Why is my blog slow?

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Wondering why your blog is soooo slow? Or struggling to know how to find out? Does it really matter or have a big impact on SEO?

The quick answer is yes - it matters both for the almighty Google and for people.

Good news is that Google have a cool page speed tool to check your site speed. Not only does it tell you how fast your page is, but it also tells you what you can do to improve it.

Read my tips below to find out more about page speed, why it matters and what you can do:

Why should you care about page speed?

Page speed affects a visitor’s experience and you care about that right?

If a page takes too long to load, chances are they’ll not bother waiting.

Of course they’ve clicked through to your site to read your lovely content – but nobody likes waiting for a 90’s-like experience of a webpage rendering do they? I can almost hear the modem screeching in the background when I think about slow page speeds.

It also affects rankings as Google takes into account site performance in its algorithm. If your site is slower than the one next door? It'll affect how many people can find your site through search.

So if you want to be seen in Google to increase your site visits, then site speed is definitely worth thinking about.

So… you now care about Page speed right?

How to improve your page speed

Luckily, Google gives you a nice breakdown as to what you can do to improve page speed split into urgent, kind of urgent and things that are okay (red, amber and green).

Here's a run down of simple things you can do to increase page speed:

1. Amend images

Amending images should have the biggest impact on your page speed.

Images are lovely on blogs, so it’s nice to reach a happy compromise. I’m not saying get rid of them.

But think about how big your images really need to be. The bigger they are, the more it’ll affect page speed and a readers experience on your site.

To sort out your images, follow these steps:

Step 1: Go through ALL your images that are stored as larger files – such as those that are added as raw large images directly from your camera or phone. Resize the dimensions to exactly the size you want to show it at on your blog. My site has a main section that is about 600 px wide, so that’s usually my widest image in the back end of my site…

I’m not going to lie. It’s a bit of a ball breaker if you share a lot of images regularly, but it’s simple enough to do. Just break it down into a few days worth of admin… possibly with a glass of wine or a beer and you’ll be fine.

Step 2: Compress images. Now, if you use a WordPress site (and are self hosted), I know there are free image compression plugins available that automatically go through your images to make sure they are as small a file size as possible – just make sure that it doesn’t impact on quality! If you don’t have snazzy tools available, then there are other free tools available online to compress.

One of my favourite tools to use for compression is compressor.io.

Step 3: Make sure that the images you’re using are JPEGs and not PNG unless absolutely necessary. JPEGs are smaller, web friendly file sizes. PNG files can be humongous… To the untrained eye, they pretty much look the same. So just make sure when you click save they’re in the right web-friendly format.

2. Page caching

Unfortunately not a way of making money from pages, instead page caching tells you how much of the page to remember when re-loading a page.

This can help users when coming back to your site to increase page load speed as it already remembers what it’s previously loaded and just has to load new elements.

This increases page speed for the user and also helps their experience for a super speedy page load.

Most new sites won’t have a timer set for most elements. So every time somebody visits, it’ll start from scratch with loading. What a pain!

To fix this, there’s a piece of code you can add to the .htaccess file – which you can access if you are self hosted  (or download a free Plugin if on WordPress if you’d rather not play around with code!). There are many versions of the code available if you look around. It will look something like this and should be added to the top of the .htaccess file:

## EXPIRES CACHING ## <IfModule mod_expires.c> ExpiresActive On ExpiresByType image/jpg "access 1 year" ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access 1 year" ExpiresByType image/gif "access 1 year" ExpiresByType image/png "access 1 year" ExpiresByType text/css "access 1 month" ExpiresByType text/html "access 1 month" ExpiresByType application/pdf "access 1 month" ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access 1 month" ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access 1 month" ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access 1 year" ExpiresDefault "access 1 month" </IfModule> ## EXPIRES CACHING ##

As a rule of thumb, static elements (such as images, text etc) can be set anywhere from 1 month to a year. Obviously you may want other elements – such as Twitter widgets, to update on a more regular basis.

3. Think before you add...

Bloggers write to share our stories with others and it can be tempting to add every widget available ‘just because’. We like to use BIG images too, but these could be having the opposite effect on our readers to what we intended. So when we add new images we need to think:

Does that image need to be in it’s biggest format? Could I save it smaller? Could it be a teensy bit smaller and still have that same impressive look? Probably. It’s a bit of extra admin, but has a positive impact on page speed to not undo all of your hard work in improving speed.

The same also goes for Plugins in Wordpress. It can be tempting in the world of plugins just to keep adding them. They're really useful right? Well yes... but try not to have more than 10 if you can help it. Even those that are created by great developers to be optimised still slow your site down.

Good luck with your page speed testing, let me know if you found this useful or if you have any questions.