How to Increase Website Speed and Make Your Blog Load Faster

- | 111 Aha! comments | Posted in category: Blogging

A site speed test sign board with speed zone ahead written

You know that Google considers your website speed as one of the ranking factors, don’t you? To have a successful blog, you need to know the ways to increase your blog speed.

Increasing website speed means reducing the site load time, so that your site takes less time to open. You can dramatically speed up your WordPress site in easy ways.

One tool that can always help you make your blog fast is a site speed test.

Though site speed tests are only performance testing tools and do not directly increase your site speed, they give you suggestions that you can implement on your own and achieve your aim.

Well, you must be wondering that I’m a super woman who even knows such technical stuff. 🙂

But firstly, I’d like to clear up that improving the speed of your website does not require much of technical knowledge.

Secondly, this is something that my husband taught me and I’m just writing down my training experience, hoping to turn it into a compelling post!

My sole purpose is to help you, just in case you need to fasten your blog speed too. If need be, you can just copy the site speeding process that I’ve described here.

Tell you what, I personally tried the entire process explained in this post and it was a smooth cakewalk.

Therefore, if I can do it, so can you!

Let’s go ahead and get rid of high site load times. Perhaps many of you know how to speed up your website, but some of you either don’t do it or do it the wrong way.

I too didn’t do it the right way until recently, and look how fast my blog is now!

How to Do a Site Speed Test

You can have answers to all your questions if you’ve Google with you, isn’t it?

What you need to do is Google for “site speed test”, and select the top 3 or 4 speed testing websites.

Looking up at the search results, I selected the top 3 sites: Pingdom, Google PageSpeed, and GTmetrix.

You don’t have to look for more because they all vary in their test results and tend to confuse you further.

Your main reason to conduct a website speed test should be to seek the recommendations to make relevant changes on your blog in order to make it load faster.

Did you know that you can also get the site speed stats on your Google Analytics?

You can even check your blog speed on your Alexa ranking page. However, it does not give you any suggestion to improve the site speed.

Okay, all you need to do is just fill in your site URL where it is asked on these three selected sites, and hit the test button. That’s it!

When I tested my blog on these speed-testing sites, I got these main site improvement suggestions to increase my blog speed.

Suggestions to Improve Site Speed

Generally, the elements that make your site slow are – JavaScripts, CSS, and Images.

Below is what Google PageSpeed test suggested for my blog, Aha!NOW.

PS1plain

These are the recommendations I received related to these elements from all major performance testing tools – Google PageSpeed, Pingdom, and GTmetrix.

1)      Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content

2)      Defer parsing of JavaScript or Make fewer HTTP requests

3)      Combine external JavaScript and Combine external CSS

4)      Minify JavaScript and CSS

5)      Optimize images

Some other suggestions were:

1)      Add Expires headers

2)      Remove query strings from static resources

3)      Use cookie-free domains

4)      Leverage browser caching

5)      Enable compression

So, I’ve these 10 suggestions from website speed test results to help me increase my blog speed.

Honestly speaking, these terms and looked like Greek and Latin to me! I mean I couldn’t understand these recommendations all that much, except the reference to optimizing the images.

But the fact is that you don’t have to know it all. There are facilities and services that do it all for you!

What You Require to Increase Your Website Speed

Let me share the FREE things first – W3 Total Cache WordPress plugin and the popular caching web service, CloudFlare.

Later I’ll also use a paid CDN service to better the website performance, and a couple of other free WordPress plugins.

But the whole process isn’t just simple enough to install the plugin and forget about it.

You need to be careful about the settings in the plugins so they give the best results.

W3TC Setting for Better Site Speed

If you performed your site speed test on Google Page Speed, some of you might’ve come up with a recommendation that requires you to “eliminate render-blocking java script and CSS in the above-the-fold content”.

PSrenderblocking

My husband and I struggled with this problem and tried everything possible to remove these scripts from the top part of the blog pages, which seemed like an impossible task.

Moreover, like some of you non-techies, the learning curve was very steep for us, but no matter how vertical it is, if you are determined to scale it – you can!

