Most bloggers know that a slow site can lose them a few viewers here and there, but very few are aware of just how essential speed can be, both for driving traffic and for presenting yourself in a positive light. According to a national survey conducted in 2010, about a third of viewers will abandon a site after waiting up to five seconds for it to load. And slow loading times are not only frustrating for users; they also make your site appear less polished, modern, and dependable.
Fortunately, there are many ways to increase your site speed: some are sweeping changes that require commitment but yield great results, and others are small alterations that, when implemented, will accumulate into a significant improvement.
You might think that site speed is a tricky topic, because there are so many different approaches you can take with optimization. But it becomes simpler when you realize that almost all the things that make pages load slowly are the design elements: the imagery, videos, and page styling that make your site look the way it does. Reducing the size of these elements, and facilitating their transport from server to browser are the two major goals when it comes to making incremental improvements.
Compress and Optimize Your Files
Apart from all the compression tools you can use to reduce files once they’re saved, you can also save them at less than full quality in the first place—90% is fine for web images.
You can also make your files temporarily smaller to facilitate transport. In the same way that compressed files can be quickly transferred and downloaded on your computer, using GZIP to compress files on your site allows them to travel faster between the server and browser, speeding up the process considerably.
Make Cache-Control Headers for Repeated Content
There are probably many elements on your blog that remain consistent from page to page, such as your logo or leader images. But if these elements aren’t cached properly, the browser has to download each element over and over again. With cache-control headers, these common elements are stored up after a user has visited your site for the first time, ready to be quickly recalled when they visit again. This change requires a bit of research to make sure you’re using the right commands, but it can yield very effective results.
If you’ve already implemented compression and transportation techniques and your site is still too slow, you might be in need of a more drastic remedy. While these solutions take more commitment than the ones described above, they’re also less finicky and hands-on, so they’re a great solution if you want to invest less time but still get great results.
Consider Changing Your Site Host
If you’re using one of the less reputable web hosts, there’s a good chance that even implementing all the small-scale changes above won’t be enough to make a difference. That being said, this is probably a step that you should only consider taking if you’re dissatisfied with your web host for other reasons than your lagging pages.
It takes some finesse to be able to port your site over without any down time, so make sure you refer to a hosting guide if you decide to take this step.
Try a CDN Service
Content Delivery Networks offer a system of geographically distributed web servers that share the work of receiving and delivering content. With a CDN, activity is spread out based on which server has the right capacity and location, making it a far more powerful and flexible way of dispensing information than relying on a single server. WordPress CDN services are able to optimize speed for your entire site, or they can be customized to deal with just the heavier portions, like images and video.
As you can see, there are a variety of options out there for improving your blog’s speed that can be adapted to suit your needs. What’s nice about most of these methods is that they also have beneficial effects on other elements of your site optimization. So you can feel good about multitasking even as you’re taking care of this essential part of a well-run site.