Site load time is an issue for every business online. Neil Patel wrote about site speed and advises a load time of less than two seconds. Why so fast? Because Google uses it as a rankings factor. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have produced this intensive support article solely for site speed. Your goal is to get your site loading as fast as possible. It’s not all on Zack here because he’s developed your theme. Once you install it on your WordPress site, you can add a ton of stuff, all of which will contribute to slowing your site down.
CDNs Boost Speed Independent of Your Web Host
The biggest reason for slow loading sites is distance. If you’re based in the UK and accessing a site hosted in the US, the resources need to travel the Atlantic before the site will load. The result is latency and it’s the cause of browsers like Chrome having pop-ups telling you it’s taking too long to reach the site and gives you the option to kill the page. A CDN cuts the distance by storing cache versions of your site on multiple servers throughout the world. When any user tries to load your site, instead of pulling your site files from one country to another, cache servers store your web files and load your site from the nearest server to your users. The result is increased load time and you need that because anything above 2-seconds, decreases your conversion rates by 6.7% for every second so make each second count.
What’s Your Current Site Load Time?
To find out the speed your site loads at, you can use this web page speed test. Insert your root domain name to load the home page and you’ll get a baseline of your page load time. You’ll likely find it’s over the two-second mark that Neil Patel advises. When I tested my website, it was like six seconds to load a pretty basic home page. That’s now reduced to a fraction of a second. As you can see, I’ve managed to get my website loading faster than 99% of the websites tested on Pingdom.com. As Quicksprout.com puts it; it’s insanely fast! And I didn’t go to half the effort of Neil’s guide.
How to Get Your Site to Load in a Fraction of a Second
1. Reduce WordPress Back-End Code by using a Premium Theme
Premium WordPress themes have a price tag and for good reason. Take one look at the WordPress Theme Development page and comment below about whether you think understanding and implementing all that information should be paid for. Developers understand these things and it’s why I don’t believe anyone serious about doing business online should be going with free themes. When you buy most themes, support comes with it. You support the developers and in turn; they support you. Common sense. To cut on customer support, premium developers know the importance of speed and develop the themes with minimal coding. It’s why when you log into your new theme dashboard, you get custom options when you set it up. If there’s functions there you won’t be using, they’re disabled, which minimizes the coding going on in the back-end of your site. None of the following steps will be worth implementing if you don’t have a solid framework as the foundation for your site.
2. Install the W3 Total Cache Plugin
I’ve used the W3 Total Cache plugin (W3TC), which is a free plugin you can grab from the WordPress plugin directory. Zack listed this on his best cache plugins for WordPress post. He doesn’t recommend it for beginners; I do though. If you don’t know what you’re doing with caching plugins - #5 below has you covered. You’re best to install W3TC from within your WP dashboard because it’ll save you downloading the zip file to upload it and activate. Log into your website, go to plugins and select add new. Type in the search field W3 Total Cache and it’ll pop up. Install that and you’re good to go. It’s developed by Frederick Townes and it’s installed on over a million WordPress sites, which is something I look for before installing any plugin. Quick tip: The plugins directory is huge and each one shows active installs. Not the amount of installs that are deactivated because of technical issues.
3. Sign up to a Content Distribution Network (CDN)
[caption id=”attachment_850” align=”alignnone” width=”1024”] http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/C/CDN.html[/caption] Frederick recommends MaxCDN for this part, but you’re free to choose from others. I chose CloudFlare for my site because 1) it’s free and 2) they have a solid reputation. MaxCDN likely has too. It’s just not a name I’m familiar with. Cloudflare I am, so that’s the service I used. WPMUDEV has a list of the top CDNs here. If you ever need advice for WordPress, that site referenced is the authority source on all things WordPress.
4. Merge W3 Total Cache with your CDN provider
If you’re using MaxCDN you won’t have a problem configuring it with W3TC since there’s an entire section to walk you through it. Frederick’s a partner with MaxCDN and you can get a discount right after you install the plugin. Just select the CDN link from the performance dashboard and follow the instructions. I, however, went with Cloudflare and the setup was a breeze. If you’ve went with one of the CDN providers listed on WPMUDEV, the instructions are listed below.
W3 Total Cache Integration Instructions for …
Click any link to be taken to the set up tutorials for whichever listed CDN you use…
There is a Cloudflare plugin that can manage spam as well, which from what I can tell is the only thing not currently integrated with W3TC.
- WP Pronto started as WPCDN and is now a managed Web Hosting service so you don’t need to do anything as it’s already integrated with Cloudflare.
- Softlayer – This is part of the IBM Cloud Marketplace. They integrate with the W3 Super Cache and not the Total Cache plugin. Do not run the two caching plugins together. Only use one or the other and if you do use Softlayer for your CDN, it’s W3 Super Cache plugin you need, which is shown in the tutorial linked above.
- Amazon Web Services (CloudFront)
- Incapsula – They also have university page with explainer videos and tutorials.
Another option is KeyCDN, which didn’t make it on to the WPMUDEV top CDN list, however it is another popular service. You can find the details to configure KeyCDN with W3TC here.
5. Configure the rest of W3TC
As W3TC is more than a simple cache plugin, there’s a fair bit of configuring to get it running smoothly. Fortunately, there’s a dumbed down tutorial on TutsPlus that explains everything that needs a little tinkering with to get your site running sweet. You can read that guide here.
Implement the above steps to get a CDN running on your website, then test it here again and you’ll find the site load time is significantly improved. How much faster? Comment below and let me know. For any sites you frequent and find it loads slow, share this blog post with the site owner so they can get started on improving your user experience. Most want to. They just don’t know how.
Robbie’s a freelance ghostwriter, blogger and creator of UpscaleContent.com. Get his latest scoop by following @robbiebwrites.
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