Did you find yourself in the position where you’d think “my blog has good content, great keywords, but I still don’t get that much traffic; what am I doing wrong?”. Did you ever think that you might have to speed up your blog?
In the following paragraphs you’ll learn some things about:
- how to measure your blog’s speed;
- why should you speed up your blog
- tips for speeding your blog
Check your blog’s speed
Before we dive into explanations and all of that, I thought it might be useful for you to firstly check your blog’s speed.
Maybe you’re fine and you’ll be able to close this tab in no time (actually, please don’t leave!).
The mighty Google comes to help us with this matter. It has two tools that help you measure your blog’s speed and also to test it if it’s mobile friendly (this is important, too; we’ll explain this a bit later on).
The first tool that you have to check out is the Mobile-Friendly Test. Just input your blog’s URL, and Google will run all the tests needed. It will show you if your blog is mobile friendly or not.
In case your blog gets a negative on the mobile-friendliness part, Google will also share with you some tips. It will specifically tell you what are the issues, and it will give you resources to read so that you’ll fix them.
You can see a screenshot of how Google thinks your blog shows up on smartphones. It also gives you the option to see the source code.
If you’re not able to fix these issues by yourself, then you can hit the share button (down on the right side) and share a screenshot of the result. Send this screenshot to the person that handles your blog.
The other tool is related strictly to the website’s speed. As Google is the main search engine, this speed test is quite reliable. It’s called PageSpeed Insights and all you have to do is to enter your blog’s URL and you’ll be able to see the results.
A few years ago, mobile optimization was not that important. If you’d have a good speed optimization for the desktop version, but a not-so-good one on the mobile versions, you’d still’ve been OK. Google would pass over the fact that your website is not so good with speed on mobile devices; you would still be able to hit the top ranks in Google Search.
BUT, nowadays there are more people using their smartphone to search for things more than they are using their laptops. that is why Google added the mobile ranking to the whole rank of your website. That means that if your blog loads fast on mobile, but not so fast on a desktop, you have a problem. The same is if your blog loads fast on a desktop, but it loads slowly on mobile devices.
So the PageSpeed Insights will give you the exact details that you need in order to know if you should speed up your blog or not. Your blog should be somewhere in the green area (that goes from 80 to 100). You don’t have to worry about reaching the 100; it will be fine just to be in the green zone.
If you’re not there, Google will show you some optimization suggestions. It will even show you what optimization you’ve already done.
For every single suggestion and optimization, Google will give you some resources to read. Which is great, because sometimes you’ll not know from the beginning what’s going on.
Besides the classic info about optimization, there is also data about Speed. Google switched from testing the websites internally, with their own men, to testing the websites with the help of customers. It’s called Chrome User Experience Report.
Good to know: you should know that the Optimization Score refers to a specific page/URL. That means that you may input the blog’s URL, but you’ll only see data about that specific homepage. Whilst the Speed Score gathers all the pages that origin from the homepage URL, thus the results refer to the whole blog.
Going back to the Speed Score, you’ll see that you’ll have two metrics: FCP and DCL.
FCP is First Contentful Paint and it refers to the first moment when a user sees a visual response from the page. The lower this score, the better. It helps at keeping people engaged. Basically, they will see that the page is loading, and they will not leave the website. The sooner they see something is going on, something loads, the better.
It’s like letting them know that your website is loading, they should be prepared. As an analogy, think of the moment when you go to a restaurant and the waiter starts preparing your table: setting the cutlery, putting a protection for the plate, bringing the salt&pepper. You know that the food is coming, therefore you’re not feeling that impatient anymore.
DCL is DOM Content Loaded. It refers to the moment when the whole page/website has been loaded. Again, the lower the time, the better, because it helps at keeping a low bounce rate. It will not be long until people will leave the page; will not be happy with just knowing that the page is loading.
Getting back to the analogy with the restaurant, yes, it helps your impatience to see that the waiter put on the table because you usually know this means the food will come soon. But you won’t wait for long, as even though it calmed you a bit in the first place, not being served in the next minutes will actually increase your impatience and your angry levels. You may not leave the restaurant because it will be complicated.
But a blog/website visitor will surely close the page instantly if he doesn’t get what he/she wants immediately.
