to set cache behaviour, choose posts to exclude from caching and define expiration times. The plugin supports the 304 Not Modified directive, works on multiple WordPress installations, supports responsive images, and works perfectly with Autoptimize, which is another caching plugin with additional functions.
#2 WP Fastest Cache
The WP Fastest Cache plugin offers balanced features found in both basic and advanced plugins. The plugin is easy to install with its 1-click function to clear cache and minified CSS files. You can define posts or pages to exclude from caching, set expiration times for all or specific URLs, and integrate with CDN. The free version is equipped to handle a medium sized blog, but for advanced blogs, you can choose their premium version.
The plugin offers SSL and CDN support. The admin has the authority to delete cached files, delete minified CSS and JS files, enable or disable cache option from mobile devices and logged in users. You can enable Gzip compression to reduce the file size sent to the server and enable browser caching to reduce page loading time for repeat visitors. You can combine JS and generate static files to be stored on the server.
#3 WP Total Cache
Created by Frederick Townes, WP Total Cache has 1+ million installs as a comprehensive plugin that helps to improve the overall speed performance of any blog. WP Total Cache is a total framework which improves user experience and SEO by optimising website performance.
It is the ONLY web host agnostic WordPress Performance Optimization (WPO) recommended by web hosts and web developers. When fully configured, there is at least 10x improvement in the site performance. It enhances site conversion rate and improves SERP. You can save up to 80% bandwidth via HTML, JS, CSS and Feed compression.
Here’s an inside look:
#4 WP Smush.it
Blog content has a lot of images, and as the blog grows, image files slow down the blog. Smush.it is a Yahoo service which helps to optimize the images and reduce the file size without reducing the image quality.
The plugin will resize and compress all the blog images, and it helps to improve the blog speed. Smush.it is an award-winning user favorite optimization plugin. Once you install, all the hosted images will be resized and compressed. The bulk smush compresses 50 images at a time. You can see the space saved after compression. In future, when you upload new images, they will be automatically compressed.
Apart from the images hosted in the media upload folder, the plugin helps to resize images in other folders such as those stored in Amazon S3 and NextGEN folder. The plugin uses advanced lossless compression techniques for image optimization. You can define maximum height and width for automatic scaling. Smush.it compresses GIF, JPEG and PNG image files. It also works with multisite installations.
#5 BJ Lazy Load
Whenever a visitor comes to a site and views any page, all elements embedded within that page is loaded at once. This is another reason why a blog slows down. Moreover, if the page has a lot of images, the page will slow down drastically.
Know that it is not necessary for the entire page to load at the same time. Hence, the idea of ‘lazy loading’. What lazy loading technique does is load the page as the visitor scrolls down the page. The BJ Lazy Load plugin helps to speed up the site and save on bandwidth. All the post thumbnails, images and Gravatar images are stored and replaced with a placeholder which loads as the visitor scrolls the page. Embedded videos from YouTube or Vimeo are also covered by the plugin.
Other Strategies to Improve Speed
Apart from the above five plugins, here are some more strategies to improve WordPress blog loading speed.
#1 Split Comments
It’s a sign of reader engagement when a blog receives tons of comments. However, it could drag your site down. The solution is to split the comments into multiple sections. Go to Settings > Discussion and choose the ‘Break comments into pages with’ option as shown in the image below.
Post this setting, the comments will be split into multiple pages, and the display will be like:
#2 Use Excerpts
By default, the WordPress blog homepage will display the full blog post and not the excerpt. Not only will this slow down the load time but also reduce pageviews because the visitors will not see any need of browsing inner pages.
Go to Settings > Reading and choose Summary in ‘For each article in a feed, show’ option.
You can also read this detailed discussion on the pros and cons of displaying summaries here.
#3 Optimized Sliders
While WP Smush.it and BJ Lazy Load plugins help to optimize images, problems persist if you are using a slider plugin. A poorly coded slider plugin will waste all the work. It is a trend these days to use slider plugins on the homepage.
We recommend Soliloquy plugin for creating a slider as it is fantastically coded and optimized, based on this result shown by WPbeginner.com.
Revolution Slider is often a favorite with WordPress users, Soliloquy offers a better page load time.
#4 Split Posts into Pages
It is a fact that readers prefer long-form posts which are 2000+ words long and they help to improve SERP, but long posts with multiple images can hurt blog loading time. Splitting the posts into pages will help. In your post editor, use the < !–nextpage— > tag to split the post into something like the display below.
#5 Limit Post Revisions
Every update to the posts is saved in the database. Over time, the database becomes bloated and occupies a lot of space; thus, slowing down the site. You can reduce the number of revisions by modifying the wp-config.php file.
Go to the wp-config.php file from Themes > Edit and add this line:
|define( ‘WP_POST_REVISIONS’, 4 );|
Save the edit. The code will save only the last four versions of the post or page, and discard the older revisions automatically.
Speeding a WordPress blog isn’t a one-time activity. You need to constantly monitor the page loading speed to ensure less than 3 seconds loading time.