4 Simple Ways to Increase Site Speed and Grow Blog Traffic

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Today we’re going to talk about ways to increase site speed

Increase Site Speed…and how a fast site can drastically improve blog traffic.

“But Ryan… A couple weeks ago you told us that we shouldn’t lust for blog traffic?!”

I know… I’m a hypocrite… What can I say… Increasing blog traffic shouldn’t be your only concern, this is especially true for small business, but growing your reader base is still crucial to the success of your online presence.

Let’s talk about why site speed is so important

The first reason is Bounce Rate (Ana Hoffman).  Bounce rate is essentially the length of time that visitors spend on your page and the number of pages each visitor views.  The thought process is simple, if you have a high bounce rate your blog is NOT delivering enough value.

The second reason is Return Visitors (Kristi Hines).  It’s sexy to talk about new visitors… But every visitor can’t be a new visitor (insurance agents think renewals).  Growth is going to be very tough if you’re always chasing new visitors.  You need return visitors… That’s you’re community, you’re fans, you’re tribe, you’re friends… They’re important.

How does bounce rate and return visitors affect site speed

Let’s start with a little story about the importance of site speed:

Let’s say you’re looking at Twitter…

…and one of your connections re-tweets a post with an intriguing title, like say, “Why you will never be successful blogging.”  So you decide to click on the link and see what it’s all about.

Maybe you’ve seen the author’s name before, maybe you haven’t, either way this is your first visit to this author’s website and you’re hoping, as you do every time you visit a new website, the post will be awesome and you’ll have found a great new resource…

You’re all jacked up for the potential of this article you’ve never read before… Except… one second… Except… two seconds… Except… three seconds… The little picture thing next to Internet window tab is just spinning…

Screw it… too long… Back Button!

And you never see the article.  It could have been the most powerful, thought-provoking, world changing piece of writing you would have ever read… probably not… but it’s possible… except it took too long for the page to load and you have Internet surf so you hit the back button and moved on.

That’s bounce rate… You just bounced off that site.

Worst yet, now that you know this particular website takes time to load are you ever going to click on another link to that site?

You’re going to think twice and now you’re never be a return visitor.

So how do we increase site speed?

 1) Get a better website host

For the first three years that this blog existed it was run on Dreamhost web hosting.  When the site was very small Dreamhost was fine.  But in the last year traffic has grown significantly and Dreamhost was no longer able to keep up.

I found myself downloading every plugin, trying every trick I could find on the web to get my site to load faster…

Finally, I did some research, read some reviews and made a web hosting switch to Bluehost.

Not only was my website immediately faster… I mean immediately after making the switch I went from a 7 second load time to under 3 seconds…

That’s 4 seconds off my load time!

I also saved about $100 a year switching from Dreamhost to Bluehost…  I’m not saying you’ll see that much savings but I did and it made the switch to increase site speed even sweeter!

Another product I have first hand knowledge of and would definitely recommend is WP Engine.  WP Engine is a hosting platform specifically designed for WordPress blogs.

Since my switch to Bluehost web hosting I’ve seen ~ a 1,500 average hit increase in web traffic.  I don’t think that switching was the only reason… But those 4 seconds certainly play a role in that growth.

2) Use page cache plugin

Suggesting that you download and install W3 Total Cache is not a groundbreaking recommendation.

However… It is a must for almost everyone with a WordPress blog.

For those that don’t know (and no worries if  you don’t):

“Page Cache” is a process where, in general terms, a clean simple version of your web site is delivered to web visitors making your site run faster.

Every web page, blog post, landing page you create on your site has a ton of code and script that makes it run.  All that code and script takes time to load.  Page Cache plugins like W3 Total Cache deliver the code and script in a simple, clean format that loads quickly.

I’ve tried just about every Page Cache plugin out there… W3 Total Cache, though not the easiest to use, is by far the best… Hands down.

3) Deliver media via content deliver network

This sounds super technical… Really it’s not.

Here’s the deal… Images take up a lot of space on your server and take a lot time to load and render on your website.  This is especially true if you’re not using a tool like PicMonkey to resize pictures to a functional size.

Let me explain that, when you upload a picture and say it’s 1000px high by 1000px wide,  which is way too big for your blog post, you use the resize tool in WordPress to make it smaller maybe 250px X 250px.  Every time that page loads WordPress is making that conversion… HUGE SLOW DOWN.

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

A Content Delivery Network is a 3rd party which houses your media files off your site and deliveries the file when called upon.

