No matter what the type of platform you are running – speed matters if you want to compete. This is true even if you are running from an established content management system (CMS) such as WordPress. While the underlying CMS may be practically identical between various WordPress websites, there are a variety of factors that can substantially influence performance and speed.
Anyone who has ever waited for a website to load for more than a second or two can tell you about the benefits of a fast loading website. Here is another reason why speed is important – Google earlier this year specifically called out website speed as a critical factor in its search engine rankings on the Official Google blog. Here’s just a bit of what Google had to say on the subject: ”Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed – that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We encourage you to start looking at your site’s speed – not only to improve your ranking in search engines, but also to improve everyone’s experience on the Internet.”
So just what kind of difference does your site speed have on your Google rankings or the number of visitors to your site? One analytics company recently conducted research specifically to see what impact site speed actually had on Google search rankings. The results? A faster website load time triggered the Googlebot to visit the site much more often. This corresponded to a 15 percent increase in website traffic over the same period. You can view the complete Google website speed analytics study results here.
You know that speed is important for your website, so what sorts of items can you address with your WordPress site to gain superior speed and get the edge on your search rankings? Here is a great list of items you should check into.
1. Upgrade to the latest version of WordPress -According to the WordPress download page, the latest stable version is WordPress Version 3.0.1. If you are already running the current version – then you’re good. If not, your web hosting company can advise you on the best way to upgrade. It is often the case that a hosting provider will either offer a ‘one-click’ install or upgrade – or will simply perform the upgrade for you upon request.
2. Investigate exactly what your current website speed is. There are a variety of ways to view how fast your WordPress website loads up. Here is one that is easy to use and free.
Alertra – Simply type your URL into the ‘Check URL’ box in the upper right hand corner of the Alertra website. Then press the ‘check’ button. Alertra then loads your website from a number of different worldwide locations. A recent test included checks from Frankfurt, London, Joplin, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, Orlando, Atlanta, Chicago, Shanghai and Sydney. The results also include a parameter marked ‘time’ which returns the load time of your website page down to hundredths of a second.
3. Streamline your code – There are a number of relatively easy and obvious ideas to reduce the size of the pages that your site needs to load. You can get started by reading up on Google’s own advice on making your website adhere to what they term ”Web Performance Best Practices”. This means your site will generally be groomed to best display quickly and in the manner that Google requires. Read the description and explore further links at the Web Performance Best Practices page.
4. Ensure that your web hosting company is a top performer. A critical component in the speed of your WordPress website is the performance of your web hosting provider. To ensure that you are using a truly world-class hosting provider you should perform a few checks.
Twitter – It is very easy to see what others think of any web hosting company by checking their comments on Twitter. Just navigate to twitter.com and search by company name.
Industry expert sources – Another great reality check on any reputable hosting provider is to search the industry expert websites. You can see expert opinions on The Hosting News and webhostingtalk.com. Both sites will give you insight into which providers are industry leaders and which aren’t.
Don’t forget to email in to your hosting provider and ask questions like: How do you ensure site speed for your clients? What type of server will I be on? (Look for quality hardware vendors and redundant connectivity) Can you help me make my website faster? Their willingness to answer and the completeness of the responses will speak volumes about how they view accommodating the speedy function of your WordPress site.
Finally, if you simply have a massive site or need to keep complex features in place, consider moving your website to a higher end service – like a virtual server or a dedicated server. While these web hosting products may cost more on a monthly basis, you often find that the increased speed and stability of the server justifies additional outlay.