A speedy, well-optimized site is a crucial investment in the long-term health of your site. A fast-loading site means a great reader experience and top earning potential!
The ultimate goal is to serve your readers well. Your readers want your valuable content, Google wants to show people search results that give people what they’re looking for with the absolute best experience, and advertisers want engaged readers. When you’re able to deliver valuable content quickly and efficiently, everyone wins!
People sometimes blame ads when a site has a slow loading time, but your AdThrive ads are optimized to have the least possible effect on your site speed. You can read more about that here: Are my ads slowing down my site?
When your site loads quickly, your ads will too! Here are some steps you can take to streamline your page loading and help your site operate as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Some of these may be a little more involved, so we recommend asking your host or site developer if you’re not sure how to implement these suggestions for your site.
Speed Up Your Site
1. Use a high-quality host
This is one of the best, most worthwhile investments you can make in your business! All hosts are not created equal. The cheapest hosting options tend to share resources in a way that allows other sites on the same server to affect how your site performs.
The best hosts use “containerization.” This means your site is in its own “container” so that while it may be on a server shared with others, the resources (and security) your site receives are not affected by what’s going on with other sites.
High-quality, WordPress-focused hosts also tend to stay up to date with the latest technologies which is crucial for performance and security. Just like you update your phone’s software and your site’s plugins, it’s important that your host updates the software running on their servers (e.g. PHP and MySQL).
2. Keep your plugins and widgets to a minimum
It’s a good practice to do a regular ‘plugin audit’ on your site. This is where you take a look at all of the plugins, widgets, and any kind of ‘add-ons’ you have installed and decide whether they are worth keeping. Plugins can cause your site to load more slowly, so only keep them if they provide critical functionality.
We have a whole article that will guide you through how to evaluate your plugins and widgets, with recommendations on which to keep and which to delete. Check it out here: How do I perform a plugin audit?
3. Optimize your images
Big, beautiful images are essential for most sites, but if they are not optimized, they can really slow things down for your readers, especially those on mobile devices and slow internet connections.
There are several best practices you can apply to your images:
- Compression: Compressing your images makes the file size smaller, and it can be done on your computer before uploading images to your site or through a plugin when you upload the image to your site. Try to shoot for a file size of 100kb or smaller per image.
- Dimensions & display size: In general, save your photos to the dimensions they will display on your site, and pick the most appropriate size when you insert an image into a post, sidebar widget, etc. Browsers load the full-sized image and then resize the image to fit the space available. Just like with compression, you can optimize image dimensions on your computer before uploading images to your site.
- Image optimization plugins: WP Smush, Shortpixel, and Imagify do a good job of compressing and/or resizing images when you upload them to your site dashboard. Imagify and Shortpixel both offer a browser-based tool, as well.
- Check your work: https://webspeedtest.cloudinary.com/ is a great resource to see how you’re doing with your image compression. It will point out images that could be compressed further as well as images that are loading larger than they are being displayed.
4. Lazy Load Images
Images are typically the largest files that load on your page, but a reader visiting your site doesn’t need to see every image right away — just the images on the first page scroll. Lazy loading your below-the-fold images is a great way to reduce the amount of data that initially loads, since it only loads subsequent images as a reader scrolls them on or near the screen.
You can lazy load images through a number of plugins (WP Rocket and Autoptimize both have this option — see our note on WP Rocket versions 3.9 or higher under #7) or a developer can help you get this set up.
Some plugins also enable iframe optimization or iframe lazy loading. If your use YouTube embeds or other heavy iframe resources, we recommend that you also lazy load those. Just let the AdThrive team know when you enable iframe optimization as it has a small chance of impacting your ads.
5. Use caching
Your site makes requests back and forth to the database to generate all the different pieces of the page. When caching is set up properly, it can serve a pre-compiled page that doesn’t have to request anything from the database — so content loads much more quickly for readers and the load on your server is minimized.
Caching is best done at the server level, so we recommend reaching out to your host to make sure as much of your site as possible is loading from the cache. Certain hosts take care of the majority of caching on their end, making an additional plugin unnecessary.
If you do decide to use a caching plugin, work with your host to determine the best configuration for your caching plugin that will enhance, not work against, your host’s caching setup.
6. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN caches your site content and delivers it to your readers via servers through the geographically closest server available, which can really help speed up your page load time for each reader! CloudFlare offers an entry-level plan that's totally free, while the Pro level plan is $20/month. CloudFlare includes image optimization in the Pro level plans and higher.
CDNs are typically used to serve the larger parts of your pages like images, but it’s also possible to set up a CDN like Cloudflare to serve FULL cached copies of your pages. This means the entire page is delivered from the nearest datacenter to each reader, greatly reducing your server load and speeding up response times. More info here.
An important note: we recommend keeping the Rocket Loader functionality of CloudFlare turned off, as it conflicts with your AdThrive ad code and hurts your ad earnings. You can easily manage this feature in your CloudFlare settings.
7. Optimize your site's code
Think of your site loading like passengers boarding a plane. Your content should get priority boarding! When your site’s code is optimized, it helps everyone “board the plane” efficiently and in the correct order, so lower-priority processes don’t block your content from loading quickly.
WP Rocket and Autoptimize are great options for optimizing the loading order of your site’s files. When properly configured, they can minify (remove all unnecessary spaces) and rearrange your site’s code to make the total page size smaller and make sure things load in the right order.
**Just a heads up — we recommend refraining from updating to WP Rocket versions 3.9 or higher for now due to a conflict with AdThrive ads.
8. Make sure your site is on the latest version of PHP
PHP is a scripting language that runs on your website’s server. If you’re not on the latest version, updating will give you a major site speed boost instantaneously — up to twice as fast depending on how far behind your server is! You can ask your host what version of PHP your site is on and they can help you update.
9. Keep it simple
A simple, clean site often provides a better (and faster) user experience. Here are a few more tips:
- Show excerpts instead of full posts on your homepage. You can still show your entire posts in your RSS feed, even if your homepage only shows excerpts.
- Optimize your sidebar. Our article on optimizing your sidebar provides some more great tips on removing elements that can impact site performance. Bonus: a shorter sidebar can help your sticky sidebar ad increase its earnings!
We want to help you make the browsing experience great for people visiting your site because they are the most important part of the whole deal! Keeping things fast and efficient keeps your readers happy and coming back for more, which is the best strategy for long-term earnings.