Content Delivery Networks drastically reduce server load and subsequently increase site speed!

I use Amazon Cloudfront as a CDN.  There is a small cost but it’s pennies.  My bill last month was like 54 cents…

Here’s the awesome part.  It’s so easy to set up:

  1. Sign up for an account using the link above (not affiliate link)
  2. Take the account information you get after signing up and enter it into W3 Total Cache

That’s it.

Another reason I love W3 Total Cache is the plugin handles my CDN delivery.

4) Use a premium WordPress theme

Again you’ve probably read many other blogs that say using a premium WordPress theme is crucial to increase site speed.

If you haven’t…

…using a premium WordPress theme, like Genesis from Studiopress, is essential to running a quality WordPress blog and site speed is a big part of that quality.

I use Genesis on this site, specifically the eleven40 Theme.

I also use Genesis on The Murray Group website, specifically the Streamline Theme.

I also use Genesis on The GROW Program website, where we rock the Education Theme (new favorite).

I manage three websites and use Genesis on all three… It’s not because I love giving Studiopress my money.  It’s because their designs are:

  • fast
  • easy to use
  • easy to customize
  • and look great.

You know what blogs down and slows down a website… Tons of crap.  You know all those plugins and design changes and high-resolution photos and all the other crap you put in your website.

Some of it is necessary… Some of it isn’t… But every time you add something your site gets a little slower.

What I love about Genesis and why I think a premium theme like Genesis is so crucial to increase site speed is that so much of the crap you’d have to add to a free theme is ALREADY THERE.

Plugins don’t always play nice with WordPress but when they’re built into a design, integrated properly, your site is faster.

A good alternative to Genesis if you like to shop and research is Thesis Theme for WordPress.  A lot excellent blogs run of Thesis as well.

The Rub

Here’s the deal.  You need a fast website or people are going to leave immediately or never return.

That is just a fact of the Internet world.

No one wants to spend time on your slow-ass site.

So take some time…  Spend a little money (I mean a little, none of this costs more than a $100 bucks)… Then implement changes to increase site speed today.

You’re thank yourself the next time you open up Google Analytics and the little line counting web traffic is pointing up!

Thank you and Good luck,

I am Ryan Hanley

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  • […] All of these plugins are Free and add functionality to your site beyond what comes standard on a new WordPress blog install. Consider each and if you feel the tool would be useful I recommend adding. In general it’s a good rule of thumb to keep you plugins to a minimum unless it is serving a very specific and valuable purpose to your WordPress blog. Over using plugins can drastically slow down your site. […]

  • Improving website efficiency and speeding up response time, has become increasingly important to search engines, a majority of web users; and in-turn, website operators. A quick website response time, to generated requests, has been proven to encourage satisfied internet visitors and reduce website operating costs.

    • Suzanne,

      Why do you think you need to change hosts? Is the service slow?

      W3 Cache is pretty easy to set up… But if your Web Guy would be able to do it for cheap then it might be worth having that person do it.

      Thanks!

  • Lately i was having trouble with my site loading speed but i think i was missing a few point earlier so with the help of this article i am going to use a plugin as well as going to get a premium WordPress theme maybe that will speedup my site loading time thanks for this great post keep up the good work…
    A taste of jzeek’s work: ZTE T81 smartphone announced for Australia

  • I just uninstalled several plugins which were not necessary and a few more and coded their functionality into my theme. This increased my site speed. And something that I did not know about but now pay attention to – even inactive plugins slow down a web site because they increase the number of calls to the database. So remove all those inactive plugins forever waiting to be ‘maybe’ activated one day!

      • Kevin,
        It is also a good idea to substitute several plugins with one with the same functionality. And some plugins can actually speed up your site, like the mentioned in this article cache plugin. It may also be beneficial to use a minifying plugin to remove unnecessary characters from the source code and maybe a plugin to load google hosted libraries instead of your own to improve script loading performance. Hope it helps.
        A taste of Tom’s work: Overpowering the Sun

  • Good tips but all these are more of in-blog optimization, I personally view that there is still a need to do some cross promotion/marketing of the blog before the visitor even hit your blog title. Thus, social media, forum, blog commenting aer still some necessary channels to bring the traffics to your blog (especially for new bloggers whom have not established themselves)
    Just saying..

  • Website speed is so important for internet marketing success.

    All four points are really important especially hosting plays a big part and I also heard really good things about blue host.

    • Thanks Rana! I definitely like Bluehost. They had some good tutorials on how to migrate from another host which helped me do it myself as well…

      Appreciate you stopping by.

