Got Speed? The Problem with Slow Loading Blogs

Does your blog load slowly?  C'mon.  Be honest...we're all friends here. If you are not the tech savvy type, I'd be willing to bet your site loads slower than it should.  Most amateur bloggers (and some professional ones) are not very good developers.  Here's where I would normally make the case for hiring a firm like BlogCraving to handle these things for you, but this time I will spare you.

Let's just jump right to the point and find out if your site is a load hog.

The speed test

Head on over to tools.pingdom.com.  This site will tell you definitively how fast your site loads.  All you have to do is put in your website's URL and run the test.  It will show you the load time for every single element on your site.

Pingdom Tools

Then, just scroll down to the very bottom of the report to see the total load time for your site. 

Pingdom Tools Load Time

How did you score?

Don't be shy.  Was it a big number?  If you are like a lot of blogs out there, you are probably right around 8 to 15 seconds.  It may not seem like much, but that is dog slow.  And if you are over that, yikes.

Ideally, you want to be under 5 seconds.  That shows a snappy site that people will be likely to enjoy (from a technical experience perspective).

Sites that load quickly have proven to receive much higher pageviews than slow sites.  That's because users are more likely to click around on a site that loads fast.  Most users will not go on to page 3 or the 4th photo in your gallery if each page takes over 10 seconds to load.  It just become less and less enjoyable with each click no matter how good the content.

What do you do?

The answer to this question is an entire series of posts that we will get into in the coming days.  In the mean time, I'll give you some tips.

  1. Optimize those post images. You should really spend some time learning how to optimize your images for web publishing before you even upload them into Wordpress (or your blog platform).  Lots of heavy images will surely kill your load time.  The Pingdom tool above will help you identify those big images.  Try Photoshop, Picasa, or even free services like SmushIt.
  2. Cut back on external scripts and calls. We all know those free little add-on widgets are lots of fun to put on your site.  So are all those snazzy social media buttons.  Unfortunately, they can add a lot of load time because of all the external callouts they make.  The files/scripts themselves might even be a bit "beefy".   Again, Pingdom will help you identify those problem services.  Once you know what they are, ask yourself how essential they really are and get rid of them.
  3. Is it your host? Most basic blogs are hosted on shared hosting.  In other words, you share a single server with a bunch of strangers.  You have no idea who else is on that server with you and what kind of resource they are drawing.  Your host may have certain throttle points in place to scale down resource hogs.  Maybe you're super hot site is one of the sites drawing too much.  If that's the case, it may be time to look into alternative hosting solutions (this is a good problem to have because it shows that you are growing).
  4. Dude, your theme is lame. It might be time to face the ugly truth that your site's theme just isn't that great.  Most free themes are free because they are not that great.  They may have some sloppy coding or CSS in them that do not make them scalable for growing sites.  They'll serve you well to start, but as you become a bigger deal, your theme may end up holding you back.   If you've got some serious load time issues, I highly suggest you run (not walk) to check out the Wordpress Thesis Theme.  It is incredibly fast loading, easy to customize even for non technical types, and has great SEO features. More and more sites are headed to Thesis because of how well it performs.  It comes out of the box pretty plain, but you can quickly make it much more visually appealing.

Over the next few days, we will take a deep dive into some of these optimization techniques as well as discuss things like Cloud Hosting, CDN's, template optimization, and a lot more.