Addicted to Speed

No I haven’t gotten onto the hard drugs, rather, I’m talking page speed.    After increasing my page speed by a few seconds (its still not perfect), Google started ranking my site higher and I noticed an overwhelming change in Search Engine traffic.

So its been a few weeks since I redesigned this site into more of an anti-blog.  Although there was a lot done on the front end, there was also a lot of change behind the scenes.    Take a look at the source code, it probably looks a little different to most blogs.

The Truth About Plugins

The biggest change was removing pretty much all the existing plugins.  I had plugins for Twitter, SEO, membership features, serving ads, admin features, sidebar content.... and more.   I thought plugins were genius.  I could upload a plugin in seconds and add a whole new level of functionality to my blog.   This is where the wise old guy should chime in with  “if its too good to be true.....”

Plugins will slow down your blog.  Not all, many are well designed and coded efficiently.  But most aren’t.  Most will also add extra javascript and css files to every page on your blog, whether it needs them or not.  Some plugins are so bad, like the ever popular All-In-One-SEO plugin that it was banned at one point from being used on any Dreamhost blog.

After removing the bulk of plugins and putting back just two third party and a couple of custom plugins the blog immediately became faster.    And it wasn’t a minor speed increase - i’m talking 3-4 seconds.

An Unhealthy Obsession with my CDN

A CDN (content delivery network), takes your sites largest files such as images, javascripts and css files and puts them on lots of servers all around the world.  Then when someone visits your site, all these files are to served to the user from a server location close to them.  It also means your server or shared hosting account only needs to serve the dynamic php files and manage the database while letting a purpose built network of servers handle the rest.

Now this sounds very complicated, and implementing a CDN on a blog even just 5 years ago was vastly harder.  But now its ridiculously easy that anybody can do it, and furthermore, can do it for just a few dollars.

I used to use Rackspace Cloudfiles, but they lacked a couple of major features.  Then I discovered MaxCDN and fell in love.  These guys have awesome service and a beautifully designed interface to manage the whole process, but most importantly they have a killer product.  Much better than either Rackspace or Amazon S3 - both of which I’ve used on startups.

A CDN will dramatically speed up your blog.  And using the W3 Total Cache Plugin (which won’t slow down your blog) will make integrating MaxCDN ridiculously simple.

btw - if you think its expensive, the current $39 deal will provide enough bandwidth for most bloggers for an entire year!

Latency from Media Temple

So the last little issue I need to overcome is the latency caused by Media Temple.  Media Temple is great, because if one my posts gets shared on Twitter or Facebook and is subjected to a short burst of traffic, the blog won’t go down.

The downside is that I have to put up with constant latency.

I’m tempted to put the site on its own server (Rackspace Cloud Server) - let me know your thoughts with a tweet.

In the End

Speed has increased, Google is showing me a lot of love at the moment and search engine traffic increased by around 50% after the design change.  Next step is to further reduce the number of css and javascript files.

5 Things you can do Today to Speed Up Your Blog

Can’t be bothered reading the post above - just follow these steps:

  1. Remove unnecessary plugins.  Many plugins will also leave behind tables in the database.  These can be removed - but please, please backup before you make any database changes
  2. Add CDN Support - Sign up with MaxCDN, upload the W3 Total Cache Plugin and you’re done
  3. Remove sidebar items - those directory badges, endless blogrolls, twitter streams etc. are both useless and just more items to download
  4. Optimize the database - using PHPMyAdmin.  Simple.
  5. Don’t use Media Temple
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