We found that we could achieve the objective through W3 Total Cache plugin that we use. I recommend you also use it, if you haven’t been doing so.

For specific settings to remove render-blocking scripts, do the following in the minify section of W3TC plugin on your blog:

  • Choose “minify” in the JS minify settings
  • Choose “Non-blocking using ‘async’” as the Embed type

W3TCJS1

In the JS file management section, do the following:

  • First choose your WordPress active theme
  • Fill in the render-blocking JS file URL that you see in the Google Page Speed test results
  • Add more scripts, so you mention all the render-blocking scripts

W3TCJS2

  • Choose “All templates” under Template and “Embed in ” as the Embed location.
  • To remove the blocking CSS, first enable the CSS minify settings, and fill in all the CSS file URLs that you get from the Google Page Speed test result, in the CSS file management section.

Voila! Hit “Save all settings” button.

As you can see, I had 9 JS and 12 CSS render blocking scripts that caused my blog pages to take more time to load.

PSrenderblocking2

Now, after implementing the above, these are reduced to 1 JS and 2 CSS scripts in the above-the-fold area. Not bad, isn’t it?

However, experts say that you need to be careful when minifying scripts – silly mistakes can break your pages.

CloudFlare Setting to Increase Site Speed

CloudFlare is a multi-purpose online facility, and I’d highly recommend you to use its free plan.

It is a CDN optimizer and provides analytics as well as security. Thus, it protects and accelerates your site.

When you use it, go to performance settings under CloudFlare Settings, then do the following:

  • Choose “Aggressive” caching level,
  • Opt for “Rocket Loader” that automatically reduces the load times of your JavaScripts.

CFsetting

When you’re using CloudFlare in conjunction with W3TC, do not enable the “Auto Minify” options in CloudFlare.

If you enable that, then you won’t be able to use the option to eliminate the render-blocking scripts in W3TC as discussed above.

How is it going so far? Hope you are following all that I mentioned, and if not, you have the comment section to ask your questions.

I think now you are all set to drastically reduce the website load times and make it fast, aren’t you? 🙂

Increasing Website Speed Using W3TC, CloudFlare, and MaxCDN

For the purpose of comparison and reference, I checked the website speed at every stage on two popular online speed test websites – Pingdom and GTmetrix.

I made the first check before I embarked on the speeding journey, when I didn’t have any caching plugin or CDN services associated with Aha!NOW.

These different speed testing website show different results, so probably you don’t get the accurate speed, but at least you get to know what changes help your blog to become fast.

ping1plain

GT1plain

Initially, Pingdom showed a load time of nearly 14 seconds, and GTmetrix displayed a site speed of about 8 seconds for my blog.

Now, this is not considered a good speed.

GTmetrix recommends the website to have load times of below 4 seconds.

There are some speed testing websites that advise blog speed of not more than or around 2 seconds. I know you’d want even faster site speeds.

You need to pay more attention to the page load times or site speed as shown by the speed test results than the reported performance grades.

I tried using only CloudFlare or MaxCDN (aff link) separately and tested their impact on my blog speed.

But these alone didn’t bring me nearer to my target, which was to bring my site speed to near about 1 second!

This shows that you cannot do without the W3Total Cache plugin, which will help you enhance the power of CloudFlare and MaxCDN.

Using W3Total Cache Plugin

This caching plugin slashes down the load times drastically.

From 14.5 seconds, my blog load time came down to 3.76 seconds! That’s about 74% increase in site speed!!

ping2w3tc

This was the Pingdom test results; let’s check the other one too.

GT2w3tc

GTmetrix brought the blog load time from 8.05 seconds to 6.16 seconds, which is about 23% increase in speed.

Using W3Total Cache and CloudFlare

I used this combination for a long time. CloudFlare can also be managed from your WordPress dashboard using the W3TC plugin, so you don’t have to go to CloudFlare’s site every time.

These are the speed test results after adding the FREE plan of CloudFlare to my blog.

ping3w3tcCF

Pingdom test results show that my blog load time reduced from 3.76 seconds to 425 mili seconds, and that’s under half a second!

