Boy, was I excited after I did a soft launch of my website. I was nervous to share my recent post with my blogging Facebook Support Group but did anyways. Saturday morning, I woke up to a Facebook message that read:
“I tried to visit your site, but the page wouldn’t load.”
What the!? My heart sank, thank goodness I haven’t “officially” launched my site yet!
Unless you are a website developer who has studied how to built websites, you will encounter many hurdles along the way. Website speed optimization being one of them.
How to Boost Your Website Speed & Load Time
I learned from my research that everyone needs an SEO optimized theme. So I went I a search for one. After what felt like days of research, I stumbled across the Genesis Framework and child theme set up. Awesome, all I have to do was purchase this set-up and I’m good to go right!?
Well, it’s not so black and white. Using an SEO optimized theme is only the first step. There are several other steps to make your site performance exceptional. I’m about to share those with you.
Many of the bloggers you follow more than likely encountered these same issues. They either have a budget to hire a developer or roughed it like the rest of us. My goal with sharing the mistakes I make is to save you time & money!
Step 1 – Diagnose What is Wrong – Website Speed Test
I immediately Googled – test the speed of my website. These are the two tests I used.
My results from both tests showed these issues:
- I needed to Optimize the images on my website
- Leverage browser caching
- Reduce server response time
- Minify CSS
When I saw these terrible results, my immediate thought was it must be because of the number of plugins I was using. I learned through researching that you need to make sure the plugins you are using have good code. Meaning, get rid of the poorly coded plugins, usually the free ones, unfortunately. (Side Note: After you follow my tutorial on how to create a blog, go check out WP Beginner.)
Step 2 – Caching is UBER Important for websites
When I set up my site, I read about installing the W3 Total Caching plugin. So I already had it installed before I tested my website speed. So why did I get the error Leverage browser caching?
But I have that plugin!? See the problem with installing the plugin is it doesn’t enable a single setting. It will activate, but it is up to you to enable the correct settings. Good to know… The settings I learned to be the correct ones are in this video.
One amazing aspect of this plugin, is it fixed 80% of my problems! Pretty neat! I HIGHLY recommend you download and configure this plugin. Seriously, go do it now, I mean, after you read this post!
Step 3 – Remove All the Fluff
Next, I spent about 10 minutes to remove unnecessary items from my sidebar and posts.
- Removed the Instagram feed because it wasn’t caching and took up too much room.
- Deleted the Activate image from Bloglovin as it wasn’t compressible.
- Removed all emojis from my posts as they weren’t compressed.
Step 4 – Fix Issues with Plugins
Afterward, I tackled my social sharing issues. I didn’t realize I used 3 different plugins to enhance the social sharing on my website. Shareaholic was for the share buttons within a post, Jquery Pin It Button was to make each image pinnable to Pinterest, and Genesis Social Icons was to display my social media accounts.
After installing the Social Warfare plugin, these are the steps I took. (Approximate time it took me = 45 minutes).
Steps I took:
- Delete Shareaholic and Jquery Pin It Button (Kept the Genesis Social Icons)
- Purchase License with Social Warfare
- Install new Plugin
- Configure Social Warfare Plugin
- Register Plugin (enter email address to verify purchase)
- Sign up for Twitter Counts
- Sign-up for Bit.ly Free Account & connect to Social WarFare plugin
- Configure social share buttons on site and how I wanted them to look
Verdict, I am thoroughly satisfied with this plugin. It was the easiest plugin I have ever configured.
Step 5 – Optimize Theme’s CSS?
Imagine my disappointment when I learned the Pretty Chic theme, that I love, didn’t optimize its style sheets. Apparently, you only want one CSS stylesheet based on this article. Yet I had 3 sheets based on this test tool.
I thought of the top 3-5 sites I visit the most. I plugged those into the CSS Delivery tool and found they had, even more, CSS stylesheets than me! Hmmm… maybe my 3 weren’t so bad after all.
Step 6 – Image Optimization
I decided to optimize my images first and retest before I tackled the CSS issue. I also needed to compress almost every single image, but didn’t know how to do this. After a little bit of Google research, I found and downloaded the plugin TinyPNG and compressed the images within my wordpress dashboard.
Step 7 – Retest Website Speed
Now it was time to retest the speed of my website. To recap, these are the steps I took to speed up my site:
- Activate and set up the W3 Total Cache plugin
- Deleted my Instagram feed, emoji’s from posts & Activate logo
- Install, purchase, activate the Social Warfare plugin. Deleted the old free plugins I was previously used for this purpose.
- Compress my images with TinyPNG plugin.
After I completed those steps I went back to Google Website Speed Test, Google Test My Site & Pingdom Website Speed Test. I compared my new results to my old results as well as the 3 websites I had done before. Wow! What a difference. Now I outperformed my favorite websites AND based on Pingdom, outperformed 95% of the websites they test. Pretty awesome.
I ultimately decided to leave my website’s theme CSS stylesheets alone. I may revisit this down the road or hire a developer to help.
The Process Didn’t Take Too Long
All-in-all this entire process took roughly an hour to complete this project. I gained considerable speed for my website for now and for the foreseeable future.
Hopefully, I haven’t discouraged you from starting a website. This has been one of the greatest journeys I’ve ever been on. Thankfully, the cost to start a website is low as $3.49 per month, especially if you follow my instructions here and use my link for the discount.
Thankfully, I share every step of my blogging adventure with you. I share every single mistake, I make and how I fix them. This way, you have a huge head start! (I would put an emoji here, but they slow down the speed of my site!)
What lessons have you learned from your WordPress & Blogging adventures? Was there something you learned the hard way and would like to share so we don’t make the same mistakes too?
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