OK, so did you run the tests? What were the results? You’re welcome to stay and read more things about why and ways to speed up your blog.
Why speed up your blog?
I wanted to start with some explanations first because you might want to know exactly WHY is everyone telling you to speed up your blog. But then I thought that you might be actually curious at first to see how your blog is doing.
We are done with that part, now let’s head over to the explanations.
I would’ve liked to do a “first/second place”, but I think the main two reasons are about the same in terms of importance. One of them is Google and the other are the visitors.
Google is the one that reads your blog (see the tests above – they are done constantly; those links are just a place where you can actually see what Google is doing). The higher your website’s speed is, the better. It will “offer” you a higher rank in searches.
It basically says “OK, this blog has the required things – great articles with lots of information, keywords well-used, good speed – I will bring it up to the first pages of search so that people will benefit from it”.
Or it can say “OK, this blog has the required things – great articles with lots of information, keywords well-used, but it doesn’t load that fast; I will keep it close, but not too close”. And introducing the page speed as a ranking factor was only made in 2018.
Why Google does this is because the company knows what users want. And they want a blog/website that it’s fast (among others). Time is the most important resource, and they know this.
This leads us up to visitors/users, the second reason why it’s important to speed up your blog. It is known that users are most likely to stay on a website that loads fast. This is mainly because we live in a time where technology is so common.
They know that there are blogs that are capable of loading very fast, so why should they stay and wait for yours to load? Even if you might have great articles. They might wait a little longer, but they will definitely leave at some point.
Also, they actually don’t have time to wait long for a blog article to load. They want to read it now, and if they don’t they will exit, leaving you with a high bounce rate and maybe no traffic.
Think about yourself, how do you cope with a blog that loads fast? Be honest! How long do you wait for it to load? What factors do you consider when you’re deciding whether you should wait or not?
That is why those measurements I mentioned above (FCP and DCL) are so important to your blog. As I’ve explained there with a creative restaurant analogy, the lower the time/score for each, the better it will be for you and your blog.
To make you visualize things a bit better, here are some metrics from a Google research (Google SOASTA/2017):
- “53% of mobile site visits leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load”;
- “1s to 3s page load time results in a 32% probability increase in bounce rate”;
- “a page load time that goes up to 10s leads to 123% probability increase in bounce rate”.
Keep in mind that Google will “punish” your blog even if the reason because your blog loads slow is actually the Internet speed and/or an outdated smartphone. You’ll just have to be OK with this because it is not much you can do.
Now that we got all these covered, let’s see what you can do in order to speed up your blog.
Tips to improve your blog’s speed
The following tips that will help you speed up your blog are diverse. They refer to plug-ins that you should use, tips regarding images, redirects, and hosting services. Some of them are easy to do, but some will require a bit of knowledge, maybe even help from someone professional.
I believe that one of the most common issues with websites and blog is the hosting service. Why do I say this? Because the other “problems” can be solved rather quickly, whilst this one is one of those things that you should have thought before launching your website. That is why many blogs remain with this “problem”, making it the most common issue for slowing down blogs and websites.
Let’s take each issue and transform it to a tip for improving your blog’s speed.
Choose your plugins carefully
You might want to have many plugins, each that will add more features to your blog. But think again. It’s like shopping, so you can answer the following questions
- do you really need that plugin?
- will you/your readers use it constantly?
- is it actually worth the price?
- how many resources does it need to run? (aka will it slow down your blog?)
Think before you act. Answer to each question, maybe even do a research. Look at other what they are using and see how their blog works (one every device).
The basic plugins that you need are from the categories: security, social media sharing, and SEO.
Of course, depending on your blog type, you can add a contact form plugin, a photo gallery and so on. WordPress has its own gallery of plugins, you just have to search for what you need.
There are plugins that will do much more than just one thing. This can save you a lot of time that you will normally need in order to search for individual plugins, and then install each one of them.
One example of a multipurpose plugin is JetPack. It has a free version that will help you with the basics:
- site statistics;
- downtime monitoring;
- attack protection;
- unlimited image CDN (which is something that you’ll need to speed up your blog;
- lazy loading images;
- related posts;
- automated social media posting.