GT3w3tcCF

GTmetrix brought it down from 6.16 seconds to 5.49 seconds. Notice that both Page Speed and YSlow grades are “A”. 🙂

Using W3Total Cache, CloudFlare, and MaxCDN

It doesn’t get better than this! These three together beat the site load time blues totally.

MaxCDN (aff link) is a paid service, and I added it to my blog through the W3TC plugin.

Pingdom reported reduction of my blog load times from 425ms to 344ms, which is just unbelievable!

ping4w3tcCFcdn

Did you read that – “Your website is faster than 99% of all tested websites”! Wow!!

GTmetrix test results did not show much of a change, and the site load time nears to 5 seconds from a bit more than 6 seconds.

GT4w3tcCFcdn

While this is good, it made me wonder if I can still make my blog speed better.

Through some research and experiment, I found a WordPress plugin called “BJ Lazy Load”, which was best suited for this purpose.

It worked! This lazy plugin brought down my blog page load time from 5 seconds to under 4 seconds.

GT5w3tcCFcdnBJ

You need to remember that these test results vary each time you conduct them, and they’ll show different values if you chose different parameters each time.

Can you really trust the website speed test results?

Personally, I don’t think they’re always accurate. They’re mainly just an estimate and should be used mainly to get recommendations.

Many times my blog showed low load time in the site speed test results, but my real time experience when I surfed the blog was somewhat different.

Is it speedy enough at your end? Let me add that this particular post might be heavy due to excess of images I’ve used.

The test results also vary as per your location and other details.

For performance testing purposes, I kept my test site location be the same on all testing tools – Dallas, Texas, USA. I also chose Chrome as the browser type and DSL as the type of Internet connection, to minimize result variations.

New Kid in the Town

As I was doing the site speed-testing round, I received an update to my WordPress security plugin – Wordfence.

WFcaching

They’ve integrated a caching facility with their security plugin and they claim it’s the best caching option available for WordPress sites.

It’s caching is based on their new falcon engine. It appends the site .htaccess file (very important file!), and asks you to download it first, and then go ahead to increase the site speed by 30 to 50 times!

So how could I miss out on testing this option too?

Boosting Site Speed Using Wordfence, CloudFlare, and MaxCDN

This didn’t take much of time.

I had already mentioned that the site load time was of about 14 seconds by Pingdom and 8 seconds by GTmetrix without using any speed enhancing options.

So, I disabled W3Total Cache and switched on the Wordfence Falcon Engine, and used it as a standalone speed enhancer to my blog.

Using Wordfence Falcon Engine

This was a shocker. The Falcon brought the site load time down by about 87%! Much better than the W3TC plugin.

ping6WF

GT6WF

Pingdom showed the site speed up from 14.57 seconds to 1.83 seconds, and GTmetrix from 8.05 seconds to 5.22 seconds.

Using Wordfence and CloudFlare

I added CloudFlare to Wordfence Falcon. While CloudFlare did not show improved site speed with Wordfence using GTmetrix –  Pingdom however showed increased speed.

ping7WFcf

GT7WFcf

GTmetrix displayed better grades, whereas Pingdom showed reduced site load time from 1.89 seconds to 378 ms.

Using Wordfence, CloudFlare, and MaxCDN

Finally, I added MaxCDN to the combination of Wordfence Falcon and CloudFlare. Again, GTmetrix doesn’t show much of a difference in site speed, but Pingdom also didn’t improve the track record.

ping8WFcfCDN

GT8WFcfCDN

It seems that MaxCDN wasn’t very useful  if you already had a combination of Wordfence and CloudFlare.

But the BJ lazy Load plugin again made a difference. It brought the GTmetrix speed score to 1.15 seconds! That was my site speed target!!

GT9WFcfCDNbj

Now, you really have two good options – either use W3TC or Wordfence’s Falcon caching engine.

The advantages you’ve using W3TC plugin are:

1)      You can easily manage CloudFlare and MaxCDN through the dashboard of W3TC

2)      You can defer or parse the JS and CSS files

3)      You can minify JS, CSS, and HTML

Though Wordfence facilitates good site load times, I guess you’ll have to use other plugins along with it that can minify the JS, CSS, and HTML as well as manage the CDN.