      Ryan H.

  • Hey Ryan,

    Well, I’m a first time visitor to your site and I was interested to read what you shared about resolving this issue.

    My blog doesn’t load really fast although I have “almost” everything in place that you mentioned here. I use Bluehost and I love them. I host all my photos on my server but I resize them to smaller images before doing so. I use Thesis which I totally love.

    The only two things I don’t do is I don’t have W3 Total Cache installed mainly because it messed up my blog last year. Yeah, I couldn’t even log into my dashboard so that freaked me out and I’m petrified to try it again although I know WordPress has updated since then. I don’t use any cloud service, that stuff makes me nervous. I’ve heard nightmares about the use of them and I’m not the most technical person you’ll meet.

    Do you think I’m doomed? I mean I have good response time on my blog. My visitors stay anywhere between three and five minutes which is good I know. But I know there is always room for improvement.

    Thanks for sharing this and I look forward to your response.

    ~Adrienne
    A taste of Adrienne’s work: How To Rid Spam From Your Facebook News Feed

    • Adrienne,

      I certainly do not think that you are doomed. It’s your site is performing fast now then there is really no reason to add any additional plugins or process.

      One service you might want to check out that’s free is Cloudflare. That is a plug and play content delivery system also has some good security features.

      Thanks!

  • It sucks to be slow in this instant world, Ryan ;)

    But, like Ryze jokingly mentioned earlier, people might be willing to wait if you really provide them with awesome sauce (but, the effectiveness of that wearing off due to the decrease of attention span and patience in people).

    I haven’t tested out my site’s speed in a while, need to go check it now ;)

    For CDN, I have used cloud flare in the past (it was a great tool, but had several problems and I have had many situations in which my site was down because of cloudflare)

  • whenever I come to this blog I am stuck. Too much new information and links to check out! Great stuff!

    They usually say the maximum loading time has to bee under 3.5 seconds… I currently fit in that so I guess it’s okay for now.

    By the way – regarding your other post about free web graphics – awesome and awesome! I used Photoshop and Irfan View, but Pic Monkey rocks it all the way! Thank you!
    A taste of Dacesita’s work: How To Waste Your Time Effectively 101 #2

  • Great article Ryan. I recently swapped hosts myself and added CloudFlare as a free solution and my site speed went up a ton!

    I personally have a high bounce rate (embarrassingly so at 85%!). I know the reason why too. I write about a lot of gaming/technology/gadget etc… and the issue I have is that I write and title the content correctly. The issue is when Google pops me in the result for an incorrect search. Irony right? I’ll get the visitor – but when they see that the article isn’t related to what they were looking for – I get hosed with the high bounce rate. So I’m working on it. My personal advice is to make sure you are looking at your Google Analytics for what keywords your articles are getting hit on – and then tweak the content to either make it more focused on what people are searching for – or even get rid of it if its hurting your site that bad.

    You forgot to mention something that kills your blogs speed too. Javascript. Or external scripts in general for that matter! Anytime you have to have content load from outside your site it will kill your overall load speed. For me these are things like Adsense ads, Facebook, Google, and I use Punchtab. These all will take a huge hit – even if you use a CDS and W3 Total Cache. So use them wisely!

    And if you have to have that external content? Make it load after your images and content load. Visitors might see the spinning wheel of waiting up on top… but your main content will already be loaded so they can at least read what you have to offer!

    And don’t get me started on WordPress plugins…. the more you can code what you need for your site instead of relying on a plugin? The better your site will perform!
    A taste of Jason Mathes’s work: Blog Tips | Are You Blogging for the Right Reasons?

    • Jason,

      Love the advice dude. And I completely agree with you that being able to code functionality into your site is SOOO much better for site speed than adding plugins. That is a main reason I like a Premium wordpress theme.

      I’m not a coder but having a theme that has functions integrated already that will decrease the number of plugins I need is great.

      The Facebook Like Box is terrible for Load Time. But it’s conversion of Like’s makes it worth while in my opinion.

      Thanks buddy.

      Hanley

  • I’ve found using CloudFlare and W3 Total Cache is even faster. CloudFlare is a CDN that also optimizes JS, images, etc. AND delivered a lot of cached content for you, taking some of the load off your hosting provider.

    • David,

      I would agree… Cloudflare is a good tool. I used Cloudflare before when I had Dreamhost. Since I’ve moved to Bluehost and started using Amazon Cloudfront I haven’t considered it again, but it’s certainly worth looking into!

      Thanks,

      Hanley