The paid-plans, which are definitely not pricey (the go from $3.5 to $29 a month), you’ll end up having even things like:
- automatic security fixes;
- schedules social media posting;
- SEO preview tools;
- Google Analytics integration;
- unlimited video CDN;
- auto backups;
- PayPal payments.
It’s a package that includes a lot of useful stuff, and it has a rating of 4/5 stars. You can search for this kind of plugins that will surely “cost” you less space and time than having to install each plugin for each feature that you want.
In case this plan doesn’t work for you, or if you think that there are too many features that you don’t need at a particular moment, then feel free to search separately for the specific ones that you want. Let me help you with some ideas:
- for SEO you can use Yoast. This is the one we are using and I think is the most popular. I wrote more about it in an article that is unrelated to this one but go ahead and take a peak.
For security, I would recommend you WordFence because it is a firewall as well as a malware scanner. With this plugin, you can monitor disk space, get detailed IP information, manual block, block brute force attacks and many more.
For social media sharing, that is to let people share your blog articles across multiple social media platform, I would recommend Social Media Share Buttons & Social Sharing Icons. It has Premium plans as well, which lets you choose from lots of different icons styles, more social media icons, themed icons, separate options for the website and many more.
The free version is still pretty complete, as you can have the following features:
- “choose from 16 icon designs;
- give several actions to one social media share icon;
- animate your social media icons;
- choose whether to make your icons float or sticky
- allow visitors to subscribe to your blog by email (pay attention to GDPR, though; This plugin has its own policy regarding this, and you should read it);
- add those little numbers that show how many times the articles was shared on each social media platform;
- display a pop-up that can appear on every page or on selected ones; this pop-up can ask people to follow/share you;
- decide whether you display or not sharing-buttons at the end of every blog post;
- do various other customizations.
Whether you’ll choose these plugins or you’ll opt for other ones, make sure to always test around. Check your current blog’s speed, install them, and see how your blog works for a couple of days. Do a Speed test again and compare the results. If they are pretty much the same, that’s perfect. If the new ones made your Score decrease than you should reconsider them.
Keep in mind that if you didn’t have any plugins at the moment you did the first test, then you will most likely see a change after you install some and do the test again.
Pick a plugin to speed your blog
In case you need a specific plugin that will help you to speed up your blog, then you’re in the right place.
Sometimes just adding a plugin that will optimize and speed up your blog is the right thing to do. Some of these plugins are cleaning cache specific, some have more features.
One of them is LiteSpeed Cache which has a lot of free features that you can use. Among them there are:
- image optimization;
- PageSpeed score optimization;
- Browser Cache;
- Minify inline CSS/JS;
- Object Cache;
- and many others.
It also has a paid plan that will offer you some exclusive features.
Keep in mind that “LiteSpeed Cache for WordPress potentially stores a duplicate copy of every web page on display on your site. The pages are stored locally on the system where LiteSpeed server software is installed and are not transferred to or accessed by LiteSpeed employees in any way, except as necessary in providing routine technical support if you request it. All cache files are temporary, and may easily be purged before their natural expiration, if necessary, via a Purge All command. It is up to individual site administrators to come up with their own cache expiration rules.”.
If you are not certain that you are OK with this, then you can use another plugin that has similar features.
This one is called HummingBird and it includes features like:
- asset optimization (adding lots of code to the header of your pages can slow down the blog, and HummingBird will help you with customizing the position);
- caching features;
- performance reports;
- GZIP Compression;
- and a few more.
I must say that I’m not entirely sure if Hummingbird doesn’t do the same thing as LiteSpeed Cache in terms of saving a copy of every web page display on your site. It doesn’t specify this on the WordPress Plugin page, that is why I chose to present it as an alternative.
Use Smaller Images
It is super useful to use images in your blog articles, as visual memory is the most common. It will help your readers get through the article faster. Besides, it will help them remember more information.
Of course, you will be tempted to use images of high quality and that’s OK. But think that the bigger your blog gets, the more images it will have. And the more it will be slowed down.
There are some online tools that will help you compress your images before you add them to your blog. You can try either of these ones:
- TinyJPEG or TinyPNG – this one lets you upload up to 20 files, each of 5MB maximum; You can compress and download them all at once;
- CompressJPEG – it is similar to TinyJPEG in terms of permissions; you can quickly switch between JPG, PNG and pdf files;
- Compressor – this tool permits you to upload bigger files, up to 10 MB; It has two types of compression (Lossy and Lossless); you can upload either jpg, png, gif or SVG files; unfortunately, you can only upload, thus download one single file at a time. It is still a great tool, as you may have files that are bigger than 5MB.
