With Google Caffeine being released next year, there is talk among the search engine magazines about how Google may start penalizing websites in the search engine rankings if they have poor pageload times compared to their peers. This means if you were to place a top 5 listing on Google Search you could lose this ranking if your blog has a poor page load performance.
The fact is, even as the internet continues to get more feature rich, bandwidth and broadband can’t keep up fast enough. Mobile devices still average around 1.5 Mbps, and there are still millions of people using dial up. With websites containing often 1mb or more of images this can be up to a minute long pageload for a single website if you are still using dial up modems.
My own blog suffers from pageload performance issues and this is due to many of the social submission plugins, and various external js calls made from my blog. I am in the process of tuning my blog to be more efficient and in doing so I found these three wordpress plug-ins that greatly improve some of your blogs footprint.
The first is WP Super Cache which is one of the most important plug-ins for your wordpress blog. This plug-in will cache your posts as static html pages so that less calls need to be made to the SQL database in order to load your blog posts. Though this plug-in will not cache SQL calls that are made from other plug-ins (like your WordPress.com stats for example) it will greatly improve the speed of your individual posts when they are cached. By default this will not cache your index.php (homepage) and it is recommended that you set it to flush cache at each new post or else your new posts may not be visible until cache flushes normally (which is usually 10 minutes).
Second is WP Smush.it which is a plug-in that will compress your images to shrink their file size which increases how fast they load in the browser. This plug-in does a remarkable job of compressing image sizes while barely reducing visual quality and is highly recommended if you embed lots of images in your blogs. You can also set WP Smush.it to compress your Theme so it shrinks all of the headers, logo’s and all embeded theme images, which is where it helps your overall blog load times. WP Smush.it when activated will automatically shrink any new post embedded files, but to shrink previous uploaded images you must click on your Media tab and Smush them manually the first time.
CSS Compress is a plug-in that will gzip (compress) your CSS files which are your wordpress “stylesheets” and will reduce the footprint by a few kilobytes. Since these CSS files load on each and every page this improves overall performance and is a recommendation by YSlow for improving page performance.
WP-HTML-Compression is another plugin that compresses your HTML files so they render faster. This plug-in removes all the white spaces and unnecessary tags from your HTML pages which have no effect on how they render in the browser, but reduces their footprint and how quickly they load in the user’s browser.
While these plug-ins help overall with image load times they overall improve your blog by a little bit (I gained about 3 second page load time benefit when using these plugins combined on my homepage, though my individual post loads about 50% quicker than my index.php (which has to load 5 posts at the same time).
Another major way to improve your blogs homepage load time is to reduce the number of posts you show at your homepage, reducing it from the default of 10 to 5 will tremendously improve your homepage build time. You can improver your load times even more by reducing from five to three, though I recommend having 5 posts on your homepage (unless you have extremely long articles often, where three would be more appropriate).
I myself and experimenting and hoping to improve my page load times by at least 30% this week.