WordPress is an extremely well featured content management system with everything the prospective site owner needs to get a blog or site up and running with minimal fuss. It is, however, not quite a quick as it might be out of the box –– although with optimized WordPress hosting, it certainly can be made quite fast.
Quite fast isn’t good enough for some sites though. The quicker the better, both for user experience and for the number of conversions a site generates. Users don’t like slow sites, and tend not to stick around long enough to do anything useful. Slow sites are also bad for SEO. Google doesn’t like sending people to laggy pages and uses site speed as one of the ways of working out where a site should rank in its search engine.
We’re going to take a look at a few plugins that you can add to WordPress to make it much faster for your visitors.
One of the reasons that WordPress is a little slower than optimal is because it is a dynamic content management system. In the old days, websites were just a collection of files that didn’t change, dynamic sites, however, are built on the fly, pulling the page content from a database, which is slower.
Caching a process by which, instead of recreating the page from the database every time a user visits, it is stored ready made in the server’s memory or hard drive. That means pages can be served almost instantly without asking the database for anything.
One of the most popular methods of implementing caching on a WordPress site is with the W3 Total Cache plugin.
The Total Cache plugin will optimize a WordPress site in various ways, including caching, minifying (removing the spaces and other superfluous characters) the files, and compressing them. That can all add up to a considerable time saving, sometimes up to 80 %
Quick Cache has many of the same features as Total Cache, but not all of them. It does, however, have the virtue of being a bit simpler to use. If you care about tweaking every little aspect of the speed optimization process, then you should choose Total Cache, but if you’d rather not see all the gritty details, then go for Quick Cache.
As we said above, before database dependent content management systems, sites were static. Really Static is a way of taking the contents of a WordPress site and using it to create a static site. It will make a WordPress site incredibly fast, but it isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t play well with some plugins, and may require quite a bit of tweaking to get things running smoothly.
Content Distribution Networks
A content distribution network is related to caching, but rather than keeping the static assets on the home server, they are distributed to a global network of edge servers to which requests for those assets are routed. There are two main advantages to using a CDN. Firstly, because the edge servers are located nearer to the site visitor than the main server, round-trip times are greatly reduced. Secondly, using a content distribution network reduces both the load on the main server and the bandwidth it uses. There are various ancillary benefits too: the distributed files are still available even if the main server goes down for some reason, and some CDNs offer a degree of protection against distributed denial of service attacks.
You might also want to take a look at Amazon’s CloudFront service. While it’s not as easy to set-up as CloudFlare, it is extremely configurable. W3 Total Cache offers integrations with CloudFront and a number of other content distribution networks.
A combination of caching and content distribution networks can have an enormous impact on a site’s speed and both are fairly straightforward to implement. The improvements in user experience and SEO are well the effort.
Editors Tip: If you want to check how speedy your website is check out the Google Page Speed insight tool.