The Need for Speed – Blogging Edition

If I wasn’t a blogger, I’d be a car guy – I like to go fast and I like to tinker with stuff.  But since I am a blogger, this means I like my website to load fast, and I like to tinker with tech stuff like coding and hardware.  Beyond writing posts, I think I spend the next largest chunk of time dealing with speed when it comes to my blog, and I’m here to share with you what I’ve learned.

It Starts With Your Theme

This was one of the first lessons I learned in my pursuit of speed – your theme plays a big role.  I had a theme which I really liked (and I still use at My Multiple Incomes), but it was loaded down with javascript and CSS, which really slowed it down under heavy traffic.

I switched last year to Thesis, and had Jesse from Personal Finance Firewall help me with the CSS to make it look almost identical to my current theme.  I’m very happy with the results, and it has significantly improved page load time.

I currently use Thesis on Entrepreneurship Life as well, which also loads very quickly.

Good Caching Is Essential

Caching is also essential to delivering quick page loads.  Not only should you cache your pages, but you should also look into minifying your CSS and Javascript files.

I currently use W3 Total Cache on The College Investor and I’m extremely satisfied with the performance of it.  About 1 year ago I started using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to server large files from my site, and W3TC seamlessly integrates it into WordPress.

On My Multiple Incomes, I currently use Quick Cache, which is still very good.  I use it because W3TC seems to conflict with the theme (that is the Javascript I was mentioning earlier).

Finally, The Server

I’ve been blessed with some amazing traffic over the last few months, with both January and February received over 20,000 visitors to my site!  However, because of that traffic, I was reaching the limits of my shared hosting provider.

How could I tell?  Just doing basic stuff like approving comments would give me a Server Error 500.  So, I decided to start looking for alternatives – cheap alternatives.

Since I’d been using Amazon S3 for my CDN for the last year, I thought I’d look into Amazon’s cloud hosting options, and I was very impressed at both the price and scalability.  I was surprised to see that I could get my first year on a virtual dedicated server for about $6 for the entire year (yes, only $6!).  After the first year, the cost would only be about $6 per month.

Beyond the cost, the speed is amazing, on both the front end page load time and the backend WordPress user interface.  Plus, I can now use Wincache (I went with a Windows Server), which is tremendously faster caching compared to what you can do on shared hosting.

Overall, I’m working on getting to my goal of 2 seconds or less for page load times.  I’m close, at about 2.9 seconds, but I’m plagued by several advertiser widgets that don’t have caching enabled.  Oh well, I’m going to get there soon!

Readers, do any of you have the need for speed?  What have you done that has really boosted your site speed?

This post was written by Robert, a 30k Challenger at The College Investor.

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5 Responses to The Need for Speed – Blogging Edition

  1. Thanks for sharing my article! I wanted to let you know that I got my load time to 1.83 second last week!

    • Derek says:

      Thats awesome Robert! Page load speed is actually quite important. I know I wouldn’t wait around for 10 seconds to wait for a page to open.

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