How To Blog: Speeding Up My Site, From D to (Almost) A, Part 1 of 3

How To Blog:  How To Make Your Site Load Faster So You Don’t Scare Your Visitors Away

Part 1:  Getting Set Up

How To Blog - Getting Better Performance From Your Blog Is Easier Than You Think

How To Blog: By applying some simple techniques to your WordPress website, you can vastly improve the speed – and user experience – of your site

One of the things that has been on my (ever growing) “How-to-Blog” list for the site is to see about addressing the page load speed.

I knew that it was slow just from my own observation, no fancy tools or measurements were needed.

To bear that out, according to my Alexa toolbar, the site was rated as “Very Slow – 95% of sites load faster”.  Ouch!

Well, there is not much good in creating lots of great content if your visitors end up leaving before they ever read it.  Time to address the problem.  With

One concern I had was that I am hosting the site on a basic package – no fancy WordPress optimized hosting or dedicated server, so my fear was that there wasn’t much I could do.  However, I figured I would never know if I didn’t at least try to improve the situation.

So, after a little Googling, I came across an interesting step-by-step tutorial on optimizing your WordPress site’s speed – “ The UItimate Quick Start Guide to Speeding Up Your WordPress Site ”.

Bring it on!

The first things I had to do were to delete the caching plugin I was using and install the recommended W3 Total Cache instead.  I was fine with that being that I didn’t really know the optimum settings of what I had and it really wasn’t helping anyway (as reflected by the terrible rating mentioned above).

Next, I also removed my old minify plugin being that W3 Total includes that function.  Good with me.

The tutorial also called for installing a new MySQL database optimization plugin – WP-DBManage – so I did, and as soon as it was activated, I had a warning message at the top of my Plugins Admin page that my site backup folder was potentially visible to the public…

What?  Oh oh, that didn’t sound good.

I figured I would Google to get a little background.

Turns out that this is somewhat common and is a check that the WP-DBManage plugin runs as a matter of course.  Not a bad thing – obviously security leaks are never good.

TROUBLESHOOTING TIP FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ATTEMPT THE TUTORIAL YOURSELF:

NOTE ON CORRECT NAMING OF THE HTACCESS FILE :  If you decide to run through this process on your site, one of things that was tripping folks up is that the .htaccess file provided by WP-DBManage has a “.txt” extension.

For the .htaccess file to be treated as an .htaccess file by your server – you need to copy it to the location WP-DBManage recommends WITHOUT THE “.txt” on it.  Also note that there needs to be the dot at the left of the filename – in other words “htaccess” is not correct, nor the same as the correctly formatted “.htaccess”.

Once I had the file in place and correctly named, refreshing the Plugins page removed the warning.  Good.  Onward.

Nextly, the tutorial had me install the YSlow addon for my browser (he was using Chrome, but I prefer Firefox and in this case saw no reason that I couldn’t stick with it).  YSlow is a battery of tests put together by Yahoo that helps you see where your site is being wasteful with handling of serving pages to visitors’ browsers.

So, after installing the YSlow plugin in Firefox, with bated breath, I ran it against my site…

As expected, my score was poor – overall the site was a “D”, which apparently is an “Overall Performance Score” of 66.  Ok, yes, it hurt, but it was not a surprise.  There were plenty of “F”s in the grading pageNow it was time to see if this exercise could actually help my poor little under performing site…

 

Part 2:  Configuring W3 Total Cache to Propel Your Site Performance

(Spoiler:  I was ultimately able to increase my YSlow score to just shy of an A and cut my home page download size by almost half!

Performance is now solidly in the “acceptable” range, so it doesn’t look that I have be investing in a more expensive hosting package.

So be sure to come back and find out how it went!  You can always subscribe to the site RSS feed and use Outlook or your favorite reader to see the new posts.)

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