Better SEO? Indulge Your Need for Speed

by Annie on November 26, 2011

Today’s SEO Saturday tip is all about adrenaline — well, of the digital variety, at least.

If you want better results for your WordPress website? Improve its loadtime speed. Speed is part of a search engine’s SEO analysis for a website. So it stands to reason that if you improve your site’s speed, you’re balancing out that complicated algorithmic equation in your favor.

But how do you do that with your WordPress site? There are several fairly easy ways to go about this, and fortunately, there are also easy-breezy workaround methods for the more complicated coding issues.

1. Minimize the Calls to the Database

The number-one thing you can do to improve website load speed is to minimize the number of calls your theme’s files make to your database. Now, you can get into the coding, if you know that stuff. Chances are, you don’t. So, thankfully, there is a much simpler solution: Thesis.

Thesis is more than a theme — it’s a seriously well-coded framework for your WordPress site.  (That’s an affiliate link.) It’s specifically designed to call up scripts and code in a speed-efficient way, to improve both SEO and the user experience.

There are a ton of other advantages to using Thesis. Don’t take my word for it — read what Sugarrae has to say.

2.  Resize Images Properly

You can use WP’s built-in image manipulation tools to pick a different size (which is just the easy UI way to create HTML-coded image parameters). But if you do this, you’re not actually resizing the image itself. The browser will actually call up the full-sized file first, then render it in a smaller format according to the parameters you set.

That? Takes time. Time your website can’t afford.

So what should you do? Use Picnik. Or any graphics editing program (but Picnik is free, web-based, and simple to use). Actually resize the image, save it under a different file name, and then upload it to your WP media library. Now the image only gets called up in the smaller size, saving time.

(Read more on image manipulation for SEO purposes.)

3.   Get Rid of Unused Plugin Files

You can deactivate old plugins that you don’t use anymore, and the files will just sit there. Get rid of the unused files through your WP Dashboard’s Plugin menu.

4.  Install Cache Plugins

This is complicated stuff, but basically if you install cache clearing plugins, your site’s static files will be stored on the server. When someone visits the site, that stored file will be presented first, thus eliminating the call to the database generated by a fresh query.

A few good ones I can recommend — SuperCache and W3 Total Cache.

5. Don’t Skimp on Hosting

The number one way you can improve your website’s overall load time is to get the best hosting you can afford. Yoast confirms this: sluggish hosting servers can kneecap your site’s speed rating. So get the best hosting package you can afford.

Do some research first, and especially look at independent user reviews. I use Hostgator for all my sites and have for years. They’re dependable, affordable, and the customer service I’ve experienced is excellent. (That’s an affiliate link.) But there are others out there, to be sure. Check each contender out, pick a competitively priced package, and don’t look back.

Optional: Dive Into the Hard Stuff

If you want to play around in your site’s code, check out Chris Pearson’s guide to optimization of WP sites. But please for the love of our beneficent Google Overlords, make sure you know what you’re doing, and back that puppy up first.

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