12 Tips to Increase Site Speed by 200% Instantly

Fighting Google Panda, we made our site faster and worked to increase site speed. Site speed and page load times are now an important component of the Google ranking algorithm, which can affect search engine rankings of your site. Since our site was affected by Google Panda, we have been striving to make our site faster for a better user experience. At one time, our site was slower than 94% of all sites on the web!

Increase Site Speed

So here is what all we did and you can also try to improve page load times. Before starting out, test the page speed of your homepage and different article pages, so later you can see the difference.

site speed

1. Use Caching plugin

This is the single most important plugin to reduce server load and increase site speed, as it caches your pages as HTML files and speeds page delivery to browser, minimizing WordPress PHP calls. We have been using WP-Supercache for many years and now trying QuickCache which is equally good, and simpler. W3-TotalCache is also a popular alternative.

2. Use CDN

We have been using Amazon Cloudfront for quite some time and it is an excellent CDN (Content Delivery Network) which we use to offload our static resources like CSS, javascript and theme images to reduce the load on our server. This makes the site faster. MaxCDN is another popular CDN which when combined with TotalCache can send your entire site to a CDN system with compression for ultra-fast loading.

3. Reduce sidebar / Footer clutter

Earlier there were several sidebar widgets, images, etc which loaded every time and slowed the pages, they are now reduced basic minimal links and BSA ads in the sidebar. If you look around your site theme, you will find many irrelevant widgets loading everytime, and they add to lot of site load time. Remove them for a cleaner website design. We in addition added a responsive web design to make our site compatible on many mobile devices.

4. Remove Related Widgets

We have been using the amazing YARPP related posts plugin to deliver the related links you see at the bottom of all posts. In addition we used to use the amazing Outbrain widget to generate related posts thumbnails. Both have their own load times, and we decided to remove Outbrain and continue with YARRP, which still uses a load of server processing power (as tested by P3 – Plugin Performance Profiler), and I am looking for a faster alternative (any suggestions?). We earlier used Google related links which was better with much less load time, but it was shut down by Google.

5. Reduce Social Buttons

These are a big drag on-site load time, as enhanced functionality is making their javascript files larger which takes longer to load. We used the excellent Sharebar plugin to load many social sharing buttons in the sidebar, but that loads up many scripts and takes longer to load. Then we decided to keep only a few popular sharing buttons like Facebook, Twitter, and Google plus one (which might impact search results someday!). Each of these has large scripts to load. If you decide to reduce the buttons you can try AddThis, but with interactive buttons, it too will load all these scripts contributing to load times. Also if you decide to add them before and after the post, it will lead to more sharing, but also slower speed.

6. Avoid Extra Comment Systems

Comment systems load huge scripts, a large number of files and add to load time. There are some amazing comment systems out there like Disqus, IntenseDebate, LiveFyre and Facebook Comments. WordPress own comments system is the lightest to load and rest all will slow site speed. But then we continue to use Facebook comments, though it significantly adds to our page loading times, as posted comments are often posted to Facebook user walls and brings extra traffic.

7. Disable Gravatars

We used to used to host Gravatars with comments earlier. They look nice and encourage more comments undoubtedly, but then those 100 comments on your popular page will also load 100  gravatar! So disabling Gravatars will speed up site comments loading.

8. Load less Comments

We don’t allow 100 comments to be loaded on any page. If you see only 5 comments load on our pages, and rest are paginated if users want to read more comments. We also disabled threading as it loaded more scripts for response to replies. This does lead to reduced comments but makes the site faster. Use WordPress comment options (Settings>Discussion) to reduce comments on pages as per your need. Though Akismet does a great job at stopping spam comments, we also turned off comments on older posts, to minimize spam attempts.

comment options

9. Javascript at the bottom, minimize, compress

It’s a good idea to shift all javascript to the footer so that they don’t interfere with site loading. Some exceptions are the modern asynchronous scripts that can be added higher in the code and load beside your site without slowing it e.g. Google recommends you load Analytics in the HEAD tags. You can also try to combine javascript and compress them for faster loading. Always load CSS in the HEAD and minimize CSS too, and of course, CDN is better. There are many plugins that can also do this.

10 Reduce Images and their sizes

We always try to keep our image sizes low, save in lesser colors and at times it does reduce image quality but leads to faster loading images. It is also important to load as few images as possible per page. Better still to offload them to a CDN. Though we don’t use it, many recommend plugins like Smush-it which will compress images on your server. You can even try CSS Sprites to combine images. Also always remember to specify image dimensions.

11. Leverage browser caching

A simple htaccess trick will make modern web browsers cache static resources and deliver them faster. Try Browser caching and you will immediately appreciate the overall difference for repeat visitors.

12. Embed Less Videos

We observed that in posts where we embedded many Youtube videos, the site load times were highest. In case that is your most popular post too, then most visitors get the slowest page speed. So reduce the number of embedded videos and see the site speed increase.

13. GZip Compression On

Modern browsers accept compressed versions of webpages and allow faster page delivery to the user. We are using QuickCache now and a simple php.ini tweak made our server deliver gzip compressed pages. WP-Supercache has an easy option to check and enable gzip.

We had implemented many of these earlier, but after getting hit by Google Panda, we worked to reduce page load time further and it has made a difference. See we made our site twice as faster in February!

increase site speed

We hope you follow some of these tips and make your site faster. Share with your friends and post your tips in comments.

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