Or perhaps, they’ll be coming up with these supportive features in their future upgrades.

In fact, I didn’t know that you cannot manage a CDN without a caching plugin. As I disabled W3TC plugin, the CDN got disabled automatically.

So, if you need to use CDN as a standalone service or use it along with Wordfence, and if you’re using its Falcon caching engine, then use the CDN Linker plugin. This will manage your CDN without W3TC.

You do not need any separate plugin for CloudFlare, as you can easily manage it from its own site.

Conclusion

I was always conscious and worried about my blog’s speed.

That’s because my blog’s home page is really heavy with so many images, and I didn’t want to sacrifice the present magazine theme for anything else.

This resulted in my site to slow down which probably led to higher bounce rate.

Obviously, who has the time to wait for a site to load, when they can view and read many more sites in that duration?

After going through the recent revelations and experiences with increasing website speed, I would say that a WordPress website definitely needs the triple power of W3TC, CloudFlare, and MaxCDN.

I was able to resolve almost all the 10 problems as suggested by the various speed testing websites and as mentioned earlier in this post.

Just look at this summary of the Pingdom speed test.

pingallLT1

Look at the graph running down. You too can achieve this for your blog in less than an hour’s time, considering if you’ve to register for CloudFlare and MaxCDN (aff link), and install the plugins. Else, it would take even less time.

Of course, you can also use Wordfence’s Falcon, which looks very promising, but it’s just come into the market and I’d like to give it some time before really adopting it on my blog.

I hope my experiences with site speed tests will help you decide what’s best for your blog. These are not expert views because I’m no website speed expert, but I just shared things that worked for me.

There is one more option that can impact site speed, and that’s your web host. My blog is on Hostgator’s shared web hosting (aff link) for the last two years, and it is going great, which you can see from the speed results.

But, I’m sure my blog speed will increase more and it will load faster if and when I shift to a better and high-end web host that is not shared.

I know more can be done to enhance the blog speed and provide better browsing experience to the blog visitors.

However, I’m happy with my little effort that I enjoyed sharing with you, and the website speed that I was  able to achieve despite being a non-techie.

If you’re a technical person and an expert with increasing website speed, I’d welcome your tips and more suggestions that you can add to take care of aspects that weren’t covered here.

Make the blog comments a great resource and an extension of this post for the readers by sharing your tech wisdom there! 🙂

Over to You –

What did you do to increase your site speed? Which site speed tests do you use and how did they help you? What are the other factors that can improve the website speed? Share in the comments.



Show Comments

111 Comments - Read and share thoughts

  1. Nicole

    February 29, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    Hi Harleena, thanks for the great info. I’m thinking of combining Falcon with Cloudflare. When you did the experiment, did you tick the “auto mignify” checkboxes in Cloudflare?

  2. Akshit Wadhwa

    August 22, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Hey Harleena,

    Page Speed matters alot and now a days it’s very important for the SEO also. If anyone having problem with it I can help up with it.

    -Akshit Wadhwa

  3. himagain

    April 26, 2015 at 4:33 am

    Hi there Harleena,
    I arrived here from a long way away! Australia:-)
    I was researching Blog Security and especially Wordfence.

    Very impressed by by your helpful and diligent support of visitors to your Site.
    While definitely no geek, I have been on the Net since before it was invented! (Since 1984) 🙂

    Might I just add a few pointers here?
    1. Security SHOULD be the most important consideration for you and your WPress visitors. There are extremely effective ways today for your WP Site to be made a “Slave” to thieves.

    Wordfence is a Blogsaver and it is worth all of your visitors just visiting this other Site – but no need to buy anything there – it is simply a very good dramatic show of the danger to your WPress Site today. The Site is actually selling what is really the free Open Source Wordfence!!
    bit.ly/aboutWordfence

    It’s true! If you haven’t been hacked/enslaved yet, if you get any Google rank into the top 50 pages, you soon will be.

    DISCLAIMER: No, I don’t sell or own it – I simply cannot understand why WPress and any Hosting Provider doesn’t build it in to their Service!

    Namaste from Australia.

