This isn’t an exhaustive list on why your site might be running slow. Rather, these are a few big points that I’ve noticed when working with clients and quick observations I’ve seen on other blogger’s sites.
Site speed isn’t one of those things you can simply “fix” and move on. Rather, this is one of these areas that evolves over time and is something you will continually have to adjust.
The three things below are what I believe merit your consideration if you are having site speed troubles.
These topics are all regarding a WordPress site running slowly. If you are on a free network or something other than a self-hosted WordPress site, your best bet is to check with the service. Sadly, however, in this instance many times there is little you can do.
If you’re not already on a self-hosted wordpress site, I’d strongly recommend a reconsideration. To keep things simple, I developed a 5 minutes to an awesome WordPress site video.
Problem 1: Your images are too big
This is a problem I see frequently. Although WordPress does an awesome job at resizing your photos and making them fit within your posts, your posts will still use the original source file you upload to your server.
In plain speak: WordPress is loading a very large image for a small space. This takes many of your resources that could be dedicated to running your site faster.
The fastest way to test this would be using a tool like Pingdom. This will create a waterfall test which will allow you to see what’s taking the longest to load. You should be able to tell if your photos are taking the longest time.
Also, if you simply watch your site as it loads and the images are taking a long time to show up, it’s a pretty good indicator that they are contributing to your slow load times.
The easiest way to improve this problem would be resizing your photos before uploading them to your website.
Figure out how much width is in your content column, and resize all your photos (almost all basic photo applications allow this) to exactly that size.
For example, we make sure all of our photos are no more than 680px wide before we upload them. That is the size of our content column and we don’t want to load more photo than we need.
If you need to resize old photos, you might be able to use a free plugin called Imsanity. Be sure to backup your content first.
Problem 2: Too much stuff loading
After checking your images, you might still notice that other things are slowing down your site. Using Pingdom again will help you identify what is loading slowly and what you can change.
Many times I’ve found one big problem is that sites are loading too many scripts or plugins. Sometimes they are just old and unused or occasionally they are just operating inefficiently.
Ads definitely slow down your site, but sometimes that is a sacrifice worth making. Additionally, there are ways to make your site faster so that you can still serve ads and have a fast loading site (see Problem #3).
Having a lot of plugins isn’t inherently bad, but sometimes this does create issues. Try eliminating anything you are not using.
As well, review what scripts you are loading on your site and make sure that everything you have loading (especially widgets in your sidebar, etc.) are really necessary. All those things take time to load and pull resources from your server.
Problem 3: Traffic
Traffic is a beautiful blessing and a terrible problem when growing your site. If you have seen your traffic grow and your site is consistently struggling to keep up, your only solution might be upgrading the way you handle traffic.
In plain speak: Every time somebody visits your site, all those things on your page have to load for them. Your server is like a computer and the more people using it the slower it will become. It might be time to upgrade your computer.
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There are lots of individual tools and options here, but I prefer the comprehensive and easy-to-use solution. In this case, you probably want to consider a better host and/or CDN (content delivery network). Thankfully, WP Engine provides both.
WP Engine is a managed WordPress host. This means they only run servers purely hosting WordPress, which means they can optimize all of their hardware to make sure it is best suited for WordPress.
We host Minimalist Baker on WP Engine. I’ve tried almost every other possible solution (including running my own server) and haven’t been able to beat their speeds. They really know what they are doing when it comes to speed and optimization for WordPress sites.
WP Engine is definitely a bit of a price jump, but this might be one of those times you have to decide if it is time to make an investment in what you love to do or if you’d rather stay on the budget side of things.
Additionally, despite the price difference, there really is a value in the price. Not only do they have a simple CDN service (very valuable to help with big traffic influxes), but they also do things like daily backups, restore points, and allow you to stage your site (so you can work on it without disrupting your audience’s experience).
If traffic is your problem and you want a solution that is going to set you up well for future growth, WP Engine would be my top recommendation.
There are lots of options when it comes to speeding up your site, but ultimately the best solution is taking advantage of every tool that you can. Making each incremental improvement will help improve your site overall and set you up for continuing to do what you do best – making great content.
Add a comment if you have other ideas! I’d love to hear them!