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