  4. Hadharm Hiidee

    February 10, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Mam, great post here you really explained it well but how can I reduce my speed from 6s down to -4. Am using blogger platform not like WP you focused on the post.

  5. Abrar Mohi Shafee

    December 12, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Harleena,

    That is the exact combination I’m using it for my blog. I use W3 Total Cache with CloudFlare.

    I think, these two are what every wordpress blog really need. W3 Total Cache serves the best optimized cache where cloudflare can add a extra layer security.

    In cloudflare, my favorite function is Rocketloader. It can dramatically optimize javascripts and reduce the page load time. This is the truth, a blog can go from 5s loading time to 1s just using this rocketloader function.

  6. Sivaramakrishnan M

    December 11, 2014 at 12:22 am

    Hi Harleena,

    Is Aha blog teaches technical stuff too 😀 ? I heard its only about the blogging but when i was just going each post. I got this 🙂

    In my case, I had a strange issue whereby combining jquery.js with the other JS files broke many js functions that depend on jquery even though they loaded after. To get around this I made jquery.js load on its own after , and made all the others load combined just before , with everything set to load using async.

    If someone knows/you might have came to know about the way to automatically inline only the relevant CSS/JS error, I’d be very happy to hear!

    Thanks for your connect
    Siva

  7. Mehul Boricha

    October 12, 2014 at 1:28 am

    Thanks for the long, summarized and amazing article. It really helped me in boosting mu blog load time. Currently I am using Cloud Flare with W3 Total Cache.

  8. DAN

    October 11, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    Thank you for your excellent article

    when testing my site on developers.google.com
    i have the following error:

    Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content
    Your page has 1 blocking script resources and 2 blocking CSS resources.
    This causes a delay in rendering your page.

    You suggested that it can be achieved through W3 Total Cache plugin but My host provider Goddaddy refuses to activate it for security reasons.

    Is there a way like putting a code in the .htaccess file that will solve this problem?

    Thank you for your comments

    Dan

  9. Nikky

    August 28, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Harleena,

    I tried implementing the render blocking java script method on my site. When I’ve added the Javascripts and CSS to the list i can see my site is becoming significantly slow and taking long time to load

    Wonder what i’m doing wrong :-/

  10. Dev

    August 19, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Informative post, Harleena. Website speed plays a important role in the conversation of any website, fast loading websites makes more profits.

    I think the quickest and easiest way to improve the site speed is to – switch to WordPress specific hosting provider such as WPEngine or MediaTemple.

  11. Wilson

    August 17, 2014 at 11:17 am

    I am planning to implement Wordfence and I was searching through Google about WP Super Cache working with Wordfence and it seems you cannot let the two work together. Now I know what I must do.

    I was also thinking of putting a bad-bot blackhole script and was choosing between ZB Block, Blackhole and Bot-trap. I came across Wordfence and it seems I won’t be needing those bad bot banning scripts. It’s not worth the hassle. Wordfence can take care of it plus much, much more.

  12. Masud Rana

    June 23, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Helpful & useful article. Thankz for sharing. I use the W3 Total cache plugin and it’s improved my speed but from what you tell us MAXCDN is worth a look.

  13. Kaustav Banerjee

    June 6, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Hi Harleena,

    I tried myself a few days back, installing W3 total cache. But as soon as I install, my site goes crazy. I get display of total garbage. No images, HTML, CSS, nothing. Looks like some paragraphs written in strange font…
    Can you help?

  14. Rizwan

    June 4, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Hi Hraleena,

    You have nicely covered all the major platform which can help built a faster website but also, there are many such websites which don’t show the correct information about your website and if someone unfortunately go with their instraction then they might get into some new problem instead getting out from their existing problem, i would suggest that we should use such type of websites with caution.

    Rizwan

  15. Shane Hutton

    June 4, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Hi there Harleena….a friend of mine passed your URL along to me after she noticed my blog site speed dipping today…….I’m using a lot of images and video posts so I guess it was bound to happen…..I’m running W3 Total Cache WordPress Plugin…..just gave it a couple of tweeks….I’ll see how its performing tomorrow…thanks again…

    Shane




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How to Increase Website Speed and Make Your Blog Load Faster