So, if you read my previous article, you know that I was getting a flunking grade on my Google Scorecard, and what I needed was more speed.
As I said in my previous article, when it comes to server optimization, I am pretty much untrained and don’t have much knowledge. Something similar is site optimization. Still, I have only a minor amount of knowledge, but it is something that I really needed to learn more about.
Server Optimization vs. Site Optimization
What is the difference? Well, even though the untrained person (like me) may not think that there is much difference at all, the fact is that there is a great amount of difference. They both help your site become faster, but they are two completely different approaches toward achieving that goal.
In my mind, I had a couple of different thoughts on how to approach my need for speed:
- I am leasing a pretty high-quality server (actually multiple servers) from a company that does a good job in making sure that the server software is tuned to the point where it operates pretty efficiently. Also, since I am pretty much untrained on server optimization, I decided to focus my efforts more on-site optimization instead. If, after my efforts on optimizing the code on my websites I found that my site speed was still suffering then I had to either hire somebody or learn myself how to better optimize my servers.
- Since I already have some knowledge (not enough) in regards to optimizing my website, I figured that I could quickly learn enough more to make a decent effort on speeding up the performance of my sites. I was thinking that I could make incremental changes… small changes… and keep making additional changes until it made a real impact.
Almost all of my websites are based on the WordPress platform. I have a few eCommerce sites that are based on OSCommerce, but for the most part, I would focus on optimizing WordPress and concentrate my efforts there. I decided to choose one of my smaller, less read sites to focus on initially. The reason is that this is a learning process, and if I made mistakes, working on a less traveled site would mean that my mistake would have a smaller effect on readers.
If you search the Internet about optimizing a WordPress site, the thing that you find the most is people recommending that you use Caching software to speed things up.
What is caching software?
Well, the process of caching means to temporarily render pages from your website and store them away for later sending to people who want to read them. As an example, if a person wants to read a certain article on your WordPress website, and the site is not using caching, then in order to show that article to the reader, the web server must make multiple queries to the database, and to many different “PHP files” then put all of this information together to make a single page to show to the reader. It is a lot of work for the server to do, but is necessary. When you use caching, the web server decides which pages are popular and will likely be read multiple times in the coming hours. It renders those pages in advance, and stores the rendered pages away for future use. Then, when readers come to view a certain article, the server says “hey, I already rendered this page” and it just sends the reader the previously rendered page. So, if 20 readers come and read the article, the server had to render the page only one time, and serve that same rendered page to each of the readers, thus doing a lot less work.
I will write more about the process of setting up Caching on a WordPress site tomorrow.
My “Need for Speed” project took on other aspects too and had a nice impact on the speed of my sites. Over the course of the next few days, I will go into more detail and explain just how I accomplished my goal of having speedier sites.
How slow were my sites?
I use a service called Pingdom to check the speed of my various sites. I use a few other tools to check speed as well (one is the Google PageSpeed Insights tool), but Pingdom is the primary tool that I use. When I checked most of my sites on Pingdom at the beginning of my Need for Speed project, my pages would rate as “Slower than 70% of all tested websites”. Wow, that is not good. Now, realize, this is not the result I would get on every site, but this is the average speed score that I got across my sites (I have about 50 different sites at this time). So, around 70% of websites were faster than my sites were. No wonder Google was dinging me on Site Health!
So, I had to fix this problem, so I got to work! Tune in again tomorrow and I’ll tell you about my first approach, caching my WordPress sites.