In case you want to save some time, to not always have to compress all of your images, you can add a plugin. Yes, you will add one, but it will compress all of your images.
Some of the plugins I mentioned above already do this. Those are LiteSpeed Cache and HummingBird. They offer a package of optimization, so you might want to choose one of them.
In case you want something completely separate, you can try out Smush Image Compression and Optimization. With it your images will be automatically compressed and optimized for a speedy blog. It’s one of the most popular plugins of this type, and its the one we are using, too.
Not only you can automatically optimize your current and future images, but it can also help you with the old ones. It permits you to “smush” files like jpg, png, and gif. You can even set maximum length and width so that when you’ll be uploading a bigger image, it will automatically be scaled down.
Another option would be W2E Image Optimizer and Resize Image – WordPress Image Compression, which does pretty much the same as Smush, but it lets you optimize more types of files (pdf, mp3, SVG, avi, mov etc.).
It will automatically compress the new uploads. For the older ones, you’d have to use the bulk compressor.
BONUS TIP: You can even try a lazy loading feature. JetPack has this feature, but you can choose a separate plugin, such as a3 Lazy Loading. This will make your blog load the images (of all kinds: posts, pages, widgets, thumbnails, gravatar) only when the reader scrolls down.
Basically, the blog will be accessible even if will not fully load its parts that are not visible from the start. Many eCommerce websites use this feature of Lazy Loading. H&M’s website uses it for the products; instead of using pages, it will load more pictures only when you’ll reach the bottom part.
Carefully Pick your Hosting Service
As I said, this is the trickiest part. You might have already done all of the things I mentioned above, but your blog still runs on slow mode. Running a test through Google it’s your best choice at knowing if your hosting service is the one that is slowing you down.
I say that this is the tricky part because it will not be fun to have to change the hosting service. Before starting a blog, it’s best to read reviews and information about various hosting services. You don’t want to reach the point when your blog is blooming, but the server started to slow it down.
Think ahead, and decide what kind of hosting service is best for you. As I always say: “better safe, than sorry!”.
Also, consider choosing a paid hosting service. The free ones may look enticing, but Google won’t like it, you’ll have ads, and you’ll not have control.
Moreover, you will have to choose between the 4 types of hosting:
- Shared hosting;
- VPN hosting;
- Dedicated hosting;
- Cloud hosting (VPS Hosting).
Their names pretty much explain themselves. One is a shared server, where you have to share the resources with others; one is just for you, and one is up in the cloud.
We have a whole article that can help you decide what is the best hosting service for you, and you can take a look right now.
Many redirects are not OK
While you run the Google Speed Test, you might see that it suggest you cut back on the redirects.
A redirect means that the original URL from a page was kept, but it had to send you to another page (hopefully, with the same content). This situation can happen if you decide to change the URL of a blog article from the admin panel. As Google already indexed the first URL, it will be hard for WordPress to change it.
That’s why it will use a redirect: it will redirect you from the original URL to the new one.
This process is like a chain, as it has connections. But while in the real world a longer chain (thinking of a leash now) will be better, for a website is not. It will only mean that it will have to “ask” multiple times for the information to show up on the reader’s device. And this will definitely slow down your blog.
It can happen that you might need to use some redirects for your blog, but don’t use them constantly. The simpler the request, the easier it will be for the blog to load up fast.
These were my main ideas on how to speed up your blog. And to sum up:
- run a quick speed test on Google;
- remember that you should speed up your blog in order to:
- keep your readers engaged;
- to lower your bounce rate;
- and to rank higher in Google Search;
- in order to speed it up, you have to:
- carefully choose how many plugins will you be using; use the basics: security, SEO and social media sharing, then add some depending on your blog type;
- use a plugin that will help your blog to be optimized;
- compress your images with a plugin (automatically) or with an online tool (manually);
- choose wisely your hosting service, preferably before you launch your blog;
- use redirects only if you really need them.
Be sure to check our blogging category, to find other useful things about…blogging.