Hopefully, you've read my previous posts in the Build a Faster Blog Series which detailed some excellent resources with which to discover the real health of your blog and how fast it is performing for your readers. You may or may not be pleased with what you've discovered so far and might be wondering how you can change things for the better. The purpose of the rest of the posts in the Build a Faster Blog Series is to try and steer you in the right direction on how to really speed up your site. Unfortunately, this might mean drastically changing the way you're doing things right now. I promise though, that you will see big results if you embrace the attitude of "if it's slow...it has to go!"
Believe me when I tell you that I have changed virtually everything about my original blog, for I had no idea what poor choices I had made when it came to my blog's speed. I definitely am not claiming to know everything there is about improving a blog, for I still have plenty of challenges I am working on, but here's the things I've come to find are horrible speed stealers thus far. Do the absolute best you can to ditch as many of the following as possible. (Also remember that I am running a self-hosted WordPress blog, so some of my tips and lingo won't really be applicable for those of you running Blogger, Typepad, etc.)
- EXCESSIVE IMAGES ~ Images are actually a killer. Now, if you look around my blog, you'll see plenty of images, but just know that every single one of them I find essential. I weigh the benefits and the drawbacks before adding any sort of image to my blog, for these will drastically slow down your site. The downside? I had to scrap so many of the images I really wanted to keep just for the sake of a better user experience. I no longer have my blog's awards displayed as I used to and my family slideshow has gone the way of the dodo bird.
- SCROLLING BARS ~ The ironic thing about this is that I actually wrote a tutorial post, back when I first started blogging, about how to put scrolling bars on your sidebar. Well, I've learned a lot since then! Unfortunately, the reason scrolling bars are bad is because they allow for unlimited amounts of images to be displayed in a small space. These images all load at one time though, so that they are ready to scroll. This means that even though you may only have one or two small areas of your sidebar with scrolling images, there could easily be over 100 images scrolling in that one space, which is a sure speed killer!
- LARGE IMAGES ~ The larger the image, the more of a drain it is to your blog. Be very careful about displaying any image over the size of a button (150 x 150 pixels) and make sure you really need it before putting it on your blog. These large images will demand much more from your blog than the smaller ones.
- EXCESSIVE OUTSIDE LINKS ~ Every time you link to an outside source for an image, a widget, etc. you are slowing down your blog. Now, I have plenty of outside links in my own blog to places like Facebook, Google, etc., but I desperately try to keep these to a minimum. I do NOT link to any images if there is a way to host them myself. Of course, this takes up more of my own storage space, but I end up with a faster blog. If you want to speed up your blog in a hurry, ditch all of the little buttons showing which blog networks you are a member of or at the very least, move them to their own separate page and get them off of your sidebars. Personally, I never received that much traffic from those blog directories anyway.
- IMAGES IN .GIF, .BMP, OR .PNG FORMATS ~ Because we all have to use images in our blog, be wary of what format your images are in. If you want to speed up your site, try converting all of the images you use to .jpg format. This is the least intensive graphic format and will save you plenty of valuable resources. All of the graphics on my sidebar and in my posts use .jpg. I use Adobe Illustrator to convert every graphic I want to use to this format.
- EXTRA GRAVATARS ~ Since most of the blog's I visit, including my own, rely on Google Friend Connect, Facebook "Like" Box and Networked Blogs in their sidebars, limiting the gravatars displayed is a great tool for speeding up your site. Every gravatar, no matter how small, counts as an additional outside link and image your blog has to work to display. For instance, if you are showing 50 different gravatars in your Google Friend Connect box, your blog has to go to 50 different places to grab 50 different pictures each time any of your pages load. Notice on my sidebar, that I have drastically reduced my GFC box to 14 gravatars, Networked Blogs to 7 and completely changed my Facebook "Like" Box to one which didn't display personal gravatars at all.
- TOO MANY POSTS ON YOUR HOME PAGE ~ I tend to really watch the speed of my home page, since my readers come here most often. Make sure that you don't have a blog with a really large amount of posts on the home page. All of these posts must load fully every time someone visits your home page, which can really slow things down. I recommend displaying less than 10 posts. Personally, I display 8 on my home page.
- FULL POSTS ON YOUR HOME PAGE ~ Remember, that the goal is to keep as many images off of your home page as possible, so it is a definite no-no to publish FULL posts on your home page. Running a product review/giveaway site like I do, I oftentimes must use large images in the review itself, which are speed killers. This is why I always utilize the page break feature after a paragraph or two, so that my entire post won't be displayed on the home page. If a reader is interested in one particular post and wants to read more, then they will click on that post's link and read more. All readers shouldn't suffer slow loading times of the home page for things they might not even be interested in reading.
- PLUG-INS ~ One of best features of WordPress is that there is a neverending supply of awesome plugins to use. Be very careful though and don't go installing plugins like a kid in a candy store. Every plugin you use will slow your site down a little. Once again, I recommend testing your blog's speed both before and after the plugin has been installed to find out if the cost in speed is worth it. Also, test different plugins which both do the same thing and compare them. I have found several popular plugins that were just too draining for my blog and found another plugin which did the same job, but without using as many resources. Here are a few to illustrate my point:
- Wibiya Toolbar vs. Smart Sharing ~ I noticed that Wibiya was very resource intensive and was often not working correctly on their end, which caused my blog to slow way down. Smart Sharing accomplishes the same thing, but without hogging a ton of resources.
- EXCESSIVE COMMENTS ~ Every comment and gravatar associated with it is a drain on your blog's speed. Make sure that you utilize WordPress's comment pagination feature so that you don't bog your visitors down with having to scroll through hundreds of comments just to leave you one. Most people won't take the time to wait for your site to load this long and don't want to have to scroll this much either. This is essential for those running product review/giveaway blogs, like myself. Personally, I have my comments paginated so that only 10 comments show up at one time on a page.
- RESOURCE HEAVY APPLICATIONS ~ I can't stress enough how every application you add to your blog should be tested, both before and after. Steer clear of those applications which slow down your site. For instance, when I host the Be-Bop-A Blog Hop Wednesday and Stick 'Em Up Friday Giveaway Linky, I use the Simply Linked widget over the very popular MckLinky. I've found that MckLinky used over 10 times the resources that Simply Linked does.
There you have it...my 13 sure-fire speed suckers, which should be limited as much as possible. Remember, if you use the resources I mentioned in a previous post to test your blog both before and after you install any of the above items, you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you want to include them on your blog. Leave a comment here if you have any questions and I will do my best to help. Until next time...have a wonderful day!
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!